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Ohtani HR Powers Japan; Italy Advances at World Baseball Classic

Shohei Ohtani of Japan rounds the bases after hitting a 3-run home run in the 1st inning against Australia during their Pool B game at the World Baseball Classic at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, March 12, 2023.
Shohei Ohtani of Japan rounds the bases after hitting a 3-run home run in the 1st inning against Australia during their Pool B game at the World Baseball Classic at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, March 12, 2023.

Shohei Ohtani hit a three-run homer that landed just below his image on a video advertising board, sending Japan to a 7-1 victory over Australia in the World Baseball Classic on Sunday night.

Ohtani also walked twice and finished with four RBIs. His first-inning drive traveled an estimated 448 feet.

Japan won Group B with a 4-0 record and will play a quarterfinal 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 beat the Czech Republic 7-3 in the day’s other Group B game, and Cuba defeated Taiwan 7-1 in Group A.

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

Winner 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. He pitched a no-hitter 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-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 win over the Czechs on Monday, when South Korea plays China.

Israel 3, Nicaragua 1

MIAMI (AP) — Garrett Stubbs hit a two-run double in a three-run eighth inning, helping Israel rally for the win in its WBC opener.

Stubbs had two of Israel’s seven hits. His bases-loaded double off New York Yankees reliever Jonathan Loáisiga drove in Spencer Horwitz and Noah Mendlinger with two out in the eighth. Horwitz tied it earlier in the inning with an RBI single.

Winner Richard Bleier had two strikeouts in one relief inning.

Nicaragua took a 1-0 lead in the fifth when Steven Leyton’s double scored Sandy Bermudez. But it dropped to 0-2 in WBC pool play.

Italy 7, Netherlands 1

TAICHUNG, Taiwan (AP) — Harvey pitched four innings of one-run ball for Italy, and Milwaukee Brewers prospect Sal Frelick had three hits and two RBIs.

Italian players had to wait a few minutes after the final out to find out they advanced with Cuba while the Netherlands, Taiwan and Panama were eliminated. The group was decided by runs allowed divided by outs, and Cuba (15/108, .139) finished first, followed by Italy (17/108, .157), Netherlands (19/102, .186), Panama (21/105, .200) and Taiwan (31/105, .295).

Chadwick Tromp homered in the third for the Netherlands, but Italy went ahead to stay with six runs in the fourth.

Nicky Lopez had two hits and two RBIs for the Italians, managed by Mike Piazza.

The Netherlands, needing three runs to advance, put two on with no outs in the ninth against Mitchell Stumpo. Juremi Profar struck out, Tromp popped out to the pitcher in foul territory near the plate and Ray-Patrick Didder struck out.

Dutch left fielder Jurickson Profar made a sprawling backhand catch on Dominic Fletcher’s two-out fly in the eighth, saving two runs.

Padres' infielder Xander Bogaerts went 4 for 15 (.267) with one RBI for the Netherlands in the tournament. Jurickson Profar was 3 for 13 (.231) with one RBI, Didi Gregorius was 3 for 12 with three RBIs and Jonathan Schoop 1 for 13 (.077) with no RBIs.

South Korea 7, Czech Republic 3

TOKYO (AP) — Ha-Seong Kim of the San Diego Padres hit two solo homers for South Korea.

Se Woong Park struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings for South Korea, which improved to 1-2 in Group B and will play winless China in its final group game. The Czechs are also 1-2.

St. Louis Cardinals infielder Tommy Edman hit a two-run single for South Korea. Kim’s homer in the sixth made it 6-0.

Matej Mensik put the Czech Republic on the board with a two-run double in the seventh. Kim hit his second homer of the game in the bottom half.

Loser Lukas Ercoli allowed six runs in 1 1/3 innings.

Cuba 7, Taiwan 1

TAICHUNG, Taiwan (AP) — Yoán Moncada and Erisbel Arruebarrena homered, leading Cuba to the win.

Cuba broke out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Alfredo Despaigne drove in Moncada and Luis Robert with a double, and Arruebarrena added a two-run shot.

Moncada and Robert play for the Chicago White Sox.

Cuba starter Elian Leyva pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out four. Loser Shih-Peng Chen allowed five runs — four earned — and five hits in 1 1/3 innings.