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

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

  • All-Star selection for the II Elite League. Most Valuable Player award goes to Yurisbel Gracial

    A recently named series of stars will be played by the All-Star team in Matanzas Yurisbel Gracial from Matanzas won the Most Valuable Player award of the II Elite Cuban Baseball League (LEBC). The II LEBC announced this Monday night in Havana its All-Star teams for the offensive and defensive departments, known as Silver Bats and Golden Gloves, respectively. Yurisbel Gracial, one of the rare selections for the most valuable title, accumulating only 67 at-bats of the 108 required, was undoubtedly an offensive force for his Matanzas team in 14 games. As a joint leader of the tournament, Gracial hit 8 home runs, drove in 25 runs, and put up an offensive line of .418/.522/.909, with projections that he could still have won the title if he played all the regular season games. It is expected that the All-Star team will also play in the announced All-Star Series alongside the team that is crowned in this Elite tournament. To "finish off" the Colombian Intercontinental Baseball Series that failed, this series will invite foreign teams. Almost like the now-canceled Intercontinental tournament, the series will run from January 28 to February 1. In Miami, the newly formed FEBCUBE federation wanted to participate and represent Cubans in the Intercontinental Series. It does not appear that foreign casts will be taken for this hasty and unnecessary series, but confirmation is still pending. According to Juan Reinaldo Pérez, the president of the Cuban Baseball and Softball Federation, if foreign teams do not enter, the series will be played in three games with a best-of-two format, beginning on January 28 at Victoria de Girón Stadium. These are the II Elite League All-Star teams. II Elite League Awards MVP Yurisbel Gracial (Matanzas) Silver Slugger C: Andy Y. Cosme (Artemisa) 1B: Rafael R. Viñales (Las Tunas) 2B: Jorge E. Alomá (Industriales) SS: Luis V. Mateo (Industriales) 3B: Yurisbel Gracial (Matanzas) OF: Dennis Laza (Artemisa) OF: Alexander Pozo (Matanzas) OF: Denis Peña (Las Tunas) UT: José A. Noroña (Matanzas) DH: Frederich Cepeda (Sancti Spíritus) Gold Glove C: Andy Y. Cosme (Artemisa) 1B: Yordanis Samón (Matanzas) 2B: Jorge E. Alomá (Industriales) SS: Dainel López (Artemisa) 3B: Yordanis Alarcón (Las Tunas) LF: Denis Laza (Artemisa) CF: Eduardo Blanco (Matanzas) RF: Carlos de la Tejera (Artemisa) P: Yadián Martínez (Las Tunas) Best RHP Remberto Barreto (Industriales) Best LHP Geonel Gutiérrez (Artemisa) Best Reliever Yanielkis Duardo (Sancti Spíritus)

  • LEBC 2024 Finals | Yera's gem allowed Matanzas to beat Artemisa 6-1 in Game 5, taking a 3-2 lead

