By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES — Cuba came from behind to defeat Team USA 5-3 in extra innings on Saturday in their semifinal game of the Haarlem Baseball Week tournament in Holland.
Cuba now faces Puerto Rico – which won 1-0 over host Holland in the other semifinal game – in the championship game on Sunday. The USA plays Holland for third place.
Down 3-0 going into the eighth, Cuba managed to get even with Alfredo Despaigne driving in Yulieski Gourriel with the tying run on a long sacrifice fly.
Despaigne also drove in the final run in the tenth inning, after Cepeda forced home the go ahead run with a bases loaded walk.
Both starting pitchers Jonathan Crawford and Freddy Asiel Alvarez pitched strong games with the Cuban the victim of the game’s first run in the fifth after a fielding error by shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena.
When Alvarez walked the first two batters in the sixth, Victor Mesa brought in lefty Norberto Gonzalez who allowed a hit by Cousino that could have been an out but was poorly played again by Arruebarruena, who didn’t have his best day.
Mesa then brought in the righty Yadier Pedroso, who allowed the second run to score (charged to Alvarez) on a poorly played fielder’s choice from Arruebarruena to second baseman Rudy Reyes.
Pedroso gave up a run of his own in the seventh on a double, wild pitch and sacrifice fly.
Then, after Cuba rallied to tie the score in the top of the eighth, Pedroso got the hook in the bottom of the inning after allowing two singles, replaced by Ismel Jimenez. After a walk, Jimenez got out of the one out bases loaded jam with no further damage.
With the score 3-3 both teams threatened in the ninth.
Cuba had Pestano on third on a single, sacrifice and wild pitch, but Alex Guerrero and Heredia were unable to bring him home off the second USA reliever Michael Lorenzen.
After Cuba made use of the tie breaker rule in effect starting the tenth inning to score two runs, the USA was unable to bring home either of the two runners automatically placed on base.
Pablo Millan Fernandez, the 21-year-old winning pitcher, got the first two USA batters, Field and Trevino on a fly to left and a roller to first. Victor Mesa then brought in the 19-year-old hurler Darien Nuñez who got the final out on a pop up to first base.
The Cuba-Puerto Rico game for first place in the tournament begins on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Cuban time (EDT). Four hours earlier the USA plays host Holland for third place.