Baseball

Japan wraps up Premier12 group with perfect record

Kyodo

Samurai Japan will head home to the Premier 12 super round having completed a sweep of Group B with an 8-1 win over group host Taiwan on Thursday.

Both teams were playing for pride having already clinched a spot in the six-team round robin next week in Chiba and Tokyo.

Seiya Suzuki homered for the second straight game and drove in four runs. The Hiroshima Carp star opened the scoring in the first inning with an RBI triple. Nippon Ham Fighters on-base machine Kensuke Kondo drew a two-out walk. After a wild pitch, Kondo cruised home when Suzuki’s drive off starting pitcher Liao Yi-chung got past the center fielder.

Suzuki made it 2-0 when he scored on a single by designated hitter Masataka Yoshida of the Orix Buffaloes.

Japan starting pitcher, DeNA BayStars lefty Shota Imanaga, caught a break in the home half when a runner on first base failed to score on cleanup hitter Lin Hung-yu’s two-out drive off the wall in left.

Suzuki, whose three-run home run was the big blow in Wednesday’s 4-0 win over Puerto Rico, came up in the third with his club teammate, Ryosuke Kikuchi, on first with a single. Suzuki slammed a fastball from Taiwan’s second pitcher, Wang Tsung-hao, and drove it through a stiff wind and over the wall in left.

Japan dodged a bullet in the bottom of the inning, when an error and two singles loaded the bases. SoftBank Hawks third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda snared a liner for the second out, and Imanaga recorded his fourth strikeout to end the inning.

Chunichi Dragons lefty Yudai Ono worked two more scoreless innings, while a Yoshihiro Maru RBI single made it 5-0 in the sixth. An RBI single in the ninth by Suzuki and a two-run triple by Seibu Lions shortstop Sosuke Genda made it 8-0 in the ninth.

Taiwan gave its fans something to cheer for in the bottom of the inning, when Jhang Jin-de singled in a run off the Pacific League’s ERA leader, Yoshinobu Yamamoto of Orix.

In addition to Japan and Taiwan, Mexico, the United States and South Korea have booked spots in the super round. The remaining team will be decided on Friday.

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