    Game 6 will be played this Tuesday at the Victoria de Girón stadium in Matanzas Finals of the II Elite League of Cuban Baseball Game 5: Matanzas 6, Artemisa 1 Matanzas leads the series 3-2 A gem of a pitching performance by Yoennis Yera for seven innings and an offensive effort by Eduardo Blanco, led Matanzas to a 6-1 victory over Artemisa this Sunday afternoon at Artemisa stadium in the always important Game 5. Box score Having won games 3 and 5 of the series, the Crocodiles return to Matanzas needing just one more win to win their first Elite League title. In the best-of-seven series, they are leading 3-2 heading into Game 6 this Tuesday. In the second inning, both teams scored their first runs. At the top of the second episode, three consecutive singles from Yordanis Samón, Erisbel Arruebarruena, and Eduardo Blanco put the score at 1-0. A walk to José Noroña loaded the bases with no outs, but starter Geonel Gutiérrez struck out Andrys Pérez and induced Ariel Sánchez to hit into a double play to end the threat. It wouldn't take long for the answer to come. It would come courtesy of Frederich Cepeda, whose solo home run in the bottom of the inning opened the scoring. It would be the only thing the Matanzas starter would allow. Gutiérrez, Yera's rival in this Game 5, couldn't repeat his performance from Game 1, when he threw six innings and surrendered three runs. During the third episode, Matanzas would regain control. Yordan Manduley and Alexander Pozo, the latter one of Armando Ferrer's changes to rest Rusney Castillo, both hit singles. Yurisbel Gracial hit a sacrifice bunt to move runners to third and second. In response, Artemisa intentionally walked Samón, but Gutiérrez walked Arruebarrena to make it 2-1. Ultimately, the slightest advantage would have sufficed. This would be the last batter the Hunters starter would face. Gutiérrez only lasted 2 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and two runs. He faced 14 batters in total, but disastrously 10 of them reached base, six for hits and four for walks. Considering the absence of his closer Liván Moinelo, Yulieski González's bullpen would have to endure too many innings so early in the game. It was Jose I. Bermúdez who entered the game. As he struck out Blanco for the second out, third baseman Dayán García made a defensive error on the following batter. This extended the Crocodiles' lead to 3-1. In the meantime, Yera grew stronger as the game progressed. Three men were on base and two were in scoring position in the third and fourth innings, but he was always able to escape the danger. With runners on first and second, he overpowered Cepeda with a fly ball to right in the third inning. In the next inning, Osbel Pacheco was retired by Yera on a grounder to shortstop after Jiménez doubled to right. The fifth was even better when he faced the minimum number of batters without allowing anyone to reach base. After Jiménez's double in the fourth inning, Yera retired nine of the ten batters he faced. There was only one baserunner reaching base in the sixth inning, Dayán García, due to an error by Gracial at third base. At the end of the day, the experienced left-hander delivered what his team needed in the always crucial Game 5. Seven innings of four hits, one earned run, and two walks characterized his performance. Despite not striking out in the game, he was effective enough in the beginning to dominate an Artemisa offense that missed the few opportunities it had. Artemisa's hitters went 0-for-2 with RISP against Yera, while they went 0-for-3 overall in such situations. As a result, Artemisa's offense was never able to control the match. As Yera left the mound in the eighth inning, to maintain his team's lead Frank L. Medina pitched two scoreless innings. He allowed just two hits. Crocodiles put the game out of reach in the seventh inning. Three consecutive singles by Gracial, Samón, and Arruebarrena made it 4-1 against Bermúdez. Blanco's two-RBI double rounded out the final score after reliever Israel Sánchez entered the game. It was Blanco's seventh RBI in the final. He led a team that until Game 5 had produced 23 RBIs against Artemisa's pitching. In the sixth inning, one of those historic moments was also experienced. Against reliever José I. Bermúdez, Ariel Sánchez collected his 2000th career hit in National Series history, the 27th player to accomplish such a feat. It was also the fifth such honor achieved by a player from the province of Matanzas, the third for the Sánchez family, and the first by a player who played in an Elite League. After the game, Sánchez said to the press: “I spent almost a month to hit 8 hits. I was indeed a little anxious, but it is a goal I never thought I would reach, from the beginning when I started my career. My uncles - Wilfredo and Fernando, whom also reached 2000 career hits - and I discussed this feat. Playing these National Series requires a lot of preparation and sacrifice. My goal was to accomplish this in 18 seasons because few players had achieved it in that timeframe. In the end, I just want to thank God that I could do my job and I'm happy." The Crocodiles lead the series 3-2, and the series moves to the Victoria de Girón stadium in Matanzas for Game 6 on Tuesday at 6:30 pm. Both teams have yet to announce their pitchers.

