After playing so well in round 1, Puerto Rico choked on home soil, losing the deciding game of Pool 2 to Cuba, 4-3. They are now eliminated from the World Baseball Classic, with Cuba advancing to play the Dominican Republic in the semis on Saturday. Cuba saved their lead in the eighth when second baseman Yuliesky Gourriel throw out Ivan Rodriguez at home. This loss is particularly sweet for the Cubans, who not only make it to the next round on their opponent's soil, but also take revenge on the Puerto Ricans, who mercy ruled them in the first round.
While a door closed for one group of American citizens, the others had their semifinal door left ajar, as Korea outdueled Japan, 2-1. Chan Ho Park pitched five scoreless innings for the only undefeated team in the tournament, only to be matched by Japanese pitcher Shunsuke Watanabe, who pitched six innings of one hit ball. Korea finally cracked the scoreboard in the eighth scoring twice. While Japan did score once in the ninth, it was too little too late.
With the win, Korea, with their perfect 3-0 record in round two, advances to the semifinals in San Diego. Their opponent will be determined by the United States-Mexico game. A US win will put them into the semis, while Japan will be rooting for Mexico to pull of the upset and give them a third (and final) shot at beating the Koreans.
Thu 03/16/06, 1:18 am EST