A world championship is on the line, but the Senior League World Series is also a celebration of baseball.
And for a small Central American country, it set off a number of celebrations.
Guatemala City gave Guatemala the “biggest thing Guatemala has ever achieved in any sport,” according to its manager, Angel Hoyos.
They were clearly the best team in the tournament and deserved their championship.
Hopefully, this will create even more interest in baseball in Guatemala.
They outscored their five opponents 39-8. The three runs scored by Lemon Grove, Calif., in Guatemala’s 6-3 championship game triumph were the most they allowed in any one game.
Lemon Grove was a wonderful story in itself, twice rallying from two-run deficits in the seventh and eighth innings of pool play games to pull out victories over West Melbourne, Fla., and Emilia, Italy, respectively.
Those were two of the best games of the tournament.
We will also keep our eyes peeled to see if any member of the class of 2012 joins the ranks of those alums who have made it to the major leagues.
How about Lemon Grove hitting machine Ray Peterson (.533, series-high nine RBIs), his rangy middle-infield teammate Esteban Lieras, who not only flashed the leather impressively but also hit .429 and scored eight times, and fellow teammate pitcher-first baseman Deandre Simpson (.250, 3 doubles, 8 RBIs; 2-1, 3.60 ERA as a pitcher)?
Or Guatemalans Julio Alvarado (series-high .545 with six RBIs), Juan Diego Montes (.417 with a triple, double and the tourney’s only homer, plus seven RBIs) or Alejandro Amezquita (2-0, including the championship game win, 1.80 ERA, just six hits allowed in 10 innings).
And you couldn’t help but be impressed by Emilia, Italy, shortstop Lorento Fabbri, who hit .455 and made a number of sparkling plays that showcased his great arm and range.
The best arm of the tournament probably belonged to Guatemala right fielder Hans Werner, whose throws were both laserlike and accurate.
West University of Texas pitcher Will Reid was 1-2 but had a 2.06 ERA and a 12-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 11⅔ innings.
Hampden-Newburgh went 1-2 and the Maine District 3 champs were hurt because Matt Palmer was unavailable to pitch due to a back problem. Palmer did produce with the bat (.444), however.
You have to tip your hat to Auckland for being the first New Zealand team in the SLWS, and they rebounded from mercy-rule losses to turn in solid performances against Emilia (2-0 loss) and Florida (5-1 loss).
Florida reached the semis and Italy came one out away from possibly advancing in its loss to Lemon Grove.
Perhaps the best play of the game came during that Lemon Grove-Emilia game when Lemon Grove left fielder Nico Alcoser saved two runs with a terrific diving over-the-shoulder catch in the eighth inning that kept Emilia within striking distance.
The tournament was bailed out by the University of Maine when it rained all day Thursday. Mahaney Diamond on the Orono campus has artificial turf and three of the four final pool-play games were able to be played.
They wouldn’t have been able to be played on Mansfield Stadium’s grass surface. That would have created all kinds of problems because the semifinals were Friday and the Thursday games established the semifinalists.
The games probably shouldn’t have been played, but with ESPNU waiting to show the championship game live, it became necessary to play three of Thursday’s games.
Those results made the game between Guatemala City and Hampden-Newburgh inconsequential, so their game was canceled as the rain intensified.
The tournament’s attendance was about the same as always.
The games involving the Maine District 3 champions are always well attended and there’s always a significant attendance bump for the title game since it’s on ESPNU and people want to be a part of the atmosphere.
You will never see a day when every game has a large crowd.
It’s not like Omaha and the College World Series.
We simply don’t have the population. That’s why teams like the basketball Lumberjacks and baseball Blue Ox didn’t survive in Bangor.
And local fans would rather pursue other activities as summer winds to a close.
But the Senior League World Series is a noteworthy event.
It brings national exposure to Bangor, an economic boost to the local business community and showcases a scenic and well-manicured facility like Mansfield Stadium.
How many people have vacationed in Maine after getting their first exposure to the state in the Senior League World Series over the past 11 years?
One thing I would like to see them consider is having a third-place game on Saturday morning.
The teams are already here and it would give one of the two semifinal losers an opportunity to go home with a win. It could also serve as way to get some playing time for those who didn’t see much previously.
You’d have to have a time limit on it so it wouldn’t interfere with the championship game and the lead-in to it.
But it would be worthwhile.