  • LEBC 2024 Finals | Erlis Casanova throws 109-pitch complete game as Artemisa beat Matanzas 3-2 in Game 4, ties the series 2-2

    An outstanding pitching performance by the right-hander from Pinar del Rio evened the series at 2-2 Finals of the II Elite League of Cuban Baseball Game 4: Artemisa 3, Matanzas 2 The series is tied 2-2 Erlis Casanova paid the best tribute to his wife just 13 days after she passed away. To even the series at 2-2, the right-hander threw a complete game in Game 4 of the II Elite League Finals. Frederich Cepeda and Dayán García each recorded crucial singles in the win. Box score After the game ended, the man from Pinar del Rio, who reinforces Artemisa in this edition of the Elite League, could not avoid crying. After all, it was just his first start since losing his wife to an unfortunate illness. Backed by RBI singles from Frederich Cepeda and Dayán García, Casanova allowed only eight hits in a 109-pitch effort, giving a necessary victory to the local team. Throughout the game, there were only two bad moments for the right-hander. In the first inning, when he allowed two hits, one by Ariel Sánchez and a single by Yurisbel Gracial. However, he was well-defended, inducing a double play, including a throw to the plate for the third out by right-fielder Luis González. The other came in the eighth inning when Matanzas opened the scoring. Ariel Sánchez's double to right drove two runners after a walk, a single, and a sacrifice hit. It looked like Casanova would be out of the game soon. However, after Gracial's single, Samón was retired on a fly ball to right field to end the threat. In the ninth, a defensive error allowed one runner to reach first, but he retired the other three men to secure the victory. In five of nine innings, he faced the minimum number of batters. Following Gracial's hit in the first inning, he retired nine consecutively until Samón's single in the fourth. After allowing two hits in that inning, he closed it out by striking out Arruebarrena. Then Samón started the seventh inning with a single. However, Casanova managed to force Rusney Castillo to hit into a double play, ending the inning with his second strikeout against Arruebarrena. With runners in scoring position, Matanzas went 3-for-6, but those hits had no impact on the scoreboard aside for Sánchez's double in the eighth. In the first, fourth, and eighth innings of the crucial game, great hitters like Samón and Arruebarrena were 0-for-3 with RISP. Meanwhile, against Matanzas' right-handed starter, César García, Artemisa scored in the first inning. A single by Yoán Moreno and a walk by Luis González started the inning for the Hunters. Nevertheless, Dayán García was retired in a double play, leaving Moreno on third. Frederich Cepeda's single to left would help him score minutes later. García recovered and had a quality start. His six innings of work always included at least one runner on base. However, in two of them, the defense contributed with two errors, and three times he managed to induce double plays that prevented runs. Raúl González led off the seventh with a double. García had already thrown 96 pitches, and manager Armando Ferrer called his bullpen. Reliever Noelvis Entenza entered the game, and he retired José Jiménez on a grounder to short that moved the runner to third. Carlos de la Tejera, however, was intentionally walked. When Andy Cosme followed with a ground ball to third base, Gracial made an error allowing González to score. Artemisa led 2-0. The inning extended when Entenza hit Moreno to load the bases. But after retiring Luis González in a fly-out, Dayán García's single to center gave Artemisa a 3-0 lead. A bad baserunning error led to Moreno's third out. As a result of Artemisa's victory, the series is now leveled at two wins, which ensures the return to Matanzas for Game 6. Now Matanzas has to stop the Hunters' winning streak at 26 de Julio Stadium in Game 5 on Sunday. The game will be a rematch of the opener, with Matanzas ace Yoennis Yera facing Geonel Gutiérrez.

  • LEBC 2024 Finals | Arruebarrena hit a crucial homer in the 7th inning and Matanzas beat Artemisa 8-4 in Game 3. Take a 2-1 lead in the 2024 Elite League Finals

