Team Italy plays with heart in 9-3 loss to Japan in WBC quarterfinals

Team Italy plays with heart in 9-3 loss to Japan in WBC quarterfinals
In front of a sold-out crowd at the Tokyo Dome, undefeated Japan won its fifth straight World Baseball Classic game in a row after defeating Team Italy 9-3 on Thursday, March 16, 2023. Japan now advances with Cuba to the WBC semifinals in Miami,

With the daunting task of facing Japan starter Shohei Ohtani in the top of the first inning, Dominic Fletcher singled but Team Italy was unable to generate any offense early.

Team Italy manager Mike Piazza handed the ball off to starting pitcher Ryan Castellani, who gave up a leadoff single to Lars Nootbaar and issued a four-pitch walk to Kensuke Kondoh. The right-hander escaped damage after excellent defensive plays by Nicky Lopez and David Fletcher coupled with an inning-ending strikeout of Munetaka Murakami. 

Ryan Castellani was replaced on the mound by Joe LaSorsa in the bottom of the third inning. The lefty reliever surrendered four runs on two hits in his inning of work. After a walk to Kensuke Kondoh, Shohei Ohtani hit a bunt single which allowed Kensuke Kondoh to reach third base after reliever Joe LaSorsa made a bad throw to first base. Japan scored its first run of the game on a fielder’s choice by Masataka Yoshida. An ensuing walk to Munetaka Murakami followed by a three-run home run by Kazuma Okamoto gave Japan a 4-0 advantage. 

Japan superstar Shohei Ohtani succumbed to the hot-hitting Nicky Lopez with a single to left field and a walk to Vinnie Pasquantino in the top of the fourth inning. However, the Italians came up empty after Miles Mastrobuoni was robbed of extra bases when left fielder Masataka Yoshida made an astonishing catch against the wall to end the scoring threat. 

Team Italy summoned Andre Pallante out of the bullpen to pitch a scoreless bottom of the fourth inning. 

The Italians scored two runs in the top of the fifth inning. Ben DeLuzio was hit by a pitch and advanced to third base on a single by David Fletcher. Then Nicky Lopez was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Domenic Fletcher, who connected with a two-run single to chase Shohei Ohtani off the mound. Reliever Hiromi Itoh came in against Brett Sullivan with runners on the corners and got a pop out of the Team Italy cleanup hitter to preserve the lead. 

Japan answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Andre Pallante was relieved by Vinny Nittoli after he issued a four-pitch walk to Shohei Ohtani and Masataka Yoshida was hit by a pitch. Then Munetaka Murakami hit an RBI single and Kazuma Okamoto drilled a two-run double to put Japan in front 7-2. 

Reliever Shota Imanaga entered the contest to pitch a scoreless top of the sixth inning. Team Italy countered with left reliever Joey Marciano, who looked impressive striking out two of the three batters in the bottom of the sixth inning.  

To the delight of the crowd, Yu Darvish came in to pitch an easy 1-2-3 out top of the seventh inning. Joey Marciano returned to pitch in the bottom of the seventh and gave up a solo homer to Masataka Yoshida. Then Munetaka Murakami reached second base on an error by left fielder Sal Frelick. An intentional walk was given to Kazuma Okamoto before reliever Matt Festa replaced Joey Marciano. An RBI single by Sosuke Genda made it a 9-2 game.

Team Italy three-hole hitter Dominic Fletcher took Yu Darvish deep in the top of the eighth inning to score the Italians' third run of the contest. Azzurri closer Mitchell Stumpo struck out the side in the bottom of the eighth inning. Although Team Italy was unable to come back from the six-run deficit and score in the top of the ninth inning off reliever Taisei Ota, the resilient squad managed to scrap back-to-back singles from Miles Mastrobuoni and pinch-hitter Alberto Mineo,


Team Italy made a valiant effort against a strong Japanese squad and played with heart during the WBC tourney in Taiwan and Japan. Under the leadership of manager and National Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, it will come as no surprise if the Italians make the semifinals in the 2026 World Baseball Classic. Forza #Italia!

by Roberto Angotti


Photo: Dom Fletcher (RL/IABF)