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USA Tops Cuba In Baseball World Cup Clash

ITALY – 12 and counting.

Team USA raced out to a 4-0 lead and then survived a late rally by Cuba to claim a 5-3 win Thursday at the 2009 IBAF Baseball World Cup in Nettuno. The Americans (6-0;12-1), which have already qualified for Sunday’s championship game, extended their winning streak in the tourney to 12 games.

In a likely preview of the upcoming Gold medal clash this weekend, Team USA delivered the first blow between the two baseball heavyweights in the opening frame. Minnesota Twins farmhand Trevor Plouffe reached on a fielding error by Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera with one out, and scampered home on a two-base hit by Ike Davis (Mets).

TEAM USA INJURY SCARE
Los Angeles Angels southpaw Trevor Reckling started the game for Team USA and retired the side in order in the first. However, several sources said the 20-year-old felt discomfort in his throwing arm which led to Lucas Harrell (White Sox) getting the emergency call out of the bullpen.

The Americans threatened to score again in the second after JoshJustin Smoak swings at a pitch against Cuba's Maikel Folch. Kroeger (White Sox) lined a one-out double down the left field line, and Jason Castro (Astros) walked on four pitches. Both runners moved up one base on Daniel Descalo’s (Cardinals) groundout before Cuban starter Maikel Folch sat down Buck Coats on another groundball out to escape the jam.

The Ciego de Avila left-hander opened the third with two quick outs before the curtains fell. Davis looked at four consecutive balls before jogging to first, and Philadelphia Phillies minor league slugger Terry Tiffee launched a full-count fastball over the left field fence to send Folch to an early shower.

CUBAN RELIEVER STRUGGLES
Cuban reliever Yadier Pedroso dug himself a quick hole. Pedro Alvarez (Pirates) reached on a walk, and Kroeger followed with a groundball single through the left side. Castro finished off the three-run frame with an RBI single to stretch the Americans lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Harrell (3-0) was showing no effects of a short-notice appearance limiting Cuba’s talented hitting lineup to a walk and one hit over four scoreless innings.

B.J. Rosenberg (Phillies) took the ball for manager Eddie Rodriguez’ squad in the sixth and made quick work of the Cubans with a 1-2-3 inning. However, the Big Red Machine flexed its muscles an inning later.

CUBAN BATS COME ALIVE
Michel Enriquez started the uprising with a leadoff solo home run. Alfredo Despaigne followed a walk to Frederich Cepeda with a single into right field, and Yulieski Gourriel cut the lead in half with an RBI double down the left field line. Rosenberg walked Yoennis Cespedes to load the bases before getting replaced by another Phillies pitching prospect, Cedrick Bowers.

Cuban skipper Esteban Lombillo sent pinch-hitter Yosvany Peraza to the plate with the sacks full, but the move backfired when Bowers induced a 4-6-3 double play. However, Despaigne scored on the play to make it a one-run game. Ehren Wasserman (White Sox) trotted out of the bullpen to retire another pinch-hitter, Jose Abreu, on a flyout to center field to end the inning.

A single and a fielding error by Plouffe had Cuba threatening to tie the score in the eighth. But, the American reliever notched another rally-killing double play groundball to preserve the 4-3 lead.

TEAM USA BAGS INSURANCE RUN
Team USA added a key insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Kroeger opened the frame with his third hit of the game, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Castro. Cuban closer Vladimir Garcia replaced Pedroso and retired Descalso on a line drive out to Gourrriel at third base. Then Coats delivered a clutch two-out RBI single to make the score 5-3.

Cuba (4-2;11-2) had one last chance in the ninth with the heart of the batting order – Despaigne, Gourriel and Cespedes – stepping into the box. But Wasserman racked up a strikeout and a pair of groundouts to clinch the save and the victory.

POOL F STANDINGS

Team Won Lost
Cuba 04 02
Dutch 03 03
P.Rico 03 03
Venezuela 01 05

FINAL ROUND SCOREBOARD:

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22

Cuba 2 – Australia 1
Canada 3 – Puerto Rico 0
United States 6 – Venezuela 3
Netherlands 11 – Chinese Taipei 2

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

Canada 9 – Venezuela 2
Australia 5 – Netherlands 2
United States 3 – Puerto Rico 0
Cuba 8 – Chinese Taipei 0

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24

United States 5 – Cuba 3
Puerto Rico 8 – Chinese Taipei 2
Canada 11 – Netherlands 5
Venezuela 9 – Australia 4

POOL G STANDINGS

Team Won Lost
USA 06 00
Canada 04 02
Australia 02 04
Taiwan 01 05

Photo courtesy of Marco Vasini-IBAF/FIBS

Marvin Moore is a former European coach and Managing Editor at BaseballdeWorld.

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