After a tense eight-inning deadlock, Taiwan were crushed in the ninth frame as Japan’s hitters came alive to score three runs for a 4-1 win in their World Baseball Challenge semi-final on Wednesday.
Once again, Taiwan came close, but fell short in a crucial showdown against their fierce archrivals, leaving them with a 5-2 record and to vie for the bronze medal against the US (3-4) yesterday at Citizen Field in Prince George, Canada.
Japan (4-3) are to face Cuba (5-1) in the final, to be played at the same venue.
In Wednesday’s semi-final, it was Japan first baseman Yasufumi Takahashi who broke open the scoring with an RBI-single to give his team a 1-0 lead at the top of the second inning.
Taiwan replied in their next at-bat when centerfielder Luo Guo-long clobbered a solo homer to level the score in the bottom of the second.
It remained 1-1 through eight frames, as Taiwan starting pitcher Kuo Chun-lin put in a solid performance to hold the Samurai Warriors at bay.
In the pivotal ninth inning, Japan’s batters trampled all over Taiwan’s relievers to secure the win.
Japan second baseman Ren Yamasaki shook Taiwan up by leading off the frame with a solo blast to put his team ahead 2-1.
The Samurai Warriors then loaded up the bases on three singles, as Taiwan brought in righty Hsieh Jung-hao — their third reliever of the inning — to contain the damage.
Facing two outs, Hsieh had the chance to set up a Taiwan comeback in the bottom of the ninth, with the Islanders trailing by just one run.
However, Japan leftfielder Toshiki Yamada came through with a clutch single against Hsieh, driving in two runs to power the Samurai Warriors ahead 4-1.
Taiwan were unable to mount a rally in the bottom of the ninth as they were held by Japan reliever Isao Numao. With one runner on and no outs, catcher Huang Chia-wei hit into a double-play to snuff out Taiwan’s hopes of evening the score.