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LEBC 2024 Finals | Matanzas wins its first Elite League Championship with a 12-5 win in Game 6

Updated: Jan 24

This is Matanzas and manager Armando Ferrer's second title in Cuba within four years

The champions of the II Elite League, Matanzas. (Photo by Mónica Ramírez)

Finals of the II Elite League of Cuban Baseball

Game 6: Matanzas 12, Artemisa 5

Matanzas won the series 4-2

Matanzas Crocodiles fans knew exactly what was coming when Yordanis Samón hit a solo homer in the fifth inning.

The Crocodiles' 12-5 victory over Artemisa Hunters in Game 6 of the II Elite League Finals gave Matanzas its second franchise championship and first in this tournament.

As for Samón, it was his first title in the Cuban League after 21 seasons. After the game, he said "I am very grateful to manager Armando Ferrer, who told me a long time ago in the Latinoamericano Stadium that he would make me champion. I dedicate this victory to my family, my children, my wife, and my neighbors, who are far away." Regarding the Matanzas fans, he said, "The Matanzas fans behaved very well and always trusted the team."

Between the regular season and postseason, the team won 33 games, resulting in a well-deserved championship.

In an elite tournament, Matanzas became the first Cuban province champion team. Agricultores, a collection of players from different National Series teams, won the inaugural tournament in 2023.

Game 6 had no starter hero on the mound. 

Both starters failed to make it past the third inning. For Artemisa righthander Raymond Figueredo, who threw 5 innings of two runs in Game 2, wasn't even close this time. He left the game in the bottom of the second inning, while Renner Rivero completed 2 1/3 innings for Matanzas.

A close game was predicted after both pitchers allowed three runs in the first inning.

The game started with Artemisa up 3-0 because of a three-run homer by Dennis Laza. Matanzas, however, tied the game in the bottom of the first inning with three hits and two costly errors.

The Hunters took the lead in the third inning. Two walks, a single, and an error took Rivero out of the game. Raúl González extended Artemisa's lead to 5-3 with a sacrifice fly against reliever Noelvis Entenza.

Entenza, who made an outstanding performance against Las Tunas in Game 6 to earn the win and send the team to the finals, had a remarkable finals performance against Artemisa. The veteran right-hander, who appeared in Games 2 and 4 of the series, both games won by Artemisa, in Game 6 took the win, during his third outing of the Finals.

A relief performance by Noelvis Entenza earned him the victory in Game 6. (Photo by Abel Rojas)

During his two previous outings, he posted an immaculate ERA in 6 innings. Once again, he pitched three scoreless innings, striking out three and retiring eight of the first nine hitters he faced. With his team ahead 7-5 in the sixth, he got into trouble. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with two outs. It was enough for manager Armando Ferrer, and he made a call to his bullpen.

In the post-game interview, Entenza said "I worked very hard to bring joy to Matanzas, which deserves it. Also, Artemisa deserves recognition. It added a color to the playoffs that I hadn't even anticipated."

After entering the game, Frank L. Medina promptly retired Yoán Moreno on a grounder to second base to end the threat, despite the dispute over the out at second base that went to the replay but it was confirmed out. For Matanzas in Game 6, it was essential to avoid a debacle.  

It was the end of the series for Artemisa after the failed rally.

Five runs were scored by Matanzas in the bottom of the sixth inning to put the game out of reach. The inning began with a solo homer to left by Ariel Sánchez. 

However, the party continued. The lead was extended to 9-5 after Yordan Manduley hit a triple and an RBI single by Alexander Pozo. In the final frame, the Crocodiles led 12-5 after scoring three more runs in the inning.

In the end, Matanzas easily won what initially looked like a close game.

Matanzas received 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief from Frank L. Medina, who was able to match Entenza's performance. While Entenza took the win, he was credited with the save, his third this postseason.

The last out of the game came when Dayán García gave up a ground ball to Medina at first base. It was only the beginning of the party for the 20,540 fans gathered at Victoria de Girón stadium. 

Since the start of the regular season, Matanzas was the clear favorite, winning 25 games, five games more than Artemisa. Even with the addition of ex-MLB players Rusney Castillo and Dariel Álvarez, the team didn't need them in the postseason.

This was Armando Ferrer's second championship in four years, after winning the 59th National Series in 2020. 

"It is a prepared team. We were a team, not a super team, but a great team. This is a team that knows how to play Play-Offs, and this is the result," manager Armando Ferrer said after the game.

When asked if he felt any pressure during the series, Ferrer replied, "You always feel extra pressure, because when you are the big favorite, it makes you seem unbeatable, that you cannot be beaten. The truth is that anyone can lose in baseball. That's why I said this wouldn't end in a fourth or fifth game." He had these words for the fans: "The crowd has always been impressive, we performed well and the people have always responded."

Matanzas had never won a championship before these two titles and after 1962, when the National Series started. Henequeneros (3) (1969-70, 1989-90, 1990-91) and Citricultores (2) (1976-77, 1983-84) were two other representative teams from Matanzas that had won the National Series five times in total.  Even in the defunct Cuban Professional League, Matanzas won only one championship in the 1892-93 season under manager Luis María Catalá.

With today's win, they continued to make Cuban League history.