Habana Province today became the first club to earn a Cuban League post-season semifinals berth by convincingly grabbing four of five matches from outmanned Isla de la Juventud. The brief series was punctuated with a Monday afternoon 19-5 seven-inning “mercy rule” romp in the loser’s Cristóbal Labra Stadium (Nueva Gerona). The Cowboys must now await the victor of a Pinar del Río and Sancti Spíritus quarterfinal showdown that could end as early as tonight (with Pinar currently maintaining a 3-1 lead in that second best-of-seven series). A Pinar trip to the semis would mean a desired paring of first-place (Habana) and second place finishers for the Occidental League crown. In the eastern sector of the country, first place Ciego de Avila currently holds a 2-0 lead over scrappy Holguín, while defeading champion Santiago de Cuba is now trailing upset-minded Villa Clara 2-1 in the second Oriental League quarterfinal.
The biggest story in Habana Province’s lopsided knockout win was the rare hitting feat authored by Cowboys second baseman Ernest Molinet, a sold slugger boasting 12 homers, a .330 BA and a .515 slugging average during regular-season action. In the fifth inning of today’s romp Molinet blasted two homers, the first a two-run shot and the second a game-capping grand slam. Molinet also doubled home a seventh run earlier in the same contest. While a single player has crushed two homers during a single inning on 51 different occasions in the North American major leagues, this feat has never been accomplished during big league post-season action. It is currently thought (I am still searching the Cuban record books) that such an event has also never happened during any previous Cuban League playoff match. It is also apparently the case that on the 51 occasions of a player stroking two homers in a single frame in the majors, only light-hitting infielder Fernando Tatis of the St. Louis Cardinals (April 23, 1999) can claim a grand slam as part of the endeavor. Tatis actually blasted two grand slams in the same frame in Dodger Stadium, thus collecting eight RBIs (two more than Molinet). For the record, Molinet also clubbed the game-winning round tripper in the eighth frame of the opener of this short-lived Habana Province-Isla series.