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Japan clobbers China in college tournament

by Jason Coskrey

Blowouts have been the theme of the early stages of the 5th World University Baseball Championship, and the host nation wasn’t about to be left out of the fun.

Shota Ishimine and Hayata Ito each drove in three runs, starter Yusuke Nomura struck out six, and Japan exploded for seven runs in the fourth inning en route to a 15-0 victory over China — in a game that was stopped after the sixth inning due to the mercy rule — on Saturday at Jingu Stadium.

“Last night we weren’t able to score early in the game,” Ishimine said, referring to Friday’s 4-0 win over South Korea. “So tonight we really wanted to give Nomura some support early in the game and we’re really happy we could do it.”

The start was supposed to go to Hirokazu Sawamura, but an injury forced the Chuo University pitcher to miss the tournament. Nomura toed the rubber in his place and was dominating in his short time on the hill.

“It was supposed to be Sawamura-san’s game,” Nomura said. “But I got the chance to pitch instead of him. I just wanted to pitch well. I thought I could and I’m happy I was able to shut the other team out.”

The young hurler said he was emboldened by a message he received from his injured teammate prior to the game. “He told me, ‘Do your best since I am not able to be there. I’m going to support you throughout the tournament.’ “

Nomura was perfect through three innings, before being pulled for Kisho Kagami.

“He really threw great pitches and created good moments early in the game,” Japan manager Tamotsu Enomoto said of Nomura. “That actually encouraged all the hitters in the lineup and made our offense even stronger tonight.”

Kagami struck out four in two innings of work to pick up the win. China’s Xia Kang Nan took the loss after being touched up for 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings.

Ishimine finished 2-for-4 with a pair of triples while Ito went 2-for-2 with a home run. Seven different Japanese batters recorded at least one RBI, with five driving in two or more runs.

China was grossly overmatched, committing a pair of errors and experiencing a number of miscues in the field. It wasn’t much better at the plate, recording one hit and striking out 12 times.

“I predicted this outcome,” China manager Zhang Yu Feng said. “Although I thought we would be able to play the full nine innings. So I am a bit disappointed.”

The win was the capper to a day of routs, with Cuba topping South Korea 18-0 and Canada romping to an 18-0 win over Sri Lanka. Neither game went the full nine innings.

The Japanese can expect a tougher challenge on Sunday when they face Cuba at Jingu Stadium.

“I don’t think we can play this type of game against Cuba,” Ishimine said. “I don’t think we can score as many runs as we did tonight.

“What we need to do is be resilient. Even if we get behind by a few runs, we have to stayed focused throughout the game. I hope that will lead to victory at the end of the game.”