2020 Americas Olympics Qualifier
The 2020 Americas Olympic Qualifier was originally slated to be held from March 22 to March 26, 2020 in Arizona. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was pushed back by over a year, and took place in Florida in May/June 2021, just prior to the 2020 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament, held at the end of that month in Mexico (originally Taiwan, moved due to the pandemic).
The champion advanced to the 2020 Olympics while the 2nd- and 3rd- place finishers went to the Final Olympic Qualifier. Competing were the six American teams from the 2019 Premier 12 aside from Mexico (which finished atop the American teams in that event, winning an Olympic slot outright): United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Cuba and Puerto Rico, as well as the two highest finishers from the 2019 Pan American Games who did not make the Premier 12 ( Nicaragua and Colombia). The US and Cuba were former Olympic Gold Medal winners while Canada, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico had all played in the Olympics before, whereas Venezuela and Colombia had never made it yet.
The USA won the Olympic spot, while the Dominicans and Venezuelans moved on to the Final Olympic Qualifier.
- Dominican Republic 5, Puerto Rico 2. 43-year-old Cuban Raúl Valdés allows two runs in seven to get the win, while Jairo Asencio notches the save. SS Gustavo Núñez goes 3 for 3 with a triple, run and a RBI from the #9 slot to lead the Dominican offense, while RF Julio Rodríguez scores a pair. Luis Leroy Cruz takes the loss, while SS Rey Navarro's two-run shot in the 2nd gives Puerto Rico all their runs.
- Venezuela 6, Cuba 5. DH Carlos Pérez hits a three-run homer off Lázaro Blanco in the 1st and adds another RBI, while C Robinson Chirinos hits a solo shot off Liván Moinelo and 3B Hernán Pérez falls a double shy of the cycle. Venezuela beats Cuba in a global tournament for the first time since the 1953 Amateur World Series, with Jhonathan Diaz getting the victory in relief of Aníbal Sánchez, Moisés Gómez saving it. Two former defectors who later returned home go deep for Cuba - PH Lisbán Correa and SS Erisbel Arruebarrena. Blanco takes the loss.
- United States 7, Nicaragua 1. SS Luke Williams (3-for-3, 2 BB, 3 R, RBI) and CF Jarren Duran (3-for-6, R, 2 RBI) are sparkplugs atop the order while C Mark Kolozsvary goes deep to back the pitching of Matthew Liberatore, Brandon Dickson, Anthony Gose and Marc Rzepczynski. 2B Benjamín Alegría drives in C Melvin Novoa with Nicaragua's run while Carlos Téller is saddled with the loss.
- Canada 7, Colombia 0. Andrew Albers throws seven near-perfect innings (hitting SS Jeter Downs in the 1st before retiring 20 in a row) and Brendan McGuigan and Ben Onyshko complete the no-hitter. CF Tyson Gillies makes a diving catch in the 6th to rob his counterpart Brayan Buelvas. Erling Moreno, meanwhile, allows six (four earned) in 1 2/3 IP. LF Jacob Robson goes 3 for 4 with two runs and three RBI while 3B Eric Wood hits a monster home run.
- Venezuela 3, Colombia 2. Venezuela again has a one-run win, while Colombia puts up much more of a fight but falls to 0-2. Venezuela nearly scores in the 3rd against veteran Randy Consuegra when 1B Luis Castro walks and CF Ramón Flores doubles, but Consuegra recovers to retire 3B Hernán Pérez, 2B Alí Castillo and SS Juniel Querecuto, the 1-2-3 hitters. In the 5th, LF Alexander Palma singles off Consuegra and Castro walks again. Flores bunts them over, then Jean Ruiz relieves but Pérez hits into a two-run error by SS Jeter Downs. Erick Leal is dominant in the meantime, allowing only two hits and one walk in six shutout innings, if not quite as dominant as Canada had been against Colombia the previous day. Colombia finally gets a run in the 8th. LF Derwin Pomare and DH Jerry Downs single off Andrés Sotillet and RF Brallan Pérez bunts them over. Danny Rondón relieves and CF Brayan Buelvas grounds in a run to make it 2-1. In the 9th, 3B Jordan Díaz hits a one-out homer off Gabriel Moya to tie it. The tie is short-lived though; RF Diego Rincones opens the bottom of the 9th with a game-ending blast on the second pitch from Carlos Ocampo.
