I went down to Jingu Stadium early on to get a front-row seat. Showed up at 10:20, as usual the Waseda side was mobbed with Yuki Saitoh fans but the Hosei side wasn't too bad. I ended up sitting next to a 70-year-old old Hosei alum who told me stories about watching Hosei's team in the mid-1970's when they had Suguru Egawa and when current manager Kanemitsu was the captain and 2nd baseman and the team won 4 straight championships. I asked him about what Inaba was like in his Hosei years, and he said "Look at Shingo Kamegai... Kamegai is very much like Inaba was, even down to them both being from Chukyo." I like Kamegai, so that was a good way to put it :)
(Sadly, though, Kamegai re-injured his leg running out a grounder in the 7th inning. It was, however, the infield single that put through the game-tying run for Hosei.)
There was a old guy sitting to my left who not only put his bag on a seat for no reason other than so nobody would sit there, but he SLEPT through the entire first game and then woke up for part of the 2nd game only to take some cellphone pictures. How annoying. Front row seats are premium. I guess on the other hand I didn't have to deal with people sitting on both sides of me as a result, but still.
Game 1 - Waseda 3, Hosei 3 (12 innings)
Since Kisho Kagami was having arm trouble, the Hosei starter was sophomore Tomoya Mikami, who is from Ken Gifu Sho HS and is very (190cm) tall. Waseda's starter was the usual Yuki "Handkerchief Prince" Saitoh. Hosei went into this series basically needing to beat Waseda to have any chance at all of another championship this semester.
Waseda put up the first few runs -- bizarrely enough, they all came thanks to Saitoh's batting! In the 3rd inning, he led off with a single, moved up on a Kojima grounder, and scored on a Matsunaga double. In the 5th inning, he hit a 2-out single, moved to 3rd on a Kojima single, and then Matsunaga hit a single that scored both of them, making it 3-0 and taking Mikami out of the game in favor of Hisashi Takeuchi, who is hoping to get drafted next week. Takeuchi managed to keep Waseda under control for the next few innings.
Saitoh at bat.
In the meantime, in the 7th inning, catcher Hiromoto led off with an infield single to third, and a pinch-hitting Yoh Sasaki doubled to right, scoring Hiromoto, 3-1. Hiroshi Taki continued the attack with a single to right, scoring Sasaki, 3-2, and that's when Mr. Handkerchief came out of the game in favor of Tatsuya Ohishi (who you might recall is my favorite Big 6 pitcher).
Hosei managed to score Taki by small-ball - Shota Waizumi bunted him up, and while Ryo Imai struck out, Masatoshi Matsumoto singled, moving Taki to third. Shingo Kamegai, who was out for a few weeks with a leg injury, then hit a grounder through the shortstop for a single to left... but as he ran it out to first he started limping and had to be carried off the field. On the other hand, it scored Taki, making it 3-3. Kaoru Kita pinch-ran for Kamegai and the inning ended with Kento Kameda striking out on a 150 km/h pitch.
(Kamegai being carried off.)
Then both teams got into a deadlock for the next 6 innings. Hosei freshman Kazuki Mishima came in to pitch. I'd heard about him quite a bit, but this was my first time seeing him pitch from close up (I think I saw him pitch in the spring too, but from afar). Anyway, Mishima is about my height and weight, looks like a totally unassuming little kid, and THROWS EVERYTHING AT AROUND 93-95mph. No, really. His control is pretty terrible, but I think he keeps the batters pretty well off-balance just because they might be worried about getting decapitated by his next pitch. So in three innings he walked four guys, struck out four guys, and had everyone coming down to take photos of him by the fence as he did warm-up throws.
I don't know exactly where the speed comes from, but he did end up in a kind of tangled follow-through most of the time.
Here's the scoreboard showing one of his pitches as 154km/h (95.7 mph).
After Mishima, Hosei followed with senior Kohei Nishi, who I've mentioned a few times as being a bizarre sidearmer. Nishi didn't have a particularly good track record before this year, but in 2009 hasn't given up a run at all, and in this case he also pitched two innings and struck out four.
And finally, I should talk about Tatsuya Ohishi, of course. I was torn because I like him very much, but I also kind of wanted Hosei to win the game. So as Hosei kept essentially messing up and/or not capitalizing on things, it got kind of frustrating. Like when Ishikawa hit what could have been a triple if he was actually running, but instead he stopped at first and then ran to second, then was bunted to 3rd and left there. Or in the 10th, Tetsuro Matsumoto accidentally grounded out to first. It was ridiculous, he checked a swing, the ball hit the bat and rolled down the first-base line and he wasn't even aware he should start running for a few seconds. Then in the bottom of the 12th, Hosei led off with a kid named Nakao getting an infield single to second (just a messy grab and no throw), and then Masatoshi Matsumoto was supposed to bunt Nakao up, but he basically bunted RIGHT TO OHISHI, who isn't an idiot and made the play at second to get the force on Nakao, and then thanks to Masatoshi not running, it was a double play at first base as well. Sheesh. Kaoru Kita ran out a deep grounder to short, but with two outs and only one runner it wasn't hard for Ohishi to strike out a pinch-hitting Suguru Fujita to end the game.
(For the record, Fujita is a PITCHER, so what the heck he was doing pinch-hitting is beyond me. I know there are some great-hitting pitchers in Big 6 -- Ohishi himself is one of them -- but this was kind of crazy.)
