Matt Clark hit a tying home run off US pitcher Brandon Dickson leading off the bottom of the ninth inning before Efren Navarro had a broken-bat single against Caleb Thielbar to drive in the winning run in the 10th as Mexico beat the US 3-2 at the Tokyo Dome yesterday to qualify for the Olympic baseball tournament for the first time.
Mexico joined hosts Japan, South Korea and Israel in the six-nation field for next year’s Tokyo Games and earned the bronze medal at the Premier 12 tournament, which served as an Olympic qualifying tournament.
The US are forced into the Americas Baseball Qualifier in Arizona in March, which determines one of the two remaining Olympic berths and gives two more teams entry into the six-nation Final Baseball Qualifier in Taipei in April, which Taiwan are in, with the winner getting the sixth and final Olympic berth.
The US’ Jo Adell homered in the first against Arturo Reyes. Cody Ponce, the US’ starter, allowed three hits in five scoreless innings with six strikeouts and a walk.
Clark tied it in the sixth with a bases-loaded, two-out single off Daniel Tillo. Clark had missed part of the tournament with an Achilles tendon injury and limped at times.
Bobby Dalbec ended an 0-for-10 slide with an RBI single in the seventh off Jesus Rios for a 2-1 lead to the US.
Under tournament rules, extra innings start with runners on first and second.
Dalbec sacrificed leading off the 10th and Drew Walters was intentionally walked. Winner Carlos Bustamante struck out Alec Bohm, then retired Jake Cronenworth on a flyout.
Jon Jones sacrificed on a 1-2 pitch leading off the bottom half against Dickson.
Esteban Quiroz was intentionally walked and US manager Scott Brosius brought in the left-handed Thielbar to face the left-handed-hitting Navarro, who singled to center.
Mexico had beaten the US 8-2 in the group stage on Nov. 3 in Guadalajara, Mexico. The US got in position to play for a berth only because South Korea defeated Mexico 7-3 and Taiwan defeated Australia 5-1 in the super round.
Japan and South Korea played the Premier 12 final yesterday, with Japan winning 5-3 at the Tokyo Dome.
The game finished just before press time last night.
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