Nick Plaia follows through with his swing after hitting a chopper to second in the first inning. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

Cubans down Victoria HarbourCats 5-2 in Monday evening action

Cuban pitch Essi Fuentes leads a strong visiting squad

Team Cuba took the third game of the Greater Victoria Sports Tourism Commission International Series on Monday evening against the HarbourCats at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park.

With a two-run ninth inning, Team Cuba defeated the HarbourCats 5-2, preventing the Cats from gaining their first ever win over Union de Reyes.

Travelling from the province of Matanza in Cuba, Union de Reyes defeated Victoria 8-4 in an energetic back and forth affair last summer. Flexing their muscles once again, they won 10-2 on June 2 at Wilson’s Group Stadium.

Eight days later, Union de Reyes’ pitcher Essi Fuentes went the distance, pitching nine full innings of four-hit ball and racking up three strikeouts in the process. The HarbourCats used six arms out of the bullpen and held Cuba to just four hits.

RELATED: Visiting Cuban squad bests Victoria HarbourCats

Victoria right fielder, and 2018 Player of the Year, Nick Plaia was the only man to get on base with a hit in the first two innings — sliding headfirst into first base to beat out a high chopper in the infield.

It wasn’t until Yonni Matos led off the third inning with a screaming single up the middle that another hit was recorded in the game, however, the next three batters were retired by Branson Wilson out of the HarbourCats’ bullpen to avoid any damage.

In the bottom half of the inning, Parker Bramlett drew a one out walk and Ty Schindel smacked a single through a diving Alberto Bello at second base to put runners on the corners and give Victoria their first scoring chance of the evening. Nate Pecota brought home Bramlett one batter later with a sac-fly to centre that made it a 1-0 game.

After loading the bases in the top half of the next inning, Union de Reyes responded by scoring two to jump back ahead 2-1.

READ ALSO: Victoria HarbourCats give away funeral to lucky fan

That score held until it was Victoria’s turn to load the bases. Plaia started the bottom of the seventh with a single, and after two walks, the bases were full for Tyson Hays at the dish. Fuentes then hit the catcher from Incarnate Word, levelling the game at two.

Before the HarbourCats had a chance to score more with the bases loaded, Fuentes induced a double play to get out of the jam.

In the top of the ninth, Cuba loaded the bases with a pair of walks and hit batter, and Jiovanny Estevez scored the game-winning run with a sac-fly to the outfield. An errant throw from right field scored Alberto Bello rushing from second.

Jose Cespedes added some insurance for Cuba with a RBI single three batters later, and Fuentes closed the door in the ninth to preserve Union de Reyes’ third straight victory over Victoria.

The HarbourCats will now embark on a five-game road trip, beginning with a two-game set Wednesday night in Yakima, Washington, against the Pippins. First pitch is slated for 6:35 p.m. at Yakima County Stadium.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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Jack Neely started the game and pitched two clean innings, collecting four strikeouts in the process. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

Randy Camaraza looks on after slugging through a pitch earlier in the game. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

Parker Bramlett dives under the outstretched arms of Jiovanny Sanchez to score Victoria’s first run of the game. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

Team Cuba players line up and hold their caps above their heart for the playing of the Cuban national anthem. (Photo by Christian J. Stewart)

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