Olympic Baseball 2021: Japan Beats Dominican Republic 4-3 on Day 1

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 28, 2021

Japan's Hayato Sakamoto celebrates his walk-off single in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Dominican Republic at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Fukushima, Japan. Japan won 4-3. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Fresh off winning a gold medal in softball, Japan opened the baseball tournament with a 4-3 victory over the Dominican Republic at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The Dominican Republic appeared to be in firm control heading into the bottom of the ninth after an RBI double by Gustavo Nunez put it ahead 3-1.

Back-to-back singles by Yuki Yanagita and Kensuke Kondoh put runners on first and second with one out for the host country. Munetaka Murakami made it a 3-2 game with a single to right field, and Sosuke Genda came home after a bunt by Takuya Kai.

After a Tetsuto Yamada single loaded the bases, Hayato Sakamoto completed the comeback with a long drive to center.

#TokyoOlympics @NBCOlympics

WALK-OFF WIN!<br><br>In the first Olympic baseball game since 2008, the host nation of Japan comes back! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> <a href="https://t.co/I1Dss3D3FM">pic.twitter.com/I1Dss3D3FM</a>

That was Sakamoto's only hit of the game and he certainly made it count. Yanagita and Masataka Yoshida both went 2-for-3 at the plate and together nearly accounted for half of Japan's nine hits.

Although he didn't earn a decision in the game, Yoshinobu Yamamoto was excellent on the mound. The right-hander allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out nine in six innings of work.

Kyle Glaser @KyleAGlaser

Final line for Yoshinobu Yamamoto: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K. Sat 93-95 on his fastball, 77-78 CB and 90-91 SPLT were both swing and miss pitches at their best and he mixed in a slider that got swings and misses as well later in the outing. Impressive showing for the 22 year old.

Charlie Valerio had two hits, including a two-run double in the seventh, in the losing effort. Six-time All-Star Jose Bautista didn't make much of an impact for the Dominican Republic, going hitless in three at-bats.

The result gives Japan the inside track in Group A. The country is back in action Saturday against Mexico, and the Dominican Republic will look to rebound Friday against the Mexicans.