Ohtani hits 1st HR of WBC as Japan stays perfect

TOKYO — Shohei Ohtani hit a 448-foot, three-run home run in the first inning that landed just below his image on a video advertising board and had four RBIs to lead Japan over Australia 7-1 Sunday night at the World Baseball Classic.

Japan, already assured of advancement, won its group with a 4-0 record and will play a quarterfinal on Wednesday against Italy, which advanced along with Cuba from Group A on tiebreakers. Matt Harvey got the win as Italy defeated the Netherlands 7-1, causing all five teams to finish 2-2.

South Korea beat the Czech Republic 7-3 in the day’s other Group B game, and Cuba defeated Chinese Taipei 7-1 in Group A.

Ohtani turned on a hanging curveball from losing pitcher Will Sherriff, who didn’t even watch the flight of the ball into the Tokyo Dome’s right-field seats, bending and putting his hands on his knees. It was the first home run of the tournament for Ohtani, who is 6-for-12 with eight RBIs and seven walks. He walked with the bases loaded in the sixth, the third straight walk after reliever Blake Townsend entered.

Winning pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto struck out eight in four scoreless innings, allowing one hit and no walks. He threw 42 of 60 pitches for strikes, averaging 95.2 mph with his fastball and topping out at 96.9 mph. The 24-year-old right-hander was the Pacific League’s MVP for the Orix Buffaloes in 2021 and 2022, and he pitched a no-hitter last June 22 against the Saitama Seibu Lions.

Robbie Perkins was the only Australia batter to reach against Yamamoto, on a one-out single in the third. Alex Hall homered in the ninth off Hiroto Takahashi, who finished a five-pitcher five-hitter.

Australia (2-1) is second in Group B, ahead of the Czechs and South Korea (both 1-2) and eliminated China (0-3). Australia would advance with a win over the Czechs on Monday, when South Korea plays China.


TAICHUNG, Chinese Taipei — Italian players had to wait a few minutes after the final out to find out they had advanced with Cuba while the Netherlands, Chinese Taipei and Panama were eliminated. With all five teams finishing 2-2, the group was decided by runs allowed divided by outs, and Cuba (15/108, .139) finished first, followed by Italy (17/108, .157), Netherlands (19/102, .186), Panama (21/105, .200) and Chinese Taipei (31/105, .295).

Chadwick Tromp homered in the third, but Italy burst ahead with a six-run fourth capped by Nicky Lopez’s two-run triple. Brett Sullivan, Ben DeLuzio and Sal Frelick had RBI singles, and losing pitcher Mike Bolsenbroek threw a run-scoring wild pitch. Frelick added a run-scoring single in the eighth.

Harvey allowed one run and two hits in four innings with three strikeouts for the Italians, managed by Mike Piazza.

The Netherlands, needing three runs to advance, put two on with no outs in the ninth against Mitchell Stumpo. Juremi Profar struck out; Tromp popped out to the pitcher in foul territory near the plate; and Ray-Patrick Didder struck out.

Dutch left fielder Jurickson Profar made a sprawling backhand catch on Dominic Fletcher’s two-out fly in the eighth, saving two runs.

Xander Bogaerts went 4-for-15 (.267) with one RBI in the tournament; Jurickson Profar was 3-for-13 (.231) with one RBI; Didi Gregorius was 3-for-12 with three RBIs; and Jonathan Schoop went 1-for-13 (.077) with no RBIs.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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