Team USA blanks two-time defending world champs behind Beavan pitching gem; Dominguez 3-run homer
The victory moves the Americans (4-2) into the tournament semifinals where Team USA will meet Mexico (4-2). Mexico advanced to the medal round with a 5-3 victory against the Netherlands (3-3) on Sept. 24. The USA-Mexico semifinal pairing will be a rematch of the teams' contest in pool play when Mexico posted a 3-0 win in a game that was called after 5.2 innings because of rain. Since the Mexico loss, the JNT has won four in a row.
"You almost have to play a perfect game to beat Cuba because they are so good at capitalizing on a team's mistakes," JNT Head Coach Jason Hisey said. "But I thought our boys stood toe-to-toe with them and punched back. That, to me, was the determining factor in the game."
Beavan (RHP; Irving, TX) allowed just seven hits with five of those being infield singles in his route-going performance. He issued just one walk. He struck out at least one in every inning but the fifth and stymied a Cuban offense that had collected 23 hits just two days previously against Australia.
"Blake had probably one of the finest pitching performances that I have ever seen under these circumstances," Hisey said of the game played in front of a raucous home crowd of 1,200 people. The game was originally scheduled to be played at 2 p.m. but was moved back to an evening start after heavy rains earlier in the day.
"I thought he was in charge of both halves of the plate. He was in complete control of the game. I was as comfortable as I could be in this situation," added Hisey.
Ironically, Beavan only retired Cuba in order once. He did so in the seventh inning after Dominguez' three-run homer had put Team USA on top 3-0. Cuba's best chance to rally came in the eighth. Two infield hits, sandwiched around a strikeout, put Cuban runners at first and second bases. But Beavan retired cleanup hitter Carolos Mesa on a called third strike then got Yasmany Perez on an infield fly to end the threat. In the ninth, Beavan allowed a two-out infield hit before fanning Elier Noa to end the game and send the JNT dugout into a wild celebration.
"This is definitely one of the best experiences of my life," Beavan said "I knew I had to go as long as I could. I threw my fast ball inside on them. I really had confidence in my fast ball but I mixed it up also. The eighth inning didn't scare me that much. Cuba tried to battle back. But I just went at them."
The teams battled to a scoreless tie through six innings with two key defensive plays - one by each team - keeping the teams off the scoreboard. Team USA leftfielder Mike Moustakas (OF; Northridge, CA) leaped high above the left field wall to rob Cuba's Dayan Viciedo of what would have been a two-run home run in the third inning. Two innings later, Victor Sanchez (OF: Norwalk, CA) was hit by a pitch with one out. Matt Newman then doubled to the gap in left center field but Sanchez was called out at the plate trying to score on a 7-5-2 play by Cuba's defense.
Team USA finally broke through in the seventh inning against Cuba starter Juan Serrano (1-1), who was the winning pitcher a year ago in Cuba's 2-1 victory against the Americans in the gold-medal game of the Pan American Championships in Villahermosa, Mexico.
Tommy Medica (C; San Jose, CA) led off with a double to left field off Serrano. The Cuban righthander was replaced on the mound by fellow righthander, Vladimir Garcia. Moustakas then singled to right with Medica moving to third base. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Dominguez battled back to a 3-2 count before he lined his home run over the left centerfield wall.
"I just missed the first pitch," Dominguez said of a long foul ball he hooked down the left field line. "Once I worked the count to 3-2, I knew a fast ball was coming. I think the home run gave us some momentum."
USA 000 000 301 - 4 9 2
Cuba 000 000 000 - 0 7 0
Beavan and Medica. Serrano, Garcia (7), Alvarez, (7) and Ramirez, Noa (8).
HR: Dominguez (1). W: Beavan (1-1). L: Serrano (1-1).
Time: 2:39. Attendance: 1,200.
Sept. 24 - Opening Round of Medal Play (All times Eastern)
Mexico (4-2) def. Netherlands (3-3), 5-3 -- game called in 8th inning because of rain
Korea (4-2) def. Chinese Taipei (3-3), 1-0
Canada (4-1) vs. Panama (2-3) -- postponed by rain; rescheduled for 2 p.m. Sept. 25
USA (4-2) def. Cuba (5-1), 4-0
Sept. 24 - Opening Round of Consolation Play
Italy (2-3) vs. South Africa (0-5) - postponed to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 25
Australia (3-3) def. Spain (0-6), 3-1
Sept. 25 - Medal Round Semifinal
Mexico (4-2) vs. USA (4-2), 8 p.m.
Sept. 25 - Consolation Round Semifinals
Netherlands (3-3) vs. Cuba (5-1), 10 a.m.
Sept. 26 - Medal Round Semifinal
Korea (4-2) vs. Canada-Panama winner, 2 p.m.