2020 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament
(Redirected from 2021 Final Olympic Qualifier)
The 2020 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament was scheduled, as the name implies, to be the last chance to win a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics before the Olympics were delayed due to COVID-19. After numerous delays, it was re-scheduled to start on June 16, 2021 in Mexico (and then finally, June 22).
It was originally to feature six teams: the second-place team from the 2019 Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier ( Netherlands), the 2nd and 3rd teams from the Americas Qualifier ( Dominican Republic and Venezuela), the top two finishers from the 2019 Asian Championship not already qualified ( Chinese Taipei and People's Republic of China), and the 2019 Oceania Qualifier champion ( Australia). However, the field shrank to three teams as China and Taiwan dropped out before the event, Taiwan citing pandemic restrictions that limited practice time, and Australia withdrew in June due to COVID safety protocols. The remaining teams squared off for the 6th and final Olympic slot. While the event was the same month as the Americas Olympic Qualifier, both the Dominicans and Venezuelans significantly retooled their rosters, changing over about half the players.
The tournament was originally scheduled for April 1-5, 2020, but was postponed a first time due to concerns over the pandemic causing disruptions in a number of Asian countries at that time. The competition was first re-scheduled to take place June 17-21, 2020 in Taiwan, then to "to be determined", and finally moved to 2021. The original postponement was decided in order "to safeguard the health of players, personnel and spectators." With the pandemic extending throughout the world in the following weeks, it became clear that the Olympics themselves were in jeopardy, and that all events tied to them were also up in the air. In the end, the Olympics were delayed by a full year, like all the qualifying tournaments that had not yet been played up to that point.
The event's winning team (the Dominican Republic) claimed the final berth in Tokyo, joining Japan, Israel, South Korea, Mexico and United States, who have already qualified. The Netherlands had last played in the Olympics in 2008, the Dominicans in 1992, while Venezuela had never played. None of these teams had been in the 2008 Final Olympic Qualifier; of 2008's entries, South Korea and Mexico were already in, Taiwan and Australia opted out of this event, Canada had fallen in the Americas Qualifier and Spain, Germany and South Africa had been eliminated in the Europe/Africa Qualifier.
|Win: Jhan Maríñez (1-0) Loss: Luís Madero (0-1) Save: Jairo Asencio (1)|
As in the Americas Qualifier, the Dominicans used their high-powered offense to roll past Venezuela, but this one was closer, with Venezuela scoring in each of the first seven innings only to lose.
In the top of the 1st, RF Julio Rodríguez hit into an error by 3B Hernán Pérez and scored on a hit off Erick Leal by 1B Juan Francisco, the Dominicans again relying on two guys who had carried the offense in the Americas Qualifier. In the bottom of the first, Venezuela quickly tied it when 2B Alexi Amarista hit a lead-off homer off Raynel Espinal. 3B Diego Goris homered off Leal to open the top of the 2nd, then LF Alexander Palma hit the game's third solo home run in the bottom of the inning to tie it.
Amarista's second homer of the game put Venezuela ahead, 3-2. In the bottom of the 4th, C Robinson Chirinos singled and SS Luis Sardiñas walked. Luis Castillo relieved Espinal but Palma hit into an error by Goris to score a run. 1B Dennis Ortega hit one to 2B Gustavo Núñez and he fired home to catch Sardiñas.
The Dominicans took the lead in the 5th. C Charlie Valerio and Núñez both singled, CF Emilio Bonifacio got a bunt single and DH Melky Cabrera singled to close it to 4-3. Arcenio León succeeded Leal on the hill and got one out but then Francisco singled in a pair. Venezuela came back with their 4th and 5th solo homers of the day - by DH Danry Vásquez off Darío Álvarez in the 6th and by Sardiñas off Jhan Maríñez in the 7th to go ahead, 6-5.
The islanders retook the lead in the top of the 7th. Luís Madero walked Rodríguez and Francisco went deep to make it a five-RBI day, giving the Dominicans a 7-6 lead. LF Johan Mieses followed with a homer. Yapson Gómez relieved Madero but it was little relief as Goris hit the third straight Dominican home run. With two outs, Núñez doubled and Bonifacio hit into a run-scoring error by Sardiñas. Venezuela got their last run with their sixth solo homer (the tenth long ball of the day) when Pérez went yard against Junior Garcia in the bottom of the 7th.
|Win: Eduardo Paredes (1-0) Loss: Diegomar Markwell (0-1)|
The Netherlands turned to Diegomar Markwell, one of the few active players left from the 2004 Olympics, in their opener, but he could not contain a Venezuelan lineup loaded with veteran major leaguers. 2B Alexi Amarista drew a leadoff walk and 1B Hernán Pérez singled. After a bunt, LF Alexander Palma doubled to right-center to score both. In the 2nd, Amarista drew a one-out walk and Pérez again singled; an error on the play by LF Randolph Oduber advanced both and Amarista scored on a fly from DH Danry Vásquez.
To not tire out any one pitcher, Venezuela kept switching out hurlers. Jhonathan Díaz had a 1-2-3 1st and was succeeded by Henry Centeno, Eduardo Paredes and Danny Rondón. The Netherlands got two men on in the 3rd against Paredes when C Sicnarf Loopstok doubled and RF Jiandido Tromp hit a one-out single but CF Roger Bernadina hit into a 1-6-3 double play.
