Team Europe jumps out to early lead, earns series split against Japan

by

Staff Writer

This time Team Europe shut the door on one of the world’s best.

Yurendell De Caster of the Netherlands hit a three-run home run in the third inning and the Europeans successfully snuffed out Japan’s attempts at another rally in a 6-2 victory in the finale of the two-game Global Baseball Match 2015 on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome.

“We came to win and today was a very, very great team effort,” Team Europe manager Steve Janssen said. “I think we had very good pitching today, we threw the ball very good from the first to the last guy, we played some pretty good defense and we came up with some very good timely hitting today. It’s a great feeling to leave tomorrow with a W in the back of our pocket.”

Team Europe had the Japanese on the ropes in the first game on Tuesday before succumbing 4-3 after the Japanese snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a three-run eighth inning. There were no such heroics on Wednesday despite a sixth-inning solo home run by Tetsuto Yamada and an RBI single by Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, in the same frame, for Japan.

“We lost the game, but it was a great experience,” Yamada said.

The Europeans thought so too after bouncing back from a tough loss.

“I think yesterday was just a game we gave away,” said winning pitcher Diegomar Markwell. “Nobody felt comfortable about it. Today we came and played the way we were supposed to and we came out on top with the W.”

The victory was a historic one, as it was the debut of the multinational Team Europe, which featured players from six nations. Some of the team’s players will participate for their homelands when the Premier 12, a tournament featuring the 12 top-ranked teams in the world, a group that includes the Netherlands and Italy, rolls around in November, but Janssen hinted that fans may have not seen the last of Team Europe.

“I just talked to a couple of people before the press conference and they were telling me that they’re willing to keep on doing this type of stuff,” he said. “Let’s hope they can do that.”

Dutch lefty Markwell threw three scoreless innings in the victory. Orix Buffaloes lefty Takahiro Matsuba took the loss for Japan.

Team Europe jumped out to an early lead for the second straight game and was ahead 2-0 when De Caster, who had a pair of hits in the first game, took Matsuba deep with his three-run blast in the third.

“I feel great,” De Caster said. “I was focused since yesterday, trying to hit the ball hard up the middle. So today I had the same plan. I didn’t try to hit a home run, I just tried to put a good swing on it.”

Tsutsugo had a decent showing for Samurai Japan, coming away with a pair of RBIs in the two-game series.

“I think this was meaningful experience and that will be my takeaway from this time,” the Yokohama BayStars slugger said. “I would like to compete and come up with positive results during the season worthy of a Samurai Japan member.

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles pitcher Yuki Matsui made his debut with the top national team in the eighth inning. Matsui allowed a leadoff single to Alessandro Vaglio of Italy and later gave up a run on a sacrifice fly.

“I was very nervous out there,” the 19-year old said. “I tried not to think about it too much, plus the catcher was (Eagles teammate Motohiro) Shima-san as usual.”

Matsui dabbled with his fastball against the European hitters he faced and came away with a learning experience.

“I knew they were good at getting in good swings at fastballs and swinging hard, but I wasn’t really able to get many fouls or swings-and-misses out of them,” Matsui said. “I’ve got to reflect on that.”

Japan starter Matsuba had a long night, departing after allowing five runs.

“My condition wasn’t bad,” Matsuba said. “I felt some pressure since this was a game we couldn’t lose, which is different than an preseason game.”

Dutch outfielder Kaliam Sams drew a walk to begin the second and scored from first on a double by Italian Mario Chiarini. Spain’s Blake Ochoa drove in another run with a double later in the frame to put Europe ahead 2-0.

De Caster extended the lead with his three-run homer in the third and Japan pulled a pair back in the sixth to make the score 5-2.

Sams tacked another run onto the lead with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth for Europe.

“I’m very happy that we won today, but we could’ve won two,” Janssen said. “I think yesterday we were very close to getting that game too. I definitely have a great feeling, but the feeling would be much better if we’d won two games.”

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.