    Game 4 of the series will be played Saturday afternoon Finals of the II Elite League of Cuban Baseball Game 3: Matanzas 8, Artemisa 4 Matanzas leads the series 2-1 The Matanzas Crocodiles are now just two games away from winning the first Elite League in history after a 3-1 Game 3 victory over the Artemisa Hunters at the 26 de Julio Stadium in Artemisa Friday afternoon. Erisbel Arruebarrena hit a solo home run in the seventh inning to give the Crocodiles a 5-4 lead that they never relinquished. Matanzas' starter Yadián Martínez was also key in the victory. Box score In the bottom of the second inning, Artemisa scored three runs against starter Yadián Martínez. The Hunters' consistent offense made itself felt in that inning with five consecutive hits. They were Dennis Laza, Raúl González, José Jiménez, Carlos de la Tejera, and Osbel Pacheco, the last two each with one RBI. Eventually, Martínez stopped the attack, retiring the next three batters. However, not before accepting a ground ball by Yoán Moreno to third base that allowed Jiménez to score. Albert Valladares, who recorded the second-most victories for Mayabeque in the last 62 National Series with 5, had no issues during the first two innings. He retired six of the eight batters he faced. He walked and allowed a single in the second inning but dominated the offensively slumping Andrys Pérez. After leading by three runs, he allowed Matanzas' first run in the third inning. It was an inning that could have been more productive for Matanzas. Following a single by Manduley, a forced out on Ariel Sánchez's hit, and a wild pitch, Yurisbel Gracial drove in the first run with a single to left. Nonetheless, Valladares was able to dominate Rusney Castillo despite hitting the next batter, Yordanis Samón. To this point in the series, the ex-Boston Red Sox player Castillo had gone 1-for-8 against Artemisa's pitchers, 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position, a walk and have been hit by a pitch once. During the regular season, Matanzas' lineup terrorized pitchers, but it needs bats like Castillo's in this championship series. And an inning later Valladares was chased off the mound by Crocodiles’ hitters. To begin the inning, Arruebarrena singled, and after Noroña was out, Andrys followed with a single that allowed Arruebarrena to score after a defensive error. Suddenly, the offensive power of the Matanzas arrived, when Eduardo Blanco hit a two-run home run to the left to turn the score around and put Matanzas ahead 4-3. After 3 1/3 innings and four runs on six hits including a home run, Valladares was done. In the game, he walked and struck out one. After Artemisa’s reliever Diorvis Navarro entered the game in the fourth inning, he worked through the fifth unscathed. As the game entered the bottom of the fifth, centerfielder Yoán Moreno led the inning smashing a fastball from Martínez over the left field wall. This tied the game at 4-4. Both teams had opportunities in the sixth. Navarro was removed from the mound by Matanzas in that inning after Blanco singled and Manduley doubled. However, reliever Israel Sánchez got the second out on a grounder to second base from Sánchez. With first base open, Gracial was intentionally walked. The strategy worked when Samón hit a fly ball to center field for the third out. For Artemisa, with Martínez still on the mound and two outs, Pacheco singled to right and Andy Cosme hit a double to the deep right field corner. However, a relief throw from Ariel Sánchez to Yordan Manduley threw Pacheco out at the plate, keeping the score intact. To be honest, Pacheco had no chance to score. It was Yadián Martínez's last inning. After being acquired by Matanzas as reinforcements before the finals, the right-hander had a quality outing in Game 3. Martínez pitched six solid innings, allowing four runs on seven hits, and only had one ineffective inning, the second, where at least one run could have been prevented. Within an inning, Martínez was in line to clinch a crucial victory. In the top of the seventh inning, Matanzas responded immediately. With Rusney Castillo striking out, Erisbel Arruebarrena homered deep to center, putting Yadián in a position to win Game 3. Three important runs would extend Matanzas' lead in the eighth. After an error and a walk, Gracial drove in two with a double that took reliever Sánchez out of the game. When Osdany Rodríguez came in relief, he walked three consecutive batters, forcing the third run. Matanzas was leading 8-4. After Yadián Martínez's exit, Frank L. Medina took over. He faced 10 batters and allowed only two hits in 2 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball for the hold. Closing out the victory in the ninth, with two outs, was closer Armando Dueñas. Game 4 will take place this Saturday at 1:30 pm. For Matanzas, César García will start, and for Artemisa, Erly Casanova.

