Monday, May 31, 2010

Keio WINS!

And so Waseda goes DOWN and Keio wins in a blaze of glory! Whee!

I was at Kamagaya today for the Fighters-Eagles ni-gun game, because I had an exchange day off from work and I missed my "summer family". Kamagaya was a ton of fun, but I'm going to need a while to crop photos and write up that one. The Fighters won and I spent half the game talking to people. I kept checking my phone to see the Soukeisen score, though, and when it was over, I tagged another college baseball fan at Kamagaya like "Keio won!" and he agreed, "Hooray!"

But over at Jingu, Keio beat Waseda 6-4 to take home their first championship since the fall of 2004.

It was a rematch of the starters from Saturday, Yuki Saitoh for Waseda and Daisuke Takeuchi for Keio. Saitoh's control was apparently pretty lousy; in the second inning after Hayata Itoh scored a legitimate run on an RBI single by Kazuma Takeuchi (who was out stretching it into a double), Saitoh walked both Yamasaki and Nagasaki. They advanced to 2nd and 3rd on a wild pitch to Daisuke Takeuchi, and then there was ANOTHER wild pitch, where Yamasaki scored, and Nagasaki ALSO tried to score on the wild pitch and was out. So it was 2-0.

Saitoh was out of the game after 3 innings, and Yuya Fukui took over for him, and in the 5th inning, Naoki Yamaguchi hit a 2-run homer off Fukui (trying to disprove my claim that he is the worst leadoff batter in Keio history, though today he was batting 3rd) to make it 4-0.

Waseda finally got on the board in the 5th inning, when Yuya Watanabe and Ayuki Matsumoto found themselves standing on 2nd and 3rd base after a wild pitch to Hiroki Matsunaga... who then hit a 2-RBI single to center to cut the lead in half and make it 4-2.

Tatsuya Ohishi came out to the mound to kick ass and take names in the top of the 6th; but he got two quick outs and then Yamasaki singled to right, and Nagasaki walked. Ryuta Iba pinch-hit for Takeuchi and singled to center; Waseda centerfielder Koki Sasaki misplayed the ball and Yamasaki and Nagasaki scored, making it 6-2.

Waseda's Koji Udaka hit a 2-run homer off Keio's Koji Fukutani in the bottom of the 8th to make it 6-4. But that's all Waseda would get. Fukutani gave up a hit to Yuya Watanabe in the bottom of the 9th, then got Matsunaga and Habu to fly out. For whatever reason, Hironori Tanaka pitched the last out of the game and got Shota Sugiyama to ground to short, and that's how it ended, at 6-4.

Ohishi played centerfield for the 9th inning in order to keep his bat (and maybe his arm) available for later use. Clever that, Ohtake-kantoku.

Tomorrow starts the rookie tournament! I wish I could go, but I can't. Only 1st-years and 2nd-years can participate, and it's generally guys you don't see playing much during the regular season.

And next week is the All-Japan College Ball Tournament, which is also a lot of fun to watch, even if Yutaka Ohtsuka made fun of me today for seeing him LOSE there last year. Whatever. It's between June 8th and 13th, between the Tokyo Dome and Jingu, and between the winners of all the college leagues in the country. Keio's first game is on the 9th at 4:30pm at Jingu. I may make it for part of that game, but after that can't go until the semifinals on the 12th; I'm *hoping* the final four are Tokai, Keio, Tohoku Fukushi, and Toyo, but who knows what will ACTUALLY happen.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Keisousen 2010 - Not Over Yet

This weekend is the traditional Waseda-Keio deathmatch, a rivalry that goes back as far as there has been a Waseda and a Keio, pretty much. I ranted a few weeks ago that whoever wins Soukeisen wins the league, which is good for bringing tons of Saitoh fans to Jingu, but bad for causing a completely meaningless Week 7. Either way, I had a feeling that this game was going to draw a really big crowd, between the Saitoh fans, the normal Waseda nutcases, AND the Keio students/alumni, because this series was going to be playing for all the marbles.

I generally don't plan to go to Soukeisen because I don't like dealing with the crowds, but it seems I've ended up there the last few semesters regardless, for various reasons. This semester was no different, as Saturday morning I awoke to vaguely rainy weather and an email from a friend asking if I'd be at Jingu and saying they had an extra ticket if I wanted to go. So I figured, what the heck.

As it turns out, the game was a sellout, and people were actually standing in the standing-room-only area in the back of the outfield, even:

(Though, despite the "special infield seats" being sold out, there were plenty of empty seats in that area. My best guess is that either people didn't come due to the weather, or more seats were allocated than necessary due to season passes and club passes and whatnot. We actually ended up moving down there in the 4th inning or so, because the upper infield seats were actually all full, and quite uncomfortably crowded.)

As always, Waseda had separate ouendan and brass bands in the infield and outfield. But Keio ALSO had them this year, which was kind of crazy. So instead of having 3 bands out of sync with each other, this time we had 4!

Yuki Saitoh started for Waseda, as expected, and Daisuke Takeuchi started for Keio. Takeuchi, a sophomore lefty who is still in this mode of "Wait, I'm the ace? Really?" really got lucky more than anything else -- for whatever reason, Waseda didn't start batting champion Yuya Watanabe, and I honestly truly can't come up with any excuse other than that he bats left-handed. Everyone else in the lineup except for Shohei Habu bats either righty or is a switch-hitter:

Keio Waseda
---- ------
Yamaguchi, lf Matsunaga, ss
*Yumoto, 2b Udaka, 1b
*Fuchigami, ss *Habu, rf
*Itoh, rf Sugiyama, c
Takao, 1b Yamada, lf
Matsuo, 3b #Matsumoto, 3b
Aoyama, cf Gotoh, 2b
Nagasaki, c #Sasaki, cf
*Takeuchi, p Saitoh, p

* denotes lefty, # denotes switch-hitter

Unless they were sitting him to protect his batting title -- which ALSO doesn't make any sense at all if they were trying to win this series in order to win the championship.

Anyway, Keio started off this game looking pretty pathetic. Takeuchi was letting runners on base left and right (okay, mostly right), but they weren't getting around to score. Meanwhile, the Keio batters were just looking stupid in front of Saitoh for the first 3 innings. Saitoh literally threw 3 pitches in the 3rd inning as the bottom 3rd of the order went down on two fly outs and a groundout.

But then captain Tatsushi Yumoto managed to get a single in the 4th inning, and shortstop Hitoshi Fuchigami grounded out to advance Yumoto to 2nd, and he moved to third on a wild pitch, and then Saitoh hit Hayata Itoh in the upper thigh with a pitch -- that looked pretty painful, but Itoh managed to stand up and limp to first base, and then Yasuhiro Takao hit a double to center! Yumoto scored easily on the play and Itoh was running and running and running, and the 3rd-base coach stopped him at 3rd, but with two outs they probably should have sent him, even though he had taken a fastball to his leg a bit ago. I dunno. Either way, it made it 1-0 for Keio.

Waseda continued to almost get things there, but still fall short each time. Shohei Habu got himself picked off in a rundown. Shota Sugiyama hit a foul ball that was only meters away from being a home run. Toshiki Yamada hit a liner up the left side that Ren Yamasaki happened to make THE best play of the game to stop, catching it on a dive.

Then things got interesting in the 9th.

