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A 3-2 win over the USA seals Japan's historic third championship. Ohtani wins MVP award

With its Premier12 title in 2019, Olympic (2021) and World Classic (2023) titles, Japan confirms its position as the top team in the world

MIAMI - It was Shohei Ohtani who closed for Samurai Japan and struck out his teammate Mike Trout, fulfilling Japan's promise as a great favorite. A sold-out stadium in Miami brought together 36,098 fans to watch the match at LoanDepot Park in Miami, when Japan beat Team USA 3-2 and won the World Classic title in 2023.

This is the third title for the Asian baseball giant, which also won titles in 2006 and 2009. At the World Classics, only Japan has reached all semifinals.

In closing a third and historic victory, there was nothing better than Shohei Ohtani, the legendary pitcher and batter, who finished the tournament with an out over his Major League teammate, Mike Trout, and jumped in celebration, as his teammates ran to the mound to celebrate Japan's 3-2 win over the North American team.

However, there was still drama in the ninth episode. It was expected that Darvish and Ohtani would appear at the end of the game, and when the right-hander warmed up in the bullpen during the eighth inning, everyone was already anticipating the matchup with Trout.

That ninth inning, Ohtani began it by walking Jeff McNeil, who had replaced Tim Anderson in the game. A potential extension of the match seemed imminent, but Mookie Betts was retired on a ground ball double play. This silenced the stadium and set up Trout's confrontation.

It wasn't Trout's night or Team USA's. Very high-quality pitching effort by the Japanese team set the tournament record with 75 strikeouts. This made it impossible for Team USA to adjust so quickly. Trout finished with three of eight Team USA strikeouts in the game.

Team USA finished 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, leaving nine men on base.

Ohtani said after the game: "I've seen Japan win and I just wanted to be a part of it". In his words, "I am grateful for having such a wonderful experience. I hope that the next generation can be inspired by such triumphs." Asked whether Ohtani would join the team in the next WBC - confirmed for 2026 - Ohtani said emphatically, "Of course, I would."

As a result of their third win, Japan has also been confirmed as the world's number one national team, and they are the second team to win the event undefeated, 7-0, after the Dominican Republic team achieved an 8-0 record in the 2013 World Classic's complicated format. As a result of their victory, Japan now has the best record in World Classics, 30-8.

As a result of his double offensive efforts and from the mound, Ohtani was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Ohtani noted that the individual award is a great honor, but that the award also shows that Japanese baseball is capable of beating any team in the world.

Team USA took a 1-0 lead in the second inning after Trea Turner hit a 92 mph fastball off left-handed starter Shota Imanaga. The home run would be Turner's fifth in the tournament, and in the third consecutive game he hit one. In addition to this, he tied the record held by Korean Seung Yuop Lee since 2006 with 5 home runs, thus extending the record for the USA in this tournament.

However, Japan would respond to that moment when, in the bottom half of that inning, Munetaka Murakami struck Merrill Kelly's first pitch, a 92.4 mph fastball, for a home run that sped into the right-center seats to tie the game.

In the inning, Japan would load the bases with two hits and a walk, and Lars Nootbaar would give up a ground ball to first base, which would be enough to allow Kazuma Okamoto to score from third.

With Okamoto's fourth solo home run against reliever Kyle Freeland, the Japanese extend their lead to 3-1, which proves decisive.

Despite being dominated for most of the night and receiving five shutouts since Turner's homer in the second inning, Team USA put pressure on the scoreboard in the eighth when Yu Darvish came on in relief and allowed a home run from the first batter he faced. , Kyle Schwarber, to bring Team USA within 3-2.

However, it would be the last run Team USA scored against Japanese pitching.

The big bats for Team USA failed to perform when they were needed most in the third, fifth, and seventh innings. Nolan Arenado and Schwarber walked in the third, but Turner struck out to end the threat.

In the fifth, Mookie Betts started it off with a single, but Trout and Paul Goldschmidt picked up back-to-back strikeouts, and Schwarber ended up popping out to center field after Nolan Arenado's single to move Betts to second. In the seventh, against reliever Taisei Ota, McNeill walked and Betts singled to left leading off the inning, but Trout – on a terrible night for him – gave up the first out on a lined out to the right field as Goldschmidt closed the inning with a groundout for a double.

The Japanese team began their tournament journey as part of Group B in Tokyo. They won 8-1 over China, 13-4 over South Korea, 10-2 over the Czech Republic, and 7-1 against Australia. They beat Italy 9-3 in the quarterfinals and in the semifinals they edged Mexico 6-5, in one of the most thrilling games of the tournament. This enabled them to advance to Tuesday's title match.

As soon as the tournament concluded, the All-World Baseball Classic team was announced. In addition to being the best designated hitter and pitcher, Ohtani also won the Most Valuable Player Award. Meanwhile, three Cubans were included on the WBC Team, relief pitcher Luis M. Romero, third baseman Yoán Moncada, and left fielder Randy Arozarena, this time playing for Mexico.

(Cover Photo: SAMURAI JAPAN/Koji Watanabe)


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