By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
World No. 9 Dominican Republic won in dramatic fashion against No. 8 Cuba when D.R. center fielder Jose Rodriguez came through with game-winning single RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning to score Kelvin Estevez, giving the Dominicanos a 5-4 win and fifth place at the Pan American Games in Cerrillos, Chile.
Cuba and the Dominican Republic will have a chance to play in the 2024 Premier 12 tournament, which will start on Nov. 10, 2024, after the regular seasons in Major League Baseball, Liga Mexicana de Beisbol, Nippon Professional Baseball, the Korean Baseball Organization, and the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan conclude.
The field for the Premier 12 will be determined when the new World Baseball Rankings are announced on Dec. 31, 2023, with the top 12 teams from around the world playing in the event. The Premier 12 tournament will be the only international senior event on the 2024 global baseball calendar.
Cuba got on the board first in the top of the first inning when third baseman Roberto Baldoquin drove in center fielder Roel Santos. Cuba right fielder Yoelkis Guibert scored on the same play thanks to a throwing error by Dominican Republic right fielder Sandro Pena, as Cuba extended the lead to 2-0.
A few moments later, Cuba first baseman Yasniel Gonzalez singled through the left side of the infield and as Dominican Republic left fielder Ricardo Cespedes came up with the ball, Baldoquin rounded third base, and Cespedes threw the ball home to catcher Eric Gonzalez, who applied the tag to cut down Baldoquin for the final out of the inning to keep the score at 2-0.
The Dominican Republic got on the board in the bottom of the first when designated hitter Darlin German lifted a sacrifice fly to right field and third baseman Devi Munoz came in to score their first run of the game.
Cuba added more runs to the board in the top of the second, starting with Guibert driving an RBI single to left field and shortstop Luis Mateo scored to extend the lead to 3-1. The next batter, Baldoquin, singled to the left side of the infield and Santos came in to score to make it 4-1.
Dominican Republic manager Jose Cano took starting pitcher Porfirio Lopez in the top of the second inning and called upon relief pitcher Cesar Rosado. Lopez threw 1.1 innings, allowing eight hits, four earned runs, and one walk during the fifth place game.
In the bottom of the third , Munoz hit an RBI single to center field and second baseman Victor Montero came in to score to cut the Cuba lead in half at 4-2.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Cuba starting pitcher Yoennis Yera put the first two hitters of the inning on base, with German reaching on a throwing error by Baldoquin, and Dominican Republic first baseman Xavier Garcia singled to left.
Cuba pitching coach Pedro replaced Yera with Raymond Figueredo after Yera threw three innings, allowing five hits, two earned runs, and striking out two batters.
A few moments later, the Dominican Republic cut the lead to one run when right fielder Sandro Pena grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, sending German home to cut the deficit at one run at 4-3.
Dominican Republic’s relief pitching kept them in the game during the last three innings as they only allowed three hits, no earned runs, one walk, and five strikeouts prior to the bottom of the seventh inning to keep the score at 4-3.
Cuba pitcher Carlos Viera came into the game in the bottom of the seventh to close out the game for the final three outs. But Munoz reached second base on a dropped fly ball in the outfield by Cuba left fielder Yurisbel Gracial, and Estevez went to third base to give the D.R. runners on second and third with one out.
Rodriguez came up to the plate and roped the game-winning through the left side of the infield as Estevez came into score the winning run as the Dominican Republic took fifth place at the tournament beating Cuba 5-4.
Cuba has not medaled at the Pan American Games since the 2015 tournament when they won the bronze medal.
The Dominican Republic has not medaled at the Pan American Games since losing in the gold medal game in 1979 against Cuba in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Cuba and the Dominican Republic will have to wait for the rankings at the end of the year to find out if they’ll make their third Premier 12 tournament.
2023 Pan American Games Schedule
All Games will be played at Cerrillos Bicentennial Park
Friday, October 27
8:30 a.m. EDT – Super Round – No. 15 Colombia vs. No. 12 Panama
2 p.m. EDT – Super Round – No. 3 Mexico vs. No. 24 Brazil
Saturday, October 28
8:30 a.m. EDT – No. 3 Mexico vs. TBA – Bronze Medal Game
2 p.m. EDT – No. 24 Brazil vs. TBA – Gold Medal Game