Victor Paez has a simple explanation for why his teams from Mexico have advanced to eight straight championship games at the Cal Ripken World Series.
"We love baseball," Paez said through an interpreter, "and we play with passion,"
Some serious bats haven't hurt, either.
A three-run homer by shortstop Luis Urias and a solo shot by first baseman Luis Millan paved the way Sunday for starting pitcher Gerardo Haro, who went the distance, allowing three hits against U.S. champion Ocala, Fla., in a 7-1 win before a record crowd estimated at more than 5,000 at the Ripken Youth Baseball Academy in Aberdeen.
It marked Mexico's first title since 2007 and fourth overall in the annual 16-team tournament, which is the culmination of the Babe Ruth League 12-and-under Cal Ripken Division.
"Mexico continues to be a powerhouse," Hall of Famer
said. "They earned the championship."
Mexico, which scored at least 17 runs three times in the 10-day tournament, took a 6-0 lead after three innings, all the runs coming against Florida starter Kirby McMullen. Haro, meanwhile, was overpowering, striking out 11 and never allowing more than one hit in an inning.
Florida scored its lone run in the third, when Kole Harris doubled and scored two batters later on a groundout.
"He hit his spots all day long and kept throwing a really nasty cutter that started outside and faded away," Florida manager Harvey Vandeven said of Haro. "It was power against power, and we were just hoping we'd be able to out-hit them."
Teams from the U.S. had topped teams from Mexico in the final each of the past two years.
Florida, which had advanced the final after defeating Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, had its best chance for a rally in the fourth, when McMullen drew a leadoff walk and Angel Comacho followed with an infield single.
In consecutive at-bats, however, Haro struck out Dante Torino and Carson Vandeven swinging and Jack Perkins looking to end the threat.
Haro, who helped his cause with an RBI double in the first, said getting the early lead was key to his confidence.
"I always knew we were going to win," Haro said through an interpreter, "but it was so nice being on the mound knowing that we already had scored."
Cal Ripken World Series
Haro and Santa Cruz; McMullen, Reitz (3) and Camacho.