- Nicaragua 7 Puerto Rico 6. Nicaragua is the only team to lose their opener and win their second game, but it is not an easy one by any means. Things start well as 3B Benjamín Alegría hits a two-out double in the 1st off Miguel Martínez and DH Jilton Calderón singles him in. In the 2nd, C Luis Alen homers to make it 2-0 and they almost add another run when 1B Emmanuel Meza singles, is bunted over and 2B Omar Obregón singles as well, but CF Noel Cuevas guns down Meza at the plate. In the bottom of the 2nd, Puerto Rico explodes against Dilmer Mejia. DH Rey Navarro walks, RF Jesmuel Valentín hits a one-out, two-run homer, C Michael Arroyo walks and 2B Luis Mateo singles. After an out, 3B Iván DeJesús Jr. doubles in a pair. Kevin Gadea relieves and Cuevas singles, while an error by Alegría makes it 5-2. 1B Kevin Luciano and Navarro walk (in Navarro,s case, his second of the inning) but Gadea escapes further harm by retiring LF Edwin Gómez.
- In the bottom of the 4th, Puerto Rico loads the bases with one out against Gadea and Norman St. Clair but St. Clair gets out of that situation and will wind up with four hitless, shutout innings, much needed for Nicaragua. Berman Espinoza follows with two shutout innings. In the top of the 8th, Nicaragua ties it. CF Ismael Munguía singles off Christian Flecha with one out and SS Brandon Leyton walks, then Alegría doubles in a run. PH Edgard Montiel hits a two-run single to even the score. In the top of the 10th, a wild pitch by Freddie Cabrera scores Ofilio Castro and PH Juan Montes hits a sacrifice fly for insurance. In the bottom of the 10th, Jorge Bucardo relieves Espinoza. Valentín bunts the starting runners over then PH Rubén Castro grounds in one run. Sheyder Garcia relieves and walks backup 3B Nelson Molina but retires SS Ozzie Martínez to end the game.
- Canada 6, Cuba 5. Canada joins Venezuela in the semifinals from their pool, as Cuba is eliminated (and will miss the Olympics for the first time in the medal era). Canada knocks out Carlos Juan Viera in the 1st, on a single from 2B Wes Darvill, a one-out RBI double from 3B Eric Wood, an RBI single from 1B Connor Panas, a walk to SS Daniel Pinero and a two-out RBI single from C Kellin Deglan. Yariel Rodríguez relieves and will fan 11 in 6 2/3 innings. Canada loads the bags in the 2nd before Rodríguez fans Pinero. In the top of the 4th, CF Tyson Gillies, Wood and Panas all single to make it 4-0. Canadian starter Ryan Kellogg scatters five hits in 3 2/3 shutout innings before coming out of the game.
- Cuba gets on the board in the bottom of the 5th against winning pitcher Dustin Molleken. CF Roel Santos doubles, 2B Yadir Mujica singles and DH Yordanis Samón hits into a run-scoring double play. Canada gets the run back when RF Michael Crouse goes deep to make it 5-1. Cuba closes the gap in the 7th when Mujica grounds in 3B Dayán García and Samón singles in Roel Santos. In the top of the 8th, Canada gets some needed insurance when DH JD Osborne coaxes a walk from Liván Moinelo and later comes home on a single from LF Jacob Robson. In the bottom of the 9th, Cuba does not go down without a fight. LF Raico Santos and Roel Santos (cousins) both single off Scott Mathieson. PH Frederich Cepeda's sacrifice fly closes it to 6-4. John Axford relieves but makes a run-scoring error to give Roel Santos his third run. The 2011 Rolaids Relief Award winner then saves it by striking out 1B Lisbán Correa.
