U.S. Inches Closer To Olympics

See also: U.S. Trounces Dominicans At Qualifier

Behind the strong pitching of Zach Segovia, Team USA beat Nicaragua 5-2 on Saturday.

Segovia, a Phillies prospect, allowed two runs in six innings, on four hits for his second win of the tournament. He struck out three. J. Brent Cox (Yankees) and Henry Owens (Mets) pitched three scoreless innings of relief to preserve the win.

The U.S. will face Panama on Sunday, while first-place Cuba (5-0) will face Mexico, which is tied with the U.S. with a 4-1 record. The U.S. holds the tiebreaker over Mexico on the basis of its 15-3 win in their head-to-head matchup. If Cuba beats Mexico and the U.S. beats Panama, the U.S. and Cuba will wrap up the two available spots in the 2008 Olympics. The third and fourth-place finishers will have a chance to still qualify in a second-chance tournament next year.

Nicaragua starter Franklyn Sanchez fared better than most pitchers have against the U.S. lineup. He took a 2-1 lead into the seventh, but Brandon Wood, who came into the game in a 2-for-23 slump, smashed a three-run homer to give the U.S. the lead. A's prospect Kurt Suzuki's RBI single in the eighth, scoring Bryan LaHair (Mariners), gave the U.S. bullpen an insurance run.

The U.S. has already earned berths in next year's World Cup (the top six teams earn spots), and the 2007 Pan Am Games (the top seven teams earn spots).

In other action on Saturday, Cuba shutout Canada 9-0, as starter Norbertro Gonzalez struck out 13 in eight innings. Cuba remains the only unbeaten team in the tournament. Also, Mexico beat the Dominican Republic 5-4 and Venezuela beat Panama 6-2.

Americas Olympic Qualifier
Dominican Republic05.000
* U.S. holds tiebreaker advantage over Mexico on basis of head-to-head record
# Standings for the second round only include games against teams still remaining in the tournament.