Colombia beats Cuba, earns historic U-23 Baseball World Cup bronze medal
Colombia scored two runs in each of the first two innings and didn't need to look back against a brave Cuban side.
Coming off a one-run loss on Friday that ended its chances at playing for a world championship, Colombia needed to get over the defeat quickly. Less than 18 hours later, they got the job done. Led by two home runs from designated hitter Andres Angulo, world No. 15 Colombia outlasted No. 11 Cuba 5-3 on Saturday afternoon in the bronze medal game of the III WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup at Estadio Sonora in Hermosillo. The victory gave Colombia its first-ever medal in a WBSC World Cup event.
"Colombia's last title on the world stage came in 1947. My grandfather was playing on that team," commented manager Jose Mosquera.
For the record, the tournament was called Amateur World Series and it would evolve into the Baseball World Cup. Matching up for the second time in four days, Cuba and Colombia were destined for a much different meeting from their first one, when Colombia cruised to an 11-0 win in five innings. Cuba scored the game’s first run on a blistering Saturday afternoon in the top of the first when Loidel Chapelli walked to lead off the game and scored three batters later on Yuddiel Gonzalez’s sacrifice fly to center.
Cuba’s only lead of the game didn’t last long. Angulo jumpstarted Colombia out of the three-hole with a two-run homer to left following Jordan Diaz’s one-out single through the left side. One inning later, it was the bottom portion of Colombia’s offense contributing when Brayan Buelvas and Juan Zabala singled to kick off the second. With those two at the corners, Rafael Romero worked a walk, but Cuba catcher Andrys Perez threw down to second on ball four, enabling Buelvas to swipe home. Zabala later scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Gustavo Campero to make it a 4-0 lead.
Cuba got a run back on an RBI single by Geisel Cepeda, cashing in Chapelli’s second walk in the third inning, but Colombia responded on Angulo’s second homer of the day, a leadoff shot in the bottom of the third.
First baseman Ivan Prieto gave Cuba a jolt of life with a one-out solo homer to left in the fourth, but though his team had opportunities the rest of the way, they never capitalized. Cuba left a runner in scoring position in the fifth and left a man at first in the sixth.
Called upon to earn his third save of the U-23 World Cup, Colombia’s Jhon Peluffo obliged, retiring all five batters he faced.
The victory was extra sweet for Colombia, which hosted the II U-23 Baseball World Cup in 2019 in Monteria and Barranquilla but did not qualify for the Super Round, finishing seventh on home soil.
"It's a great honour for us," said Mosquera. "Now we have to keep this group together. This tournament has been a learning experience for all of us, we can improve."