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Japan earns a top seed for WBC semifinals

Thu 19th, March 2009

San Diego, CA (Sports Network) - Norichika Aoki had two hits, a run scored and a run batted in, as Japan won Pool 1 with a 6-2 victory over Korea in the World Baseball Classic.

Both teams had already secured a spot in the competition's semifinals this weekend, but this game determined the upcoming matchups at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. With the win, Japan will now play the United States on Sunday, while Korea will take on Pool 2 winner Venezuela on Saturday.

Unlike the first two rounds, the final round is a single-elimination tournament, with the winners of the two semifinals facing off in one championship game. Japan is the defending champion of this tournament.

Seiichi Uchikawa blasted a home run for the Japanese team, which has taken two of the four games against Korea over the duration of the WBC. Akinori Iwamura added two hits and an RBI, while Tetsuya Utsumi allowed a run on three hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings pitched.

Hideaki Wakui got the win after striking out one batter.

Bum Ho Lee hit a solo homer, while Hyun-Soo Kim had an RBI double to account for Korea's two runs. Seung-Hwan Oh took the loss after allowing two runs on two hits without recording an out.

Korea took an early lead in the bottom of the first, as Hyun-Soo Kim's ground- rule double scored Keun-Woo Jeong, who led off the inning with a single.

Japan went in front with two runs in the second. Uchikawa hit a one-out solo homer, and Shuichi Murata scored on Yasuyuki Kataoka's RBI single.

Neither team could get on the board from the third through the sixth, but Korea tied the game at two on Lee's leadoff homer in the seventh.

The Japanese team answered with three runs in the eighth to take a commanding lead. Three consecutive singles to start the inning produced the first run, as Aoki scored on Michihiro Ogasawara's base hit.

Two batters later, Iwamura's single scored two more runs up the middle, giving the Japanese team a 5-2 lead.

Hiroyuki Nakajima added an RBI single, scoring Ichiro Suzuki, in the ninth inning to cap the scoring and help Japan take the Pool 1 title.

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