Yumoto left off with a double to right, and Fuchigami naturally bunted him to third. Then Hayata Itoh -- who ALWAYS seems to come through in these situations -- hit a TRIPLE down the right-field line, just this shot into the corner that had Habu scrambling to the wall. Yumoto scored easily, (2-0), and Itoh made it all the way to third base, and then pretty much collapsed; I think his legs had all they could take of abuse for one day. He pumped his fist at the crowd as he limped off the field, and Takuya Shintani pinch-ran at 3rd... but stayed there as the next batters struck out and grounded out.

Takeuchi stayed on the mound for the bottom of the 9th; in the grand tradition of Keio lefties, he wasn't budging if Saitoh wasn't budging. Or something like that. After all, he had a whopping 2-0 lead to protect.

Yuki Jihiki pinch-hit for Sasaki to lead off. He struck out. (On a tangent, he has had exactly 2 at-bats for Waseda ever, both at Soukeisens, and both strikeouts.) Freshman Satoru Ezuka then pinch-hit for Saitoh, and standing at a whopping 191cm/90kg may be one of the biggest guys in the league, period.

He grounded to short.

And Fuchigami lofted the ball over first base and Ezuka was safe on the error.

Then Hiroki Matsunaga followed that up with a grounder to short.

And Fuchigami lofted the ball over SECOND base and Matsunaga was safe at first AND Ezuka was safe at third on the error.

Suddenly things weren't looking so good for Keio anymore. Daisuke Takeuchi surrendered the mound to righty Koji Fukutani, who I rambled about having a pretty good fastball, as I'd seen him hit 149 on the Jingu guns before, and he didn't disappoint in this game either, getting as high as 151. BUT, unfortunately, the first thing that happened to him is that the aforementioned batting champ Yuya Watanabe suddenly entered the building, and he hit a fly ball to right field... and Tomohiro Tatsumi, who had replaced Itoh, took off for the ball and misjudged it and the ball landed 10 feet in front of him for a single. Fortunately, only one run came in, to make it 2-1.

Habu grounded into a fielder's choice to put runners at the corners and two outs... but then Sugiyama walked to load the bases. Lefty-batting Keisuke Kawanishi pinch-hit for Yamada, and...

...and struck out! Keio WINS!


A slight rain had been falling off and on during the game, and there were approximately 3638948239843 billion people in the stadium, so we pretty much bolted the minute the game ended.

It was a pretty good game nonetheless. I still wonder what was up with Fuchigami that last inning -- he made something like two errors in the entire 2009 YEAR, so two in one game -- two in one INNING at that -- was pretty crazy.

Now, it is Sunday night.
I hoped to be able to write that Keio swept Keisousen and won the Big 6 title, and that the Rookie Tournament would be starting tomorrow, since I have Monday off from work and could actually go. (I have to work next Saturday and Sunday instead, though.) Unfortunately, I can't write that, as today Yuya Fukui started for Waseda, and Koji Fukutani for Keio, and Fukutani gave up 3 runs in the first inning, and Keio never caught up from the deficit, although Hayata Itoh was apparently well enough to smash a home run in this game. Tatsuya "Thank god they didn't make me start today" Ohishi did his usual thing and pitched 3 innings of relief and struck out a whole bunch of guys, and Waseda won 4-2.

So, the series carries on to Monday.

I'm debating going, but I'd also kind of like to get to Kamagaya for a Fighters ni-gun game already -- it's been way too long.

Oh, on one last note, Keio was going all out with selling stuff for this game -- t-shirts, towels, thundersticks, special newspapers, etc. I bought a t-shirt, because I thought it was really cool, and I rarely ever see Big 6 teams selling this kind of stuff. (I'd love a Hosei baseball t-shirt, but don't think they're available to the general public.) This one featured a K and a "Keisousen 2010" thing on the front, and the fight song on the back.

They should still be selling them for tomorrow's game, if you wander by Jingu, I suppose. You can also get Tokyo Big 6 merchandise at the stadium as well.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Game Report: Tokyo Big 6, Week 7: Heartbreak for Hosei

As I mentioned before, Week 7 was completely meaningless in terms of anyone actually being able to win the league, but they could at least claw their way into a possible 2nd-place finish. However, the actual outcome was that Rikkio, Hosei, and Todai cemented their places in the standing at 4th, 5th, and 6th. Ugh. (Meiji will finish 2nd or 3rd depending on Soukeisen. More on that later.)

I went to the Hosei-Meiji game on Saturday morning, May 22; and I sat in the Hosei ouendan, so I don't really have pictures from the game as they'll eject you from the area if you try to take photos of anything in the ouendan and you don't have an armband designating you as connected with the university or the league. I wish I was making this up, but I'm not.

Actually, "sitting in the Hosei ouendan" isn't quite accurate. "Sitting with the Hosei baseball club members who aren't on the active roster" would be closer to the truth. See, there are something like 100 guys in the baseball club itself, but only 25 can be on the active roster (or the "bench" as they call it) at any given time, so many of the other guys will come to the games anyway to watch and cheer for their teammates. Some guys are also responsible for carrying equipment and other such duties before and after the game. Regardless, you can spot the baseball club members in the stands because they'll be in the outer part of the ouendan, and they all wear white button-down shirts or white polo shirts, and slacks, according to their school's uniform. Sometimes they'll even wear the full jackets and ties if it's cold out.

So, thanks to my friend Mizushima, who is a Hosei alum and got me a free ticket and dragged me in, I was basically sitting in the row right behind the players. Miyagaki-kun and another player I forget were chatting with Mizushima for a while, and then Wada-kun, who I met last week, came up and sat next to us. He looked through my scorebook, and told me some stuff about the team's practice schedule. Apparently a bunch of guys left halfway through the game to go back to the Hosei grounds and practice, as they have practice every day, all through the year, even if there is a game. Even if there is class, they still have evening practice. Wada is a sophomore, so he had to help with stuff after the game.

Maeda-kun, who was all polite outside the stadium a week or two ago when I met him, was a completely crazy guy in the ouendan, he was imitating the female cheerleaders and dancing like a weirdo most of the time.

(And for the record, one of the black-suited women in charge of keeping order in the ouendan area actually came up to a baseball club member and yelled at him for taking a photo of the cheerleaders without having an armband. WTF.)

Lineups for Saturday's game:

Meiji Hosei
----- -----
Yamaguchi, lf Kawai, 3b
Uemoto, 2b Tatebe, rf
F.Araki, ss Taki, ss
Yajima, rf Sasaki, 1b
Nakamura, cf Imamura, cf
K.Kawashima, 3b Hiromoto, c
T.Abe, 1b Matsushita, lf
Kawabe, c Ohyagi, 2b
Nomura, p Kagami, p

As has been my pattern this semester, I came to the Saturday Hosei game in order to watch Kisho Kagami pitch, because he is awesome.

The game started off in a pretty spectacular way as Kagami struck out 2 out of the 3 Meiji batters he faced, and I had barely gotten into a seat by the time the inning was over. And then Kanji Kawai led off with a grounder to third which Abe couldn't get his hands around at 1B, so Kawai made it to second base on the error. Tatebe sac bunted him up, and Hiroshi Taki singled to left, scoring Kawai! 1-0. Sasaki grounded out to third, advancing Taki, and then Kota Imamura singled to center to bring Taki home, 2-0. Takuya Hiromoto struck out to end the inning.

