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Japan tops Taiwan in World Baseball Classic

Japan's infielder Hirokazu Ibata reacts after his timely

Japan's infielder Hirokazu Ibata reacts after his timely single against Taiwan during the 9th inning of their second-round Pool 1 game in the World Baseball Classic at Tokyo Dome. Japan beat Taiwan 4-3. (March 8, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty

TOKYO -- Sho Tanaka drove in the winning run on a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th inning Friday to lift defending champion Japan past Taiwan 4-3 in the second round of the World Baseball Classic.

Tanaka's fly to the warning track in left allowed Nobuhiro Matsuda to score from third. Toshiya Suguichi retired Taiwan in the bottom of the 10th to clinch the win.

"There is nothing better than coming through for your teammates and fans when you get a chance like that," Tanaka said. "This was a huge win for us, and I'm glad I was able to contribute."

Japan will face the Netherlands on Sunday with a chance to secure a spot in the March 17-19 final round in San Francisco. Japan is attempting to win a third straight WBC title without its top players from Major League Baseball.

The Netherlands beat Cuba 6-2 on Friday. Taiwan must beat Cuba on Saturday to advance.

Taiwan took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth when Szu-Chi Chou singled to center to score Cheng-Min Peng from third. But Japan tied it in the top of the ninth when Hirokazu Ibata hit a two-out single to center that scored Takashi Toritani from third.

Taiwan held a 2-0 lead through eighth inning before Japan tied the game in the top of the eighth with a pair of runs.

"This was an entire team effort," Japan manager Koji Yamamoto said. "Our hitters came through when we needed them and the pitchers did a great job."

New York Sports