Samurai Japan touched down Friday ahead of a World Baseball Classic semifinal showdown against Mexico in Miami, where 21-year-old pitching sensation Roki Sasaki is tipped to start for the two-time champions.

Japan pitcher Roki Sasaki plays catch in Miami, Florida, on March 17, 2023. (Kyodo)

The Lotte Marines star was among the Japan players who took part in the team's first practice after arriving on a charter flight in the early hours.

"We're here to win the championship, so of course I'll do my best to win the next game," Sasaki said of Monday's do-or-die semifinal.

Pool C winner Mexico came back to beat Pool D runner-up Puerto Rico 5-4 in a thrilling quarterfinal Friday at LoanDepot Park, where both semis and the final will also be played.

Trailing 4-2 with two out in the bottom of the seventh, Mexico tied then went ahead on consecutive singles from Isaac Paredes and Luis Urias.

Julio Urias of Mexico delivers a pitch against Puerto Rico in the first inning of their World Baseball Classic quarterfinal game on March 17, 2023, in Miami, Florida. (Getty/Kodo)

Javier Baez and Eddie Rosario homered back-to-back in the top of the first to give 2017 WBC runner-up Puerto Rico a 4-0 lead that Mexico cut into with runs in the second and fifth.


Puerto Rico rallied to put runners on first and second with two out in the ninth before closer Giovanny Gallegos clinched the save for first-time semifinalist Mexico.

Looking to claim its first WBC crown since 2009, Japan topped Pool B with a perfect 4-0 record before dominating Italy 9-3 in Thursday's quarterfinal at Tokyo Dome.

The tournament's only other unbeaten side, Pool D winner Venezuela, will meet defending champion and Pool C runner-up the United States on Saturday for a place in the following day's semifinal against Cuba.

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World Baseball Classic Japan player profiles