TORONTO // Venezuela avenged a loss to the United States with a gritty 5-3 win on Wednesday, taking top spot in Pool C and grabbing the momentum going into the second round. Venezuela were thrashed 15-6 on Sunday but turned the tables on Wednesday by pounding US pitchers for 12 hits, handing the Americans their first loss of the 16-nation tournament.
Venezuela and the US, who clinched berths in the next stage before the game, head to Miami for the second round where they will be joined by Puerto Rico and the Netherlands. The other pool that begins play on Sunday in San Diego is being viewed as a "group of death" with Olympic gold medallists South Korea, WBC champions Japan, and Cuba, the winners of three gold and two silver medals from the last five Olympics.
Australia face Mexico next Wednesday to determine who will advance and complete the second-round line up. The US, intent on restoring some pride after exiting the tournament in the second round in 2006, have failed to impress in the opening round despite being loaded with Major League talent. The US batters mustered just seven hits against some determined Venezuelan pitching and fell behind 1-0 in the third inning on Henry Blanco's leadoff homer.
The US tied the score in the bottom of the fourth but the South Americans reclaimed the lead in the top of the fifth on Gregor Blanco's RBI triple. Venezuela went 4-1 up in the sixth. Chris Iannetta pulled the US within striking distance in the eighth but it failed to spark a rally. * Reuters