Taiwan last night advanced to the next round of the World Baseball Softball Confederation Premier 12 tournament after breaking a deadlock against Venezuela with late runs in their Group B game to win 3-0, while Japan shut out Puerto Rico 4-0 in Taoyuan to advance to the next round.
It was a tight affair over six innings at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium, beginning with a duel of starting pitchers Chang Yi of Taiwan and Henderson Alvarez of Venezuela.
The hosts broke through for two runs in the seventh inning on two hits and a walk against Venezuela’s fifth pitcher, Miguel Socolovich.
Centerfielder Lin Che-hsuan reached first base on a walk before pinch hitter Chu Yu-hsien tagged Socolovich with a line drive near third base for a double, driving Lin home for Taiwan to take a 1-0 lead.
Wang Cheng-wei then delivered another RBI by hitting a single to the opposite side, giving Chu time to run in from second and put the hosts up 2-0.
After a scoreless eighth, designated hitter Hu Chin-lung scored on a wild pitch in the ninth. After reaching first base, he stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Earlier yesterday, Japan shut out Puerto Rico to seize their second win, assuring them top place in the group and a berth in the Super Round.
Puerto Rico managed only four hits, unable to get anything going against Japan starter Rei Takahashi and four relievers who came in after the six inning.
The Samurai Warriors scored all their runs in the bottom of the third with clutch hits after two outs.
After the two outs, Tetsuto Yamada reached first on a walk. Ryosuke Kikuchi then hit a bouncer and beat the throw to first base, while Yamada advanced to second.
An errant throw by Puerto Rico first baseman Jeffrey Dominguez on a grounder by Kensuke Kondoh, who reached first, allowed Japan’s first run of the game.
With runners on first and third, Seiya Suzuki hit a fastball from Puerto Rico’s left-handed starter Giovanni Soto over the left-field wall for a three-run homer.
Suzuki’s blast put Japan ahead for good and they had little trouble containing Puerto Rico the rest of the way to keep a clean sheet.
Japan starter Rei Takahashi handcuffed Puerto Rico’s lineup with his unorthodox submarine pitch. The 24-year-old threw six scoreless innings, yielding only one hit and one walk, while striking out three for to take the win.
With two wins from two games, Japan’s players and fans celebrated advancing to next week’s Super Round.
Taiwan head coach Hong Yi-chung replaced Chang Chin-te with Lin Hong-yu at catcher, while Hu replaced Lin as designated hitter.
Right-hander Chang, 25, a native of Hualien County, had a 2-4 record and a 5.93 ERA in six starts for Japan’s Orix Buffaloes last season.
Venezuela starter Alvarez, 29, played five years in the MLB from 2011 to 2015, with stints at the Toronto Blue Jays and the Miami Marlins. He pitched a no-hitter for the Marlins against the Detroit Tigers in September 2013.
Alvarez compiled a career 27-35 record, with a 3.82 ERA and 302 strikeouts over 95 MLB starts.
Two games today are to decide the final standings for Group B, with the first and second-placed teams advancing to the Super Round in Japan next week.
Venezuela are to face Puerto Rico at Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium at noon, while Taiwan are to face Japan in Taichung at 6:30pm.