The Junior Steelers have fallen short of a sixth World Championship title after Japan put on a masterclass in base-running to claim the 2020 WBSC U18 Men’s World Cup in Palmerston North, New Zealand.
Clearly the best two teams in the tournament, both Australia and Japan deserved their place in the Gold Medal game and it was the Steelers who took control early in the final.
With two outs in the bottom of the first inning and a runner on third, Hayden Shaw placed a perfect drive out to left field to bring in Jeremy Garland and land the first blow for Australia.
Garland pitched for the Junior Steelers and began well, as Japan turned a single into a scoring threat at third courtesy of two stolen bases, Garland kept his cool to strike out the final batter and keep Australia’s 1-0 lead after the first.
Caleb Van De Griendt then smashed a homerun over the left fence off a drop ball to add another run for the Australians to lead 2-0 after two.
Japan answered back immediately with a smashed ball just finding the inside of the right foul line along the ground for an inside-the-park homerun to bring the score back to 2-1.
The third inning had a bit of everything for the Aussies, Garland hitting his second single of the game before a sharp double play from the Japanese infielders, Riley James then smashed a double in the very next at-bat but in vain as Japan earned their third out.
Japan then kicked into overdrive in the bottom of the fourth as Rui Mimoto hit his second inside-the-park homerun of the game, this time bringing two more runners in with to flip the game in their favour with a 4-2 scoreline.
The Japanese clinic in baserunning continued after another stolen third base turned into a scoring run as the throw to catch the runner out was off the mark, pushing their lead to three.
Australia were then faced with a mountain to climb after a two-run bomb from Japan blew the score out to 7-2, the Steelers then put lefty Jack Besgrove into the pitcher’s circle however, Japan was still able to add to their tally following more clever base running, the five-run carnage ending with a 9-2 scoreline.
Japan claimed the title with three outs in the top of the fifth, ending the tournament early with the run-ahead rule.
Japan’s captain Hitto Nagayoshi was named Tournament MVP.
Josh Banks (OF), Josh Routledge (OF), Riley James (3B) and Jeremy Garland (SS) were recognised for their strong tournament by being named in the U18 Men’s World Cup All-World Team.