Tokachi Hanako sat with us for the first few innings, and when Kota Imamura was up to bat that first time, I said, "it's his birthday today!" so Hanako took up this cheer in her high voice of "OI IMAMURA, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! COME ON, GET A BIRTHDAY HIT! YOU CAN DO IT, GO GO GO GO!" and things like that, and so the guys in the baseball club ALSO started yelling things to that effect. It was funny. AND he did get a hit, so that was good.

The second inning was quick.

The third inning, Kagami struck out two batters yet again in the top, and then in the bottom, Kawai-kun led off again, and this time he singled to right! Stupidly, Tatebe struck out bunting (why you are still trying to bunt when you have 2 bunting strikes on you already, I will never know, but...) and Taki hit a pop fly out, but Sasaki hit a long fly ball to right that fell for a hit, and Kawai made it all the way to third base. Birthday boy Imamura walked and the bases were loaded... for Hiromoto to hit a TRIPLE into the gap in right-center! That scored everyone else to make it 5-0, which seemed impossible off Nomura and his 1.54 ERA, but there you have it.

Meiji apparently also agreed with my assessment, as Nomura was finished after that inning. Kenta Kondoh replaced him on the mound.

Meiji then went ahead and scored a few runs of their own; in the top of the 4th Takashi Uemoto led off with a single, advanced to second on an Araki groundout, and then sat there for a while as Yajima walked and Nakamura struck out, but then Katsuya Kawashima singled to center and Uemoto came home. 5-1. Then in the top of the 5th, Kenji Kawabe (?!) hit a solo homer into the left-field stands to make it 5-2.

The onslaught continued into the 6th; Araki led off with a single to short and Yajima followed it up with a single to left. Nakamura hit the ball behind the plate and Hiromoto dived for the foul catch. Kawashima struck out this time, but Toshiki Abe singled to left and drove home Araki, 5-3. Kawabe also singled, and drove home Yajima, 5-4. With the tying run on second, a pinch-hitting Hideo Toyota grounded back to the mound to end the threat.

Takashi Nakao led off the bottom of the 6th with a single and stole second base, and captain Ohyagi walked, so with two on and 1 out they pinch-hit for Kagami with Kyosuke Narita, who grounded into a double play. (By this point Meiji had already gone through an inning of Kondoh and an inning of Okada and were throwing first year Ryota Sekiya on the mound. People were like "You have any clue who this guy is?" and I'm like "I don't even know if you pronounce his name Sekitani or Sekiya...")

Kazuki Mishima replaced Kagami on the mound. Mishima is a 2nd-year guy who has the same birthday as me, and isn't much bigger than me but can throw in the mid-90s. Mishima held the 5-4 game for 2 innings and then in the 9th...

...well, things started out well enough. He struck out a pinch-hitting Ikuhiro Takeda, and got Yamaguchi to ground out, and then, for the last out of the game, Meiji brought out their SEKRIT WEAPON, Shogo Shashiki, to pinch-hit for Uemoto.

Note the sarcasm -- Shashiki has been terrible this semester. Flat-out terrible. I have been wondering if he is playing injured. He was finally dropped out of the lineup entirely for this game.

Anyway, Shashiki had a ridiculously long at-bat. The Hosei ouendan kept doing this hand-waving thing of "Owari!" for "Finish it!" but Shashiki persisted in fouling off balls until he eventually walked.

Then Fumiya Araki got to a 2-2 count and the umpires debated after a particular inside pitch for a bit, and decided he had been hit by the pitch and he was awarded first base.

Shashiki went to steal third base, and Hiromoto threw the ball to third, only the ball went PAST third, and... and Shashiki made it home. 5-5. And to add insult to injury, Yajima struck out.

Kazuki Nishijima took the mound for Meiji in the bottom of the 9th and aside from hitting Soma Uendo on the foot with a pitch, shut down the Hosei lineup easily enough, and so the game went into extra innings.

Which I had a terrible feeling about, although that mostly might have had to do with the fact that it was REALLY HOT out and all I had eaten that day was some bread in the morning. I drank some water and ate a granola bar, which made me feel less like fainting, but still didn't give me any confidence in the outcome of the game. (Plus they had lost Kagami's win.)

Uendo had pinch-hit for Mishima, so another pitcher was coming out for the top of the 10th -- the rather tall and lanky Tomoya Mikami, who I haven't seen pitch for a while. Mikami promptly gave up a hit to Masataka Nakamura, who I suppose you could say was due for a hit. Nakamura advanced on a passed ball, then also advanced to third on a Kawashima groundout. Toshiki Abe pulled off a perfect squeeze bunt up the first-base line; Nakamura scored easily and Mikami got the ball to tag out Abe, but it didn't matter. 6-5. Another hit and another HBP later, the inning ended.

However, aside from Yoh Sasaki walking, nobody in Hosei's lineup could do anything against Nishijima and so that's where the game ended, with Meiji winning 6-5.

VERY painful result.

After the 9th.

After the 10th.

After the game, I went with my friends to go talk to the Hosei players as they were leaving. Despite it being a heartbreaking game, I knew this could be the last time I'd see most of them for a while, if ever. And I had a mission or two to accomplish. More on that in a second.

I got a few more autographs. Yoh Sasaki, the top batter on the team, said "Err... sign? Like, can I just write my name, is that ok?" Me, in my brain: What do you think an autograph IS, you silly boy? Me, out loud: "Yes, please! Thanks! Good luck tomorrow, I hope you can get many hits and capture the batting title!"

Backup catcher Naoki Harada: "You gotta be kidding, you want MY autograph?" "Sure, I like catchers and you work hard!"

I also got Shohei Doi, another backup catcher. He was really sweet, very funny. Basically someone had tagged him thinking he was a different player and I was like "No, I actually mean YOU, Doi-kun!" And he was with Soma Uendo... I was like "I'm sure I'll have photos of you next semester. Was today your first game?" and it turns out that yeah, it was his first ever time playing in an official game. Uendo, whose name looks like it should be Ueto, is from Chukyodai Chukyo and he looks absolutely nothing like his Hosei site profile photo.

And speaking of Chukyodai Chukyo, one thing that sucked: I never did find Kanji Kawai, who I had made a photo set for. I really wanted his autograph and to give him the photos from his debut game, and to babble at him how I saw him at Koshien last year and so on. Alas. Amusingly, some people who saw my photos asked me if I was a classmate of Kawai-kun's, which is pretty far out there. I'm often asked if I'm an exchange student at Hosei, which makes sense, but 19 years old? WTF?

And then speaking of photo sets...

I spent the last 3 weeks or so making a photo album scrapbook thing for Kagami, because I have been taking photos of him for 3 years or so, and players here like it when fans print out photos for them, apparently. I had photos of him pitching, batting, running, giving hero interviews, etc. Really, I probably have more pictures of him than of any other college player, so between choosing pictures, several trips to the camera store to print them out, and laying them out in a "free" photobook, the kind with the sticky pages, it was quite a bit of a project.

But when Kagami came out, he was immediately swarmed by people wanting his autograph. He's expected to be a pretty high draft pick this year, after all. And being a really nice guy, he was very patient and signed for everyone who asked...

People formed a line to bug him for autographs, so even though I didn't want an autograph this time -- I got him to sign a photo last month -- I got in line anyway.

When I finally got to talk to him, though, my heart started pounding and my brain shut off and I must have sounded like a complete moron, stuttering in Japanese. "I uh... I wanted to give you something... I always take photos of you, and so I made... I made this... uhh... here you are... you pitched really well today as always... ummm..." He thanked me and smiled, especially when he saw that the cover said 「気迫」 on it, since that's kind of a word he always uses in interviews, infact I pretty much learned that word FROM his interviews. It means like... kind of, strength of spirit? Determination? Ambition? I'm not exactly sure, but it fits him well and now whenever I see that word I think of him. So I asked if we could take a picture together and he was like "I should hold this up, huh?" and I smiled.

