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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Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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