Ryoji Kuribayashi (栗林 良吏)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 182 lb.
Ryoji Kuribayashi had the first Olympic win in 13 years.
Kuribayashi was on the Japanese collegiate team.  He played for Toyota Motor company in the industrial leagues after college. The Hiroshima Carp took him in the first round of the 2020 NPB draft. 
He debuted in superb form; after 34 games in Nippon Pro Baseball, he was 0-1 with 18 saves and a 0.53 ERA, allowing 13 hits and 16 walks in 33 2/3 IP while fanning 54. He was the first Japanese rookie to get a save in his NPB debut since Kota Nakagawa 18 years prior.  He took the loss in 2021 NPB All-Star Game 2. Relieving Yasuaki Yamasaki with a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the 8th, he walked Hiroto Kobukata and retired Takashi Ogino but Hiroaki Shimauchi doubled in the winning run. After Kuribayashi retired Tomoya Mori, he was replaced by Hirotoshi Takanashi. 
11 days later, he was on the winning end in an even bigger game. The only rookie to make Japan's team for the Tokyo Olympics, he relieved Yamasaki in the 9th with a 2-1 deficit against the Bronze Medal-bound Dominican national team. He served up a double to Erick Mejia and Jeison Guzmán drew a walk. Charlie Valerio hit into a force at second and Gustavo Núñez doubled to make it 3-1. Kuribayashi escaped further damage by striking out Emilio Bonifacio and Julio Rodríguez. Those Ks proved essential when Japan scored three times off Jairo Asencio and Jhan Maríñez in the bottom of the 9th, giving Kuribayashi the first win in the Olympics since Hyun-jin Ryu had the win in the 2008 Olympics finale. He saved Masato Morishita's win over Mexico, going 1-2-3 against Danny Espinosa, Efren Navarro and Jon Jones. Against Team USA, he replaced Yudai Ohno in the 10th with a 6-6 tie. Due to the WBSC extra innings rule, there were men aboard. He still did not allow a run, whiffing Todd Frazier, getting Eric Filia to hit into a force then retiring Mark Kolozsvary. He then got the win over Edwin Jackson when Japan scored in the bottom of the frame. In the semifinals, he saved Hiromi Itoh's win, walking Ji-hwan Oh but then getting Kyoung-min Hur, Kun-woo Park (K) and Hae-min Park in order. In the Gold Medal Game, he again was the focus, taking over for Morishita with a 2-0 lead in the 9th. He struck out Jamie Westbrook, retired Kolozsvary, gave up a Nick Allen single and getting Jack López to hit into a force. He thus was 2-0 with 3 saves and a 0.00 for the Olympics]. He tied Morishita and Seung-hwan Oh for the lead in wins, tied for 2nd in appearances (one behind Sang-woo Cho) and led in saves, one ahead of David Robertson. 
For 2021, he was 0-1 with 37 saves and a 0.86 ERA, fanning 81 in 52 1/3 IP and allowing only 23 hits (though he walked 28). He tied Yasuaki Yamasaki's NPB record for saves by a rookie. He was second in the Central League in saves, 4 behind Robert Suárez. He won the 2021 CL Rookie of the Year, with 201 of 306 votes, to 76 for runner-up Shugo Maki.  He was also 10th in voting for the 2021 CL MVP, between Yasutaka Shiomi and Scott McGough.