By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 22 – The World Cup Baseball Tournament is down to eight teams and Cuba, playing in Group 1, opens its round three play on Tuesday against Australia. Manager Esteban Lombillo gave the nod to veteran right-hander Norge Luis Vera to start for Cuba. Game time is 2:00 p.m. Cuban time (EST).
Australia is no push over. In the Second World Baseball Classic last March it took a pinch hit two-run homer from Yosvany Peraza in the bottom of the eighth for Cuba to win 5-4, and move on to round two in San Diego.
In the last second round game on Monday, the Australians gave undefeated Team USA a tough game falling 4 to 3.
Vera has two wins so far in the tournament and hasn’t allowed a run while fanning 18 in 14 innings. The pitcher, who plays for Santiago de Cuba in the Cuban League, has only given up two walks and seven hits. However, he now faces an Australian team that leads the tournament with a team .328 batting average.
This round of play in the 2009 World Cup takes play in Italy, and there is a complicated new system of rating the teams under which the games against each team’s group rivals pass from round two to round three.
Thus in Group 1, Cuba, The Netherlands and Puerto Rico all begin with 2-1 records with Venezuela handicapped at 0-3. In Group 2, the USA is 3-0 followed by Australia, Canada and Chinese Taipei, all 1-2.
The other novelty is that in round three the teams only play the squads in the other group. Thus, Cuba faces Australia on Tuesday, Chinese Taipei on Wednesday, USA on Thursday and Canada on Friday.
After those four games on Saturday the two fourth place teams play each other, likewise those that finish third and second. The top two teams from each group meet for the championship on Sunday.
For complete information on the World Baseball Cup schedule, stats and standings and play-by-play visit http://competition.baseballeurope.com/2009/world/schedule3.php