Erik Kratz

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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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