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Cuba Beats Australia, Reaches First World Baseball Semifinal Since 2006

Cuban players celebrate after defeating Australia in their World Baseball Classic quarterfinal game at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, March 15, 2023.
Cuban players celebrate after defeating Australia in their World Baseball Classic quarterfinal game at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, March 15, 2023.

Cuba earned a 7,500-mile flight to Miami for a trip to the World Baseball Classic semifinals for the first time since 2006.

"Cuban baseball fans are so emotional right now. They have been waiting for a long time," manager Armando Johnson said after a 4-3 win over Australia on Wednesday night in Tokyo. "This is the new page, new chapter."

Alfredo Despaigne hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly and Yoelkis Guibert followed with a two-run single in three-run fifth inning.

Using current major leaguers for the first time at the WBC, Cuba plays on Sunday in Marlins Park against the winner of a quarterfinal between Venezuela and the second-place team from Group C: Canada, Colombia, Mexico or the U.S.

Former Philadelphia Phillies prospect Rixon Wingrove, who led Australia with seven RBIs in the tournament, hit a go-ahead RBI single in the second and had a two-run homer in the sixth off the Chicago Cubs' Roenis Elias. Australia got two on later in the sixth before Elias retired Milwaukee Brewers prospect Alex Hall on a flyout.

Elias pitched a perfect seventh, and Livan Moinelo worked around a pair of walks in a hitless eighth by striking out Ulrich Bojarski and retiring Tim Kennelly on an inning-ending flyout. Raidel Martinez pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save, striking out Darryl George on the eighth pitch of the at-bat for the final out.

Before a crowd of 35,061 at the Tokyo Dome, Luis Robert tied the score for Cuba with a run-scoring groundout in the third.

Cuba, which lost the 2006 final to Japan, had been eliminated in the second round of the previous three WBCs. The Cubans won their third straight game in this tournament after losing their first two.

Australia advanced past the group stage for the first time.

"Basically, this trip is redefining Australian baseball back home and hopefully it changes the conversation," George said. "People don't really expect a lot from us."

Mexico 10, Canada 3

Randy Arozarena had two doubles and five RBIs, Rowdy Tellez added a two-run single and solo homer, and Mexico pulled away late from Canada in Phoenix to earn a spot in the quarterfinals.

Mexico started the tournament with a surprising loss to Colombia in Group C at Chase Field but rallied with three straight wins, beating the U.S., Britain and Canada.

Jose Urquidy gave up two runs over four innings, striking out five to earn the win. Arozarena — the 2021 American League Rookie of the Year for the Tampa Bay Rays — hit a bases-clearing double in the sixth that broke the game open, giving Mexico a 6-2 lead.

Venezuela 5, Israel 1

Eugenio Suarez homered, singled twice and had three RBIs and starter Jesus Luzardo struck out five in four scoreless innings in Miami to lead Venezuela, which already had clinched the Group D title and a quarterfinal berth.

Ronald Acuna Jr. had two singles while Eduardo Escobar also hit a home run for Venezuela, which finished with 10 hits.

Venezuela burst to a three-run lead in the first against Robert Stock. Acuna broke out of a tournament-starting 1-for-11 skid with an RBI single and Suarez hit a two-run single.

Escobar's solo shot in the fourth made it 4-0 and Suarez connected with a leadoff drive in the sixth.

Venezuela joined Japan as the only group winners to finish unbeaten.

Israel finished 1-3 after reaching the second round in the 2017 tournament.