BASEBALL/Taiwan loses to Japan in Asian Baseball Championship title game
Taipei, Dec. 12 (CNA) Japan has won the BFA Asian Baseball Championship after shutting out Taiwan 1-0 in the tournament's title game at the Taipei Dome on Sunday night.
The result gave Taiwan, competing under the name Chinese Taipei, its 13th second-place finish in the 30 times the tournament has been contested since it was first launched in 1954.
The visiting Japanese, consisting of amateur players who perform for company clubs, took home their 20th title in a tournament that it has dominated.
Entering Sunday night's final, Taiwan and its team of mostly professional players from Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL), had hoped to avenge a 1-0 loss in extra innings to the Japanese on Dec. 8.
Starter Hsu Jo-hsi (徐若熙), who opened the tournament on Dec. 4 by whitewashing South Korea over seven innings with a 10-strikeout performance, pitched well enough Sunday to give Taiwan a chance.
The 23-year-old fireballer, the MVP of the CPBL's Taiwan Series who helped the Wei Chuan Dragons to their first CPBL title in 24 years last month, scattered four hits and struck out eight over five innings and did not give up an earned run.
But he did yield the game's lone run in the third inning. With one out and a runner on first, second baseman Yukiya Yano hit a potential double play bouncer to third baseman Liu Ji-hong (劉基鴻).
Liu got the force out at second, but second baseman Lin Ching-Kai (林靖凱) sailed his throw to first well over the first baseman's head, sending it into the netting above Taiwan's dugout.
With Yano advanced to second, and came home on center fielder Motoki Muyoyama's line-drive single to right center.
Taiwan, playing as the visitor Sunday, had several missed opportunities to put pressure on the Japanese, but hit into three double plays, including one with runners on first and third and only one out in the fourth, and had a runner caught stealing.
Japan's starting pitcher Mizuki Kato cruised through six scoreless innings, scattering five hits while striking out four, and reliever Yoshiki Fuchigami blanked Taiwan in the seventh and eighth innings.
The 25-year-old left-handed Kato, who plays for the amateur Enenos baseball team, had one other appearance in the tournament, throwing seven shutout innings against Pakistan.
Shuichiro Kayo, who threw eight scoreless innings for Japan in its first win over Taiwan on Friday night, was called on by Japan to close out the game in the top of the ninth and got a double play and a strikeout after yielding a leadoff single to clinch the win.
Kayo needed 11 pitchers before retiring pinch-hitter Chen Sheng-ping (陳聖平) on a called strike three and in a dramatic at bat that saw Chen pull what would have been a game-tying home run just foul.
He said he felt bad for losing the game and "letting everyone down."
Choking up, Chen said he tried his best to at least reach first base but still struck out and was very disappointed with the loss.
He said he had a long hug with team captain Namoh Iyang after the game.
"Namoh Iyang told me that I did my best and that was enough," Chen said.
Taiwan had previously faced Japan three times in the Asian Baseball Championship final, in 2005, 2017 and 2019, and had beaten them only once, in 2019, the last time the tournament was played.
The tourney's 2021 edition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Founded in 1954, the Asian Baseball Championship is held every other year in odd-numbered years and since 1983 has functioned as a qualification competition for baseball at the Summer Olympics if the event year comes a year before the Olympics.
The competition has been dominated by teams from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
Earlier Sunday, South Korean defeated the Philippines 7-0 at the Taipei Dome to take third place.
Pakistan, Hong Kong, Palestine, and Thailand finished in fifth to eight places in the eight-team tournament.
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