CARACAS-Leones del Caracas beat Tiburones de La Guaira in the sixth match last night to become the new Venezuelan champions, securing the final spot in the Serie del Caribe. Harold Castro hit a home run in the 11th inning to beat Tiburones 7-6.
Leones had an outstanding performance during the tournament. They reached 50 wins in total: 36 in the regular season, 10 in the round robin and four in the final. In every stage, they held first place.
Leones started the finals strongly, take a 2-0 lead. But Tiburones woke up and leveled it after a statement 2-8 win. In the fifth game, Leones beat Tiburones 7-2, putting them within one win of glory. Last night, Tiburones scored three runs in the first inning but eventually Leones began to purr. The game ended in the 11th, as Castro’s spectacular home run sealed a historic victory.
¡EL JONRÓN DE HAROLD CASTRO QUE VALE UN TÍTULO PARA LOS LEONES DEL CARACAS!
— El Extrabase ⚾️ (@ElExtrabase) January 31, 2023
No time to celebrate
Leones’ attention now turns to the Serie del Caribe – the most important baseball tournament in the world after the MLB World Series. Fortunately for Leones, the tournament will be held in their home city of Caracas, Venezuela. It begins this Thursday and runs through to February 10th.
Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, México, Panamá and Colombia – as well as Curaçao and Cuba, as invited teams – will all be represented in the tournament. For the first time since 1949, the tournament has expanded to feature eight teams.
The format features a round-robin between the eight teams. The four best teams will qualify to the semifinals, and the winners to the final. A third-place match will be played between semifinal losers.
Can the Dominican Republic maintain dominance?
With 21 titles, the Dominican Republic boasts more Caribbean Series winners than any other nation. The first one came in 1971, when Tigres de Licey were triumphant with a 6-0 record and .579 batting average.
Over the next 1o years, Tigres de Licey would win three more tournaments: 1973, 1977 and 1980. They have a total of 10 titles – the most in the tournament – but haven’t won a title since 2008. The Quisqueyanos can add their 11th title in 2023.
Leones del Caracas (VEN)
Leones del Caracas is the Venezuelan team with most Serie del Caribe appearances (15). They have won two tournaments – in 1982 and in 2006 – equalling their arch-rivals Navegantes del Magallanes.
With the 2022-23 championship, Leones won their 21st Venezuelan title. They will also be the host country and host city of the event, with huge crowds expected in support. The last time Leones won the tournament, Venezuela hosted it.
CEEELEEEEEBRAAAAAA CARAQUISTAAAAAAAAAAAAA QUE LOGRAMOS EL 21 CARAJOOOOO pic.twitter.com/x31DC0yCip
— Leones del Caracas (@leones_cbbc) January 31, 2023
Vaqueros de Montería (COL)
This is the second time that Vaqueros will play in the Serie del Caribe. The first time was in 2020, when Colombia made their first appearance in the tournament. Last time out, they lost all five games.
Colombia is the defending nation though, with the Caimanes de Barranquilla defeating the Gigantes del Cibao (DOM) 4-1 in the 2022 final. Can the Vaqueros defend the Colombian crown?
CALENDARIO DE JUEGOS 🇨🇴
Así jugaremos la #SerieDelCaribe Gran Caracas ⚾🇻🇪
¡Hagan sus planes! Estas son los días y horas de nuestros juegos 🤠⚾
🇨🇴🕝Juegos en Hora Colombia
.#SoMosColombia💙🇨🇴 #PorNuestraTierra 💙Ⓜ️ pic.twitter.com/DFOKt45XYO
— Vaqueros de Montería🤠⚾🔥 (@Beisbolvaquero) January 29, 2023
Cañeros de Los Mochis (MEX)
Cañeros de Los Mochis beat Algodoneros de Guasave in six matches to win the right to represent Mexico in the Serie del Caribe. They boast the Liga Mexicana regular season MVP Yasmany Tomás, who will be looking to win the title for the first time in their history. They have a tough start, against Tigres del Licey.
A winning campaign in Venezuela will be Mexico’s 10th title.
¡#SomosMéxico! 🇲🇽 💪
Te presentamos el roster de México para la Serie del Caribe #GranCaracas2023 🎉🔥
— Liga ARCO Mexicana del Pacífico (@Liga_Arco) January 30, 2023
Tigres del Licey (RDO)
Tigres beat Estrellas Orientales under the direction of head coach Jose Offerman. With Offerman as a coach, Tigres were champions in 2008 – but their 2017 campaign was less successful. They lost every game. They’ll be the team to watch in Caracas.
LOS TIGRES DEL LICEY SOMOS LOS CAMPEONES DE LA TEMPORADA 2022-2023
— Tigres del Licey (@TigresdelLicey) January 19, 2023
Federales de Chiriquí (PAN)
The Federales beat Atlanticos 3-0 to clinch the first title in their history, but their second Serie del Caribe participation after COVID issues in 2021. Panamá has won two tournaments, the first in 1950 (Carta Vieja Yankees) and the most recent in 2019 (Toros Herrera).
Federales have the youngest coach of the tournament. José Mayorga, at 30 years old, is the youngest coach to win a national title in Panamá.
¡Federales Campeón! Se cumplió el adagio: “a la tercera es la vencida”. Gracias a los peloteros, cuerpo técnico, gerencia y socios de Federales, pero sobre todo, gracias a esa gran FANATICADA chiricana y de todo el país. #Federealesdechiriqui #Panama #Chiriqui pic.twitter.com/HAsNjQHa74
— Federales de Chiriquí (@federalesdechi) January 20, 2023
Indios de Mayaguez (PUR)
Founded in 1938, Indios have won 19 Puerto Rican tournaments and two Serie del Caribe (1978, 1992) titles. Despite being one of the most well-supported and biggest teams on the island, they’ve gone more than 30 years without a Serie del Caribe title.
They reached the final in 2014, but lost badly to Naranjeros (MEX).
¡Puerto Rico! 🇵🇷⚾️
Le presentamos el Roster Oficial de nuestra selección de Puerto Rico en la Serie del Caribe 2023. 🏝#indiosmayaguez #lbprc #mayaguez #puertorico #seriedelcaribe #grancaracas2023 pic.twitter.com/mlB2zbX3ob
— Indios de Mayagüez (@IndiosLBPRC) January 30, 2023
Invitationals: Wildcats KJ74 (CUR) and Agricultores (CUB)
Curaçao’s most successful champions – Wildcats KJ74 – will represent the small island for the first time in the Serie del Caribe. The Wildcats won the Curaçao National Championship AA League in 2022, their 17th, and therefore qualified for the tournament. Curaçao will have some MLB players and other Netherlands national teamers on their roster.
Agricultores will represent the proud island of Cuba – a fanatical baseball nation. Cuba did not compete from 1960 until 2014, but they still have eight championships to their name – the fourth-most in tournament history. They last won in 2015 with Vegueros de Pinar del Rio but dominated the tournament in the 1950s.
You can see the full schedule of games here. We’ll be covering the Serie del Caribe with reports on the ground in Caracas after each stage is complete.