Shimizu rebounds as Japan tops Greece

Updated: August 22, 2004, 7:25 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Roughed up in his last start, Naoyuki Shimizu rebounded with six-plus strong innings Sunday to propel Japan into the Olympic medal round as the top seed.

Shimizu struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings as Japan earned a 6-1 victory over host Greece.

After lasting just 3 1/3 innings Wednesday against Australia in Japan's only loss of the tournament, Shimizu yielded one run, four hits and three walks in front of a very enthusiastic home crowd.

"I was pitching under the chanting of these great Greek supporters," Shimizu said. "Truthfully, I didn't want to pitch under these conditions, but even with such an atmosphere I was able to pitch pretty well and I'm very pleased about it."

Yoshinobu Takahashi and Kosuke Fukudome each had two RBI for Japan, which broke open a close contest with a four-run seventh.

"We had to step up with our batting, and we had some good hits," Takahashi said.

On Tuesday, the Japanese face Australia (4-3), which ended the preliminary round with an 11-0 loss to Canada (5-2). Andy Stewart and Jeremy Ware both had three RBI for Team Canada.

Despite the loss, Australia believes it has a chance against the top seed after beating Japan, 9-4, behind 15 hits Wednesday.

"We got them (the Japanese) one time and maybe they have some doubt in their minds," Aussie pitcher and former major leaguer Graeme Lloyd said."Hopefully that will help."

In the other early game, Chinese Taipei defeated the Netherlands, 5-1, behind six outstanding innings by Wei-Lun Pan.

Pan allowed just a fourth-inning home run and struck out five for Chinese Taipei, which finished out of the medal round with a 3-4 mark.

Cuba closed out preliminary at 6-1 with a 5-0 victory over Italy (1-6). Ariel Pestano went 4-for-4 with three RBI for the Cubans, who will enter the medal round a second seed due to a loss to Japan.

The Cubans, who outscored their opponents, 41-17, in the preliminary round, meet Canada on Tuesday.

"Although the competition has been quite hard, I think that we have played quite well," Pestano said. "In general, we are not pressured to win anything in Cuba, but we will be working hard to get it (the gold)."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press