- United States 8, Dominican Republic 6. The US joins Canada and Venezuela in the semifinals, with the Dominicans now facing Nicaragua the following day for the final spot, as the Americans win a slugfest. They start off with a blast; in the 1st, 3B Todd Frazier doubles off Radhamés Liz, RF Eric Filia walks and 1B Triston Casas doubles in both runners. In the top of the 2nd, the Dominicans get one run back when DH Juan Francisco smacks a homer off Joe Ryan. In the 4th, the US strikes again when 2B Eddy Alvarez (who has been an Olympian - albeit in speed skating) reaches and C Mark Kolozsvary hits a two-run home run to make it 4-1.
- In the top of the 5th, CF Luis Liberato walks. SS Gustavo Núñez doubles and 2B Emilio Bonifacio triples both in; the game is now a one-run affair. In the top of the 6th, the Dominicans take their only lead. RF Julio Rodríguez singles off Edwin Jackson and 3B Diego Goris hits a two-run shot against Trevor Lane. The US comes back in the bottom of the 6th. Casas hits a one-out single off Emilio Vargas, then Luis Gonzalez plunks Alvarez and walks Kolozsvary. Jhan Maríñez takes over and Logan Forsythe hits a pinch-hit, game-tying single. SS Nick Allen hits into a run-scoring force and LF Luke Williams hits a big two-run triple for an 8-5 edge. The Dominicans aren't quite done, though, as Francisco again homers, off David Robertson, to open the 9th. Robertson recovers to get Goris, PH Yeison Asencio and Liberato to record the save.
- Dominican Republic 13, Nicaragua 3. The Dominicans win the last spot in the semifinals in a mercy rule 8-inning win. They bang out 15 hits and draw 7 walks. RF Julio Rodríguez, CF Luis Liberato and SS Jeison Guzmán each drive in 3, Rodríguez hits two of their five homers and Rodríguez and Guzmán each have three hits. Darío Álvarez gets the win, Elías Gutiérrez the loss.
- Venezuela 5, Canada 0. With both teams having already advanced, Venezuela gets a leg up with a win for the Super Round standings. Enmanuel De Jesús, Oddanier Mosqueda, Harold Chirino and Henry Centeno combine on a one-hit gem, LF Jacob Robson getting Canada's sole hit. Game 1 star DH Carlos Pérez finishes a triple shy of the cycle, with two runs and two RBI. Travis Seabrooke is the losing hurler.
- Cuba 16, Colombia 3. After having won at least Silver in the five Olympics to feature baseball as a medal event, Cuba is already eliminated from the 2020 Games after their back-to-back one-run losses to Venezuela and Canada. With only their pride left at stake, they mop the floor with fellow winless Colombia, in a 7-inning mercy rule rout. Among the stars are CF Roel Santos (3 H, 2 BB), SS Yadil Mujica (3 RBI), DH Yordanis Samón (3 RBI), SS Erisbel Arruebarruena (4 H, 4 RBI), LF Raico Santos (3 H, 4 RBI), C Ivan Prieto (3 R) and Bryan Chi (1 R in 5 IP). SS Jeter Downs goes deep for Colombia while starter Daniel Castillo does not last through the 1st.
- United States vs. Puerto Rico canceled by rain; the US is leading 6-1 after a 4th-inning grand slam by Nick Allen. The game will not be rescheduled as the US has already advanced while Puerto Rico will not advance, no matter the result.
