The Dominican Republic kept its Olympic hopes alive with a 6-5 victory over Canada on Saturday afternoon at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
The back-and-forth affair saw Canada strike first. Eric Wood knocked a triple to deep left-center off of 43-year-old Dominican starter Raul Valdes for the game’s first hit and would score one batter later on a Conor Panas RBI single. Daniel Pinero followed with a two-run homer that staked Canada to a big first inning lead at 3-0.
The Dominican Republic answered in the second. Luis Liberato and Jeison Guzman registered the first two hits of the tournament off of left-handed Canadian starter Andrew Albers, with Guzmán’s hit putting the DR on the board. Juan Francisco tied the game at three when he delivered a two-run single in the bottom of the third.
Charlie Valerio, the Dominican Republic catcher, untied the game when he belted his first home run of the tournament with two-outs in the fifth, but Canada would not wait long to get it all knotted up again.
Facing Valdes for the third time, Pinero homered to deep left to make it 4-4 and set the stage for some late inning drama.
In his fourth at bat of the day, Pinero ripped a two-out eighth inning single up the middle off Jumbo Diaz to give Canada its first lead since the third inning at 5-4. Diaz recovered to strike out Michael Crouse, bringing the Dominican bats up in the bottom of the eighth.
Gustavo Nuñez was able to tie the game with a two-out single to center and two batters later it was 20-year-old phenom Julio Rodriguez who snapped the 5-5 tie with a base hit up the middle off of John Axford.
An impressive performance from Jairo Asencio preserved the victory. The 38-year-old struck out the side in order in the top of the ninth.
With the loss, Canada failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2000.
The Dominican Republic will await the result of Saturday night’s game and can finish no worse than second as that nation seeks to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 1992.
Wood and Pinero recorded five of Canada’s nine hits, with four players adding one each.
Rodriguez again led the way for the DR, with his two hits Saturday capping off a tournament that saw him go 11-for-24 with two home runs, seven RBI and seven runs scored. Nuñez and Liberato joined Rodriguez with two hits apiece on Saturday, with Nuñez scoring the game-winning run. Juan Francisco’s two RBI on Saturday give him nine for the tournament – most among all hitters ahead of the Saturday night’s finale between the United States and Venezuela.