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Yomiuri beats Australia's Perth in Asia Series baseball

The Japanese champions Yomiuri Giants defeated the Perth Heat of Australia 7-1 Friday at the Asia Series baseball tournament.

At Sajik Stadium in this southeastern city, some 450 kilometers from Seoul, Shinnosuke Abe hit a pinch-hit, go-ahead single in the seventh as the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) champions came back from 1-0 down against the underdogs.

The Giants tagged on two more runs that inning and added three more in the eighth off the Heat’s South Korean pitcher, Koo Dae-sung.

The Asia Series has brought together six clubs from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China and Australia. Yomiuri and the Heat are champions of their respective leagues. South Korea is hosting the event for the first time.

Other participants are the Samsung Lions, the 2012 Korea Baseball Organization champions; the Lotte Giants, the KBO club based in Busan; the Lamigo Monkeys, the reigning Taiwanese champs; and the China Stars, an All-Star team from China.

The six teams have been paired in two groups of three. Group A has the Lions, the Monkeys and the Stars. Group B includes Yomiuri, Lotte and Perth.

The Lions, who won the 2011 Asia Series, will begin their title defense at 6 p.m. Friday against the Monkeys. No team has won back-to-back titles at the Asia Series, which began in 2005.

After intra-group games until Saturday, the top teams from the two groups will clash in the final on Sunday at 2 p.m.

On Friday, the Giants were held to just three singles by the Heat's starter Anthony Claggett through five innings, and the Australian champs took a 1-0 lead in the sixth on Tim Kennelly’s RBI single.

The Giants quickly pulled even in the bottom sixth, as Hayato Sakamoto hit a sacrifice fly to left.

Then the Japanese side charged out to a 4-1 lead in the seventh. Abe broke the 1-1 tie with a single. Three batters later, Matsumoto hit a sac fly to right center. Sakamoto followed up with a run-scoring double off the left field wall.

Koo, under contract with a different Australian team but playing with the Heat this week in a special arrangement, entered the game in the eighth. In his first Korean appearance since his retirement from the KBO in 2010, Koo retired only one of seven batters he faced and gave up three runs, two of them unearned.

The Giants loaded the bases with no out against Koo, after a single, a double and a walk. Takayuki Terauchi's grounder made it 5-1, and third baseman Dean White’s error on a grounder let in the sixth run for the Giants.

Another error by White loaded the bases again, and Matsumoto's single gave Yomiuri a 7-1 cushion.

The Heat lost to the Lotte Giants Thursday 6-1, committing three errors. They had four more errors on Friday, three of them by two different third basemen.

The Asia Series began in 2005, pitting champions from South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, and either an All-Star team or the league champion from China against each other. Konami, a Japanese game company, sponsored the tournament from 2005 to 2008, but pulled out after 2008, citing declining interest in the event.

In 2009, the KBO and the NPB held a single club championship match in Japan and the KBO, NPB and CPBL champions met in Taiwan the following year. These events were not called the Asia Series. 

(Yonhap News)