Shohei Ohtani made his presence known when he struck out the leadoff hitter in Japan’s 9-3 win over Italy in a World Baseball Classic quarterfinal game on Thursday, but that wasn’t the most exciting strikeout of his outing.
That belongs to his Vinnie Pasquantino strikeout in the second inning, which came with his 102-mph fastball. That pitch was the fastest he has thrown since he signed with the Angels in 2018. His previous fastest pitch was 101.4 mph, which he threw on Sept. 10, 2022 against the Houston Astros. Ohtani had thrown a 102.5 mph fastball before, when he was still playing for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Nippon Professional Baseball.
But Ohtani’s dominance faltered in the fifth inning, after he hit two batters and allowed two hits and two earned runs, prompting Samurai Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama to pull him out before he could get out of the box. entrance.
Although he remained in the game as a designated hitter, Ohtani’s bottom line for his start also included five strikeouts, four hits, one walk, and 71 pitches thrown in 4 2/3 innings. At the plate, Ohtani went 1 for 4 with two runs scored and a walk, striking out once.
For Japan, it is the fifth time the nation has advanced to the WBC semifinals and is the only team to reach the semifinals of each edition of the tournament. Japan will face the winner of Puerto Rico and Mexico, who plays on Friday, in a semifinal match in Miami on Monday.
Ohtani, who hadn’t thrown a single fastball under 98 mph, intrigued awake Angels fans on the West Coast when he dished out a 100-mph sinker for a ball against teammate David Fletcher, one at-bat. bat in the top of the third. that ended with older brother Fletcher being grounded.
And Ohtani was pleasantly surprised when he got his first hit of the game, a single, after bunting in the bottom of the third. Japan took a 4-0 lead in that inning with Joe LaSorsa pitching for Italy. Kensuke Kondoh, who reached on a walk, scored on Masataka Yoshida’s groundout. Kazuma Okamoto hit a three-run home run, driving in Ohtani and Munetaka Murakami, who also drew a walk.
Italy bit back in the top of the fifth. After Ohtani retired Vito Friscia on a groundout, he hit his next batter, Ben DeLuzio, in the back. His next matchup with his Angels teammate resulted in Fletcher hitting a ball across a gap to right field for a single.
Ohtani hit a second batter, Nicky Lopez, to load the bases with one out remaining for David’s younger brother Dominic, who singled off Ohtani in the first inning. And Dominic Fletcher scored another Ohtani single to drive in Italy’s first two runs of the game. (Dominic Fletcher would also explain Italy’s other run when he homered off Yu Darvish in the eighth inning. Darvish pitched two innings of relief, allowing two hits, including the home run.)
At that point, Japan already had a pitcher warming up in their bullpen. After Dominic’s RBI hit, Kuriyama came out to replace Ohtani on the mound with Hiromi Itoh.
The momentum was short-lived for Italy, whose deficit grew again as Japan took a 7-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth. Italian pitcher Andre Pallante walked Ohtani and hit Yoshida before being replaced by Vinny Nittoli, who gave up back-to-back doubles to Murakami and Okamoto.