  • LEBC 2024 Finals | Figueredo, Moinelo, González, and Cosme help Hunters even Finals with a 6-3 victory over Crocodiles in Game 2

    Game 3 of the series will be played at Artemisa on Friday afternoon Finals of the II Elite League of Cuban Baseball Game 2: Artemisa 6, Matanzas 3 The series is tied 1-1 Raúl González hit a two-run double and Andy Cosme added a two-run single, and the Artemisa Hunters rolled to a 6-3 victory in Game 2 of the II Elite League Finals on Wednesday night. Only six batters into the game, they led 2-0, and by the fourth inning, they had doubled the lead. Box score In addition, they scored two more runs to tie the best-of-seven series. Game 3 is Friday afternoon at 26 de Julio Stadium in Artemisa, where the home team Artemisa is 14-8 in this Elite League season. Hunters got off to a quick start. Frederich Cepeda walked and Dennis Laza followed with a double in the second inning against starter Yoel Mojena. Following their close Game 1 loss, Raúl González hit a two-run double to center field that gave Artemisa a 2-0 lead early on. Two batters later, Mojena was out of the game. During this postseason, the right-hander has struggled. He has not advanced past the second inning in either of his two outings, each completing 1 1/3 innings. Currently, he has an awful 16.36 ERA, allowing 6 hits, 4 of them doubles. It didn't get any better for Matanzas. Until the third inning, Eriel Carrillo retired four consecutive hitters before walking Cepeda and Laza back-to-back to start the fourth inning. In no time at all, Matanzas' manager pulled his reliever and brought in Haykel Parra. Parra, however, delivered a rollercoaster of relief. After retiring González on a fly-out to right-field, he hit José Jiménez, then retired Osbel Pacheco on another fly-out to right, but allowed Cosme to bring two runners home with his single to center. There was a 4-0 lead for Artemisa. An inning later and Parra was also out of the game, after walking Luis González to start the inning. Veteran Noelvis Entenza, who provided an excellent relief and took the win in Game 6 of the semifinals against Las Tunas, entered the game. In the process, he allowed Dayán García to hit a single to left that sent González to third. Afterwards, Entenza forced Cepeda to hit a 4663 double play, but could not prevent González from scoring. Artemisa had a solid 5-0 lead. Meanwhile, Artemisa's starter Raymond Figueredo was throwing a gem against one of the best lineups in the Elite League. In four of the first five innings he pitched, the right-hander faced a minimum of three batters, allowing only one hit to Rusney Castillo in the second inning. The third inning saw him hit Andrys Pérez. He then retired the next eight batters in a row until the fifth inning. In total, he needed only 52 pitches. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Matanzas made a comeback. Andrys Pérez and Eduardo Blanco hit back-to-back singles and an error put runners at third and second without outs. Yulieski González called his bullpen and brought Osdany Rodriguez. Despite retiring Yordan Manduley for the first out, Rodriguez allowed Ariel Sánchez's two-run double to center. Samón followed with a single to left after Gracial gave up the second out on an infield fly, bringing Sánchez home and closing the score to 5-3. In a close Game 1, Moinelo did not pitch, and manager Yulieski González was criticized for not using his best reliever. González did not want to repeat the same mistake. Matanzas lineup, if it wanted to really come back in this game, would have to do so against Artemisa's finest bullpen. However, in an atypical move, Moinelo entered the game to complete a 10-out game. Moinelo didn't disappoint. After walking Castillo, he struck out Erisbel Arruebarrena to end the threat. During the next three and a half innings, Moinelo allowed no hits while striking out five and walking three. The save was his third of the postseason.

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

  • 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

    The Crocodiles of Matanzas, in their first participation, advance to an Elite League final 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). Box score 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. 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. 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)

  • LEBC 2024 Postseason | Hunters shut out Lions in Semifinals Game 5, advance to first Elite League finals

