- Published in Sports
HAVANA, Cuba, Aug 23 (ACN) Cuban ballplayer Yurisbel Gracial hit two home runs today, thus amounting three in the last two matches, during the continuation of the regular stage in the Japanese Professional Baseball League (NPB).
According to the NPB official website, Gracial, who batted third in the line-up of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, first blasted a three-run homer in the very first frame to then hit another one in the ninth but this time with only one teammate on base for his squad, which finally beat 9-6 the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.
The day before, the outstanding Cuban utility had achieved his first homer in NPB after being hired by the Hawks last February.
Now, he has batting average of .340 (18 hits in 53 AB), with three homers and 9 RBIs in the tough NPB Pacific League.
The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, franchise in which also play Cubans Alfredo Despaigne (OF/DH), Livan Moinelo (LHP) and switch-hitter Oscar Colas, the latter is in the farm system, appear third in the standings in the Pacific League with 55 wins and 49 losses, behind the Seibu Lions (64-42) and the Fighters (57-50), in that order.
Two-time defending U-15 World Champions Cuba as well as host Panama improved to 2-0 in the WBSC U-15 Baseball World Cup 2018, while Chinese Taipei and Australia both recorded their first wins of the global tournament.
With their backs against the wall, world No. 6 Chinese Taipei scored eight runs in the seventh inning to avoid an upset with No. 19 Brazil.
Down to their final three outs and trailing 5-1, Chinese Taipei used five walks, a hit batter and four hits, including a two-run single from Kuei Yu to even their record to 1-1.
Shan-Tsung Peng was awarded the victory with a scoreless inning of relief with one strikeout.
Sulivan Ribeiro de Almeida suffered the loss after Brazil starter Joāo Sakurai Ferreira worked four innings allowing just one run.
World No. 8 Australia received home runs from James Nati and Jake Burns to earn a 16-6 victory over No. 26 South Africa.
Quinn Johnson’s two-run single highlighted a five-run first inning for Australia and he would finish the game with five RBI while Burns added four.
South Africa made things interesting in the fifth, scoring five runs courtesy a Nicholas De Ascensāo two run single while Kyle Schwartz drove in three on a double.
Ian Lee was credited with the win for Australia while Nathan Grobler took the loss for South Africa.
Leonardo Bernal Carrion led off the top of the sixth with a triple and took home with two out on a wild pitch as No. 14 Panama edged No. 22 China, 2-1.
China took a 1-0 lead in the second when Tianzhou Zhu singled and later scored on an error before Panama drew even with a run in the fourth.
Alexis Bernal Vega recorded the win going four scoreless innings allowing just two hits and walk with eight strikeouts. China reliever Lei Wang suffered the loss.
Osiel Veranes struck out 10 batters over six scoreless innings and Frank Gonzalez Cuellar drove in two runs as No. 4 Cuba defeated No. 12 Dominican Republic, 9-0.
Leading 4-0 in the fifth, Cuba put across five runs including a two-run single from Montero to go ahead 9-0 and put the game out of reach.
Dominican Republic starting pitcher Julio Torres Guzman worked two innings and took the loss.
Opening Round action continues on 12 August with USA taking on Chinese Taipei, Germany facing China and Brazil against host Panama in Group A, while Group B match-ups include Netherlands against South Africa, Dominican Republic taking on Australia and Cuba facing Japan.
Cuban players can make millions if they defect to the United States but others prefer to plot a career path that will keep them close to their families.
Most of the year, Noelvis Entenza pitches in Havana’s historic Estadio Latinoamericano, a ballpark that shakes from the 55,000-capacity crowds and where the buzz of fans’ horns drowns out the players on the field.
But when Entenza’s season ends, he gets on a plane and flies north – to Kitchener, Ontario, where he pitches in front of crowds of a few hundred in a semi-professional baseball league a world away from his life as a star in Cuba’s National Series.
“In Cuba, it’s so crazy. Here, they sit quiet, like in church,” he says, through a translator.
Entenza, a 33-year-old right-hander for the Havana Industriales, is one of four Cubans playing in Canada this summer under a unique agreement with the Cuban baseball federation. While dozens of their former teammates have defected from Cuba in pursuit of millions in Major League Baseball, they’ve chosen to stay loyal to their country.
Entenza, Miguel Lahera, Jonder Martinez and Yorbis Borroto, all veterans from Cuba’s national team, play for the Kitchener Panthers of the Intercounty Baseball League. But while they’re good enough to pursue much bigger paychecks in the US, they say there’s more at stake than just money.
“It’s a decision each person has to make. Every one is different,” said Entenza, who has watched teammates from Jose Abreu to Yasiel Puig to Lourdes Gurriel Jr flee for riches in the MLB.
These players, meanwhile, say they’re happy to be allowed to play abroad, without breaking any laws. After their season in Canada ends, they’ll return home to their families, and their respective Cuban teams.
“Playing in the MLB is the dream, but we want to play legally,” said Borroto. “We play for our family and our country. To play for a million dollars and be away from Cuba, that’s a big change … We feel good to play in Cuba.”
Two years ago, there were great hopes things were improving. MLB and Cuba were discussing ways for Cuban players to sign with big league teams without having to defect. President Obama went to Havana to watch a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team. Lahera, Martinez and Borroto all played in that game, and say they felt they were close to something historic.
“It was very emotional,” said Lahera, who has also pitched for Cuba in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic. “I was proud to know we could play with major league players.”
“We came here because it’s a new experience. We wanted to show other countries that Cuban baseball is a good quality,” said Borroto, who plays for the Ciego de Avila Tigres in Cuba. “We wanted to get experience from another country and learn a different style to play.”
By coming to Canada, the four Cubans hope they’re starting something bigger, something that could eventually lead to other Cubans playing legally in the MLB.
Cuba will seek a third successive title when the World Baseball Softball Confederation's Under-15 Baseball World Cup begins in Panama tomorrow.
Action is due to take place over 10 days at the Estadio Kenny Serracín in David and the Estadio Rico Cedeño in Chitré.
Cuba, the six-time winners overall, will play in Group B alongside Japan, the tournament's second-ranked side.
They will be joined by South Africa, Australia, The Netherlands and the Dominican Republic.
Cuba are set to open their account tomorrow against the Dutch.
Hosts Panama are in Group A along with United States, the world's top-ranked team seeking a sixth tournament win but a first since 2011.
Chinese Taipei, Brazil, Germany and China complete the group.
The players taking part will be aged between 13 and 15.
Haarlem, The Netherlands, Jul 19 (Prensa Latina) Cuba suffered its fifth defeat in this baseball week after losing 2-12 to Taipei of China, knockout in seven innings, and will bid farewell to the tournament with the worst performance in the history of the contest.
The Cuban players only hit seven hits against two Asian pitchers, including a double by first baseman Sergio Barthelemy.
The Asian team connected 13 hits, including a homer of the designated Yi-Teng, four dobles and a triple.
The victory went to reliever Chih Jung Cheng, who in six chapters allowed two runs, gave three strikeouts and no tickets to four pitchers.
For Cuba, starter Dachel Duquesne charged with the defeat by earning equal amount of runs and three hits in two thirds of an inning.
The Caribbeans already lost in the fair against the Germans 4-5, Japanese (1-7), Italians (3-7) and Dutch (4-6) and will now play fifth place tomorrow with the loser of the game between Germans and Italians.