ITALY – The United States erupted for six seven-inning runs to break open a close game and capture its second consecutive Baseball World Cup title on Sunday with a 10-5 victory against Cuba.
Team USA (14-1) finished the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) tournament on a 14-game winning streak, including a pair of wins over Cuba.
Terry Tiffee sparked a three-run second for the Americans with a one-out hit. Josh Kroeger reached on a fielding miscue by Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera, and Lucas May followed with a three-run shot.
Cuba (12-3) closed the gap to one run on RBIs by Yulieski Gourriel and Ariel Pestano in the fourth, but a solo homer by Kansas City Royals farmhand Tug Hulett an inning later gave skipper Eddie Rodriquez’ squad a 4-2 lead.
A two-run bomb by first baseman Ariel Borrero in the sixth knotted the heavyweight matchup between the two baseball powers. But Team USA – a mix of Double-A and Triple-A prospects – took control of the gold medal contest the following inning.
Cuban starter Norge Vera opened the frame with two quick outs before walking Hulett. Buck Coats chased the ace pitcher with a two-base hit, and then a costly error by Borrero opened the flood gates. Smoak connected for the first of five consecutive RBI singles to give the Americans a commanding 10-4 lead.
Alfredo Despaigne slugged his record-setting 11th home run of the tournament in the eighth, and hit a deep shot to left field with the bases loaded in the ninth that fell short for the last out of the game.
Brad Lincoln (3-0) replaced U.S. starter Cory Luebke and worked 4 1-3 relief innings to notch the win. The right-hander allowed one walk and six hits while fanning two.
Nate Field picked up the one-out save for the Americans.
Cuban starter Norge Vera (3-1), who struck out eight over 6 2/3 innings, was pinned with the loss after giving up four hits and six runs.
FINAL WORLD CUP RANKINGS
4. Puerto Rico
9. South Korea
Photo courtesy of Ratti/FIBS