Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama lived up to his word in Thursday’s World Baseball Classic quarter-final victory when he predicted everyone would be on deck and unleashed the full power of his team to crush Italy and qualify for the semi-finals.
Even though the Italians had never reached the semi-finals, Kuriyama took no chances against a team built around a core of American major and minor league players.
Japanese manager Hideki Kuriyama (R) shakes hands with Italian manager Mike Piazza after their World Baseball Classic quarter-final match at Tokyo Dome on March 16, 2023. (Essonne Info)
Two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani started on the mound and went three innings. When Ohtani began to falter, Kuriyama used his pitching depth to keep Italy at bay, fielding four more pitchers and even giving up two innings to his second pitcher, Yu Darvish.
“It was really a whole team effort,” Kuriyama said. “The plan was to take the pride of the Japanese pitchers and put a block in their wheels.
“I guess all the fans could hear Shohei straining on the mound with every pitch from the very beginning. This sent a message to all team members. »
For the first time in the tournament, Kuriyama knocked Munetaka Murakami down the batting order. The 23-year-old, who last year became Japan’s youngest Triple Crown winner, led Japan in scoring with three runs from the No. 5 position, with two doubles, a walk and an RBI.
Masataka Yoshida took the place of cleaner and occupied it. He hit a home run, scored twice and scored two runs. And as mid-table players are often on the bases, Kazuma Okamoto, number 6, has put himself at the service of the team.
Okamoto hit a lobster, doubled, walked twice and scored five points. Japan has thus made the possibility of a return from Italy even more unlikely.
With his team in the driver’s seat, Kuriyama brought in two stronger outfielders, with the skillful play of second-row substitute Tetsuto Yamada helping to stifle Italian rallies in the final two innings.
Yu Darvish raises his fist after completing the seventh inning of the World Baseball Classic quarterfinal game against Italy at Tokyo Dome on March 16, 2023. (Essonne Info)