Play Ball: Pinar over Santiago in Opener

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 30.- The 2008-2009 Cuban Baseball Season began on Saturday night with the inaugural game between defending champion Santiago de Cuba and runner-up Pinar del Rio.

The game was played to a large crowd in Santiago but the home team disappointed its fans losing 12-3.

Pinar del Rio was led by third baseman Donald Duarte who went 3-for-3 with five runs scored and two RBIs. Yunieski Maya got off to a rough start hitting two batters in the first inning but settled down to get the win, going 5.2 innings allowing two earned runs and striking out four with three walks.

Duarte, catcher William Otano and Reinier Leon all homered for Pinar del Rio.

Santiago ace Norge Luis Vera had a rocky start to begin the season allowing 7 earned runs and 8 hits in 5.1 innings to take the loss.

With no games on Sunday or Monday the entire 16-team league plays its first full series starting Tuesday. In Havana, Industriales, the local favorite, plays its most intense rival, Santiago de Cuba. Now managed by former star shortstop German Mesa, Industriales will be trying to erase the bitter memory of last season when the team failed to make it into the last two rounds of the playoffs.

It’s play ball in Cuba!