Japan yesterday edged Taiwan 1-0 to win the Asian Baseball Championship at Taipei Dome, despite star pitcher Hsu Jo-hsi giving up just four hits in six innings.
Unlike their showdown in the 2019 tournament when Taiwan pipped Japan 5-4, this time the teams battled for every hit, with the Wei Chuan Dragons’ Hsu striking out eight batters, giving up just one run off four hits.
That was all world No. 1 Japan needed for the title, and after outlasting Taiwan for a 1-0 victory in 10 innings in the Super Round on Friday, they finished the tournament unbeaten.
Yesterday’s first two innings flew by with little action, as Hsu struck out three batters and gave up just one hit, while Japan’s Mizuki Kato struck out two and allowed two hits.
The game started to take shape in the top of third inning, when Kato pegged Chen Hsiao-yun, sending the right fielder rolling out of the batter’s box clutching his hand. He was walked onto first base after a consultation, with Kato giving him an apologetic nod before returning to the game.
The incident was immediately followed by a fielding error by third baseman Hiroki Nakagawa off a hit from shortstop Lin Chen-fei, which put Lin on first base and sent Chen to second.
However, before Taiwan could make any headway, left fielder Ryuga Ihara caught a fly ball off designated hitter Liao Chien-fu, ending the frame.
In the bottom of the third, second baseman Yukiya Yano broke the standoff, scoring off an RBI single from center fielder Motoki Mukoyama.
After six innings, Hsu was replaced by Lin Shao-en, while Kato, who struck out four from Taiwan, was swapped out for Yoshiki Fuchigami in the top of the seventh inning.
In the bronze medal game at Taipei Dome, Kim Dong-hyeok led a dominant South Korea to a 7-0 rout of the Philippines, with a runaway five-run seventh inning.
World No. 4 South Korea, who were looking to recover from their 5-2 defeat to Japan in the Super Round on Saturday and seeking redemption for their loss to China in the 2019 bronze medal game, started off strong with Kim Dong-hyeok striking out four batters in five scoreless innings.
In the bottom of the second inning, second baseman Jeong Jun-jae scored off a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Kim Beom-seok to put the first point on the board. It was the first of three runs the Philippines’ Romeo Jasmin Jr would give up in his six innings on the mound.
In the bottom of the fourth, first baseman Na Seung-yeup scored off a sacrifice fly by center fielder Jung Hyeon-seung.
The Philippines might have thought they could pull out from the 2-0 deficit, after coming within one point of tying Taiwan in the Super Round the night before, but South Korea swept away all hopes of a victory for the winners of the inaugural 1954 Asian Baseball Championship in the seventh inning.
As the top three teams in the tournament, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea automatically qualify for the U-23 Baseball World Cup, which the World Baseball Softball Confederation last week announced would be held in Zhejiang, China. Although China did not participate in the Asian Baseball Championship, it received an automatic berth as hosts.
Additional reporting by CNA
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