Team Japan Captures World Baseball Classic Title; Shohei Ohtani Wins MVP
Baseball: World Baseball Classic - Championship-Japan vs USA
Mar 21, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Japan designated hitter and closing pitcher Shohei Ohtani (16) and team Japan celebrate with the World Baseball Classic trophy after defeating the USA in the World Baseball Classic at LoanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

As the wildly popular World Baseball Classic culminated with Team USA taking on Team Japan in the Championship Game on Tuesday, two superstars who both represent the Los Angeles Angels squared off at the height of the contest.

Shohei Ohtani had been looking forward to representing Japan’s national team since he announced his intention to play last year. The two-way superstar was just as advertised while playing against some of the best of the best throughout the tournament.

Going undefeated through the seeding portion of the bracket, Japan leaned on their incredible plate discipline which allowed them to earn walks and drive in runs with base hits. Their young pitching staff anchored by Ohtani kept them in every game long enough for them to make a number of comeback pushes.

Ohtani finished the WBC with a .435/.606/.739 slash, leading the team in hits, walks, and tied for the top spot in runs scored. On the bump, the phenom made two starts prior to the final game, allowing two runs over 8.2 innings pitched, but his third appearance came in the ninth inning on Tuesday.

After Yu Darvish gave up a solo home run in the top half of the eighth inning, Japan’s manager Hideki Kuriyama called upon Ohtani to nurse a 3-2 lead. After surrendering a walk to Jeff McNeil to lead off the inning, he induced a double play from Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts, setting the stage to face off against Angels teammate Mike Trout.

Ohtani spoke about his desire to face Trout in the WBC last month, and after working a 3-2 count with two outs, the right-hander snapped off a perfectly located slider on the outer half of the plate. Trout swung through it, and Japan claimed their third WBC Championship by knocking off the defending champions.

Ohtani was named Most Valuable Player of the WBC due to his historic performance both on the mound and at the plate. The soon-to-be free agent stares down a future filled with incredible promise and the most important season of his Major League Baseball career begins with a WBC title.

Shohei Ohtani on facing Mike Trout for final out

Having two of the best players on the planet wearing Angels uniforms is a thing of its own, but to have the duo line up in a key moment when the stakes actually matter is something special. Prior to Trout stepping into the box, Ohtani had a plan to face his teammate.

“Of course I have — I had some certain type of a plan, but of course, I think the target ball is depending upon the batter,” Ohtani said. “So of course, hey, you just have to trust your sense, though.”

With Ohtani taking this round between them, they’ll both have something to say when reminiscing on the incredible battle that came down to one final pitch in a winner-take-all game.

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