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Cuban Collegiate All-Stars Rallies Past Alabama Baseball, 7-5

HAVANA, Cuba – The University of Alabama baseball team had its most productive offensive performance in the final game against the Cuban Collegiate All-Stars in the Friendship Tournament Thursday afternoon, but saw its four-run lead erased by Cuba’s six-run sixth inning as the home team took the series final 7-5 at Latin American Stadium in Havana.

Cuba (2-0-1) overcame a 5-1 Crimson Tide (0-2-1) to win the exhibition series. Alabama grabbed the early lead with a five-run fifth inning against the more experienced Cuban roster whose average age was nearly 26 years old.

The Cubans had 11 hits in the series finale and were paced by Yolian Crese and Henry Urruita who had two hits and two RBI each. Alabama had six hits, including three doubles, and no player had more than one hit.

“I am very proud of our team and the way they played this week and how they represented the University of Alabama,” head coach Jim Wells said. “This was a great experience for our team against a very, very talented team. We learned a lot about our team and playing Cuba made us better.”

Cuba took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning on Reinier Bello’s RBI double to score Jose Ruiz, who drew a leadoff walk. The Cubans scored first in all three games.

Alabama took its first lead of the series by scoring five runs on four hits in the top of the fifth inning to take a 5-1 lead. Sophomore designated hitter Del Howell opened the inning with a double into the left field corner and moved to third on senior catcher Vin DiFazio’s base hit to left. After junior third baseman Jake Smith struck out, senior center fielder Alex Kubal laced a double into right center field to score Howell with the first run and chase DiFazio to third.

The Tide grabbed its first lead of the series on a two-base throwing error by first baseman Jose Ruiz. Freshman left fielder Taylor Dugas hit a ground ball to Ruiz, who misfired on the throw home allowing DiFazio and Kubal to score the go-ahead runs. Senior right fielder Tyler Odle was hit by a pitch and sophomore shortstop Josh Rutledge followed with an RBI single to right to score Dugas with the fourth run of the inning. Sophomore second baseman Ross Wilson then reached on a fielder’s choice to score Odle and give the Tide a 5-1 lead.

Alabama did most of its damage against left-hander Asley Shanchez, who was charged with five runs and four hits in 1 1/3 innings of relief. He was replaced by Yaumier Sanchez, who, with the help of his 94-mile per hour fastball, squelched the Tide rally in the fifth.

After allowing an RBI single to Rutledge in the fifth inning, Yaumier Sanchez (1-0) retired 10 of the next 11 batters he faced for the win. He threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings for the win. He limited the Tide to one hit and struck out five. Vladimir Garcia worked a scoreless ninth with his 92-mile per hour fastball for his second save of the series.

Cuba batted around in the bottom of the sixth inning to score six runs on five hits to grab a 7-5 lead. The damage came against three different Alabama pitchers in the inning. Henry Urruita capped a 10-pitch at-bat against reliever Del Howell with a two-run single up the middle to close the gap to 5-3. Pinch-hitter David Castillo added an RBI double to chase Howell and Yolian Crese followed with a two-run double off sophomore Jimmy Nelson to put Cuba back in front 6-5. Crese later scored on a wild pitch to give Cuba a two-run lead.

Alabama starter Adam Morgan held the Cubans to one run through five innings before running into trouble in the sixth in his UA debut. He issued a leadoff walk to Ruiz in the sixth and then allowed a one-out double to Yunior Paumier before being replaced by Howell. Morgan was charged with three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings with two walks and three strikeouts. Howell (0-1) faced three batters in the inning and allowed three runs and three hits to suffer the loss. Nelson replaced Howell and gave up one run and one hit in two-thirds of an inning.

Sophomore Connor Hoehn pitched a scoreless seventh inning and redshirt freshman Tyler White retired two of three batters he faced in the eighth inning. Junior Adam Scott, who pitched in two of three games, retired the lone batter he faced in the eighth.

Alabama completed its three-game exhibition series in Havana and returns to the United States for the Christmas holiday on Friday. Classes resume at UA on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2009 and the Tide opens practice on Feb. 1, 2009 and then starts the season with a three-game series against Southeast Missouri State beginning Friday, Feb. 20, 2009.

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