The 2023 World Baseball Classic just keeps on delivering.
Team Japan found themselves on the brink of elimination multiple times during Monday’s semifinal against a surging Mexico side, but they managed to pull off a classic walk-off moment to advance to the title game.
Down 5-4 on a 1-1 pitch in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on second and first, Munetaka Murakami — who plays for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball — blasted a double deep to center field that allowed Ukyo Shuto and Shohei Ohtani to round home in stunning fashion.
Mexico opened the scoring in the top of the fourth when Luis Urias launched a three-run homer to make it 3-0, and it took Japan until the bottom of the seventh to even the score. Masataka Yoshida snuck in a three-run homer to left field to tie it at 3-3.
Then Mexico responded in the ensuing inning with two runs before Japan added another in the bottom of the eighth to keep the score manageable at 5-4. That set the scene for Murakami’s magical moment.
Japan’s win kept the side undefeated in the tournament, the only team to still be flawless. The squad will now play Team USA in the final on Tuesday, with the first pitch slated for 7 p.m. ET. Mexico had given Team USA’s record its only blemish this tournament.
The U.S. is looking to repeat as champions after winning the last edition of the tournament in 2017. Japan, however, will be hoping to add a third WBC trophy to its cabinet as it already leads all nations with two titles (2006, 2009).
Arizona Diamondbacks’ Merrill Kelly is expected to be the starting pitcher for the U.S. while San Diego Padres‘ Yu Darvish is expected to be the man for Japan.