So here is a photo of me with my favorite college pitcher :)

I had put the book in plastic wrap to protect it, so he wasn't able to look at it then -- but he held onto it the whole time he was signing, and a bit later when I went to say hi to my Meiji fan friends, we saw Kagami go by with Yamamoto and another player to go home, and I smiled and waved goodbye to him and said "otsukaresama desu!" and he waved and smiled back -- and he was still holding the photobook. I can only imagine that he got on the subway with the other players and opened it up and looked through it and they were all either like "Holy shit, this is amazing" or "Holy shit, you have a stalker."

I've talked to Kagami a few times before, though, so I know he's at least aware of my existence and that I go to all of his starts if at all possible. I usually get kind of tongue-tied around him, but he's always been very polite and kind to me.

I greeted a few other players on the way out. Taki actually smiled at me when I said hi to him this time (he doesn't seem to smile much), and Kazuki Mishima was signing for a whole bunch of people. We were ragging on him for spending more time practicing his autograph than he does studying or practicing baseball. I told him that he pitched really well, and it was just a shame about the outcome of the game. He said he might get to start the game on Sunday if it didn't rain out, so I told him good luck.

Never did find Imamura to wish him a happy birthday in person.


Sunday rained out and Monday rained out, and so the next Meiji-Hosei game was on Tuesday. I couldn't go to the game, but I followed a cellphone play-by-play thing that updated by inning. Hosei had a BIZARRE starting lineup:

Taki ss
Tatebe rf
Imai cf
Sasaki 1b
Doi c
Imamura lf
Kawai 3b
Mishima p
Nanba 2b

I thought that it was just Kanemitsu-kantoku shaking things up a bit to try something new, but found out later that Ohyagi and Hiromoto were both injured, or at least not in top shape to actually play.

Sasaki had an RBI double in the first inning to put Hosei up 1-0 on Meiji's Yusuke Nomura yet again, but this time the game would remain 1-0 for a very, very long time. Nomura came out after 4 innings again and Nishijima pitched 3 innings. Gota Nanba took over on the mound for Meiji in the 8th and Ryo Imai had a sac fly that put Hosei up 2-0.

But then Kagami took over for Mishima on the mound in the bottom of the 8th, and... and apparently from what I heard, Kagami was just not anywhere near his best -- and not even really good at all -- he walked the first batter he faced, ended up with bases loaded, and a single and a double later, suddenly Meiji was up 4-2, with all 4 runs charged to Kagami. Okada finished out the game for Meiji, pitching a scoreless 9th, and that's all I have to say about that. Yet another case of Hosei losing the game in the late innings, as they seem to be making a habit of lately.

Thanks to Sasaki going 2-for-8 on the weekend, he dropped to #4 in the batting average race. And Kagami's ERA ballooned to 2.81. BUT, amusingly: pitching those 7 innings gave Kazuki Mishima 23 innings pitched for the semester, and he only needed 22 to qualify for the ERA title, so with an ERA of 0.39, I think it is pretty safe to say that Mishima WILL win the ERA title for the league this year! If I do the math correctly, there is no way anyone on Waseda or Keio can possibly pitch enough scoreless innings this weekend to beat him out unless like, there are two 15-inning tie games or something.

I don't know if Mishima got to start and go those innings for that reason, or if he started because Kagami wasn't feeling well, or what. It sounds like the idea was that Kagami would start the game if there was a 3rd game, which makes sense.

But yeah, a depressing finish overall. Even more depressing was the Todai-Rikkio game that day -- Todai was actually winning for several stretches of the game, and apparently they even had bases loaded in the 9th, only to leave all runners there and lose the game 8-7. They haven't won a game since 2008. (I was there when they did. It was a momentous occasion.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Made Plans To Go To Jingu And All I Got Was This Lousy Rainout

...two days in a row.

It started raining on Sunday morning and didn't stop until Monday night, so pretty much every outdoor game in Japan on Sunday got cancelled (college, pro, etc). On Monday, the Tokyo Big 6 games got cancelled at Jingu, and then around 4pm they also announced cancelling the Fighters-Swallows game. Yokohama's game against the Hawks also got cancelled, but in other parts of the country, they were able to play outdoor games at Koshien and in Hiroshima.

The really annoying thing is, the rain in Tokyo had basically turned to mist around 4pm, and completely stopped around 6pm, so if they had just held off on starting for about an hour, they could have gotten in a game last night, I think.

And the even MORE annoying thing is, for whatever reason, despite every OTHER outdoor team scheduling a makeup day on May 25, the Fighters and Swallows DIDN'T.

This week the Fighters are also playing "rural" games against Chunichi in Toyama and Kanazawa, which are also outdoors, and there is a forecast of rain for Wednesday night as well. So they're not rescheduling the Yakult games until they figure out if they have to reschedule Chunichi too, apparently. The rescheduled games should happen somewhere in the four "dead days" between interleague and resuming separate leagues... and depends on the schedule and rainouts of a couple of teams.

The Fighters COULD end up needing all 4 games for rescheduling, which would give them 9 games in a row when other teams are getting a lot of rest. But there are also some talks of things like having the first doubleheader in 12 years, although the worry is that the players won't be used to that and they won't have enough pitchers.

Anyway, you know what REALLY sucks about this? The Fighters activated Ryota Imanari and Kenji Satoh for this series (and sent down Masaya Ozaki and Takahiro Imanami). If you haven't been around this blog for a while you may not know that Imanari has been my favorite Fighters ni-gun player for the last 3 years (this is the jersey I wear to most games). He got injured last summer RIGHT when it seemed he was likely to get called up to ichi-gun, and spent the end of the season rehabbing a broken hand and then had a leg problem of some sort. But this year he has been doing really well -- I feel a little bad that I prioritized college games over Kamagaya, but that's just the way things go.

But I was all set to bring my Imanari cheering boards to Jingu... now I have to hope that he stays on the top roster until June 4th when the Fighters play against the Giants! It's a little bit of a long shot... I'm sure they can use him as another lefty bat off the bench, and he can catch a bit too, but with Tsuruoka and Ohno there, and Shinji playing first base, it's a little unclear why they called up another catcher.

(They apparently acquired Kenji Satoh from the Marines while I was gone for Golden Week -- I think they traded a sack of beans for him, literally. Not sure what is up with that, and with Takashi Ogino getting injured I bet the Marines will feel a little silly just dropping an outfielder, but who knows. I like Satoh well enough I guess, I saw him play with the Marines ni-gun and with the Futures team a few times.)

As an aside, I want to point out that the Fighters have, the last few years, historically sucked it up in April and then warmed up as the weather becomes reasonable in Hokkaido. So maybe we're in for that again this year...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Game Report: Buffaloes vs. Giants @ Tokyo Dome - It's "T" Time

I know, you're probably wondering what the heck I was doing at the Tokyo Dome for a Buffaloes-Giants game. But as you can see from this shot of the "out-of-town scores" from the middle of the game...

