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Japan Wins World Baseball Classic on Storybook Ending: Ohtani vs. Trout

Shohei Ohtani celebrates after striking out Mike Trout for final out of 2023 World Baseball Classic Championship - Image Credit: World Baseball Classic/MLB

NEW YORK– A storybook ending? Yes. A movie-like ending? Most certainly. A Hollywood ending? 110 percent. The conclusion to the 2023 World Baseball Classic on Tuesday evening brought out a moment in sports that compares to no other. 

The Greatest ‘Sho’ on Earth, Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s phenom on the mound with his country one-out away from securing the WBC Championship, going up against his current teammate of the Los Angeles Angels, Team USA’s captain, and future Cooperstown Hall of Famer, Mike Trout. 

Seriously, if you were to draw up your own script for Japan-USA in the WBC Championship, what other matchup and scenario would you choose over Ohtani vs. Trout?

Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani chatting in batting practice prior to WBC Championship – Image Credit: World Baseball Classic/MLB

Both have combined for a career total of 477 home runs, 12 All-Star appearances, 10 Silver Slugger Awards, and four American League Most Valuable Player Awards. And mark my words, when it’s all said and done, Trout and Ohtani will combine for over a billion dollars in career salary earnings. 

But, the accolades and salary numbers didn’t matter on Tuesday night. 

As Japan was up 3-2 heading into the ninth, Ohtani, in his first relief appearance since 2016, entered from the bullpen, hoping to capture the country’s third WBC title in the tournament’s history. 

The 28-year-old began the inning on a difficult note, allowing Jeff McNeil to reach base on a seven-pitch walk. McNeil aggressively fought off multiple pitches, which led to an opportunity for Mookie Betts to rally Team USA. 

Mike Trout awaiting his chance to face Shohei Ohtani in the top of the ninth inning in the WBC Championship – Image Credit: World Baseball Classic/FOX Sports

However, their momentum was shut down by Ohtani flaming a pair of four-seam fastballs over 100 MPH, with the second, forcing Betts to ground into a double play. 

Then, the dream scenario happened. Ohtani vs. Trout. Never before seen. Nearly all of 36,098 stood on their feet at loanDepot Park, to go together with hundreds of millions zoned in, watching at home from around the globe. 

“I was not expecting him to be literally the last batter of the game,” Ohtani said through a team translator. “I thought it was a possibility, but I can’t believe he was the last batter of the game.”

Ohtani started off the duel with an 88 MPH slider, then followed on four consecutive four-seamers, (each over 99.7 MPH), leading to the World Baseball Classic Championship all coming down to a full count: three balls, and two strikes. 

Then came the final pitch with Ohtani fooling Trout to swing and miss on an 87 MPH slider. 

As catcher Yuhei Nakamura caught the final pitch, Ohtani chucked his glove and hat to the side, waiting for his teammates to hug and celebrate Japan winning the 2023 World Baseball Classic Championship. 

During an on-field celebration, Ohtani stated, “Whether I got him (Trout) out or he got a hit off me, I didn’t want to make any regrets. Just wanted to make my best pitch.” 

He added: “I played with him for several years now, and I’ve seen him the most. I hit next to him in the lineup and I’m the one that probably knows how great he is, not just as a person, but as a baseball player. So I had to give my best and my 120 percent to get him out.” 

“He won Round One,” Trout said. 

“I was hoping it would end a little bit different with Mike popping one,” Team USA manager Mark DeRosa said. “But the baseball world won tonight.”

Japan scored 56 runs while allowing their opponents to combine for 18, and finished the 2023 WBC undefeated at 7-0. For the Greatest ‘Sho’ on Earth, Ohtani, he compiled a .435 batting average with 10 hits and eight RBI – on the mound, he recorded a 1.86 ERA with 11 strikeouts. Plus a save that rose his country to glory as Team Japan was crowned the World Baseball Classic Champions. 

Japan celebrates winning World Baseball Classic Championship – Image Credit: World Baseball Classic/MLB

“It was like a storybook ending,” Ohtani, the 2023 World Baseball Classic Most Valuable Player, said.

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Robert Rizzo is a journalist and co-editor of Latino Sports

Email: RobertRiz994@gmail.com

Watch Sports with Rich live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with host Rich Mancuso and co-host Robert Rizzo

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