Japan players celebrate after defeating the United States in the World Baseball Classic championship game, Tuesday, March 21, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ohtani Strikes Out Trout to Win World Baseball Classic for Japan

Two of the titan countries of the baseball world went at it Tuesday night in the World Baseball Classic championship. After a hard-fought pitching duel, Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani took the mound and blanked the US in the top of the ninth to win the tournament.

United States

The United States emerged from group play as the Pool C runner-up after falling to Mexico. After this loss, the team was tasked with the challenge of overcoming Venezuela’s firepower. They did so in an offensive thriller, notching 15 hits in a 9-7 comeback win. In the eighth inning, shortstop Trea Turner became an American hero.

However, after that win, the semifinals were a walk in the park for the stars and stripes. They downed Cuba 14-2 to set their date with Japan in the championship.

Japan

Japan, conversely, did not have much trouble with their first game of the elimination stage. Ohtani got the start, and they made quick work of Italy, 9-3.

However, Japan’s exciting pre-championship game came in the semis against Mexico. The Mexican squad had been riveting to watch, and with the team’s lack of prior success in the classic, they were a good underdog story.

Mexico led for most of the game, until Munetaka Murakami shot a 2-run double into left-center field to walk it off in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Baseball Fans, Are You Not Entertained?

The championship game opened with the national anthems of both countries and the introductions of the teams. There was one person leading each team and bearing their respective flags.

Two of the most talented players in baseball history, Ohtani and Trout, lined up to lead their countries into battle.

Merrill Kelly got the start for the USA and Shota Imanaga started for Japan. As the game wore on, both teams were stranding runners on base. Pitching seemed inconsistent, but both lineups struggled to post crooked numbers on the scoreboard.

In the bottom of the fourth, Kazuma Okamoto blasted a solo shot to center field to give Japan the two-run lead they would hold until the eighth.

The United States continued to struggle, leaving more runners on base. Finally, in the top of the eighth, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Kyle Schwarber got to face a familiar foe: San Diego Padres pitcher Yu Darvish.

Schwarber fouled off pitch after pitch in the battle before rocketing the ball into the second deck. 3-2 Japan.

After Devin Williams blanked the Japanese team in the bottom of the eighth, it was time to get down to the brass tacks.

Top of the 9th. McNeil, Betts, Trout. Ohtani on the mound.

McNeil draws a walk.

Betts grounds into a double play.

Trout and Ohtani. Let’s dance.

3-2 count. Two outs.

Ohtani pulls a backdoor slider across the plate. Trout’s bat whistles through the strike zone. The crowd holds its breath.

The ball cracks into Yuhei Nakamura’s glove. With one pitch, Shohei Ohtani fanned one of the best hitters in the world and won the tournament for his country. The most versatile player in baseball showed his dominance once again.

Back to Cali Baseball

With the start of the MLB’s regular season rapidly approaching, Ohtani and Trout will have to go back to working together.

Both players are on the current 40-man roster of the Los Angeles Angels.

About Steven Hieneman

Senior Sports Media/Business Administration dual major at the University of Florida, ESPN Gainesville WRUF sports correspondent.

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