HAVANA – The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team defeated Cuba 5-1 in the opening contest of a five-game series being played at Havana’s emblematic Estadio Latinoamericano.
The Cuban squad that will be competing later this month at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla, Colombia, was under pressure almost from the outset against the United States’ potent lineup and strong starting pitching.
The US got on the board in the top of the second inning of Tuesday night’s game on a single by shortstop Bryson Stott that brought home right fielder Daniel Cabrera and a wild pitch that allowed third baseman Josh Jung to score.
The Americans proceeded to make the score 3-0 when catcher Shea Langeliers doubled to lead off the top of the fourth inning and advanced to third and then home on a pair of sacrifice flies.
Meanwhile, US starting pitcher Drew Parrish dominated the Cuban batters over five innings of work, striking out five and finally having his no-hitter broken up in the bottom of the fifth on a single by designated hitter Yordanis Samon.
After Parrish was taken out for relief pitcher Tanner Burns, the Cubans loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the sixth only to see their threat fizzle out when a second reliever, Graeme Stinson, struck out left fielder Frederich Cepeda.
The American team added two more insurance runs – one in the top of the seventh and the other in the top of the eighth – to stretch its lead to 5-0.
Cuba then got singles from first baseman Guillermo Aviles and Cepeda to lead off the bottom of the ninth, and pitch runner Juan Torriente (who had replaced Aviles) came around to score thanks to two wild pitches by reliever Kenyon Yovan.
But Matt Cronin was then given the ball and was credited with a save when he struck out Ayala to leave runners stranded on second and third base.
“I told the players after the game that may have been our best all-around performance of the summer. Obviously, Drew Parrish was the key to the game going out there and pitching so magnificently,” USA Baseball CNT Manager Paul Mainieri said afterward.
The US university stars earlier rolled to a five-game sweep of Chinese Taipei in late June and early July and then followed that up by defeating Japan three games to two.
The US will play Cuba four more games between Wednesday and Saturday, all at Estadio Latinoamericano.