Peter C. Bjarkman*
HAVANA TIMES, April 27 — The only post-season hopeful so far able to take full advantage of their home playing field, Las Tunas jumped out to a convincing lead Thursday night in their quarterfinal series with Ciego de Avila.
Benefitting from a three-run uprising in the sixth – keyed by Yosvani Alarcón’s 2-RBI single – the Leñadoes were able to survive a couple of late rallies and move out to a two-game cushion over the visiting Tigers.
Darian Nuñez mopped up for starter Dael Mejias to earn the save for manager Juan Miguel Gordo. Joan Carlos Pedroso enjoyed a three-for-three night (including a first inning round-tripper) for the winners while Rusney Castillo also homered for the Tigers in a losing cause.
In yesterday’s late match Villa Clara was able to get back on track and deadlock their series with Granma by squeezing out a 7-4 triumph in César Sandino.
Alfredo Despaigne’s three-run homer in the third provided the bulk of the Granma offense but was largely cancelled out by a two-hit, three-RBI performance (including a solo homer) from Ariel Borrero.
Yosvani Pérez provided four innings of efficient middle relief for the Orangemen and Yolexis Ulacia picked up the series-knotting save. Villa Clara pitching managed to largely contain if not entirely silence Despaigne and Yordanis Samón in Santa Clara, but it may well be a far different story this weekend when the series moves on to tiny Martires de Barbados Stadium in Bayamo.
Despaigne smacked no fewer than 17 homers on the home field during this season’s record-breaking performance.
Both series in the Occidental League remain deadlocked heading into Friday’s renewals in Cinco de Septiembre (early game) and José Antonio Huelga (nationally televised nightcap).
Both Industriales and Matanzas will now have to win at least one of three road games in order to remain alive and push their quarterfinal hopes back onto friendly home turf.
Matanzas came out on top in a pair of regular-season road matches against the Gallos while also Industriales managed to find success on one earlier occasion this year when visiting the Elephants. Prospects would therefore seem promising for both Western quarterfinal series stretching out at least until a sixth game.
Games of April 26 (Thursday)
Villa Clara 7, Granma 4
Las Tunas 5, Ciego de Avila 4
Games of April 27 (Friday)
Industriales at Cienfuegos (5pm EST)
Matanzas at Sancti Spíritus (8:30pm EST)
Games of April 28 (Saturday)
Matanzas at Sancti Spíritus (5pm EST)
Las Tunas at Ciego de Avila (5pm EST)
Industriales at Cienfuegos (8:30pm EST)
Villa Clara at Granma (8:30pm EST