Japan in World Baseball Classic
Champion: TEAM JAPAN
Final: vs Cuba
The final game was held in Petco Park on Mar 20. The Cuban pitchers were in a turmoil in the first inning. Japan loaded the bases, and earned its first run when Hitoshi Tamura was hit by a pitch. Michihiro Ogasawara was walked. Toshiaki Imae hit in 2 runs. The bottom of that inning, Daisuke Matsuzaka who started the game gave up a home run. But pitched well all in all, for 5 innings. He was taken over by submarine pitcher Shunsuke Watanabe, who in the 6th inning lost 2 runs. In the 8th, Cuba with a 2 run homer was just 1 run short of Japan. In the 9th, Ichiro swung in an RBI. Pinch hitter Kosuke Fukudome had a 2 RBI hit. Akinori Otsuka struck out the last batter. And the overjoyed player lifted up Sadaharu Oh in the air 3 times. Daisuke Matsuzaka is MVP.

Semi-finals: vs South Korea
Ichiro played 3rd in the line-up, different from the past games where he was the startoff hitter. And in his first two times at bat, he hit himself on base and stole to 2nd too. But they didn't lead to a score. Japan's starting pitcher Koji Uehara hurled very well. It was in the 7th inning, Nobuhiko Matsunaka aggressively sled to 2nd base. Hitoshi Tamura failed to help him to 3rd with a bunt. Then pinch hitter Kosuke Fukudome blasted a home run to give his team a 2 run lead. More followed with base hits thereafter, including Ichiro. In the 8th, Tamura regained his face by slamming a single home run. Akinori Ohtsuka finished the game. Japan won 6 to 0 at Petco Park. The game at one point marked more than 50 percent TV rating.

2nd Round: vs South Korea
Asia's top rivals faced eachother for the 2nd time in the championship event on Mar 16. The crowd consisted mostly of Koreans as Anaheim has a large Korean community. In the 2nd inning, Akinori Iwamura tried to make it home from 2nd, but was nailed at home. Japan's starting pitcher, Shunsuke Watanabe pitched well and was replaced by Toshiya Sugiuchi. The tragedy for Japan was the 8th inning. Sugiuchi walked a batter. Then Byung Kyu Lee had a single and Tatsuhiko Kinjo had a perfect throw from center to 3rd to kill Min Jae Kim. But Toshiaki Imae who replaced the injured Iwamura at 3rd fumbled the ball. The Tigers Kyuji Fujikawa took over the pitcher's mound, but Jong Beom Lee hit home both runners. In the 9th, Tsuyoshi Nishioka homered. Nobuhiko Matsunaka had a single base hit. But batters did not follow. Japan lost 1 to 2. But since the USA lost to Mexico 1 to 2 Japan was able to advance to the semifinals.

2nd Round: vs Mexico
Japan had to win this game on Mar 14 no matter what in this competitive round. Daisuke Matsuzaka started and he did not give up any runs in 5 innings. In terms of performance at bat, Michihiro Ogasawara launched a 2 RBI hit in the 4th inning. It was followe by Tomoya Satozaki's 2 run homerun. Ichiro Suzuki hit in a run in the 9th inning. Japan won 6 to 1.

2nd Round: vs U.S.A.
In Anaheim on Mar 12, Ichiro started off the game with a home run. In the 2nd inning, Japan added to more runs. Then the U.S. blasted 2 homers to equalize. For Japan, a major disappointment in the 8th inning. Tsuyoshi Nishioka came home on a sacrifice fly. After complaints from the American side, the umpire reversed the call claiming Nishioka left 3rd base before the outfielder caught the ball. Japan's Sadaharu Oh complained but it did not affect the ruling. In the final inning, Alex Rodrigues hit in a game winning RBI for his team. It was 4 to 3 for the U.S.
Michiyo's Note:
Video footages of Nishioka's base run show that he left for home when the outfielder caught the ball. Some critics in Japan argue it's a marred call, and some complain that all the umpires were American giving the U.S. side an advantage.

Asia Round: vs South Korea
The game on Mar. 5 was looked on by Japan's superstar Shigeo Nagashima, and the imperial couple, Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Masako. Japan was again the first to bat in a run. It was by Nobuhiko Matsunaka in the first inning. In the 2nd, Munenori Kawasaki homered. In the 4th, with bases loaded, Tsuyoshi Nishioka smashed the ball in what seemed a hit, but South Korea's Lee Jin Young showed a fantastic catch. That seems to have changed the mood of the game. In the 8th inning, Lee Seung Yeop, who's joined the Giants this season blasted a 2 run home run to give South Korea a lead. In the 9th inning, with Ichiro's flyball, the game was concluded. It was 3 to 2 for South Korea. Regardless of the result, both teams already secured a place in the 2nd round. The next game site is the United States.

Asia Round: vs Taiwan
Hitoshi Tamura of the BayStars blasted his 2nd home run of the series in the first inning of Mar 4. It was a run. It was a great impetus for Japan. In the 2nd inning, pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka did the unusual. The ball fell from his hand when he was starting a motion to pitch. The umpire called it a balk. And Taiwan gained a run from that. In the 5th inning, Japan exploded and ended the game in the 7th inning again, 14 to 3. With this victory, Japan has secured its place in the 2nd round.

Asia Round: vs China
Japan was the first to score. It was in the 2nd inning, Nobuhiko Matsunaka of the Hawks doubled and came home on a sacrifice fly. In the 4th inning, China equalized with a 2 run homer. Then the Japanese side blasted in the 5th inning. Tsuyoshi Nishioka smashed a 3 run homer. Ichiro of the Seattle Mariners was among those to come home. Kosuki Fukudome followed with a home run too. The starting pitcher for Japan to launch the series was the Giants Koji Uehara and it was only he and the Marines Naoyuki Shimizu who pitched for the team. Japan won 18 to 2 in the game on Mar 3. It's a great start for baseball legend Sadaharu Oh who skippers the team.

Hanshin TigersGinoza, Okinawa (Feb.1-19)
Aki-chi Hiroshima (Feb.21to Mar.2)
Chunichi DragonsChatan, Okinawa (Feb.1-27)
Yokohama Bay Stars Ginowan-city, Okinawa (Feb.1- 26)
Tokyo Yakult SwallowsUrazoe, Okinawa (Feb.1-Mar.3)
Yomiuri GiantsMiyazaki-city, Miyazaki (Feb.1-26)
Hiroshima Toyo Carp Okinawa (Feb.1-12)
Nichinan, Miyazaki (Feb.14-27)

Chiba Lotte MarinesGeelong, Australia (Feb.1-14)
Fukuoka Softbank HawksMiyazaki-shi, Miyazaki (Feb.1-24)
Seibu LionsNango, Miyazaki (Feb.1-25)
Orix Buffaloes Miyako, Okinawa (Feb.1-23)
Kochi-city, Kochi (Feb. 24-Mar.1)
Hokkaido Nippon Ham FightersNago-city, Okinawa (Feb.1-27)
Tohoku Rakuten Golden EaglesKume Island, Okinawa (Feb.1-24)