| TOKYO, March 7
TOKYO, March 7 Holders Japan overwhelmed Olympic
champions South Korea 14-2 on Saturday to become the first team
to reach the second round of the World Baseball Classic (WBC).
Ichiro Suzuki broke out of his recent slump while Shuichi
Murata and Kenji Johjima smashed home runs before the game was
ended on the mercy rule after seven innings at Tokyo Dome.
The Koreans should still comfortably beat China on Sunday to
advance along with Japan while securing a shot at instant
revenge over their fierce rivals in Monday's final Pool A game.
Japan's leadoff batter Suzuki ignited a three-run first
innings with a line-drive single to deafening roars from a crowd
South Korea responded immediately with a towering two-run
shot into the left field seats from Kim Tae-kyun, who pumped his
fists and roared in delight as the ball sailed over the fence.
However, Japan let rip in the second with a five-run
outburst to break the game open, capped by a three-run homer
from third baseman Murata, going deep for the second game
Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, tournament MVP in
Japan's 2006 triumph at the inaugural WBC, recovered from a
shaky start to keep Korea's big guns in check through four
Suzuki's performance will give Japan a major boost, the
Seattle Mariners outfielder ending his hitless streak, including
warm-up games, at 16 at-bats as he went 3-for-5.
Catcher Johjima's two-run homer in the sixth gave Japan an
11-run lead over last year's Beijing Olympic gold medallists
before the game was called with Korea never threatening to
Japan had beaten China 4-0 in the curtain raiser for the
16-team tournament on Thursday, while the Koreans crushed Taiwan
9-0 in their opening game.
China eliminated Taiwan with an upset 4-1 win earlier on
Saturday. Pool C and D games were beginning in Canada and Puerto
Rico later on Saturday.
Pool B play in Mexico gets under way on Sunday while the
second round onwards will be held in the United States.
(Editing by Sonia Oxley)