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Saturday, April 13, 2024

World Baseball Classic Recap

Team Japan claims their third World Baseball Classic Title

 

By CAROLYN (CARI) FENN — sports@theaggie.org

 

Following a final matchup between U.S. captain center fielder Mike Trout and Japan’s captain pitcher Shohei Ohtani, Team Japan took home the World Baseball Classic title, beating the U.S. 3-2. This is Japan’s third World Baseball Classic championship; they claimed two previous championships in 2006 and 2009.

While many predicted that Team USA and Team Japan would make it into the latter stages of the tournament, the impressive performances by many of the other countries shifted the odds of who would win the tournament. With unexpected performances and surprise upsets, no team’s position in the tournament was secure. 

The biggest upset that came from the tournament was the Dominican Republic, who was predicted by many to have the best chance of winning the championship. However, the Dominicans did not end up making it past the pool rounds, placing third behind Venezuela and Puerto Rico with a 2-2 record. Despite having a star-studded roster full of MLB stars, they exited the series after the four-game minimum slate. 

What exactly went wrong for the Dominican Republic could have been the result of a range of factors. The one-game structure of the tournament, the loss of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and others just before their first game and even unlucky pooling are just a few factors that contributed to their early exit from the tournament. While it is hard to predict how the Dominican Republic would have performed if events had played out differently, one thing that is certain is that the talent of the other countries and their players had been greatly underestimated. 

The four teams that surprised many with their performances — leading to many unexpected upsets — were Australia, Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. 

Australia’s success in Pool B came as a shock, as they beat out Korea for the runner-up spot to advance to the quarterfinals against Japan. Many believed that Korea and Japan were going to be the obvious winners of the pool, but following Australia’s 8-7 win against Korea, it became clear that the odds of Australia advancing over Korea were high. 

 Venezuela and Puerto Rico were the two teams to advance in Pool D, beating out the favored Dominican Republic. With Venezuela’s 4-0 record, they were guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals. The final pool game between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic solidified Puerto Rico’s quarterfinals spot after a 5-2 win.

 Mexico was one of the two teams to advance from Pool C, beating out Team USA for the first spot. While it was expected that they had a chance to advance along with the United States, many were surprised by their win over the powerhouse team. Mexico beat Team USA 11-5, dominating the star-studded team and forcing the U.S. to face Canada to secure a spot in the quarterfinals.

Unfortunately for Puerto Rico, Australia and Venezuela, they were not able to keep their winning streaks going in the quarterfinal round. Venezuela lost to the U.S. 9-7 after a grand slam by Trea Turner in the top of the eighth inning, securing Team USA’s lead and eventual win. Puerto Rico was unable to score after the first inning and lost to Mexico 5-4. Australia lost in a close matchup against Cuba with a final score of 4-3

Following their win over Team USA, Mexico’s ongoing success continued as they advanced further in the tournament than they ever have before. In the quarterfinals, the team beat Puerto Rico 5-4 to advance to the semifinals where they faced Japan for the chance to make it to the championship game. Despite eventually losing to Japan 6-5, they were able to hold a secure lead until the bottom of the ninth inning when Japan’s Munetaka Murakami’s walk-off double scored them two runs, securing the last-minute victory over Mexico to face Team USA in the final. 

The final matchup between Japan and the United States was one of the most anticipated games of the whole series. With Los Angeles Angels teammates Ohtani and Trout leading their respective teams, it was clear that the game was going to be a tough battle. After five seasons together as teammates in the MLB, this was the first time the two MVPs had to face each other at the plate.

After a close game, the final at-bat came down to the two long-time teammates, with Trout at the plate and Ohtani on the mound. Then, with a full count, Ohtani struck out Trout swinging to secure Japan’s 3-2 win and the country’s third World Baseball Classic title.

Japan was able to go undefeated in the entire tournament, beating every team that they faced. And, on top of leading his team to victory after striking out his MLB teammate in the biggest faceoff of the tournament, Ohtani won MVP for his impressive performance both on the mound and the plate. 

The World Baseball Classic was full of impressive defensive plays, crazy home runs and unexpected performances by many. While Japan’s win was not a shock to many, the impressive performance put on by all the teams showed that it was anyone’s game at any point. When the most talented players from each country face off against one another, it is difficult to predict who among them will lead their team to victory.

The World Baseball Classic will return in 2026 for its sixth installment. With players retiring and new talent that is still yet to come, it is impossible to know who will take home the title in three years’ time. 

 

Written by: Carolyn (Cari) Fenn — sports@theaggie.org