...the Fighters-Yakult game got rained out, as did pretty much every outdoor game in the country, so this was the only indoor option in the Tokyo area. I had two friends in town from Seattle this past week, and I'd promised to take them to a baseball game here. They wanted to sit in a cheering section, so the Fighters game today seemed like the best idea, until the Tokyo skies decided to open up and start raining around 9am, and they're not supposed to stop until sometime on Tuesday. So instead, I said we could go to the Tokyo Dome and see if there were any tickets, and if there were, at least my friends could see a game, even if it was going to be between the team that I hate the most in the country (the Giants) and the team in the Pacific League that I care the absolute least about (the Buffaloes).

We even ran into another friend of mine outside the Tokyo Dome, who was like "Wait, is that really Deanna? At a Giants game? WTF?"

Anyway, we did manage to get 3 pretty good seats in the upper deck on the 3rd-base side. I got to at least explain the whole ouendan deal, and also got to explain pretty much why I despise every single member of the Giants lineup. ("This guy, Chono, he turned down the Fighters and the Marines for drafting him. And this guy, Ogasawara, he was my favorite player... when he was on the Fighters. Now he's some clean-shaven doppleganger. Think Johnny Damon. Oh, and this guy, he hit a sayonara home run off the Fighters at Game 5 of the Japan Series last year. And this starting pitcher, Nishimura? I totally DESPISE him. My favorite Fighters player, Hichori Morimoto, had a 2-year streak of playing in every single game, until this jerk over here hit him with a pitch and broke his hand, and Hichori has never really been the same player since.")

The nice part is that the Buffaloes actually smacked the hell out of Nishimura for a change. In the first inning, Arakane got hit by a pitch, Gotoh singled and then "T" Okada singled home Arakane, 1-0. Aarom Baldiris followed that up with another single that landed in shallow center, and Takeshi Hidaka grounded to second, only Edgar Gonzalez ate the ball and Gotoh scored on the error, 2-0. Koji Yamasaki hit into a fielder's choice, but it wasn't a double play and so Okada scored, 3-0.

Then in the second inning, Shogo Akada got on base, and Gotoh walked, and then "T" Okada slammed a home run into the Orix cheering section! 6-0!

It was a nice start to the game.

I amused myself by yelling alternate things to the Giants cheers, like "GO HOME HISAYOSHI" instead of "CHONO HISAYOSHI". One of my friends decided that "Shinnosuke" sounded like they were cheering "IMHOTEP!" so he started yelling that instead. And so on.

Ogasawara got hit by a pitch in the 3rd inning and had to leave the game. There were mumblings that he might have broken his wrist, though reports on Yahoo indicate that no fractures was found and he was just bruised up pretty badly.

Alex Ramirez pounded one of the most impressive home runs I've ever seen at the Tokyo Dome, in the 6th inning. I think it almost hit the roof -- and it hit the left-field back wall of the stadium above the IIJ sign, right below the roof. It was said to be 140 meters, which is 460 feet or so -- but it was to LEFT, not to center, so you can imagine how high that thing was going. It would have gone straight out of some other stadiums like Jingu. No, really. 6-1.

Tomotaka Sakaguchi hit another home run off of reliever Takahiko Nomaguchi to lead off the 9th inning, which made it 7-1.

Yoshinobu Takahashi pinch-hit in the bottom of the 9th -- I feel like I haven't seen him at bat in YEARS at this point -- he singled to center, and then Hayato the Kid hit a home run to left field to make it 7-3, off Mamoru Kishida.

But, fortunately, that is where the game would end.

(And the Yahoo box score.)

Something odd I just realized is that Takahiro "T" Okada went to the same high school, Riseisha, as Hosei's Ryo Imai, and was one year ahead of him... which means Okada didn't play at Koshien, but Imai did. I think Okada is obviously having the slightly more successful baseball life these days, though.

I enjoyed this game despite not really caring about either team involved. I mean, I got to hang out with my friends, babble about all the nuances of Japanese baseball, and see the Giants get slammed down. What else could I ask for? We ate churros and Tokyo Dome ice cream sandwiches, and one of my friends drank 4 beers and a hi-ball. Really. He had a goal of trying to flag down a beer girl from each one of the major companies, though I think he got Suntory, Kirin, and Yebisu, and didn't manage to get Sapporo. Alas.

The only sad part is that we never got to see the Orix Towel Dance, which I had been telling my friends was the only cool thing Orix fans really do. I only had my Tokyo Big 6 towel with me, but I was totally ready to dance with it. I guess the 1st inning was too early to start doing it; not sure why they didn't do it in the 2nd inning when there were a lot of guys on base and very few outs, but whatever. They never really had a "chance" moment later on. Too bad.

Actually, see that IIJ sign over my friend's head on the left? That's where Ramirez's home run hit the back wall, above that sign. No joke. That thing was SLAMMED.

The weather forecast is calling for the rain to continue through Monday too, which has me a little bit worried. The Fighters-Swallows games didn't actually HAVE a makeup day scheduled, and Yahoo shows the other 3 rained out games today as being made up on Tuesday, but not Swallows-Fighters, so I wonder what'll happen -- maybe they'll be tacked on at the end of interleague? That'd kind of suck. The Big 6 college games also get shoved back a day, and if they can't play on Monday, I think they get to bump Tohto League out of Jingu on Tuesday, although all that remains in Tohto is the Asia-Rissho catfight, as Toyo already clinched the league. We'll see, I guess.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Game Report, Photopost, Interviews: Hosei vs. Waseda, Week 6: Kanji Kawai's College Debut, or Habu A Nice Day

Alright, so Saturday's Hosei-Waseda game is kind of hard for me to write about. It made me feel pretty sad at the time.

Basically, Hosei was in a must-win situation going into this series; especially after Meiji lost their game, Hosei had to win at least one game against Waseda to have any chance at the championship, preferably to win both games. The pitching matchup was Hosei ace Kisho Kagami, against Waseda's ace Yuki Saitoh. The stadium was pretty packed for this game, but I showed up at 10am for the first game of the day as well, so was sitting in the very front row, next to another woman who is a Kagami and Hosei fan (but used to be a Waseda fan back in the Hosoyamada-Uemoto-Keijiro days).

They put the rosters up on the big board as the teams went out to practice, and I noticed, hey, that #26 Kawai, freshman, Chukyodai Chukyo... THAT'S KANJI KAWAI! The kid I saw hit a walk-off homerun at Koshien last year! And there was #26 out at third base doing fielding drills! So I informed Drunk Tanaka of this, and he nearly blew a gasket, partially because he is from Aichi and supports Aichi players, and partially because he had already had several beers during the Meiji-Keio game.

I have to admit, when they announced Kawai as the leadoff batter for Hosei, I was pretty psyched. Sure, he'd undoubtedly been under more pressure in a baseball game before in his life -- like playing through to the final victory of Koshien last year. But still, you've got this 18-year-old freshman in college, coming to bat in his first official college game at Meiji Jingu stadium, in front of 20,000 people, and the first pitcher he's going to face is Yuki Saitoh, the most famous college pitcher in the country.

And even better, he pretty much went up there like "Bring it on, Handkerchief Boy," and got a hit in his first at-bat. I can only hope the rest of his time at Hosei continues to go that well.

Kanji Kawai's first college hit, a broken-bat single to right.

Starting lineups:

Waseda Hosei
------ -----
Watanabe, 2b Kawai, 3b
Matsunaga, ss Tatebe, rf
Habu, rf Taki, ss
Sugiyama, c Sasaki, 1b
T.Yamada, lf Imamura, cf
Udaka, 3b Ohyagi, 2b
Gotoh, 1b Kagami, p
Sasaki, cf Hiromoto, c
Saitoh, p Nakao, lf

Seriously, the only guy on Hosei's team who can actually hit a baseball with a bat dependably this year is Yoh Sasaki. To be fair, Sasaki is #2 in the league in the batting average race, and #1 is Waseda's Yuya Watanabe, who was batting .458 going into this series. But Waseda still has Shota Sugiyama, Shohei Habu, and Koji Udaka all batting pretty well this year... and most of Hosei's lineup is struggling to stay above the Mendoza line.

Anyway, beyond Kawai playing and getting a hit in his first at-bat, it was a relatively fast first two innings. During Kagami's at-bat, he popped the ball up to short, and he was kind of wincing and waving his hand afterwards as if maybe he hurt it when he hit the ball, which nearly gave me a heart attack, but he came out to throw again and it didn't LOOK like anything was wrong with his hand.

Until he pitched to pitcher Yuki Saitoh in the top of the 3rd inning, and BLAM, Saitoh hit Waseda's first home run of the year -- yes, the first home run for ANYONE on Waseda this entire SEASON -- a shot into the first few rows in left field. How embarrassing is THAT? For everyone except maybe Saitoh, really? 1-0.

The next few innings went by mostly depressingly (Hosei got a batter to 3rd base in both the 2nd and 3rd innings but just couldn't DO anything about it, including Taki striking out with Nakao on 3rd and Kagami striking out with Sasaki on 3rd). Then in the 5th, Kanji Kawai came up to bat with 2 outs, and managed to do something nobody else did -- he got a SECOND hit off Yuki Saitoh! Kento Tatebe then hit a double to center-right and Kawai-kun ran and ran and ran and SCORED! 1-1! I would have more photos of it, but Drunk Tanaka jumped out of his seat and ran across the front high-fiving everyone like "LOOK AT KAWAI-KUN FROM AICHI, IS HE NOT AWESOME?" and, of course, ran in front of me and my camera as well.

Kanji Kawai crossing the plate! First college run scored!

I had been charting and counting pitches, but I got sidetracked after that. My Hosei baseball club alum friend Mizushima came down to say hi for a while and for some reason had a Hosei sophomore pitcher named Shogo Wada in tow with him, and he was like "This is Wada, he went to the same HS as the Fighters' Kinoshita" and I'm like "uh, okay... which school?" and eventually I had to ask the kid himself, "what's your name? what school and year?" and then I was like "OH! Were you classmates with Yusuke Yamada?" and he said yeah, and I was embarrassed to admit that YES I had seen him at Koshien but I didn't remember anything about Toho that year except Yamada's walk-on homerun against Hokkai, because it made me late to work. No joke.

They asked me what I thought of Kagami's pitching and I said that I was pretty worried that he might have hurt his hand during his at-bat in the 2nd inning, but if he did, he seemed to have recovered from it pretty well, his pitches looked good, he was throwing strikes, and he was hitting 150km/h on the radar gun, so...

UNfortunately, about 10 minutes after I said that, they went into the 8th inning, and Kagami gave up his first walk of the game, to a pinch-hitting Keisuke Kawanishi. Yuya Watanabe then grounded to short, but Kawanishi slid into second ahead of the force throw, and both runners were safe. Kagami hit 152 km/h (95mph) on the gun to strike out Hiroki Matsunaga, but then Shohei Habu was up to the plate...

...and Shohei Habu SMACKED one to right field. It almost looked like a home run at first, but hit the back wall instead. Tatebe scrambled to get the ball and throw it in, but by the time he did, Habu was more than safe at third and could have really even tried for an inside-the-park homerun. 3-1.

Waseda's fans went crazy, and I basically wanted to cry, because I knew that Tatsuya Ohishi was going to come pitch for Waseda, and I knew the Hosei batters weren't going to manage to do a damn thing against him.

And I was right on both counts. Ohishi threw pretty much everything in the 151-154 range, faced 7 batters, gave up one hit (to captain Ohyagi) and struck out 5. Ouch. Waseda won the game 3-1. Bleh.

Kazuki Mishima threw the 9th inning for Hosei, and I haven't seen him pitch in a while because Kagami keeps throwing complete games on Saturdays, so that was good. Mishi still throws everything around 150, and he also struck out 2 of the 3 batters he faced, but it was too little too late. Sigh.

After the game I wasn't sure if talking to players would be possible -- there was a Yakult game so it was crowded AND there were all the Waseda fans waiting for them to come out as well. Waseda takes a bus back to their dorm, but Hosei players take the subway. As it turns out, the players came out anyway. I saw Kagami but he was in a hurry and pretty much bolted through the crowd. Saw a few of the other guys. Should have bugged Yoh Sasaki but I was too shy and slow. Eventually I did bug Ohyagi, and Taki, and Imai for autographs. Ohyagi's mother was there and was kind of like "'re a fan of my son?" and I told her that I'm a fan of Hosei's team, and her son is a fine team captain. At least, I think that's what I said.

Oh, and I did finally say hi to Kazuki Mishima and tell him about the birthday thing and he kinda laughed like "I heard about that," so... yeah. Whoops.

Also, there's an older actress that is now mostly-retired and comes to cheer for Hosei pretty much every weekend named Tokachi Hanako, I met her last year at one of the games, can't remember when, and usually say hi. This time she gave me a CD of some duet songs she did with Kenji Nanda a few years ago. Mizushima told her "Hey, you should sign it", so she did. My life is bizarre sometimes. I now have an enka CD signed by an actress that I know from cheering for college baseball.

Anyway, here are a few more pictures from the game (mostly of Kanji Kawai, heh):

Yuki Saitoh.

Saitoh at bat. No, this is not when he hit the home run.

Tatsuya Ohishi, who now wears #1 instead of 15, it's weird.

Kagami throwing on the sidelines -- he had to bat so he did it from the dugout side for a change.

Kanji Kawai bunting in the 3rd inning.

Kawai at bat in the 5th inning.

Kawai's second hit!

Kawai on first base. Tetsuro Matsumoto is coaching for some reason.

Kawai standing in the warmup area.

A few shots of the Jingu scoreboard with speed readings:

Kagami hits 151 km/h (about 94mph) against Shota Sugiyama. He got 152 too a bit later.

Ohishi throws 154 against Tatebe. Not that odd, most of his stuff was coming across in the 150-154 (93-95) range; that's what a fireballing reliever DOES :)

Kazuki Mishima hits 153 when pitching to Tatsuya Ohishi.

Oh, and from here, Kagami's comments after Game 1:

- What did you think of today's game?
We couldn't pull through in an important time.


- What's your impression of the Waseda lineup?
My feeling is that their lineup is full of good batters.


- What were you concentrating on while pitching today?
I was worried about control, being very conscious of the lower part of the strike zone.


- What was your plan for today's game?
I wasn't concerned about the opponents, I just wanted to focus on my own pitching.


- How's your physical condition?
It's not too bad, I think.


- Going forward, what are you doing?
Well, this series isn't over yet, we still have a chance, so I'm going to prepare for tomorrow and Monday's games.

And for the record, both Ohyagi and manager Kanemitsu's comments on Kanji Kawai: "He's a kid who really gives it all he's got."

