Granma.cu | BY SIGFREDO BARROS AND RICARDO LOPEZ HEVIA
If someone doubted that the Cuban players were going to “give it their all,” yesterday’s triumphant game against Panama has proven it, after being up against the wall on several occasions before pulling out a win in this First Baseball World Classic.
A man just off the bench—without previous experience in a tournament of this magnitude—Yoandy Garlobo from Matanzas, became a hero, along with Frederich Cepeda and right fielder Yunieski Maya, although they were considered outstanding even before that. Garlobo came out to bat for Rudy Reyes and hit a line drive down center field to pull ahead and Cepeda delivered the coup de grace with a similar hit, both against the first pitch by Jorge Cortez, the fifth Panamanian pitcher of the game.
It seemed as if the match, tense, fought out for out for more than four hours, was going to be decided in the ninth after the spectacular homerun by Yulieski Gourriel with one on base. But Panama—obligated to win a after losing to the hosting team, Puerto Rico, tied the score for the second time and were on the brink of leaving the field to their rivals when Yulieski caught a pop fly behind the plate.
Cuba came from behind and took control in the third, after being shutout twice by southpaw Bruce Chen, who has good control of the curve ball and a speed of 87 mph. A “texas” by Pedroso, two sacrifices and doubles by Paret and Yulieski—the first by ruling, ricocheting off the synthetic turf— gave these Olympic athletes two runs.
Panama opened the scoreboard in the second inning, after having been shutout in the first, with bases loaded and one out. Pedro Luis Lazo was throwing fast—reaching 95 mph—but the placement of the pitches were not the best and when the ninth hitter Yoni Lazo made the first hit slamming a high line drive down center, he had to abandon the mound, after throwing 40 pitches.
His relief, Vicyohandri Odel�n, left the Panamanian team dry, using his breaking ball and fast ball, 91 mph, retiring 10 batters between the second and fifth innings. But in the sixth, a high curve ball was taken advantage of by veteran player Rub�n Rivera, with nine years’ experience in the Major Leagues, to knock out a homerun beyond right field, with two on base.
In the lucky inning Cuba returned to the plate, this time thanks again to the Paret-Yulieski combination, the first and second with a major hits to center that deserved better fortune, and with which Leslie Anderson tied the game.
The Cuban pitchers were able to curtail the best Panamanian team in history to 10 hits, three of them by fourth-place batter Carlos Lee, who hit 32 homeruns for the Milwaukee Brewers last year.
It was a well-deserved victory for the Cubans, who played without committing recordable errors and were able to overcome the always-difficult stress of any competition, much stronger in this unprecedented classic. Nevertheless, a corresponding analysis is necessary—and the experience to not repeat—those mental blanks that “kill” opportunities or complicate others, enveloping the triumph in much more tension.