The Bahamas’ national baseball team made history last night, winning its first game at the senior national level on home soil, as the 4th Annual COCABE (Caribbean Baseball Confederation) Caribbean Baseball Cup got underway at the Andre Rodgers National Baseball Stadium.
After a grand opening Sunday afternoon, and in the front of Bahamian Major League Baseball (MLB) star with the Miami Marlins Jasrado “Jazz” Chisholm Jr., Team Bahamas pulled off a 4-3 win over the US Virgin Islands. They struggled to hit the ball all night, but came through when the team needed it the most.
Ellison Hanna got a huge two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning to put The Bahamas up, 3-2, last night, and after the USVI tied the game a half inning later, Toby Simmons drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth.
McKell Bethel came in and closed the door for The Bahamas in the top of the ninth, earning the save. Bethel retired the side in the bottom of the ninth, striking two of the three batters he faced to preserve the hard-fought win for The Bahamas.
“That guy (Bethel) was playing softball like about two weeks ago. We went down to Grand Bahama from a training camp and he was there and he just came at us,” said Team Bahamas Assistant Coach Albert Cartwright, a former professional baseball player for The Bahamas. “He came out here tonight and he was throwing heat. He was our hardest thrower, it was just crazy to see.”
Evan Sweeting recorded the win for The Bahamas and Bethel earned the save. Tahj Cunningham suffered the loss for the USVI.
The Bahamas struck first, scoring in the bottom of the second inning, scoring on an error by the USVI catcher Conroy Samuel III as he overthrew second base on a steal attempt. Hanna came home from third on the play to score The Bahamas’ first run of the game.
The USVI got that run back in the top of the fifth on an RBI (run batted in) double by Taj Bates and then took a 2-1 lead an inning later on a wild pitch. Hanna’s two-run single in the bottom of the seventh gave The Bahamas a 3-2 lead, but he was called out trying to get back to first base after being caught up halfway between first and second.
The USVI tied the game in the top of the eighth inning on a bases loaded walk, and then Toby Simmons got the game-winning sacrifice fly a half inning later.
“This almost brought me to tears tonight,” said Cartwright. “I was at the ground-breaking ceremony for this stadium, so to be here tonight and pick up this key win is a sweet feeling. This is so exciting, to see the fans come out and support us tonight is a great feeling.”
Cartwright said the bats didn’t come alive for the majority of the night, but the team was able to hang in there and do what they needed to do to get the win. The Bahamas finished with just four hits on the night as the USVI out hit them, 6-4.
“Sometimes you are anxious to do so well in front of your family and friends that you might fold. It’s challenging,” said Cartwright. “We had to take a step back, relax and gather ourselves. The important thing is that we got the win. We have to come back and build off of that. We were able to get it done and hopefully we can keep it going for the rest of the tournament.”
Hanna finished 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored for The Bahamas. Simmons, Adari Grant and Ural Forbes II had the other three hits for The Bahamas. Six players had a hit each for the USVI.
Brandon Russell started the game for The Bahamas and went five complete innings. He gave up three hits and a run and struck out five. Toshawn Drew started the game for the USVI. He went four and two-thirds innings, giving up two hits and a run, and striking out five.
The top two teams from the week-long tournament will qualify to compete at next year’s Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in San Salvador, El Salvador. If Cuba is among the top two, the top three will qualify for the CAC Games, as Cuba has previously qualified.
It doesn’t get any easier for Team Bahamas, as they play Curacao tonight. That game will get underway at 7 p.m. Curacao won its first game of the tournament, turning back Puerto Rico, 7-1, yesterday morning.
This is the first time that a major international senior baseball tournament is being held here in The Bahamas and it’s the first time that a collection of collegiate and professional Bahamian baseball players have come together on the same team to represent the country. The week-long tournament runs through Sunday December 11 at which time the championship and third-place games will be held. The closing ceremony is set for 8:30 p.m. on Sunday December 11.