‘Baseball’s fringe’ China upsets Japan to top their group and advance to the Super Round. The South Korean baseball team’s first opponent in the Super Round will be Japan, not China.
China defeated Japan 1-0 in a Group A baseball game at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games on Wednesday at the Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Center in Zhejiang, China. While Japan’s team is made up of unemployed baseball players, China’s victory over Japan is one of the biggest upsets of the Games. With the win, China improved to 3-0 in group play, leapfrogging Japan (2-1) for the top spot in the group.
Japan has a huge baseball infrastructure, and even its unemployed baseball players boast “semi-professional” skills. There are several pitchers who can throw fastballs approaching 150 kilometers per hour, and the fielders’ defensive fundamentals are as solid as the pros. Even South Korea, whose national team is made up of KBO players, is a tough opponent to beat. In fact, at the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang tournament, Japan defeated China 17-2 in five cold games. They also defeated Chinese Taipei 5-0 in the super round to win the silver medal.
Five years later in Hangzhou, it was a different story. China scored the first run in the second inning when Liang Fei lined a single to left field with the bases loaded after an infield single and two walks. The pitchers then held the Japanese bats scoreless to preserve the narrow one-run lead. In the bottom of the ninth, China had runners on first and second with no outs, but reliever Zheng Chaoqin struck out the next two batters to complete the dramatic victory. Chinese starter Wang Xing earned the win, holding the Japanese offense to one hit and no walks over five innings.
China’s surprise victory forced South Korea to revise its Super Round strategy. South Korea, which entered the Super Round as the second-place team in Group B (2-1) behind Chinese Taipei (3-1), initially predicted Japan to win Group A and China to finish second. It was also assumed that China would be the first opponent in the Super Round against the second-place Group A team. The starting rotation was designed accordingly. However, when Japan slipped to second place, we had to revisit our mound game plan. The new pressure comes from seeing the quality of Chinese baseball.
In the Super Round, teams are ranked based on their combined head-to-head record in the group stage. Accordingly, South Korea will begin their quest for a ticket to the finals with one loss against Taiwan, Taiwan with one win against South Korea, Japan with one loss 토토 against China, and China with one win against Japan. South Korea will face Japan on the 5th and China on the 6th.
The simplest scenario for the finals is for Korea to beat both Japan and China, and for Taiwan to win against China on Day 5. In this case, both Korea and Taiwan would advance to the final regardless of the outcome of the Taiwan-Japan match on Day 6. On the other hand, if Chinese Taipei gets swept by China like Japan did, then we have a more complicated scenario to consider.