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Murakami, Okamoto Spark Japan Over Italy and Into WBC Semifinals

The two NPB stars broke out of slumps to give Japan plenty of offense as the team heads to Miami with a shot at winning the WBC title.

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Japan's Kazuma Okamoto smacks a three-run home run in the third inning against Italy in a World Baseball Classic quarterfinal game on March 16 at Tokyo Dome. (Toru Hanai/AP)

Read the full story on SportsLook - Murakami, Okamoto Spark Japan Over Italy and Into WBC Semifinals

Munetaka Murakami and Kazuma Okamoto broke out the bats on Thursday, March 16 to lead Japan to a 9-3 win over Italy and into the WBC semifinals.

Both hitters had been quiet in Japan's previous four World Baseball Classic games with only two hits each and just one RBI for Okamoto. That all changed on Thursday before a near-capacity crowd of 41,723 at Tokyo Dome.

Masataka Yoshida drove in the first run of the game in the third inning on a groundout that allowed Kensuke Kondoh to score from third.

With Murakami and Shohei Ohtani on base, Okamoto, batting in his home stadium, then belted a three-run homer to left field to make it 4-0.

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"We struggled a bit at first to get runs," Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama said. "Before the game, I decided to have a talk with the whole team for the first time in a while.

"I just told them to go out and show the fans how great Japanese baseball is and that is exactly what they did."

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.

Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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