Italy, the lone European participant to advance out of the World Baseball Classic group stage, lost to Japan on Thursday in Tokyo in the WBC quarterfinal, 9-4 (box). The victory sends the Japanese to the WBC final four in Miami, along with Cuba, who defeated Australia, 4-3, on Wednesday .
Japan opened the scoring in the home half of the third inning, with three of the inning’s four runs coming on a Kazuma Okamoto homer over the left-field wall that sent the 41,000 fans at the Tokyo Dome into a frenzy.
Italy bounced back in the fifth after starter Shohei Ohtani, who struck out five through four scoreless innings, loaded the bases after allowing a single and hitting two batters. A Dominic Fletcher single followed, scoring two runs and forcing the 2021 American League MVP from the game.
Hiromi Itoh extinguished the threat for the hosts in the remainder of the fifth, with the Japanese bats responding in the bottom of the inning with three runs, two of them coming on an Okamoto double that gave Japan a 7-2 lead, which would be added to with two more runs in the seventh.
A Fletcher solo homer in the eighth inning gave Italy its first homer of the tournament and finished the scoring.
All told, Fletcher, an Arizona Diamondbacks farmhand and brother of Ohtani’s Los Angeles Angels teammate David Fletcher, went 3-for-4, with three RBI, in the contest.
His foil Okamoto, drove in five RBI on a 2-for-2 showing at the plate, with the 26-year-old, a four-time NPB All-Star, also walking twice.