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Japan Looks to Avenge 2015 Loss to Team All-Europe At 2024 CARNEXT Samurai Japan Series

 Leif Skodnick  |    Mar 3rd, 2024 10:26am EST

The Kyocera Dome in Osaka, Japan will host the 2024 CARNEXT Samurai Japan Series. (Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network

Japan, currently No. 1 in the World Baseball Rankings, has nothing to prove on the international stage.

And while the European nations trail countries Asia and North America on the diamond, they can put a competitive team on the field when they join forces. They proved that on March 11, 2015, when Team Europe defeated Japan 6-2 at the Tokyo Dome, earning a split in the inaugural series between Europe and Japan.

Team All-Europe will try and shock Japan once again at the 2024 CARNEXT Samurai Japan Series, a two-game set between Team All-Europe and Japan at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, Japan on March 6 and 7.

“There’s no question European players are improving with each year,” Japan manager Hirokazu Ibata told the World Baseball Softball Confederation in advance of the series. “We played Team Europe in an exhibition in 2015 and split the series. We beat them in the first game, but we had to come from behind in the eighth, so there was every chance we could have been swept. They are that talented.”

Without question, the split in 2015 put a scare into Japan.

“We played the Czechs last year, the Netherlands are strong, as well as Spain and Italy. Germany too. I don’t think we can let up, because Europe is constantly improving,” Ibata said.

And so Ibata has prepared a solid roster for the pair of games at the Kyocera Dome, the home of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Orix Buffaloes.

Six members of the 2020 Olympic gold medal-winning team are on the Japanese roster:  pitchers Shunpeita Morishita, Riyoji Kuribayashi, and Kaima Taira; infielders Sousuke Genda and Munetaka Murakami; and outfielder Kensuke Kondoh.

Morishita, who started the gold medal game at the Olympics, and Kuribayashi earned the save in Japan’s 2-0 triumph in Tokyo. 

Kondoh, who plays in Nippon Professional Baseball with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, has won titles with Japan at the Olympics, the 2023 World Baseball Classic, and the WBSC Premier 12, and is one of the best players plying his trade outside Major League Baseball. At the WBC, Kondoh hit .346 with 2 home runs, a OBP of .500, and an OPS of 1.115. He’s coming off the best year of his career in NPB, where he played 143 games and slashed .303/.431/.528, racked up 109 walks, hit 26 home runs, and notched 87 RBI.

Ibata also added four college players to the roster, pitchers Yumeto Kanemaru and Yuto Nakamura, infielder Rui Muneyama and outfielder Misho Nishikawa. 

“I added four college players because I thought it would be a plus to wear the uniform of a top team once in preparation for the WBC and the Olympics,” Ibata told the WBSC website.

Team All-Europe manager Marco Mazzieri will have two former Major Leaguers on the roster in third baseman Alex Liddi and outfielder Engle Beltre. 

“We selected players from five European countries. We would have liked to extend our search beyond Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Czechia and Germany because there are good players in all of Europe. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to see these players in person, and we didn’t feel like picking players based on reports only,” Mazzeri told the WBSC.

“I had extensive talks with my coaching staff about every single position to cover. We looked not only at the best players possible. We looked for players who could contribute to creating the right chemistry.”

Twenty-three of the 28 players on Team All-Europe have professional experience, with five countries contributing players. Current European champion Spain contributed eight players, including reigning European Championship MVP Wander Encarnacion, the Netherlands has seven on the team, Italy has six, the Czech Republic has four, and Germany has three.

Other notable players for Team All-Europe include Czech catcher Martin Cervenka, who rose as high as Triple-A in the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets organizations, German pitcher Sven Schueller, who reached Triple-A in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, and Czech outfielder Marek Chlup, who played NCAA Division II baseball at North Greenville University in South Carolina and appeared in the 2023 WBC for the Czechs. 

Chlup had four hits at the WBC and drove in three runs, and will play for the Lake Country Dockhounds in the American Association in 2024.

Prediction – Nippon Professional Baseball’s teams began training for the season in January, while the baseball season has yet to begin in Europe. It’d be reasonable to expect Team All-Europe to have some rust, but then, the majority of the All-Europe roster is comprised of players with professional experience, so they’ll be ready to play.

