by Ray Otero (baseballdecuba.com)
HAVANA TIMES — A total of six losses in a row in games against the USA university selection came to an end Wednesday night in Matanzas before 10,500 spectators, as the young Cuban baseball team took the opener of a five-game series by a score of 4-3.
Twenty year old Camagüey pitcher Norge Luis Ruiz played a key role in ending the negative streak and took revenge for his loss last year in the US to a similar team.
This time Ruiz worked six innings allowing only two hits, one an RBI double in the fourth inning by shortstop Alex Bregman the top player on the USA roster. Ruiz struck out six and walked three, leaving the mound after the sixth episode with Cuba on top 4-1.
The win allowed the Cubans to break a streak of six consecutive losses in these series, dating back to July 8, 2012 when right-hander Freddy Asiel Alvarez won 5-2 at the Latinoamericano stadium in Havana in game four of that year’s series.
The Cubans were helped by a shaky start from the highly regarded USA pitcher Justin Garza who appeared nervous and wild, giving up four walks in the third inning, which combined with a wild pitch and a single by Ramón Lunar provided the first two of Cuba’s runs.
Thomas Eshelman came on in relief of Garza with two out in the third and kept the score close until the sixth inning when RBI singles from Roel Santos and O. Yander gave Cuba a 4-1 lead.
The USA edged closer in the seventh as pinch-hitter Chris Okey dispatched a homer off left-handed reliever Pedro Durán, making the score 4-2. The eighth would bring the USA even closer when Bregman drove in run three, with his second single of the game, this one off reliever Yaisel Sierra.
Then Juan Carlos Viera of Las Tunas finished off the job recording a save despite allowing two hits in the top of the ninth.
Team USA and Cuba will meet again Thursday at the same venue of the Victoria de Giron Stadium in Matanzas at 7:15 pm. Righty James Kaprielian is listed as the starting pitcher for the USA and southpaw Julio A. Martinez of Pinar del Rio for Cuba.