Japan ended decades of professional Olympic frustration on Saturday beating a scrappy U.S. team 2-0 in the Tokyo Olympic final, while South Korea, suffered an ignominious defeat in the bronze medal game against the Dominican Republic, leaving the defending champs from the 2008 Beijing Olympics off the medal podium.
Japan 2, United States 0
At Yokohama Stadium: Aggressive pitching from a bunch of young arms, a good swing by young slugger Munetaka Murakami on a hanging changeup from Nick Martinez and one late unearned run ended Japan’s long painful wait for an Olympic gold medal on Saturday.
Masato Morishita allowed three hits and hit a batter while striking out five and survived a fifth-inning scare to earn his second win, while Kodai Senga, Hiromi Ito, Suguru Iwazaki and Ryoji Kuribayashi completed the six-hitter.
Kuribayashi, pitched in all five of Japan’s games, winning two as Japan came from behind in walk-off wins against the Dominican Republic in the group stage and against the U.S. in their quarterfinal.
Martinez caught a break in the first inning, or rather first baseman Tristan Casas caught one, turning the second smoked ball off him into a line-out inning-ending double play. He also worked out of a one-out bases-loaded jam in the fourth by getting SoftBank Hawks teammate Yuki Yanagita to hit into a force at the plate before striking out Ryosuke Kikuchi.
The one mistake Martinez couldn’t get back was a changeup high and away to Murakami, who belted his lone home run of the Olympics, getting off the end of the bat and just over the wall in left center.
Tetsuto Yamada opened the eighth with his second single, off Yakult Swallows teammate Scott McGough, and scored on a sacrifice, a Masataka Yoshida single and a throwing error.
Dominican Republic 10, South Korea 6
At Yokohama Stadium: Juan Francisco finally found himself in Japan. A stunning disappointment for the Yomiuri Giants, he homered and broke a 6-6 eighth-inning tie with a two-run double to help crush South Korea’s hopes of a return to the Olympic medal podium.
Leading 6-5 in the eighth, South Korea gambled that former big leaguer and NPB star closer Oh Seung Hwan could protect the lead. Jeison Guzman led off with a single, was sacrificed to second and scored after a single, a walk and a wild pitch.
Francisco doubled to the gap in left to make it 8-6 and Johan Mieses hit a towering homer, his second, to make it 10-6. Kim Jin Uk allowed no further runs. The Koreans threatened against Jumbo Diaz in the ninth with runners on second and third with no outs but could not score.
As the Dominicans celebrated, many also paused to show respect to Kim Hyun So, the former big leaguer and 2008 Olympic team member who had a big game but also made the final out.
The Dominicans jumped all over Kim Min Woo for four runs in the first. Emilio Bonafacio doubled, stole third and scored on Julio Rodriguez‘s first homer. Francisco followed with his homer. Mieses walked, and Cha Woo Chan took over on the mound.
Right-hander Go Woo Suk worked a 1-2-3 second for South Korea, Kim Hyun doubled to lead off the home half and scored on Park Kun Woo’s single. KT Wiz-kid Kang Baekho singled but Dominican starter Raul Valdez pitched his way out of trouble.
Park Se Woong relieved Go with one on and one out in a scoreless fourth, and Kim led off South Korea’s fourth with his third home run.
The Dominicans answered back with a run off Park in the fifth on a two-out Mieses single and a Cabrera double, but then the roof caved in.
The Koreans chased Valdes with three straight no-out singles. Luis Castillo allowed a run to score on a groundout. With Dario Alvarez on the mound, leadoff man Park Hae Min stole third and scored on a wild pitch. Kim walked.
Pinch-hitter Oh Jae-Il drew a pinch-hit walk off Jhan Martinez, and Kang greeted Yomiuri Giants lefty C.C. Mercedes with an RBI single to put South Korea ahead 6-5.