On Sunday, Waseda's Yuya Fukui started against Hosei's Tomoya Mikami. And basically, Waseda scored one unearned run off him in the 4th -- Fukui led off with a walk, Watanabe got an infield hit to advance him to second, and then Hiroki Matsunaga hit a grounder to the mound and apparently Mikami threw to third and it somehow got misplayed, and Fukui scored on the error. That was the only run of the entire game, but it was all Waseda needed to beat Hosei 1-0 and take the series.

They interviewed a bunch of players for game 2 as well, including Kanji Kawai, so here's his comments... I may have mistranslated a nuance or two, but overall it was interesting to read what he had to say.


- Looking back on today's game, how was it?
Well, I had bad results and the team lost, and Waseda got the series point. If you can't hit against good pitching, you can't become a champion, and so I think that our lack of hitting is what brought us down.


- Tell us how you felt yesterday during your Jingu debut.
Well, I got to be the leadoff batter, but I was suddenly out there against such an amazing pitcher like Saitoh! Being lucky enough to get my first hit off him in my first at-bat was great. Getting to play with all of the amazing upperclassmen on this team made me really happy.


- When were you told you'd be in the starting lineup yesterday?
Yesterday morning.


- It seemed like you got hurt, are you okay?
Yes, I'm fine.


- What was your impression of Saitoh, Ohishi, and Fukui?
Certainly they're all amazing pitchers. They all have a good arsenal and don't make mistakes; I didn't get any easy pitches to hit at all. Ohishi throws some great stuff, he's like a batting machine!


- How was it playing against Waseda for these two days?
I thought that Tokyo Big 6 would be a pretty high-level league. We couldn't hit or win against those great pitchers, but we only lost 1-0. The biggest thing was that they got that one point off our mistake. It was a great experience to play baseball against such a high level of competition, and I hope to build on the experience I got from these two losses. The next match is against Meiji, and I want to prepare for facing some more good pitching.


- Finally, what can you say going forward to the Meiji matchup?
I don't know if they will use me or not, BUT, if they do, I want to do as much as I can to contribute to the team winning.

I guess it is a little hasty to say it, but I really am hoping for some great things out of this kid. Here's hoping for some good results at the Meiji series and the Rookie Tournament!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Game Report Photopost: Meiji vs. Keio, Week 6 - Dramatic Unearned Comeback Kids

I know, you're all wondering "Is this now a Tokyo Big 6 University League blog, Deanna? Have you given up on the Fighters?" No, I haven't, but I also basically ended up with an entire month period of not going to Fighters games due to them not being near Tokyo or me not being near Tokyo, and with interleague I can't even watch them play unless they are on BS1 TV. Plus, the college ball season is so short that I put priority on it for now.

(I will, however, note that last night two of last year's Big 6 grads were pitching in NPB ichi-gun games. Hosei's Hisashi Takeuchi, now with the Hiroshima Carp, gave up two 2-run homers to Shogo Akada and Mitsutaka Gotoh of the Orix Buffaloes. And Rikkio's Kenji Tomura, now with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, made his third start, against the Yokohama Baystars. He had 5 good innings but then got into a pinch in the 6th -- Uchikawa hit a 2-RBI single off him, and then another run scored on a wild pitch, and then the Rakuten bullpen took over and proceeded to continue giving up the game. On the other hand, can I say that I'm proud of Yokohama for not being in last place?)

Anyway, on Saturday the 15th I headed down to Jingu with the intention of sitting on the first base side for both games; a friend of mine saved me a seat in the front row with the rest of the usual suspects, who are mostly Meiji fans and/or alumni. The theory was that I would sit with them and root for Meiji in the first game against Keio because I wanted the "interesting" outcome for the season, and they would sit with me and root for Hosei in the second game because they hate Waseda. In practice, most of them left to say hi to the Meiji players and get lunch after the first game and never came back.

Not that I minded them leaving... most of the people in this group are older guys (by which I mean more like, in their 60s, although one of the guys is about my age and louder than the rest of them combined) and so some of them are in the habit of getting drunk and doing what is called "yaji", or heckling. So I had to put up with them yelling in my ear for the entire first game. And by entire game, I really do mean entire game. If the Meiji ouendan was doing cheers, they were yelling the cheers. If the Meiji ouendan wasn't doing cheers, these guys were still finding things to yell. And if Keio was up to bat, these guys were yelling things like "HEY YOU #51! FIRST-BASE COACH! GET YOUR ASS BACK IN THE COACHING BOX! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING STEPPING OUT AND STEALING OUR SIGNALS?"

By the way, before starting this post at all, I just wanted to share a photo of the "Holy crap, I took that?!?" variety. It is irrelevant to the game action, but an awesome shot, huh?

Keio's Naoki Yamaguchi breaks a bat on his way to striking out.

I suppose it is vaguely relevant in that Yamaguchi was the leadoff batter of the game. Actually, both teams had a leadoff batter named Yamaguchi playing left field, although Meiji's Masashi Yamaguchi is a little dude who used to play 2nd base but was usurped by Hiroki's Little Brother Takashi Uemoto.

The starting pitchers for the games were the aces as advertised: Meiji's Yusuke Nomura, 3rd-year, righty, from Hiroshima's Koryo High School, the boy who was 2 innings away from winning Koshien 2007, and now, the boy who refuses to walk a batter...

Keio's starting pitcher was Daisuke Takeuchi, 2nd-year, lefty, from Aichi's Chukyodai Chukyo High School. He pitched at Senbatsu 2008, but the school won the entire summer Koshien the year AFTER he graduated. Oops. I already had a big Takeuchi photopost a week or so ago, but here are a few more from this week...

Anyway. Here's how the game went...

1st inning, K 0 M 0: Keio's lineup all ground out (Yamaguchi, Yumoto, Fuchigami). Meiji's Yamaguchi walks, advances to second on a bunt by Takashi Uemoto, advances to 3rd on a wild pitch during Kento Yajima's at-bat, but Araki and Yajima strike out.

Yamaguchi diving back to first.

Takashi Uemoto bunting.

Fumiya Araki striking out.

2nd inning, K 0 M 0: Hayata Itoh singles to lead off and steals second during Takayuki Matsuo's at-bat, but Takao and Matsuo strike out and Kazuma Takeuchi grounds out. Meiji's side goes down in order (Nakamura, Abe, Shashiki).

3rd inning, K 0 M 0: Masahiro Nagasaki leads off with a double to the right-field corner. Daisuke Takeuchi fakes out bunting him up but still advances him to third by grounding out. However, Yamaguchi and Yumoto strike out after that. Meiji's side, yet again, goes down in order (Yamauchi, Nomura, Yamaguchi).

4th inning, K 0 M 1: Keio's side goes down in order (Fuchigami, Itoh, Takao), but this time Meiji's side has Takashi Uemoto lead off with a double to center. Fumiya Araki sac bunts Uemoto over, and the bunt dribbles to third base; Araki headslides safely into first base and Uemoto is safe as well. Kento Yajima grounds into a 6-4-3 double play but Uemoto scores to make it 1-0. Masataka Nakamura singles on a weird grounder through the mound but Toshiki Abe hits a pop fly out to end the inning.

5th inning, K 0 M 1: Keio's side went down in order (Matsuo, K.Takeuchi, Nagasaki). So did Meiji's (Shashiki, Yamauchi, Nomura).

6th inning, K 0 M 1: Keio's side went down in order (D.Takeuchi, Yamaguchi, Yumoto). But Meiji's Yamaguchi led off with a single to left, and yet again Takashi Uemoto was called upon to bunt him up. Araki walked, and so did Yajima. The bases were loaded for Masataka Nakamura, who struck out. At this point Keio changed pitchers from the lefty Daisuke Takeuchi to the righty Hironori Tanaka. Meiji changed batters to Katsuya Kawashima, who grounded back to the mound to end the inning.

