JX-Eneos of Japan or the national team of Chinese Taipei?
It was too close to call on Wednesday.
Until Ren Yamasaki stepped to the plate.
Hitting seventh in the Team Japan batting order, the lefthanded-hitting Yamasaki went downtown with a pitch from Yang Jhih Long, knocking it over the fence in right centrefield to give Japan a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth inning.
Then with the bases loaded, Toshiki Yamada rapped a shallow single off pitcher Hseih Jung Hao to right field that scored two more runs and Japan was off to the World Baseball Challenge gold-medal final, 4-1 winners.
Isao Numao issued a walk to Lin Han to start the bottom of the ninth but the next batter, Huang Chi Wei hit into a double play. With his team down to its last out, Jung Po Wang popped up to left fielder Masaki Maeda to end the game.
Japan will face the Ciego de Avila Tigres of Cuba in tonight's championship game at 7. Chinese Taipei will play the United States for bronze today at 3 p.m.
While Wednesday's game lacked the offensive fireworks Chinese Taipei displayed in beating the Japanese team 7-1 in round-robin play Saturday, the 853 paying customers in attendance at Citizen Field were treated to a display of virtually mistake-free baseball. Both teams received great defence and solid pitching to keep the score deadlocked for most of the game.
Japan loaded the bases with one out in the first inning but was unable to score. Lead-off hitter Maeda came close but was forced out at home and Kuc Chun Lin ended the threat by striking out Shun Ishikawa.
Yamasaki got it going for Japan in the second with a flare into right field. Then with runners at second and third, Yasufumi Takahashi's basehit into left field allowed Yamasaki to come across with the game's first run.
Luc Guo Long led off the Chinese Taipei half of the second, working the count to 3-2 before teeing off on Motoshi Oshiro's offering, a towering shot that cleared the left field wall.
Numao was credited the victory, not allowing a hit through two innings with one walk. Team Japan head coach Hideaki Okubo pulled the plug on starter Motoshi Oshiro after three innings, after he'd given up two hits and one run, with two Ks to his credit. His replacement, Akihiro Kitahara, went just one inning, striking out two and giving up one hit, a single to Kuc Ming Jen.
Tomoya Mikami started the fifth on the mound and was money in the bank for Japan, keeping the Chinese Taipei batters from getting the ball out of the infield for three innings while striking out three. Isao Namao came in to relieve Mikami in the eighth and walked the first batter he faced, Chen Wei Chih, who was later gunned down trying to steal second.
Chinese Taipei starter Kuc Chun Lin lasted 6 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and one run while striking out six before handing the ball to Long. Long gave way to Chen Yu Hsun with one out in the ninth and Hsun was forced into the dugout with two out after his thigh got in the way of Yamada's two-RBI line drive.