The game of the day and quite possibly the tournament so far featured the favored Japan squad taking on Korea. Both teams came into this matchup at 2-0 and battling for the top spot in their group and the international bracket. In a game that took just over an hour to complete, it was Japan who came out on top, 2-0.
Japan had their first eight batters of the game retired by Jaesong Lee but he was removed from the game because of pitch count. His team did not want him to have to rest a day and because of his low pitch count, he will be available to come back tomorrow if needed. Japan took immediate advantage of the change when Katsuki Akahani drew a walk and stole second base. Following the steal, Rintaro Kosugi and Futa Shimizu delivered back to back RBI singles and that would be the only scoring of the game. The dedication to perfection is what sets this pitching staff apart from the rest of the field.
“I pitched two innings yesterday against Dominican Republic and had two walks,” Saka said. “I wanted to come out here today and make sure that I didn’t walk anyone.”
The real stars of the game came on the mound for Japan. Haruto Nakatsuka started the game and pitched the first three innings allowing one hit and striking out four. Ryoga Saka added two hitless innings striking out four in relief. Taira Matsuo was called upon to save the game and he set down Korea in order. These three pitchers combined to throw a one-hit shutout striking out eight. Korea did not have a base runner after the first inning and they had their final 17 batters of the game retired.
In three game in pool play, Japan outscored their opponents 30-3. They have run out six pitchers so far and they have all been effective. Nakatsuka, Saka, Matsuo, Akahani, Yugo Maeda and Sota Sugimura have combined to throw 16 innings to the tune of a 1.31 ERA. They have allowed seven hits, walking two and striking out 17.
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With the way Japan can score paired with the ability of their pitching, it will be extremely hard to knock them off of their throne here at the Cal Ripken Major 70 World Series. If one team can do it though, it might be this Korea squad. Lee was dominant on the mound before he was removed. He totaled 2.2 innings of work not allowing a hit and striking out four.
Both Japan and Korea have completed pool play and they will both be moving onto the elimination rounds beginning Wednesday.