FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
HAVANA, Cuba – University of Alabama baseball senior Kent Matthes had two hits, including a two-run home run, and the Crimson Tide got some excellent relief pitching and late-inning defense to throw out the winning run at the plate in the bottom ninth inning to preserve a 3-3 tie with the Cuban Collegiate All-Stars in game one of this historic “Friendship Tournament” at the Stadium of Latin America in Havana, Cuba Tuesday afternoon.
Both Cuba and Alabama had game-winning chances in the final two innings. In the bottom of the ninth inning freshman center fielder Taylor Dugas fielded Adalberto Ibarra’s one-out single off junior Scott Hays and threw to first baseman Wes Henderson, who fired a strike to catcher Vin DiFazio to tag out pinch-hitter Henry Urritia at the plate to keep the game tied. Junior right hander Adam Scott then got David Castillo to fly out to Dugas in center to end the game.
Alabama got solid pitching in the game from starter Austin Hyatt and four relievers – Del Howell, Nelson, Scott Hays and Adam Scott.
UA shortstop Josh Rutledge led off the top of eighth inning with a base hit, but was stranded at second base to keep the game knotted at 3-3.
Cuba loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning before sophomore Jimmy Nelson thwarted the rally with some clutch pitching. Nelson, rated as the No. 3 prospect in the Texas Collegiate League this summer, pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth to keep the game tied. The inning began as pinch-hitter David Castillo drew a lead-off walk from junior left-hander Del Howell. Leonys Martin followed with a single up the middle to put runners at first and second with no outs. Nelson replaced Howell and then retired Yoennis Cespedes, who was out at first on a sacrifice bunt. After an intentional walk to Jose Ruiz, Nelson struck out Juan Linares and then got pinch-hitter Adonis Garcia to pop up to Dugas in shallow center field to end the threat.
“We did not have a good start, but I am real proud of the team and the effort that gave today,” Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. “They are a very good team with a lot of great players from Cuba. This is one of the best team’s we could face and we did a good job.”
A shaky start on defense by Alabama led to three unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning to stake Cuban Collegiate All-Stars to a 3-0 lead. Three errors and a wild pitch led to all three runs scored for Cuba. UA second baseman Ross Wilson, third baseman Jake Smith and DiFazio were charged with errors in the first inning. Left fielder Juan Linares had the only hit in the inning for Cuba.
“We did not know what to expect,” Matthes said. “We were a little nervous at the beginning, but we settled down and played good baseball. This is a good experience for us. We learned a lot about our team today.”
Alabama settled down and got one run back in the third inning when Wilson’s two-out single to center scored center fielder Alex Kubal from second base to make it 3-1.
The Crimson Tide added two more runs in the fourth inning to tie the game at 3-3. Designated hitter Kyle Moore drew a one-out, four-pitch walk and scored on right fielder Kent Matthes’ towering, two-run home run to left field.
Alabama starter Austin Hyatt allowed three unearned runs and two hits in five innings in the series opener. He added five strikeouts and walked one batter before reaching his pitch-limit in the fifth inning. Hyatt threw 84 pitches in his outing against Cuba. After a two-out walk to Jose Abreu in the first inning, Hyatt retired 13 of the next 14 batters, including his last eight in a row. Howell relieved Hyatt and pitched two scoreless innings. He allowed two hits, walked one and struck out two batters.
Cuba starter Yuleski Gonzalez, who is one of Cuba’s top pitchers and pitched in the 2008 World Baseball Classic in San Diego, Calif., worked six innings and allowed three runs and four hits before being replaced by Vladimir Banos. Gonzalez added two walks and struck out seven Alabama batters in his 80-pitch performance.
Alabama and Cuba play again Wednesday at 2 p.m. (CST) in Havana. The Tide will send either senior left-hander Miers Quigley or junior left-hander David Head to the mound for game two.