Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Game Report: Tokyo Big 6 Championship Game - Hosei wins!

Hosei's Ryo Imai launched a sayonara home run off Meiji's Yusuke Nomura to bring home the Tokyo Big 6 Spring 2009 league championship on Sunday afternoon, as Hosei won their final game of the season 5-4. Even the weather couldn't commit to being rainy or sunny, and the tides of the game flowed with it. Hosei dominated under a cloud cover, and as the sun came out Meiji found their batting stride, and then Hosei took control again as the sun hid behind the clouds. Given that the kanji in "Meiji" literally mean "bright rule", I suppose it makes sense.

Really, though, Hosei's team this season was just ridiculously dominant in just about every way. Two of their batters, Masatoshi Matsumoto and Shingo Kamegai, posted OPSes above 1, as did game hero and relative newcomer Ryo Imai. (Seriously, where did this kid come from? The last record I see of him actually playing for Hosei's top team is in Spring 2007.) And the pitching was of course also really strong, leading the league in WHIP, ERA, and BB/9 pretty soundly. They just don't really walk batters very much, and allowed less than one runner per inning on average, Well, less than one earned runner, I'm not sure how many reached on errors. As it turns out, the only thing Hosei didn't really lead the league in was defense, in theory -- Rikkio was far and out the worst at 23 errors in 13 games (1.76 per game) and Waseda was the best with 7 errors in 11 games so far (0.63 per game). Hosei was right in the middle, with 15 errors in 12 games (1.25 per game)... fully one-third of which (5) were made by freshman shortstop Hiroshi Taki.

As of May 24 (with all colleges finished except the Keio-Waseda games this coming weekend), here's the team totals for the Tokyo Big 6 teams:

Hosei 1.41 0.95 7.87 1.82
Meiji 2.13 1.24 8.91 3.90
Keio 2.51 1.20 4.44 3.19
Waseda 2.67 1.11 10.96 2.58
Rikkio 3.05 1.54 5.49 4.96
Tokyo 7.38 2.11 3.27 9.49

Hosei .300 .369 .410 .779
Keio .255 .335 .318 .653
Waseda .235 .319 .326 .645
Meiji .228 .321 .275 .597
Rikkio .227 .267 .308 .575
Tokyo .197 .254 .247 .500

You know, Tokyo's probably proud that they came so close to the Mendoza line this year as a team.

Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and write way more detail about this game than anyone besides me would ever possibly want to know, but I vaguely figure it's not going to be anywhere else in English, so why not?

First let's start with the boxscore (mine, transcribed):

Meiji 4 - 5 Hosei
Sunday, May 24, 2009
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Meiji 0 0 0 1 2 1 0 0 0 4 10 1
Hosei 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 1X 5 11 1

Meiji AVG AB R H RB K BB SH SB E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
S.Yamauchi, 3b-ss-3b .286 3 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 S6 .. G1 G6 .. b1 .. BB ..
Toyama, 2b .257 2 1 1 0 1 1 2 0 0 b1 .. HP .. D7 KS .. b2 ..
Shashiki, 1b .333 3 1 1 1 0 2 0 0 0 HP .. G4 .. D9 F8 .. BB ..
Komichi, rf .225 4 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 KC .. G4 .. b5 .. G5 G5 ..
Tada, lf .269 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 G3 .. .. S8 .. .. .. .. ..
Chida, ph .167 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. F6 .. .. .. ..
T.Kobayashi, lf .333 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. D8 .. ..
Y.Kobayashi, ph .000 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. G6
Ochi, ss .--- 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Araki, cf .250 3 0 2 1 0 2 0 0 0 .. F8 .. BB S8 .. BB .. S8
Yasuda, c .189 3 0 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 .. BB .. b1 .. F8 S7 .. F7
Uemoto, ss .129 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. KS .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Komachi, ph .500 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 .. .. .. S7 .. .. .. .. ..
Abe, 3b .238 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. E4 KS .. ..
Matsunaga, ph-lf .--- 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Nanba, p .286 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. G4 .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
T.Morita, p .250 3 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. KS .. S8 F7 .. ..
Nomura, p .154 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Hosei AVG AB R H RB K BB SH SB E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Kamegai, cf .429 3 1 3 1 0 2 0 1 0 S8 .. H9 S8 .. BB .. IW ..
Waizumi, lf .269 3 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 b5 .. HP G4 .. KC .. L5 ..
Imai, rf .400 4 2 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 BB .. S9 F9 .. .. G4 .. H9
M.Matsumoto, 2b .447 3 0 2 1 0 1 0 0 1 HP .. S7 .. S9 .. F3 .. ..
Sasaki, 1b .250 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 G4 .. b2 .. b1 .. F1 .. ..
Taki, ss .341 3 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 .. F7 IW .. KS .. .. S9 ..
Ishikawa, c .286 4 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .. D7 G6 .. F8 .. .. S7 ..
Nakao, pr .--- 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Mishima, p 1.000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Mikami, p .000 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. G6 F4 .. .. .. .. .. ..
Y.Ueno, p .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Nishi, p .000 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. F7 .. .. ..
Kameda, ph .250 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. S7 ..
Hasegawa, pr-3b .333 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Nanba, 3b .095 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. F9 .. F7 .. G1 .. .. ..
Kita, ph .188 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. E6 ..
Hiromoto, c .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Nanba 2.33 2 13 42 5 1 0 3 3 3
T.Morita 0.00 5.1 24 89 5 0 2 2 1 0
Nomura (loss) 2.51 0.2 2 5 1 1 0 0 1 1

Mikami 1.93 4.1 22 90 5 0 3 4 3 3
Y.Ueno 1.29 0.2 2 15 1 0 0 0 0 0
Nishi 0.00 3 16 49 3 0 2 3 1 0
Mishima (win) 0.00 1 3 12 1 0 0 0 0 0

(Official box score from the Tokyo Big 6 site but without line scores, and in Japanese)

And here's the play-by-play. Keep in mind that it was slightly drizzling as the game started, and continued for the first several innings. Infact, this is what the Hosei cheering section looked like...

First inning, top, Meiji offense (M 0 / H 0):
Shinnosuke Yamauchi started off the game with a whimper and not a bang, as he hit a ground ball to short, just deep enough that Hosei's Hitoshi Taki had to make too quick a transfer and throw, so the ball went over Sasaki at first base. Captain Yuta Toyama bunted Yamauchi to second base - one out. Shogo Shashiki (a former teammate of Sho Nakata's at Osaka Toin) barely took a 2-2 pitch to his forearm, and walked to first base. Things weren't looking so good for Hosei starter Tomoya Mikami, but then he managed to sneak a called third strike past cleanup batter Junpei Komichi for two outs, and get Hayato Tada to ground out to first base. Mikami threw 21 pitches in the inning (12 strikes).

First inning, bottom, Hosei offense (M 0 / H 0):
Shingo Kamegai led off for Hosei by singling to center, and chatterbox Shota Waizumi cleanly bunted him up to second. One out, runner at second. Ryo Imai swung at one pitch and let the rest go by to walk to first base, and then league batting champ Masatoshi Matsumoto was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Meiji starter Gota Nanba took it in stride, though -- even when Yoh Sasaki hit a grounder back to the mound which deflected off of Nanba towards second base. Meiji 2B Toyama managed to grab the ball off the bounce, step on second base, and throw to first in time to catch Sasaki for the double play, so no runs scored. Nanba threw 14 pitches in the inning (6 strikes).

Second inning, top, Meiji offense (M 0 / H 0):
Fumiya Araki led off by hitting a liner into centerfield, that Kamegai ran in for a low catch. One out. Ryota Yasuda fouled off several pitches and eventually walked. Takashi Uemoto fouled off even more pitches before eventually striking out, though Yasuda stole second on the third strike, and it was a really close call at second (most people in the Hosei outfield started yelling about the umpire's eyes). Two outs. Gota Nanba grounded out to second, ending the inning. Mikami threw 26 pitches that inning, 18 of which went to just Yasuda and Uemoto, and he was up to 47 through 2.

Second inning, bottom, Hosei offense (M 0 / H 0):
Hitoshi Taki started things off by hitting a fly to left for the first out. Team captain Shuhei Ishikawa hit a scorcher up the left-field line past a diving Yamauchi, which went for a double. The first pitch to pitcher Mikami was a wild pitch and Ishikawa advanced to third... which is where he would remain for the resto f the inning as Mikami grounded out to short and third baseman Masashi Nanba followed it up with a pop fly to right. Hosei's Nanba is easily the weakest link in Hosei's lineup, notable in that he was batting 9th behind the pitcher, even. Kota Nanba, on the other hand, pitching for Meiji, threw 13 pitches that inning for a total of 27.

