Olympics-Baseball-Japan, South Korea clinch spots in final four
Newsfrom JapanTokyo 2020
By Paresh Dave
YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) -Japan on Monday beat the United States 7-6 with an extra-inning walkoff hit, while South Korea crushed Israel 11-1, ensuring both of the winners, at the very least, a spot in Saturday's bronze medal game.
Japan now play South Korea on Wednesday. The winner automatically advances to the gold-medal game and the loser will get a second shot at the championship matchup the following day.
The United States on Wednesday take on the winner of Tuesday's win-or-go home game between a rested Dominican Republic team and Israel, facing a third straight day of action.
The losing side of the Wednesday matchup heads to the bronze-medal game, while the victor will play again on Thursday to try to jump to the gold-medal game.
Monday's contests were as different as baseball games could be.
Triston Casas sprung the United States to a 6-3 lead in the fifth inning with a three-run homer.
Japan quickly shot back with two runs and then tied the game during a drizzly ninth inning against Scott McGough, who pitches in Nippon Professional Baseball.
"Scott knows these hitters," U.S. coach Mike Scioscia said. "He just missed a couple of pitches."
Takuya Kai's single to bring home the extra-inning's automatic runner ended the 3-hour, 52-minute contest - easily the longest of the tournament's 10 games.
Starting pitchers Shane Baz, 22, for the United States and 32-year-old former New York Yankees star Masahiro Tanaka of Japan, who were first-round draft picks 11 years apart in their respective professional leagues, each allowed eight baserunners.
First base umpire Trent Thomas had to be replaced in the sixth inning due to illness.
Earlier on Monday, defending champions South Korea smacked 18 hits in an 11-1 mercy-rule win after needing to come from behind for an extra-innings win over Israel early in the tournament.
South Korea struck first and later added two more runs on a homer by Oh Ji-hwan.
Israel first baseman Danny Valencia walked with the bases loaded to make it 3-1 in the fifth inning.
But any potential for a comeback was derailed in the bottom half of the inning. With rain falling, Valencia spiked a throw to home plate, allowing the first of seven runs in the inning that would put South Korea up 10-1. A run in the seventh ended the game under the tournament's mercy rule for blowouts.
Israel's pitching staff, which lacks significant professional experience, came into the Games as an obvious weakness. They outpitched Mexico on Sunday to notch Israel's first-ever Olympic baseball victory.
But that left Israeli arms worn out, which Korean players said made the difference in the game.
(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Bill Berkrot)
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