Shuhei Ohtani hit Mike Trout in a showdown between two of the game’s best players to seal Japan’s 3-2 victory over the United States in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) Final at Miami’s Lawn Depot Park on Tuesday.
Baseball is a national pastime of the United States, but Japan’s victory over the defending WBC champions meant they have won three of the five World Showcase tournaments.
They were a perfect 7-0 during this year’s edition.
The contest ended with a duel likely rooted in baseball folklore as Ohtani, a batter and hitting sensation from Japan, faced off against fellow Los Angeles Angels and USA captain Trout.
“Whether I took him out or he was beaten, I didn’t want to have any regrets,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “I wanted to do my best.
“This is a different experience, representing your country and having people representing their country. It was a different intensity and it was amazing.”
Carrying their state flags, the two men led their teams onto the field, and then in the climax, in a moment of pure sporting magic, they stood up to each other with everything on the line.
With Japan clinging to a 3-2 ninth game lead, they turned to their star player Ohtani.
He walked the first batter he faced at Jeff McNeil, but then had Mookie Betts hit on a double play, bringing up Trout with two outs and rallying the sellout to his feet.
Otani threw 100 mph fastballs that hit a fellow Angels teammate on six pitches to spark celebrations as the Japanese team emerged from the dugout.
Ohtani was named the WBC’s Most Valuable Player after posting the best stats over the entire tournament.
American Trea Turner’s early fireworks delivered a second solo shot, taking Shota Imanaga into the left field bleachers for his fifth WBC home run to give the United States a 1-0 lead.
Japan answered on last out of the first inning, batter Munetaka Murakami, who led off the second inning in Japan’s semifinal win over Mexico, hit a home run into center fielder Merrill Kelly.
After Kelly loaded the bases, American manager Marc DeRosa had seen enough, making the move to Aaron Loeb, who would knock them out in the first inning but not before Lars Nottebar pulled out to score Kazuma Okamoto’s first out.
Okumato added to Japan’s one-run lead to drive to the bottom of the fourth.
And Japan had a great chance to put the contest out of reach in the sixth when Jason Adams walked three outs to load the bases, but Nootbaar meekly flew out to right to end the threat.
With the U.S. running out of innings, National League home run hero Kyle Schwarber slammed a monster homer off Yu Darvish in the eighth, driving it upstairs to cut Japan’s lead to 3–2.
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