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Baseball: Perfect Takahisa Hayakawa leads Japan rout of Australia

Lefty Takahisa Hayakawa struck out seven over five perfect innings as Japan completed the round-robin phase of the Asia Professional Baseball Championship with a 10-0 win over Australia on Saturday.

Japan, without most of its top-tier domestic talent for the tournament at Tokyo Dome, will play either Taiwan or South Korea in Sunday’s final after ending its penultimate game in eight innings via the mercy rule.

Hayakawa left with a 5-0 lead in a game in which every Samurai Japan batter reached base.

“That was some excellent pitching,” said new Japan manager Hirokazu Ibata said. “We’ve pitched well the whole tournament and this brought us into the final in good form.”

“I wanted to have a game in which every starter gets a hit. We didn’t quite get there today, but it was a good step for us.”

Japan’s Chusei Mannami (R) slides into third base safely against Australia with a third-inning triple in their Asia Professional Baseball Championship game at Tokyo Dome on Nov. 18, 2023. (Kyodo)

Kyota Fujiwara, who reached base five times, scored twice and drove in two runs, opened the game with an infield single and scored on Kaito Kozono’s no-out single against 18-year-old right-hander Jack Bushell.

Fujiwara’s two-run seventh-inning single gave Japan a seven-run lead as the hosts inched closer to the 10-run lead they would use to end the game early.

“I’m really glad I could play a part in big runs — the first one, and another two that helped ice it,” Fujiwara said. “I didn’t get a chance to play in either of the first two games, but I was prepared.”

“The quality of the balls I hit wasn’t all that good, but the results were big.”

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