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Japan 12, Italy 1

July 30, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ Makoto Imaoka’s two-run homer Tuesday clinched a 12-1 victory over Italy and sent Japan into the medals round of the Olympic baseball tournament.

Japan (4-3) will play the United States (6-1) in its first medals-round game Thursday. The United States won their round-robin meeting 15-5.

Cuba (7-0) will play Nicaragua (4-3) in the other first-round game. The winners play for the gold Friday night.

Italy (2-5) would have clinched the berth by beating Japan, but couldn’t get much offense. The Italians managed just six hit in eight innings off three Japanese pitchers.

Imaoka’s RBI double put Japan ahead 3-0 in the second, and Yoshitomo Tani tripled home a run in the fourth. Japan took control with three more runs in the fifth, which included Hideaki Okubo’s solo homer and another run-scoring double by Imaoka.

Imaoka’s two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning invoked the 10-run mercy rule.

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