A general view of the Estadio LatinoAmericano in Havana, Cuba. (Mandatory Credit: Matthew Stockman /Allsport)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
The Leñadores de Las Tunas won their second title in franchise history beating Industriales de La Habana 6-1 to sweep Cuba’s Serie Nacional best-of-seven Championship Series in Havana at Estadio Latinoamericano.
Las Tunas manager Albeisy Pantajoa is the second manager in their organization to win the Serie Nacional league championship. The Lenadores were the No. 1 seed at the end of the 2023 Serie Nacional regular season with their record at 45-29.
In the quarterfinals, Las Tunas swept Ciego de Avila before beating the Cocodrilos de Matanzas in six games to head to the 2023 Serie Nacional Final.
Industriales finished fifth in the regular season with a 41-34 record.
In the quarterfinals, Industriales beat Gallos de Sancti Spíritus in seven games to advance to the semifinals. In the semifinals, Industriales beat Avispas de Santiago de Cuba in seven games to advance to the Serie Nacional championship series under manager Guilermo Carmona.
Industriales has the most championships in the Serie Nacional with 12 titles since the league started in 1960.
The last time Las Tunas won the championship in Serie Nacional was during the 2018-19 regular season, when former manager Pablo Civil helped beat Villa Clara in five games. The Lenadores reached the 2019 Caribbean Series championship game against Toros de Herrera of the Panama’s ProBeis league, losing in the final Estadio Rod Carew in Panama City, Panama.
The Leñadores de Las Tunas pitching staff combined for five hits, one earned run, one walk, and one strikeout during Friday’s championship win. Las Tunas starting pitcher Alejandro Meneses threw five innings facing 17 batters allowing two hits, no earned run, one walk, and one strikeout in his performance. Relieveer Rodolfo Diaz threw 3.2 innings, allowed three hits, and one earned run pitching into the ninth inning.
In the top of the third inning, Las Tunas got on the board first when third baseman Yordanys Alarcon hit an infield single to Industriales shortstop Roberto Acevedo and beat the throw to first base with two outs, allowing left fielder Rafael Vinales score the first run of the game.
Industriales starter Remberto Barreto did not fare well during Game 4, throwing three innings and facing 10 batters while allowing three hits, two earned runs, walking five, and striking out two before Rafael Perdomo came out of the bullpen.
During the top of the fourth inning, Las Tunas extended the lead to two runs as right fielder Hector Castillo placed a ground ball to Industriales second baseman Jorge Aloma for a fielder’s choice as Yordanys Alarcon came in to score to make it 2-0.
In the top of the fifth inning, Las Tunas kept chalking on the scoreboard. During shortstop Roberto Baldoquin’s at-bat, Perdomo threw over to first base in an attempt to pick off Las Tunas catcher Yosvani Alarcon. The throw went past Industriales first baseman Yasiel Santoya, and Alarcon made it to third base. After Santoya chased the ball down the right field line, he threw the ball to third baseman Juan Torriente, and it kicked past him. Alarcon raced in to score the third run of the game to extend Las Tunas lead to 3-0.
During the top of the sixth inning, Yosvani Alarcon hit into a fielder’s choice at third base and right fielder Hector Castillo came in to score to make it 4-0.
In the top of the ninth inning with one out, Yordanys Alarcon put the final nail in the coffin by launching a two-run home run over the left centerfield wall, scoring Baldoquin as Las Tunas extended the lead to 6-1.
During the bottom of the ninth inning, Las Tunas relief pitcher Alberto Civil came into the game with two outs after Diaz’s dazzling performance out of the bullpen. Civil would get Santoya to fly out to right fielder Hector Castillo for the final out.
Most of the players for all 16 teams in Serie Nacional will be playing in the Elite League this coming October, which will be in its second season as a winter league.
The Serie Nacional season concluded its second year of operation as a spring-summer league after playing most of its existence as a winter league. The Alazanes de Granma beat the Cocodrilos de Matanzas in seven games in the first final as a spring-summer league.
The 62nd Serie Nacional season started on March 29, 2023, shortly after the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Las Tunas relief pitcher Keniel Ferraz won the Most Valuable Player Award for the Serie Nacional championship. Ferraz improved immensely during the Serie Nacional postseason after a regular season where he went 5-0 in 23 games, throwing 65.1 innings and allowing 81 hits, 14 doubles, four home runs, 15 walks, and striking out 38. Las Tunas pitchers José Ariel Contreras, Miguel Alfredo González, Vladimir García, Freddy Asiel Álvarez and Lázaro Blanco were big contributors, combining for a 5-0 record in the Serie Nacional playoffs.