Revamped Samurai Japan Team Repeats as Asia Champion

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan’s Makoto Kadowaki runs out his game-winning single against South Korea on Sunday night at Tokyo Dome.

After starting the baseball season with a dramatic victory in the World Baseball Classic, a completely revamped Samurai Japan ended it in similar fashion at the Asia Professional Baseball Championship.

The Yomiuri Giants’ Makoto Kadowaki delivered a game-winning single with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning as defending champion Japan defeated South Korea 4-3 in the final of the four-nation tournament at Tokyo Dome on Sunday night.

Hiroshima Carp’s Shogo Sakakura kept Japan’s hopes alive by preceding Kadowaki’s hit with a sacrifice fly that tied the game after the South Koreans scored a run in the top of the 10th, which started under tiebreaking rules with runners on first and second bases.

Chusei Mannami of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters was walked to load the bases and Kadowaki ended the game by a lashing a single between third and short.

Not one person believed it was over and all I was thinking about was winning,” said manager Hirokazu Ibata, who was making his debut as skipper of the national team. “It was a typical hit [by Kadowaki] in that he focused on hitting up the middle. Next year is the Premier 12 [tournament], and I hope as many players [from this team] as possible will be on that team.”

Japan, which won all three of its round-robin games in the competition that included Taiwan and Australia, trailed for the first time when South Korea struck for two runs in the third inning.

Shugo Maki of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars cut the lead in half with a two-out solo home run in the fifth inning. That helped make up for an error he had made at first base, which is not his usual position.

Maki was the only player who was also on the squad that defeated the United States in the final of the World Baseball Classic in March. “This is great,” he said after Sunday’s win. “It’s been [a] really long [season].”

Japan tied the game in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by the Hanshin Tigers’ Teruaki Sato after Mannami had led off the inning with a double.