BANGOR — It can be difficult for a baseball team to be fired up for a tournament game when it knows it’s going home.
The U.S. Southeast champions from Palm Bay, Fla., hit another low early in Thursday’s Senior League World Series game, as Asia-Pacific representative Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands took a 5-0 first-inning lead.
But manager Mike Everette’s club displayed a great deal of pride, holding CMNI scoreless the rest of the game while rallying for four runs in the sixth and another in the seventh to post a 6-5 victory at Mansfield Stadium.
This was a game that somewhat mirrored the “Mother’s Day Miracle” at Fenway Park a few years back, as CMNI’s Gregorio Iskawa was mowing Palm Bay down left and right, allowing only one run and two hits over five-plus innings while striking out 11.
He was staked to a 5-0 first-inning lead thanks to a two-run double by Jeremy Lizama and Ricardo Dela Cruz’ RBI triple.
But Iskawa had to leave the contest with nobody out in the sixth after reaching the Senior League limit of 95 pitches.
“He was taking care of business out there,” said Everette. “We came into this kind of down, it was really hard to get them rallied up for this, they were just a little lackadaisical but they really seemed to pick things up there.”
Palm Bay sent 10 men to the plate in tying the game with four runs in the sixth, with Matt Meyer’s single up the middle capping it.
Florida wasted no time winning it in the seventh, with leadoff man Matt Rose reaching on a dropped pop-up to short, Matt Romandetti singling to left and Cameron Howard walking to load the bases.
Gardner Knight then drove the third pitch he saw into left to give Palm Bay (1-3) its first win of SLWS play.
“I got a fastball inside and I just drove it,” Knight said. “I was expecting a fastball.”
Palm Bay stayed in striking distance throughout thanks to the relief work of Jordan Rothschild and Jimmy Tolle, who combined to allow just one hit after CMNI’s five-run first inning.
“We wanted to start with Ryan Cotton’s offspeed stuff and we thought we should’ve gone the other way around because they weren’t able to catch [up to] Rothschild,” Everette said.
Romandetti was Florida’s big hitter on the day with three singles, including RBI base hits in the first and sixth and he was happy with the way he and his teammates persevered.
“It’s just like a team effort, no one really wanted to quit,” he said. “Everyone was down, and then we just picked each other up in the dugout.”
Even in defeat, Saipan was whooping it up and staying loose, while infielder Diego Camacho celebrated his 17th birthday.
“All my kids and my coaches, we are privileged to come here,” manager Jonathan Tenorio said. “It was fun, the people in Bangor, Maine, they’re all friendly.”
He also praised the performance of his starter and Florida’s relievers.
“The first pitcher that we faced, the lefty, we’re used to that, we’re used to a lefthander, the second and the third pitchers, they were fooling us,” Tenorio said.
Harry Nakamura was Saipan’s lone repeat hitter with two singles and a run scored.
Asia-Pacific (0-4) 500 000 0 — 5 6 3
Southeast (1-3) 100 004 1 — 6 8 2
Iskawa, Camacho (6) and Yamagihi, Ngeskebei (5); Cotton, Rothschild (1), Tolle (6) and Lawson, Tuttle (5); WP-Tolle (1-0); LP-Camacho (0-1); Repeat hitters: Nakamura (AP); Romandetti (SE), Guzman (SE); Extra-base hitters: 2B: Lizama (AP); 3B: R. Dela Cruz (AP)