Jordon Adell celebrates hitting a solo home run with Erik Kratz during the WBSC Premier 12 Bronze Medal final game at the Tokyo Dome on Nov. 17, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan.
The U.S. baseball team is two wins away from an Olympic berth.
Team USA closed out the first round of the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualification Event on Thursday with the best record in Group A. The team now moves on to the Super Round on Friday and Saturday, with the winner there earning one of the six coveted spots in this summer’s Olympic baseball tournament.
Baseball is returning to the Olympics in Tokyo after having previously being an Olympic sport from 1992 to 2008. The U.S. won an Olympic gold medal in 2000 and bronze medals in 1996 and 2008.
Ranked No. 2 in the world, the U.S. opened the Americas Qualification Event Monday with a 7-1 win over No. 15 Nicaragua in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The U.S. recorded 14 hits while starter Matthew Liberatore gave up just one run over five innings.
The Americans needed a comeback on Tuesday to beat No. 10 the Dominican Republic in West Palm Beach, Florida. Trailing 5-4 after the fifth inning, the U.S. scored four runs in the sixth to eventually win 8-6. Among the stars for the U.S. was Eddy Alvarez, a 2014 Olympic silver medalist as a short track speedskater who is now an infield prospect for the Miami Marlins. He hit two doubles in the winning effort.
With a spot in the Super Round clinched, Team USA jumped out to a 6-1 lead over No. 11 Puerto Rico on Thursday in Port St. Lucie. However, the game was canceled before it could be completed due to poor weather. The game had already been postponed one day.
The U.S. and the Dominican Republic will face Group B winners No. 8 Venezuela and No. 13 Canada in the Super Round, with U.S.-Dominican Republic result from the first round carrying over. The team with the best record following the Super Round advances to Tokyo.
While no active big leaguers are on the roster, the U.S. team is a mix of former MLB players and top prospects, with Mike Scioscia, manager of the Los Angeles Angels from 2000-18, serving as U.S. skipper.
Among the 26 U.S. players are former MLB All-Stars (infielder Todd Frazier, outfielder Matt Kemp and pitchers Edwin Jackson and David Robertson) and World Series winners (Jackson, Robertson, pitcher Marc Rzepczynski and outfielder Jon Jay).
Four U.S. players are among MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects, led by Liberatore at No. 30.
Four teams have already qualified for the Tokyo Games, including host and No. 1 Japan, as well as South Korea, Mexico and Israel. Another team will join them this weekend, with one final qualifier coming at the WBSC Baseball Final Qualifier later this month in Mexico.
The second- and third-place finishers at the Americas Qualifier will join Taiwan, Australia, the Netherlands and China in the Final Qualifier.