The stars in the making gave Cuba third place and the bronze medal in the U-12 Baseball World Cup. Cuba defeated, 2-1, Korea playing stellar defence behind monumental starting pitcher Alejandro Prieto. First baseman Christian Saez homered in the first and provided all the offence Cuba needed.
It’s a well-deserved medal for Cuba, that lost the first two games of group play (against Chinese Taipei and Japan) but won every other match played since then.
Alejandro Prieto entered the game after delivering 59 pitches on Thursday, 1 August, against Mexico. He started 3 games in the tournament and piled-up 11 innings of work. His first pitch hit 120 kilometres per hour (75 miles) and he went on to improve over the course of the game. Actually, his pitch number 78 stopped the radar gun at 125 kilometres per hour (78 miles).
Prieto allowed only four singles over 5.1 innings and left the game only because he had reached the 85-pitch limit.
The box score reports two defensive errors by Cuba. In the top of the third, one of these and a wild pitch, helped Korea score, with no hits, their lone run. Prieto got later some great help from his defence. Shortstop Johan Rodriguez reached beyond the second base bag to literally rob Korea’s third baseman Jung Mingyu of a hit in the top of the fifth. The play turned out to be a key to Cuba’s win since Korea loaded the bases after that. Starting pitcher Lee Jaejun couldn’t help himself and became the third out.
Prieto was also on base when Christian Saez won the game for Cuba in the bottom of the first. The first baseman worked the count full, then turned the next offer by Lee Jaejun in a bomb that cleared the right-field fence.
Cuba wouldn’t get another hit for the rest of the game. This also goes to the credit of Korea’s defence and in particular of left fielder Doo Donghyeon, who prevented an extra-base hit by Johan Rodriguez with a spectacular running catch that took him inches from the left-field wall.
Prieto moved to centre field with one out in the sixth. The pitching change provided an emotional atmosphere, with every player on the field willing to reach out for a hug. He had fallen behind 3-0 in the count with first base Yoo Yongjae, but managed to get him on a ground out to second.
Reliever Boris Sarduy got into the game walking catcher You Yongjun. Im Byeonghyun, who pinch ran for You, was caught stealing second on a perfect throw by catcher Ewan Montalvo to Johan Rodriguez. Sarduy struck out shortstop Park Yechan to end the game.