Ten innings, seven runs and nine hits led to one historic night for No. 14 Australia, which defeated No. 3 Cuba 7-4 in the team's opening game of the Super Round of the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation U18 Baseball World Cup in Osaka, Japan.
The win marked Australia's first international victory over Cuba since 2010, when the Aussie side beat Cuba 2-1 in the semifinals of the 2010 U18 Baseball World Cup en route to a silver medal finish in the tournament.
Australia took an early 3-0 lead over Cuba in the first inning on an RBI single and two bases-loaded walks. Rainy conditions in Osaka forced the game's first pitch to be pushed back by about 90 minutes, but Aussie starting pitcher Lachlan Wells showed no signs of fatigue in his first inning of work, striking out the first batter he faced and allowing a single before striking out two more batters to end the inning.
Cuba cut the lead to one run in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI double and a wild pitch, but Wells battled his way out of a jam, striking out Luis Robert with the bases loaded to end the inning and the threat. Wells allowed just two runs in his four innings of work, striking out seven batters total.
An RBI groundout in the top of the fourth inning increased Australia's lead to 4-2, but home team Cuba scored one run apiece in the fifth and sixth innings to tie the ballgame. Cuba loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Aussie reliever Mitch Neunborn got a strike out and a groundout to send the game into extra innings.
International tiebreaker rules came into effect in the tenth inning, when manager Steve Fish placed George Callil on second base and Jess Williams on first base, with Nate Vankan at the plate to start the frame. Vankan laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position for the middle of the Aussie lineup. With runners on second and third no outs, Ryan Kift walked to load the bases for Mitch Holding. Holding came through in the clutch with a single to right field, scoring both Callil and Williams and giving Australia a 6-4 lead. One out later, Australia loaded the bases for Tristan King. King walked to drive in Australia's seventh run of the game.
In the bottom of the frame Cuba placed runners on first and second in accordance with the rules. The runners on base didn't faze Aussie pitcher Neunborn, who struck out the first two batters he faced in the inning and induced a groundout to end the game victoriously for Australia, by a score of 7-4.
An especially big congratulations to Victorians to Mitch Holding, Max Barrett, George Callil, Jack Enciondo, and assistant coach Damian Shanahan.