In the decisive game between Cuba and Australia in group B, the Cubans stayed at the right side of the score. After trailing 4-1, the Aussies pushed and scored two runs but eventually, they fell short.
For four innings not much happened. Both teams had runners in scoring position a few times but neither team did cash in.
But in the top of the fifth inning, Australia got on the board when Mitchell Dening drew a leadoff walk, stole second and crossed home plate on Logan Wade’s single to left field.
But Cuba bounced back immediately in the bottom of the same frame. After two quick outs Lachlan Wells gave up back-to-back singles to Roel Santos and Alexander Ayala. Then he walked Frederich Cepeda on five pitches before he gave up a grand slam homerun to Alfredo Despaigne to give Cuba the 4-1 lead.
But Australia refused to give up. In the sixth inning the Aussies had a golden opportunity to score a run with a runners on the corners and only one out, but they blew the opportunity when Mitchell Dening grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
But in the next inning, Trent Oeltjen homered to right field on a line drive to bring Australia within two runs of the Cubans. In the eighth inning, Australia added one more run to their score when Luke Hughes hit a two out double to center field and was driven in by Mitchell Dening on a ground ball to center field. But from there the production stalled.
In the top of the ninth, Miguel Lahera took over on the mound and retired the side for the save and the win for Cuba.
Four Cuban hitters went 2 for 4 (Roel Santos, Alexander Ayala and Yurisbel Gracial) but Alfredo Despaigne had the most impact with his grand slam homerun.
Vladimir Garcia earned the win after pitching three innings in relief in which he gave up two runs on five hits and struck out three.
Thanks to this win, Cuba advances to the second round and will face Israel and Kingdom of the Netherlands, next to Japan.
Because Australia beat China, the Chinese must qualify through a qualifier if there will be a next edition of the World Baseball Classic.
In group C, Canada was no match for the Dominican Republic as they lost 9-2.
In group D, there was a major upset as Italy came back from behind after trailing 9-5 halfway the ninth inning.
It started with a double hit by Francisco Cervelli in the bottom of the ninth, followed by a doubles hit by Chris Colabello and Alex Liddi, to drive in two runs for Italy.
After Drew Butera reached on an error, Drew Maggi walked to load the bases. Back-to-back singles by Brandon Nimmo and John Andreoli drove in three more runs, to hand Italy the walk off 10-9 victory.
Jordan Romano, who pitched on A Full Season last season, earned the win as he pitched a scoreless ninth inning, in which he struck out two.
Chris Colabello and Drew Butera were the best hitters for Italy as both went 2 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Most impact though had John Andreoli who drove in three runs as he went 2 for 5.