Taichung, Taiwan – Cuba and Italy have never faced each other in a World Baseball Classic before they face off in Pool A at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium.
But after Thursday night, fans might want to meet them at every WBC.
The game had it all: big hits, huge strikeouts, misses, back-and-forth scoring, Horn Guy celebrations and dugout clearances after singles.
But finally, after 10 innings, Mike Piazza’s Team Italy pulled off a massive 6-3 victory over Cuba.
The first five rounds of the game passed – they were played for an hour and a half. Cuban Ruinis Elias, a Mariners reliever, threw five scoreless innings on the two-hit ball. Italian star Matt Harvey and reliever Andre Ballant matched Elias with five scoreless frames. The duo only gave three hits.
Finally, in the sixth inning, things started to leak.
Italy scored the first inning of the game on a Brett Sullivan sacrifice fly in the top of the frame and another on Eunice Céspedes’ double with an assist from Eunice in the seventh. Cuba rebounded with a home run in the seventh, then Irisbel Arrioparena’s RBI single back in the eighth. Arruebarrena’s classmates couldn’t contain themselves.
Both teams were down 1-2-3 in the ninth inning, then for the first time in WBC history, the runner’s extra time was at second base.
Sal Frelick was the man to finish second for Italy, and he almost immediately surprised Cuba and stole third. John Valiente hit Frelick with a one-two down the middle and then, well, Italy poured it. Dominic Fletcher added an insurance run with an RBI double into the right-center field gap, and after Cuba intentionally walked David Fletcher to get to Nicky Lopez, he made Royals rushing coach Armando Johnson pay for the game breaker, two outs. one in the middle.
Cuba added one in the bottom of the inning, but that was it. Italy got a big win in their first match of the week.
Italy’s next game is against Chinese Taipei here on Friday (6 AM ET, Tube), while Cuba takes on Panama on Friday (11:30 PM ET, FS1). The Netherlands also fall into Pool A. Each team faces the other four teams in a round robin, with the pool winner and runner-up advancing to the quarter-finals in Tokyo against the top teams from Pool B.
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