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Dutch stun Cuba to reach World Baseball Classic finals

TOKYO (AFP) –

Cuba's pitcher Diosdany Castillo in the World Baseball Classic tournament at Tokyo Dome on March 11, 2013

Cuba’s pitcher Diosdany Castillo in the World Baseball Classic tournament at Tokyo Dome on March 11, 2013. The Netherlands snatched a game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to earn a nail-biting upset win over Cuba and their first ever spot in the WBC final series on Monday.

The Netherlands snatched a game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to earn a nail-biting upset win over Cuba and their first ever spot in the World Baseball Classic final series on Monday.

The unfancied Dutch looked down and out at 4-6 in the eighth inning, but Andrelton Simmons levelled the scores with a two-run homer. At 6-6 in the ninth, Kalian Sams hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to take the dramatic win.

The Netherlands have now secured a place in the championship semi-finals in San Francisco, after crashing out in the first stage in 2006 and the second round in 2009.

Meanwhile Cuba, the 2006 finalists and one of the pre-tournament favourites, head home wondering how they let victory slip through their fingers at Tokyo Dome.

The Netherlands had made most of the running, with a sacrifice fly by Andruw Jones earning them an early 1-0 lead before Smith hit a single to get a second-base runner back home for 2-0 in the bottom of the third.

But Cuba evened the score at 2-2 in the fourth inning through Jose Fernandez’s single and a solo home run by Alfredo Despaigne.

Simmons gave the Netherlands a 3-2 lead by hitting a sacrifice fly to the left, and a Cuban error gave them another run for 4-2. However Yulieski Gourriel’s double again allowed Cuba to even the scores 4-4 in the fifth.

As tensions rose, Cuba then went ahead for the first time 6-4 in the eighth through Yasmany Tomas’s single and Eriel Sanchez’s sacrifice fly. But the Netherlands tied it once again thanks to Simmons’ two-run homer under pressure.

And in the ninth, Jones took the first base on a Cuban error and then Curt Smith and Xander Bogaerts connected two singles for full bases, before Sams hit a fly to the centre field, sparking jubilation in the Netherlands dugout.

The Netherlands will now play two-time defending champions Japan, who have also qualified, on Tuesday to determine their seeding for the four-team showdown in San Francisco later this month.

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