The Champions prevail and win a tough game against a worthy adversary

Before the game, there was a lot of energy when the defending champions, Tigres del Licey, stepped off their bus at Loan Depot Park today. The most energetic? Their captain Emilio Bonifacio. Bonifacio has been here before. And these are just the questions he was fielding this afternoon before the game. Licey is known as a team that falls behind in a series and then comes back and wins, reminiscent of the reputation of the mid-2000s Boston Red Sox. “You are never as good as your last hit, nor as bad as your last out,” declared Bonifacio about the message he lets drive him in the wake of wins or defeats. He also stated, “I trust the team I have.” Little did the Licey captain know it would be his team trusting him once again.

                The defending champions entered Friday after a tough loss to the Venezuelan Tiburones de la Guaira. They threatened. They showed signs of life. But the big hit never came. They lost the opener to their bitter rival. Their manager, Gilbert Reyes, admitted that adjustments needed to be made. In this context, it was up to Licey’s veterans to answer the call and return Licey to the winning ways. Bonifacio, Gustavo Nunez, and Robinson Cano combined for 5-12 with three runs scored, and Licey treated their fans to a thrilling win, 5-4, against a resilient Nicaragua side.

                The beginning of the game was more of the same from Licey, as their offense was subdued early. Slowly but surely, though throughout the game, they began adjusting and taking better swings. Then the big hit came. It was in the eighth inning when who else but their captain, Emilio Bonifacio, delivered a game-tying triple that would score Sergio Alcantara to tie the game in the eighth. Bonifacio would then score the winning run on a single by Ramon Hernandez. After Cheslor Cuthbert singled off Jairo Asencio to attempt a Nicaraguan comeback, the former MLB closer would retire the next two batters to seal the win for Licey.

                After the game, manager Gilbert Gomez addressed that finally, the big hit came and acknowledged that he is not afraid to use bunting, as it is part of the game, although many think it has outlived its purpose. He also said it was a battle and feels good to deliver the big hit finally. Although his counterpart, Marvin Benard, acknowledged they played a great game, he said he is “tired of only playing well and representing only instead of winning the big game.” He also took responsibility for his moves when questioned, acknowledging that sometimes moves do not work. This is the second game in a row in which Nicaragua had a formidable opponent on the ropes and lost the game.

                Nicaragua will rest tomorrow and return to action against Panama on Sunday’s first game. Panama comes from a win, while Nicaragua is still searching for that elusive first Series win. On the other hand, the Licey will return to Loan Depot tomorrow and square off against their rivals, Criollos de Caguas, who are representing Puerto Rico.

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