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Updated: March 12, 2021
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Copyright © 1997-2021
Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2021 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar)

Matanzas takes lead in Cuban Semi-Final

SANCTI SPÍRITUS (Cuba) - Cocodrilos de Matanzas nipped Leñadores de Las Tunas 4-3 in Game 5 of the best-of-seven Semi-Final on Friday-afternoon (March 12) to take a 3-2 lead. Game 6 will be played on Sunday.

Las Tunas won the first two games. On Sunday, the team won 4-2 and the next day, a 10-6 victory was recorded. Matanzas then won Game 3 on Wednesday with a 1-0 score. On Thursday, the reigning champion came alongside by winning 12-7 in an 11-inning, 4½ hours game.

The winner of this series will advance to the all-deciding Championship Final of the 60th edition of the Cuban Serie Nacional de Béisbol. In this Series, the opponent is Alazanes de Granma, which became the first finalist on February 27 after winning its Semi-Final against Vegueros de Pinar del Río 4-2.

(March 12)

Related Articles:
Matanzas wins in 11 innings to even Cuban Semi-Final. (March 11)
Matanzas avoids sweep with 1-0 win in Cuban Semi-Final. (March 10)
Las Tunas also wins second game of Cuban Semi-Final. (March 8)
Las Tunas wins opener second Cuban Semi-Final. (March 7)

Game 5: Las Tunas vs. Matanzas

At Estadio José Antonio Huelga in Sancti Spíritus, Matanzas trailed, but needed only one inning to decide the quick-paced game, which lasted two hours and 45 minutes. Trailing 2-0, the reigning champion rallied for four runs in the fifth inning and that was enough.

Las Tunas-starter Carlos Juan Viera Alvarez retired the side in the top of the first inning, then was supported with a lead in the bottom of the at bat. Yuniesky Larduet Domínguez led off with a single off of Matanzas-starter Yoanni Yera Montalvo, Andrés Quiala Herrera followed with a double and veteran Danel Castro Moñagorry added a runscoring single. Castro's hit was a pop-fly into short right/centerfield and the ball ended up just out of reach for second baseman Aníbal Medina Pérez and rightfielder Yadir Drake Domínguez. With runners at the corners and no outs, Quiala tried to score on a short grounder towards first base by Yosvano Alarcón Tardio, but he was eliminated at the plate. The inning ended when a line drive into rightfield by next batter Rafael Viñales Alvarez ended in a double play, as Castro, who was on second base and had left on contact, was unable to return in time.

Las Tunas reached base again in the second and third inning, but scored again in the fourth at bat. Viñales led off with a walk, moved to third base on a single by Yordanis Alarcón Tardio and scored on a 2-out single by Héctor Castillo Blair. Two runners were left behind.

Matanzas was also retired in order in the second inning, then left a runner behind on second base in the third at bat. In the next inning, the team got the bases loaded with one out when Ariel Sánchez Sánchez and Yariel Duque Salgado both singled and Yadir Drake Domínguez walked. But the inning ended with a double play.

In the top of the fifth, Matanzas rallied for four runs with two outs to turn the game around. With one out, Andrys Pérez Garcia and Eduardo Blanco Díaz singled and moved on a sacrifice bunt by Aníbal Medina Pérez. Then, four consecutive basehits followed. First, Yadil Mujica Díaz delivered a 2-run double, which tied the score. Mujica then scored on a single by Sánchez to put Matanzas ahead. Sánchez advanced to third base on a single by Duque and scored on a double by Drake.

Las Tunas was retired in the bottom of the fifth, but narrowed the deficit to 4-3 in the sixth. With two outs, Andrés De La Cruz Matos (fielder's choice) was on first base and he scored on a double by Eduardo García Torres. The inning ended with a strikeout.

Both teams got into scoring position again in the seventh inning. Matanzas had runners on first and second base with one out, but a double play closed the at bat. For Las Tunas, Andrés Quiala Herrera doubled with one out off of Jonder Martínez Martínez, who took over the pitching in this inning. The 42-year old veteran pitcher followed with a strikeout and a flyout ended the inning. Martínez participated with the National Team of Cuba in the 2006 Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands. The righthander also participated in the Olympic Games of 2004 in Athens (Greece) and 2008 in Beijing (China), the 2006 and 2017 World Baseball Classic and two World Championships (2003, 2007).

After Matanzas was retired in order in the top of the eighth, Las Tunas got another baserunner in its eighth at bat. With one out, Yordanis Alarcón Tardio singled. Noelvis Entenza González then took over the pitching from Martínez and the Matanzas-defense turned its third double play in the game.

In the top of the ninth inning, Matanzas left a runner behind on first base. In the bottom of the ninth, Entenza walked Yuniesky Larduet Domínguez with two outs, but a flyout then ended the game. And with that, Matanzas had turned this series around in its favor.

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