A walk-off grand slam from Ryuga Umeda in the bottom of the eighth inning gave Japan the 2023 U-18 Men’s Softball World Cuptitle in an 8-4 extra-inning drama against Mexico. This is Japan’s fourth World Championship in the history of the event, and the second in a row after winning it all in 2020.
It was an extremely close game between the two best teams of the tournament. A back-and-forth battle that finished on a high note with Umeda’s home run.
Japan sent two different pitchers to the circle. Kanta Aso started the game and tossed the first two inning, leaving his place to Rio Takahashi, who worked 3.1 innings. Aso came back to the game to pitch the last 2.2 frames. He allowed three hits and two runs with two walks and three strikeouts.
The last innings of the game were thrilling. With the game tied at three, pinch hitter Eito Yodogawa gave Japan a one-run lead with a single. However, in the top of the seventh with one out on the scoreboard, Mexico’s captain smashed a solo homer over the center field fence to tie the game that gave Mexico hope again.
In the extra inning, starting with a runner on second base, Aso retired the side on two grounders and a strikeout to keep the game tied.
In the bottom half of the eighth, Mexico loaded the bases with a pair of intentional walks, and as Umeda stepped on the batter’s box with one out, he sat on a 1-1 high pitch and sent it over the left field wall to end the tournament with a walk-off grand slam.
Japan, the programme with most medals in the history of the event, added a world title to their previous 11 medals.
For Mexico, the silver medal became their second medal ever since earning bronze in the inaugural edition of the event in 1981. Counting the senior World Cup, this is the fourth medal for Mexico, tying their best performance ever of second place in the first edition of the World Cup in Mexico City in 1966.