Japan baseball stymied by Taiwanese starter…Morishita wins with walk-off hit

Japan narrowly defeated the defending champions in the first game of the 2023 Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC). Shota Morishita hit a game-winning home run in the first inning of a preliminary pool game against Chinese Taipei at the Tokyo Dome in Japan on Saturday to give Japan a 4-0 victory.

Japan, the defending champions and Asia’s baseball powerhouse, struggled on the day as they were unable to capitalize on Chinese Taipei starter Lin Rui-yang (six and two-thirds innings, one run). They didn’t get a hit until the fifth inning, when they were held to a perfect game and didn’t get their first hit until the top of the sixth inning.

Gurin-Luei-Yang is a 23-year-old right-hander who pitched two scoreless innings in relief against South Korea in the Hangzhou Asian Games qualifier that ended last month. He plays for the Uni Lions of the Taiwanese Professional Baseball Organization.

With the score tied at 0-0 in the top of the seventh inning, Japan took the lead the hard way when Morishita capitalized on a throwing error by Gurin Rueiyama. Morishita took a fastball from Kurin Ruei for a solo home run over the left field fence.

Morishita is a rookie outfielder who joined the Hanshin Tigers of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in the first round this year. He had seven RBIs, the most by an NPB rookie in history, to help the Tigers win their first championship in 38 years in the Japan Series, which ended on Friday.

After holding a 1-0 lead late in the game, Japan made a final push in the top of the ninth inning to win the game. Morishita again led off the inning with a single to right, and the next two batters singled to load the bases before Jusei Mannami’s grounder to shortstop scored a run. Shogo Sakagura and Makoto Kadawaki followed with back-to-back RBI singles to make it 4-0.

While the Japanese bats struggled unexpectedly, the Japanese mound lived up to its reputation. Yuji Akahoshi (four and two-thirds innings), Masaki Oikawa (one-third inning), Haruka Nemoto (two innings), Takuma Kirishiki (one inning), and Kazuto Takuchi (one inning) combined for a no-hitter, holding the Chinese Taipei bats to just three hits.

Japan will play the second game of the preliminary round on Sunday at 7 p.m. against South Korea, who beat Australia earlier in the day for a 1-0 win. South Korea will start Lee Yi-ri and Japan will start Chihiro Sumida, both left-handed pitchers.

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