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Japan Inches One Step Closer To First Olympic Gold Medal In Baseball

Japan is one of the powers of international baseball. It has won two World Baseball Classics. It has ranked No. 1 in the World Baseball Softball Confederation rankings many times over the past decade.

But it has not won an Olympic gold medal in baseball since the sport became an official medal sport in the Summer Games. Now, it’s one win away from scratching off the last item on its international to-do list.

Japan scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth on Tetsuto Yamada's two-out, bases-clearing double and Ryoji Kuribayashi closed the door on South Korea in the ninth to give Japan a 5-2 win in the first semifinal of the Tokyo Games.

Japan advances to the gold medal game on Saturday. South Korea will face Team USA on Thursday at 6 a.m. ET/3 a.m. PT. The winner of that game will move on to the gold medal game and face Japan. The loser will face the Dominican Republic in the bronze medal game.

Japan has been the class of the Olympic field so far. It remains undefeated and has beaten every other team in medal contention (Dominican Republic, Team USA and South Korea).

Japan never trailed against South Korea, and Yamada played a part in all five runs Japan scored.

Japan took an early 1-0 lead in the third when Yamada laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Takuya Kai and Munetaka Murakami to second and third, respectively. Hayato Sakamoto followed with a sacrifice fly to center field to score Murakami.

Yamada led off the fifth inning with a double, and Masataka Yoshida singled to bring him home to give Japan a 2-0 lead.

Korea’s two runs came in the sixth on four singles. Hae-Min Park singled and advanced to second on an error. Baek-Ho Kang singled to drive in Park. Jung-Hoo Lee singled to follow and Hyun-Soo Kim’s single drove in Kang.

That set the stage Yamada to break the tie. With the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth, Yamada drove a high drive that hit the top of the wall in left-center to clear the bases and give Japan the lead.

Three Japan relievers—Suguru Iwazaki, Hitomi Itoh and Kuribayashi—held Korea in check with 3.2 innings of scoreless relief with six strikeouts and just two hits allowed.

Hiroto Takahashi (Photo By Eric Espada Getty Images)

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