JUPITER, Fla. -- It was a history-making day on Sunday for Houston and the Dominican Republic at the 18th Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) World Series, as both will take home RBI championship trophies for the first time in the history of their respective programs.
Houston defeated Los Angeles, 3-1, to claim the Senior Division (16-18) title at Roger Dean Stadium and Santo Domingo captured the Junior Division (14-15) championship with a 4-1 win against Washington, D.C.
Houston's Felix Gomez turned in one of the more exceptional performances of the RBI World Series, presented by KPMG. The 17-year-old high school senior pitched a complete-game two-hitter to earn the Senior Division MVP award.
He managed to overcome a nearly three-hour rain delay in the middle of the game and still went the distance, striking out seven L.A. batters without allowing a walk. Blake Burrell, L.A.'s cleanup hitter, had both hits off Gomez, including a solo home run over the left-center field wall in the bottom of the fourth inning that accounted for his team's only run.
"My arm actually felt looser [after the delay]," Gomez said after receiving his MVP plaque. "It's one of the top accomplishments in my life."
It also was a huge accomplishment for the Houston RBI program, which was started in 1997 and mostly survives on its own fundraising efforts. Houston RBI manager Mike Holmes, who also runs the business side of the program out of his home, said the team raised enough money to travel to its regional tournament by holding raffles this summer. Now they can head home to Texas with some hardware to show for their dedication and effort.
"I told you I have some fighters, and you saw that Felix is one of the fighters I was talking about," Holmes said. "The kid did an outstanding job. What I tried to do every inning was communicate with him to make sure we're all on the same page. All he had to do was follow his instructions, and he did it to a tee."
Winning the title against L.A., a program that has produced seven Senior Division and four Junior Division RBI champions in the 18-year history of the World Series, was especially gratifying for Holmes.
"Any time you get to compete against young men from an L.A. organization is outstanding," said Holmes, who will remain in South Florida for another week to watch the Houston girls team play in the RBI Softball World Series that begins Tuesday in nearby Palm Beach Gardens. "I'll be talking about this for the rest of the day, then I'll concentrate on watching the girls play."
Houston collected eight hits, two of them by center fielder Sean Washington, whose RBI double in the top of the fourth gave Gomez and Houston a 3-0 lead. Left fielder Ashford Fulmer and shortstop Adrian Lopez also had an RBI for the Senior champs. Burrell took the mound for L.A. following the lengthy rain delay and shut out Houston over the final three innings, but other than Burrell, the West Region champions had no answer at the plate for Gomez.
Following the Junior Division championship game, Santo Domingo manager Oscar Perez had trouble finding the words to describe what winning the first RBI title for the Dominican Republic represents for his country.
"It means the world to us," Perez said through an interpreter after the game. "It means so much; I can't describe it."
Perez said a press conference and celebration is scheduled upon the team's arrival back in the Domican Republic on Monday and that news of their accomplishment "will be in all the newspapers."
Winning pitcher Ricardo Soriano earned the MVP award for the Junior Division champs. Soriano entered the game in the bottom of the fourth inning with the bases loaded and one out, but promptly struck out the next two D.C. batters. Soriano pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings without allowing a hit while striking out eight and walking only one.
Left fielder Ronald Guzman and shortstop Crisford Adames each had an RBI for Santo Domingo, which limited D.C. to two hits. Designated hitter Peter Rudnicki had a single and scored the only run for D.C., which was making its first appearance in an RBI World Series championship game.
"It was special," D.C. manager Antoine Williams said of his team's performance this week at the tournament. "The first time we've been here, and I really think it's going to give us momentum to really build and take it from here."
Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.