While the stateside version of the sport grinds toward its conclusion and its October post-season tournament, an alternative tournament with a far more legitimate claim to the title of baseball’s “World Series” has moved into its second round here in Europe. The biggest surprise of the IBAF-sponsored World Cup so far has been the opening round extra-inning loss of Team USA to Venezuela in Regensburg, Germany. That 13-9 11-inning afair was enough to send the Americans into second round action in Italy (as Group D) runner-up) rather than the expected venue in Holland (as group winner). It did, however, clear the way for a possible Cuba-USA rematch in this year’s title game, since the eventual winners of the Holland and Italy groups will clash for the title on September 27 (in Nettuno, Italy).
The USA loss perhaps provided the biggest news but not the most dramatic moment of the tournament to date. That came in Barcelona last Saturday in the form of a pinch-hit eighth-inning homer by Cuba’s Yosvany Peraza that rescued the many-time world champions from a near-monumental upset at the hands of upstart Spain. With his big bang Peraza became the only player ever to pinch-hit a game-winning home run in his first-ever at-bats in both the World Baseball Classic (that one coming against Australia in Mexico City) and the IBAF World Cup. But there was far more to the story as Peraza’s apparent three-run smash was quickly reduced to a two-run shot when the Cuban catcher passed teammate Ariel Borrero on the basepaths. For the full story on that dramatic clutch hit and the baserunning error that might have cost Cuba the game, the reader is directed to my in-depth reports found at www.baseballdecuba.com.