Japan win World Baseball Classic to add to Premier12 and Olympic titles

Japan win World Baseball Classic to add to Premier12 and Olympic titles
Munetaka Murakami and Kazuma Okamoto homered, and Samurai Japan edged the United States, 3-2, to become World Champions for the first time in international baseball history. It's the third consecutive title for Japan after claiming the WBSC Premier12 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

World No. 1 Japan defeated No. 5 USA, 3-2, to win undefeated the fifth World Baseball Classic in front of sell out crowd of 36,098 at loanDepot Park in Miami, USA.

It's the third World Baseball Classic title for Samurai Japan after the 2006 and 2009 wins, and the first since the tournament awards the WBSC Baseball World Champion title.

Japan never won a Baseball World Cup, thus celebrates a historic first as the Baseball World Champions. The win tops an unforgettable cycle, since Japan won the WBSC Premier12 2019 and a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Shohei Ohtani earned the World Baseball Classic MVP award going 1-for-3 and earning the save. He pitched a scoreless ninth, allowing one walk and striking out one.

"I've seen Japan winning, and I just wanted to be part of it," said Ohtani postgame. "I really appreciate that I was able to have such a great experience. As I say, the next generation, the kids playing baseball, I was hoping those people would like to play baseball. That would make me happy."

Ohtani was the final of seven Japanese pitchers. Shota Imanaga had a two-inning start and earned the win. Yu Darvish pitched the eighth and allowed the US their second and final run on a home run by Kyle Schwarber.

Darvish celebrated his second World Baseball Classic win after being part of the 2009 tournament.

Trea Turner gave the US the lead with his fifth home run of the tournament. The shortstop got to Imanaga's fourth pitch with one out in the top of the second and sent it over the left-field fence.

Turner tied the World Baseball Classic home run record that belonged to Korea's Seung Yuop Lee.

It took one pitch to Munetaka Murakami to tie it in the bottom half of the frame. Japan had loaded the bases against US starter Merrill Kelly. Reliever Aaron Loup got Lars Nootbar on a ground ball, but Japan scored the go-ahead run. They didn't need to look back.

Kazuma Okamoto added an insurance run as he homered on the second pitch by Kyle Freeland to lead off the bottom of the fourth.

Ohtani took the mound in the ninth and allowed a leadoff walk to Kyle Schwarber. He then got Mookie Betts to ground into a double play. The two-way phenom used six pitches to strike out Mike Trout to end the World Baseball Classic with the duel the baseball world had anticipated.

"I saw the players were very happy, which made me happy," said Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama. "Pitching is critical to a baseball team. Shohei [Ohtani] led a great pitching staff, and younger pitchers did a great job too."

He added: "Ohtani and Darvish came to me and said they were available to pitch. I never said Ohtani wouldn't be available for today. Maybe some members of the press did, but I didn't."

"I was hoping it would end a little bit different," said USA manager Mark DeRosa."But the baseball world won tonight. Although those guys are disappointed in there, I couldn't be prouder of them, the way they came together as a team."

DeRosa added: "From getting together two and a half weeks ago, all the things that happened along the way, tough games, easy games, whatever it was, they truly started to bond and enjoy being around each other. The baseball world, this thing is real, the World Baseball Classic is real."

There were three Samurai Japan players named in the All-World Team, which includes seven more participants: USA, Cuba, and Mexico (2); Chinese Taipei, Puerto Rico, Venezuela (1)

The sixth World Baseball Classic is scheduled for 2026.