I noted at this point that several Hosei pitchers who had been throwing off the bullpen mound decided to retreat from the rain into the actual bullpen cage, and started taking off their shirts to hang them up to dry. Good thing for them that I didn't have my real camera with me.

Third inning, top, Meiji offense (M 0 / H 0):
Shinnosuke Yamauchi led off this inning by hitting an easy grounder back to the mound, and Yuta Toyama was hit by a 2-2 pitch that went a little too far inside. Shashiki grounded out to second, and Komichi fouled off two pitches before grounding the next one to second as well. Quick inning; Mikami threw 14 pitches for a total of 61 through three.

Third inning, bottom, Hosei offense (M 0 / H 3)
This is where things started actually happening for Hosei, as the rain got a bit stronger, and I think Nanba was having a bit of trouble because of it. The first two pitches to Kamegai missed the zone and the next one was straight down the middle and he slammed it to right field, where it went up, up, up, and over the wall, bouncing in the 2nd row of the outfield seats for a home run. 1-0. Waizumi got behind in the count, but then Nanba hit him in the leg with a pitch. Ryo Imai attempted to bunt Waizumi up to second, COMPLETELY FAILED, and with two strikes on him, rather than striking out bunting, he just swung away at the ball and singled to right instead; Waizumi was running on the pitch and made it all the way to third. With runners at the corners, Masatoshi Matsumoto hit the ball and accidentally lost control of his bat, throwing it way down the left-field line. Everyone thought the ball was foul, but it turned out to be fair. Waizumi scored, 2-0, and Imai advanced to second, and Meiji decided to spare Nanba of any further embarrassment and changed pitchers to Takayuki Morita.

Nanba threw a total of 42 pitches (25 strikes) through 2 innings plus 4 batters. 3 runs, no strikeouts.

Yoh Sasaki tried to continue the action, got up to a full count, and ended up bunting Imai and Matsumoto up to second and third base instead. One out. Then Meiji catcher Yasuda stood up to signal the next pitch -- yes, they were intentionally walking Hiroshi Taki. Maybe it was because Taki bats left-handed and catcher Shuhei Ishikawa bats right-handed, or maybe to hopefully set up for a double play, but either way it didn't work out. Ishikawa did hit a grounder to short, and Taki was out on the force at second, but Ishikawa beat out the throw to first. Two outs, 3-0. Pitcher Mikami hit a high pop fly in the infield, caught by the second baseman for the third out. Morita threw 17 pitches in the inning.

Fourth inning, top, Meiji offense (M 1 / H 3)
The rain finally started to let up at this point, which allowed Meiji to start scoring, apparently. Hayato Tada led off with a single to right, and then Fumiya Araki walked on four straight pitches. Ryota Yasuda bunted them up to second and third base, one out, and then Norifumi Komachi pinch-hit for Uemoto. Komachi managed a single to left, which scored Tada for the first Meiji run, 3-1. After that, pitcher Morita struck out and Yamauchi grounded out to end the inning. Mikami threw 21 pitches that inning for a total of 82.

Fourth inning, bottom, Hosei offense (M 1 / H 3)
Masashi Nanba continued to not get hits by hitting an easy pop fly to left. Kamegai continued to hit by singling to center, and advanced when Waizumi grounded out to second after fouling off three pitches. Imai almost walked, then hit a looooooooooooong low fly ball out to right field, which looked like it might go for a home run, and Junpei Komichi ran back, back, back... and made a sliding catch all the way back at the right-field wall, even earning him a round of applause from the Hosei faithful in the stands. Morita threw 21 pitches that inning for a total of 38.

Fifth inning, top, Meiji offense (M 3 / H 3)
As I mentioned before, Meiji's game waxed and waned with the weather. Yuta Toyama started off the inning with a double down the left-field line that looked foul but wasn't, and Shogo Shashiki followed it up with another double, down the right-field line, that also looked foul but wasn't, and Toyama scored. 3-2. Komichi bunted Shashiki over to third, and so with the tying run standing at third and only one out, Hosei took Mikami out of the game and brought in Yushi Ueno. Mikami threw 90 pitches total, 52 strikes.

I swear that at this point, while Ueno was coming out to the mound and throwing warmup pitches, the weather went from cloudy and a little chilly to SUNNY AND HOT. I'd actually taken off my poncho the previous inning, and even put away my umbrella because I didn't need to protect my scorecard from the rain any more -- and so at this point I actually took my umbrella BACK out because it was so sunny I couldn't see in the glare, and was worried about getting sunburnt.

