BANGOR, Maine — The Juvenil de Guatemala Senior League baseball team had yielded just seven runs in nine games while winning the Latin American championship and going undefeated in pool play at the Senior League World Series.
That trend continued Friday, as Emilio Seitas and Hans Werner combined on a one-hitter as the Latin American champions from Guatemala City defeated Brevard County, Fla., 5-2 in a SLWS semifinal at Mansfield Stadium.
“The pitching has been very strong,” said Guatemala City manager Angel Hoyos. “We focus on pitching because we believe pitching is 90 percent of the game. It’s very, very important to have good pitching, to have an arsenal of pitchers, and we also work very hard on the defense behind the pitching because we teach our pitchers to pitch to contact and without the defense we won’t have as good a pitching staff.”
Guatemala City (4-0) will attempt to become the fourth Latin American team from four different countries to win the SLWS since its arrival in Bangor in 2002 when it faces U.S. West champ Lemon Grove, Calif., in Saturday’s 2 p.m. championship game.
Curacao (2002), Venezuela (2006) and Aruba (2010) are previous SLWS winners from Latin America during the tournament’s 11-year run in the Queen City.
Seitas pitched 6 1/3 innings before reaching the 95-pitch limit, allowing a single to the first batter he faced while striking out three batters, walking four and hitting a batter.
“He has four different types of fastballs that move and he attacks the zone,” said Hoyos. “He wasn’t on today with four walks. That isn’t normal for him. In the last four games those are the only two runs he’s given up.”
Warner relieved Seitas and needed just seven pitches to retire the two batters he faced to earn the save.
Guatemala City managed just five hits, but four came in the bottom of the third when it scored all of its runs.
“Our offense helps out a lot, too, because it’s a lot easier for our pitchers when they have a three- or four-run lead,” said Hoyos.
Brevard County scratched out a 1-0 lead of its own in the top of the first.
Cooper Christiano squared to bunt on the game’s first pitch, then pulled the bat back in time to slap an opposite-field single to right field. He reached second on a passed ball and scored on a fielding error while stealing third base.
But that was it for the Brevard County offense early on as Seitas had the Florida batters pounding the ball into the ground. The lefthander retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced after Christiano’s hit, eight on grounders.
Guatemala City, which stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings, didn’t let opportunity pass it by in the bottom of the third — using four hits, three walks and a hit batter to take a 5-1 lead.
Carlos Esteves drew a leadoff walk, then one-out singles by Fabian Vizcaino and Juan Diego Montes loaded the bases before Esteves scored the tying run on a wild pitch by Brevard County starter Austin Alsept.
After a walk to Fernando Valls reloaded the bases, Alsept induced Julio Avarado into a 5-2 fielder’s choice grounder that forced Vizcaino at the plate for the second out.
But Pablo Custodio blooped a two-run single to shallow center and Jose Quilo pulled a curveball into left field for an RBI single that gave Guatemala City a 4-1 lead and marked the end of Alsept’s day on the mound.
Reliever Ryan Horning hit Werner to load the bases, then walked Esteves to force home Custudio before striking out Gabriel Montenegro to end the inning.
Brevard County loaded the bases with no one out in the top of the fifth as Seitas walked Tyler Phillips and Jake Walsh and hit P.J. Robinson with a pitch.
But the U.S. Southeast champs managed just one run, that coming as Phillips scored on Seitas’ second wild pitch of the inning.
Seitas struck Horning, then picked special pinch-runner Kyle Stark off second before getting Matt Doran to fly to right to end the inning.
“We’ve been preparing those types of plays for situations when we need it,” said Hoyos of the pickoff play, in which Vizcaino snuck in behind Stark from shortstop to take the throw from Seitas.
“In the tournament that’s the first time we’ve had to use one of our pickoff plays or our bunt plays, but we used it and we executed it.”