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LEBC 2024 Postseason | Entenza and Medina in relief and two runs in the 7th send Matanzas to the Final of the Elite League with a 6-4 victory over Las Tunas

Updated: Jan 15

The Crocodiles of Matanzas, in their first participation, advance to an Elite League final

The victory of Matanzas is celebrated. (Photo: Raúl Navarro)

Semifinals of the II Elite League of Cuban Baseball

Matanzas 6, Las Tunas 4

Matanzas won the series 4-2

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, Rusney Castillo was hit by a pitch to give Matanzas a 5-4 that will never surrender, and the Matanzas Crocodiles defeated the Las Tunas Lumberjacks 6-4 to advance to the Elite League Finals against Artemisa. 

Next Tuesday, Game 1 of the Final begins at 6:30pm (ET).

For Matanzas, Noelvis Entenza and Frank L. Medina combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing only two hits with six strikeouts and one walk, for a bullpen game that was all they needed.

Defending national champions Las Tunas took a 4-0 lead after four innings against starter César García. A home run by Denis Peña starting the third inning, along with a costly error by Yurisbel Gracial at third, a walk, and two hits, helped put the Lumberjacks ahead 3-0. This sent starter García back to the dugout. 

Denis Peña, Osvaldo Abreu, and Héctor Castillo singled consecutively in the fourth inning, forcing Haykel Parra from the mound and extending the lead to 4-0. With two runners on base, veteran Noelvis Entenza entered the game.

Entering Game 6, Entenza was 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in two reliefs this postseason. However, he was in prime form in Game 6, blanking Las Tunas on one hit and five strikeouts through 3 1/3 innings before giving up the ball to closer Medina. His effort earned him the victory.

An outstanding performance was delivered by veteran Noelvis Entenza. (Photo: Raúl Navarro)

It was up to Matanzas big bats to make a comeback in the game. And they did.

Yadián Martínez had some trouble in the first inning, putting a runner in scoring position with one out. However, he eventually got the better of two of the most dangerous Matanzas hitters, Yordanis Samón and Rusney Castillo. It was impressive from that point forward, he retired eight straight batters and 12 of the next 13. Then came the fateful fifth inning.

With one out, Andrys Pérez was hit by a pitch and Eduardo Blanco singled to follow. After that, Las Tunas' defense imploded, committing two errors that allowed Matanzas to score three runs. Trying to complete a double play, Osvaldo Abreu threw to first erratically on an easy ground ball to second, allowing Matanzas to score.  On the next pitch, Ariel Sánchez's grounder to first led to an error by first baseman Rafael Viñales, which resulted in two more runs reaching home plate. Minutes later Yurisbel Gracial came through in the clutch, crushing a Martínez changeup over the center field wall, tying the game, and sending the home crowd - of 15,583 - into a euphoric frenzy. In the end, Las Tunas couldn't recover.

Gracial' swing tied the game. (Photo: Raúl Navarro)

It was a night to forget for Las Tunas' starter in the fifth inning. There was only one mistake Yadián made, against Gracial, but he accepted four unearned runs in the end. Yadián Martínez finished the sixth inning, and Las Tunas looked to their bullpen for help.

An inning later the game was over. Against reliever Rodolfo Díaz, Matanzas put a runner in scoring position with a single from Yordan Manduley and a sacrifice bunt from Ariel Sánchez. With first base open, Gracial's hot bat was sent to first. Minutes later, Díaz walked Yordanis Samón to load the bases. Afterward, Las Tunas' closer, Alberto P. Civil, entered the game, but at the wrong time. Instead of reliever Díaz, Civil, one of the best arms in his bullpen, was supposed to pitch to Samón. Pantoja paid the price for this mistake. Anyways, Civil was ineffective this time, hitting Rusney Castillo with the first pitch to give Matanzas a decisive 5-4 lead, which was followed by Eriel Arruebarrena's sacrifice fly for the final score of 6-4. 

Díaz got the loss after pitching 1/3 of an inning, allowing two earned runs, one hit and two walks.

Frank L. Medina tossed two scoreless innings in relief for the Crocodiles to record his second save.

Reinforcements for the II Elite League Finals

Further announcements were made regarding the one reinforcement selected by each team for the finals. Matanzas selected Yadián Martínez, the pitcher they faced in Game 6 of the semifinals, while Artemisa opted for Industriales' pitcher Raymond Figueredo.

II Elite League Finals Schedule

Game 1, Tuesday, January 16, 6:30 pm, Victoria de Girón Stadium, Art @ Mtz

Game 2, Wednesday, January 17, 6:30 pm, Victoria de Girón Stadium, Art @ Mtz

Game 3, Friday, January 19, 1:30 pm, 26 de Julio Stadium, Mtz @ Art

Game 4, Saturday, January 20, 1:30 pm, 26 de Julio Stadium, Mtz @ Art

Game 5, Sunday, January 21, 1:30 pm, 26 de Julio Stadium, Mtz @ Art (If necessary)

Game 6, Tuesday, January 23, 6:30 pm, Victoria de Girón Stadium, Art @ Mtz (If necessary)

Game 7, Wednesday, January 24, 6:30 pm, Victoria de Girón Stadium, Art @ Mtz (If necessary)



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