Sunday, August 8, 2010

USA 3 vs Cuba 4 (10) - World University Baseball Championship Final - August 7, 2010


Yesterday was the last day of the WUBC. Japan knocked off Korea 9-0 in the 3rd place game in the afternoon to take the Bronze medal. On Friday, Canada took 5th place with a 15-14 extra inning win over Chinese Taipei while China grabbed 7th with a 10-0 win over Sri Lanka, who finished the tournament being outscored 94-0 in just 6 games.

So we were left with the USA and Cuba, two undefeated teams battling it out for world supremacy at Jingu Stadium.


The Game


I arrived a few minutes late but was happy to see that Gerritt Cole (UCLA, above) was the starter for the USA. I saw him pitch a few months ago when I was in LA and it was interesting to see him go again for his country. He was drafted by the Yankees in 2008 but chose to go to school, and it was a wise decision as he'll likely be a top-10 pick next year (update: he went first overall to Pittsburgh).


Cuba started Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (above), a tall righty with a rubber arm. Both pitchers were throwing hard, Cole hit 156 on the gun (97) while Gonzalez was up to 153 (95). The Cuban offense was much better at getting on base though, but they couldn't hit once they had men on. Over 6 innings, they had 10 hits but had yet to score a run. The USA couldn't score either though, and the game entered the 8th inning still tied 0-0.


In the 8th, Andrew Maggi (Arizona State) laced an outside fastball to right field that just cleared the fence and gave the Yanks a 1-0 lead (above).


In the bottom, Cole was replaced by Noe Ramirez (Cal State Fullerton) who promptly gave up a similar shot to Alfredo Despaigne which tied the game at 1 (above).


In the 9th, Team USA had men on the corners but Jason Esposito struck out to end the threat (below).


In the bottom half, Frank Camilo Morejon led off with a double and after a hit batsman (below), wild pitch, and intentional walk, Cuba had the bases loaded with nobody out. Team USA then brought in Nick Ramirez (Cal State Fullerton) who was playing first. He's not nearly as fast and he had the Cuban batters ahead of themselves when swinging. First, Ramirez induced Yoilan Cerce into the 1-2-3 DP and then got Hector Olivera to fly out to center to escape the jam.


This brought us to extra innings which is where I lost interest in the game. Why? Because the international baseball rules are similar to women's softball in the Olympics. The first two hitters in the line up (not those due up, but batters #1 and 2) are placed on second and first base respectively in order to increase the possibility of runs. The leadoff batter in the inning is then the 3rd-place hitter who naturally sacrifices if possible. Jackie Bradley Jr. (South Carolina) did this and both runners scored later in the inning on a ground out and a single. Gonzalez was finally removed after giving up the second run, having thrown 151 pitches but the US couldn't add to their total.

So now Cuba had their chance. Surprisingly Nick Ramirez remained in the game, as the USA had Matt Barnes ready. Olivera was the first batter and he drove a ball deep to center that Bradley tracked down, allowing the second-base runner to advanced to third. This brought Despaigne up and he drove the second pitch he saw deep to left. There was no doubt about this one, it was long gone and Cuba wins 4-3! That's Despaigne jumping into his waiting teammates below.


Why I hate this system is that it screws up my scorebook up and also ruins the integrity of the statistics. How many of those runs are earned? How do you score a guy on first without him batting? Aarrggh. This is just as annoying as Olympic hockey shootouts or PKs in the World Cup. In overtime, play the game the same way regardless of how long it takes!

Anyway, after Cuba celebrated, there was a nice little ceremony where the medals were awarded. Despaigne was named the MVP of the tournament, having hit 4 homers. The best 9 included a couple of Japanese (P Tatsuya Ohishi, who struck out 10 of the 14 batters he faced, and OF Shota Ishimine, who hit .458 in 24 AB) and a Canadian (2B Chad Marshall who batted .444). Below are the three medal teams.


Thoughts

Overall, this tournament is not that interesting. There are 3 good teams and the games between them were excellent. There are 3 OK teams (Canada, Korea, Chinese Taipei) and games between them were usually good. Finally, there are two teams that can barely play baseball and all of their games were blowouts. I hope that they at least reduce the field to 6 teams and play a full-round robin. Canada didn't face Cuba or Japan here and I would have liked to see how they did. I am glad I saw Japan and the US, I expect many of these players will be facing off again in a future WBC.

I didn't mention the Cuban players school because they all attend something called the ISCF. They also seem to play professionally so I'm not sure that this tournament is entirely fair.

Next Up

Not much to see in the next few weeks. There's a minor league game at Tokyo Dome on Monday night that I'll check out but otherwise the schedule is pretty blank for August. I plan on visiting Hiroshima sometime in the next two months, so check back for a schedule on that shortly.

Best,

Sean

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