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Dominican Republic Routs Venezuela To Boost Olympic Hopes



WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—For the Dominican Republic to achieve its Olympic dreams, it has little margin for error.

The Dominicans need to finish in the top three at the Americas Qualifier to have a chance at reaching their first Olympics since 1992. A loss on Friday would have put a significant dent in their chances of doing so.

Knowing that, they came out hot and never let up.

Jose Bautista homered, Julio Rodriguez went 3-for-6 with two RBIs and the Dominican Republic pounded Venezuela, 14-4, in the opening game of the Super Round at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

The Dominican Republic can guarantee at least a third-place finish in the Americas Qualifier with a win over Canada on Saturday. The first-place finisher qualifies for the Olympics, while the second- and third-place teams advance to the Final Qualifier in Mexico for a chance to compete for the final spot in the Tokyo Games.

“We set the tone from the very beginning,” Dominican Republic manager Hector Borg said. “I think what made the difference was our aggressiveness in the game. We were ready to hit the fastball.”

Luis Liberato, Jeison Guzman, Yefri Perez and Juan Francisco all homered for the Dominican Republic, which improved to 3-1 in the qualifier. The Dominicans racked up 17 hits, including three each by Bautista, Rodriguez, Liberato and Guzman.

Venezuela starter Jhonathan Diaz, an Angels prospect, lasted only 1.2 innings and gave up five hits and three runs.

“We were able to pound on their starter and the rest of their pitching staff and we wanted to be aggressive on the plate,” Bautista said. “We were connecting (with) the ball hard all day long, and you can't complain when that's happening.”

A costly error by Venezuela third baseman Yonny Hernandez in the second inning opened the door for the Dominican Republic.

With two on and two out in a scoreless game, Hernandez bobbled a chopper by Melky Cabrera and airmailed the throw to first base. Instead of the final out of the inning, the error allowed both runners to score. Rodriguez followed with an RBI single to score Cabrera and give the Dominicans an early 3-0 lead.

“That was an error that could’ve gone the other way and we couldn’t get out of the inning,” Venezuela manager Jose Alguacil said. “That is a team you cannot give any chances to, especially early in the game. Errors are going to be out there, (but) it happened in the wrong game.”

The Dominicans piled on from there. Liberato and Guzman each hit a solo homer in the third to make it 5-0, and Bautista lifted a two-run homer in the sixth that glanced off the glove of left fielder Alexander Palma and bounced over the wall to make it 7-0.

Venezuela briefly appeared to have life when Hernan Perez hit a grand slam off reliever Lisaverto Bonilla in the bottom of the seventh to cut the deficit to 7-4, but the Dominicans immediately responded with three runs in the top of the eighth to thwart any hopes of a comeback. Perez and Francisco each added a two-run homer in the ninth to complete the rout.

“We have a lot of different hitters, but a lot of successful hitters, and I think that that's a good mix to have,” Bautista said. “I think we all feed off of each other and we have great communication, we've come together in a short time.”

Enny Romero pitched six scoreless innings to pick up the win for the Dominicans.

Venezuela fell to 3-1 in the qualifier and now has a head-to-head loss to the Dominican Republic that could prove critical in a tiebreaker scenario. It will face the United States on Saturday night in the Super Round finale.

“We’re disappointed about the result and the score,” Alguacil said, “but it happens to the best teams out there. We just have to come back and play good baseball like we’ve been playing and see what happens.”

Julio Rodriguez (Photo By Mary Decicco MLB Photos Via Getty Images)

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