By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, March 7 — Villa Clara blew a 6-2 lead against Santiago de Cuba on Saturday but then scored a run in the bottom of ninth to win 7-6 and move on to the Eastern Division final series showdown with Ciego de Avila.
In a game played to an overflow crowd of 22,000 in Santa Clara, a bases loaded walk to shortsop Aledmis Diaz gave Villa Clara a walk off win.
Diaz (2 RBIs) and Dian Toscano (3 RBIs) accounted for five of the runs that propelled last year’s runner-up league champions to the final four.
Ariel Borrero went three-for-five and scored a run, Lunar was three-for-four with a run scored and an RBI, while Ariel Pestano scored twice to help the Villa Clara cause.
Yolexis Ulacia went a rocky 2.2 innings in relief allowing four hits and one run to get the win. Robelio Carrillo started for Villa Clara but was knocked out in the seventh when Santiago scored three runs to edge within a run at 6-5.
Santiago then tied the score in the eighth off Ulacia but reliever Carlos Portuondo was unable to hold down the fort in the ninth and force extra innings. Relief pitching had been one of Santiago’s big weaknesses during the entire season.
Lead off batter Maikel Castellanos had a triple and 3 RBIs for Santiago and Shortstop Luis Miguel Navas add 2 RBIs in the losing effort.
In the Western Division, Havana Province, last year’s league champions, will play Industriales, the favorite team of the capital city.