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Canada falls to Cuba at World Cup

FLORENCE, Italy – The Canadian offence could not find an answer against Cuban starter Yulieski Gonzalez who held Team Canada to two hits over eight innings as Cuba defeated Canada 5-1 in the third round finale of the 38th Baseball World Cup.

The game was a pitcher’s duel through the first four innings as Gonzalez went head-to-head with Canadian starter Chris Begg (Uxbridge, ON). Both starters went pitch for pitch, with Begg allowing the only run between the two in the bottom of the second on a solo home run to Alfredo Despaigne.

Begg went four strong innings, allowing only the one run on three hits and a walk with a pair of strikeouts. This was a bit of redemption for Begg, who was roughed up in his previous two outings. Also, the 30-year-old right hander made no illusions that this may be his career swan song.

“It was a redeemer for me after the last time where for the first time in my career I was taken out without getting an out,” says Begg. “This game didn’t have much meaning for us as a team, but personally it was a bit of a win for me as this might be the last game I ever play.”

Gonzalez had a no-hitter through 4 2/3 innings, but Adam Stern (London, ON) broke that up in style with a solo home run to tie the game 1-1.

But the Cubans responded in the bottom of the fifth when Hector Olivera hit a two-run single off of reliever Vince Perkins (Victoria, BC) to take a 3-1 lead. Cuba added another when Leonis Martin scored on a wild pitch from Perkins.

The Cubans scored their final run of the game in the seventh inning on a ground rule double by Olivera that was originally ruled a home run, but the umpires reversed the call after discovering the ball lodged in the padding of the outfield wall and a brief on-field conference.

Gonzalez meanwhile kept the Canadian bats at bay, allowing only one run on two hits with four walks while striking out 10.

“Their guy pitched well, you just have to tip your hat to him,” says Stern, who provided the only run of the game for Canada going 1-for-3. “However, this won’t affect this team at all. We know we can hit and we’ll get going tomorrow and don’t expect any less.”

The Canadians seemed to start a small rally in the top of the ninth when Cuban closer Pedro Lazo hit Jimmy Van Ostrand (Richmond, BC) with a pitch and walking Shawn Bowman (Port Moody, BC) to start the inning, but Lazo would then strikeout the side to end the game.

“For one, I was really happy with our pitching tonight,” says Team Canada Manager Ernie Whitt. “Chris Begg came out, and he has been such a catalyst since I’ve been involved with Baseball Canada. He did a great job.”

“We came out a little flat today, but you have to tip your cap to their pitcher who threw the ball well against us tonight.”

One of the biggest games in the history of the Senior National Team program is up next on Saturday as Canada will take on Puerto Rico, who earned their way after a 4-2 win over Australia, for the bronze medal. Canada’s senior team could earn its first medal since capturing bronze at the 1999 Pan Am Games.

“It would be huge for this program,” says Stern. “We all know we’ve got the talent here and we’ve played well. Take away the first two games (of the second round) and I think we can play with anybody. We’d love nothing more to be a part of bringing home a medal back to Canada.”

Canada and Puerto Rico will face off for the bronze medal on Saturday, September 26th at 8 PM in Grosseto, Italy. To follow the 2009 IBAF Baseball World Cup live on the web, click on the following link: