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    Posts Tagged ‘okinawa’

    Koshien Final and more Olympic Baseball

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 17日 Sunday

    Well, my team in Koshien, Okinawa’s Urasoe-Sho, got bombed out 9-4 in the semifinals by hard hitting Tokoha-Kikugawa (Shizuoka) based on their 9 run 2nd inning. The team had engineered 10 and 7 run innings to win their previous 2 games as well, showing the Japanese baseball world how big ball can be played and that, yes, you don’t have to always bunt over a runner every time. Kikugawa will face Osaka-Toin (Osaka) who also won comfortably 9-4 over Yokohama (South Kanagawa) in this final-worthy matchup. Toin has looked stronger as the tournament goes on, defeating better opponents with ever more ease. The finals will pit upstart Kikugawa against hometown Toin in what should be a slugfest (but will probably turn into a pitching duel against all expectations, as these things tend to do) at 12:30pm on Monday 18 August.

    Incompetently managed (both on and off the field) Japan also lost to Korea in Olympic baseball action (boxscore). A pretty resounding 5-3 defeat. I don’t even know where to start on this one, but I’ll list some of the shortcomings of Team Japan as managed by Senichi Hoshino (who has never won the Japan Series as manager, and indeed there might be a reason why).

    • Despite the limited 24 man roster (NPB uses an expansive 28 man roster), the team took injury question marks Kawasaki and Murata with them to Beijing. Nishioka’s injury on top of this didn’t help matters, as the team was down to 11 position players at full health for the Korea game (though Murata played).
    • This forced Hoshino’s hand and he started all glove no bat Araki at second and solid hitting catcher Satozaki at DH. These wouldn’t normally be bad decisions except he let Araki hit second even though he is by far the worst hitter on the team (classic old school baseball move). And for some unknown reason he, yet again, let incompetent Abe catch instead of the defensively superior Satozaki catch, and this cost the team a run when Abe’s errant throw to second scored a Korean run.
    • Hoshino also left pitchers in too long in the game, with pretty good relief corps, he should’ve pulled Wada earlier in the inning, and he has admitted to this mistake. And he also left reliever Iwase in for too long even though he is clearly more hittable this year and is not a shutdown reliever like he used to be (or like Fujikawa, who didn’t get to enter the game).

    Good news is that, despite Hoshino’s bumbling management, the team still has a decent chance of making medal rounds due to Canada always coming up just short (tough 1 run losses to Cuba, USA, and Korea), and Taiwan recording their first ever loss to China in pixy dust extra inning rules (China might be onto something though, as they managed to pull Korea into extra innings as well, though this time they lost 1-0). Korea and Cuba are both unbeaten at 4-0, but Cuba looks like the team to beat. Since Japan still has to play Canada, chances of both teams making it into medal rounds is slim to nil, considering that USA now has a relatively easy schedule having already played the 2 undefeated teams.

    Cuba 4-0

    Korea 4-0

    USA 2-2

    Japan 2-2

    Canada 1-3

    China 1-3

    Netherlands 1-3

    Taiwan 1-3

    This Kuricorder Quartet version of the Imperial March might sum up my feelings pretty well at the moment, after waking up with a hangover from an all you can drink birthday party on the day of those defeats.

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    Posted in 02_English, baseball, high school, information, olympics, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

    2008.8.17 Koshien Semifinals

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 16日 Saturday

    Koshien fever is reaching its peak as we see the field wittled down to the final 4 in the quarterfinal action over the last 2 days.

    Urasoe-Sho (Okinawa) won in dramatic fashion as the boys from the south defeated the prestigious Keio (North Kanagawa) boys in a come from behind extra innings victory. Urasoe was down 2-3 after Keio scored 2 in the bottom of the 7th, but Urasoe came right back and scored 1 run each in the 8th to tie, then another run in the 10th to win the game. Ace Iha pitched the final 4 innings for the victory.

