Washington Nationals pitcher, Erasmo Ramirez, congratulated 14 de Septiembre Little League team out of Managua, Nicaragua. His young countrymen punched their ticket to Williamsport, PA USA as the Latin America Little League’s World Series representative, and captivated the hearts of baseball aficionados along the way.
“These young men are elevating Nicaragua, doing what many didn’t believe that they could do. Their efforts and confidence are silencing the naysayers and opening opportunities,” said Ramirez. The major leaguer threw a dart for a strike with his comments. To fully appreciate Ramirez’s comments, we must first understand this team’s journey.
HOW NICARAGUA QUALIFIED FOR WILLIAMSPORT
The Latin America qualifying tournament featured this team, Nicaragua “B” 14 de Septiembre, Managua, who defeated powerhouse Venezuela, Honduras, and Costa Rica, and another impressive team from Nicaragua, team “A” Hermanos por Cristo out of Chinandega. Only one of these five teams would advance to Williamsport to represent Latin America.
It was a wild and exciting qualifying round-robin tournament where Nicaragua B lost 9-6 early in the tournament to Venezuela. “Even though we lost to Venezuela the first time early in the tournament, our kids showed courage, we showed that we belonged. It was then that the improbable, but not impossible run began. You can see the confidence in the kids growing each game.” said Luis Bravo, father of star player, Luis Bravo Jr., who shares the same name. “We fought our way back and kept winning, and our other team from Nicaragua, Team A, split the series with Venezuela,” said Bravo.
Nicaragua B had to win, and win big in the final game against Venezuela, as there was a three-way tie with Venezuela, and Nicaragua A, with the run differential serving as the tiebreaker between the three squads.
July the 9th, at Roberto Clemente Field in Masaya, Nicaragua, 14 de Septiembre pulled off one of the greatest little league victories in Nicaraguan history by defeating Venezuela in the rematch by mercy rule, winning 10-0 after 5 innings.
And in doing so, 14 de Septiembre advanced to Williamsport; the first time since 1970 that a team from Nicaragua has done so.
TEAM NICARAGUA CAPTIVATED THE BASEBALL WORLD IN WILLIAMSPORT
Nicaragua provided the fans of the Little League World Series with one of the highlight moments of the event with its thrilling 11 innings come from behind an 8-7 victory over Japan. Nicaragua also defeated blue blood squads from Puerto Rico, and Panama during its time in Williamsport.
“They never give up. I saw them on tv, and they play great baseball, so I wanted to come to see them play [in person]. I want the Pennsylvania team to win, but after that, I want Nicaragua to win.” said Kim Logan from Altoona, PA.
People from numerous countries and various states without any connection or ties to Nicaragua cheered for the young men from this Central American Country.
“They are having so much fun, you can see that. And I am having a ball watching them. How can you not cheer for them? That win against Japan was the most exciting game that I’ve seen.” said Logan.
Mr. Luis Bravo was the only parent that was able to make the trip to Williamsport.
Consequently, Mr. Bravo became the voice for those parents that could not make the trip and became the de facto unofficial spokesperson for the team. And they could not have had better representation.
Mr. Bravo is an intelligent, articulate young professional, with an enchanting personality. His baseball IQ is off the charts, and his passion for the sport, the young athletes, and his love for Nicaragua reverberated throughout Williamsport, and throughout the baseball universe during his television interviews.
“The entire Nicaraguan delegation, to include Luis, ingratiated themselves to the outpouring of support, admiration, and respect that they deserved,” said ESPN reporter Sebastian Salazar.
Mr. Ricardo Arana Rivas is the Director of Operations of Little League in Nicaragua; he’s another impressive individual and is the behind-the-scenes architect of the success of youth baseball in Nicaragua, and much of the credit should be directed to him. “The unconditional support that we receive from the Nicaraguan government, players, parents, coaches, and volunteers, has been the key to our success. And youth baseball in Nicaragua is on solid ground and getting better every day.” Said Arana.
This Nicaraguan Little League World Series Team represents all that is good about baseball. They played like champions, exemplified the highest degree of sportsmanship, inspired, and captivated a worldwide audience. Curaçao, this year’s runner-up, bookended Nicaragua in defeat and was the only team to defeat Nicaragua.
JAPAN-NICARAGUA, A GAME FOR THE AGES
Nicaragua defeated The Land of the Rising Sun in arguably the gutsiest performance of the Little League World Series of recent times. The upset cannot be understated. Eleven innings of extraordinary baseball by both teams; 11 innings of grueling suspense not for the faint of heart; 11 times Japan has won the Little League World Series.
The Japan-Nicaragua game began this past Sunday, August 21st, but rain delayed the game with Nicaragua leading 1-0 until the following day. The game resumed on Monday and Japan quickly took a lead 3-1, later extending the lead to 4-1.
Nicaragua looked deflated, but certainly not defeated.
Heading to the bottom of the 6th and final inning, it was crunch time for Nicaragua. Nicaragua’s, Gabriel Gutierrez reached first base safely on a dropped third strike wild pitch. Luis Garcia followed up with a single. The tying run was now at the plate. Hearts began to palpitate at a faster pace, and nerves crept in on both teams as Nicaragua’s biggest home run threat, Dereck Alonzo, stepped up to the plate. In dramatic fashion, Alonzo tied the game with a towering home run to center field which sent the game to extra innings! The drama continued…
In the 8th inning, both teams scored two runs each to make the score 6-6.
Defensive gems and solid pitching by both teams kept the score 6-6 until Japan took the lead 7-6 in the 11th. The pressure was beginning to build again for Nicaragua, down by a run at the bottom of the 11th inning.
Nicaragua’s first batter of the inning, Erick Gonzalez, struck out but hustled safely to first on a passed ball. Next, Brandon Jimenez walked. A clutch hit by Johan Saravia tied the game, bringing Gonzalez in for the score. Gabriel Gutierrez reached on an error to load the bases for star Luis Gonzalez. Gonzalez’s job was to put the ball in play, and that he did by hitting a roller to third to bring in Jimenez for the dramatic come from behind 8-7 victory over Japan.
Hawaii’s dominance on the field was spectacular en route to winning the 2022 Little League World Series. Hats off, Hawaii, on a job well done.
In the end, Nicaragua won the world over. ESPN’s reporter Sebastian Salazar added, “The story of this Nicaraguan team has impacted me more than any other event that I’ve covered. These young men have united a country for all the right reasons. I’ve never seen a community rally behind their country like the Nicaraguans have. We reported and put out the bat signal that Luis Bravo was the sole parent from Team Nicaragua that made the trip to Williamsport; it seemed as though every person that was watching our broadcast felt a civic duty to come out and support these kids, especially those of Nicaraguan descent.” Bravo Nicaragua, Bravo.
- Josue Avendaño #4,
- Erick Gonzalez #5
- Ronny Artola #8
- Xavier Hernandez #9
- Levi Madrigal #10
- Johan Saravia #12
- Luis Garcia #13
- Diego Gonsalez #14
- Gabriel Gutierrez #15
- Brandon Jimenez #16
- Luis Bravo #17
- Marlon Chavez #18
- Gonzalo Lopez #19
- Dereck Alonzo #20
Coaches: Sergio Manfut, Javier Larios
Manager: Marlon Chavez
This article is dedicated to Roberto Clemente’s family, the Puerto Rican people, and to his fans all over the world. Roberto Clemente is a beloved hero in Nicaragua. Puerto Rico’s Roberto Clemente represents all that is good in professional baseball. Arguably the MLB’s most coveted award is the Roberto Clemente Award given to an MLB player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution.