Top 10 moments of 2023 World Baseball Classic

March 23rd, 2023

The fifth edition of the World Baseball Classic is in the books, with Japan winning its third Classic title via a 3-2 victory over Team USA in the championship game.

But while the 2023 Classic may be over, it won't soon be forgotten.

Here are the 10 most memorable moments from a tournament that thrilled us from start to finish.

1. Ohtani fans Trout to clinch title

You could hardly have scripted a better final matchup for the 2023 World Baseball Classic -- Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, typically Angels teammates, now adversaries representing their respective countries with the championship up for grabs. Called on in the ninth inning to protect Japan’s 3-2 lead over Team USA in the title game, Ohtani got the better of Trout in their epic showdown, striking him out with a wicked 3-2 sweeper to finish off Japan’s undefeated tournament run. Ohtani was named World Baseball Classic MVP following Japan’s triumph.

2. Japan walks off Mexico on Murakami’s double

A tense, thrilling game between Japan and Mexico couldn’t have had a more exciting conclusion. With Japan trailing, 5-4, in the bottom of the ninth inning of a back-and-forth game, Munetaka Murakami crushed a Giovanny Gallegos fastball off the wall in left-center field. Shohei Ohtani scored from second with the tying run, and Ukyo Shuto -- thanks to some brilliant baserunning instincts -- scored from first well ahead of the throw. Murakami’s double ended Mexico’s WBC run and sent Japan to the title contest against the U.S.

3. Turner slams Venezuela

After going undefeated in pool play, Venezuela faced off against Team USA in the quarterfinals and appeared to be on the verge of ousting the defending World Baseball Classic champions when it took a 7-5 lead into the eighth. However, United States shortstop Trea Turner had other plans, belting an 0-2 pitch from Venezuela righty Silvino Bracho deep to left field for a go-ahead grand slam in the top of the frame and putting Team USA on a path to the semifinals. Turner ended up tying a WBC single-tournament record with five homers, including two in the semifinals against Cuba and another in the championship against Japan.

4. Yoshida hits game-tying home run in semifinals

It wasn’t even a bad pitch. But Masataka Yoshida made it look that way. The Japanese slugger -- signed this offseason by the Boston Red Sox -- lifted a 2-2 slider at the knees and just off the inside corner from Mexico’s JoJo Romero deep to right field in the bottom of the seventh inning, with the ball hitting high up on the right-field foul pole. Yoshida’s three-run blast turned the tide in the WBC semifinal, bringing his team even with Mexico, 3-3, and setting the stage for Japan's eventual walk-off win.

5. Randy strikes a pose after home run robbery

Like he did in the 2020 postseason for the Rays, Arozarena came up big in the clutch time and time again for Mexico during the 2023 Classic -- both with his bat and with his glove. Although Mexico ultimately lost a 6-5 heartbreaker to Japan in the semifinals, Arozarena’s homer robbery and subsequent pose in the bottom of the fifth inning will be one of the lasting memories from the tournament. Arozarena made the play look easy, locating Kensuke Kondoh’s towering fly ball and perfectly timing his jump before snatching the would-be homer out of the air at the left-field wall.

6. Lindor’s “Little League” homer

With Puerto Rico holding a 4-1 lead over the Dominican Republic in the final game of Pool D, Francisco Lindor laced a breaking ball into center field for a single -- or so everyone thought. Center fielder Julio Rodríguez attempted to play the ball on a hop, but it skipped right by him and rolled all the way to the wall. Lindor was well around second by the time Rodríguez reached the baseball, and second baseman Ketel Marte couldn’t pick up the relay throw from the outfield. Marte stood and watched as Lindor slid headfirst into home plate, a crowd of jubilant teammates around him. Puerto Rico knocked out the Dominican Republic with a 5-2 win.

7. Hebbert strikes out stars, gets signed

One inning changed Duque Hebbert’s life. The 21-year-old right-hander stepped onto the mound in the ninth inning of Nicaragua’s first-round matchup against the Dominican Republic and struck out three of MLB’s biggest stars -- Juan Soto, Julio Rodríguez and (after a Manny Machado double) Rafael Devers -- all of them on changeups. Afterward, he was approached by a scout from the Tigers, who offered Hebbert the chance to live out his dream of signing with an MLB organization.

8. Castillo’s amazing catch for Panama

An unexpected obstacle came into play as Panama right fielder Luis Castillo chased a fly ball in the gap against Chinese Taipei during the teams’ second game of pool play on March 8. And it wasn’t the wall. Castillo ran smack into center fielder Jose Ramos, a collision that laid out both outfielders. Hitter Tsung-Che Cheng made it all the way around the bases, thinking he had an inside-the-park home run, but Castillo -- still lying on the warning track -- lifted his glove with the ball nestled inside. The ridiculous catch kept Panama up, 5-0, in its eventual 12-5 win.

9. Muzik magic gives Czech Republic its first WBC win

Playing in its first World Baseball Classic after winning a qualifier in 2022, the Czech Republic introduced itself to the baseball world at large with a dramatic 8-5 win over China in its first game. First baseman Martin Muzik delivered the big blow for the Czech team, blasting a go-ahead three-run homer with one out in the top of the ninth inning.

10. LaSorsa’s wild celebration for Italy

With the bases loaded in the sixth inning against the Netherlands, Italy pitcher Joe LaSorsa struck out Roger Bernadina for the third out to preserve a 6-1 lead. But the real highlight was just beginning. LaSorsa celebrated the K all the way off the mound and into the first-base dugout, pounding his chest and spiking his cap. His screams of exhilaration were audible on the FOX broadcast before he was mobbed by teammates. LaSorsa helped Italy to a 7-1 win over the Netherlands in the teams’ final game of pool play.