World Baseball Classic: Japan defeat USA in tense final to win championship

Japan has won the 2023 World Baseball Classic championship by defeating Team USA 3-2 on Tuesday night.

Thanks to this victory, Samurai Japan has now won three WBC titles, adding to their 2006 and 2009 triumphs. Contrastingly, the USA missed out on the chance to become multiple World Baseball Classic champs after going all the way in 2017.

The home side gained an early lead in front of a packed loanDepot Park in Miami, FL. At the top of the second inning, Trea Turner continued his red-hot form to crush a home run and give USA the lead.

However, Team Japan was not behind for long. Munetaka Murakami responded with a home run of his own, levelling the score at one apiece. In the same inning, Lars Nootbaar’s fielder’s choice with the bases loaded allowed Samurai Japan to get ahead.

At the bottom of the fourth, the leaders then extended their advantage. Kazuma Okamoto hit his second home run of the World Baseball Classic to put Japan 3-1 up.

Japan decided to close out the game by turning to two of its star MLB pitchers. Firstly, Yu Darvish of the San Diego Padres entered the fray to negotiate the eighth inning. Unfortunately, Darvish gave up a home run to Kyle Schwarber which cut his team’s lead to just one run.

The decisive ninth inning pitching duties were thus left to none other than Shohei Ohtani. The 2021 AL MVP did give up a walk but forced Mookie Betts into a double play. Ohtani then faced his Los Angeles Angels teammate, Mike Trout, for the final at-bat.

He struck out his fellow superstar, sealing Japan’s third World Baseball Classic.

Japan: their road to World Baseball Classic glory

As hosts of Pool B, the 2023 victors enjoyed home-field advantage for their first four games. As a result, Japan went undefeated throughout the opening Pool series. They swept aside China 8-1 in their first game, before defeating South Korea 13-4.

Following this, a comfortable 10-2 victory over the Czech Republic preceded a 7-1 beating of Australia to see out the groups.

Japan then remained in the Tokyo Dome for their quarterfinal. Here, they handled their business by defeating Italy 9-3. The semi-final was nowhere near as straightforward, though.

Mexico nearly overcame Samurai Japan in a thrilling last-four matchup. Thanks to a pair of RBIs from Alex Verdugo and Isaac Paredes in the eighth, Mexico had a 5-4 lead heading into the final inning. But Japan showed their class at the bottom of the ninth.

Shohei Ohtani hit a line-drive double to set his team up for the inning. Shortly after, Masataka Yoshida earned a walk that put the game-winning runner on base, too. This allowed Munetaka Murakami to come to the plate, where he hit a double to give Japan a walk-off victory.

Most impressively, they have won the 2023 edition of the WBC by going undefeated in every single game. Japan will thus look to become four-time champions at the next World Baseball Classic in 2026.

Featured image credit: Getty