Shinnosuke Abe drove in four runs with a pair of home runs in the second inning, and the Japanese never lost the lead, despite a few tense moments, in a 10-6 win over the Kingdom of the Netherlands on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome.
Japan claimed the top spot in Pool 1 with the victory and was 3-0 in the second round.
"In the first round, the opening game against Brazil was a very tough game," Japan manager Koji Yamamoto said. "As well as the Chinese Taipei game [to start the second round], that was also tough. We got through, and the team is united. The offense swung better and the pitchers pitched well."
Abe finished 2-for-2 with a solo home run and a three-run home run. Hisayoshi Chono had a three-run double and a two-run single, and Nobuhiro Matsuda finished 2-for-3 with an RBI single.
The Japanese beat the Dutch for the second consecutive game. Japan qualified for the championship round with a 16-4 victory over the Kingdom of the Netherlands on Sunday in a game that was called after seven innings due to the mercy rule.
Japan was cruising along with an 8-1 lead for much of Tuesday's contest before the Dutch began chipping away at the lead.
"We scored eight in the second inning, but we couldn't score later on," Yamamoto said. "That's why the game became tough. Although we had a big inning early, we should've scored more."
Xander Bogaerts drove in a run for the Kingdom of the Netherlands with a single in the seventh, and Randolph Oduber made the score 8-3 with a sacrifice fly.
The Dutch were at it again in the eighth, scoring three on a Curt Smith groundout and RBI singles by Kalian Sams and Quintin De Cuba. Pitcher Hideaki Wakui struck out Oduber with runners on the corners to end the inning.
Bogaerts finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and was proud of the way his team dug itself out of an early hole.
"I guess our fighting spirit," Bogaerts said when asked to give a reason for the team's tenacity.
"I just think that it's trust and confidence in each other -- that's what makes us a pretty good team. No matter how much we lose, just keep going.
Japan gave Kenji Otonari his second start of the Classic, and the lefty settled down after allowing a leadoff home run to improve to 1-1. Otonari struck out six over three innings.
"Without the home run, I feel great," Otonari said. "I think I pitched the way I can."
David Bergman allowed seven runs on four hits over 1 2/3 innings to take the loss.
Both teams had already qualified for the championship round, but the win gives Japan the top spot in Pool 1.
The Japanese will face the Pool 2 runner-up when the championship round begins Sunday at San Francisco's AT&T Park. As the Pool 1 runner-up, the Kingdom of the Netherlands will face the Pool 2 winner Monday.
The winner of those games will meet in the Classic final on March 19.
"We have to clinch the semifinal," Yamamoto said. "We will use all our effort. Also, a tougher opponent is coming. So we want to play like a Japanese team, and I hope we can be a finalist."
The Dominican Republic, Italy, Puerto Rico and the United States are competing at Marlins Park in Miami to decide which two teams will join Japan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands in San Francisco.
Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons led off the game with a home run -- just as Japan's Takashi Toritani did in the clubs' first meeting -- to give the Kingdom of the Netherlands an early 1-0 lead.
Japan erupted after that.
Abe began the bottom of the second with his homer, and Matsuda singled in a run with the bases loaded. Chono cleared the bases with his three-run double, and Abe stepped to the plate again to deliver his three-run shot later in the inning.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands made it a game with its five late runs, but Chono tacked on some insurance runs with a two-run single in the eighth.
"We got behind early in the game, in the second inning," the Kingdom of the Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said. "They scored eight runs, but our guys never die. Just like the whole tournament so far, they battled back. We got good pitching to keep the game close.
"We got within two runs. We basically had the winning run at the plate in the eighth. Two guys on base, Oduber up there, and we had a chance to take the lead. He ended up striking out, but that's how these guys play. They play hard."