Mexico defeats USA in extras for Olympic berth

November 17th, 2019

In the Bronze Medal Game of the Premier12 tournament in Tokyo, Mexico defeated USA, 3-2, in 10 innings to earn a spot in the 2020 Olympic Games.

The WBSC rules for the event called for runners on first and second to begin each extra inning. Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec, who drove in a run earlier in the game for the United States, opened the inning with a perfect sacrifice bunt, which was followed by an intentional walk. Mexico's Carlos Bustamante, a 25-year-old pitcher who spent some time in the D-backs’ system, came up clutch with a strikeout and a popout to end the inning tied at 2-2 despite entering with a pair of runners on and no one out.

Mexico would not falter with the same advantage presented to it in the bottom half of the frame, as a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk were followed by a broken-bat single to center by former Angel Efren Navarro to plate the game-winning run to earn Mexico a spot at Tokyo 2020.

The United States will have another chance to qualify for the Olympics via the Americas Qualifier, held in Arizona in March 2020, where the winner will advance to the Tokyo Games, and the second- and third-place nations will be placed into the Final Qualifying Tournament for one last chance to earn a berth in the Olympics.

Team USA got out to an early lead when Jo Adell went deep to the opposite field in the second at-bat of the game. On a 1-2 count, the Angels’ top prospect rounded the bases in a celebratory mood, looking to inspire his teammates. He’d later make a running, diving catch in left field to demonstrate his well-rounded tools that make him one of the top prospects in baseball.

Cody Ponce spun a gem for the Ameircan team, tossing five scoreless innings to start the game, allowing only three hits and a walk while striking out six. The Pirates prospect was acquired from the Brewers at the Trade Deadline this year.

Mexico would not pose much of a threat to score a run until Ponce left the game. In the sixth inning against Royals prospect Daniel Tillo, the Mexican national team would string together a single, walk and hit by pitch to load the bases. Then on a hard-hit ball to first, Mexico would find its first run of the game as the White Sox 2019 first-round Draft pick Andrew Vaughn couldn’t quite come up with the ball on a diving effort, allowing a run to score with two outs.

Vaughn would help the USA get back on top, as his leadoff single in the seventh would be followed by a move to second on a bunt by Erik Kratz, then Dalbec ripped a single up the middle, and Vaughn sped around third and made it home just ahead of the throw.

Red Sox 2019 draftee Noah Song pitched 1 1/3 solid innings to get the USA to the ninth inning, but Mexico would respond immediately against veteran reliever Brandon Dickson. Matthew Clark, who drove in the first run of the game on the infield single, homered to tie the game. Clark was drafted by the Padres in 2008 and would eventually make his Major League debut with the Brewers in 2014 before eventually heading south to play in the Mexican league. He was named player of the game for his clutch efforts.

Team USA struggled at times during the tournament, stumbling to a 2-3 record in the Super Round but making it to the third-place matchup on a tiebreaker. That gave the Americans another chance against Mexico, who defeated the United States in the group stage of the competition. However, the Mexicans would prevail once again.