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Juniors win Cuba Series finale

Havana, Cuba- Jerod Bartnik (Surrey, BC) scored the go ahead run in the top of 10th from second base, after Jacob Robson (Windsor, ON) bunted and the throw to first base rolled into foul territory. The Junior National Team added another run and eventually went on to a 9-7 win.

The sun was shining and it was time to play baseball on the final day of the Cuba Summer Series. The Junior National Team only played one game, instead of the scheduled two, as the Cuban Baseball Federation had field availability and logistical issues. In total, the JNT played 5 out of 9 scheduled games, plus 3 innings, in the series

“The purpose down here was to try and figure out some pieces, try to figure out where we were in terms of the overall make-up of our roster,” said JNT Manager Greg Hamilton (Ottawa, ON). “Obviously we wanted to get a hard look at some players in terms of the fall and try and see what our 20-player roster will look like.”

Starting pitcher Jesen Dygestile-Therrien (Montréal, QC) made quick work of the Cubans in the 1st and 2nd frames as he tossed two three-up, three-down innings that included one strikeout.

Nick Pivetta (Victoria, BC) made his first appearance of the series and threw two innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on two hits, two walks, while striking out one batter.

With the Cubans leading 3-0 in the 5th, Andy Ibanez took Roberto Suppa (Connor, ON) over the left field wall, for a two run homer. Later in the frame Lazaro Hernandez made it 6-0 with a solo homer and let everyone in the park know about it, tossing his bat high in the air and proceeding with a slow trot around the bases. Jake Hansen (Fort Macleod, AB) came into the game after the homer and walked two batters which later led to another Cuban run.

The Juniors would start the comeback in the 6th when Kyle Hann (Oakville, ON) shot a single through the middle to lead-off the inning and reached second on a passed ball. Justin Marra (Toronto, ON) then singled to right while Hann was waved around third and avoided the tag at home to score the Juniors first run.

After Hansen threw a scoreless bottom of the 6th, the JNT exploded for 5-runs to close the gap to one. Brandon Collins (Toronto, ON) started things off when he reached on an error from the third baseman, while Brendan Hendriks (Cochrane, AB) singled and Jerod Bartnik (Surrey, BC) walked to load the bases. Brody Hawkins hit into a fielder’s choice, to score Collins and runners were left on the corners with one out. Jacob Robson (Windsor, ON) kept the things going when he hit a bouncer through the right side to bring Hendriks home, which set the table for Hann, who delivered a mammoth three run homer, deep to left field to make the score 7-6.

Dayton Dawe (London, ON) and Tom Robson (Ladner, BC) each threw scoreless innings in the 7th and 8th to keep the pesky Cubans off the scoreboard.

With one out in the 9th, two runners on base and the Juniors down to their last at-bat, Justin Marra ripped a clutch single to right field to score Jacob Robson.

Tom Robson was able to shut the door in the bottom of the 9th and extra innings were in order using the international rule of starting with runners on first and second base.

Jacob Robson placed a beautiful bunt between the third baseman and pitcher and watched as the throw from the pitcher rolled by the first baseman and into foul territory allowing Bartnik, who started the inning on second base, to score and leaving runners on second and third base.

Marra came through again and increased the lead to two as he laced another single through the right side to score Jacob Robson.

Adam Anderson (Georgetown, ON) took the mound in the 10th and helped his cause right away as he picked off the runner on second base as the Cubans started with runners on first and second base.

Anderson got into a jam, after a throwing error and a hit batter loaded the bases with two out, but came through with a strikeout to ensure the victory.

The win was the first for the JNT in the series as Cuba had won the first four games.

“It wasn’t so much coming down here to try and win games,” explained Hamilton. “It was to play against some real good competition and look at which guys are potentially ready to help us in September.”

Notes: The next time the JNT will convene will be on September 13th in Cary, North Carolina for the Final Camp and Pre-World Qualification Tour, where they will play a four game exhibition series against Team USA at the USA Baseball Training Complex…Also on that schedule are single games against UNC Wilmington and UNC Greensboro…The 20-player roster will then make its way to Cartagena, Colombia for the Americas World Junior Qualification Tournament from September 23rd- October 2nd…The top four countries in Colombia will qualify for the 2012 World Junior Baseball Championship in Seoul, South Korea.