You’ve opened this newsletter to read about Olympic baseball, so let’s get to it! We pick up where we left off in the last newsletter. Let’s briefly look at how each of the remaining teams got into the medal games that they ended up in, and then go into detail about the medal games, especially the thriller for the gold and all the glory!
1) The Dominican Republic defeated Israel 7-6 on a walk-off single by Jose Bautista, setting up a date with the USA.
2) The USA used home runs by Triston Casas and Tyler Austin to defeat the Dominican Republic 3-1, eliminating the DR from a chance at gold. They play for bronze against the loser of the next two games to be played.
3) Japan struck first in the third inning with a Hayato Sakamoto (Giants) sacrifice fly to center. Two innings later, Masataka Yoshida (Buffaloes) stroked a single to right, scoring Tetsuto Yamada (Swallows). Korea tied the score in the top of the sixth while also sending Samurai starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Buffaloes) to the showers earlier than he had hoped. However, in the bottom of the eighth, Yamada sent a ball as deep as is possible without going yard, but it was more than enough to clear the bases. They held onto that lead and won 5-2, which put them in the gold medal game against the winner of USA vs. South Korea.
4) The USA defeated South Korea 7-2, thanks in large part to a five-run sixth inning. This put them in the finals against Japan, while South Korea faces the DR for the bronze.
Bronze Medal Game: South Korea vs. Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic came out of the gates fast, scoring four runs in the top of the first inning on back-to-back home runs by Julio Rodriguez and Juan Francisco, plus a sacrifice fly later in the inning. South Korea chipped away at that lead, scoring one in the second, one in the fourth (a Hyunsoo Kim home run), and then took the lead in the bottom of the fifth with a four-run inning. But if these Olympics have taught us anything it’s that no game is over until the final out. The DR fought back hard in the top of the eighth inning off former MLB (and NPB) closer Seung-hwan Oh. They put up five runs, including a two-run home run from Johan Mieses, and held on for two innings.
Final Score: Dominican Republic 10, South Korea 6.
Gold Medal Game: Japan vs. United States of America
Talk about a game befitting of the stage it was played on. Both starting pitchers, Masato Morishita (Carp) and Nick Martinez (Hawks) belong to NPB teams and threw absolute gems. The former went five shutout innings, only once allowing a runner into scoring position, while the latter worked his way out of one gem, and his lone blemish was an opposite-field home run to Munetaka Murakami (Swallows) in the bottom of the third.
Koudai Senga (Hawks) took over from Morishita in the top of the sixth, and put two men on base (walk and hit-by-pitch) but kept them far from home plate. In the top of the seventh, the Americans finally got a runner to third base (one-out double, advanced on a grounder) but could not plate him, as Hiromi Itoh (Fighters) induced a feeble grounder to first for the third out. Japan threatened to score in the bottom of the seventh, as Hideto Asamura (Eagles) led off with a double, and Murakami walked. Both were in scoring position with Takuya Kai (Hawks) struck out to end the threat. Team USA got a leadoff single in the top of the eighth, but then Suguru Iwazaki (Tigers) replaced Itoh and got three straight outs.
Tetsuto Yamada led off the bottom of the eighth with a single, advanced on a bunt, and scored on a Masataka Yoshida single (plus throwing error). Needing two runs in the top of the ninth, America was left to face Ryoji Kuribayashi (Carp), who worked around a two-out single and preserved the win and the gold medal for Japan.
Final Score: Japan 2, USA 0
Congratulations to all players and coaches on all teams for putting on great performances over the course of the tournament. It definitely brought baseball back into the global spotlight, and will surely work towards growing the game even more.