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Martinez, Curacao advance in elimination bracket

Here’s a closer look at Willemstad, Curacao’s, 9-2 win over Maracaibo, Venezuela, on Tuesday in an elimination game at Lamade Stadium.

PLAY OF THE GAME: If Venezuela was going to get back in the game, the bottom of the fourth inning is when it was going to do it. The Latin America champions had already scored a run in the inning, runners were on second and third, and it trailed Curacao by three. But with two outs, a Curley Martha pitch got behind catcher Shendrion Martinus. Martinus quickly broke for the ball and Martha quickly broke for the plate. Martha beat Venezuelan runner Adrian Salcedo to the plate and Martinus gave him a great feed to apply the tag and end the inning without further damage.

VENEZUELA PLAYER OF THE GAME: Brayam Apalmo is one of the smallest players on the Venezuela roster and a perfect fit in the lineup’s No. 9 spot with the ability to put the bat on the ball and a little bit of speed to go with it. He came to the plate twice in yesterday’s loss, but he made the most of those two opportunities. Apalmo walked in the third inning and got the Latin America champs on the scoreboard with their first run. He later walked in the bottom of the sixth inning to extend the game.

CURACAO PLAYER OF THE GAME: Martinus proved just how versatile a player he can be as the Caribbean champs put together quite the statement win in an elimination game. He started on the mound, pitching two hitless innings and striking out a pair. He then moved to catcher where he continued to be a solid presence behind the plate. On top of all that, he had one of Curacao’s 12 hits and drove in a pair of runs and worked a pair of walks. Not a bad day’s work.

BIG INNING: Curacao’s two-run first inning was a great start, and it happened with a two-out, two-strike, two-run single. But its three-run third inning was the one which put a little panic into Venezuela. The three runs were scored with a bases-loaded hit batter and two bases-loaded walks. It wasn’t a thunderous swing of the bat which moved the Caribbean on, it was patience and quality plate discipline.

BEST EFFORT: Diego Boscán didn’t even join the Venezuela team until Tuesday after visa issues kept him out of the United States. But once he arrived at the complex, manager Luis Gonzalez threw him right into the lineup and gave him the ball as the starting pitcher in a do-or-die game. It didn’t go particularly well for Boscán, who allowed five runs in just 1 1/3 innings. But the right-hander looked calm and comfortable on the mound and was willing to battle even if he didn’t have his best stuff.

FLASHING LEATHER: Venezuelan catcher Hendrik Maestre has been one of the best backstops in the entire tournament. He showed heads-up awareness in the top of the first inning when he caught a throw home from center fielder Ibrahim Ruiz and noticed the batter trying to take an extra base and go to second. Maestre fired a frozen rope to second baseman Brayam Apalmo, who had to wait for the runner to get to the bag to apply the tag.

Ibrahim Ruiz didn’t get a particularly good break on the sixth-inning fly ball which Martinus lifted to center field. He took a step back, then hesitated. But he charged hard and made a nice sliding catch for the first out of the sixth inning.

Two batters later, Curacao’s Zion Pardo floated a dying quail into shallow right-center field and Ruiz again came charging. He stayed on his feet as he made the shoestring catch, but the difficult out was made to look effortless by his speed.

HOME RUNS: There were no home runs hit in the game. Only eight home runs have been hit during the World Series.

WHAT THE ADULTS SAY: “First of all, I want to thank Little League for having our team here,” Venezuela manager Luis Gonzalez said. “The kids had a very good time. And thanks to all the fans who came over to cheer for us and make them feel like they were back home in Venezuela.”

WHAT THE KIDS SAY: “It was a very big moment. The tension was very big,” said Curacao’s Jurdrick Profar of his inning-ending strikeout in the fifth in which he pumped his fist after. “I was very fired up.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Curacao remains alive for a championship with the win. They advance to play in the consolation bracket final Thursday at 3 p.m. at Lamade Stadium against the loser of tonight’s winners’ bracket final between Japan and South Korea. Venezuela’s tournament runs ends with a 2-2 record. Both their losses have come to two of the final three teams remaining in the International field.

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