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Early outburst, pitching lift Miami to Junior RBI title

Early outburst, pitching lift Miami to Junior RBI title

ARLINGTON -- The Miami Marlins RBI team came into the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) World Series Junior Division championship game with an undefeated 5-0 record on the weekend. Detroit RBI was the only team left in Miami's path of capping off the perfect record.

Marlins RBI jumped at the opportunity early, scoring five first-inning runs and then riding the back of starting pitcher James Spatafora. He dazzled on the mound, tossing 6 1/3 innings, surrendering only two hits, allowing one unearned run and punching out nine Detroit hitters, leading the Miami Marlins RBI to an 8-1 championship victory. The championship game was played at Globe Life Park, home to the Texas Rangers. For the kids playing in the game, who were only 13- through 15-year-olds, the nerves of playing in a Major League stadium were inevitable.

"In the first inning or two, the kids are nervous playing at a place like this," said Miami head coach Mario Rodriguez. "You have to weather the storm, and when you have a lead early, it takes the pressure off you and puts the pressure on them."

Miami was patient at the plate in the first inning, taking five walks and forcing an early exit for Detroit starting pitcher Simon Lidwell after only two-thirds of an inning pitched.

"This team had the discipline and the talent," said Rodriguez. "We made some key plays today, were patient at the plate and capitalized on the other team's mistakes, and the rest is history."

Several of the Miami players at this year's RBI World Series were in the 2013 World Series in Minnesota, where they were eliminated in heart-breaking fashion in an extra-inning game.

Spatafora, who was awarded the RBI World Series Most Valuable Player Award, was one of the players to experience last year's defeat, and he was determined to redeem himself.

"To win the MVP, it means a lot," said Spatafora. "Being my second time here, and after getting eliminated last year, I came back and worked and dedicated myself to get to this point."

For the tournament, Spatafora was 2-0, with a 2.39 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings pitched. He equally impressive at the plate, hitting .333 with an .867 OPS, four stolen bases and seven RBIs, tied for third most in the entire Junior Division.

"Our team worked so hard," Spatafora said. "It's not a one-man show out here. Everybody had to do a part to get this win."

Ryan Cox is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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