JAPAN BEATS SOUTH KOREA 2-1 IN THE SECOND GAME OF THE U23 WORLD CUP SUPER ROUND

Matthew Tallarini, Chief Correspondent, World Baseball Network

1:00 PM EST

Number one rank Japan is looking to continue its surge in the U23 World Cup as they go up against number three South Korea during the second day of the Super Round.  Japan is looking to capture gold for the first time since the 2016 WBSC World Cup.  South Korea has not been a medalist since they won Bronze back in 2016.  Japan entered the game with just one loss during the U23 World Cup against Chinese Taipei in their third game. The Samurai ball club is also coming off a hard-fought win over Australia during their first game of the super round by the score of 2-1. South Korea has been undefeated since the start of the tournament and is seeking to capture its first-ever gold medal in its nation’s history.  First game for South Korea during the Super Round from the night before caught a 6-2 win over second-ranked Chinese Taipei. Japan’s manager Akio Ishii would have some work cut out for him as he calls on starting pitcher Tetsuyuki Fujimura to position Team Samurai during the Super Round.  South Korea manager Yeon Soo Lee would pencil in Kijung Kim as their starting pitcher. 

During the first inning of action, no harm was done by both offenses.  Kijung Kim would have just a little rough patch for Japan’s bat.  Kim would pitch around the Japan offense allowing runners in scoring position scenario with less than two outs.  Kim would eventually get Jin Nakamura to fly out to left center for the final out of the top of the first.  Fujimura would retire South Korea’s bats in order 1-2-3 during the bottom half of the first.  Japan would come out at the top of the fourth, looking to strike on the board first.  Kim would record the first two outs of the fourth inning with no issues.  Yuto Hirano came up to the plate looking to do damage to the South Korean pitching staff.   Hirano sat back on the pitch and drove a double down the left field line for a two out hit.  The next batter, Hiroki Nakagawa, would single to right field, resulting in Hirano scoring from second base as Japan went up 1-0 in the fourth.  Kim would get 2B Masashi Marayuma to strike out looking on a 2-2 count to end the inning for Japan’s offense.  The fourth inning would be Kim’s last inning of work as he allowed five hits, one earned run, two strikeouts, and two walks during his start.  Fujimura would have no harm done to him in his last inning of work during the bottom of the fourth as he recorded the first two outs with ease.  CF Donghee Yoon would step to the plate looking to get the South Korean bats going as he laces a double to right center for a two out hit.  Fujimura facing his last batter of the night, would get DH Seunghwan Song to foul out behind the plate as catcher Hisaya Nammoku snags the ball out of the air for the final out of the fourth inning.  

In the top of the fifth inning, Lee went to his bullpen as he called upon Juhyung Lee to keep the game at one.  Lee’s first batter would be 1B Kanta Aiba, as he gets him to line out to first base as the first out of the inning.  Ryuga Ihara would dig to the batter’s box, looking to capitalize on insurance runs for the Japan offense as he laces a single to left center to start the threat.  Next batter, Ren Onishi would single to right center resulting in Ihara advancing to second base.  A few moments later, Jin Nakamura would double down the right field line having Ihara come around to score to capture a 2-0 lead for Samurai Japan.  Lee would be forced to go to the bullpen during the fifth after Juhyung Lee would eventually give up two walks before being pulled from the game.  Kisun Lee would come in for South Korea to stop the bleeding as he would face pinch hitter Takumi Fujii replacing Hirano.  Lee would get Fujii to ground out to shortstop to end the top half of the fifth inning.  Fujimara would not go back out for the fifth inning as he finished with four innings pitched, one hit allowed, no earned runs, no walks, and three strikeouts during his stellar performance.  Relief pitcher Takuto Yanagihashi would enter the game for the Samurai ball club as he retired the South Korean offense in order 1-2-3 to end the fifth. 

Both bullpens would begin to have a chess match during the later innings.  No runs would be scored by either team in the 6th inning of this historic clash.  South Korea would have relief pitcher Hyunsoo Baek go two innings pitched, with two hits allowed, no earned runs,  two walks, and three strikeouts quieting Japan’s bats during the late innings.  Japan would have Ryusei Gonda enter the seventh inning to close the game with a 2-0 lead.  The first batter first basemen Taeyang Han would be hit by a pitch to lead off the inning for South Korea.  Gonda would go from the stretch position and balk during Donghee Yoon’s at bat advancing Han to first base.  Lee would later walk during his at bat drawing a first and second position for the South Korea offense with no outs.  Seughwan Song would come to the plate looking to put South Korea on the board for the first time in the game.  Song would draw his weight back to the plate and chopped a slow roller ground ball to first base, resulting in Han advancing to the third and Yoon advancing to second for the first out.  The next batter, Sejin Cho, who would end up hitting a well-placed single in reach of where the shortstop was positioned to capture the first run of the ball game for South Korea.  Gonda would later get catcher Seongbin Son to strike out swinging on a 2-2 count for the second out.  Janghan Oh would be the final hope for South Korea as he came into the game to pinch hit for shortstop Hanbyul Kim. Would Oh be the savior for the South Korea ball club and help them tie the score up at two? Gonda would attack and battle him during the at bat.  Cho took his lead from first base as Gonda came set during the 1-2 count, he threw a ball that allowed Cho to slide in safely at second to get into scoring position.  On the next pitch, Gonda got Oh to fly pop up to third base as Japan captures their second win during the Super Round by a score of 2-1 over the hard fought South Korea ball club.  Japan would move to first place during the Super Round capturing the tiebreaker over South Korea.   Japan will play Mexico during the final game of the Super Round at 1:00 PM in Taipei City and will look to position themselves for the gold medal game.  South Korea will face Columbia during the final game of the Super Round to position themselves in the Gold Medal game with their record at 3-1 against the current nations left in the 2022 U23 WBSC World Cup.