Caribbean Series 2015: Cuba stages come from behind, upset victory over Venezuela to reach final

By Michael Lecolant

!Viva la revolucion Cubana de beisbol!

Cuba – the only team without an MLB affiliated player on its roster; a team that barely advanced ahead of Puerto Rico with a 1-3 record in pool play; the team that surrendered the most runs and scored the fewest runs in 4 games of pool play; and the team making only its second appearance in Caribbean Series play since 1960; completed an astonishing come-from-behind upset victory over heavily favored and previously undefeated Venezuela, to reach the Caribbean Series 2015 final game against defending champion Mexico.

Cuba will now vie for the country’s 8th ever Caribbean title.

However, all 7 previous championships were won when baseball was still a professional enterprise in Cuba – prior to being dissolved and nationalized by Fidel Castro.

As an original member of the circuit in 1949, they won the first ever staged Caribbean Series.  A Cuban team then captured a second title in 1952.  After a run of 5 straight championships from 1956 through 1960, Fidel Castro withdrew Cuba from international play.

The Caribbean Series then experienced a 9-year hiatus before resuming play again in 1970 without Cuba.

The 2015 team; National Series champion Pinar Del Rio; is comprised solely of amateurs.

Many MLB scouts have been in San Juan, Puerto Rico chronicling their every move.

Cuba just gave them one more day of evaluation.

2/7 – Caribbean Series 2015: Semifinals

Venezuela opened the scoring in the home 3rd, when Cuban starter Freddy Alvarez walked 2 batters, and surrendered a 2-out RBI single to shortstop Ehire Adrianza.

Freddy Alvarez‘ outing worsened in the 4th.  A 1-out single by Balbino Fuenmayor, and a double by right fielder Felix Perez made it a 2-0 game.  An ensuing base hit, a wild pitch, and a walk, set up catcher Jose Gil‘s RBI single and ended Freddy Alvarez’ night.

Norge Ruiz relieved Alvarez.  With center fielder Gorkys Hernandez at the plate, catcher Yosvani Alarcon‘s throwing error on Jose Gil‘s attempted steal of second allowed lead runner, Oswaldo Arcia, to score from third and give Venezuela a 4-0 lead.

On the hill for Venezuela, Daryl Thompson held Cuba scoreless through his first 5 innings of work, limiting them to 4 hits and a walk.

However, Cuba finally broke through in the 6th.  Surrendering two straight singles to lead-off the inning resulted in Thompson’s departure from the game.  With 1-out, Tiago da Silva relieved Thompson, and was promptly greeted by DH Frederich Cepeda‘s triple to right.  Cepeda also scored on a throwing error by the shortstop.

In the 7th, the floodgates to Venezuela’s bullpen burst open as Cuba struck for 5 more runs to take a commanding lead over Venezuela.

Second baseman and clean-up hitter Yulieski Gourriel led the charge with a 1-out, 2-RBI single.  After an E-5 and a hit by pitch loaded the bases, Frederich Cepeda cleared them with a double to center off reliever Richard Salazar.

In nothing short of a clutch effort, reliever Norge Ruiz continued pitching for Cuba through the 8th inning, allowing 5 hits, a walk, and fanning 2 batters over 4.1 scoreless innings to earn the victory.

Hector Mendoza pitched the 9th inning, and fanned 2 batters to close out Cuba’s astonishing come from behind 8-4 victory over Venezuela.

Cuba will face Mexico in Sunday’s championship game.