GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Puerto Rico’s Criollos de Caguas came from behind to defeat Dominican squad Aguilas Cibaeñas 9-4 in the Caribbean Series final and win the regional baseball title for the second straight year.
It was an emotional victory for the side from Puerto Rico, a United States commonwealth that was devastated last fall by Hurricane Maria and had difficulty even in organizing a winter league season.
The situation appeared bleak for the Criollos late in Thursday night’s final at Estadio Panamericano in the western city of Guadalajara, with Aguilas Cibaeñas leading 4-1 after six and a half innings.
But the Puerto Ricans erupted for five runs in the bottom of the seventh, three of them coming on a home run by catcher Jonathan Morales that gave Criollos a 6-4 lead.
Earlier that inning, Aguilas had opened the door to the rally by walking lead-off hitter Anthony Garcia and David Vidal, both of whom scored on a single by Ruben Gotay.
Morales’ round-tripper brought home Gotay and Dayron Varona, who had reached on a single.
The Puerto Ricans then tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning thanks to a double by Johnny Monell that drove in Jesmuel Valentin and Anthony Garcia and a single by Gotay that brought home Monell.
With their victory in Thursday’s final, the Criollos won their fifth title at this annual competition, which features the champions of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
The Criollos also won last year’s Caribbean Series, played in Culiacan, Mexico, but the 2018 title was about more than just baseball.
After Category 4 Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, and devastated the island’s electrical grid (around 40 percent of the US commonwealth’s residents are still without power more than four months later), the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League opted to play a reduced winter schedule.
All of the contests also were played during the day due to a lack of electricity.