12:44 PM UTC
TOKYO — Shohei Ohtani took the mound on Thursday against Italy for a chance to send Team Japan to the World Baseball Classic semifinals in Miami.
The sellout Tokyo Dome crowd was fired up. Ramen restaurants were on alert. And Ohtani, a man who seems made for these moments, was also a definitely a little more pumped up than normal.
Ohtani threw the fastest pitch of his career, tracked by Statcast, in the top of the second inning, when he fanned Vinnie Pasquantino on a 102-mph fastball. It topped his 101.4-mph fastball last September against the Astros.
The two-way star’s final pitching line: five strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings. At the plate, he scored twice on Kazuma Okamoto’s run-scoring hits, as Japan moved on to the semifinals with a 9-3 victory. They’ll face the winner of Friday’s Puerto Rico-Mexico quarterfinal on Monday in Miami.