Slugger Seiya Suzuki last night hit a home run for the second game in a row to lead Japan to an 8-1 victory over Taiwan and first place in Group B of the World Baseball Softball Confederation Premier 12 tournament, while Venezuela earlier eased past Puerto Rico.
However, Taiwan still advance to the Super Round in Japan next week.
With a lineup featuring top hitters from Taiwan’s four professional teams and starting pitcher Liao Yi-chung of Brothers Baseball Club, the hosts had high hopes of getting a win against archrivals Japan and seizing first place in the group in front of a capacity crowd at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium.
Photo: Liao Yao-tung, Taipei Times
However, Samurai Japan had other ideas, with Suzuki leading the charge at the plate.
Following a three-run homer against Puerto Rico in a 4-0 victory on Wednesday, Suzuki last night hit a triple in the opening frame before blasting a two-run homer in the third inning for Japan to take an early 4-0 lead.
Liao was in trouble from the start, with Kensuke Kondoh getting a walk, reaching second on a wild pitch and opening the scoring on Suzuki’s triple.
Masataka Yoshida then stroked a single to send Suzuki home.
In the bottom of the first, Taiwan thought they had leveled the score when catcher Lin Hong-yu connected on a fastball by Japan starter Shota Imanaga. The ball sailed high toward left field, but the strong wind forced it to bounce off the wall. Lin, thinking he had a hit a home run, was jogging slowly and was forced to quickly run back to first base as Japan fielded the ball.
Chu Yu-hsien flied out to end the inning, which would be the story of the evening for Taiwan, whose all-star lineup wasted numerous opportunities and could not deliver with runners on base.
In the third, Suzuki hit his homer off a delivery from Taiwan’s second pitcher, Wang Tsung-hao, with one man on base, lifting the visitors to 4-0.
Japan added another run in the sixth inning to make it 5-0, before a three-run burst in the ninth saw the visitors put the game comfortably out of reach.
In the bottom of the ninth, Jhang Jin-de singled with a runner on third to pull one back for the hosts before Japan’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto shut down any further hopes of a late comeback.
In the other Group B game yesterday afternoon, Venezuela cranked out 16 hits to crush Puerto Rico 7-1 at the Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium.
Designated hitter Luis Castro had four hits and drove in two runs, while catcher Jose Godoy, outfielder Diego Rincones and second baseman Ali Castillo each contributed three hits.
Venezuela scored first and raced to an early 2-0 lead, while Puerto Rico could not get their offense going against Williams Perez, who took the win after pitching five scoreless innings with five strikeouts and no walks before three relievers closed out the game.
After scoring another run in the fifth, Venezuela added two runs over each of the next two innings before Puerto Rico replied with a lone run in the bottom of the seventh.
Yesterday’s games concluded Group B play, with Japan and Taiwan placing first and second respectively and advancing to the Super Round, while Venezuela finished third and Puerto Rico fourth.
The Super Round is to be played from Monday to Saturday at Chiba Marine Stadium and the Tokyo Dome. The Finals will be at the Tokyo Dome on Nov. 17, while the third and fourth-placed national teams are to compete in the bronze medal game.
Taiwan and Japan are to be joined by Mexico and the US, who finished first and second respectively in Group A after eliminating the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands.
In Group C, hosted by Seoul and scheduled to finish play today, South Korea remained undefeated atop the table after beating Canada 3-1 last night.
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