By Chris Kabout
In a festive atmosphere, like Japanese games always are, team Samurai Japan hosted the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In what was the third game in as many days for the Japanese, the Dutch made Japan work hard for its money. The Dutch could not cling on to a four run lead but fought back to take an 8-7 lead in the top of the ninth but back-to-back errors allowed Japan to tie the game once more. Eventually Japan managed to deal with a tie break the way it should and walked off with the 9-8 win.
After a quick first half of the first inning in which pitcher Ayumu Ishikawa retired the Dutch side, Japan got off a quick start. Lead off hitter Akayima singled through the left side of the infield, stole second and advanced to third on, what should have been a sac bunt by Ryosuke Kikuchi. But thanks to a mental error by the Dutch (both pitcher Jurrjens and first baseman Yurendell De Caster chased the ball) no out could be made and Japan had runners on the corners. After Yamato Sakamoto grounded out, Sho Nagata also grounded out (5-3) but drove in Akayima for the first run for Japan.
After Kaliam Sams was hit by a pitch in the top of the second inning, DH Shawn Zarraga Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Kingdom of the Netherlands baseballworked a full count and then hit through the right side of the infield to put Sams in scoring position. A high bouncer towards third base, hit by catcher Dashenko Ricardo drove in Kalian Sams for the game tying run. Ricardo reached first on a fielder’s choice. Zarraga was safe at second as well. Stijn van der Meer then laid down a sac bunt to advance both runners. After Randolph Oduber struck out, Nick Urbanus did what he had to do by hitting the ball up the middle and drove in both Zarraga and Ricardo for the 3-1 lead.
In the top of the fifth inning Yurendell De Caster got on base on an infield hit. Kalian Sams then followed with a dinger to left center field off relief pitcher Shintaro Fujinami to extend the Dutch lead to 5-1.
After Jair Jurrjens gave up a run in the first inning, he worked through the next three innings with the help of his team mates who played some nice defense, before he gave up a solo homerun to Japanese phenom Shohei Otani in the fifth inning. After this homerun Jurrjens started to struggle a bit as he gave up a walk and a single, so he was pulled by manager Hensley Meulens and replaced by Berry van Driel. With two outs, catcher Dashenko Ricardo could not cling on to the first pitch of Van Driel, so both runners advanced and Japan had runners in scoring position all of a sudden. Ryosuke Kikuchi then drew a four pitch walk to load the bases.Hayato Sakamoto followed with a three run double to bring Japan next to the Dutch. Meulens did not have another option to pull Van Driel and replace him with Lars Huijer. Huijer gave up a bloop single that went up the middle and a double to Sho Nakata and Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh so Japan could take a 7-5 lead.
In the top of the ninth, the Dutch pushed once more when Nick Urbanus and Jurickson Profar singled before Yurendell De Caster hit the ball in the gap for a double to tie the game at seven. Kalian Sams then came through with a double to left center field off Daichi Ohsera to drive in De Caster for the 8-7 lead.
Closer Loek van Mil, who replaced Yntema in the bottom of the ninth, didn’t start well as he gave up a four pitch walk to Akira Nakamura. The Japanese tried to play their famous small ball but a bad placed bunt by Ayumu Akayima was fielded by Van Mil, who threw out Nakamura on second. Japan got runners on first and second when Kikuchi hit the ball towards third baseman Stijn van der Meer, who committed a fielding error. A throwing error by second baseman Nick Urbanus allowed Japan to score the game tying run and to put runners in scoring position but eventually Van Mil got out of the inning without any further damage.
Even though this was just a friendly game, it went into extra innings with the dreaded tie-breaker rule, placing runners on first and second with no outs.
Where the Dutch failed to take advantage of having runners in scoring position, Japan managed to get the win when Shota Ohno singled to right field to drive in the game winning run.
Loek van Mil took the loss. In 1.1 innings he gave up two unearned runs.
Toshiya Okada earned the win as he kept the Dutch from scoring in the tenth, despite a walk and a wild pitch.
Despite the two errors, the Dutch played a good game. A team with mainly amateur players from the Dutch hoofdklasse managed to give the full time professionals of the NPB a hard time.
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