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U.S. baseball team faces must-win Premier12 game after loss to Mexico

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Mexico broke open a close game in the eighth inning to take an 8-2 win over the United States at the Premier12 baseball tournament Sunday in Guadalajara, Mexico, leaving the U.S. needing a win in the group-stage finale to advance to the final round of the Olympic qualifier.

The top team from the Americas will clinch a spot in the 2020 Olympics. Other teams from North and South America must play another qualifying tournament next spring to claim a berth in the small six-team field in baseball’s return to the Olympic stage. Players from Major League Baseball teams’ 40-man rosters are not participating, though most U.S. players and many from other teams are from MLB teams’ AAA affiliates.

On Sunday, Mexico jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with against Boston Red Sox prospect Tanner Houck. Erik Kratz, a 39-year-old catcher who has played in the majors with nine different teams, and Boston infield prospect Bobby Dalbec tied the game with home runs in the third and fourth innings, but a passed ball in the fifth inning put Mexico back in front 3-2.

U.S. pitchers struck out 15 batters, led by Houck with six in 4.1 innings, but the host country got five runs against former Minnesota Twins pitcher Caleb Thielbar and Yankees AAA pitcher JP Feyereisen in the eighth. Mexico first baseman Efren Navarro, who played a few years with his hometown Los Angeles Angels, drove in two with a single before catcher Ali Solis, who briefly played in the majors with San Diego and Tampa Bay.

The U.S. opened the tournament with a 9-0 rout Saturday over the Netherlands, with Dalbec hitting a grand slam in the fifth to put away the game while five pitchers combined to give up only two hits.

Monday’s must-win game is against the Dominican Republic, which also beat the Netherlands and lost to Mexico. The U.S. will send Parker Dunshee, a former Wake Forest pitcher who rose to Oakland’s AAA team this year, against Carlos Sano, who pitches in the San Francisco organization.

The game will streamed on the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s Facebook page at 9 p.m. ET.

PREMIER12: Scott Brosius takes over as U.S. manager

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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