WBC: Cuba wins clash over Japan
Cuba concludes first round in Fukuoka with 6-3 win over defending champion Japan

Fukuoka. Cuba has won the prestigious match against Japan on Wednesday. The record world champion defeated the two-time World Baseball Classic winner 6-3 to conclude the first round in Fukuoka, Japan. Cuba finishes the first phase with a clean 3-0 record in first place, while Japan joins them in round two with two wins in three games.

Cuba, which had lost two games to Japan last November, struck first in the third inning. Yasmany Tomas opened the scoring with a solo home run to left center field. A RBI double by Frederich Cepeda in the fourth and a RBI single by Jose Abreu in the sixth extended the lead to 3-0.

Alfredo Despaigne’s three-run shot in the eighth seemed to put the game into the books, as Cuba was up by six runs.

But Team Samurai didn’t go down without a fight. RBI singles by Hisayoshi Chono and Hirokazu Ibata and a sacrifice fly by Takashi Toritani put Japan with three runs on the board in the top of the ninth. However with the tying run at the plate, Ryoji Aikawa struck out to end the game.

Cuba’s Jose Fernandez, Jose Abreu and Alfredo Despaigne finished the game with two hits apiece. Hirokazu Ibata and Sho Nakata had two hits each for Japan.

On the mound Wilber Perez (W, 1-0) earned the win, allowing three hits and a walk in three scoreless innings. Six pitchers relieved him with Vladimir Garcia making things interesting in the ninth before getting the final strikeout.

Kenji Otonari (L, 0-1) took the loss, surrendering one run on two hits in three frames.

Cuba and Japan now will travel to Tokyo for the second round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, which commences on Friday at the Tokyo Dome. The double elimination round to determine the semi-finalists will see Cuba taking on the Netherlands in the afternoon game on Friday, while Japan squares off against Chinese Taipei in the evening.

Results Pool A:

Saturday, March 2:
Brazil 3 - Japan 5
Sunday, March 3:
Brazil 2 - Cuba 5
Japan 5 - China 2
Monday, March 4:
Cuba 12 - China 0 (7 innings)
Tuesday, March 5:
China 5 - Brazil 2
Wednesday, March 6:
Cuba 6 - Japan 3

Final Standings Pool A:

1) Cuba 3-0
2) Japan 2-1
3) China 1-2
4) Brazil 0-3

Photo: © World Baseball Classic, Inc.

(From IBAF Website)