    In the first semifinal game tomorrow, Urasoe will be up against Tokoha-Kikugawa (Shizuoka) who outslugged Chiben-Wakayama (Wakayama) 13-10 earlier today to stake their claim in the semifinals. Tokoha had led 13-2 after their monster 10 run 6th inning, but Chiben almost came back scoring 4 runs each in the last 2 frames, but fell short of fulfilling a comeback. But they didn’t give up and made the game interesting. Tokoha plays big ball (hardly bunts) and it shows with their big bats, but their pitching is questionable (won 11-9 in the previous game), so their date with Urasoe should be interesting. Although it’s good to see some teams playing a different variation of ball rather than the usual automatic sacrifice bunt style prevalent in Japanese baseball, Tokoha-Kikugawa is tainted with sexual harassment scandals by its former manager and player which is sort of kept under wraps since they involved female beat writers for the Mainichi and Asahi dailies, the papers supporting the Spring and Summer tourneys, respectively). The deeper you look into Japanese highschool baseball, it starts to resemble NCAA Football or Basketball in many of their uglier sides.

    Osaka-Toin (North Osaka) won comfortably over Hotoku-Gakuen (East Hyogo) 7-4 in the battle of local schools yesterday. And Yokohama (South Kanagawa) is in the process of humiliating Seiko-Gakuin (Fukushima) right now with a 15-1 lead in the 8th inning. The semifinal will pit the powerful Yokohama team against a well balanced Osaka-Toin team. (UPDATE: Game ended 15-1)

    Interestig tournament in that many big hitting teams have advanced further into the tournament than teams relying on a single ace playing small ball.

    8.17 Day 16 (Semifinals)

    11:00 Urasoe-Sho (Okinawa) v Tokoha-Kikugawa (Shizuoka)

    13:30 Yokohama (South Kangawa) v Osaka-Toin (North Osaka)

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, culture, high school, information, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    2008.8.15 Koshien Quarterfinals and Olympic Baseball

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 15日 Friday

    Koshien

    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.

    ————

    Olympics

    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.

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, high school, information, olympics, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    2008.8.11 Koshien Update and Kitajima Wins Gold with WR

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 11日 Monday

    Sports world has kicked into an ultra high gear during my absence as Koshien continues, Japanese Olympic baseball team played preparation games against CL and PL selects (more on that in a later post, hopefully), Olympics has started, and NPB continues to chug along.

    Kosuke Kitajima just won gold in the 100m breast stroke with a world record time (58.91, first time the 59 second barrier has been broken) despite being 3rd at the 50m turn. Impressive. Of course, this race, moment, and his post race interview (with tears) will be played ad nauseum from here on in, so I’ll quickly lose interest, but it’s great at the moment. (The Japanese national anthem during medal presentation wasn’t greeted with jeers and whistles like during the Asia Cup football tournament in 2006 in China, the Chinese government is reigning in hard with the crowd control and behaviour.)

    Through a quick glance of the Koshien match results through day 8 after all 55 teams have played their first game, we see that there were no major upsets. Some interesting game results and notes (though I didn’t get to see most of the games):

