June 26 (Reuters) - The Dominican Republic and Venezuela face off on Saturday in a clash for the sixth and final spot in the baseball tournament at the Tokyo Olympics next month.
Venezuela advanced to the final qualifier game after beating the Netherlands 10-0 on Friday in a game ended two innings early by the mercy rule. The Dominican team earned a break on Friday, except for a short practice, after going unbeaten during an initial round.
Saturday’s game begins at 1 p.m. (6 p.m. GMT) in Puebla, Mexico.
The Dominican Republic powered through its first two games with the bats of Major League Baseball (MLB) free agent Juan Francisco and minor leaguers Diego Goris and Johan Mieses.
Former MLB infielders Alexi Amarista and Hernan Perez have starred for Venezuela’s offense. The team will have a well-rested pitching corps following Henry Centeno’s seven shutout innings versus the Netherlands on Friday before the game was called.
Manager Jose Alguacil afterward said with a laugh that Centeno had been prepared to pitch nine innings and offered to return to the mound on Saturday for his remaining two innings.
“Everyone will be ready,” Alguacil said. “We will do what’s necessary to win.”
Already qualified for the Olympics are Israel, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the United States. A multi-stage, 16-game Olympics bracket kicks off July 28 and runs through Aug. 7. Current MLB players are barred from rosters.
Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell