Following my day at Jingu Stadium on Wednesday when I saw 2 quarterfinal games, I went back there to witness both semifinal games for the East Tokyo qualifier tournament to the prestigious Koshien Summer tournament to decide on the national high school baseball champion.
Turned out that Jingu is also used for the West Tokyo tournament from the quarterfinals as well, so I missed out on some good action there (a couple of 8-7 games between the quarters and semis), and that is why these Tokyo tournaments feature days off between the quarters, semis, and finals instead of having the games on consecutive days like most other regional tournaments and Koshien itself.
Anyways, here’s how the day went on 25 July 2008 at Jingu.
Game 1: Nishogakusha 2 – 7 Kanto Daiichi
As you can tell by the final score, Kanto was on form and dominant throughout the game. Kanto’s pitcher was Matsumoto and he pitched a complete game. Since they used two lefties, Ohki and Shirai, in the previous game, it’s easy to tell that Kanto is loaded with talent, and takes good care of its pitchers arms instead of the typical arm abuse that team aces experience when they’re their team’s only reliable arm. Kanto built up a 4 run lead through persistent and well executed small ball.
Nishogakusha managed a 2 run double in the 7th inning, but was promptly returned the favour by Matsumoto himself he launched a homer into the left field stands in the bottom of the inning. Matsumoto, batting 8th, also successfully executed a squeeze in the 2nd inning after the catcher hitting before him, Nakamura, hit a triple into the right field gap. Then Matsumoto had his second squeeze attempt thwarted in the 4th with speedy Izumizawa on third when the battery caught wind of it and pitched wide, the runner managed to stay alive on third though. Otherwise, this was a dominant performance by Kanto and its ace(?) Matsumoto who you can see pitching here:
Game 2: Kokushikan 4 – 5 Tokaidai-Takanawadai
This was easily the most dramatic game of the 4 that I saw over these two days with Tokaidai coming back from being 4 runs down to win the game 5-4. The game was a matchup of two marquee pitchers in Kokushikan’s Maruyama and Tokaidai’s Takahashi, and they had both pitched complete games two days earlier in their respective semis.
Maruyama was absolutly dominant through the first 5 innings as he hardly let any runners on base, while Takahashi struggled with his control, letting runners on base every inning (often loading the bases), and actually was lucky to be only down by 4 runs after the top of the 6th. On the flip side, this meant that Kokushikan was squandering chance after chance, but with Maruyama’s dominant form, it didn’t look like that would affect the outcome of the game.
Tokaidai immediately returned the 2 runs they gave up on the 6th to keep things close at 4-2, but they still didn’t look capable of beating the powerful Kokushikan team. But then, Maruyama got tired and/or wild in the 8th and suddenly became unable to throw strikes. He managed to get 2 outs, but in the mean time had allowed a run to score and the bases to become loaded. This is when reliever Takayanagi was brought into the game in a super high leverage situation, his team clinging onto a 4-3 lead, 2 outs, with the bases loaded.
The power righty managed to get the Tokaidai batter to hit a feeble ground ball, but it bounced high off the artificial turf into no man’s land behind the pitcher and the tying run scored. Takayanagi seemed to be visibly shaken by this unlucky bounce and his control became wild as well, even throwing a few pitches into the dirt to the following batter, promptly walking in the game winning run. In contrast Tokaidai’s Takahashi was strong in the latter innings and had no problems shutting down Kokushikan on the top of the 9th, not even allowing a single runner to reach base, and here is the game winning moment:
The players are celebrating while quickly lining up for the post game ceremonial bow. The finals between Tokaidai-Takanawadai and Kanto Daiichi should be a dandy. Though, Kanto seems to have many reliable arms (I’ve already seen 3 of them work effectively between the quarters and semis) while Tokai seems to be completely reliant on Takahashi and he was shaky up to the 6th inning of the game. Based on this, I’ll take Kanto to win the East Tokyo Tournament to qualify for the 90th Summer Koshien in August.
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