TOKYO -- South Korea lost to Japan 7-0 to finish in second place at the inaugural Asia Professional Baseball Championship here on Sunday.
South Korea had no answer against crafty left-hander Kazuto Taguchi, who held the opponents to three hits in seven shutout innings at Tokyo Dome, as Japan claimed the first APBC title with an undefeated 3-0 record.
Ryoma Nishikawa hit a solo shot as part of his three-RBI day at the plate. Hotaka Yamakawa and Shuta Tonosaki chipped in two RBIs apiece.
The two countries met in the final as the top two teams from the round-robin play, which also included Chinese Taipei. South Korea opened the tournament last Thursday with an 8-7 loss to Japan in 10 innings, but defeated Chinese Taipei 1-0 the following day.
|South Korean starter Park Se-woong reacts after allowing a run against Japan in the bottom of the fourth inning of the final game at the Asia Professional Baseball Championship at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo on Nov. 19, 2017. (Yonhap)|
Chinese Taipei was eliminated from contention after losing to Japan 8-2 on Saturday.
The APBC was open to professional players from South Korea, Japan and Chinese Taipei under 24 years of age -- born on or after Jan. 1, 1993 -- or those with less than three years of professional experience.
The teams traded zeroes through the first three innings before Japan broke through in the bottom fourth against right-hander Park Se-woong.
After a leadoff walk and a sacrifice bunt put a runner at second, Shuta Tonosaki delivered an RBI single to put Japan ahead 1-0.
Japan was just starting. The home team put up three runs on the board in the fifth with Tonosaki's second RBI hit of the game, followed by Nishikawa's two-run double to right-center gap.
|South Korean players leave Tokyo Dome after losing to Japan 7-0 to finish in second place at the Asia Professional Baseball Championship in Tokyo on Nov. 19, 2017. (Yonhap)|
Then in the sixth inning, Yamakawa made it 6-0 Japan with a two-run single to left.
And with the way Taguchi was dealing, the game was all but out of reach for South Korea by that point.
After hitting a batter with one out in the first, Taguchi sat down 10 straight batters. South Korea's first hit off the lefty was Kim Ha-seong's two-out double in the fourth, and he was stranded as Kim Seong-uk popped out to first.
South Korea tried to mount a rally in the fifth by putting men at the corners with consecutive two-out singles, but Taguchi wiggled his way out of the jam by getting Park Min-woo to ground out to second.
Taguchi retired the final seven batters in order before handing things over to the bullpen. Tsuyoshi Ishizaki and Yasuaki Yamasaki combined for two perfect innings to slam the door shut on South Korea.
And they didn't need to be so perfect, as Nishikawa put the game further out of reach with a solo home run in the seventh.
South Korean starter Park Se-woong dodged some early bullets before Japan solved him in the fourth. He was charged with one run in three innings while walking three and striking out four.
|Kim Ha-seong of South Korea hits a double against Japan in the top of the fourth inning of the final game at the Asia Professional Baseball Championship at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo on Nov. 19, 2017. (Yonhap)|
After inherting a 1-0 deficit after three, the relief corps failed to keep South Korea in the game. Two right-handers, Kim Yun-dong and Kim Dae-hyun, were each charged with two earned runs in one inning of work. Lee Min-ho, who allowed the walk-off hit against Japan last Thursday, this time served up a home run to Nishikawa.
South Korean pitchers walked eight batters, compared to zero by their Japanese counterparts. (Yonhap)