By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 25 – Yulieski Gonzalez pitched brilliantly for eight innings and Hector Olivera batted in three runs Friday to give Cuba a 5-1 win over Canada and a ticket to the finals in the 2009 World Cup Baseball Tournament being played in Italy.
The islanders’ rivals on Sunday are none other than the defending champion Team USA, which beat them 5-3 on Thursday.
Gonzalez, a southpaw, was virtually untouchable allowing only two hits and striking out ten with four walks to get his third win without a loss in the World Cup. He gave up one lone run on a homer to Adam Stern (CF) with two out in the fifth.
Cuba got the game’s first run in the bottom of the second when Alfredo Despaigne led off with a blast to left for his tournament leading 10th homer in 14 games.
With the game tied 1-1, in the bottom of the fifth, Cuba let loose scoring three times and which could have easily been more. Ariel Pestano doubled to lead off the inning followed by walks to Luis Navas and Leonis Martin. Hector Olivera then lined a single to center driving in two runs.
Martin then scored on a wild pitch and with one out Alfredo Despaigne walked to put runners on first and second with Cepeda at the plate. The slugger failed as he had the day before against the US and grounded into a double play to end the rally.
Canada went down 1-2-3 in the sixth and seventh and managed the second hit off Gonzalez in the eighth before being retired. Cuba meanwhile added a run in the bottom of the seventh with doubles by Navas and Olivera.
Cuban manager Esteban Lombillo decided to bring on his veteran closer Pedro Luis Lazo to pitch the ninth and hold the 5-1 lead.
However, the tall burly right-hander immediately got into trouble, hitting Jimmy Van Ostrand and walking Shawn Bowman on five pitches. After the pitching coach visited the mound, Lazo settled down and struck out the side to end the game.
Vince Perkins took the loss for Canada managing only one out and giving up three runs in relief of starter Chris Begg.
US over the Netherlands
A pitching duel between the United States and the Netherlands turned into a 8-2 rout as the US rallied for six runs in the sixth inning against Diegomar Markwell. Kasey Kiker got the win, throwing six innings of one hit ball.
In the other final Round Three games, Puerto Rico beat Australia 4-2 and Venezuela held on to defeat Chinese Taipei 6-4.
Three World Cup games are set for Saturday: Canada and Puerto Rico play for third place in the tournament. Australia and The Netherlands face off for fifth place and Venezuela plays Chinese Taipei again for seventh place. All three games are scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Cuban time (EST).
US-Cuba on Sunday
The 2009 World Cup championship game takes place on Sunday at 9:00 Cuba time (EST) between the United States and Cuba.
To follow the game’s play by play and to see all the box scores, statistics and results from throughout the tournament click here.