While this is not the strongest lineup Japan could put on the field, as they don’t have MLB stars like Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Masataka Yoshida, and Kodai Senga, they have a high ceiling, and with Kuribayashi coming out of the bullpen, Europe will have to face a shut-down closer should they find themselves behind after eight innings. Likewise, the Japan batters, led by Kensuke Kondoh, have an uncanny way of making contact, putting the ball in play, and manufacturing runs.

“In 2015, we had one win and one loss. I understand European teams are improving, but I want to win both games this time,” Ibata told the WBSC website in advance of the series.

Don’t be surprised if Team All-Europe manages to steal a game again, but the memory of that loss at the Tokyo Dome in 2015 lingers, and Ibata and his team are coming to play. They’ll take both games of the series, 5-1 and 3-2.

Venue – Both games of the CARNEXT Samurai Japan Series will be played at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, the home of the NPB’s Orix Buffaloes and the secondary home of the NPB’s Hanshin Tigers. The ballpark, opened in 1997, seats 36,627 for baseball and has an artificial playing surface with sliding pits.   

Streaming Information – The CARNEXT Samurai Japan Series will be streamed live via GameTime for $7.99.

Fans will have access to both games. Viewers must log in on GameTime and then buy the Japan vs. Europe Series Pass, available here

CARNEXT Samurai Japan Series Schedule
March 6, 2024
5 a.m. EST – Japan vs. Team All-Europe – Game One

March 7, 2024
5 a.m. EST – Japan vs. Team All-Europe – Game Two

Team Japan Roster

Pitchers (12) – Shunpeita Yamashita, Hiroya Miyagi (ORIX Buffaloes); Shinya Matsuyama (Chunichi Dragons); Atsuki Taneichi (Chiba Lotte Marines); Masato Morishita (Hiroshima Toyo Carp); Yumeto Kanemaru (Kansai University); Riyoji Kuribayashi (Hiroshima Toyo Carp); Chihiro Sumida (Seibu Lions); Shota Watanabe (Rakuten Golden Eagles); Yuto Nakamura (Aichi Institute of Technology); Haruka Nemoto (Nippon Ham Fighters): Kaima Taira (Seibu Lions).

Catchers (3) – Yuto Koga (Seibu Lions); Shogo Sakakura (Hiroshima Toyo Carp); Yuudai Yamamoto (Yokohama DeNA Baystars).

Infielders (7) – Sousuke Genda (Seibu Lions); Takumu Nakano (Hanshin Tigers); Rui Muneyama (Meiji University); Koutarou Kurebayashi (Orix Buffaloes); Takaya Ishikawa (Chunichi Dragons); Kaito Kozono (Hiroshima Toyo Carp); Munetaka Murakami (Tokyo Yakult Swallows).

Outfielders (6) – Misho Nishikawa (Aoyama Gakuin University); Kensuke Kondoh (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks); Yasutaka Shiomi (Tokyo Yakult Swallows); Shunsuke Tamura (Hiroshima Toyo Carp); Chubei Mannami (Nippon Ham Fighters).

Staff – Hirokazu Ibata (Manager), Yoshinori Murata (Coach), Eishin Soyogi (Coach), Kazuki Yoshimi (Coach), Makoto Kaneko (Coach), Yoshiuki Kamei (Coach).

Team All-Europe Roster

Pitchers (13) – Daniel Alvarez, Fernando Baez (Spain); Matteo Bocchi, Tiago Da Silva, Luis Lugo (Italy); Tom De Blok, Lars Huijer, Kevin Kelly, Franklyn Van Gurp (Netherlands); Martin Schneider (Czechia); Sven Schueller, Marcus Solbach, Dalton Von Schamann (Germany).

Catchers (3) – Martin Cervenka (Czechia), Gabriel Lino (Spain), Alberto Mineo (Italy).

Infielders (7) – Wander Encarnacion, Edison Valerio (Spain); Alex Liddi, Ricardo Paolini (Italy); Martin Muzik (Cechia); Juremi Profar, Sharlon Schoop (Netherlands).

Outfielders (4) – Engel Beltre, Daniel Jimenez (Spain); Mareck Chlup (Czechia), Noah Williamson (Switzerland).

Utility Players (1) – Delano Selassa (Netherlands).

Staff – Sidney De Jong (Bench Coach), Alessandro Maestri (Pitching Coach), Luis Camargo (Third Base Coach), Pavel Chadim (First Base Coach), Evert Jan T’Hoen (Infield Coach), Aritz Garcia (Bullpen Coach), Francisco Cervelli (Special Assistant).