|Haarlem Baseball Week|
- Written by Reynaldo Cruz Díaz
- Published Date
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The Cuban team got over a lousy start and ended in a peak to win the Haarlemse Honkbalweek by defeating team USA in the semifinals and Puerto Rico (undefeated until that last game) for the tournament crown.
The “Haarlem jinx” came to an end as Victor Mesa gave a lesson to all Cuban managers by pulling pitchers at exactly the right moment, with the precision of an atomic timer. Other skippers go for a reliever when the man on the mound makes a mistake, Mesa went to the bullpen after they had done the job he asked them to do.
It was a hard event, mainly because of the two straight loses opening the tournament, which made many believe —myself included— that they were doomed yet again. However, after an improbable win against Chinese Taipei, the Cuban team destroyed Japanese pitching and beat World Cup Champions Nederland 4-0.
The trip to the semifinals was not easy at all: a Schiller Rule-bound game that ended thanks to the lack of control of hard-throwing reliever Michael Lorenzen, which was capped by great late game performances by youngsters Pablo Millan Fernandez and Darian Nuñez.
The gold medal game was not any easier: Cuba started ahead on a solo homer by Frederich Cepeda, but starter Odrisamer Despaigne would then give up two runs. Cuba tied the game and the score remained like that until a high throw by Puerto Rico’s third sacker made Jose Dariel Abreu reach safely and Yulieski Gourriel (the tournament’s MVP) made an aggressive running to score from second base.
Southpaw Norberto Gonzalez made a long relief and struck out the last batter to make Cuba clinch the title in Haarlem for the first time since 1998. Despite the low offense and the defense issues, they came from behind in the tournament —as they did in all but two of the games they won— and conquered the crown.
2. Puerto Rico
6. Chinese Taipei
Best hitter: Michael Duursma (NED)
Best pitcher: Marco Gonzalez (USA)
Press award: Ariel Pestano (CUB)
Homerun king: Yoshiki Eto (JPN)
Best defensive player: D.J. Peterson (USA)
Most popular player (Carl Angelo award): Hsiao Po Ting (Chinese Taipei)
Most valueable player (Jacques Reuvers award): Yulieski Gourriel