    n the finals, the Hunters will face either the Crocodiles or the Lumberjacks Semifinals of the II Elite League of Cuban Baseball Artemisa 4, Industriales 0 Artemisa won the series 4-1 On Friday night in Havana, the Artemisa Hunters defeated the Industriales Lions by a score of 4-0 in Game 5 of the Semifinals of the Elite League. The Hunters will now advance to take on the Crocodiles or the Lumberjacks in the Finals, which should begin next week. Box score Hunters starter Yunieski García, José I. Bermúdez, and Liván Moinelo, the last two pitching in relief, combined for the one-hit shutout. For the Hunters, Dennis Laza homered, and Luis González and Andy Cosme added one RBI each. On the other side, Pavel Hernández allowed two runs in 3 1/3 innings. However, in relief, the expected starter of the game, Reemberto Barreto, gave up one run in 3 2/3 innings. On offense, the Lions as a team went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. Artemisa also did not use his best starter, Geonel Gutiérrez, but Yunieski García couldn't do it any better during the first three innings. The righthander threw the ball very well and in 2 2/3 innings was perfect against the Industriales' lineup, needing only 23 pitches. He struck out one. In the third inning, García suffered an injury and had to leave the mound. When it came to pitching, the Hunters and their manager Yulieski González were prepared for anything. They didn't panic and didn't send Gutiérrez to the mound with the score 0-0. Instead, they gave the ball to José I. Bermúdez. The great performance of Bermúdez in Game 5 was close to perfection. He went 4 1/3 scoreless innings allowing no hits, with 5 strikeouts and two walks. He ended up picking up the win. In the fourth inning, the Hunters just broke through. Heading into the top of the fourth inning, the Hunters had gotten 4 baserunners on but weren't getting them home. In that inning, they quickly got a 1-0 lead thanks to Dennis Laza's solo homer off Hernández starting the inning. It could have sufficed, but they scored more. Raúl González, who had two errors tonight, singled to left, stole second, and moved to third on a grounder. To make it 2-0, Andy Cosme singled to center. In response to another single by Jeison Martínez, Pavel Hernández was pulled from the mound. During the game, he faced 17 batters and allowed 2 runs on 7 hits over three-thirds of an inning. He was charged with the loss. In the regular season, Lions' starter Reemberto Barreto was dominant, but in the postseason, his dominance ran out. In Game 5, he was supposed to be the starting pitcher but was instead used as a reliever. Still, in relief, he was effective tonight. He pitched 3 2/3 innings of one hit allowing one run in the fifth. He struck out one and walked three. Artemisa scored again in the fifth. Following a walk by Luis González, Frederich Cepeda singled to right, moving González to third. Minutes later, González made it 3-0 with a double-play groundball from Laza. In the play, it was a mistake by Industriales' manager Guillermo Carmona not to move the infield in losing by two runs. Artemisa scored his final run of the game in the ninth inning off reliever Juan X. Peñalver, when Luis González singled to center with the bases loaded to make it 4-0. In the eighth, Liván Moinelo was brought in. With three strikeouts and a walk, he pitched two scoreless innings. As Industriales went hitless for eight innings, Moinelo could have completed the no-hitter, however, Christian Rodríguez hit a single to left field in the ninth inning to keep him from completing it. Despite walking another batter, he struck out Oscar Valdés to end the game. The Hunters made history with the win. Since the team was founded in 2011, this was the team's first Elite League final and the first final in a Cuban major tournament - National Series and Elite Leagues.

  • LEBC 2024 Postseason | Matanzas hit five homers in 10-5 victory over Las Tunas in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in the semifinals

