Premier12, Semi-Final: Japan – South Korea 3-4
South Korea 000 000 004 4 6 1 Japan 000 300 000 3 6 0
The Premier12 remains a tournament of surprises. On Thursday South Korea stunned World No. 1 and co-host Samurai Japan with a late rally in the first semi-final and won 4-3 to reach the Gold Medal Game on Saturday. At a sold-out Tokyo Dome the 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist scored four runs in the top of the ninth to turn a 0-3 deficit around. Mexico faces the United States in the second semi-final on Friday.
Both teams didn’t score in the first three innings, as Shohei Otani and Dae Eun Rhee were locked into a pitcher’s duel. This changed in the fourth, when Japan put three runs on the board chasing the Korean hurler from the mound. A RBI single by Ryosake Hirate, an error and a sac fly by Hayato Sakamoto plated the runs.
With young phenomenon Otani on the mound it looked like a sure win for Japan. The hard-throwing right-hander issued just one hit in seven scoreless innings, striking out 11. He didn’t allow a hit until a leadoff single in the seventh and gave up just two base runners overall. Takahiro Norimoto took over in the eighth and continued the pace with three quick outs.
Norimoto also came out in the ninth. This probably wasn’t the best idea of Japan’s coaching staff. The frame started with three consecutive hits, a pair of singles and a RBI double by Keun Woo Jeong to get South Korea on the board. A hit by pitch loaded the bases with no outs.
Japan changed pitchers, but Yuki Matsui promptly conceded a bases loaded walk to Hyun Soo Kim, as South Korea cut the deficit to a run. Another pitching change followed and it once again backfired, as Hirotoshi Masui gave up the game-winning two-run single to Dae Ho Lee. A couple of flyouts ended the rally without any insurance runs.
In the bottom of the ninth Samurai Japan hoped for a comeback, but Tae Hyon Chong and Hyun Seung Lee combined to keep them off the board despite a two-out single.