Dominican squad edges Puerto Rico

Dominican squad edges Puerto Rico

MARACAY, Venezuela -- Amid the loud cheers from the fans off the field and the players' unbridled enthusiasm on it, the Tigres Del Licey team became the first winner in the 2006 Caribbean Series.

Whether the club is the grand champion at the conclusion of the tournament is to be determined, but Thursday's 5-4 extra-inning victory against Puerto Rico's Carolina at Estadio Jose Perez Colmenares was a good start.

In the top of the 11th inning, Licey second baseman Anderson Hernandez hit a single to right field that scored Alexis Gomez, breaking a 4-4 tie and pushing the Dominican Republic team to victory. Gomez reached on fielder's choice.

Puerto Rico could not rally in the bottom half of the inning. The Dominican Republic used seven pitchers in the win, including the save by Roman Colon.

"It was a good fight out there," Dominican Republic manager Rafael Landestoy said. "We had to go very deep into our bullpen and that might affect us. I was glad we were able to win."

Hernandez, a Mets prospect, finished 4-for-6 with one RBI and two runs. Eddy Ramos earned the win for Licey. Federico Baez took the loss for Puerto Rico.

"To get four hits and get the game-winning hit is unbelievable," said Hernandez. "This is a short series and we can do it. Like they say, 'Those who win have the most fun.' I'm happy we won, and I think we can win this tournament."

He was not the only one. Flags from the Dominican Republic were waved all across the stadium.

The tournament continues Friday with Puerto Rico against Venezuela in Maracay at 7:30 p.m. ET. Mexico and the Dominican Republic play at 3:30 p.m. ET in Valencia.

"I feel really great. I never thought I would be here representing my country," Hernandez said. "I was able to get the hit that gave us the win, and I'm very happy about that. It is a great feeling."

Trailing by one run after seven innings, Puerto Rico tied the game at 4 with a single by Napolean Calzado that scored Jorge Padilla in the eighth.

That's where the score would stay -- at least for two innings, until Anderson's heroics.

The see-saw scoring actually started after two scoreless innings to start the contest.

In the third inning, Dominican catcher Sandy Martinez led off the frame with a single to center field off Puerto Rico starter William Collazo, and Melky Cabrera followed with a walk. Hernandez hit a single to load the bases.

Two outs later, Miguel Tejada hit a ground-rule double that scored two runners to give Licey a 2-0 lead.

The lead did not last long.

In the bottom half of the inning, Puerto Rico left fielder Pedro Valdes hit a three-run home run off starter Juan Cruz that scored Alex Cora and Ruben Gotay to give Carolina a 3-2 lead.

The Dominican Republic tied the score at 3 in the sixth and threatened to score more, but Puerto Rico left-hander Stevenson Agusto struck out Martinez with the bases loaded on three consecutive pitches to end the inning.

Tied at 3 in the top of the seventh, Dominican Republic first baseman Willis Otanez reached on an error that proved costly. Hernandez, who hit a one-out triple earlier in the inning, scored on the play. Tejada advanced to second base, and just like that, Licey was ahead, 4-3.

It would be their final lead of the game.

As for Cruz, he was charged with five hits and three runs in five innings. Collazo gave up three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings pitched.

"We are going to keep going out there and keep having fun," Landestoy said. "What happens, happens. We are going to do what we did all year. Do our job."

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.