By Ray Otero (Baseballdecuba.com)
HAVANA TIMES — Cuba, the big favorite in the baseball tournament of the XXII Central American and Caribbean Games, did not disappoint its fans and finished with a perfect 5-0 record, defeating Nicaragua 9-3 in the championship game Friday night at the Beto Avila stadium in Veracruz.
In winning the silver medal the Nicaraguans managed their best effort so far in these games.
With the victory, the Cubans confirmed their dominance in these events dating back to 1926, taking their 15th title in 18 presentations. The Dominican Republic was defending the title they won four years ago in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, when the Cubans did not field a team. This time the DR finished in third place.
For the final clash on Friday night, manager Victor Mesa gave the ball to right-hander Freddy Asiel Alvarez (2-0), who pitched well during the first two thirds of the game, largely thanks to his control.
Asiel left the mound in the seventh inning, when he began to show signs of tiring after two doubles by Nicaragua that appeared to signal a comeback. His replacement, the young and hard throwing righty Yaisel Sierra, put out the fire with pitches that reached 96 MPH and allowed him go two full innings.
The ninth was handled by closer Hector M. Mendoza. Though not as fast as is accustomed from him, he got the job done ending the game with a strikeout to begin the celebration of Cuba’s title.
Lefty Carlos Teller got the call on Friday for Nicaragua, as their ace, Wilton Lopez, was used the day before in the semifinal win over Puerto Rico. Teller ran into trouble from the opening inning when he loaded the bases on a double by Moreira and two walks, but ended up dominating Frederich Cepeda on a liner to short and Yadiel Hernandez on a roller to the mound. Cuba had two other men on base in the second inning, but once again failed to score.
The first Cuban run came in the third on consecutive doubles by Frederich Cepeda and Yadiel Hernandez, but it was in the fourth, when Cuba would take a lead never to be lost. Two walks, a timely single by Alfredo Despaigne, a sacrifice fly from Yadiel Hernandez, combined with poor Nicaraguan defense including an error by left fielder Miguel Morales’ on a fly by Cepeda, produced three runs and put the score at 4-0.
The offense continued producing with two more runs in the sixth, one driven in by a single by liner from Yulieski Gourriel, and two more in the seventh, including one on a “squeeze play” perfectly executed suicide by Yordan Manduley at the plate and Lourdes Gourriel, Jr. running from third. The last Cuban run came in the eighth, also driven by Manduley.
Manager Victor Mesa achieved his third such award with a Cuban national team and was one of the first to run out on the field to celebrate the victory. Speaking to the press, he thanked all the players for their team work and dedication in every game played.
At the end came the awards ceremony, with medals going to Cuba, the runner-up Nicaraguans, and the Dominicans, who finished third by defeating Puerto Rico 8-1 on Friday afternoon.