Mike Bolsenbroek took over in the 3rd and kept Venezuela off the board until the 5th. With one out, 3B Luis Sardiñas hit into a Bolsenbroek error and RF Diego Rincones doubled him in. Kevin Kelly relieved but CF Gorkys Hernández greeted him with another double for a 5-0 lead. Kelly and Juan Carlos Sulbaran blanked Venezuela from the 6th through the 8th.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands finally scored in the bottom of the 6th. Tromp and Bernadina singled off Rondón and 1B Juremi Profar's sacrifice fly brought in Tromp, but PH Ademar Rifaela grounded into a double play. Venezuela really pulled away in the 9th. Shairon Martis relieved and Vásquez singled but was out trying for two. Palma drew a walk and Sardiñas singled. Rincones grounded into an error by SS Calten Daal for a 6-1 lead. Hernández singled to load them up and Martis walked C Dennis Ortega to force in a run. Arij Fransen took over and plunked PH Cristian Pérez then Amarista's sacrifice fly put it at 9-1. The Dutch got a couple off Arcenio León in the bottom of the 9th when Rifaela (now at DH) singled and 2B Sharlon Schoop went deep, but it was too little, too late.
|Win: Jairo Asencio (1-0) Loss: Franklin van Gurp (0-1)|
The Dominican Republic made it to the finals with a "walk-off" win in the bottom of the 9th. After explosive offensive performances the first couple of days of the qualifier, this one began as a fine pitching duel between the Netherlands' Tom de Blok (5 shutout innings) and for the D.R. Osvaldo Bidò (4 shutout innings) and Marcos Diplan (2 shutout innings). In the bottom of the 6th, the Dominicans finally got to de Blok as LF Johan Mieses hit a two-out home run and 3B Diego Goris doubled. Mike Groen relieved but walked SS Ramón Torres and C Roldani Baldwin doubled in both runners.
In the top of the 8th, the Netherlands got a pair off Carlos Ramírez when 3B Sharlon Schoop hit a two-out single and Curt Smith contributed a pinch-hit home run to make it a one-run game. Against Dominican closer Jairo Asencio, RF Denzel Richardson doubled to open the 9th then took third on a wild pitch. He scored on a single by C Dashenko Ricardo, but Asencio escaped further harm. In the bottom of the 9th, Torres singled off Franklin van Gurp to go to 3-for-3 and Baldwin walked. 2B Gustavo Núñez bunted down the line and Schoop botched the play, throwing wildly past first to score Torres with the winner.
|Win: Henry Centeno (1-0) Loss: Jair Jurrjens (0-1)|
Venezuela moved to the finals with another win over the Netherlands, which was not nearly as competitive as they had been in nearly upsetting the Dominicans. Venezuela got all they needed in the 1st off former All-Star Jair Jurrjens. 1B Hernán Pérez hit a one-out double and LF Alexander Palma singled him home. They padded the lead in the 3rd. 2B Alexi Amarista drew a one-out walk and DH Danry Vásquez drew a two-out walk. Palma again had a RBI single off Jurrjens. 3B Luis Sardiñas singled in another run to make it 3-0 then C Robinson Chirinos smacked a three-run homer to double the lead, chasing Jurrjens. Lars Huijer relieved and shut down Venezuela for the next 3 1/3 innings, giving up only one hit in that span.
Meanwhile, though, Henry Centeno was turning in a gem, allowing only two hits (to CF Roger Bernadina and SS John Polonius) and one walk in seven shutout innings, fanning six. Kevin Kelly took over for Huijer in the bottom of the 7th and Venezuela's bats woke back up. CF Gorkys Hernández singled and SS Engelb Vielma homered to right. After Kelly walked Amarista, Juan Carlos Sulbaran relieved but served up a two-run shot to Pérez to end the game early with the mercy rule.
|Win: Darío Álvarez (1-0) Loss: Harold Chirino (0-1)|
The Dominicans made it to their first Olympics in 29 years, while Venezuela was still absent an Olympic baseball appearance, with the Dominicans winning thanks to a big fourth inning to finish the event unbeaten.
The Dominicans turned to 37-year-old veteran Radhamés Liz while Venezuela went with Mexican Leaguer Yapson Gómez. In the top of the 2nd, LF Alexander Palma led off with a single (one of his three hits today) and C Robinson Chirinos drew a one-out walk, after which RF Diego Rincones smacked a three-run bomb. After Venezuela loaded the bases with two outs in the 3rd, Liz was relieved by Game 1 victor Jhan Maríñez as the Dominicans wound up using six hurlers in their win; Rincones did not come through this time, flying out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the inning, the islanders began their comeback. With two outs, CF Emilio Bonifacio drew a walk. Eduardo Paredes was summoned from the bullpen but DH Melky Cabrera greeted him with a two-run smash to make it 3-2. In the bottom of the 4th, 1B Juan Francisco singled and Harold Chirino succeeded Paredes. LF Johan Mieses singled and 3B Diego Goris doubled to tie it. SS Ramón Torres singled in Mieses with the go-ahead run. C Charlie Valerio singled in Goris and an error on the play by Palma advanced the runners. Venezuela next tried Danny Rondón but 2B Gustavo Núñez hit a two-run single and moved to third on a throwing error by CF Gorkys Hernández on a rough inning for Venezuela's outfield defense (and Olympic hopes). Bonifacio's sacrifice fly made it 8-3.
After a scoreless inning by winning hurler Darío Álvarez, Luis Castillo pitched shutout ball in the 5th and 6th. In the 7th, DH Danry Vásquez hit a two-out double and Palma singled him in to close it to 8-4. Marcos Diplan pitched a scoreless 8th. In the 9th, Amarista hit a one-out single off Jairo Asencio and Vásquez contributed a two-out RBI double to put the tying run in the on-deck circle but Asencio retired Palma (3-for-4 to that point) to end it.