Anyway, Takayuki Chida pinch-hit for Hayato Tada, and only managed a pop fly to short. Two outs. But then Fumiya Araki hit a clean single to center, finally bringing home Shashiki from third. 3-3. With a 1-2 count on Yasuda, Araki took off for second base, and got himself totally caught in a rundown, 2-6-3 for the out, ending the inning. Ueno threw 15 pitches to 2 and a half batters.

Fifth inning, bottom, Hosei offense (M 3 / H 3)
A quick inning. Matsumoto continued his hitting with a single to right, and Sasaki bunted him up, but Taki struck out and Ishikawa hit the 3-1 pitch for a fly ball... caught in centerfield. Morita threw 12 pitches for a total of 50 through 3 innings.

Sixth inning, top, Meiji offense (M 4 / H 3)
Hosei sidearmer Kohei Nishi took the mound for the top of the sixth.

The sun shined on Meiji even more this inning. Yasuda was at bat again, this time hitting a pop fly to center. One out. Toshiki Abe, who had come in at third base in the fourth inning, hit a grounder to second base which Matsumoto just completely dropped and couldn't pick up in time to make a throw, so it was called an error. Pitcher Morita tried several times to bunt Abe over to second and completely failed -- and instead, with a 1-2 count, he swung away at the ball and managed a single to right-center instead. Abe was off and running and made it all the way to third base.

With runners at the corners, one out, and the sun high in the sky, Shinnosuke Yamauchi executed a squeeze bunt, which pitcher Nishi charged, and he threw it to home in what seemed like plenty of time to get Abe at the plate, but somehow he was called safe? It was kind of weird. 4-3. Toyama struck out after that and Shashiki hit a pop fly out to center. Nishi threw 23 pitches that inning.

Sixth inning, top, Hosei offense (M 4 / H 3)
Pitcher Nishi batted for himself to lead off the 6th, and after two ridiculous swinging strikes, fouled off a pitch and then sent the next one flying out to left field. One out. Nanba grounded back to the mound, and then Kamegai walked on 5 pitches. Kamegai stole second on the 2-1 pitch to Waizumi, but it was all for naught as Waizumi eventually let a called third strike go by to end the inning. Morita threw 17 pitches that inning for a total of 67.

Seventh inning, top, Meiji offense (M 4 / H 3)
Komichi grounded out to third. Takuma Kobayashi, who came in to play left field after Chida pinch-hit, hit a pop fly up to centerfield, which Kamegai made a nice run for, and got his glove on... only to drop it, and they called it a double for Kobayashi. Araki walked after that on four straight pitches. Yasuda singled to left, and Waizumi charged the ball and threw it in fast enough that Kobayashi had to hold at third. I thought for sure that they'd take Nishi out with bases loaded and only one out, but they let him work his way out of the jam, and he managed to strike out Abe and get a first-pitch pop fly out of Morita. Nishi threw 13 pitches that inning for a total of 36.

Seventh inning, bottom, Hosei offense (M 4 / H 3)
A super-quick inning. Imai grounded out, Matsumoto hit an infield pop fly to first, and Sasaki hit an infield pop fly caught by the pitcher. Morita threw 6 pitches that inning for a total of 73.

Eighth inning, top, Meiji offense (M 4 / H 3)
It became patently obvious by this point that Nishi-kun had lost any control over his sidearm pitches whatsoever, as he walked Yamauchi on four straight pitches. Toyama bunted Yamauchi up to second, and then Nishi also walked Shashiki on four straight pitches. He threw two more balls to Komichi before Komichi managed to foul one off and then ground the next one straight to third base, where Nanba stepped on the bag and threw the ball to first for the double play to end the inning. Nishi threw 13 pitches that inning, 10 balls and 3 strikes, for a total of 49 over three innings.

Eighth inning, bottom, Hosei offense (M 4 / H 4)
Hiroshi Taki led off the inning by singling to right -- and then took such a huge lead off first that he got picked off by the catcher on the very first pitch to Ishikawa. One out. Ishikawa singled to left, and Takashi Nakao pinch-ran for him. Kento Kameda pinch-hit for Nishi, and also singled to left, Nakao advancing to second. Yusuke Hasegawa pinch-ran for Kameda.

Kaoru Kita pinch-hit for Nanba, and he grounded the ball to short. Only Meiji's shortstop, Yamauchi, kind of got his hand on the ball and then he fumbled it and it went into left field. Nakao scored and Hasegawa ran to third, and Kita even reached second on the play as the ball was thrown home. 4-4.

