WBC Championship Preview
What a ride it has been so far with this exciting tournament. While spring training is wrapping up, the World Baseball Classic has brought fireworks to the diamond on a nightly basis.
Then there were two, U.S.A. and Japan. Two international baseball superpowers are ready to battle it out for the championship. Let’s take a look at how each team has gotten to this point.
Team U.S.A. swatted their way through the tournament, going 3-1 in the preliminary round, and destroyed baseballs throughout the bracket. The team would be met by a tough Venezuela team that carried names like Ronald Acuña Jr., Luis Arráez and Jose Altuve.
A very back-and-forth game would reach its climax during the eighth inning with Trea Turner at the plate with the bases loaded. With the U.S. down 7-5, Turner crushed the pitch and sent the ball 407 feet to left field.
The stadium erupted and the 9-7 lead was enough to push the U.S. to a matchup against Cuba.
The game against Cuba got off to a rocky start with Adam Wainwright struggling to get outs. The Cubans capitalized and got out to an early 1-0 lead, but the U.S.A.'s bats wouldn't wait a single inning to come to life again. Paul Goldschmidt, Cedric Mullins and Trea Turner all had home runs in this game. Trea Turner, also known as “Captain America,” smacked another one later on during the game for his tournament-leading fourth home run.
The game would end 14-2 and the U.S. would have to wait to see who it would play in the championship.
Japan dominated the competition from the very start of the tournament going 4-0 in the preliminary round. In the first round, Shohei Ohtani and Team Japan dominated Italy with a convincing 9-3 win.
In the semifinals, they were met by a formidable opponent in Team Mexico. Mexico was the only team to beat the U.S., and they did it in an overpowering fashion. Mexico vs. Japan would be a game that the baseball world would love.
The offense would have to wait until the fourth inning when Luis Urias put Mexico up 3-0. Randy Arozarena had an amazing performance in the outfield, but the game would get interesting when Masataka Yoshida tied the game at three in the seventh.
A rally by Mexico would give the lead back to the team, and with their backs against the wall, Ohtani would fire up the crowd with a leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth. Yoshida would get walked right after to give Japan runners on first and second.
All eyes were on Munetaka Murakami and he did not disappoint. With a hit that would split the left field gap, the Japanese would end the roller coaster ride with a walk-off double to win 6-5.
“Japan advances, but the world of baseball won tonight,” Mexico manager Benji Gil said.
Now, we have a clash of the titans for the title. Japan and the U.S. will go head to head on Mar. 22. Let’s compare the two ball clubs.
Team U.S.A. carries a bunch of boomsticks with players like Trea Turner, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Kyle Schwarber. Pitching is the weakness with players like Clayton Kershaw and Nestor Cortes Jr. staying with their clubs.
They will be met by Shohei Ohtani, one of Japan’s many good pitchers, who is said to be one of if not the best players in the history of baseball. He dominates on the mound and in the batter's box. Masataka Yoshida carries a hot bat and Lars Nootbaar creates RBI chances out of the leadoff spot.
With these two teams as talented as they are, we are set for another instant classic. Will the U.S.A. repeat as champions? Or will Japan finish its undefeated run and win its first title since 2009?
Anthony Desher is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.