With two days left in the final Olympic qualifier in Taiwan, South Korea has already clinched a spot in the 2008 Olympics, while Canada and Taiwan are in the driver's seat for the final two berths.
Taiwan picked up a key victory with a 5-0 shutout against Australia to improve to 4-1 and knock Australia down to 2-3. Taiwan did most of its damage in the bottom of the second, putting scoring four runs in that frame thanks to a pair of RBI-doubles at the top of the lineup from right fielder Chieh-Ming Chang and Red Sox center fielder Che-Hsuan Lin.
Taiwan righthander Chien-Fu Yang threw a complete game, finishing with six strikeouts, no walks and four hits allowed. Royals lefthander Paul Mildren got the start for Australia and struggled, allowing four runs in five innings. Twins righthander Liam Hendriks was effective in relief, allowing one run in three innings to go with five strikeouts and one walk.
Canada also improved to 4-1 with an 11-0 shutout against Germany, which dropped to 2-3. Canada's Stubby Clapp went 2-for-2 and teammate Nick Weglarz (an Indians prospect) went 1-for-2 with his second home run of the tournament. Astros farmhand Jimmy Van Ostrand and Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders each added one hit for Canada.
Germany starter Tim Henkenjohann was wild and ineffective for the second time in the qualifier, walking four batters in three innings and allowing six earned runs. South Korean starter Min Han Son, however, pitched six innings and allowed just one run to go with nine strikeouts and one walk.
Mexico defeated South Africa 5-0, but both teams have now been eliminated from contention for the 2008 Olympics.
The final Olympic qualifier is a round-robin tournament in which the top three teams will advance to the 2008 Beijing Games in August. The United States, Cuba, China, Japan and the Netherlands have already qualified for the Olympics.
|FINAL QUALIFIER STANDINGS|
|South Korea||5-0||Canada, Taiwan|
|Canada||4-1||South Korea, Germany|
|Taiwan||4-1||South Africa, South Korea|
|Australia||2-3||Spain, South Africa|
|South Africa||0-5||Taiwan, South Korea|
TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE (Taiwan local date and time)
Thursday, March 13: Australia vs. Spain, Germany vs. Mexico, Canada vs. South Korea, South Africa vs. Taiwan
Friday, March 14: Spain vs. Mexico, South Africa vs. Australia, Taiwan vs. South Korea, Canada vs. Germany