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Updated: February 27, 2021
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Copyright © 1997-2021
Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2021 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar)

Granma wins again to advance to Cuban Championship Final

SANCTI SPÍRITUS (Cuba) - Alazanes de Granma recorded another big victory on Saturday-afternoon (February 27), winning 13-3 in eight innings against Vegueros de Pinar del Río in Game 6 of the best-of-seven Semi-Final of the 60th edition of the Cuban Serie Nacional de Béisbol. With the win, Granma won the series 4-2 and advanced to the Championship Final.

Granma won the opener on Saturday with a 9-2 score. The next day, Pinar del Río trailed 3-2, but then scored eleven runs in the seventh and eighth inning combined to record a mercy-rule 13-3 victory in eight innings. On Tuesday, Granma recorded a big, 7-inning, mercy-rule, 12-1 victory to re-take the lead. Pinar del Río came alongside again on Wednesday by winning 5-3, but Granma took the lead for the third time on Thursday with a 12-4 victory.

Granma now has to wait at least two weeks to know who they will face in the best-of-seven Final. Reigning champion Cocodrilos de Matanzas also reached the Semi-Final by completing a sweep on Tuesday, February 16. But they have to wait for the belated last remaining Quarter Final to becompleted who their opponent will be. In this Quarter Final, Avispas de Santiago de Cuba plays against Leñadores de Las Tunas. Santiago de Cuba opened with a 7-4 win on January 26, but thereafter, this series was put on hold, as there were several positive cases of the coronavirus in the team of Santiago de Cuba. The series will resume on Sunday, February 28.

Granma vs. Pinar del Río

Pinar del Río took an early lead, scoring twice in the top of the first inning off of starting pitcher Carlos René Santana Santiesteban. The lefthander hit lead-off batter Juan Carlos Arencibia Echeverria with a pitch, then gave up an infield-hit to Reinaldo Lazaga Hernández. Moments later, the two runners executed a double-steal. With one out, a force play was created by walking William Saavedra Valdés intentionally. The first run was then scored when Santana walked next batter Pedro Luis Rodríguez Candano. With the bases still loaded, Yaser Julio González Castro was inserted at third base as pinch-runner for Lazaga, who had injured during his sliding when he stole second base. González scored on a force play-grounder by Luis Pablo Acosta Martínez. Another force play-grounder ended the at bat and so, two runners were left behind.

Santana encountered no problems in the top of the second inning. He was then supported with four runs by his teammates in the bottom of the second off of starter Vladimir Baños Chacón. Iván Prieto González led off with a single and stole second base when next batter Miguel Antonio González Puente struckout. Hereafter, Guillermo García García walked and Yulián Rafael Milán Santos followed with a runscoring single. With runners on first and third base, Alexquemer Sánchez Sánchez also delivered a single, which made it a 2-2 score. Baños then struckout the next batter, but with two outs, Osvaldo Abreu Martínez also singled. As his single was followed by an outffield-error, Milán was able to score the go-ahead run to put Granma ahead. With runners on first and second base, Dariel Fernández Bass took over the pitching for Pinar del Río, but he was greeted with an RBI-single by Raico Santos Almeida, which made it a 4-2 score.

Granma added another run with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning when Alexquemer Sánchez Sánchez hit the ball into deep leftfield for a homerun.

In the third through fifth inning, Granma-starter Santana got only one baserunner. He retired the side in the third (two strikeouts), then gave up a lead-off double to Luis Pablo Acosta Martínez in the fourth, but the next three batters were eliminated. The side was retired in order again in the fifth.

Pinar del Río then managed to score again in the top of the sixth. With one out, Pedro Luis Rodríguez Candano singled, then advanced to third base when Luis Pablo Acosta Martínez also singled. The latter tried to stretch his hit into a double, but was tagged out at second base. Hereafter, Reinier León Rodríguez followed with a double, which narrowed the deficit to 5-3. That ended the afternoon on the mound for Santana, who was relieved by César García Rondón. He closed with a strikeout.

In the bottom of the sixth, Granma took more distance thanks to a 5-run rally. With one out, reliever Yoandy Cruz Melendez walked Guillermo García García and he moved into scoring position on a passed ball. Cruz then got the bases loaded when he walked Yulián Rafael Milán Santos and hit Alexquemer Sánchez Sánchez with a pitch. A run was scored when Cruz also walked Roel Santos Martínez, which led to another pitching change. Isbel Hernández Castillo took over, but he hit next batter Osvaldo Abreu Sánchez with a pitch, which gave Granma its next run. Moments later, Sánchez scored the third run in the at bat on a wild pitch. Raico Santos Almeida followed with a single that brought in two more runs and lifted the lead to 10-3. With Santos on first base, Reilandy González Moreno became the new pitcher. He saw Carlos Benítez Pérez ground into an inning-ending double play, but Granma now had a comfortable lead.

In the top of the seventh inning, César García Rondón retired the side, then Granma got close to a mercy-rule victory in the bottom of the seventh. Iván Prieto González led off with a double and with one out, Guillermo García García homered to make it a 12-3 score. But two line outs followed and so, the game continued.

The 10-run difference then was accomplished in the next inning. Reliever Branlis Rodríguez Martínez gave up a lead-off double to Roel Santos Martínez, who had closed the top of the eighth by making a nice running catch in centerfield. Hereafter, Osvaldo Abreu Sánchez walked, but he was forced out on a grounder by Raico Santos Almeida. That brought the other Santos to third base and he then scored Granma's 13th run on a walk-off sacrifice fly by Carlos Benítez Pérez.

(February 27)

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