Taiwan continued their winning ways in the preliminaries of the World Baseball Challenge, topping Japan’s JX Eneos 7-1 on Saturday at Citizen Field in Prince George, Canada, to improve to a 3-1 mark.
Starter Yang Jhih-long picked up the big win with seven solid innings of play, allowing one run on five hits while fanning three and walking three to cool off a Japanese attack that had averaged 8.5 runs per game in their two previous matches.
The Chinese Culture University junior righty — who starred for Taiwan in last month’s World Port Tournament in the Netherlands with 11 strikeouts in 8-1/3 innings pitched — made an impressive debut in Prince George with a fastball clocked in the low 90s and a wicked curveball that kept the Japanese hitters off-balance.
Other than in the third inning, when JX Eneos mustered their lone run of the game on a leadoff walk, a single and a sacrifice fly, Yang allowed only two Japanese runners to reach scoring positions through the seventh.
Leading the offensive surge for the victors were Luo Guo-long and Wang Po-jung, who homered for the second straight game on a combined three-for-seven outing to account for five of Taiwan’s seven runs.
Taiwan wasted little time getting to JX Eneos starter Tomoya Mikami with three quick runs in the opening frame on the strength of two singles and a two-run double by Luo to spot Yang a 3-0 lead before the Taiwanese righty even took the mound.
After the Japanese team answered with a run in the third that made it 3-1, the game suddenly turned into a defensive struggle with neither team able to score until a two-run seventh that provided some breathing space for Taiwan en route to the convincing win.
Taiwan were due to take on the US yesterday in a rematch of their opening game, in which the Islanders held off a late rally to escape with a 9-7 win.
Taiwan beat Canada 8-2 on Friday, and suffered their only defeat of the tournament so far at the hands of Cuba on Thursday.
CUBA 3, US 2
Cuba remained unbeaten in the tournament following a narrow win over the US in the late game on Saturday thanks to a tiebreaking RBI single by Mario Jorge Vega in the top of the ninth.
In a see-saw affair that featured three lead changes, it was Cuba who drew first blood with a run in the top of the third.
However, the US battled back with a run each in the fifth and sixth to seize a 2-1 advantage.
Cuba managed to tie the game at 2-2 with a run in the seventh, which set the stage for Vega’s ninth-inning match-winning heroics.