Cuba rallies to even series, 7-6
Kris Bryant goes 3-for-5 with two doubles and a triple
HAVANA -- The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team took a four-run lead into the seventh inning, but Cuba rallied with five runs over the next two frames to claim a 7-6 win and even the series on Friday evening at Latin American Stadium.
"Tonight was another great game between two of the best teams in international baseball," Collegiate National Team manager Dave Serrano said. "I thought Marco (Gonzales) pitched an outstanding game and we got our bats going a little bit, but just couldn't quite hold on at the end. Cuba is a very talented team with a lot of experience and unfortunately they finished with one more run than we had tonight."
After Team USA emerged with a one-run win in the series opener, Cuba turned the tables in the second game. With the U.S. leading 6-2, Cuba scored three runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth to take its first lead in the series and then handed the ball over to closer Pablo Millan Fernandez who pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the save.
Marco Gonzales (Gonzaga) started the game on the mound for Team USA and hurled six strong innings with seven strikeouts, and Kris Bryant (San Diego) led the effort at the plate with a 3-for-5 performance, including two doubles and a triple.
Three other U.S. players -- D.J. Peterson (New Mexico), Michael Conforto (Oregon State) and Johnny Field (Arizona) -- hit home runs in the contest. For Conforto, it was his second in two games as he launched a grand slam to account for all of Team USA's runs in Thursday night's victory.
The home team on Friday, Team USA got the ball rolling in its favor right out of the gate as Peterson crushed a 2-0 offering from Cuba starting pitcher Ismel Jimenez deep into the leftfield stands to give his team a quick 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Altough Cuba answered with solo home runs off the bats of Alfredo Despaigne and Rusney Castillo to tie the game, the U.S. jumped right back out in front.
Conforto and Field went deep just two batters apart in the third and then the Red, White and Blue scored on an error by Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena in the fifth and got an RBI single from Field on a perfectly executed hit-and-run in the sixth to take a 6-2 lead.
That would be the last time a Team USA player would cross the plate on Friday, however, as Cuba rallied to turn its deficit into a one-run victory.
Jose Abreu got the comeback started with a leadoff home run in the top of the seventh before an RBI groundout by Arruebarruena and a sacrifice fly by Rusney Castillo. Just one inning later, Cuba took its first lead of the series when William Luis stroked a bases-loaded single to center, bringing in two more runs, including the eventual game-winner.
Thir third contest between the United States and Cuba is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. once again on Saturday night. Righthander Adam Plutko (UCLA) will make the start for Team USA.