Ohtani Shohei homers to propel Japan to WBC quarterfinals as Pool B winner

Japan's two-way superstar Ohtani Shohei has blasted a home run to help his team cruise past Australia 7-1 in their last game in the first round of the World Baseball Classic. Samurai Japan has advanced to the quarterfinals as the top finisher in Pool B.

Japan faced Australia at Tokyo Dome on Sunday. Ohtani came to bat in the first inning and belted a three-run moonshot that went over the right-field fence and hit an advertising board above the stands.

Japan's starting pitcher, Yamamoto Yoshinobu, kept the Australian batters at bay with a combination of breaking pitches and fastballs clocking over 150 kilometers per hour. He threw four scoreless innings, notching eight strikeouts and only allowing one hit.

Japan is aiming for its third World Baseball Classic title after winning the tournament in 2006 and 2009.

The global powerhouse wrapped up its Pool B campaign with four wins and no losses, booking a ticket to the second round for the fifth straight tournament since the WBC's inauguration in 2006.

Japan will clash with the Pool A runner-up, Italy, in a quarterfinal game at Tokyo Dome on Thursday.

Japan's Manager Kuriyama Hideki said after the game against Australia that there were upsides and downsides to how his team played in its first-round games. But he added that he is relieved to secure a spot in the quarterfinals.

Ohtani said he could hit a home run in a good trajectory for the first time in a while although he had recently been unable to send balls up as he hoped with pull hitting.

Ohtani added that he wanted to hit his first home run in the WBC as soon as possible because he had been dreaming of it since he was a child. He said he will work hard to deliver another homer in the next game.

Yamamoto said he was a little nervous but able to pitch without unnecessary strains from the first inning thanks to Ohtani's home run.

Yamamoto hurled 60 pitches over four innings. He said he threw needlessly more pitches than he had planned as he lost control of his pitching from time to time. He added that he will make adjustments to retain control.