Cuba, Japan reach WBC second round
FUKUOKA, Japan (AFP) –
Cuba overwhelmed China 12-0 to reach the World Baseball Classic second round alongside defending champions Japan Monday, as South Korea earned their first win with a 6-0 romp against Australia.
Cuba’s thrashing of China was their second win in four-team Pool A, putting them into round two along with co-hosts Japan, who won the tournament’s first two editions and started their campaign by beating Brazil and China.
But the results eliminated both the Chinese and the Brazilians with a game each still to play after both teams started the competition with two defeats.
“Our aim is to clinch the pool, so we are pleased to win the first two games. That’s the reason we flew from Cuba to Japan,” said Cuban head coach Victor Mesa.
“We have some little problems, but overall we won two straight games. At the same time, I don’t feel 100 percent comfortable. I feel we are lacking something.”
In round two, which starts in Tokyo on Friday, Cuba and Japan will join two teams from Pool B, hosted and currently led by Taiwan with two wins, with the Netherlands and South Korea on 1-1 and Australia on 0-2.
The Koreans, who opened with a surprising 5-0 defeat to the Netherlands in Taichung, central Taiwan, on Saturday, evened the win-loss record by beating Australia 6-0 to keep their hopes alive.
The 2009 finalists took a 3-0 lead in the first inning when outfielder Kim Hyun-Soo hit a timely single for two runs, and Son Ah-Seop added another run by hitting a grounder to be out in the first inning.
It was enough for the Koreans as Australia had to wait until the fourth inning for their first hit by Mike Walker, while Korean starting pitcher Song Seung gave only two hits in four innings.
In Monday’s game at Japan’s Fukuoka Dome, fourth batter Frederich Cepeda fired a triple to open the scoring for Cuba in the first inning before hitting a grounder to the third to go out, with Jose Fernandez still on second base.
Jose Abreu then hit a double to the right field which helped Fernandez back home and extended Cuba’s lead to 2-0 in the third inning.
Alexei Bell made a two-run home run before Alfredo Despaigne struck a double for two runs, taking the score to 6-0 and making Cuba almost certain of victory in the fourth inning.
The Cubans then hammered their win home with Fernandez hitting a single for two runs and Abreu belting a grand slam to take it to 12-0.
China’s head coach John McLaren said: “Cuba’s so good, so powerful and we had limited pitching for today. Playing three games in a row, we had to spread our pitching out. We’re in good shape for tomorrow night against Brazil.”