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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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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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