Japan is apparently following a script. Once again, an early home run (by Yasuhito Uchida) set the tone and Samurai went on to defeat Mexico 7-2.
Uchida, Japan’s team Captain, homered off Mexico’s Saul Castellano, a righthander who started for two different teams in the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol during the 2018 season. Castellanos managed to retire the lead off hitter. Then Japan got to him with back to back singles by Kairi Shimada and Hisanori Yasuda and Uchida turned the fifth offer by Castellanos into a three-run homer.
Samurai starter Kosuke Sakaguchi, a 19-year old who plays in the Yokohama DeNA Baystars organization, was off a brilliant start. He allowed only one hit in the first three innings. In the fourth Mexico’s third baseman Bernardo Heras got to him with a solo homer that represented at the time only the second hit for Mexico.
In the top of the fifth with one out, Sakaguchi loaded the bases allowing a couple of base hits and a walk. He then struck out Fabricio Macias for the second out and went to the showers. Left hander Kakeru Narita came from the bullpen to strike out Heras and end the threat.
At that point of the game Japan had extended the lead to 5-1, making the best out of base hits by Shimada and Ryosuke Kishisato. They both stole second, advanced on ground outs and scored on a sacrifice fly and a base hit.
Mexico scored one more run against Nerita (base hit by Daniel Mercado) but was blanked by Japan’s bullpen trio: Yu Suzuki, Atsura Horie and Shuto Sakurai, who allowed only one hit over three innings of work.
The game ended on a great play by back up second baseman Kenji Nishimaki, who had replaced injured Yuki Nakayama.
— WBSC ⚾ #U23WorldCup (@WBSC) 21 ottobre 2018