Cuba walks it off against Panama, stays in medal race at U-23 Baseball World Cup
Cuba came back three times and finally walked it off in the eighth on a base hit by Yuddiel Gonzalez.
After two tough losses to open the Super Round, Cuba’s chances at playing for a medal on Saturday rested on their final Super Round game. Win, and hope remained alive. Mission accomplished.
World No. 11 Cuba rallied from deficits three times, including a margin of 5-0 midway through their Friday game to stun No. 13 Panama with a 9-8 walk-off win in extra innings at Estadio Sonora. With the result, Cuba pulled even with Panama at 2-3 for fourth place on the Super Round table with two more games left to be played on Friday in Hermosillo.
Halfway through Friday’s contest, Panama looked to be cruising to a second win in three Super Round games thanks to five runs scored on three big hits. Rhandall Sanchez staked his team to a 2-0 lead with a two-run homer to left in the second. Erick Mordock drove a ground-rule double to left to plate a run in the third, and in the fourth, Adrian Montero singled up the middle to plate two more.
Cuba not only trailed by five runs, it had only tallied two hits before the fourth.
In that fourth inning, the bats arrived. Cuba sent 10 batters to the plate and stormed back to tie the game with five runs. Rodoleisis Moreno delivered a bases-clearing double to get his team on the board with three runs while Guillermo Garcia singled to left-center to bring home a fourth tally and Loidel Chapelli came across with the tying run on a two-out fielding error by Panama third baseman Enoc Watts.
Panama pulled ahead in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Joshwan Wright, but with one out in the bottom of the seventh, Cuba levelled the score again on a Rangel Ramos sacrifice fly to force extra innings.
In the eighth, Panama took advantage of the international tiebreak rule to score a pair of runs Jason Patterson singling home a run and Sanchez scoring on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Adrian Montero.
Undeterred facing an 8-6 deficit, Cuba mounted its final rally. With one out and the bases loaded, Ramos scored on a wild pitch charged to James Gonzalez, and the home team was underway. Moreno came across on a fielder’s choice as Garcia beat out a potential double play ball hit to second. With two gone, Yuddiel Gonzalez sent his team into jubilation by lacing a walk-off single to right-center to score Miguel Gonzalez. "I always try to stay positive when I step to the box," commented Gonzalez after the game. "This is what helped me get the hit."
Cuba’s rally gave the team a 2-3 Super Round record while dropping Panama to 2-3. The sides now await the results of Friday’s afternoon contest between Venezuela (3-1) and Chinese Taipei (1-3) and the night game between Colombia (3-1) and Mexico (2-2) to determine Saturday’s bronze medal and World Championship Game matchups.