U.S. baseball team blasts its way to Premier12 final round

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Thanks to a barrage of four home runs, the U.S. baseball team kept alive its hopes of winning the Premier12 and snagging an Olympic qualifying berth at the first opportunity, beating the Dominican Republic 10-8 Monday in Guadalajara, Mexico, to take second place in its group.

After a loss to host Mexico on Sunday, the U.S. needed a win to advance to the Super Round next week in Tokyo. Six teams will play in Tokyo, with Olympic berths going to the top team from the Americas and the top team from Asia/Oceania (excluding Japan, which qualifies automatically as the Olympic host).

Outfielder Mark Payton (Oakland/AAA) led off the game with the first of four U.S. home runs. Shortstop Jake Cronenworth, who played middle infield and pitched for Tampa Bay’s AAA affiliate the Durham Bulls this year, hit another solo shot in the second, in which the U.S. picked up three runs on five hits.

The Dominican Republic cut the lead to 4-2 in the second, but third baseman Alec Bohm (Philadelphia/AA) hit a three-run homer in the third. Right fielder Daulton Varsho (Arizona/AA) stole second base and scored on a Bobby Dalbec (Boston/AAA) single in the fourth, and catcher Erik Kratz, who has 10 years of experience in the majors, hit another home run in the fifth to extend the lead to 9-3.

MORE: Premier12 provides clues to possible Olympic roster

After the Dominican Republic rallied with four runs in the fifth, Wyatt Mills (Seattle/AA) took the mound in the sixth and retired all six batters he faced. Kratz hit a double and scored on a Jo Adell (Los Angeles Angels/AAA) single for an insurance run in the eighth.

Mills got the win in relief. Brandon Dickson, who just finished his seventh season with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan, pitched the ninth, conceding one run but picking up the save. For the Dominican Republic, catcher Charlie Valerio of the independent Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and the Dominican league’s Leones del Escogido went 3-for-3 with three RBI. First baseman Edwin Espinal, who also plays in the independent Atlantic League and the Dominican league, also had three RBI.

Mexico and the U.S. advanced from Group A. Group B is underway in Taiwan, where the hosts opened with a 6-1 win over Puerto Rico and Japan beat Venezuela 8-4. Group C features host South Korea, Australia, Cuba and Canada.

MORE: U.S. drops decision to Mexico

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Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone appears in ‘This is SportsCenter’ commercial

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Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone appears in an ESPN “This is SportsCenter” commercial that was published Friday and debuts on the network on Saturday night, after she races for the first time this year at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on NBC.

In the commercial, ESPN (and former NBC Sports) anchor Hannah Storm asks McLaughlin-Levrone if she has a minute to catch up.

McLaughlin-Levrone replies by saying she has 51.46 seconds right after lunch, 51.41 seconds later in the afternoon or 50.68 seconds right now. The numbers represent the last three times that McLaughlin-Levrone clocked when breaking the 400m hurdles world record.

McLaughlin-Levrone is scheduled to race the 60m at the New Balance meet in Boston, which airs on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock from 4-6 p.m. ET on Saturday.

The commercial first airs during the North Carolina-Duke men’s basketball game that starts at 6:30 on ESPN.

In the last two years, McLaughlin-Levrone lowered the 400m hurdles world record four times, winning the Tokyo Olympics and last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon. She brought the record down from countrywoman Dalilah Muhammad‘s 52.16 from 2019 to 50.68 at July’s worlds.

The 23-year-old said after last season that she wants to expand by adding the flat 400m to the 400m hurdles, but she has not yet publicly committed to racing it at the next major outdoor meet, the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene in July.

For the first time, McLaughlin-Levrone has a bye into the 400m hurdles at the world championships in August, meaning she does not have to race it at USATF Outdoors. That could make the flat 400m more appealing.

Past “This is SportsCenter” spots included Olympians Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Kerri Strug,

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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