I turned this international semi-final game during a pivotal moment: top of the fifth, bases loaded and the game all tied up at one a piece. Vincent Anthonia, Curacao's starting pitcher who homered earlier in the game to give his team their only run, struck out the last batter he would face to get the second out as he exhausted his allowable pitch count. Curacao's relief pitcher struck out the third out and sent the tied game into the bottom of the fifth.
The pitching duel continued as Venezuela struck out the side. I could not believe the speeds those 11-13 year-olds were hitting--consistently throwing the Major League equivalent of a 95 to 96 miles per hour.
The bottom of the sixth is when the game got really interesting. Curacao started to put on the offensive pressure. With runners on first and second, Curacao put a sharply hit grounder in play towards first base. It appeared to bounce off the first basemen into no-man's land in the outfield that would prove to plate the winning run... until the umpire called a dead ball because it actually hit the runner. Instead of celebrating a victory the inning was over and the game was headed to extra innings.
Venezuela quickly gained a lead by way of a solo home run. As Curacao came up to bat in the bottom of the seventh
I'll be honestit didn't look good. They quickly found themselves to be one out away from defeat. And then the rally began. With a full count and never giving up, Curacao's batter roped a single into center field to keep their hopes alive.
That kid was so fired up when he got to first base; the rest of him team followed suit and I cheered from my couch. The next batter, with an impressive display of discipline, walked. Down by one and playing for a run, the scene was now set for the dramatic, game-winning, walk-off home run that took place. Deion Rosalia rocked an outside pitch beautifully to the opposite field. And just like that, David defeated Goliath.
Venezuela's offense was highly touted the entire tournament and during the game the commentators kept mentioning that Curacao would have to string a couple hits together because they didn't have much pop in their bat. But what I found the most interesting was the disparity in population the two teams had to comprise a team with. The Venezuelan city where the entire team hails from enjoys a population of 2.5 million. The island of Curacao, a mere 200,000.
Congratulations to Curacao on an impressive come-from-behind upset and good luck to them on their way to the international final!
(Photos provided by Getty Images/Jim McIsaac)