Speaking of Ohishi at the plate, he was fairly effective as usual, making a successful bunt once and then getting an infield single another time. After this game he was 5-for-7 on the season (he's now 5-for-9 after the entire weekend though).
So I thought it'd be funny this time to include photos of him as a base-runner instead of as a pitcher:
And here is what the final score looked like in extra innings:
I have one more photo I took during this game that won't fit in anywhere else but I wanted to post so I can mention him:
This is Shota Sugiyama, the catcher for Waseda. I didn't realize this, but he's only a freshman and has pretty much stepped in to essentially be the next Hosoyamada -- he's been behind the plate for pretty much all of their games this season.
Unlike Rikkio's Yusuke Yamada, who played at Koshien and hammered a huge home run among other things, and is the other Tokyo Big 6 freshman catcher to make significant appearances this year, Sugiyama never went to Koshien, having played for Toso Kogyo HS in Chiba. He is, however, listed as being "one of the best HS catchers in Kanto" in reports last year... no idea why he didn't try to get drafted. Maybe he WANTED to go to Waseda and catch for Yuki Saitoh :)
Anyway, this game was LONG at 3 and a half hours. What sucked is that the second game of the day didn't start until 3pm (they're scheduled for 1:30pm), and the day was already cloudy and it started to get dark around then, so my devious plot to photostalk Nobuaki Nakabayashi for one last time was thwarted. Doh!
Game 2 - Meiji 3, Keio 8
I can sum up this game in one sentence: Meiji is SCREWED without Yusuke Nomura.
Nomura came down with the flu a week or two ago and was out for the Meiji-Todai games, which is no big deal as Todai would possibly be outpitched if one of my junior high school students took the mound against them. (I'm not entirely joking. I have an 8th-grader who can throw a forkball and tells me his plan is to go to Teikyo HS on baseball recomendations.) However, Nomura sat out the first game of the Meiji-Keio series as well, and their pitchers basically gave up the ship, walking in runs and hitting batters and whatnot.
I stayed on the 1st-base side to stalk this guy:
Oddly, Nakabayashi might be the only guy in the entire Big 6 league truly worth sitting on the 1st-base side for this year -- most of the exciting hitters are lefty hitters and most of the exciting pitchers are righty pitchers, which I guess isn't too surprising.
But anyway, this game was dark and cold and even rainy, as it started raining in the 8th inning around 5:25pm. They had to turn the stadium lights on in the 5th inning around 4:10pm, and I was more than ready to go home by the time the game ended at 5:42pm, seriously.
Meiji got off to a quick lead in the first inning. Masashi Yamaguchi, all 5'2" of him, hit a single and stole second during Fumiya Araki's at bat. Araki walked, and an out later Takayuki Chida hit a double to right which scored both of the above runners, 2-0. Meiji added a run in the top of the 2nd when catcher Ryota Yasuda singled, Shogo Shashiki followed that with another hit, and pitcher Gota Nanba bunted them both up to 2nd and 3rd. A wild pitch during captain Yuta Tohyama's at-bat scored Yasuda to make it 3-0.
But that is all Meiji would get for the entire game.
Nanba started running into trouble in the bottom of the 2nd as Kazuya Onodera hit a double, a fly ball to left that JUST landed fair. Tatsushi Yumoto hit a grounder to third that got bobbled between Chida and Shashiki, so Yumoto was safe at first and Onodera made it to third. Ryosuke Yamamoto followed that up with a legitimate single up the middle past a diving Tohyama to score Onodera, 3-1. Catcher Masahiro Nagasaki followed that with a double to right that tied the game as the other two runners scored, 3-3.
Then first baseman Kazuya Onodera smacked a home run to lead off the bottom of the 4th inning and put the team ahead 4-3.
Kazuya Onodera high-fives back at the dugout.
Nanba came out of the game after the 4th inning, and lefty Ryosuke Okoshi replaced him... only to be COMPLETELY ineffective against the Keio batters. He hit Tetsuya Urushibata in the hip with a pitch, and then walked Hitoshi Fuchikami. Naoki Yamaguchi hit a weird infield single after that to load the bases, a bunt going up the left-field line that the catcher grabbed but missed and so all runners were safe, I'm not sure why it wasn't called an error. Okoshi walked Hayata Itoh with the bases loaded to bring in another run, 5-3. That took Okoshi out of the game and put in lefty Kazuki Nishijima, who promptly walked Kazuya Onodera for ANOTHER run. 6-3. Yumoto hit a pop fly out for the first out of the inning, and then a pinch-hitting Takao singled to left, bringing in Yamaguchi and Itoh to make it 8-3.
Itoh high-fiving people back at the dugout.
Anyway, no more scoring went on after that, and Nakabayashi came out after 6 innings, so for me the rest of the game was just waiting out the rain and the cold. I did, however, get to see two of my favorite Keio sidearmers who are both seniors and this may be the last time I ever see them play:
Yuki Murayama, who is fairly close but not quite a submarine pitcher.
Look, it is DARK AND WET OUT. Very unfun.
The game heroes were Nakabayashi and Onodera, but I bolted from the park pretty quickly. Ended up riding the train home with two of the Meiji fans that I'd met before.
I also went to Jingu on Sunday, where I ended up meeting most of the Hosei University lineup after the game through a bizarre set of circumstances. More on that in the next post...