2015 Premier 12 Tournament: Japan and Taiwan
Just four nations remain in contention as the inaugural Premier 12 tournament moves to Japan for semi-finals to be played at Tokyo Dome on Thursday and Friday, followed by medals rounds on Saturday.
World number one-ranked Japan will meet South Korea and Mexico will lock horns with United States for the right to play off for the prestigious Premier 12 championship title and for a share of almost four million dollars in prize money that is on offer.
Alumni personnel at the Premier 12 tournament offer some insights into team prospects.
Australian Baseball Alumni
Taiwan, 16 November 2015
The baseball has been outstanding right throughout the tournament. We are all done for games in Taiwan now, with a rest day before travelling to Tokyo for the finals. Everyone here is really looking forward to Tokyo Dome and of course to the four games to come.
The quarter finals were all hard-fought affairs, although United States and Japan got away later in their games (against Netherlands and Puerto Rico) and South Korea led Cuba throughout after a big second innings. Mexico edged out Canada to make the final four.
Semi Final: UNITED STATES versus MEXICO
Mexico went two and three in the Round Robin and beat previously undefeated Canada 4-3 in the quarter final – probably the biggest upset of the tournament.
Mexico was thumped 10-0 by United States in the round robin – their worst loss – but they should not be underestimated. They have played pretty well with baseball fortunes against them. They had a disorganised and interrupted preparation and did not train together at all prior to the start of the tournament. There is a real sense of belief amongst this team led by Mike Brito (pictured below). Dubbed The Man with the Golden Eye, Brito has worked as a scout for the Dodgers for over forty years. He signed Fernando Valenzuela – who he taught the screw ball - and more recently Yasiel Puig. He has signed twenty-seven players who have reached the Majors.
Brito is perhaps best known by Dodgers fans for his Panama hat and he was frequently seen on televised Dodgers games holding a radar gun behind home plate.
United States (3-2 in round robin play) beat the Netherlands 6-1 in the quarter finals. Led by Willie Randolph (also below) they are in this with a chance heading to Tokyo with wins over Dominican Republic 11-5, Mexico 10-0 and Korea 3-2 in ten innings. They are a young team with no MLB 40-man roster guys available, so a lot will ride on the arm of Zeke Spruill (the likely semi-final starter) and the big bats of Dan Black and Brett Eibner. United States have some speed and their defence is average but they are definitely in with a shot.
Semi-Final: JAPAN versus SOUTH KOREA
Japan (5-0 in round robin) defeated Puerto Rico 9-3 in the quarters. They have been the best team in this tournament and should win the whole thing.
Led by Hiroki Kokubo (pictured below) the efficiency of the Japan team is relentless. Flame thrower Shohei Otani has been announced as starting against Korea in Tokyo and he will certainly feel confident after opening the tournament with a 5-0 win over Korea in Sapporo.
Leading hitter of the tournament Sho Nakata (first base) will lead the offence along with Nobuhiro Matsuda (third base). Nakata is hitting .435 for the tournament, with ten hits and two home runs for an incredible thirteen RBIs. The Japan team hits from one to nine and all of their pitchers are capable of throwing mid to high nineties. They will be very tough to beat.
South Korea (3-2 after round robin) beat Cuba 7-2 in the quarters and are led by In-Sik Kim (below). After the 5-0 loss to Japan in Sapporo, they came to Taiwan and thumped Dominican Republic 10-1 and Venezuela 13-2 in seven innings to stamp real authority on the tournament.
A tight win over Mexico 4-3 and a tough loss to the United States in extras suggests that they have the game to go all the way – although their starting pitching will be the key. With an opposition batting average of .251, South Korea has struck out more hitters than any other team (fifty-two). They have scored twenty-nine runs to Japan thirty-one and both teams have twenty-five walks through the round robin stage.
The numbers are similar, but most people feel the edge is with Japan. But with this style of tournament – one sudden death semi-final to make the championship game - you just never know.
Canada and Japan make the running at Premier 12
13 November 2015
With two to play by each of the twelve teams, Canada (Group A) and Japan (Group B) have won all three of their games to date and appear certain of making the Monday quarter finals in Taiwan.
After a rest day on Friday, round robin competition will be completed over Saturday and Sunday, with plenty of interest in deciding which of the other nations can win through to the final eight. The bottom two nations in each group will be eliminated.
Both at two and one in Group A, Cuba (2-1) and Netherlands (2-1) appear favoured to go through – along with Canada (3-0) – while Sunday’s Puerto Rico (1-2) versus Chinese Taipei (1-2) match-up may well decide fourth spot, with Italy (0-3) effectively out of contention.
Group B is at a fascinating stage, with a number of possible scenarios. While the heavily-favoured Japan national team (3-0) is looking very strong, United States (2-1) has tough games to come against both Japan and South Korea (2-1). Mexico and Venezuela (both 1-2) look like slugging it out for the fourth spot ahead of Dominican Republic (0-3).
Schedule, results, Game Tracker service and live streaming are available at THIS LINK.
With the assistance of Australian Baseball Alumni personnel currently at the Premier 12, we can provide the following slide show from the early days of competition in Taiwan.
8 November 2015
The inaugural Premier 12 Tournament started today at Sapporo Dome (Tokyo).
While Australia did not qualify for the series, we understand that there will be considerable interest in the event - especially with Australian umpire and Alumni member Brett Robson officiating at the series. Accordingly, we will seek to bring Alumni members updates, images and snippets of information generously provided by some of our contacts who are in attendance at the tournament. Scroll down for preliminary images sent to us just prior to the opening game in Tokyo.
For background to the Premier 12 touranament, see the following articles posted on our website:
While paid vehicle beIN Sports will be broadcasting all of the Premier 12 games, the World Baseball Softball Confederation will also be providing streaming through its You Tube channel that can be located HERE.
Please revisit our "In Progress" link as we provide updates over the course of the Premier 12 tournament.
Swatted a grand slam against USA
Nakata hit a three-run homer against USA
Pre-game national anthems
Swatted a grand slam against USA
Media rehearsals in empty Sapporo Stadium
Korean starter Kim Kwang-Hun prior to Game 1
The Premier 12 trophy, valued at $ 350K
Official Premier 12 baseballs used at the tournament