World Baseball Classic


The 2023 World Baseball Classic will go down as one of the greatest tournaments in the history of the sport. Controversial moments, jaw dropping plays, and raw emotion fueled a near flawless ending. 

 The World Baseball Classic (WBC) is an exhibition tournament held every four years between leading baseball countries (Similar to the World Cup). Founded in 2006, five tournaments have been held. Japan has won three of those tournaments, and the Dominican Republic and United States have won one each. 

 It would make sense that the United States would win more often, given that they invented baseball in the first place, but Major League Baseball teams often block their star players from competing. They see the WBC as a meaningless exhibition tournament, and do not want to risk injury. Players from countries like Japan, South Korea, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Mexico have a completely opposite view on the tournament. To them, winning the WBC is just as, if not more important than winning the World Series. 

 In the first quarterfinal, Cuba beat the pool B runner-up Australia 3 to 4. Rixon Wingrove of Australia singled in the first run of the game in the second, but Cuba tied it up with a sacrifice grounder in the third. They got their lead in the fifth after a sacrifice fly and extended it with a two-run single. Rixon Wingrove continued his excellent game with a two-run shot in the sixth, but Cuba shut them down and moved on to the semifinals. 

 The second quarterfinal between Italy and Japan ended with a score of 9 to 3. Japan started the scoring in the third, with a Masataka Yoshida sacrifice grounder. That same inning, Kazuma Yokomoto hit a three-run homerun to left field. Italy tried to get back in the game with a two-run single by Dominic Fletcher, but Japan hit back with a pair of doubles in the fifth, and a home run in the seventh. Veteran Yu Darvish came in to close the game out. Dominic Fletcher hit a home run in the eighth, but it was in vain. Japan moves on to the semifinals. 

 The third quarterfinal took place between the USA and Venezuela. USA scored in the first with three singles, each driving in a run. Venezuela answered back with a two-run home run by Luis Arraez in the same inning. USA got a pair of runs in the fourth and fifth on a Mookie Betts sacrifice fly and a Kyle Tucker solo home run. Venezuela got three runs in the fifth on a wild pitch, fielder’s choice, and double. They got another run in the seventh on Luis Arraez’ second home run. In the eighth inning, Trea Turner hit a go-ahead grand slam to give the US the lead. Ryan Pressly closed out the game, and the US won with a final score of 9 to 7. They would face Cuba in the semifinals. 

 The fourth quarterfinal that took place between Puerto Rico and Mexico ended with a score of 4 to 5. Puerto Rico jumped out to an early lead with a sacrifice fly, and two home runs. Javier Baez hit a two-run home run, and Eddie Rosario followed with a solo shot. Isaac Peredes answered back in the second with a solo home run of his own. The rest of the game was all Mexico, with Alex Verdugo, Isaac Peredes and Luis Urias each collecting RBI hits. Mexico won and would face Japan in the Semifinal.  

 USA faced Cuba in the semifinal. Cuba began scoring in the first with an RBI walk. After that, the scoring was almost entirely US. Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run home run. In the next inning Trea Turner hit a solo home run. In the 3rd inning, Pete Alonso and Tim Anderson teamed up for an RBI single and a sacrifice fly. In the 4th inning, Nolan Arenado hit a triple to right field and then scored on a wild pitch. Andy Ibanez hit an RBI single in the fifth inning for Cuba. In the same inning Paul Goldschmidt collected his fourth RBI on a two-run single. Trea Turner hit another home run in the sixth. Mike Trout piled on with an RBI double in the same inning, and Cedric Mullins topped it off with a solo home run in the eighth. USA cruised past Cuba and entered the final game with momentum on their side. 

 Japan and Mexico faced off with elimination both and shame on the line. Scoring was postponed until the fourth inning when Luis Urias of Mexico hit a three-run home run off Roki Sasaki of Japan. In the 7th inning, Masataka Yoshida tied up the game with a three-run home run. In the next inning, Mexico scored twice on two RBI hits by Alex Verdugo and Isaac Paredes. Entering the eighth down by two runs, Japan needed big hits and got them when Hotaka Yamakawa hit a sacrifice fly to bring it to a one run game. They went into the bottom of the ninth inning with enormous amounts of pressure on their shoulders. Shohei Ohtani, arguably the greatest player in baseball hit a leadoff double, and Masataka Yoshida walked. The winning run was on base, and Munetaka Murakami doubled to left center. Japan walked it off and would face USA in the finals.    

 USA and Japan faced off in the final and most watched game of the tournament, kicking off 13 days after the start. Team USA struck first with a Solo HR from SS Trea Turner in the top of the 2nd inning, which was responded to with a Munetaka Murakami Solo HR of his own, then followed by a Lars Nootbaar Groundout when the bases were loaded, advancing all runners including a Kazuma Okamoto getting in for the score to end the inning up one. Japan grew upon their lead once more in the bottom of the 4th with another Solo HR, this time from Third Baseman Kazuma Okamoto. Time was running out for Team USA, as they had made no progress towards cutting the lead down until a Kyle Schwarber 439 feet Solo HR in the top of the 8th. Japan went scoreless in the bottom of the 8th, which brought the game to where nobody could have seen coming. 

Just before the start of the 9th, Pitcher Yu Darvish was replaced by Two-way player and MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani to close the game for Japan. After a walk followed by a double play, Team USA had one last chance to stay alive in this game, in the form of Mike Trout. He and Ohtani have a history of playing together for the Los Angeles Angels but also being the undisputed two best players in this generation and possibly ever. After throwing three straight 100+ MPH pitches, Trout had a full count. Ohtani’s final pitch caught Trout off-guard, only being 87 MPH instead of the 100 he had just got used to hitting, throwing his timing off and striking him out. 

When interviewed about The WBC’s impact globally, student Jules Pattison commented “I think the WBC is the best way to grow baseball internationally. And if kids from all over were to grow up watching international baseball, they would be more interested in representing their country, specifically for the US.” Another student Magnus said “Really, the main goal is to grow baseball on a global scale. At the end of the day, we want baseball to be popular everywhere.”