Nakagawa drives Japanese triumph against defending world champions Venezuela

Hiroki Nakagawa scored the first run and drove in the go-ahead run with a single. The bullpen did not allow a hit in the final four innings. Inclement weather caused a one-hour delay.

Hiroki Nakagawa was key piece in World No. 1 Japan’s offense with three hits and and two RBIs in their 5-2 victory over reigning U-23 world champions Venezuela at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium on Saturday.

Lineups started aggressively, with the first two innings producing six runs and Japan taking a 4-2 lead into a rain delay. The game resumed and the bullpen posted four innings without allowing a hit, leading to Japan’s second victory in Group A

From the very first pitch, Japan were relentless. Takumi Fujii batted in the game’s first run, sending Nakagawa to home plate and giving Japan a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

Venezuela were unmoved and did not allow Japan to take all the spotlight. In the bottom of the first, Jesus Chirinos’ double to the right centre drove in two runs, helping Venezuela take a 2-1 lead.

In the top of the second, Venezuela starter Carlos Naveda loaded the bases hitting two batters and allowed a walk, then Ren Onishi hit a sacrifice fly that tied the game for Japan.

Nakagawa singled up the middle, driving in the go-ahead run. Japan added a run, extending the lead to 4-2.

After the second inning, rain delayed the game for 57 minutes. Play resumed with both lineups going quiet until Japan’s Tatsuya Shirono singled to right centre to extend the lead further to 5-2 in the top of the sixth.

Japan’s bullpen proved dominant. Ryuta Kudo, Ryotaro Sawayanagi, Raiku Katayama and Ryusei Gonda followed starter Tetsuyuki Fujimura and did not allow Venezuela a hit in the final four innings.

With two wins already secured, Japan lead Group A and will play hosts Chinese Taipei next on Sunday at 19.00 local time, while Venezuela will face Colombia at 10.00.