Olympic qualification

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Jake Gibb sets record as oldest man to win beach volleyball World Tour event

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Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb won their first FIVB World Tour event together and jumped to the front of the line of Olympic qualifying Sunday at the four-star event in Chetumal, Mexico.

Gibb is 43 years old and will be 44 when the Olympics start next year in Tokyo. He is aiming for his fourth appearance in the Olympics, having reached the quarterfinals in 2008 and 2012 with Sean Rosenthal and played in 2016 with Casey Patterson.

Gibb teamed up with Crabb in 2017 and found immediate success on the AVP Tour. This year on the AVP circuit, the pair won four of six events and never missed the podium.

Until Sunday, their best finish in FIVB play was fifth. In Mexico, after dropping a match in pool play, the pair rallied for a three-set win over the second seeds, Poland’s Michal Bryl and Grzegorz Fijalek, then took two straight-set wins before defeating top-seeded Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands 21-16, 16-21, 15-12 in the men’s final.

The win was worth 800 points in Olympic qualifying, moving the duo up to eighth overall and first among U.S. teams. Only two teams per country can qualify.

Crabb’s brother, Trevor Crabb, is in position to go to the Olympics as well. He and Tri Bourne took bronze in Mexico to move into second among U.S. teams.

The qualification chase still has a long way to go. The final rankings will be posted June 15. Lurking behind the Crabb brothers and their partners is the veteran duo of Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser, who reached the 2016 Olympic quarterfinals and had a torrid run in 2016-17 but struggled internationally this year. Lucena and Dalhausser will each be 40 years old during the 2020 Games.

In women’s play, Sarah Sponcil/Kelly Claes and Brooke Sweat/Kerri Walsh Jennings each placed fifth. April Ross and Alix Klineman are the top U.S. pair in the qualifying rankings, having won a Major Series event last year over Sweat and three-time Olympic champion Walsh Jennings, who stand fifth overall with Sponcil and Claes chasing them for the second U.S. berth.

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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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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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