Japan had a 10-2 advantage in hits but failed to capitalize on their scoring opportunities, including leaving two runners in scoring position. Korea was behind by a score of 2-0 until the bottom of the seventh inning, when they scored on a run to base. However, shortstop Jin Nakamura made a crucial play that ensured Japan would take the victory.
Jin Nakamura’s play at shortstop was the deciding factor in Japan’s 2-1 victory over their East Asian rivals Korea in the IV WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup on Friday. Japan’s two runs were the result of dominant pitching and solid defense, but Nakamura’s play at the position saved the day for the World No. 1 team.
After six innings, Korea had only one hit, and that hit came in the bottom of the seventh inning. If shortstop Jin Nakamura had not made a diving grab on a sharp grounder, Korea would have tied the game with their second hit, which came in the bottom of the seventh.
The starting pitcher for Korea, Kijung Kim, had some early trouble as he issued a walk and hit a batter in the top of the first inning. Shortstop Hanbyul Kim handled the relay from the outfield and fired to catcher Seongbin Son to get the out at home. Japan’s left fielder Ryuga Ihara reached him with a single, and the out was recorded at home.
In the fourth period, Japan got on the board
Yuto Hirano, who was playing center field, knocked a double to the left side of the field, and then scored on Hiroki Nakagawa’s base hit.
Tetsuyuki Fujimura did a good job of controlling Korea’s hitters at the plate. After throwing three innings in which there was not a single error, he gave up a hit in the bottom of the fourth but did not commit any further errors before leaving the game.
Japan increased their lead to 2-0 in the top of the fifth inning by scoring a run off of reliever Juhyung Lee, who was having trouble finding his spots. Ihara was able to come home from second base thanks to a towering pop fly that was hit by shortstop Jin Nakamura. The ball landed on the right field foul line. Ren Onishi made an attempt to score from first, but he was thrown out at home plate for the second out.
When Japan’s star closer Ryusei Gonda came up to bat in the bottom of the seventh, he was given the ball. Gonda struggled to maintain control of the situation despite working with a 2-0 lead. He struck one batter, balked at another, and walked one batter.
As a result of a groundout, the Korean runners moved into position to score. When right fielder Sejin Cho hit a strong chopper down the middle of the left side, he had the expectation that he would bring both runners home. While diving and stopping the ball, Nakamura had a different plan in mind. Although Nakamura was unable to stop a run, he was able to protect the lead.
Gonda was able to get through the inning by getting catcher Seongbin Son to strike out and then getting pinch hitter Janghan Oh to hit a pop fly to the shortstop.
The score between Korea and Japan is presently 3-1 apiece. At 14.30 local time, Japan will compete against No. 4 Mexico in their final game of the Super Round. At 10.00 local time, Korea will compete against Colombia.
In the first inning, Ryuga Tara delivered a base-clearing single.
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