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USA tops Cuba for World Cup gold

USA tops Cuba for World Cup gold

The Cubans opened the door, and the Americans charged right through.

Team USA took advantage of a critical error by Cuba with two outs in the seventh inning Sunday on its way to a 10-5 win in the gold medal game of the World Cup in Nettuno, Italy.

After the Cubans rallied back to tie the game at 4 with two runs in the bottom of the sixth, the Americans had two on and two out in the seventh when an error by Cuba first baseman Ariel Borrero allowed the U.S. to score the go-ahead run. From there, the Americans came through with one clutch hit after another on their way to a six-run frame that assured them of a second consecutive World Cup title against the powerhouse Cubans.

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Justin Smoak and John Weber hit back-to-back RBI singles to knock legendary Cuban reliever Pedro Lazo out of the game. Terry Tiffee, Josh Kroeger and Lucas May continued the onslaught with three straight RBI hits. In all, 11 batters came to the plate, and the Cubans needed four pitchers to get through the frame.

The Cubans, though, did not go down without a fight.

Working in his fifth inning of relief, Pirates prospect Brad Lincoln allowed two hits and a walk to load the bases with two outs in the ninth for the dangerous Alfredo Despaigne, who set a team and World Cup record with 10 home runs in one event.

Nate Field ended any hopes of a Cuban rally, however, by retiring Despaigne on a fly ball to deep left to end the game.

The Americans jumped out early and never trailed in the game. May initiated the scoring with a three-run home run in the second inning off Cuba starter Norge Vera. After Cuba cut the U.S. lead to 3-2 with a pair of runs off American starter Cory Luebke in the fourth, Team USA No. 9 hitter Tug Hulett led off the fifth with a solo home run to right for a 4-3 lead.

Team USA ended the tournament with a 14-game winning streak following a loss in its opening game. Paired with its win over Cuba in 2007, the Americans have won back-to-back World Cup titles for the first time since 1973 and '74.

Sunday's victory marked just the second win for the U.S. in eight gold medal meetings with the Cubans, who had won nine consecutive titles before falling to the Americans in 2007. Overall, Cuba has won 25 of the 30 World Cup titles.

On Saturday, Canada earned its first bronze medal in the international event by upending Puerto Rico, 6-2.

Ed Eagle is a reporter and producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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