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Cuba Wins Olympic Berth

August 1, 1999

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) _ Cuba won a return trip to the Olympics, beating a stubborn Canadian team and overcoming the distraction of a ninth-inning protester for a 3-2 victory Sunday in the Pan Am baseball semifinals.

The Cubans, Olympic champions in 1992 and 1996, will meet the United States or Mexico for the Pan Am gold medal Monday.

It was sweet revenge for the Cubans, who were rocked by preliminary-round losses to Canada, 8-1, and the United States.

Omar Linares, regarded as his nation’s best player, hit a two-out, three-run homer in the third inning. Jose Ibar pitched 5 1-3 innings of strong relief before he lost concentration after retiring the first batter in the ninth.

That’s when a man carrying a ``Human Right First″ sign came onto the field in front of the mound. Cuba’s Yobal Duenas rushed out of the dugout with his country’s flag and tried to wrap up the protester.

The man, wearing a shirt with ``Freedom″ written on the front, then ran behind the plate. Cuban catcher Ariel Pestano tried to stop the protester with his mask before the man ran in front of the Canadian dugout, where he was apparently hit by Cuban second baseman Juan Padilla and knocked down. Authorities then took the man away.

Ibar, apparently shaken, then gave up a single to Todd Betts, threw a wild pitch and walked Ryan Radmanovich before Luis Lazo came on to strike out the final two hitters.


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