Four years ago, the Samurai Japan bullpen fell apart in a loss against South Korea in the Premier12 semifinals at Tokyo Dome.
This time, with the title hanging in the balance, Japan’s relievers got to taste both sweet revenge and the championship.
Tetsuto Yamada gave Japan the lead with a three-run home run in the second inning and six relievers held the Koreans to three hits over eight innings in a 5-3 win in the Premier12 final on Nov. 17 at the Big Egg. The Japanese went 7-1 on their way to winning the tournament.
“It’s been two years since I was hired as the Japan national team manager and we wanted to win the Premier12 and also win next year’s Olympics,” Japan manager Atsunori Inaba said. “All the players have a strong desire to become the best in the world, so this is really thanks to all of the players.”
Inaba came out of the dugout in tears after closer Yasuaki Yamasaki struck out Yang Eui-ji for the final out as the crowd exploded. The players gathered together and tossed Inaba into the air eight times in celebration on the mound.
“Every game was very challenging, but the players persevered through it all and I think that led to this result,” Inaba said.
Seiya Suzuki was named MVP of the Premier12. The Hiroshima Carp outfielder hit .444 with three home runs and 13 RBIs for Japan. He had at least one hit in all eight games. (The Japan Times)