Shohei Ohtani launches 1st HR of WBC as Japan stays perfect

Shohei Ohtani hit a 448-foot, three-run home run in the first inning that landed just below his image on a video advertising board and had four RBIs to lead Japan over Australia 7-1 Sunday night at the World Baseball Classic.

Japan, already assured of advancement, won its group with a 4-0 record and will play a quarterfinal on Wednesday against Italy, which advanced along with Cuba from Group A on tiebreakers. Matt Harvey got the win as Italy defeated the Netherlands 7-1, causing all five teams to finish 2-2.

South Korea defeated the Czech Republic 7-3 in the day’s other Group B game, and Cuba defeated Chinese Taipei 7-1 in Group A.

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Ohtani turned on a hanging curveball from losing pitcher Will Sherriff, who didn’t even watch the flight of the ball into the Tokyo Dome’s right-field seats, bending and putting his hands on his knees.

It was the first home run of the tournament for Ohtani, who is 6-for-12 with eight RBIs and seven walks.

He walked with the bases loaded in the sixth, the third consecutive walk after reliever Blake Townsend entered.

Winning pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto struck out eight in four scoreless innings, allowing one hit and no walks. He threw 42 of 60 pitches for strikes, averaging 95.2 mph with his fastball and topping out at 96.9 mph.

The 24-year-old right-hander was the Pacific League’s MVP for the Orix Buffaloes in 2021 and 2022, and he pitched a no-hitter last June 22 against the Saitama Seibu Lions.

Robbie Perkins was the only Australia batter to reach against Yamamoto, on a one-out single in the third. Alex Hall homered in the ninth off Hiroto Takahashi, who finished a five-pitcher five-hitter.

Australia (2-1) is second in Group B, ahead of the Czechs and South Korea (both 1-2) and eliminated China (0-3). Australia would advance with a victory over the Czechs on Monday, when South Korea plays China.

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