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US beats Japan in 11 innings, will face Cuba in semis

Beijing, China (Sports Network) - The United States baseball team scored the game's first four runs in the top of the 11th inning, then held on to beat Japan 4-2 in the final game of preliminary play at the Beijing Olympics.

With the win, the U.S. (5-2) grabbed the third seed in the medal round and will face Cuba on Friday. Japan (4-3) moved on to face undefeated top seed South Korea.

After 10 scoreless innings, the U.S. took advantage of the rule that places runners at first and second base in the 11th.

Brian Barden, Nate Schierholtz and Matt Brown stroked back-to-back-to-back RBI singles to break the 0-0 tie, and the U.S. got another run later on a John Gall ground out to make it 4-0.

All four runs -- only three of them earned -- were charged to Japan's Hitoki Iwase, who took the loss.

Japan, the 2004 bronze medalist, also took advantage of 11th-inning rule that puts runners at first and second base when Atsunori Inaba and Hiroyuki Nakajima stroked two-out RBI singles to halve their team's deficit.

But U.S. pitcher Casey Weathers got Shinnosuke Abe to fly out to end the game.

It was the fourth straight win for the Americans since a 5-4 loss to Cuba last Friday in 11 innings. And it will be the reigning gold medalist Cubans that they face in the semifinals beginning Friday.

"It should be a good game," U.S. outfielder Dexter Fowler said of the upcoming matchup against Cuba, "but I can't tell secrets."

Earlier, Cuba (6-1) rolled to a 17-1 drubbing of China (1-6) in a game stopped after seven innings by the mercy rule, clinching the second seed in the semifinals.

Korea (7-0) solidified its top seed with a 10-0 shutout of the Netherlands (1-6) in a game that was also stopped by the mercy rule after eight innings.

In the fourth game on the schedule, Chinese Taipei (2-5) defeated Canada (2-5) by a 6-5 score in 12 innings in a game that had no bearing on the semifinals.

08/20 11:42:55 ET

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