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For the fifth time in five World Baseball Classics, Team Japan has advanced to the semifinal round and is one of the last four teams standing. Japan ousted Italy behind Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish on Thursday (JPN 9, ITA 3) in Tokyo to punch their ticket to Miami for the semifinal round. Japan is undefeated in this year's WBC. Italy has been eliminated.

Ohtani got the start on the mound and cruised through the first four innings before hitting two batters and surrendering a two-run single to Diamondbacks minor leaguer Dominic Fletcher in the fifth. He finished with two runs allowed in 4 2/3 innings, falling just short of the WBC's 80-pitch limit in the quarterfinals (he threw 71). Ohtani also threw his fastest pitch on record, a 102.0-mph heater, and went 1 for 4 with a walk at the plate.

Japan took control of the game with a four-run third inning. Kazuma Okamoto, a first baseman with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan, hit a three-run home run. Japan added three runs in the fifth inning thanks in part to a two-run double by Okamoto. The four-time All-Star in Japan went 2 for 2 with a double, a homer, two walks, and five RBI in the win over Italy.

With a 7-2 lead in the seventh, Japan turned to Darvish in relief to help nail down the win or go home game. He allowed a solo homer to Fletcher in two innings of work. This was Darvish's first relief appearance since he was still with the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan in 2010. Memorably, he came out of the bullpen to close out Japan's win in the 2009 WBC championship game. 

Japan is a perfect 5-0 in this year's WBC and they have outscored their opponents 47-11. They will now travel to Miami for the semifinal round, where they will await the winner of Friday's Puerto Rico-Mexico game. Here is where the WBC stands:

Quarterfinal Round

Quarterfinal 1


March 15

Cuba 4, Australia 3

Quarterfinal 2


March 16

Japan 9, Italy 3

Quarterfinal 3


March 17

Puerto Rico vs. Mexico

Quarterfinal 4


March 18

USA vs. Venezuela

Championship Round

Semifinal 1


March 19

Cuba vs. Quarterfinal 4 winner

Semifinal 2


March 20

Japan vs. Quarterfinal 3 winner

Championship Game


March 21

Semifinal 1 winner vs. Semifinal 2 winner

Ohani is not expected to pitch the rest of the WBC even though the schedule would allow him to start the championship game on normal rest, something he has never done in his career. Japan has Roki Sasaki and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the two best pitchers in the world outside MLB, lined up to start in the semifinals and, if they advance, the championship game next Tuesday.

Japan won the 2006 and 2009 WBCs and finished third in the 2013 and 2017 WBCs, and has been by far the most successful team in the history of the tournament. With the Dominican Republic eliminated and USA hardly impressing in the first round, Japan is the favorite to take home this year's title.