Mexico and Korea Qualify for Olympics

The fate of Korea had already been known the day before when they made it to the gold medal match. Mexico’s case was determined yesterday when they continued to be a thorn in the United States side, eliminating them from qualifying for the Olympics in the Premier 12 and winning the bronze match in extra innings 3-2 to earn the fourth Olympic bid. The United States still has two more tournaments they can play in to qualify for the Olympics, but there are now only two spots left, with Israel, Mexico, Japan and Korea qualifying for Tokyo next year. A second Olympics could happen without the United States participating in baseball and both times it could be Mexico eliminating them from that opportunity.

Mexico 3 United States 2

The United States jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Jordan Adell hit a one out solo homerun in the first inning. It became a pitcher’s duel after that. Cody Ponce and Arturo Reyes each pitched five innings of shutout ball after that.

The United States went to their bullpen in the sixth and Matthew Clark got the big hits for Mexico to keep their hopes alive. In the sixth he hit a two out infield single with the bases loaded to tie the game. After the United States recaptured the lead in the top of the seventh on an RBI single by Robert Dalbec, Clark came through again. He led off the bottom of the ninth with a homerun off United States closer Brandon Dickson to tie the game at 2-2.

In the extra inning both teams employed the same boring strategy that international teams use when placing runners on first and second with no outs. They bunt the runners over and the other team intentionally walks the next batter to load the bases. In the United States case Alec Bohm struck out and Jacob Cronenworth flew out to leave the United States scoreless. Efren Navarro hit his single up the middle to give Mexico the walk off hit and qualification in the Olympics.

Japan 5 Korea 3

Korea won the first Premier 12. Japan wrested the championship away from them this time. It was asking too much for the United States minor leaguers to finish in the finals against two teams using their professional players. The two best teams played in the finals.

Korea scored all their runs early. Ha-Seong Kim hit a two run homerun and Hyun-Soo Kim a solo shot in the first inning to give Korea an early 3-0 lead. Both homeruns were hit off Shun Yamaguchi, who did not come out for the second inning.

Japan was not deterred. Seiya Suzuki drove in his tournament leading 13th RBI with a double in the bottom of the first to pull Japan to within two. In the second Tetsuto Yamada smashed a pitch into the left field bleachers for a three run homer to give Japan the lead. Hyeon-jong Yang pitched three innings, giving up the four runs.

Six different Japanese pitchers held Korea to three hits and no runs through the remaining eight innings to secure the championship. Japanese closer Yasuaki Yamasaki continued his mastery throwing a scoreless ninth. In his five appearances he has only allowed one hit, no walks and struck out seven, picking up three saves.

Japan scored an insurance run in the seventh on a Hideto Asamura single. That seemed to knock the wind out of Korea. They went six up and six down in the final two innings, three of them by strikeouts.

The championship goes to Japan, but Korea and Mexico get the big rewards by qualifying for the Olympics. The United States must hope for another tournament, competing with Taiwan, Netherlands, Cuba and Canada for the last two Olympic spots.

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