World Baseball Classic
Shohei Ohtani throws 102 mph, Japan advances to WBC semifinals
World Baseball Classic

Shohei Ohtani throws 102 mph, Japan advances to WBC semifinals

Updated Mar. 16, 2023 9:23 p.m. ET

Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama still gets a special tingle watching Shohei Ohtani. It's been that way since Kuriyama managed the two-way star with the Hokkaido Ham-Fighters.

"When we see Shohei playing, not only the players but also the Japanese baseball fans, all the nation is feeling something extra," Kuriyama said through a translator after Ohtani led Japan over Italy 9-3 on Thursday night to put the Samurai Warriors in their fifth straight World Baseball Classic semifinal.

Ohtani pitched shutout ball into the fifth inning and sparked a four-run third with a bunt single.


"These kind of moments, this is how I feel the sense of Ohtani," Kuriyama said. "This is Shohei. This is Shohei. When he plays a must-win game like tonight, we see who Shohei is."

Masataka Yoshida of the Boston Red Sox homered and drove in the go-ahead run with a grounder, giving him a tournament-leading 10 RBIs. Kazuma Okamoto hit a three-run homer for Japan, which has outscored opponents 47-11 in five games and is batting .313.

Japan travels to Miami for a semifinal on Monday against the winner of the quarterfinals game between Puerto Rico and Mexico. Cuba plays the other semifinal against the United States or Venezuela.

Pitching before an adoring crowd of 41,723 at the Tokyo Dome, Ohtani threw his fastest pitch since he joined the Los Angeles Angels in 2018, strlking out Vinnie Pasquantino on a 102 mph fastball in the second. That topped a 101.4 mph pitch that struck out Kyle Tucker of the Houston Astros last Sept. 10.

Shohei brings the HEAT!

Shohei Ohtani strikes out Vinnie Pasquantino with a 102 mph fastball.

Ohtani allowed two runs and four hits in 4 2/3 innings with five strikeouts and a walk and went 1-for-4 with a walk at the plate. He is hitting .438 (7 for 16) with a home run, three doubles and eight RBIs along with a 2.08 ERA, 10 strikeouts and one walk on the mound. Ohtani would be available on four days’ rest to pitch in a possible final on Tuesday — 4 1/2 days, counting the time difference.

Ohtani stretched his tournament scoreless streak to 8 2/3 innings before the fifth, when Dominic Fletcher hit a soft bases-loaded single into right with two outs on Ohtani’s 71st and final pitch — nine short of the limit. Ohtani had hit Ben DeLuzio with a pitch with one out, allowed a single to Angels teammate David Fletcher, retired Sal Frelick on a flyout and hit Nicky Lopez with a pitch.

Italy gets on the board

Dominic Fletcher hits a CLUTCH two-run single for Italy, knocking Japan's Shohei Ohtani out of the game

"In the fourth and fifth innings I struggled a bit, but until then I had good rhythm and I pitched well, I think," Ohtani said.

Hiromi Itoh relieved and retired Miles Mastrobuoni on a flyout as Yoshida slammed into the left field wall while making the catch.

Japan is the only nation to reach the semifinals 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 U.S. in 2017.

Italy vs. Japan Highlights | 2023 World Baseball Classic Quarterfinal

Italy, managed by Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, advanced past the first round for the first time since 2013. Dominic Fletcher, an Arizona Diamondbacks prospect, drove in all three of Italy’s runs and had the team’s first home run of the tournament, a solo shot in the eighth off Yu Darvish.

"Against a very good team, you have to be exceptional," Piazza said. "And obviously tonight we weren’t, We didn’t throw the ball well tonight. We needed our pitchers to have a very good game."

Italy pitchers walked eight.

"You’re not going to beat at team like Japan with eight walks," Piazza said.

Japan went ahead in a four-run third.

Kensue Kondoh walked with one out against Tampa Bay Rays minor-leaguer Joe LaSorsa, and Ohtani bunted down the third base line for a single as LaSorsa threw wildly for an error that left runners at the corners. Yoshida’s groundout put Japan ahead, Munetaka Murakami walked and Kazuma Okamoto homered.

Murakami, a two-time Central League MVP, hit an RBI double in the fifth and Okamoto followed with a two-run double off Vinny Nittoli that opened a 7-2 lead.

Yoshida homered in the seventh against San Francisco Giants prospect Joey Marciano and Sosuke Genda added an RBI single.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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