Otani leads Japan to the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic

Shohei Ohtani starred again for Japan, pitching a home run in the fifth inning and shooting a four-run third with one out, leading Japan to a 9–3 victory over Italy and to the semifinals in a row in the World Baseball Classic.

Boston’s Masataka Yoshida primed and drove in a go-ahead run with an intern Thursday, giving him a tournament-leading 10 RBIs, while Kazuma Okamoto also hit a three-run homer for Japan, who now outscored their opponents 47-11 in five. games.

Japan now travels to Miami for Monday’s semi-final match, where they will play either Puerto Rico or Mexico.

Cuba, who defeated Australia in the quarter-finals, plays the other semi-final match against the United States or Venezuela.

Ohtani, who had pitched earlier in the tournament, pitched in front of an adoring crowd of 41,723 at the Tokyo Dome, his fastest pitch since joining the Los Angeles Angels in 2018.

Vinnie Pascuantino hit a 102 mph second inning that topped the 101.4 mph hit by Kyle Tucker of Houston last September 10.

Ohtani (2-0) allowed two runs and four hits in four innings and two-thirds with five hits and a walk and one walk on four with a walk at the plate.

438 (7-for-16) with a home run, three doubles and eight RBI along with a 2.08 ERA, 10 strikeouts and one walk on the mound.

He will be available for four rest days for a possible final in the United States on Tuesday.

Japan is the only team to reach the semi-finals of all five WBCs, winning the first two tournaments in 2006 and 2009. The Samurai Warriors were knocked out by Puerto Rico in 2013 and the United States in 2017.

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