U.S. Baseball Team Fails to Qualify for Olympics
Sat Nov 8, 8:52 AM ET
PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - The U.S. Olympic baseball team will be unable to defend its gold medal in Athens next year after losing 2-1 to Mexico in the quarterfinals of the nine-nation qualifying competition Friday.
It was a shock result for the U.S. team, which had won its first three games of the tournament by a combined 20-0 score. Previously winless Mexico had been outscored 18-7.
Mexico now faces Canada or Colombia in the semifinals on Sunday. The championship game is Monday, with the two finalists guaranteed Olympic berths.
The U.S., behind Milwaukee's Ben Sheets and a mix of fringe major leaguers and top prospects, captured the gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics (news - web sites).
Friday's game was scoreless through three innings but Justin Leone homered off Mexico starter Rigo Beltran with two outs in the fourth.
Mexico knotted it in the fifth when first baseman Ray Martinez homered off U.S. starter Jason Stanford. Luis Garcia then snapped the tie in the top of the ninth with a solo homer off reliever Brian Bruney.
Stanford, a Cleveland Indians (news) prospect, allowed a run and three hits in five innings. Pittsburgh Pirates (news) prospect John VanBenschoten followed with three scoreless innings before giving way to Bruney to start the ninth.
Beltran gave up one run and three hits in seven innings.