Honkbal Week WrapUp

Pinch Hitter Gawain Owen is in Haarlem Holland and is following Team Cuba. Here is his Honkbal Week WrapUp

Cuba suffered it’s 5th defeat in Haarlem in as many games. Italy held the Cuban contingent scoreless over 7 innings. The final score 2-0 in Italy’s favour. This saw Cuba end the round robin stage with the worst record in the tournament.

Honkbal Week WrapUp Cuba vs Italy

As has been the case in every game so far in this tournament the pitching held it’s own. Starter Cesar Garcia Rondon pitched 4 solid innings but was charged with both runs given up. Credit to the Italians they manufactured these runs in the typical “small ball” fashion. They sacrificed batters whilst moving those on base into scoring positions.

The Cubans were shutout for 25 consecutive innings, this would grow. Despite putting runners on, the only thing the bats seemed good at was either stranding them or grounding into double plays. If an 0-5 record was not bad enough, it represents their tenth consecutive loss in the tournament. They also lost the respect of many in the tournament with 2 players being ejected for illegal bats. Carlos Benitez after drawing a walk threw his bat on the ground and it caught the eye of the umpire. After inspection and with a further check by the tournament official behind home plate Benitez was ejected from the game. Naturally this brought the Cuban cavalcade onto field. After several minutes of conversation the game resumed, while Benitez sat in the stands.

I was personally able to inspect the bat after the game and it was clear to see that the end of the bat had been cut off to make it shorter. This alteration even if not to enhance the bat deemed it illegal. If this was not embarrassing enough the final out of the game was recorded when Ivan Prieto was also ejected after his AB for using a brand of bat not recognised by the tournament. As you imagine this was an unpleasant way to end a game and yet again the Cuban delegation poured onto the field to protest they had no idea what brands they could and could not use in this tournament.

In all the years I have been watching the Cuban team play this game was one of the most frustrating. From the perspective both in lack of runs and most bizarre with 2 batter ejections.

This embarrassing finish and loss set up a rematch with the Italians. A victory not only eliminates an awkward looking zero on the left side of the ledger but can also prevent them from finishing in last place.

Cuba, 0-5 in the round robin and faced utter humiliation of coming last. The Cuba team beat Italy 5-1 in the 5th/6th place play off. Some see this as a positive. It should be said that Italy started with Christian Scafidi who is not even pitching in any recognised league.

As previous the Cuban pitchers held the opposition in check. Reinforcement Yuen Socarras held Italy to 1 run over 6 ⅓ innings with 8 strikeouts. Socarras is a savvy veteran of Serie Nacional. He kept a low profile off the field but once on the pitchers mound very much showed all in attendance he could hold his own against the batters in this tournament.

Cuba broke it’s 28 consecutive inning scoreless streak in the 4th inning. The long dormant bats finally came to life and feasted on the Italian pitching. Coming into this game Cuba were batting under .200 in the tournament and with 9 hits ended at .220. It’s likely the lowest batting average Cuba has ever had in a international tournament. Of these 33 hits only 4 were for extra bases which reinforces the struggles the team had to generate runs.

Cuba ended it’s batting in the tournament aptly in my opinion by grounding into a double play. Carlos Santana obtained the final two outs to ensure Cuba won one game and ended up coming 5th. As the players left the field you could sense the relief that they had won one game. The traditional emotion shown by the crowd to team Cuba was missing.

In my final Honkbal Week WrapUp I will offer my frank views on what is next for Team Cuba. I will also look back at my projections for this tournament and see how I did.

Phil Selig

Canada’s Top Expert on Cuban Baseball. I first ventured to the island in 2012 with camera in hand and captured some of the future baseball stars of the world. I have returned many times immersing myself in the game and culture. Get inside the Dugout for a unique look at Cuban Baseball.