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Cuba gains title game


Published: Sat, March 18, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


It will play either South Korea or Japan, who met late Saturday night.
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Major leaguers or not, Cuba's dominance on baseball's international stage is unparalleled.
The Cubans are finally getting a chance to show it in the United States, too.
Osmani Urrutia hit a tie-breaking single in the seventh inning, Yadel Marti capped his sensational tournament by combining with Pedro Lazo on an eight-hitter, and Cuba defeated the Dominican Republic 3-1 Saturday to reach the championship game of the inaugural World Baseball Classic.
Cuba, wearing its lucky red uniforms for only the second time in the tournament, avenged a 7-3 loss to the Dominicans five days earlier and moved within one victory of adding another title to the country's long list of baseball accomplishments.
Chants of "Cuba! Cuba!" began in the late innings from the crowd of 41,268 for a squad with no major leaguers. The Cubans sprinted onto the field to celebrate when Lazo struck out pinch-hitter Alfonso Soriano to end it. After hugs and high-fives, the Cubans acknowledged their fans by waving their caps.
Title game Monday
Cuba will play the winner of Saturday's late game between unbeaten South Korea and Japan in the championship of the 16-team Classic Monday night at Petco Park.
Yoandry Garlobo had three hits, and Alexei Ramirez and Frederich Cepeda each drove in runs in their team's decisive seventh inning that featured several mistakes by the Dominicans right after they took a 1-0 lead in the sixth on an unearned run.
Cuba, champion of the 2005 World Cup, 2004 Olympics and '03 Pan American Games played in Santo Domingo, is clearly in midseason form while the Dominicans are still working to find their rhythm after the winter.
The Cubans had to wait until the Dominicans went to their bullpen following six shutout innings by reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon to get anything going offensively.
Just like the Americans, who lost 2-1 to Mexico Thursday night for a surprising early exit from the Classic, most of the Dominican players will head back to their major league camps wondering what went wrong and left to wait until 2009 for another shot in the WBC.
The Dominicans' All-Star roster included Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Tejada, David Ortiz and Moises Alou -- a team that Dominican general manager Stan Javier said a day earlier should be the best in the world.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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