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01/01/2007 Archived Entry: "VIVA BEISBOL: Naranjeros top seed as MexPac playoffs near"

by Bruce Baskin, Editor

HERMOSILLO – The Hermosillo Naranjeros will host the Los Mochis Caneros Tuesday night at Hector Espino Stadium as the opening round of the Mexican Pacific League playoffs get underway. Also on the schedule, the Obregon Yaquis will entertain the Culiacan Tomateros while the Navojoa Mayos visit the defending LMP champion Mazatlan Venados.

The Naranjeros were able to hold of Mazatlan to complete their title sweep for the winter, finishing the regular season with a 41-26 record and the maximum of 16 points. While Mazatlan and Obregon each collected 13 points for the campaign, the Venados got the second-place nod over the Yaquis by virtue of finishing a half-game ahead of Obregon in the composite standings (38-27 to 39-29). Culiacan was a clear fourth-place finisher with 9 points, and although both Navojoa and Mochis ended with 8.5 points apiece, the Mayos were seeded fifth because their overall 31-36 record was better than the Caneros’ 30-38 mark. Both Guasave and Mexicali missed the playoffs, taking seventh and eighth places, respectively.

Hermosillo is the favorite for the MexPac postseason, combining a powerful offense with decent pitching, but Mazatlan seeks their third straight LMP pennant with a strong pitching staff and defense while Obregon has an opportunistic offense and decent defense, but ace pitcher Joakim Soria has left the team to rest before going to spring training with Kansas City next month. Among the other three playoff teams, Culiacan may bear the most watching for the “lucky loser” berth in the semifinals, especially since they’ve drawn Soria-less Obregon. The Tomateros boast perhaps the best lineup outside Hermosillo. Navojoa will go as far as LMP ERA leader Oscar Rivera takes them, and Los Mochis will be counting on MexPac batting champion Ramon Orantes and solid hitter Jose Ortiz to carry the load for a team that lost nine straight games to end the regular season. A “lucky loser” is given the fourth and final semi slot after taking its first round series farther than the other two casualties.

The Navojoa Mayos will open their first round series in Mazatlan Tuesday without the services of pitcher Tom Shearn and outfielder Norris Hopper. According to reports, Shearn, who finished third to Rivera and Soria in the LMP with a 2.76 ERA, is out with arm troubles. Hopper, who hit .294 with two homers in 136 at-bats, was dropped from manager Mario Mendoza’s roster for disciplinary problems. Navojoa has signed infielder Travis Dawkins and pitcher Alberto Castillo as replacements.

While his Mexicali team played their way into a month of golfing in January, Aguilas outfielder Derrick White had to hate to see the season end. Playing for a non-contender, White strung together a 22-game hitting streak for the Eagles over the final three weeks of the schedule. White turned in a 4-for-4 night with a pair of doubles Saturday to finish third in the MexPac with a .346 average, trailing only Mochis’ Orantes and Hermosillo’s Juan Carlos Canizalez. Not regarded as a prototype power hitter, the former big-leaguer poled two homers Friday night against the Caneros to finish with 13 taters for the winter.

When Marco Antonio Rivera was named Culiacan’s interim manager after longtime skipper Paquin Estrada was fired last month, the Tomateros were reeling towards oblivion after being swept in a series at home with Mazatlan. Since then, the Tomateros have won six of their last right games, including a schedule-ending three-game broom job over Navojoa to move past the Mayos and Guasave into the fourth postseason seed. Rivera, who is in his first managerial stint in the LMP with Culiacan, oversees the Mexican League’ Laguna Vaqueros of Torreon during the summer.

Forgive Vinny Castilla if he doesn’t want to listen to Bing Crosby for a while. The longtime major league third baseman went home to Denver for Christmas after joining Hermosillo for the MexPac playoff drive, but was stranded at the airport Friday by a major snowstorm that resulted in a state of emergency declaration for Colorado last Friday. Castilla, who was expected back with the regular season champs for their playoff series against Los Mochis this week, batted just .200 for Hermosillo, but the Naranjeros were 7-2 for games in which he played third base.

RESULTS of games from DECEMBER 25 through DECEMBER 30

Obregon 10, Mexicali 8 (OBR-ALFREDO Munoz was 3-for-3 with a homer and 4 RBIs)

Guasave 6, Culiacan 4 (GSV-Mario Valenzuela went 3-for-5 with a run and 2 RBIs)
Navojoa 5, Hermosillo 4 (NAV-Vinny Gonzalez allowed 3 runs over 8 innings for win)
Mazatlan 5, Los Mochis 0 (MAZ-Edgar Gonzalez had 3 hits, including 2 homers and 4 RBIs)
Mexicali 12, Obregon 7 (MXI-Christian Presichi was 3-for-4 with homer and 3 RBIs)

Hermosillo 3, Guasave 0 (HMO-Elmer Dessens and Mark DeFelice combined for 7 scoreless IP)
Mazatlan 8, Obregon 7 (MAZ-Oscar Bustillos had 5IP/2H/1R/5K line to lift record to 6-2)
Mexicali 6, Los Mochis 3 (MXI-Fernando Valenzuela went to 6-3 with 7IP/2R outing)
Culiacan 4, Navojoa 1 (CUL-Jorge Campillo tossed 7 innings of 1-hit shutout ball)

Guasave 3, Hermosillo 2 (GSV-Jesse Castillo let in 2 runs over 7 innings for win)
Obregon 3, Mazatlan 0 (OBR-Carlos Elizalde pitched 3-hit shutout over 5 frames)
Mexicali 5, Los Mochis 2 (MXI-Derrick White collected 2 HRs and a single in 3 at-bats)
Culiacan 6, Navojoa 5 (CUL-Ruben Rivera cranked out a 3-run homer for Tomateros)

Guasave 1, Hermosillo 0 (GSV-Ignacio Montano hurled 7 shutout innings with 0 BBs)
Obregon 1, Mazatlan 0 (OBR-JESUS Rodriguez and 5 relievers combined for whitewash)
Mexicali 7, Los Mochis 6 (MXI-Carlos Sievers was 3-for-5 with 2-run HR for Eagles)
Culiacan 4, Navojoa 0 (CUL-Seven pitchers split up 3-hitter for 3rd LMP shutout of day)

TUE, January 2 Navojoa at Mazatlan, Los Mochis at Hermosillo, Culiacan at Obregon
WED, January 3 Navojoa at Mazatlan, Los Mochis at Hermosillo, Culiacan at Obregon
FRI, January 5 Mazatlan at Navojoa, Hermosillo at Los Mochis, Obregon at Culiacan
SAT, January 6 Mazatlan at Navojoa, Hermosillo at Los Mochis, Obregon at Culiacan
SUN, January 7 Mazatlan at Navojoa, Hermosillo at Los Mochis, Obregon at Culiacan
TUE, January 9 Navojoa at Mazatlan, Los Mochis at Hermosillo, Culiacan at Obregon
WED, January 10 Navojoa at Mazatlan, Los Mochis at Hermosillo, Culiacan at Obregon

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