Raiku Katayama's masterful outing leads Japan to the final with victory over Mexico

Raiku Katayama's masterful outing leads Japan to the final with victory over Mexico
22/10/2022
The right-hander allowed only one walk over five innings. Mexico scored in the sixth and seventh inning against reliever Ryutaro Sawayanagi and stranded at third and second the potential tying runs in the seventh.

Japan relied on a gem by starter Raiku Katayama, who carried the load and proved untouchable for five innings in their 4-2 victory over Mexico on Saturday in the Super Round of the IV WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup.

Despite a late comeback, Japan held on to their lead that was built between the second and the third inning. Japan will play Korea for the world title on Sunday.

Japan scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the second. Designated hitter Ren Onishi singled, advanced on a groundout and scored on right fielder Kaito Saida's single.

They broke the score open in the bottom of the third against reliever Jose Reyes. Third baseman Hiroki Nakagawa doubled to start the fire. Left fielder Yuto Hirano, first baseman Kanta Aiba and Saida added base hits. And then shortstop Jin Nakamura produced through a sacrifice fly.

Despite outhitting Mexico, 9-3, Japan would not score other runs.

Mexico got on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth as pinch hitter Angel Camacho faced Ryutaro Sawayanagi. The reliever got two out on strikes, but before retiring the side, he allowed three walks and the first Mexican run.

Japan had more concerns in the top of the seventh. With two outs and a runner at first, Sawayanagi allowed a single to right fielder Aldo Nunez and a double to second baseman Jose Zepeda. All of a sudden, Nunez and Zepeda were potentially in place to make tying runs at third and second, but Sawayanagi used just one pitch to retire shortstop Hector Mora to end the game.

World No. 1 Japan won the inaugural U-23 Baseball World Cup in 2016, but lost the final of the second edition against Mexico in 2018. Prior to these editions, Japan were runners-up of the first and only U-21 Baseball World Cup against Chinese Taipei.