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Friday, March 13, 2009

Cuba Heads to San Diego Undefeated

Mexico City, Mar 13.- A barrage of 17 hits including three home runs gave Team Cuba a devastating 16-4 mercy rule win over Mexico to finish first in Group B of the 2nd World Baseball Classic and travel to San Diego still undefeated.
Manager Higinio Velez changed virtually the entire lineup for the game, making way for Yosvani Pereza as the designated hitter batting cleanup —a just prize for his crucial homer against Australia— and Rolando Meriño as the catcher, the only non-pitcher who hadn’t played. Michel Enriquez was on third, Yulieski at second batting fifth and Yoennis Cespedes as the leadoff batter.

It was precisely Cespedes who broke the ice with a game opening triple, scoring when Cepeda hit into a double play after Michel was hit by a pitch.

Mexico received two scones from Cuban pitchers Ciro Silvino Licea and Luis Miguel Rodriguez. But in the third two side-arm pitches by right-hander Rodriguez were belted for back-to-back homers to right by left-handed batters Freddy Sandoval and Oscar Robles.

The Cubans tied in the third on an RBI hit by Michel Enriquez against Francisco Campos who relieved starter Pablo Ortega. Cuba then took the lead in the fourth with a five run rally, highlighted by the second home run of the Classic from Yulieski Gourriel, hits by Navas, Cespedes and Peraza, and a two-run double by Michel.

Later, in the seventh inning, the light rain present through much of game almost became a downpour as Cuba scored nine times, enough for the game to be called on the 10-run difference mercy rule. The two most important hits of the inning were the three-run homers by Ariel Pestano and Frederich Cepeda.

The winning pitcher for Cuba was lefthander Yulieski Gonzalez, the third of six pitchers used by manager Higinio Velez. Also working were Yunieski Maya, Miguel Lahera, Yolexis Ulacia, Ciro Silvino Licea and Luis Miguel Rodriguez.(Taken from Granma/Sigfredo Barros, Special Correspondent)