Japan rout Israel, advance to World Baseball Classic semi-finals

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Japan's players celebrate their victory over Isreal after the top of the ninth inning during the World Baseball Classic Pool E second round match in Tokyo on March 15, 2017

Two-time champions Japan routed Israel 8-3 on Wednesday in the second round of the World Baseball Classic, remaining unbeaten to book their ticket to the semi-finals.

'Samurai' Japan broke up a scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth inning as Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh smashed a stunning solo homer over the centre wall at Tokyo Dome.

The blast triggered a string of hits and walks that produced additional four scores in the same inning, drawing thunderous cheers from 43,000 local fans.

Seiichi Uchikawa hit a two-run double and Nobuhiro Matsuda made a base hit for an insurance run in the eighth inning.

Israel lashed back in the ninth inning as Ike Davis drove in a run and Ryan Lavarnway hit a two-run double.

But Japan's ace closer Kazuhisa Makita struck out to seal victory, ending a surprise run by Israel, who pulled off major upsets, battering South Korea, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands in the first round.

"Tough games continued in the first and second rounds, but big cheers encouraged our players," Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo said.

"We want to manage to overcome the semi-final and become the world's number one," he added.

Tsutsugoh, who marked his third home run of the tourney, pledged to continue displaying his superb performance in the final round, saying: "Please wait for my batting that can contribute to our team's victory."

Japan, unbeaten in the tournament, advances to next week's semi-finals with the Netherlands, who knocked out Cuba 14-1 on Wednesday in a game halted after finishing seven innings by the 10-run mercy rule.

Dutch slugger Wladimir Balentien hit a three-run homer in the first inning and another in the third inning, ousting Cuba from the global showdown of elite worldwide talent and Major League Baseball standouts.

Japan, chasing a third title after scooping the first two editions of the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009, also ripped Cuba 8-5 on Tuesday.

In San Diego, the Dominican Republic suffered their first WBC defeat in eight years on Tuesday after being downed 3-1 by Puerto Rico in their second round opener.

The victory left Puerto Rico firmly in control of their own destiny in Pool F. Two teams from the group, which also includes the United States and Venezuela, will qualify for the semi-finals.

Baseball's birthplace, the United States, has never won the Classic with Major League clubs refusing to release players, giving rise to questions over the tournament's future.

This year's 16-team competition concludes with a final at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, on March 22.