Cuba, Korea advance to World Baseball semis
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Cuba, Korea advance to World Baseball semis

Cuba and South Korea advanced to the "Finals" of the inaugural World Baseball Classic, joining the Dominican Republic in Saturday's semi-finals.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2006 13:48 IST

Cuba and South Korea advanced to the "Finals" of the inaugural World Baseball Classic on Wednesday, joining the Dominican Republic in Saturday's semi-finals.

Starting pitcher Ormari Morrero allowed three hits over four solid innings and Cuba scored three runs in the fourth inning to edge Puerto Rico 4-3 before a partisan sell-out crowd of 19,773 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

That win lifted the Cubans record to 2-1 in pool play and put them into one of Saturday's semi-finals against the Dominican Republic, who advanced on Tuesday.

In Anaheim, Lee Jong-beom broke open a scoreless tie with a two-run double in the top of the eighth inning and Korea survived a tense bottom of the ninth to edge Japan 2-1.

The victory gave Korea a 3-0 record in its pool and a berth in the other semi-final, both of which take place at PETCO Park in San Diego.

The Koreans, who have won all six games they've played in the 16-team tournament to date, will face either the highly touted United States if the Americans (1-1) defeat Mexico (0-2) in Thursday's final pool round game.

If the US loses, either Mexico or Japan will advance, depending on the game's final score.

Cuba avenged a bitter loss to its Caribbean rivals earlier in the tournament, as Puerto Rico had whipped their opponents 12-2 last Friday, handing the Cubans their heaviest loss in 23 years.

"Two or three days ago when we had the knockout (loss), I told you the Classic was only beginning," Cuba manager Higinio Velez told reporters.

"I told you to be a little patient. Now you can evaluate us."

Cuba, competing in its first international event featuring Major League stars, took advantage of some sloppy play by Puerto Rico to pull out the win.


US players and supporters would have been on the edge of their seats for much of the Korea v Japan contest, dominated by a riveting pitchers duel between Korea's Chan Ho Park and Japan's Shunsuke Watanabe.

A South Korea loss would have eliminated the Americans.

Park, a member of the San Diego Padres and the first native Korean to win 100 major league games, provided his team with five shutout innings yielding four hits.

Watanabe was equally dominant for Japan, surrendering just one hit in six innings of brilliant work.

With extra innings looming, Lee Jong-beom broke open the scoreless contest with a one out blast into deep center field, scoring Kim Min-jae and Lee Byung-kyu.

Down to their last at bats, Japan's Tsuyoshi Nishioka opened the ninth with solo home run to left field.

Japan continued to threaten as Nobuhiko Matsunaka stroked a single to right to put the tying run on first with one out.

But Seung Hwan Oh came out of the Korean bullpen and struck out Takahiro Arai and Hitoshi Tamura swinging to clinch the win.

In Puerto Rico, Reliever Jose Santiago hit Eduardo Paret with the bases loaded to give Cuba a 2-1 lead in the pivotal fourth inning.

Then Puerto Rico's Alex Cintron overthrew second baseman Alexei Ramirez, the two-run error giving Cuba a 4-1 cushion that the Cubans would need.

Morrero, 38, got the win after yielding only three hits and striking out four in four innings of work, Morrero gave up a home run to Bernie Williams in the bottom of the first but would quickly settle down.

"They [Cubans] play great fundamental baseball," Puerto Rico manager Jose Oquendo said.

"They delay the game a bit and that's not good. But they have some ballplayers in that team I'm sure teams in the United States will take.

"I just hope we can have more exchanges."

First Published: Mar 16, 2006 13:48 IST