By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
History took place in Hangzhou, China, on Tuesday as the Chinese National baseball team defeated Japan for the first time in any international baseball tournament.
China won 1-0 in nine innings at the 19th Asian Games and improved to 3-0 in the tournament. They defeated Laos 15-0 in their first game on Sunday and the Philippines 2-0 on Monday.
Outfielder Kohei Sasagawa grounded into a double play in the bottom of the ninth for the game’s final two outs. China’s first baseman, Cao Jie, pumped his fist in excitement. China’s players on the field and in the dugout rushed toward the pitcher’s mound to celebrate with one another.
The two stars of the game for China were centerfielder Pei Liang and starting pitcher Xiang Wang. Liang hit an RBI single in the top of the second to score the only run for either team. He pulled a fastball out of reach of Japan’s third baseman and shortstop into left field. Shortstop Jin Yang scored from third base on the hit. Liang also hit a home run against Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
“I thought a fastball would come from a good pitcher in Japan,” Liang told reporters after the game. “So we all discussed and decided to prepare as soon as possible.”
Wang was dominant in his five innings. He allowed no earned runs and struck out one. Wang gave up one hit in the contest, a single to Ryo Kinami in the bottom of the third. Wang struggled at the World Baseball Classic for China, allowing seven earned runs on eight hits in 2.2 innings.
Japan could not muster any offensive rhythm against the pitching staff of China. The combination of Xiang Wang, Xudi Suo, Changlong Su, Ningji Li, and Chaoqun Zheng allowed two hits and struck out seven of Japan’s hitters in the game. What makes their performance even more impressive is how dominant Japan’s bats were in the previous two games. Japan defeated the Philippines 6-0 on Sunday and Laos 18-0 on Monday.
“It’s all about the fact that the Chinese pitcher was good,” Japan’s manager Akio Ishii told the media after the game. “The batters also wanted to hit well but just couldn’t catch it. I’m sorry, but I want to praise the other players. They were great pitchers with high concentration.”
Shunya Morita, Japan’s starting pitcher in the game, was not pleased with his performance. Morita allowed one run on four hits in three innings. He walked two and had three strikeouts. “I think that I put out a useless fastball, which led to a loss,” Morita told reporters.
Japan (2-1) will now have to re-group in preparation for the Super Round on Thursday, October 5. They will play South Korea at 11 p.m. ET.
China (3-0) will play the winner of Group B, Chinese Taipei (3-0) on Thursday, October 5 at 5:30 a.m. ET.
The Gold Medal Game is Saturday, October 7 at 5 a.m. ET. All contests at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, are played at the Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Culture Center in Shaoxing, China.
Current standings for the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China
1. China – 3-0
2. Japan – 2-1
3. Philippines – 1-2
4. Laos – 0-3
1. Chinese Taipei – 3-0
2. South Korea – 2-1
3. Hong Kong – 1-2
4. Thailand – 0-3