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SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — The round robin has finished at the X Men’s Softball Pan American Championship held in the Dominican Republic and the playoffs were set with the eight teams to compete for the five spots for Lima 2019 Pan American Games.

Venezuela ended unbeaten in Pool A and clinch first place in the standings, followed by USA, Cuba and Colombia. These three teams finished with the same record of 5-2, but the US team earned the second place by the tie-breaker criteria.

On the other hand, Canada claimed first place in Pool B with no losses, followed by Argentina, Mexico and Guatemala.

This way, the payoffs will begin on Friday with two historic rivalries between Venezuela and Argentina, and Canada versus USA. The four teams will have double lives in the playoff. In the lower part of the playoffs, Cuba will face Guatemala and Mexico will play against Colombia, in win-or-go-home games.

Two key victories for USA

USA clinched the second place in their pool, with two important wins against Cuba by 5-1 and Puerto Rico by 9-0. This way, they will face Canada in the playoff, the other North American giant.

USA defeated Cuba by 5-1, making a huge step in their goal to finish in the second spot of the Pool A. Tony Mancha threw a six-innings gem, allowing only 2 hits and 1 run, with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts.

Erick Ochoa produced the first US run with a single to left field to plate Cameron Schiller. Cuba tied the game in the fourth, with an RBI single by Yasmani Rios to left field.

But in the bottom of the fourth, USA took the lead again with a RBI by John Lynch for the middle of the field. And in the last two innings, they opened the gap with a grounder by Nick Mullins and a two run bomb by Kevin Castillo.

Alain Roman was the loser for Cuba in seven innings of work, with 5 runs, 8 hits, 5 walks and 10 Ks.

After that game, USA defeated Puerto Rico by 9-0, in five innings, and this way clinched second place. The game lasted only five innings with another beauty of Mancha, who left the game hit-less after four innings of work, and fanned five of the 12 hitters he faced.

The North American team made the big difference in the third inning, sending 13 hitters to the plate to score eight runs.

Dominican Republic, one step away from Barranquilla

Dominican Republic defeated Aruba and Puerto Rico and ended in the fifth spot of the Pool A, waiting for the game between Mexico and Panama to determine if they qualify directly to Barranquilla 2018, or must play a tie-breaker game against Panama.

In their first game of the day, the Dominican Republic beat Aruba by 11-1 in four innings, and maintained their chances to qualify to 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games.

A powerful offense by the host team guided by Juan Arias with five RBIs, four of them in the third inning with a grand slam over the center field fence.

Felix Liriano was the winner of the game in four innings of work with 1 allowed run, 2 hits, 2 walks and 6 strikeouts. The loser for Aruba was Jair Thompson, who pitched 3.2 innings and received 11 runs and 8 hits, with 8 walks.

Finally, in the last game of the day, the host team defeated Puerto Rico by 5-3 and ended in fifth place in Pool A. They must wait for the game between Mexico and Panama (postponed due to rain) to know if they qualify to Barranquilla 2018 (with a win by Mexico) or need to play a tie-breaker against Panama (if Panama wins).

Bahamas to the Central American and Caribbean Games

In the first game of the day, Bahamas defeated Panama by 2-1 and clinched a spot in the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games as the best English Caribbean team. It was an even match won by the Caribbean island thanks to a solo homer by Sherman Ferguson in the fourth inning.

Bahamas took the lead in the first inning with a run by Ferguson, thanks to a passed ball. However, Alexander Lewis led off the game with a home run to center field to tie the game.

Joaquín Vargas for Panama and Alcom Forbes for Bahamas were dominant against their rivals, shooting out their rivals through the fifth inning, when Ferguson exploded a pitch by Vargas over the center field fence to score the go ahead run for Bahamas.

In the bottom of the seventh, Panama had the chance to tie the game, and even come from behind in the score. Jonathan Rios walked with one out, and advanced with a single by Abdiel Solano. One out later Lewis walked to load the bases, but Humberto Periñon flew out to right field to end the match.

Forbes took the win in the complete game, allowing 1 run and 4 hits, with 1 walk and 6 strikeouts. The loss went to Vargas in 5 innings of work, with 2 runs, 3 walks and 9 fanned.

Colombia thinking of the playoffs

Colombia closed the round robin with a win against Aruba by 5-2. This score allowed them to finish with a 5-2 record, tied with USA and Cuba, qualifying in fourth place.

Colombia scored first in the game with a run by Jairo Cardozo in their first attack of the game, but Aruba took the lead in the top of the fourth with RBI singles by Jomark Flanegin and Sando Geerman to put the game at 2-1.

However, the South Americans answered with two in the bottom of the same inning, with hits by Gari Parejo and Jamir Iriarte. Security runs for Colombia were scored in the fifth inning with RBIs by Adonay Boscan and Marcos Hernandez.

The winner was Ramiro Escorcia in relief (3.2 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 7 K), and the loser  was Angelo Arnold (6 IP, 5 R, 10 H, 2 K).