Backed by Ramon Hernandez's solo homer and a one-hitter thrown by its stellar pitching staff, Venezuela ended play in Pool D with a 2-0 win over Australia, punching its ticket into the second round of the World Baseball Classic.

Having finished the round-robin format with a 2-1 record, Venezuela assured itself a runner-up finish in Pool D. The top two teams from each of the four pools will advance to the second round. As the Pool D runner-up, Venezuela will face the Pool C runner-up in its opening second-round game on March 12 in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Ricans will face Cuba on Friday to determine the final standings in Pool C.

Kelvim Escobar led Venezuela's stellar pithcing effort, allowing one hit and registered five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.


Fri 03/10/06, 9:41 am EST



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