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LEBC 2024 Finals | Crocodiles strike first, José Noroña's late homer gives Matanzas a 6-5 win over Artemisa Hunters on Tuesday

Noroña went 3-for-4 in the game while closer Armando Dueñas earned the win

José A. Noroña scoring following his decisive home run. (Photo by Jit Digital)

Finals of the II Elite League of Cuban Baseball

Game 1: Matanzas 6, Artemisa 5

Matanzas leads the series 1-0

In Game 1 of the II Elite League Finals, the Matanzas Crocodiles defeated the Artemisa Hunters 6-5 in dramatic fashion.

The Crocodiles won with a home run by José A. Noroña in the bottom of the 8th inning, energizing the home crowd at Matanzas' Victoria de Girón Stadium. The game ended when Artemisa failed to score with runners on first and second in the ninth inning.

Matanzas triumphed with a solo home run by José A. Noroña in the bottom of the eighth inning. This enraged a crowd of 14,905 that gathered at Victoria de Girón stadium.


Despite the ups and downs throughout the game, both teams were able to share the lead and make comebacks on the scoreboard.

Matanzas scored the first run against left-handed starter Geonel Gutiérrez in the second inning, thanks to a single and two of Artemisa's three errors in the game, but the latter responded quickly by taking the lead in the top of the third inning.

Against Yoennis Yera, Osbel Pacheco was walked and advanced to third on an Andy Cosme single. Minutes later, Luis González singled to center field to bring Pacheco home with the tying run. Dayán Garcaía' single to center made it 2-0, and Frederich Cepeda's hit made it 3-1.

Erisbel Arruebarrena and José Noroña hit singles to begin the bottom of the fourth inning. A sacrifice hit by Andrys Pérez moved the runners. A conservative play too early in the game proved effective, as Eduardo Blanco followed with a 2-run RBI single to left field. This tied the game at 3-3.

It wouldn't take long for Artemisa to respond again.

After consecutive singles by Yoán Moreno and Luis González to begin the fifth inning, Dayán García's out was followed by Frederich Cepeda's double, giving Artemisa a 4-3 lead.  Cepeda's double was his 446th in National Series history. In the play, González was unnecessarily sent home, and he was put out to end the inning.

It was Yera's last batter of the night. During this 2024 postseason, the left-handed pitcher had a 2-0 record and only one earned run in 11 innings. In Game 1 in 5 innings, he threw 88 pitches while striking out only two. He allowed four earned runs on eight hits and a walk.

This first outing of the final ended without a decision for Yera. The tie was provided by Yurisbel Gracial's solo home run to left field in the bottom of the fifth inning. It was Gracial's fifth homer and ninth RBI in 30 PA this postseason. At 4-4, the game was tied.

Gutiérrez returned for one more inning. He pitched a scoreless sixth inning, despite Noroña's second single of the night. 93 pitches were thrown by the left-hander and he was certainly not well-defended in that second inning. In six innings, he allowed four runs, three of them earned, while striking out two and walking two.

When it came down to the bullpen of both teams deciding this game, Matanzas undoubtedly won.

After winning Game 5 of the semifinals against Industriales, Artemisa sent right-hander José I. Bermúdez to work in the seventh inning. The young right-hander walked Yordan Manduley to start the inning. Ariel Sánchez was ready to bunt, but Bermúdez threw a wild pitch, moving Manduley to second. The runner was moved to third by Sanchez's excellent bunt, and Gracial was intentionally walked. Minutes later, with Yordanis Samón at bat, the home umpire called a balk, and Manduley scored with the 5-4 lead.

Artemisa tied it again in the 8th inning against reliever Frank L. Medina. With one out, consecutive singles by Dennis Laza, Raúl González, and José A. Jiménez made the score 5-5 and sent Medina back to the dugout. Medina, who threw 34 pitches, ultimately pitched 2 1/3 innings with four hits for one run. Despite his best efforts, he was unable to keep the lead at 5-4.

Closing Armando Duelas was called upon after three appearances against Las Tunas in the semifinals. He was saved by second baseman Manduley's superb fielding on Osbel Pacheco's apparent right-field single. In the end, the inning ended with a 6443 double play thanks to Manduley and Arruebarrena.

The bottom of the 8th inning showed clearly that it wasn't reliever Bermúdez's night. In a gamble, Yulieski González sent Bermúdez back to the mound. He got the first two outs of the inning but then was the victim of Noroña's home run to left field over the first pitch he saw. The solo shot made it 6-5 and unleashed madness throughout the stadium. Noroña, who before Game 1 had a .091 (11-1) batting average with a home run and two RBIs, in this game was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a decisive home run.

The tension returned to the stadium in the ninth, when Dueñas allowed Luis González's third hit of the night and walked Dayán García. With the tying run at second, Dueñas ended the agony by retiring Cepeda on a deep fly to left field. Dueñas was credited with the win.

Armando Dueñas celebrates his save during Game 1 of the Final. (Photo by Jit Digital)

This Wednesday, at 6:30 pm (ET), is Game 2. It will be Yoel Mojena for Matanzas and Raymond Figueredo for Artemisa.



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