Samurai Japan stave off challengers for world top spot

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama

NEW YORK — Japan took first in the men’s baseball rankings released by the World Baseball Softball Confederation on Dec. 31, a spot held since 2014. Samurai Japan will compete in the World Baseball Classic international tourney in March.

Taiwan held onto second place, while the United States jumped two spots to third. South Korea, Japan’s opponent in the WBC’s first round group B, dropped from third to fourth place. Australia was 10th, the Czech Republic 15th, and China 30th.

In women’s softball, the U.S. ranked No. 1 while Japan took second. Japan was third in men’s softball.