    • Northern powerhouse Aomori-Yamada (Aomori) narrowly defeated Nihon-Koku (Yamanashi) 2-1 in the first round, then was just the better team right now as they won convincingly 4-0 against the young Honjo-Daiichi (North Saitama) in the second round game that has just concluded right now on day 10.
    • Toho (West Aichi) and Hokkai (South Hokkaido) played a slugfest on day 5 as the former defeated the latter 15-10. Hokkai kept on coming back from behind but that just wasn’t enough. In the mean time, powerhouse Osaka-Toin (North Osaka) crushed the minnows Nitta-Rinko (Oita) 16-2 in the biggest win of the tournament so far.
    • Tainted Kiryu-Daiichi (Gunma), a 2nd year non-roster player groped a girl after the team got to Osaka for Koshien, thankfully lost their first round match against Kanazawa (Ishikawa) who feature many usable arms, but will be hardpressed to win against Osaka-Toin tomorrow on day 11.
    • There were a couple of powerhouse matchups in the first round. One of the tournament favourites Yokohama (South Kanagawa), and Daisuke Matsuzaka’s alma mater, pulled off a 6-5 victory against Urawa-Gakuin (South Saitama). And the 53rd and 54th schools to enter the tournament, in the battle of powerhouses from small prefectures, Kurashiki-Sho (Okayama) defeated Saga-Sho (Saga) 2-0.
    • In round 2 games that started on day 8, Komadai-Iwamisawa (North Hokkaido) easily handled Morioka-Dai (Iwate), the 55th team and final team to play it’s first game in the tournament, 8-3. And in matchups of powerhouses, Chiben-Wakayama (Wakayama) beat another tournament fave Kisarazu-Sogo (East Chiba) 5-2, meanwhile their sister school Chiben-Gakuen (Nara) barely lost to Hotoku-Gakuen (East Hyogo) 4-5.
    • As for teams with rooting interests, Kanto-Daiichi (East Tokyo) beat baseball school Naruto-Ko (Tokushima) 5-2, and Urasue-Sho (Okinawa) won against Chiba-Keidai (West Chiba) 12-9 despite Chiba’s late 6 run come back in the 7th inning.
    • Surprisingly, the remainder of round 2 doesn’t offer tantalizing powerhouse matchups, but it’ll be interesting to see if Kanazawa’s 4 pitchers can keep Osaka-Toin’s powerful bats off balance long enough to steal the game on day 11 tomorrow.

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, culture, high school, information, olympics, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    2008.8.5 Koshien Update

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 5日 Tuesday

    The 90th Koshien Summer Tournament is chugging along as we’re now in day 4 of first round games.

    11 games have been played so far and powerhouses Chiben-Wakayama (Wakayama), Kagoshima-Jitsugyo (Kagoshima), Chiben (Nara), Hotoku-Gakuen (East Hyogo), Kanto-Daiichi (East Tokyo), Kisarazu-Sogo (East Chiba), and Urasoe-Shogaku (Okinawa) have all won their first round games, and young Honjo-Daiichi (North Saitama) with a starting lineup consisting seven 1st and 2nd years (with a 1st year 1st baseman slugger hitting cleanup, most unusual as most teams lineups are loaded with 3rd year students as they’re more physically and technically developed at this age) is currently tied with Kaisei (Shimane) 4-4 in the first game of the day right now. (Update: Okuda Pedro just won the game for Honjo by leading off the bottom of the 9th with a walkoff homerun to deep centre on a difficult pitch.)

    Some other notes of interest:

    • Baseball exchange students are on some teams. Iizuka (Fukuoka) had Kim Dong-Ming(? 金東民) from Korea as it’s leadoff hitter and starting shortstop, as a 2nd year, definitely the core of the team. Magario Mike(?) is a Japanese-Brazilian 2nd year outfielder and 187 cm tall slugger for the powerhouse Aomori-Yamada (Aomori). And Honjo-Daiichi (North Saitama) also features two Japanese-Brazilians, ace Ito Diego and starting shortstop Okuda Pedro. They have both gone through the “Centro Trainament Yakult”(?) baseball academy before going to Honjo-Daiichi. Ito Diego (left) and Okuda Pedro
    • Urasoe-Shogaku’s (Okinawa) cap is designed like the Tokyo Yakult Swallows cap, and this is probably intentional as Urasoe is the Okinawan city where the Swallows hold training camp every spring.                   Urasoe-Shogaku         Tokyo Yakult Swallows
    • Pitch counts are often mentioned during game commentary, mostly as how it wears down pitchers, and some teams even talk about a walk being just as valuable as a hit (not true, but close, and way better than discounting the walk). The tides are slowly changing even in high school ball.

