by WBSC Baseball Division, www.ibaf.org
TOKYO – Three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning helped secure a come-from-behind victory for the top-ranked Japanese National Team, overcoming Europe 4-3 in the newly established team’s historical debut in front of a crowd of over 22,000 fans at the Tokyo Dome on Tuesday. (See Video: Japan vs Europe Game 1 highlights)
Europe is debuting against the world No. 1 Japanese Professional National Team, "Samurai Japan", made up of the top stars from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).
The historic first pitch thrown in Europe's debut, thrown by NPB Central League Rookie of the Year Daichi Ohsera (Hiroshima Toyo Carp), will be going to Japan's Baseball Hall of Fame and Musuem, along with Team Europe's Asics official game jersey.
The two-game series in one of baseball's biggest cities is being televised free-to-air nationally across Japan by the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS), while Eurosport 2 transmitting the games live to potentially 73 million households across over 50 European nations.
To start the game, Europe jumped out to a 3-0 lead, highlighted by a 2-run double by shortstop Oscar Angulo’s (Spain; B.C. Barcelona) in the top of the fourth inning.
Europe’s starting pitcher, international baseball legend Rob Cordemans (Amsterdam Pirates), went two scoreless innings, keeping Japan hitters off balance with an assortment of pitches.
Alessandro Maestri (Italy; Orix Buffaloes, NPB) tossed three innings, yielding four hits and one run, to follow Cordemans and take Team Europe to the 6th holding a 3-1 lead.
Lefty Jose Escalona (Italy; Rimini Pirates) threw two no-hit innings to maintain Europe’s lead at 3-1 into the bottom of the eighth inning.
With Europe leading 3-1 in the bottom of the eight, Samurai Japan third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, NPB) drove in the game-tying run and centerfielder Yuhei Takai (Tokyo Yakult Swallows, NPB) singled in the winning run off of Europe reliever Loek van Mil (Netherlands; Rakuten Golden Eagles , NPB).
Samurai reliever Katsuki Matayoshi (Chunichi Dragons, NPB) picked up the win after recording thee outs in the eighth, as Yuji Nishino (Chiba Lotte Marines, NPB) closed out the game in the ninth inning to earn the save.
Van Mil was given the loss and inherited two base runners from fellow Dutchman Shairon Martis (Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions, CPBL) with no outs in the top of the eighth, as Europe led 3-1.
Dutch 2011 Baseball World Cup MVP Curt Smith (Springfield Cardinals , MiLB) collected three of Europe’s eight hits.
Home run king Wladimir Balentien (Netherlands; Tokyo Yakult Swallows, NPB) who broke legend Sadaharu Oh’s NPB single-season home run record in 2013, paid a visit to the Team Europe’s club house to wish the team well ahead of the Europe's world debut. Balentien is currently treating an injury, preventing him from taking part in the series for Team Europe.
The official duration of the opening contest was 2 hr 50 min. The two teams will go at it again at 18:00 at the Tokyo Dome, this time with Samurai Japan as the visiting team.
The series is being officiated by an umpiring crew from the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL). NPB is hosting the two-day international event, which is sanctioned by baseball’s world governing body, the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC). Both NPB and CPBL are WBSC Associate Members.
The heads of the National Baseball Federations with representation on Team Europe (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain) are all attending the series, along with Japan's leadership/NPB Commissioner Katsuhiko Kumazaki and WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari.