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By Paresh Dave
(Reuters) - The Dominican Republic on Saturday defeated Venezuela 8-5 to earn the sixth and final spot in the baseball tournament at the Tokyo Olympics next month.
The Dominican Republic erased an early 3-0 deficit with a two-run homer from former New York Yankees outfielder Melky Cabrera and a big, six-run rally in the fourth inning.
The country last appeared in the 1992 Olympics, finishing sixth out of eight.
Venezuela, which has never made the Olympics, had advanced to the final qualifier game in Puebla, Mexico after beating the Netherlands 10-0 on Friday in a game that 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.
The Dominican Republic powered through the tournament with the bats of Major League Baseball free agent Juan Francisco and minor leaguers Diego Goris and Johan Mieses.
Former MLB infielders Alexi Amarista and Hernan Perez starred for Venezuela's offense. But after Henry Centeno pitched seven shutout innings on Friday, Venezuela's staff, led by Yapson Gomez, struggled to hold back the Dominican team.
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 and Dan Grebler)