2008.8.15 Koshien Quarterfinals and Olympic Baseball
Posted by simon c on 2008 August 15日 Friday
Quarterfinal action started in Koshien today. After the last three games of round of 16 yesterday (yesterday’s games were all close, as Keio of North Kanagawa squeezed by Aomori-Yamada 2-0, Osaka-Toin outhit Toho of East Aichi 7-5, and Yokohama defeated Sendai-Ikuei 3-2), the stage has been set for the quarterfinals which has already kicked off with its first game Hotoku-Gakuen (East Hyogo) v Osaka-Toin (North Osaka) in the battle of local schools. Here’s the schedule:
8.15 Day 14
11:00 Hotoku-Gakuen (East Hyogo) v Osaka-Toin (North Osaka)
13:30 Urasoe-Sho (Okinawa) v Keio (North Kanagawa)
8.16 Day 15
11:00 Chiben-Wakayama (Wakayama) v Tokoha-Kikugawa (Shizuoka)
13:30 Seiko-Gakuin (Fukushima) v Yokohama (South Kanagawa)
Since both Osaka-Toin and Urasoe-Sho played their round of 16 games yesterday, they’re at a disadvantage of having to play on back to back days. And Urasoe seems to only have a single reliable arm, as it looks like Urasoe’s Iha’s set to go in the afternoon session, after a complete game yesterday. Iha is pitching on back to back days after already accumulating a lot of innings in a relatively short time period. Not only could Urasoe lose because of this, but Iha’s arm could be seeing an early demise in his career. (UPDATE: Osaka-Toin won comfortably 7-4 to advance to the semifinals. Uechi is starting for Urasoe instead of Iha, who starts in right field, that’s good to see.)
Anyways, there are some interesting storylines here. Game 1 today is the battle of local schools, as Koshien Stadium is located in Hyogo near its border with Osaka. Game 2 today features Urasoe who defeated Spring Koshien champs Okinawa-Sho in their prefectural qualifier finals against the first Kanagawa team in the quarters and one of the most prestigious private schools in Keio. Game 1 tomorrow is the battle of ever present Chiben-Wakayama against the almost no-bunting attacking baseball of new powers Tokoha. And, finally, game 2 tomorrow features tournament favourites and the second Kangawa team remaining, Yokohama. We should see some exciting, close games over the next few days as the tournament heats up to the finals.
Beijing was thunderstorming yesterday with a torrential downpour for a good part of the day. This added a twist to the baseball tournament which is being played in temporary outdoor stadiums. Even in those weather conditions, the US had no problems dispatching the Netherlands (Antilles) 7-0 in the game called after the 8th because of the weather. And No.1 draft prospect and only amateur on the US team, Stephen Strasburg, dominated, going perfect for 4 2/3 and keeping a no hitter for 6 1/3 innings. The other game that was being played at the same time was Korea-China, and surprisingly the it was still scoreless when the game was postponed after 5 innings, the game will resume on the 17th, an off day on the calendar.
I was sitting in a faux British pub in Tokyo last night with Garrett from the Tokyo Yakult Swallows blog, not really expecting the Japan-Taiwan game to be played after hearing about the weather in Beijing, when suddenly the TVs in the pub showed the stubborn Japanese manager Senichi Hoshino on a live feed! We were getting the game after all. Well, we watched the game between consuming alcohol and talking, so I was far from my attentive self when I watched the Cuba game. But Japan’s inability to figure out Taiwanese starter Hsu Wen-Hsiung (5IP 3H 4K 1BB 1ER on a Yomiuri Giant catcher Shinnosuke Abe’s homerun no less, after we’d been bitching about how he should’ve been replaced in the starting lineup by the Marines’ Satozaki as Abe’s not particularly having a good season) and Japanese starter and Saitama Seibu Lion Hideaki Wakui’s more than competent performance (6IP 3H 6K 2BB 1ER) made the game very tight and exciting until the very end…
when Japan managed to score 4 runs in the top of the 9th to ease Koji Uehara’s first Olympic appearance an easy one, protecting a 6-1 lead, though Uehara did look impressive as he had good stuff and command and set the side down in order. Regular closers Hitoki Iwase (Chunichi Dragons) and Kyuji Fujikawa (Hanshin Tigers) were the setup men, blanking the Taiwanese in the 7th and 8th innings while protecting the 2-1 lead. Iwase allowed a hit, but Fujikawa was particularly impressive striking out the side. He looked very different from the man who was hit very hard by the Cubans and was lucky to put the side down in order (not much of a surprise as Fujikawa’s high heat would be fairly normal in Cuba, but pretty rare in Taiwan). We’ll see how Uehara does protecting a closer lead, and we’ll also see how long Hoshino sticks with Takahiro Arai as the cleanup hitter, he’s so far only had one sacrifice fly in 8 PA and hasn’t looked sharp at the plate. But Hoshino is very loyal to his men, and both Uehara and Arai were integral parts of the Japan team that qualified for the Olympics last November.
In the other game Canada put up a valiant effort against the Cubans, barely losing 6-7. But it’s apparent that the Cubans are obviously the superior team despite being outhit 9-5 in the game. Their command of the strike zone was impeccable, yet again, drawing 6 walks to Canada’s 1. And only striking out 5 times compared to Canada’s 12.