PANAMA CITY (AP) – With a team that was not even supposed to participate in the tournament, Panama beat Cuba 3-1 on Sunday to win its second Caribbean series and the first in its history since 1950.
Panama was represented in the tournament for the first time since 1960 only after the Caribbean professional baseball leagues withdrew the Venezuela series due to security concerns shortly before its launch. In Panama, the Toros de Herrera were invited to play as guests.
The only Panamanian team to win the tournament was the Yankees of Carta Vieja, who did it in 1950 with a full list of American players.
The win adds to what has already been a great year for Panamanian baseball: compatriot Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous selection of the Baseball Hall of Fame in January. Rivera was present for the first night of the tournament.
Despite his victory in this year's tournament, he is still not sure that Panama will play next year in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Allen Cordoba and Elmer Reyes had points scored in the bottom of the first match against Freddy Asiel Alvarez and added a point in the seventh on the Rodrigo Vigil hit.
Carlos Benitez produced the only round of the Cuban game in the fifth inning.
"There are no secrets, I had 29 warriors with a lot of talent and every day they gave me the best," said Panama manager Manuel Rodriguez. "When you play baseball this way, you'll get the titles and this win will help baseball Panama."
Javy Guerra, a stop in the minor leagues with the San Diego Padres, has been named the tournament's most valuable player.
The Cubans won their last title in 2015 and were looking to add a fourth championship in Panamanian soil, where they were champions in 1952, 1956 and 1960.