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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Caguas captures 21st winter baseball title

Caguas’ 4-1 win over Carolina on Sunday night earned the Criollos their seventh Puerto Rican winter baseball championship since 2011.

By The Star Staff

The Caguas Criollos became the champions of winter baseball on Sunday night by beating the Carolina Giants 4-1 at Yldefonso Solá Morales Stadium in Caguas.

The Criollos won their 21st championship, and their first title with Yadier Molina at the helm, in eight games. It was the debut season for the former major leaguer Molina as a manager in the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League.

It was the seventh championship for Criollos President Raúl Rodríguez Font, the team owner with the most titles in Puerto Rican winter baseball. Since he took over the team in 2009, Caguas has won titles in the 2010-11, 2012-13, 2016-17, 2017-18, 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2023-24 seasons.

A single by Luis Vázquez in the second inning drove in Danny Ortiz for the first run of the game as Caguas established a lead it would not relinquish.

In the third inning, Vimael Machín hit a solo home run for the Criollos’ second run, and in the fourth inning, Pedro León went deep to add the third run.

Machín led the Criollos’ offense with a pair of hits in four at-bats.

Carolina got on the scoreboard in the sixth inning with an RBI grounder by Bryan Torres. Then in the bottom half of the same inning, a pinch-hit triple by Dwight Smith Jr. drove in the Criollos’ fourth run for the final margin.

Caguas used six pitchers to cover the nine innings. The winner was Yacksel Ríos with two innings in relief, three strikeouts and just one hit allowed. Veteran closer Ricardo Gómez, who struck out two in the ninth inning, earned the save. Left-hander Luke Westphal allowed Caguas’ first run and pitched one inning to take the loss for the Giants.

The game ended with a fly ball off the bat of Jan Hernández to center fielder Pedro León with a runner at first.

The Criollos will now head for Miami in search of their sixth championship in the Caribbean Series.

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