Takashi Uemoto.

Hironori Tanaka takes over on the mound.

7th inning, K 1 M 1: Hitoshi Fuchigami hit a pop fly to center to lead off, and then Hayata Itoh singled to right. Yasuhiro Takao also singled to right, moving Itoh to third. Takayuki Matsuo singled to right as well, scoring Itoh, 1-1. Tomohiro Tatsumi, who had entered the game as CF in the bottom of the 6th, struck out, and Nagasaki grounded to short for the third out, leaving two runners on. Meiji's side went down in order (Shashiki, Yamauchi, Nomura).

(Shashiki was getting a LOT of shit from the guys sitting behind me, which, in all fairness, is not entirely uncalled for. I'm wondering if Shashiki is playing injured, actually... he has had some serious elbow trouble in the past, and aside from his Best Nine performance last spring, hasn't really been all that great on the college level otherwise.)

Shogo Shashiki.

8th inning, K 1 M 2: Ren Yamasaki pinch-hit and led off with a pop fly to left. Yamaguchi also hit a pop fly. Captain Tatsushi Yumoto walked but Fuchigami grounded out to first.

Kohei Yamagata replaced Hironori Tanaka on the mound.
Meiji's Yamaguchi struck out. Uemoto walked and stole second during Araki's at-bat. Araki doubled to left, scoring Uemoto. 2-1. Yajima hit a pop out and Nakamura grounded out.

Kohei Yamagata, freshman, from Tosa HS in Kochi prefecture.

The Meiji fans were pretty happy about that turn of events, but their happiness would be cut short soon enough...

9th inning, top, K 3 M 2: Hayata Itoh led off by grounding to first base, where Shogo Shashiki charged the ball, went to get it, and... missed? It was like he suddenly couldn't grab the ball. Very weird. So, Itoh was safe at first on the error. Takao bunted him up to second, and then BLAM!! Matsuo smacked a huge hit that went all the way to the right-field wall for a double, and Itoh scored, tying the game 2-2. Takuya Shintani pinch ran for Matsuo, and Ryuta Iba pinch-hit for Tatsumi and hit a pop fly to center (no advance). But then Nagasaki launched a ball out to center-right -- it was hit so hard that a lot of us thought it was a home run for sure -- but it hit the wall instead. Meiji recovered the ball fast, but it was still a double for Nagasaki that scored Shintani, 3-2. A pinch-hitting Hiroshi Aoyama grounded back to the mound to end the inning, but Keio had gotten the lead...

Also, I couldn't believe it, but the guys behind me were yelling things like "Nomura, get your act together! Don't forget what happened at Koshien!" and I'm thinking, "...wait, so you want him to think about being exhausted after throwing hundreds of pitches and giving up a bunch of late-inning runs? Really?"

I actually thought it was somewhat fitting that Nomura got exhausted after throwing hundreds of pitches and gave up two late-inning runs as a result. Although it really wasn't his fault that Shashiki completely forgot temporarily how to hold on to a baseball.

Hayata Itoh crosses the plate with the tying run for Keio. These things ALWAYS involve Itoh.

9th inning, bottom: Keio wins 3-2
Koji Fukutani took the mound for Keio. Aoyama went to play center. Yutaka Fukutomi entered to play 3rd base.

Ikuhiro Takeda led off with a single (he entered the game to replace Kawashima in the 7th). Takeda then stole second, and he advanced to third when Shogo Shashiki grounded out. Yusuke Kobayashi pinch-hit and grounded out, and then Hideo Toyota pinch-hit and hit a pop fly foul right by the camera well, and that was the game. Keio won 3-2.

One of my friends is a big fan of this Takeda kid so she was happy about him getting a hit, but pretty pissed off at Shashiki for sucking.

Here is an avalanche of photos of that last inning, since Fukutani is super-interesting to watch (he has a head twitch that he does just like Tsuruga Kehi/Orix's Nobuyoshi Yamada, only when Fukutani does it, his hat doesn't come off...). And I also got the entire final foul fly on camera as well.

Koji Fukutani. I like this kid. Even if I generally never see him pitch because he usually pitches Sundays.

And here is that final out. Catcher Masahiro Nagasaki, and third baseman Yutaka Fukutomi, both ran to get it -- and collided for the catch right under the cameramen in the camera well. But Nagasaki managed to hold onto the ball the entire time.

They collide.

Fukutomi goes down and Nagasaki goes flying.

But one somersault later...

Nagasaki still has the ball! Game over!

Fukutani ran in and the dugout ran out and people picked up the collided players and celebrated winning a close game.

Honestly, if Hosei had won their game I would feel a lot better about Keio winning theirs. Seriously. I like players on both Keio and Meiji's teams and don't have a particular alliance to either group per se, even if most of my Big 6 bleacher buddies are Meiji fans, and Keio is the university I have the most connections with academically (my university had an engineering exchange program with them, and also, my landlord is a Keio alum).

After Game 1 was over I hung out for a few minutes to watch the Hosei guys warm up -- yelled "ganbare!" to a bunch of the players, and then I took off to put on more sunscreen and get some food and all. Thanks to the second game involving Waseda, there were actually lines for the bathrooms and for the food stands, but whatever, it worked out okay.

Anyway, here are some more Meiji photos from the game that just kind of didn't fit in with the story...

Meiji team captain Yamauchi warming up on the sidelines.

This is Takashi Uemoto, Meiji sophomore infielder. His older brother Hiroki went to Waseda and now plays in ni-gun for the Hanshin Tigers. He totally looks like his brother -- but even odder -- I think he's actually got a "H. Uemoto" glove?!

This guy is now actually probably my favorite Meiji player, Shuhei Ikenaga... the backup catcher. He's a senior this year, and he went to Nichidai San, and he wears glasses, and he is always laughing and joking with other players, and I noticed him last year and thought he was really adorable. Last year he mostly caught in the bullpen because Meiji had the steady Ryota Yasuda behind the plate. I thought that maybe since he's a senior this year Ikenaga might get to play some, but then catcher Yuki Yamauchi became captain, and well, the captain generally gets to play a lot more than some random other dude. Still, this doesn't seem to have fazed Ikenaga-kun, who still takes his duties as a bullpen catcher fairly seriously.

And I took this crazy photo before the game of Ikenaga catching a ball thrown back to home plate from the outfield. He's the dude jumping in the air.

As mentioned in my rant, Keio also won their game on Sunday and took the series from Meiji. Bizarrely, Daisuke Takeuchi also started for Meiji on Sunday after pitching 5 innings on Saturday. It was another close contest, but Keio took that game 4-3 as well. Keio's Naoki Yamaguchi, whose broken bat photo I have above, hit a 2-run homer off Meiji's Kazuki Nishijima, and then Takayuki Matsuo hit a 2-run homerun off Meiji's Gota Nanba. As is typical in this level of ball, Yusuke Nomura finished Sunday's game for two innings despite pitching a complete game on Saturday. It didn't matter anyway, apparently.

So Keio took the series and now I'll be cheering for them at Soukeisen again. Or more like, I'll be cheering for them to WIN IN TWO GAMES! so that I can actually get to the Rookie Series. If Soukeisen goes to three games, I can't see any of the rookie series.