In the ninth inning, the winner was decided by Munetaka Murakami, who has been struggling with a slump in this tournament. In the semifinals of baseball's WBC = World Baseball Classic, Japan came from behind to beat Mexico.
"Trust is unwavering"
The support of the coach who sent him out to bat as usual reminded the slugger of his true power.
(Sports News Department, Reporter, Takahiro Kanazawa)
Murakami, who was assigned as the number four player for the Japan National Team in this tournament, has not been in good form since the first round.
Last season, the Japan baseball world's leading batter, who hit 56 home runs, the most by a Japan player in professional baseball, and continued to break the record as the youngest Triple Crown winner in history, has a batting average in the 1% range and no long hitters.
From the quarterfinals, the batting order was No. 5.
In the semi-final, I couldn't swing as well as I wanted.
Although I felt that I was in good shape, I was able to brake the batting line with three strikeouts in this game, such as a missed strikeout in the second at-bat when I came around with a chance to go to first base with two outs and a chance at third base in the fourth inning.
In the midst of all this, we came to the ninth inning at the last minute.
Trailing 4-5 with one run, Shohei Ohtani led off the inning with two bases.
Then, when Masanao Yoshida picked up a foreball and had a great chance to get to first and second base with no outs, Murakami recalled, "A sending bunt crossed my mind."
The autograph that Director Kuriyama sent here was not that "sending bunt."
"Hitting" was a sign of trust that "
I'll leave it to you, so take the plunge."
Murakami was impressed by the coach's decision, saying, "He gave me my stomach and I was able to open up when I had no choice but to hit."
The third pitch caught the attention of the ballpark.
After flicking his fastball and seeing the second runner come alive, Murakami took off his helmet and thrust his hands up.
At the post-match press conference, coach Kuriyama reiterated his confidence in Murakami, saying, "I think I've been frustrated, but I've always said 'you'll win in the end.'"
The revival of Murakami, who is indispensable to the goal of "defeating the United States and becoming the best in the world" that coach Kuriyama has set since his appointment. That was the moment when that last piece came together.
《NHK Professional Baseball Commentary: Interview with Takehiko Kobayakawa》
Regarding the semi-final in which Japan defeated Mexico with a bye win, we asked NHK professional baseball commentator Takehiko Kobayakawa about the key points.
What caused Japan to win?
Kobayakawa commented on the reason for the Japan's victory, saying, "Each player showed a strong sense of connecting with each player, such as preventing the next goal from being conceded even if they concede a goal, or creating chances in the next inning even if they can't score. I think that ultimately led to a bye win."
As for the pitching staff, he praised the team, saying, "Mexico's strong batting line is at a high level, and they have been following the winning shots of the Japan pitchers, but each pitcher was able to hold them down, which I think was wonderful."
On the other hand, regarding the batting lineup, he analyzed, "While there were many left-handed hitters in the Japan, we were struggling with the sliders and changeups of Mexican starting southpaw and pitcher Sandoval.
Commenting on the ninth-inning attack that led to the bye win, he said, "Even Ohtani entered the at-bat with the intention of 'connecting' as the first batter, and as a result, he was able to create a good situation with no outs on second base. I think it's really amazing."
Defending their first title in three tournaments What about the final against the United States?
In the final against the United States, who are aiming to win back-to-back titles, he said, "The U.S. has a very strong batting lineup, anyone can hit a home run from No. 1 to No. 9, and they can hit back-to-back shots from anywhere. However, I feel that the pitchers are a little less capable, and I think the final will be a battle for points. The USA will really try to win the match against Japan, so I think we will concede a few goals, but I hope that we can give our all and win the championship."