Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tokyo Big 6: "Ohishi Theater" takes over at Soukeisen

I didn't actually make it to Soukeisen this weekend for various reasons, mostly weather-related -- not really worth braving the Handkerchief Posse crowds to sit out in the rain, basically. Instead, I went to Fighters Town Nippori (aka Yakiniku Erika) with Pau (who is a Hanshin fan) and we watched the Tigers-Fighters game there. The Fighters won and we got to chat with Hichori's dad a bit -- and even he said that Hichori's in kind of a slump these days. Very sad.

My school had its Sports Day on Sunday, so I couldn't go to Jingu that day, and it rained pretty hard in the late afternoon anyway. But I had Monday off in exchange for Sunday, so I planned to go to Jingu no matter what -- either for the third game of Soukeisen or for the first day of the rookie tournament. And well, Waseda won the second Soukeisen game on Sunday, so there was no third game.

When I heard about Sunday's Soukeisen game, though, I was REALLY sad that I couldn't be there. Not because Waseda won, but because of what some newspapers have dubbed Ohishi Theater.

If you somehow don't know already, I've been a huge fan of Waseda's pitcher Tatsuya Ohishi (大石達也) for the last few seasons. He can throw 155 km/h and strikes batters out left and right. Last fall he seriously struck out 34 batters in 16 innings, and that was without facing Tokyo. He allowed 5 runners all season. As a reliever, he's really amazing. This season Waseda tried having him start a game and that didn't work so well (probably because it just so happened that they tried it against Hosei, who were the eventual champions), but he still came out of the season having struck out 22 in 20 innings, a WHIP of 1.0 and an ERA of 2.70.

For a while it always felt like nobody really paid attention to him because they were so busy going nuts over Yuki "Handkerchief Prince" Saitoh, but lately I've noticed a lot of stuff about Ohishi-kun in the press. The cover story for the S09 issue of Daigaku Yakyu has Waseda's Ohishi, Saitoh, and Fukui-kun. The "featured interview pair" in College Base Heroes magazine is with Saitoh and Ohishi. Everyone generally agrees that he's going to be a high draft pick next year; me, I want to see him as the Fighters' closer in a few years, of course. I can dream, right?

But nothing, nothing, NOTHING tops what he did on Sunday.

At first when I looked at the box score from Sunday's Soukeisen game, where Waseda won 6-5, I did a double-take: why was there a [6] next to Ohishi's name? Did he START at SHORTSTOP? They put their CLOSER in as the STARTING SHORTSTOP? Whaaaaaat?

And as reported in several places, that is exactly what they did. There's even photo proof.

Not only that -- he was apparently GOOD as the shortstop. He made diving catches to stop grounders, turned double plays, and to add to all of that, he also HIT A TRIPLE at the plate and scored a run. I didn't actually watch the game so it's hard to say, but I'd bet he was actually better than Gotoh out there. Ohishi was quoted as saying, though, "This was my first time as a shortstop in an official game. I'm not very good at fielding grounders. I had to work very hard and was really worried."

Then during the bottom of the 7th inning, while Waseda was at-bat, and in the midst of the rain that was falling, he was told to go to the bullpen and warm up to pitch, which he did, and he took the mound for the 8th and 9th innings, allowing no runs and no hits (though no strikeouts). All that AFTER having played the first 7 innings of the game as the shortstop.

Waseda's manager Ohtake apparently said that he was a "treasured player" and remarked, "I'd like to bat him in the 3-spot. If he devoted himself to playing shortstop, I think he could win a batting title!" and pointed out that players like Ichiro, Toritani, etc, all started out as pitchers. Ohishi, for his part, said something to the effect of "Well, now that I've tried being a shortstop, I think I've discovered that I truly do want to be a pitcher..."


Well, on that note, the Tokyo Big 6 season is officially at an end. By taking Soukeisen 2-0, Waseda actually managed to technically finish the season in 2nd place, having only lost a series to Hosei, the champions. Keio finished in fourth place, behind Meiji. There is light at the end of the tunnel though, as Keio and Meiji are facing off for the rookie championship tomorrow. I'll post about Monday's rookie games in a bit. (Though for the other Koshien nerds, before you ask: I saw Yusuke Yamada play for Rikkio, but did not see Kei Tamura pitch for Keio except in the bullpen.)

Also, the Best 9 for this season were announced:
Pitcher: Kazuhito Futagami, Hosei
Catcher: Shuhei Ishikawa, Hosei
First: Shogo Shashiki, Meiji
Second: Masatoshi Matsumoto, Hosei
Third: Tetsuya Urushibata, Keio
Short: Hiroshi Taki, Hosei
Outfield: Shingo Kamegai, Hosei
Outfield: Toshiki Yamada, Waseda
Outfield: Hiroki Kojima, Waseda

I don't think this actually has a damn thing to do with what position they play at all -- this is basically the best batters in the league by position, plus the Hosei Championship Factor. I'm pretty sure Hiroshi Taki wasn't the best shortstop in the league by fielding, as I believe he led the league in errors, but he certainly was by batting.

The brackets are full for the big college tournament next week, by the way. A lot of the usual suspects are there, but some others too; will be interesting to see how that goes.

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