    Game 6 is scheduled for Saturday at Victoria de Girón Stadium in Matanzas Semifinals of the II Elite League of Cuban Baseball Matanzas 10, Las Tunas 5 Matanzas leads the series 3-1 In Game 5, Matanzas hit five home runs, including two in the eighth and ninth innings, helping Yoennis Yera remain undefeated this postseason. To avoid an often complicated Game 7, the Matanzas Crocodiles are heading back to Matanzas to contest Game 6. For Las Tunas, there was also Danel Castro in Game 5. A 47-year-old veteran who keeps adding records. On Thursday night, Castro became the first Cuban to reach 2500 career hits in the Cuban National Series. With all the changes in Cuban baseball, this record seems untouchable. Castro, well aware of the milestone he was aiming for, hit a long and high single to right-center field in his first at-bat off starter Yoennis Yera. As he announced this week that he will play in the 63rd National Series of Cuban Baseball, he will keep extending this record. Congratulations to the veteran and productive hitter from Las Tunas. With two runs in the first inning and another in the second and third innings, Matanzas took an early lead against starter Dariel Góngora. With two outs in the first, Góngora walked Yurisbel Gracial, and Samón hit his first of three extra-base hits, a double to center that brought Gracial home. Samón's double No. 456 was a new National Series record, one more than veteran Fredrich Cepeda, who plays with Artemisa. Rusney Castillo will follow with another double for a 2-0 margin. Eduardo Blanco doubled to left field in the second inning, then moved to third on Yordan Manduley's single, and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Dariel Álvarez, who ended the rumors that he was leaving the team. Samón extended the lead to 4-1 with a solo shot to center in the third inning. After those three innings, Góngora pitched like he had done all season. Despite allowing four runs on five hits, including four extra bases, one strikeout, and a walk in three innings, Góngora followed with four scoreless innings, allowing three hits, two strikeouts, and no walks. Las Tunas had a chance to come back in the game, but they didn't. Matanzas' key was Yoennis Yera, who threw six innings despite being hit hard. He allowed 10 hits but just one run. Yera struck out one and walked one.  During this postseason, he has pitched 11 innings and allowed just one run. His record is now 2-0. Immediately following Góngora's exit from the mound, Las Tunas' bullpen took a major hit. The eighth and ninth innings of Game 5 showed Matanzas' favoritism and offensive power throughout this Elite League. In the eighth, Matanzas scored three runs on four hits, including a second homer from Samón and a two-run shot from José A. Noroña. Matanzas added three more runs in the ninth. Gracial hit a solo shot to center to start the inning, Samón walked, and after Ariel Sánchez gave up the first out, Erisbel Arruebarrena hit a two-run home run to left field to make it 10-1. In the bottom of the ninth, Las Tunas rebelled against Matanzas' bullpen. The team scored four runs, that included a solo home run by Denis Peña. Nevertheless, with the score 10-5, runners in the corners and one out, manager Armando Ferrer called his closer, Armando Dueñas. Despite a night to forget in Game 4, Dueñas retired Danel Castro with a 4663 groundout double play to end the game. Game 6 is Saturday at 6:30 pm (ET).

  • LEBC 2024 Postseason | Lions avoid elimination, beat Hunters 7-2 in Game 4

    Ariel Hechavarría homered and Jonathan Carbó had a strong outing Semifinals of the II Elite League of Cuban Baseball Industriales 7, Artemisa 2 Artemisa leads the series 3-1 Jonathan Carbó delivered from the mound, slumping Ariel Hechavarría delivered a big hit and the Industriales Lions took advantage of a bad start of Artemisa Darío Sarduy to beat the Hunters 7-2 Thursday afternoon avoiding elimination and push the semifinal series to Game 5. Box score Ariel Hechavarría was just back in the Industriales lineup and hit a key two-run homer for his only hit of the series. Hechavarría was 0-for-6 in Games 1 and 2 of the series and didn't see any action in Game 3. Artemisa starter Darío Sarduy struggled early and was hit hard in the fourth inning. It was the inning when Industriales took control of the game, scoring four decisive runs. A single by Jorge Alomá, a double by Yasiel Santoya, and an RBI single by Oscar Valdés tied the game. A fielder's choice gave the Lions a 2-1 lead. This was the moment when Hechavarría came through with the huge hit, a two-run homer giving Industriales a 4-1 lead that Artemisa would never overtake. Sarduy returned to the mound in the fifth inning, but after issuing back-to-back walks he was removed. Alomá moved the runners with a deep flyout to center against new reliever Osdany Rodriguez, and Santoya's sacrifice fly extended the lead to 5-1 as Valdés' double made it 6-1. In just four innings, Sarduy was tagged with six runs. He allowed five hits and walked five in the loss. A superb performance from the Lions' starter was the highlight of the game for the second straight game. The six-inning gem pitched by Jonathan Carbó kept Industriales alive for at least one more day. Despite striking out two and walking a pair, Artemisa was limited to only one run on four hits from the right-hander. Tasked with extending the Industriales' season, Carbó delivered under pressure. Having started just three games for the Lions in the II Elite League, pitching 7 1/3 and going 1-0, he made 84 pitches for a win today. In relief, Kevin Hernández also excelled. In his nearly three perfect innings, he faced 10 batters and allowed just one hit, Frederich Cepeda's solo homer in the ninth. Hernández struck out just one, but most importantly, he preserved the lead to avoid a four-game sweep by the Hunters. Game 5 is Friday night (6:30 pm ET) at Latinoamericano Stadium, with ace Reemberto Barreto scheduled to start for Industriales. Possibly, Artemisa will use his Game 1 starter, Geonel Gutiérrez.

