Cuba: Matanzas, Artemisa Face Off In Elite League Championship, Game 1 Tuesday Night

By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network

The 2023-24 Cuban Elite League best-of-seven championship series will start with game one on Jan. 16 with the Cazadores de Artemisa playing the Cocodrilos de Matanzas at 6:30 p.m. EST at Estadio Victoria de Girón in Matanzas, Cuba. 

The Elite League is in its second year of operation as a winter league run by the Federacion Cubana de Beisbol. The Serie Nacional, which used to be the main winter league in Cuba will play its third season as a spring/summer league when their season begins on March 9, 2024. 

The teams that qualified for the 2023-24 Elite League – the Cocodrilos de Matanzas, Cazadores de Artemisa, Leñadores de Las Tunas, Industriales de la Habana, Avispas de Santiago de Cuba, and the Gallos de Sancti Spíritus – finished in the top six of the 2023 Serie Nacional season.

The six teams in the 2023-24 Elite League regular season played 40 games prior to the start of the playoffs. 

The Cocodrilos de Matanzas finished in first place at 25-15. The Cazadores de Artemisa finished in second place of the 2023-24 season with a 21-19 record, the same as the Industriales de la Habana who finished in third place. The Leñadores de Las Tunas finished in fourth place at 20-20 to qualify for the 2023-24 Elite League semifinals. 

Four teams made the semifinals of the 2023-24 Elite League season.  

The Cocodrilos de Matanzas beat the Leñadores de Las Tunas in six games of the 2023-24 Elite League semifinals to make it to the championship series. The Cazadores de Artemisa beat the Industriales de la Habana in five games in the best-of-seven semifinals. 

Yulieski Gonzalez is the manager for Cazadores de Artemisa. Armando Ferrer is the manager for Cocodrilos de Matanzas.

The winner of the 2023-24 Elite League best-of-seven championship series will not participate in the 2024 Caribbean Series in Miami at loanDepot Park, which will start on February 1-9. The FCB has not yet announced if the winner of the 2023-24 Elite League championship series will play in another tournament.

The FCB announced on their X account the two reinforcement players for the Cazadores de Artemisa and Cocodrilos de Matanzas in the 2024 Elite League Championship series. 

Left-handed pitcher Yadián Martínez Pérez will reinforce with Cocodrilos de Matanzas and right-handed pitcher Raymond Figueredo Cruz will play with Cazadores de Artemisa in the championship series. 

Perez was with Leñadores de Las Tunas during the 2023-24 regular season posting a 5-2 record with a 3.47 ERA in nine starts throwing 49.1 innings allowing 22 earned runs, 49 hits, 15 doubles, one triple, 18 walks, 24 strikeouts and a 1.36 WHIP. 

Cruz played with Industriales de la Habana in the 2023-24 season posting a 0-1 record in five starts throwing 21.1 innings with a 3.80 ERA allowing 13 earned runs, 23 hits,  four doubles, 13 walks, 14 strikeouts, and a 1.69 WHIP. 

The Cocodrilos de Matanzas has one Serie Nacional championship title during the 2019-20 winter league season and the Cazadores de Artemisa is aiming for their first championship since the team debuted in the 2011-12 Serie Nacional season. 

The 2023-24 Elite League championship series will be streamed on https://www.youtube.com/@ROBERTOPODCASTS until the final out of the season. 

Notebook: The Agricultores, Centrales, Portuarios, Tabacaleros, Ganaderos, and Cafetaleros were all the six teams in the first season of the Elite League in 2022-23. The Agricultores won the 2022-23 best-of-seven championship series in seven games coming back from a 3-1 deficit with infielder  Osvaldo Abreu’s game winning single to center field in the bottom of the ninth inning to capture a 7-6 win over Portuarios and a berth to the 2023 Caribbean Series in Caracas, Venezuela.  

Agricultores finished in last place at the 2023 Caribbean Series at 1-6. Cuba participated in the Caribbean Series for the first time since the 2019 tournament at Estadio Rod Carew in Panama City, Panama where Leñadores de Las Tunas lost to Toros de Herrera of Panama’s ProBeis league 3-1 during the championship game. 

Cazadores de Artemisa Players To Watch
*Reinforcement Player With Stats From Gallos de Sancti Spiritus From 2023-24 Regular Season
Dennis Laza – LF .357 AVG, 153 PA, 45 H, 10 2B, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 22 BB, 13 K, 1.027 OPS 
Andy Oliva – C – .336 AVG, 146 PA, 43 H, 7 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 16 RBI, 8 BB, 4 K, .839 OPS 
Raul Gonzalez – 3B – .316 AVG, 111 PA, 30 H, 6 2B, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 14 BB, 9 K, .951 OPS
*Frederich Cepeda – DH – .357 AVG, 162 PA, 46 H, 8 2B, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 32 BB, 17 K, 1.016 OPS
Yunieski Garcia – P – 2-2, 55.1 IP, 4.07 ERA, 30 ER,  62 H, 10 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 14 BB, 49 K, 1.37 WHIP 

Cocodrilos de Matanzas Players To Watch
Yurisbel Gracial – 3B – .418 AVG, 67 PA, 23 H, 3 2B, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 9 BB, 5 K, 1.431 OPS
Rusney Castillo – CF – .360 AVG, 99 PA, 32 H, 7 2B,  6 BB, 11 RBI, 14 K, .822 OPS 
Eduardo Blanco – RF – .350 AVG, 146 PA, 48 H, 7 2B, 1 HR, 21 RBI,  5 BB, 13 K, .802 OPS 
Yordanis Samon – 1B – .349 AVG, 149, 45 H, 8 2B, 16 RBI, 14 BB, 12 K, .820 OPS 
Yoel Machado – P – 5-1, 51 IP, 2.47 ERA, 16 ER, 43 H, 4 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 15 BB, 35 K, 1.14 WHIP

2023-24 Elite League Best-of-Seven Championship Series Schedule
All Game Start Times Are Eastern Standard Time
* If Necessary 

Jan. 16, 2024
6:30 p.m. – Game 1 – Estadio Victoria de Girón – Matanzas, Cuba 

Jan. 17, 2024 
6:30 p.m. – Game 2 – Estadio Victoria de Girón – Matanzas, Cuba 

Jan. 19, 2024 
1:30 p.m. – Game 3 – Estadio 26 de Julio – Artemisa, Cuba 

Jan. 20, 2024 
1:30 p.m. – Game 4 – Estadio 26 de Julio – Artemisa, Cuba 

Jan. 21, 2024 
*1:30 p.m. – Game 5 – Estadio 26 de Julio – Artemisa, Cuba 

Jan. 23, 2024 
*6:30 p.m. – Game 6 – Estadio Victoria de Girón – Matanzas, Cuba 

Jan. 24, 2024 
*6:30 p.m. – Game 7 – Estadio Victoria de Girón – Matanzas, Cuba 

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