Cuba became the first team to earn a spot in the World Baseball Classic semifinals with a 4-3 win over Australia on Wednesday.
Veteran international star Alfredo Despaigne broke a 1-1 fifth-inning tie against the Pool B runner-up with a sacrifice fly before 35,061 at Tokyo Dome, and Cuba held on to its lead to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2006.
Yoelkis Guibert's two-run single completed the three-run fifth, allowing the Cubans to survive Rixon Wingrove's two-run sixth-inning homer with the lead.
Cuba's Japan-based bullpen stars took over in the eighth. SoftBank Hawks lefty Livan Moinelo worked a scoreless eighth, and Chunichi Dragons closer Raidel Martinez earned the save in the ninth.
Martinez's teammate, Dragons setup man Yariel Rodriguez, started for Cuba and allowed just one run despite issuing five walks in 3-1/3 innings.
The Australians had plenty of opportunities thanks to seven walks, including two in the eighth against Moinelo. Unfortunately, Wingrove's second-inning RBI single was the only one of their five hits with a runner in scoring position.
The second quarterfinal will be played at Tokyo Dome on Thursday between Pool B winner Japan and Pool A runner-up Italy. Shohei Ohtani will start on the mound for Japan.