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Shohei Ohtani, Japan win World Baseball Classic

For the third time in WBC history, team Japan is victorious in the championship game.

World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan
Team Japan went on an undefeated run to win the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

It was the dream matchup for most in the World Baseball Classic final, as team USA was set to defend their title against the winningest team in tournament history in Japan. It came down to the final inning and the final out, but team Japan has emerged victorious over team USA, winning 3-2 and capturing the team’s third title in the tournament.

We tend to romanticize baseball, but it was pure theater during the entirety of this game. Team USA was looking to win back to back championships in the WBC, while Japan was aiming to reclaim their spot as the best baseball playing nation. Fans in attendance and at home got all of that.

Trea Turner was on a serious hot streak through the back half of the tournament, and was the first to put points up on the board as his solo homer in the second inning put the United States ahead 1-0. That shot would have Turner tie a WBC record with five home runs in a single tournament.

Munetaka Murakami responded at the bottom of the inning with a solo shot of his own, followed up by another run scored by Kazuma Okamoto off of a Lars Nootbar groundout. Japan would extend their lead in the fourth with a solo homer by Okamoto, making it 3-1.

Kyle Schwarber would also score a solo home run late in the game to close the gap to just one run, but team USA left players on the field and were not able to capitalize on scoring opportunities, going an unfortunate 0-7 with runners in scoring position. Cold hard stats are not what will be remembered from this contest however, as the dream matchup finally collided in the last at bat in the series.

Los Angeles Angels teammates Mike Trout of team USA, and Shohei Ohtani of team Japan squared off like two heavyweights in a title fight with seconds on the clock and no clear decision to be made. Ohtani came in relief in the ninth inning and walked Jeff McNeil to start. A double play was made off a grounder from Mookie Betts, and then it was down to the final matchup.

World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan
Pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani was awarded the MVP trophy for the World Baseball Classic.
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Trout had come up big previously in the tournament, and needed another miracle to give USA a chance at a win. Ohtani was as composed as ever, hitting 100 mph routinely in his relief appearance. The Japanese superstar struck out his Angels teammate with an absolute fireball, sealing the victory for Japan, and being awarded the tournaments most valuable player.

Japan is the only team in WBC history with multiple titles, winning the first two in 2006 and 2009, and now capturing their third as they stake their claim as the best baseball playing country in the world. Ohtani also proved himself posting an incredible .435/.606/.739 stat line as a hitter in the tournament and showing why many consider him to be the best player on the planet.

The world baseball classic has been confirmed to return in 2026, as this year really opened up a lot of eyes on how impactful the tournament can be for the sport, and continuing the expand its reach far past the United States. Many players said this was the best experience they have had playing the sport, and several have already confirmed their intentions to participate in the next tournament.

Team Japan is certainly going to be a tough team to beat, as they went undefeated this year, and look to stay on top for years to come.