Tournaments | Story | 7/20/2021

5 Star Puerto Rico Walks Off Into Playoffs

Matthew Welsh        
Photo: Jarrette Bonet (Perfect Game)
MARIETTA, Ga. -- 5 Star Puerto Rico Gold, one of two teams form the island territory competing in the 2021 16u WWBA National Championship, defeated Alpha Prime, 4-3, on Monday afternoon in thrilling walk-off fashion. The win is 5 Star’s fifth straight of the tournament, and sealed Pool OO for the Mafia, which grants them an automatic berth in this year’s playoff bracket. 
For a team from an island with a population nearly 100 times smaller than that of the continental United States, 5 Star Puerto Rico soundly beat the pre-tournament odds to advance to this year’s playoff edition. But ask the team, and that feat was never in doubt.
The team’s starter on the day, Jarrette Bonet, was a hero not only on the mound, but also in the box. Bonet tossed three innings of one-run baseball with a 91 mph fastball, that kept his team in the game. Later in the day he delivered two momentous at-bats that helped swing his team to victory.  
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Bonet sent a first-pitch changeup off of the face of the scoreboard in right field for a solo shot that then tied the game at two runs apiece. Two innings later, with his team down 3-2 and the fate of the game resting on his final at-bat, Bonet roped a line drive double to right which plated the two winning runs.
After the game, the 6-foot-3 righty, who is also graded as the top right-handed pitcher in Puerto Rico, made no secret of his desire to step up on the day for his team.   
“I have been on a plan and working out and these situations are the ones that I have always wanted to be in,” Bonet said. “I know that I have to come up big in a big game like this because I know that Alpha Prime is one of the best teams in the nation. I wanted to make a statement that I belong in big games and that I can be a big prospect.”
And belong he does, as does the rest of his team who traveled more than 1,500 miles to compete in this week’s festivities. Not missed on the team is the raw opportunity to play against the best that the United States has to offer, and in front of a broad swath of eyes. 
“I feel really humble and grateful for the opportunity, coming from a really small island and having a really small chance to be here,” said shortstop Bryan Gonzalez who went 2-for-3 at the plate in the win. “It’s also really hard because of the money problems back home, so I’m just really grateful to be here and be part of this. We are facing really good teams and doing a really good job, so hopefully we can keep opening eyes.”
Gonzalez and Bonet constitute two players on a roster that has three players ranked in the nation’s top-500, three within the top-1000 and a further five given either the ‘high follow’ or ‘follow’ status. Traditionally, it can be difficult to advance in this tournament without a loaded lineup, yet 5 Star have proven to be an exception.
Catcher and vocal leader Adrian Salas Rivera said he and his team feed off of a particular type of intensity when taking the field against accomplished teams. Alpha Prime, favorites to win the pool, fielded four of the top-100 players in the nation, but to 5 Star, those names served only as motivation.
“It’s the players, the energy,” said Salas in crediting his team’s keys to the win. “We’re always energetic, we talk, and we always hustle, it’s really our players. We’re from Puerto Rico, we’re Latin you know, so we always stay motivated from the energy. We worked hard for it and practiced hard to stay focused on what we are doing.”
That energy was on full display as the entire dugout practically willed Bonet’s game winner into the outfield and rushed Monday’s savior before he could even touch second base. It’s clear that this team came to play for more than just a few pool play games. 5 Star Puerto Rico Gold is into the bracket and not looking back. 
“I think we have made a statement and beat one of the favorites to be in the championship, and we have let everyone know that we have the same quality players,” Bonet said. “We’re capable of beating anybody, and we’re really focused. And winning this game the way we did, gives us momentum, so we’re going to use that to our advantage.”
5 Star continues their run on Tuesday against the Indiana Bulls, at Blessed Trinity High School in the first round if the tournament playoffs. 
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