Play kicks off at 19th RBI World Series

Play kicks off at 19th RBI World Series

Play kicks off at 19th RBI World Series
MINNEAPOLIS -- With all the formalities out of the way, softball games finally began on Wednesday morning in the 19th Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) World Series.

Following the banquet on Tuesday night at Target Field, the eight teams began Wednesday with team photos on the infield at the Twins' ballpark, followed by an opening ceremony and a question from Tom Brasuell, vice president of community affairs for MLB.

"Is everybody ready to play some softball?" Brasuell asked the eight teams as they stood along the basepaths in full uniform.

Their answer was a resounding, 'Yes.'

Brasuell also offered some words of encouragement before sending the teams out to their games at Nieman Athletic Complex in Minneapolis and Dunning Softball Fields in Saint Paul.

"This is your tournament, this tournament is all about you," Brasuell said. "Have a great, great tournament. Good luck to every team."

The teams opened the round-robin portion of the World Series with Los Angeles taking on Harrisburg, Atlanta facing St. Louis, Santo Domingo facing Houston and Hoboken squaring off with Cleveland.

In the American League Central games at Nieman, the defending champs from L.A. shut out Harrisburg, 7-0, while Atlanta defeated St. Louis, 7-2. The results and preset schedule set up a matchup between the two winning teams and two losing teams, ensuring that one team would be 2-0 and another 0-2.

At Dunning, the National League Central morning games were won by Hoboken, 6-1 over Cleveland, and Santo Domingo, 4-1 over Houston. Like their AL counterparts, the NL teams ended up squaring off in the afternoon to determine which team would have two wins through the first day and which would have two losses.

In the AL, Harrisburg downed St. Louis, 10-1, to pick up its first win and hand the Central Region champion its second loss of the day. On the NL side, Cleveland escaped with a hard fought 5-4 victory over Houston.

"They really played hard, but as you see they only beat us by one, so it was a real good game," said Houston coach Robert Cazares. "It's really hard to say anything after losing two games today, but I told them to keep their heads up and we'll come back tomorrow.

"That's the way I teach my girls. Softball is like life, once you strike out and once you make an error, it's how you come back from those errors. We've just got to keep our heads up and try it again tomorrow."

Houston will take on Hoboken in its first game on Thursday before getting a rematch with Santo Domingo as the teams begin their second time through the round-robin schedule. After each team has played every other team twice, the two divisions will be seeded from No. 1 through No. 4 and will match up up against each other on Saturday morning.

While the first-day results did not go quite the way that Houston would have liked, the players and coaches were happy to enjoy the more temperate weather in the Twin Cities and get out of the Texas heat.

"It's beautiful," Cazares said. "Right now in Houston it's 104 degrees. So anything like this, it's lovely out here. The people are real friendly, too, making us feel at home. We're enjoying it a lot."

As they took on Atlanta during the afternoon slate, Los Angeles continued to roll with its second straight shutout, an 11-0 victory. While it's still early, the defending champions certainly have looked like the team to beat thus far.

L.A. will try to complete a clean sweep of its first run through round-robin play on Thursday, as it takes on St. Louis, while Atlanta will take on Harrisburg in a battle of 1-1 teams.

In a back-and-forth affair, Santo Domingo came out on top, 7-6, over Hoboken. Trailing 6-2 in the fourth, Santo Domingo rallied for four runs to tie it, and added another score later for the win. Throughout the game, both teams struggled with defensive issues and wild pitches.

"We should have played smarter," said Hoboken coach April Bracero. "We made a lot of crucial mistakes that we shouldn't have made.

"We overthrew second twice, we overthrew first twice. On easy outs we can't overthrow. We can't do that."

Hoboken will square off against Houston on Thursday afternoon, while Santo Domingo faces Cleveland. Bracero, like Cazares, had good things to say about the weather and the Twin Cities in general.

"It's not as hot as Florida, but it's nice," Bracero said. "Minnesota itself is a beautiful place. Just driving through it, there's a lot to see here."

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.