AquaSox star Julio Rodriguez (pictured last month) and the Dominican Republic national team beat Venezuela on Saturday to qualify for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

AquaSox star Julio Rodriguez (pictured last month) and the Dominican Republic national team beat Venezuela on Saturday to qualify for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

J-Rod, Dominican Republic punch ticket to Summer Olympics

AquaSox star Julio Rodriguez and the D.R. capture the final spot in the Olympic baseball field.

PUEBLA, Mexico — Everett AquaSox star Julio Rodriguez and the Dominican Republic national team qualified for the upcoming Summer Olympics with an 8-5 win over Venezuela on Saturday.

Despite the Dominican Republic’s rich history of producing major leaguers, this marks just the country’s second-ever Olympic berth in baseball — and its first since 1992.

The Dominican Republic, Venezuela and the Netherlands squared off in Mexico this week in a three-team tournament to determine the final spot in the six-team Olympic field. The Dominican Republic went 2-0 in pool play to advance to Saturday’s title game, and then rallied past Venezuela in the championship to punch its ticket to Tokyo.

Rodriguez, ranked by Baseball America as the sport’s No. 3 overall prospect, struggled at the plate in this week’s tournament. In three games, he went just 1-for-10 with seven strikeouts. But in the eighth inning of Saturday’s Olympic-qualifying win, the 20-year-old phenom made a spectacular diving catch in right field.

And though his bat was cold this week, Rodriguez played a major role in the Dominican Republic’s qualifying journey.

At another Olympic qualifying event in Florida a few weeks ago, Rodriguez batted a scorching 11-for-24 in five games, with two massive home runs, seven RBI, seven runs scored and a key sliding catch. His play helped the Dominican Republic to a second-place finish out of eight teams in that event, which advanced the country to this week’s final qualifier.

The opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics is set for July 23, with the Olympic baseball competition slated to run July 28 through Aug. 7. The six-team Olympic baseball field consists of Japan, the United States, South Korea, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Israel.

In 28 games with the AquaSox this season, Rodriguez is batting .325 with six home runs, two triples and eight doubles. He leads the six-team High-A West in both batting average and slugging percentage (.581), and is tied for third in on-base percentage (.410).

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