Mexico shakes off rain, Panama

Jorge Romero’s two-run home run not only gave Tijuana, Mexico, a 4-2 lead in the top of the seventh inning which held up in beating Latin America Region champ Aguadulce, Panama, Thursday, it also may have given his team the boost it needed as storm clouds closed in on Lamade Stadium.

Romero’s home run was the last completed at-bat before a rain delay of 1:35 that not only was the first of this Little League World Series, it helped force a postponement of a United States game later that night to 3 p.m. today.

But that was no concern to the Mexican players, who danced in the dugout and envisioned manager Francisco Fimbres sliding down the hill beyond Lamade Stadium if they won, a promise he’d made. There also was the bet of shaving team translator Sergio Guzman’s head with a win.

“It will happen,” said Fimbres, who swore to oblige but did not say when.

Romero not only made his teammates happy with his bat, he did so with his arm. The delay interrupted his three scoreless innings in relief of Brandon Meza.

The weather didn’t interrupt a Mexican team that fared better at bat than it did in a loss Wednesday to Tokyo, Japan.

“We were more patient this time. We knew Brandon would be on the mound and he’s a great pitcher and that we’d back him up,” Fimbres said. “We played good defense and made the necessary plays.”

Panama held its own coming out of the delay as well, which started as Mexico’s Jorge Duenas had a 3-1 count on Daniel Fernandez. Juan Crisp relieved Fernandez with the walk after the delay, then recorded the final two outs without further damage.

“We talked with the kids, motivated them and said that the game wasn’t lost yet,” Panama manager Luis Gonzalez said through an interpreter. “We could try to come back and they’d do their best and get the win, even though that didn’t happen.”

It was fair to wonder if the delay would have any effect on the game, if the game even lasted that long, after Panama starter Daniel Fernandez walked the bases loaded to start the game.

But Fernandez pitched out of the jam with a strikeout and line drive double play, calming down without the aid of a mound conference.

“He had good velocity, not much control, but he got out of there and had the team with a possibility of winning,” Gonzalez said.

Fimbres was happy with the win, regardless of how it happened.

“I thought this was a special game, a hard game as expected,” Fimbres said. “Even the first time, when we beat Latin America 13-0 and it was easy, I knew they were a hard team to beat. Congratulations to them. Someone had to win.”