- Dominican Republic 14, Venezuela 4. The Dominicans hand Venezuela their first loss with a blowout win. They bang out 17 hits, including five home runs. 1B Jose Bautista finishes a triple shy of the cycle, PR/LF Yefri Pérez scores three runs despite not starting, RF Julio Rodríguez drives in three, DH Juan Francisco drives in 3, CF Luis Liberato has 3 hits and SS Jeison Guzmán has 3 hits and 3 RBI. Enny Romero pitches six shutout innings, fanning six, and allows only three hits. Jhonathan Diaz takes the loss, while a grand slam by 3B Hernán Pérez gives the losing squad their only runs.
- United States 10, Canada 1. The US remains unbeaten with a big win over Canada. LF Luke Williams remains hot with a double, homer and 3 RBI while CF Jarren Duran singles, doubles and triples. Drew Parrish gets the win in relief of Homer Bailey, while Chris Leroux is handed the loss. LF Jacob Robson homers for Canada's lone run. It is 3-1 until the US scores 7 runs in the 8th.
- Dominican Republic 6, Canada 5. Canada is eliminated from the final Olympic qualifier and will miss the Olympics for the first time since 2000. They start well against Raúl Valdés; with two outs in the 1st, 3B Eric Wood triples, DH Connor Panas singles him in and SS Daniel Pinero hits a two-run homer. The Dominicans battle back against Andrew Albers, who is not nearly as dominant as in the opener against Colombia. With one out in the 2nd, CF Luis Liberato singles, advances on a grounder and scores on a hit by SS Jeison Guzmán. In the 3rd, LF Melky Cabrera, RF Julio Rodríguez and DH Juan Francisco all single to tie the game.
- The Dominicans load the bases in the 4th but Albers gets Francisco looking this time to keep it even. C Charlie Valerio homers off Dustin Molleken in the 5th to give the islanders their first lead, 4-3. After his rocky 1st inning, Valdés cruises until the 6th, when Pinero again goes yard on him, tying it at 4-4. In the top of the 8th, Jumbo Díaz relieves; with one out, Wood singles, advances on a Panas grounder and scores on a Pinero single; it is his 4th RBI and gives Canada 5-4 lead. In the bottom of the 8th, however, Liberato singles off Evan Rutckyj. Scott Mathieson relieves and Valerio bunts into a force at second. Guzmán strikes out but 2B Gustavo Núñez, the #9 hitter, singles to tie it and a throwing error on the play by CF Michael Crouse sends him to second base. Cabrera walks, John Axford relieves and Rodríguez singles in Núñez with the winner. Jairo Asencio saves it by striking out the side - C Kellin Deglan, 1B Jesse Hodges and RF Tyson Gillies.
- United States 4, Venezuela 2. The US locks up the Olympic spot, but it is not nearly as easy as some of their other games. Venezuela starts strong out of the gate, with three of the first four batters reaching. 3B Hernán Pérez singles off Matthew Liberatore, LF Alí Castillo walks and C Robinson Chirinos walks. DH Carlos Pérez hits into a double play to ruin the chances, though. In the 3rd, Pérez doesn't leave anything to his teammates, smacking one over to deep left for a 1-0 lead.
- Aníbal Sánchez shuts down the US for three innings but flags in the 4th. 3B Todd Frazier singles and RF Eric Filia goes deep for a 2-1 US edge. In the bottom of the 5th, LF Luke Williams and CF Jarren Duran continue to be sparkplugs for the US, with back-to-back two-out singles to chase Sánchez. Danny Rondón relieves but Frazier greets him with a big ground-rule double. Oddanier Mosqueda then comes in and escapes further harm. Venezuela makes it a one-run game again in the 6th; with two outs, RF Diego Rincones and CF Ramón Flores hit back-to-back doubles off Brandon Dickson but it will be their last run. Mike Scioscia turns to two veterans, Edwin Jackson and David Robertson, who throw three hitless innings (one walk, one hit-by-pitch), Jackson getting the win and Robertson the save. Frazier continues his big day with a solo shot off Erick Leal in the 7th to cap the scoring.
- Nick Aguilera: "Team USA qualifies for 2020 Olympics", mlb.com, June 5, 2021.