  • LEBC 2024 Postseason | In Game 3 of the series, the Hunters come from behind to beat the Lions 2-1 and take a solid 3-0 lead

    On Thursday, Game 4 will be an elimination game Semifinals of the II Elite League of Cuban Baseball Artemisa 2, Industriales 1 Artemisa leads the series 3-0 Among the II Elite League semifinals, Game 3 between Artemisa Hunters and Industriales Lions ended in an odd way. Artemisa' José A. Jiménez hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the ninth inning as the Hunters came from one run down to beat the Industriales Lions 2-1 on Wednesday and take a 3-o lead in the semifinals of the II Elite League. Box score Artemisa tied the game with a single in the ninth by Dennis Laza off closer Juan X. Peñalver. Yoán Moreno singled to lead off the inning, followed by a flyout by Luis González, and then Frederich Cepeda singled to advance Moreno to second base. The tying single was then produced by Laza. Artemisa's closer Liván Moinelo closed it out in the ninth, allowing Christian Rodríguez' single - combined with an error that moved the runner to second - and then putting the tying run in third base after a sacrifice hit by Roberto Acevedo. But Moinelo retired Luis V. Mateo in a groundout double play that included a tagging of Christian Rodríguez in home plate trying to score to end the game. Artemisa is now one win away from advancing to its first Cuban League finals, which include the National Series and Elite League tournaments. If the Lions lose the series - as expected -, there's no doubt that this game will trouble manager Guillermo Carmona for a long time. Mateo singled with one out in the first inning, and then Jorge Alomá hit a towering fly against the wall in left field. After admiring his possible home run, Alomá started running slowly and - without any chances - tried to reach second base. He was put out by Dennis Laza's throw to second baseman Osbel Pacheco and then first baseman Jiménez. Minutes later Industriales loaded the bases with walks to Yasiel Santoya and Oscar Valdés, but Artemisa' starter Albert Valladares settled down to get Yosvani Peñalver out on a flyout to the infield for the third out. Despite Valladers using 21 pitches and putting four runners on base, Industriales failed to score. The biggest reason for the team's loss in Game 3 was this. As the Lions did tonight, a team cannot afford to go 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position in a close game. Valladeres was a different pitcher after struggling in the first inning. He gave up an unearned run in the second, after walking one and largely due to Artemisa's poor defense. But the starter gave manager Yulieski González 5 1/3 innings, allowing just four hits, with four walks, and two strikeouts. Having walked Peñalver with one out in the sixth, Yulieski decided it was time to replace his starter. He had thrown 87 pitches and overall had a quality start. The Artemisa bullpen then came into its own. Combined, Israel Sánchez and Moinelo pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and walking one. Sánchez was awarded the win for his work and Moinelo got his first save of the semifinals. But we can't forget Raymond Figueredo's outing for Industriales. In the series Industriales was looking for a sign from their pitching that would allow them to come back in this semifinal. Figueredo was able to provide that sign. In 5 scoreless innings, the right-hander allowed just 3 hits, struck out two, and walked two. After 87 pitches, Figueredo was removed at the right time. As for Industriales bullpen, it was also effective, at least until the eighth inning. In the sixth, Kevin Hernández got into trouble, but Islay Sotolongo saved him. Yunielkis Duardo then kept Artemisa scoreless for 1 1/3 innings. Although Peñalver got two outs in the eighth, he blew the game in the ninth. There has never been a Cuban League team that has come back from a 3-0 deficit. Game 4 is Thursday at 2:30 pm. As of yet, no starters have been announced.

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