Morita intentionally walked Kamegai (I don't blame him, as Kamegai was the second-best batter in the Tokyo Big 6 League and was already 3-for-3 with a walk and a home run for the day), and then just to prove that Meiji was NOT MESSING AROUND, they took out Morita and put in Yusuke Nomura.

Now keep in mind that Nomura had thrown 9 innings and 148 pitches the day before, but well, when the championship is on the line, I guess you put in your best guy and hope he has something left in his arm.

And apparently he did, as the next batter up was Shota Waizumi, who LITERALLY lined the FIRST pitch he saw into third baseman Abe's glove. It was so quick that Abe was on the third base bag before Hasegawa could turn around and run back, so it was an unassisted double play. Nomura threw... one pitch.

Ninth inning, top, Meiji offense (M 4 / H 4)
Kazuki Mishima took over on the mound for Hosei. Yousuke Kobayashi pinch-hit for Takuma Kobayashi, and grounded out to short for the first out. Araki singled after that, and Yasuda hit a pop fly out to left field for the second out. Here's where the boxscore looks weird: Sanshiro Matsunaga came in to pinch-hit for Toshiki Abe. And then on the 1-1 pitch, for whatever unknown reason, Fumiya Araki took off running for second base, and well, he was out by a mile, caught stealing, third out. Mishima threw 12 pitches that inning, and Matsunaga was never credited with an official at-bat, but did remain in the game as the left fielder. Ryuuichi Ochi came in to play shortstop, and Yamauchi moved back to third.

Ninth inning, bottom, Hosei offense (M 4 / H 5)
The first pitch to Ryo Imai was a strike. The next was a ball. The next was a ball. The next was a strike, and Imai hit it over the right-field wall for a game-winning home run that bounced in the second row of seats. 5-4.

Meet your new Tokyo Big 6 Champions of the 2009 Spring season, Hosei University...

The student cheering section throws orange streamers onto the field.

Manager Koji Kanemitsu gives the first speech, about how proud he is for the team working so hard, and how he was looking forward to taking the team to the All-Japan college tournament next, and hopefully doing well there too.

Then they turned to the game hero, Ryo Imai. "What do you think of winning the championship?" "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!"

Seriously, his hero interview was about as happy-stupid as they get. I'm not even sure he was listening to the interviewer, he just kept talking about how he was happy there were fans out there, and happy he had teammates, and happy about winning, and more "YAAAAY!!!" and stuff like that. I suppose I should cut him some slack being as hitting league-championship-winning sayonara home runs isn't all THAT common around here.

Kazuhito Futagami was also interviewed for being the staff ace this year. He was a bit more serious about the entire deal, and mostly said stuff to the effect of "I wanted to pitch well so that Hosei could win the championship and we could take pride in our university."

Team captain, catcher Shuhei Ishikawa. The interviewer asked him "So, how do you feel about winning the championship?" and Ishikawa replied, "Huh? What do you mean?"

The rest of the team were... patiently watching the hero interviews. Okay, not really -- they were yelling out and waving at their teammates being interviewed on the big screen, and also were doing things like getting out their cellphones and taking photos of themselves on the big screen.

I don't really blame them for being overjoyed, it was just interesting watching them all act like complete slap-happy idiots and completely not self-conscious at all for the most part.

I bought the Tokyo Big 6 Spring 2009 baseball card set this week, and it's kind of funny how they made cards for several guys who totally didn't contribute to the season championship (like Kajiya and Takeuchi) and didn't make any for some that did (like league batting champ Matsumoto). I guess it's pretty hard to predict how seasons will go in college ball, especially since there are different external factors that can affect how someone plays. (Naturally, I mean things like drinking parties. I doubt studying gets in the way of baseball for most of these guys.) The best card in the set is actually of Keio's Murayama, but I'm biased towards cool pictures of pitchers with funky deliveries.

Anyway, I believe Toyo University DID manage to actually take the Tohto League title from Asia University in two VERY close games -- both by a score of 3-2 -- so both Toyo and Hosei will be representing their respective leagues at the All Japan college tournament starting on June 9th. I'm definitely hoping to catch a few games of that! I've grown to love college baseball here so much over the last few years, as it's really a lot of fun to watch -- kind of the same spirit as high school ball, but with a higher level of play and less idiotic headslides into first base.

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