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, high school, information, opinion, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Okinawa Shogaku wins it all!

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 4日 Friday

    Okinawa Shogaku high school won the Koshien Spring Invitational Tournament with a resounding 9 – 0 thumping of Seibo high school from Saitama in the tournament’s final today. This is the school’s 2nd Spring championship, they won for the first time 9 years ago. The game even featured an inside the park homerun, so it was pretty entertaining for a blowout. shogaku1.jpgThe organizing committee chairman (or someone in a similar position) droned on in his post-tournament speech, and congratulated kids from all the participating teams on a great tournament, but chided that there were too many runners being picked off and that there were too many called third strikes. Why he’s trying to dictate the style of play, I’m not sure. And I never really listen to these speeches so I was kind of surprised about how detailed he was in his talk about the tournament, surely putting anyone below the age of 50 to sleep.Anyways, congrats Okinawa Shogaku on the 2nd championship in a decade, and good luck in the Okinawan qualifiers for the summer Koshien tournament! 

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, opinion, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Okinawan Schools at Koshien

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 3日 Thursday

    Okinawa Shogaku made it into the semifinals of the 2008 Spring Invitational Koshien High School Baseball Tournament by beating powerhouse Tenri high school from Nara in a hard fought 4-2 win in the semis, along with Himeji. And today, Chiba (having just won the first semifinal played this morning by 4-2 over Seibo of Saitama) have made their ways into the finals. Okinawa Shogaku is playing the Himeji right now in semifinal game 2 (yup, games on consecutive days, Okinawa was trying to preserve its ace Higashihama yesterday, but had to bring him in midway through the game. This is how promising kids arms get blown out at young age, but also how monster rubber arms like Matsuzaka and Kuwata emerge.)

    There’s always a special place in my heart for Okinawan schools, heck I just like Okinawa. The subtropical islands were an indepent nation for a centuries (though paying tributaries to China and later the Satsuma clan, part of Tokugawa shogunate in the Edo era) before being completely annexed by Japan shortly after the Meiji Restoration. Imperial Japan ordered mass suicides in Okinawa, after using it as a last line of defence, then gladly handed it over to the States for a few decades following the war. Its citizens have long received second class treatment by the national government, while having significant US military presence on the main island. No wonder they’d be weary of outsiders.

    Okinawans have always received the short end of the stick, typical for minority groups in most nations, and has most of the American military bases in Japan, and US bases occupy a significant chunk of the land. But at the same time, time movers slower there, like in many tropical locales, it has beautiful beaches, friendly laid back people, unique music, and tasty food. Much like Hawai’i, the islands economy relies mainly on the military presence and tourism, and some sugar canes. It has all the trappings of tropical paradise without the usual accompaniment of price gouging, shady characters, and crime (though a segment of miliatry personnel have been a constant source of problems). It’s like taking the best parts of Japan and South East Asia and putting them together.

    Anyways, that was longer than what I intended to write. I’m cheering for Okinawa Shogaku high school through the semifinals and finals (hope they make it). Anyways, another treat about the Okinawan schools at Koshien is that they have distinctively Okinawan fight songs complete with Okinawan tunes and whistling, instead of the usual stuff strutted out by the rest of the schools in the country. Watch this clip from the 2:00 mark and the 5:00 mark (from the 2006 summer tournament, amazingly a neighbour island school made it to the tournament and turned in some heroic performances).

    Another footage, amazingly this is the 1982 Okinawan high school tournament finals, someone digitized their VHS tape! The now familiar Okinawan fight songs aren’t heard here. I’m not sure if that’s special for Koshien (to show Okinawan pride) or the fact that song styles changed significantly over the past 25 years. It’s more likely the latter. I remember NPB games in the 80’s having similarly simple fight songs, they’re sometimes elaborately complex these days (too much, some would say, and many agree, as they’re difficult for new fans to learn and enjoy, which is usually the point of attending games, after all).

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, culture, information, music, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »