Miami: Japan won the fifth World Baseball Classic on Tuesday, defeating the defending champion United States 3-2 in the final of the closely watched tournament.
The Japanese team, nicknamed Samurai Japan, clinched a WBC victory for the first time in three tournaments, and the WBC win was the third for the country. Led by manager Hideki Kuriyama, Samurai Japan won all games in the latest WBC, beating China, South Korea, the Czech Republic and Australia in the round-robin group stage, routing Italy in the quarterfinal and earning a walk-off win against Mexico in the semifinal before the victorious final match.
In the championship game at LoanDepot Park in Miami, Japan’s Munetaka Murakami belted a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning to catch up with the United States 1-1.
Later in the same inning, third-base runner Kazuma Okamoto scored while Lars Nootbaar grounded out to first. Okamoto blasted a solo homer in the fourth inning to widen Japan’s lead 3-1.
After the United States came close to Japan 3-2 in the eighth inning, two-way star Shohei Ohtani took the mound for Japan in the top of the ninth inning, allowing no runs to the United States.
The two countries faced in a WBC final for the first time.
Ohtani was chosen as the MVP of the fifth WBC. Members of Samurai Japan included major players from Japanese professional baseball teams, such as Murakami, an infielder of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, and Orix Buffaloes right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto as well as U.S. major league players like Ohtani, who belongs to the Los Angeles Angels, Nootbaar, an outfielder of the St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres right-hander Yu Darvish and outfielder Masataka Yoshida, who is set to debut for the Boston Red Sox this year.
Japan was WBC champion in the first tournament in 2006 and the second tournament in 2009. Japan was led by Sadaharu Oh in the first WBC and Tatsunori Hara in the second tournament.