Kyle Perez didn't need any ice packs to cool off his pitching arm after he took care of the Thurston County Senators.
His teammates lurking around the dugout Friday at Citizen Field did that for him when they gave him a post-game Gatorade shower.
After running up an early three-run deficit, Perez provided what the Invaders needed to keep it close, then sat back and watched his team's potent offence reel in the Senators in a 9-3 victory.
It was the fifth win in six games for the visitors from New Mexico at the Ramada World Baseball Challenge. In their final game before today's 6 p.m. championship showdown with Japan, Roswell pounded in four runs in the sixth inning to grab the lead and never looked back.
"It took us awhile to get going but we had a great late-game rally and we were able to come through with the win," said the well-drenched Perez. "I thought I could have done better. I gave up a lot of free bases, not something I usually do, but I battled and kept us in it."
Perez has been used primarily as a short reliever for Roswell in the semipro Pecos League and Friday's game was his first start of the season. He led the team with 32 appearances this season and posted an impressive 1.86 ERA. On Friday he went five innings, allowing five hits and only one earned run.
Kaohu Gaspar, celebrated his 25th birthday with a run-scoring single to trigger the Invaders' offence in the sixth. Senators pitcher Ryan Smith had the bases loaded when he walked in Relly Mercurio with the second Roswell run. Eli Fulton took over on the mound and walked in two more runs before the inning ended.
Roswell scored one more in the seventh off Futon and added four in the eighth with Alex Bryner pitching.
Thurston County kickstarted its offence in the second inning with an RBI single from Nick Bowman. In the third, Omar Maldonado's sacrifice fly scored Connor Bensen, and Maldonado singled in the fifth to plate Keone McKee for a 3-0 lead.
The Invaders broke it open in the eighth, scoring one off a throwing error, one on a passed ball and two from a Bobby Webb bomb. The 23-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., crushed his tournament-leading fourth home run to cap the scoring.
"It's a good feeling, I had a rough first couple games but I found my groove," said Webb, who hit 19 homers in 56 games for the Invaders this season. "We had to grind it out today but once we got on top it was smooth sailing. Perez went out there and did a good job and got us going. We struggled with the bats a little bit but we got 'em going. We have a lot of power on this team, a lot of pop."
Now 5-1, the only loss for Roswell came on Sunday when Japan beat the Invaders 11-3.
"Our offence has put up close to double digits the last three games, our pitching's doing a good job of limiting them, and we're capitalizing on our opportunities," said the 22-year-old Perez, a native of Oswego, N.Y.
In the late game, Japan tuned up for the gold-medal game by hammering Canadian Sidearm Nation 12-0.
Keita Watanabe pitched a no-hitter through six innings. Watanabe stayed in the dugout for the seventh and final inning while Daiki Tajima tried to keep the no-no going. But the second batter Tajima faced, Kevin Czarnecki ripped a liner up the middle.
Joey Underwood followed up with a double, but it wasn't nearly enough. Tajima retired the side and the game was over after seven innings, based on the 10-run deficit mercy rule.
Japan had an 8-0 lead in the sixth inning when Takuma Hasegawa belted a grand slam. They scored six runs in the second inning off Sidearm Nation starter Geoff Freeborn, who served up a two-run home run to Shoti Kitamura.
Thurston County finished with a 1-5 record but is still in the medal hunt. The Senators will play Canadian Sidearm Nation of Calgary in the bronze-medal game today at 2 p.m. at Citizen Field. The teams played each other twice this week and both games were close. Sidearm nation won a 6-5 decision last Saturday and scored an 11-8 win over the Senators on Thursday.
Smith, 25, who lives in Olympia, Wash., where the Senators are based, says his team is confident, despite their thin roster with just 11 players available.
"We're playing for third place and although we have a few losses we have to flush it and play our asses off," said Smith. "It'll be our third time playing (that) team and we know we can hit them."
Ramada World Baseball Challenge
(Not including Thursday's Canadian Sidearm Nation-Japan game)
Canadian Sidearm Nation 32
Thurston County Senators15
Kamloops Sun Devils06
Today's games (all at Citizen Field)
Canadian Sidearm Nation vs. Thurston County, 2 p.m.
Japan vs. Roswell, 6 p.m.
Roswell 9 Thurston County 3
Canadian Sidearm Nation vs. Japan, late
Canadian Sidearm Nation 11 Thurston County 8
Japan 8 Kamloops 4
Roswell 12 Kamloops 2
Japan 12 Thurston County 9
Canadian Sidearm Nation 10 Kamloops 5
Roswell 11 Thurston County 1
Japan 11 Kamloops 1
Roswell 10 Canadian Sidearm Nation 2