Panama outscores Nicaragua, gets first U-23 Baseball World Cup win

Panama outscores Nicaragua, gets first U-23 Baseball World Cup win
It was the first extra-inning game in the tournament. Panama scored seven in the top of the eighth.

Panama started its Friday on the wrong footing. Behind a monster performance from Abraham Rodriguez ended the afternoon by saving its start to the U23 Baseball World Cup.

After giving up five runs in the opening inning to erase an early lead, world No. 13 rallied to force extra innings, then poured it on with seven runs in the top of the eighth to beat No. 14 Nicaragua, 13-6, at Estadio Sonora in Hermosillo.

Following a loss to Colombia in the first game of Group B play on Thursday, Panama needed a victory on Friday to avoid digging itself an 0-2 hole. Friday’s visitors got out to a 2-0 lead on an RBI double by Erasmo Caballero and RBI groundout from Rodriguez in the first, but Nicaragua immediately responded.

Sending eight men to the plate, Nicaragua scored five with Milkar Perez delivering the big blow on a three-run homer to right.

Panama chipped away, scoring a run in the second on Rhandall Sanchez’s RBI groundout and another in the third on an RBI double to left-center from Rodriguez. After tying the game briefly with a tally in the top of the sixth on a Sanchez sacrifice fly to right, Panama saw Nicaragua reclaim the lead on an RBI single through the right side from Cristhian Sandoval.

Needing just three outs to close the door on a 2-0 start, Nicaragua faltered. Facing Nicaragua’s bullpen, Rodriguez again came through. This time, after Erick Mordock opened the seventh with a double to left-center, Rodriguez drove him home two batters later with a single up the middle to knot the game once more.

In the eighth, Panama erupted. With the WBSC tie break rule in effect for the World Cup’s regulation seven-inning game, the world No. 13 scored seven runs -- as many as their entire output through the tournament’s first 14 innings. Adrian Montero broke the tie with a two-run single up the middle, and Mordock and Caballero added RBI doubles to tack on three more. Then Rodriguez dealt the final blow with a two-run homer to right for the game’s final runs.

In the bottom of the eighth, Panama finished with an exclamation point defensively. With one out and runners at first and second, Nicaragua’s Wandley Ocon lined out to Luis Tello who got up from his diving catch in the outfield to double off Miranda at first for the game’s final out.

"Thanks God I could help the team win," commented Tello. "This is baseball, we pracrtice so that we can make these plays."

Both teams are now 1-1 headed into Saturday’s action. Panama faces world No. 2 Korea in the morning game at 10:30 while Nicaragua will wait for its nighttime matchup against No. 10 Venezuela at 19:30.