Olympic Baseball Rewind: Watch Japan, Australia in unforgettable pitching duel at Athens 2004 Games

Olympic Baseball Rewind: Watch Japan, Australia in unforgettable pitching duel at Athens 2004 Games
The heavy favourites Samurai Japan faced underrated Australia in the semifinal at the Helliniko Complex. Matsuzaka duelled with Oxspring.

The Olympic Baseball Rewind series, presented in collaboration with the Olympic Channel, takes us to the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, Athens 2004.

Baseball featured on the Olympic programme for the third straight edition as a medal sport. The format of the tournament was unchanged, but the list of participants had a couple of surprises. Defending champions USA were eliminated during the Pan American Qualifier in Panama and the Americas were represented by Canada and Cuba. Chinese Taipei beat Korea and joined Japan as the representatives from Asia. Europe had a record three participating nations: hosts Greece, and the winner and runner-up of the Continental Qualifier, Italy and the Netherlands. Australia defeated South Africa in the Oceania-Africa playoff series.

Japan and Cuba finished round-robin play both with 6-1 records. Japan became the top seed thanks to a 6-3 win against Cuba. Canada (5-2) finished third and Australia (4-3) earned the last spot in the medal round.

Episode seven of the series features the semifinal between Japan and Australia.
Samurai Japan, managed by former Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) All-Star and skipper Kiyoshi Nakahata, were the overall favourites. Their roster was loaded with top NPB talent.

Japan had suffered the only loss of the tournament against Australia. Manager Jon Deeble, a former National Team pitcher and a Minor League Baseball (MiLB) coach for the Boston Red Sox at the time, fielded a team that was heavily underrated despite having two thirds of the players under contract with MLB organizations and slugger David Nilsson, a former MLB All-Star.

On 24 August 2004, Japan and Australia took the field at the Helliniko Olympic Complex. Superstar Daisuke Matsuzaka, who would later become an MLB World Series winner for the Boston Red Sox, took the mound. Home plate umpire Luis Ramirez (Mexico) called 'play ball' and Matsuzaka delivered a 98 mph fastball for strike one. In the bottom half of the frame, Australia handed the ball to Chris Oxspring, a 27-year-old right-hander who was playing at the AAA level for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Related Article: Chris Oxspring's Olympic memories

OLYMPIC Rewind-Baseball

The OLYMPIC Rewind-Softball series features past games from the 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 Games.