Japan finishes on top of the entertaining 2023 World Baseball Classic


Photo courtesy of Scott Miller (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The 2023 World Baseball Classic was filled with many thrilling and memorable moments which were enjoyed by baseball fans around the world

After years of baseball fans awaiting for the tournament’s return, the World Baseball Classic is back for the first time since 2017. Thrilling finishes, stellar performances and games filled with drama define this year’s WBC, as it is on the rise to become the next big sports tournament worldwide. Japan came out on top of the tournament with the gold, winning their third WBC in dramatic fashion.

Pool A started play first, and all five teams in the group finished with 2-2 records in pool play, which kicked in the tie-breaker formula determined by fewest runs allowed per defensive out recorded. These metrics are what kept hopes alive for Cuba and Italy, who moved onto the quarterfinals. Pool B was dominated by Japan, who didn’t break a sweat to a 4-0 record in group play. The biggest surprise of that round was Australia, who grinded their way to a 3-1 record in group play, advancing to the quarterfinals. 

Pool C had some major offensive firepower, but in the end, Mexico’s pitching proved to be the difference that inched them to the top of the pool. The U.S. had fallen in danger of not qualifying for the quarterfinals, but after surviving against Colombia, the Americans moved on. Pool D featured two major baseball powerhouses in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, as well as a country on the rise in Venezuela. Shocking the baseball world, Venezuela swept every game of the group stages, asserting themselves at the top of their group. Nicaragua and Israel stood no chance in this pool, so second place came down to the highly anticipated matchup between Puerto Rico and the D.R. The Puerto Ricans asserted themselves early, and their pitching held the stacked D.R. lineup to 2 runs, clinching their sport against Mexico in the quarterfinals. 

The quarterfinal round games did not disappoint, with many of the games being close and action packed. Cuba and Japan both won and advanced, but the real nail biters were in the games between the U.S. and Venezuela and Mexico and Puerto Rico. The U.S. shortstop Trea Turner hit a go ahead grand slam to sneak America past Venezuela, while Mexico shut down the Puerto Ricans after the first inning to allow their offense enough time to chip away, and eventually secure their spot in the semi final round. 

In the semifinal round games, the U.S. easily took care of Cuba 14-2 to advance to the WBC final. On the contrary, the game between Mexico and Japan was an all time thriller for the tournament. Mexico jumped to an early 3-0 after their infielder Luis Urias hit a three run home run, but Japan’s outfielder Masataka Yoshida responded with his own three run home run to tie the game. The two squads would then go back and forth, but in the bottom of the ninth down 1 run, Japan’s infielder Munetaka Murakami hit a 2 run walk off double to secure Japan’s spot in the final.

The WBC final between the U.S. and Japan was a pitching duel throughout, and it seemed that the winner was going to be who made the least amount of mistakes. A Turner home run once again got the U.S. on the board, but the American bats would get quiet while Japan rebutted with three runs of their own. A Kyle Schwarber home run in the eighth would keep the U.S. within striking distance. But Japan put global phenom Shohei Ohtani on the mound to close out the nine, and in storybook fashion, Ohtani struck out Angels teammate Mike Trout to clinch Japan’s third WBC title. 

What makes the WBC unique is its player pool, where unlike other major sports tournaments, many fans don’t recognize all the names of every lineup. The players also take much pride in the tournament, which is shown by the celebrations and emotion shown on the field. The World Baseball Classic has provided fans with a mix of meaningful baseball and breath of fresh air, which has helped grow the popularity of the tournament and the sport as a whole. 

Photo credits: “Israel v Dominican Rep IMG_0024” by Scott Miller is licensed under (CC BY-NC 2.0)