Japan is back at the top of Asian baseball thanks to the Yomiuri Giants’ defeat of Taiwan’s Lamigo Monkeys in the final of the Asia Series.
The tournament involving the champions of Japan, China, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan has been taking place over the last few days in Busan, Korea’s second city, which was also allowed to enter a team to take the total to six.
Split into two groups of three, the group winners met in the final and the venerable team from Tokyo won fairly comfortably, 6-3.
It is Japan’s fifth win in six editions of the Asia Series, with Korea taking the previous tournament, although 2012 marks the first time that the Giants have been crowned champion to end what has been a very successful season for the team.
"For the Giants, we won our last game of the 2012 season, allowing us to be called Asian champions," manager Tatsunori Hara said. "I'm thrilled to finish up in a place where there is nothing higher."
As well as the regional bragging rights and the trophy, there was a cash prize..
There was disappointment for the Koreans. The hosts had two entrants. After winning the 2008 gold medal at the Olympics, there has been something of a baseball boom in the country and there was optimism before the tournament started.
Both the Samsung Lions, of Seoul, and Busan’s Lotte Giants came second in their groups.
What was worse was that in the defeats against the two finalists, neither the Lions nor the Giants managed one point.
It was a bigger shock for the Lions who were not only defending champions of this event but have won the past two Korean championships.
Despite a Korean win in 2011, it was not a surprise for the hosts to see a Japanese team win, but coming second best to a team from Taiwan was not part of the plan.
Lions manager Ryu Joong-il had scouted the Monkeys but had not seen pitcher Michael Loree who threw a complete shutout.
"We've seen everyone else on that team play on tape," Ryu said. "He was the only one that we missed."
For Australia, it was a case of learning from the experience as Perth Heat lost 6-1 to Lotte Giants of South Korea and then 7-1 to the eventual champion.
Perth manager Steve Fish looked for the positives after the second loss.
"I'm very happy with how we played today, especially everything we did right up to the sixth inning," he said.