Norge Luis Vera (Santiago) and Frank Montieth (Industriales) are tonight’s scheduled starting pitchers.
The hour has come! Four and a half months after the season began on December 3, 2006, it’s down to two teams in the Cuban Baseball Finals, Industriales, the defending champions, and Santiago de Cuba, last year’s runner-ups.
While not decisive, winning the first game of the best-of-seven series usually has a positive effect and both teams will be doing their best tonight. Both managers Rey Anglada (Industriales) and Antonio Pacheco (Santiago) are no strangers to high-tension games.
Frank Montieth, 22, has pitched well against Santiago using his fast ball and tough slider. He won the opening game of last year’s series in which he went the route in a game suspended by rain and then continued.
Norge Luis Vera, a star of Cuba’s Olympic championship team, showed he has fully recovered in his last outing in the semifinals against Villa Clara. The veteran has pitched in 13 seasons with 137 victories, more than 1,000 strikeouts, a 2.63 ERA and his rivals bat .249 against him.
A lot has been said about the tremendous left-handed artillery of Industriales, with Yoandry Urgelles, Alexander Mayeta and Yasser Gomez. However, the production from Alexei Bell, Rolando Merino and Jose Julio Ruiz is not to be belittled. It wasn’t by chance that Santiago led the league during the regular season in batting with a .303 team average.
During the 3-1 quarterfinals win over Sancti Spiritus and 4-0 sweep of Havana in the semifinals, the 3, 4, 5 hitters in the Industriales lineup, combined for a .418 average, 38 hits, 31 RBIs, 19 runs scored.
Santiago played more games as their team had to go the distance to win its quarterfinal series against Camaguey 3-2 and semifinals 4-3 over Villa Clara. The mid-lineup trio hit .328 on 43 hits with 37 RBIs and 29 runs scored.
Baseball is Cuba’s national sport and starting Wednesday a good portion of the country will be closely following the action. Game 2 takes place also in Santiago on Thursday, with Games 3 and 4 at Havana’s Latinoamericano Stadium on Saturday and Sunday.