Sun, Nov 18, 2007 - Page 24 News List

BASEBALL WORLD CUP: USA and Cuba to battle for gold

ALL-AMERICAN CLASH In yesterday's semi-finals the USA defeated the Netherlands 5-0 and Cuba beat Japan 5-3 to set up a rematch of the 2001 Baseball World Cup final

By Michael Kearney  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's Liao Yu-cheng pitches the ball during their World Cup baseball game against South Korea in Tianmu yesterday.

PHOTO: WANG YI-SUNG, TAIPEI TIMES"

There's a good chance Cuba had revenge on their minds when they faced Japan yesterday in the quarter-finals of the Baseball World Cup in Sinjhuang.

Japan beat Cuba last year in the finals of the World Baseball Classic. That Japanese squad featured major league stars Ichiro Suzuki, Akinori Otsuka and Daisuke Matsuzaka. None of those three were in Sinjhuang yesterday and Japan could have used them.

With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, Cuba showed why they have one of the best baseball teams in the world. Osmani Urrutia Ramirez hit a grounder down the middle, giving Japan a chance to turn a double play and keep the score 0-0. But with his spikes showing, Yoandry Urgelles Cobas slid into the Japanese second baseman, knocking him off balance and preventing the double play. Yuliesky Gourriel Castillo scored and Cuba added two more runs in the inning to take a 3-0 lead.

Japan scored in the seventh and Cuba added a pair of runs in the ninth to take a 5-1 lead. Those insurance runs proved extremely valuable to the Cuban side, who got a scare when Japan scored two runs in the ninth.

Aroldis Chapman de la Cruz pitched an excellent game for Cuba, giving up one run and yielding just three hits over eight innings.

In Tianmu the USA played the Netherlands in the other semi-final. Colby Rasmus put the USA ahead 1-0 with a leadoff home run. The score stayed 1-0 until the bottom of the eighth, when the USA cushioned their lead with four more runs. With runners on first and second, Jayson Nix hit a fly ball to right field that dropped for a single, scoring one run. Steve Pearce added a two-run double and Justin Ruggiano hit a sacrifice fly, putting the USA up 5-0.

The Netherlands couldn't do any damage in the ninth and the USA will play in their first Baseball World Cup final since 2001. The USA lost to Cuba in that game, which was also played in Taiwan.

Taiwan had another disappointing day, losing to Asian rivals South Korea 0-3 yesterday.

The afternoon game in Tianmu was delayed because mysterious puddles began forming around the field. The puddles, which were probably caused by a sprinkler system malfunction, were the only thing that slowed down the South Korean side.

South Korea's starting pitcher Hwang Doo-sung carried a no-hitter into the top of the eighth inning and Song Shin-young pitched well in relief, leading South Korea to a 3-0 victory over Taiwan.

Australia took on Mexico in Sinjhuang at the same time. Almost no spectators watched Australia score five runs in the third as they went on to beat Mexico 7-1.

In today's action, Taiwan battles Mexico for seventh place at 9am in Sinjhuang, followed by South Korea and Australia fighting for fifth place at 1pm.

The Netherlands will face Japan at 10am in Tianmu, with the winner taking home bronze. In the final, the USA face Cuba at 4:30pm in Tianmu.

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