MIAMI - Horns honked, percussion pulsed, and school kids squealed. Miami can make quite a din when the Dominicans win.

The visiting team on the scoreboard, the Dominican Republic made itself at home by beating the United States 3-1 Thursday night to earn a berth in the final round of the World Baseball Classic.

Pinch hitter Erick Aybar singled home Nelson Cruz with the go-ahead run in the ninth for the Dominicans, who improved to 5-0. The Dominican Republic is assured of a spot in the semifinals beginning Sunday in San Francisco, where two-time defending champion Japan and the Netherlands have already advanced.

The United States must face Puerto Rico tonight, with the winner earning a trip to San Francisco and the loser being eliminated. Ryan Vogelsong will pitch for the Americans against Nelson Figueroa.

Playing the U.S. team for the first time ever in the WBC, the Dominicans drew raucous support all night, especially in a noisy ninth.

"No doubt it's the best atmosphere I ever played in," said Cruz, who has twice reached the World Series. "Thanks to the fans, we had extra motivation you don't have every day."

With the score tied at 1, Cruz led off with a double against Craig Kimbrel (0-1), then took third on a groundout. Aybar singled sharply and ran to first with his index finger raised as his teammates poured out of the dugout to greet Cruz crossing the plate.

Aybar's hit came one pitch after a called strike two left him irate.

"An umpire makes a mistake," Aybar said. "What I did was forget about it and make contact."

Until Aybar's hit, the Dominicans were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

Aybar stole second and scored on a two-out single by Jose Reyes.

"They beat our closer," U.S. manager Joe Torre said. "They beat a great one. You tip your hat to them."

Former Miami Marlin Hanley Ramirez silenced jeers from the crowd with a home run in the second inning for the other Dominican run.

Pedro Strop (3-0) pitched a scoreless eighth. Fernando Rodney, the fifth Dominican pitcher, threw a perfect ninth to complete a six-hitter for his fourth save. He has not allowed a hit in 4 1/3 innings.

With the final out, several teammates joined Rodney in his familiar arrow-shooting ritual. The victory left Dominican manager Tony Peña choking back tears.

"I feel so emotional," he said in the interview room over the clamor of partying Dominicans on a nearby plaza. "Today was the battle of two titans."

Minnesota Twins right-hander Samuel Deduno walked Eric Hosmer with the bases loaded to score the lone U.S. run in the opening inning.


• What: Puerto Rico vs. U.S.

• Where: Miami

• When: 4 p.m.

• TV: MLB Network