2008.7.23 HS Baseball East Tokyo Quarterfinals
Posted by simon c on 2008 July 23日 Wednesday
Went to see two games of high school baseball at Jingu Stadium today. They were quarterfinal games in the East Tokyo tournament (which started with 144 teams) to qualify for the Koshien summer tournament in August which crowns the national champion.
Game 1 (9am): Kanto Daiichi 3 – 1 Nittai Ebara
9am start time is actually necessary this time of the year (as you’ll see in the game 2 summary). Kanto wasn’t seeded in this tournament, but is one of the powerhouses nonetheless as it knocked off No.1 seed Teikyo in an earlier round (18 July). Ebara was simply overmatched, even though their submarine pitcher Ozawa valiantly kept them in the game, the lineup was no match against the two lefties thrown at them by Kanto, Ohki and Shirai as they almost evenly split the workload bringing in Shirai in the 5th inning and he simply overpowered the Ebara hitters. Thankfully, Chris of Box Office Japan showed up during the 9th inning of this game with some brew to beat the heat.
Here’s the Ebara submariner:
And one of Kanto’s cheering songs which for some reason is “Tequila!” 😛
Game 2 (11:30am): Kokushikan 12 – 4 Tokyo Adachi Nitta
This game was a true match up of David and Goliath. Kokushikan is the No.2 seed of the East Tokyo tournament and with Teikyo being eliminated, the highest remaining seeded team. Scrappy Adachi, on the other hand, had to fight through 5 rounds to get to this game as one of the lowest seeded teams (Kokushikan entered the tournament in round 3 and only had to win 3 games to reach this quarterfinals). On top of having to win two extra games, Adachi is a public school, so all players have entered the school on academic merit (though Adachi’s not exactly a top school academically), whereas powerhouse private school teams routinely recruit and give scholarships to standout middle school players from across the country.
Here’s a neat picture from the game of a hitter in the on deck circle sitting in the seiza position as if he was meditating, never seen this before.
As you can tell from the final score, Kokushikan absolutely demolished Adachi. But the little team that could kept things interesting for most of the game, as 8 of Kokushikan’s 12 runs were scored from the 6th inning on. The starting pitchers on both teams shared the same family name of Maruyama. Adachi’s submariner got pummelled in the 1st inning for 3 runs and promptly had his position swapped with the shortstop Tsuyama (who hit a homerun in the 5th, btw, giving the underdogs a sliver of hope… before getting 4 runs piled on them on the top of the 6th). Kokushikan’s Maruyama was a power lefty (a common theme here) who had some control problems, but had no problems this game because of the big run support. The game was sloppy with many throwing errors, but I think that was partially caused by the insane midday heat, we were sweating even though we were seated spread out in the only roofed seating of Jingu Stadium, there were even some people sunbathing under the blazing sun in the empty upper seats. Adachi’s Maruyama eventually swapped back onto the mound as Tsuyama got lit up in the later innings, but it was too little too late.
Here’s Kokushikan’s cheering squad doing a rendition of X-Japan’s “Kurenai” (oh, and a horrible throwing error by the first baseman of Adachi), Kanto’s cheering section featured the cheer squad, brass band, teammates who couldn’t make the team, cheerleaders, fellow students, and alumni (Kokushikan has been to Koshien 3 times, and is a traditional power in Tokyo high school baseball):
The common thread between the two games were the pitchers. The underdog teams featured submariners who probably managed to successfully baffle their earlier opponents, but were no match against superior lefthanded hitters of powerhouse schools. The big schools, on the other hand, featured power lefties on the mound who effectively shut down the lesser teams’ best hitters (who were mostly lefties, creating a platoon advantage for the pitchers). About half the hitters I saw today were lefthanded, which seemed even high by baseball standards, but maybe not at this level?
Here’s the tournament bracket (Japanese). Semifinals will take place at 10am and 12:30pm on Friday 25 July at Jingu Stadium. In Game 1, Kanto will face off against Nishogakusha, another team that fought their way through the tournament from the 1st round (most teams entered the bracket in the 2nd round). And in Game 2, Kokushikan will face Tokaidai-Takanawadai, who also fought their way through the bracket from round 1, and their power pitcher Takahashi has a fastball in the 140s (km/h). The pitching matchup of Maruyama v Takahashi will be interesting since they both went the distance in their respective quarterfinal games, but also worrying in terms of arm abuse as many high school teams now feature multiple starters and specialized relievers instead of relying on a single arm like these teams (more about the changing nature of high school baseball in a future post), not to mention the extremely hot and humid conditions.