BEIJING – “Hoshino Japan” cleanup hitter Takahiro Arai tripled in two runs and starter Toshiya Sugiuchi pitched seven solid innings as Japan routed the Netherlands 6-0 Friday night in the Beijing Olympic baseball preliminaries.
Japan started off with four runs in the first inning featuring Hanshin Tigers slugger Arai’s first hit in Beijing, while Takahiko G.G. Sato of the Seibu Lions added a solo homer in a two-run eighth at Wukesong Baseball Field.
Fukuoka Softbank Hawks hurler Sugiuchi allowed four hits and a walk while striking out six; Masahiro Tanaka of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles fanned three despite walking two in the eighth; and the Chunichi Dragons’ Kenshin Kawakami tossed a perfect ninth.
Japan has two wins and a loss in the tournament in which the top four teams advance to the semifinals after the round-robin preliminaries.
“The offense in the first inning was splendid . . . Sugiuchi was perfect,” Japan manager Senichi Hoshino said, adding he was relieved that Arai was able to get his first hit.
Hoshino added that the game against South Korea on Saturday night was crucial.
Arai told reporters, “In the first and second games, I went on the defensive. Today I decided to just be aggressive in swinging my bat.”