The opening game of a brief weekend exhibition series between the two national team rosters training for upcoming tournaments in Haarlem and Tokyo was staged Thursday evening in José Huelga Stadium (Sancti Spíritus). The contest fell to the Haarlem-bound squad of manager Germán Mesa by a final score of 8-3 in a match featuring heavy hitting and shaky pitching by both teams. Mesa’s squad was paced by a pair of home runs from 2008 Olympic star Alexei Bell and DH Rolando Meriño, both representatives of the Santiago de Cuba league squad. League MVP and 2009-2010 home run champ Alfredo Despaigne chipped in a four bagger for the Tokyo-bound squad of manager Eduardo Martin. Mesa’s team is currently preparing for the 25th edition of the Haarlem Baseball Week to be staged next month in The Netherlands (July 9-18), while Martin’s squad will represent t the island at the Japan-based World University Games in early August.
Both teams used four hurlers in Thursday’s contest, with Granma’s Alberto Soto turning in a strong relief performance (one run, five hits, five strikeouts) to pick up the win. Industriales ace Arleys Sánchez (also working out of the bullpen) was tagged with the loss. The winners picked up 14 base hits while the losers registered ten safeties. Alexei Bell was the batting star for the Haarlem pre-selection, collecting 3 base knocks in four plate appearances; third sacker Donald Duarte also registered three hits for the victors, while Meriño chipped in two. The series while continue over the weekend at the team training sites in Sancti Spíritus (Haarlem team) and Villa Clara (University team). Both squads are expected to be trimmed from 32 to 22 ballplayers when training sessions end on Tuesday, June 22.
In a related development yesterday, it was announced by the Dutch press that the Cuban squad visiting the Haarlem Honkbalweek will play a pre-tournament friendly exhibition match with the Dutch national team in Rotterdam’s Neptunus Stadium on Thursday, July 8, on the eve of the Haarlem event. That single friendly match, as well as the entire Haarlem tournament, will be covered with live daily reports direct form The Netherlands on www.BaseballdeCuba.com.