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Updated: January 28, 2018
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(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photo by Henk Seppen)

Granma repeats as Cuban champion after small win in Game 7

LAS TUNAS, Las Tunas (Cuba) - Alazanes de Granma repeated as Cuban champion by nipping Leñadores de Las Tunas 3-2 on Sunday-afternoon (January 28) in the all-deciding Game 7 of the Championship Final of the Serie Nacional de Béisbol. With that, Granma won the best-of-seven 4-3. Last year, Granma won its first title in club-history by sweeping Tigres de Ciego de Ávila in four games.

Las Tunas had opened last weekend at home with a 6-5 victory and then added a bigger 11-4 win the next day. The Series then moved to Bayamo, where Granma won 10-6 on Tuesday to cut the lead of Las Tunas in half and equaled the Final by winning 4-2 on Wednesday. Granma then took a 3-2 lead in the Final by winning 11-5 on Thursday. On Saturday, back in Las Tunas, the home team won again. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Las Tunas broke a 2-2 tie on a walk-off grand slam homerun to win 6-2. However, as three runners never scored, the final score also could have been 3-2. Whatever the final score, with the win Las Tunas equaled the Series at 3-3 to force a seventh game. On Sunday, Las Tunas again came back in the bottom of the ninth, but this time, the team ended up empty-handed. For the first time in this Series, the visiting team left the field victorious.

In the deciding seventh game, Granma opened the score in the top of the first inning. With one out, Yordan Manduley Escalona singled and advanced on a grounder by Guillermo Aviles Difurno. Next hitter Alfredo Despaigne Rodriguez then walked and Carlos Benitez Perez followed with a runscoring single to put Granma ahead.

...Alfredo Despaigne scored the third run for Granma...
...On the photo, Despaigne hits for Cuba during...
...the 2017 World Baseball Classic...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
Granma was retired in order in the next two innings, then left runners at the corners in the fourth. But in the fifth, the reigning champion doubled its lead. Yoelkis Cespedes Maceo and Roel Santos Martínez led off with singles and advanced on a wild pitch. Moments later, Cespedes scored on a sacrifice fly by Manduley.

Granma increased its lead to 3-0 in the sixth at bat. Despite getting the bases loaded with no outs, the team scored only once. Despaigne led off with a double and advanced to third base on a single by Benitez. Hereafter, the bases got loaded when Lazaro Cedeño Gonzalez was hit by a pitch. A pitching change followed, but a sacrifice fly by Raul Gonzalez Isidoria then made it a 3-0 score. A double play ended the inning.

In the next three innings, Granma left four runners behind in scoring position, including the bases loaded in the top of the ninth.

Las Tunas never got into scoring position in its first eight at bats. In that span, only four hitters reached base. But in the bottom of the ninth, Las Tunas staged another comeback, as it had done the day before. On Saturday, it led to a victory. Today, Las Tunas narrowed the deficit to 3-2, but ended up short.

In the bottom of the ninth, Yuniesky Larduet Dominguez led off with a single through the middle. He then scored the first run for Las Tunas when next hitter Jorge Yhonson Dixon drove the ball down the rightfield-line for a triple. And so, the suspense in the game was back immediately, as it appeared that Las Tunas was coming back again. A pitching change followed. Raidel Martínez Perez took over to face Danel Castro Muñagorri, the hero of Saturday's game. In that game, Martínez also pitched in the ninth inning and gave up the walk-off homerun to Castro. Today, Castro flied out to rightfield, but it was too close for Yhonson to score. He then did score on a single through the leftside of the infield from Yosvany Alarcon Tardio. The score now was 3-2, while Las Tunas had a runner on first base with only one out. However, Alarcon was eliminated moments later at second base. He broke to steal second base, then was surprised by a pick-off from Martínez and was tagged out while sliding into second base. And so, there were now two outs and no baserunners. Next hitter Alexander Ayala García singled through the middle and Yunior Paumier Oliva also singled to keep the pressure going. Would Alarcon not have been eliminated after the pick-off, Las Tunas would have had the bases loaded or maybe even could have tied the score! With pinch-runners on first and second base and two outs, the game ended when Rafael Viñales Alvarez flied out to rightfield! With that, an epic Series ended and Granma captured its second consecutive Championship-title.

(January 28)

Related Articles:
Las Tunas wins in 9th to force 7th game in Cuban Final. (January 27)
Granma wins again to take lead in Cuban Final. (January 25)
Granma comes alongside Las Tunas in Cuban Final. (January 24)
Granma cuts lead Las Tunas in half in Cuban Final. (January 23)
Las Tunas leads 2-0 in Cuban Championship Series. (January 22)

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