Sunday, June 14, 2009

Photopostish Game Report: All-Japan College Baseball Semifinals, Hosei vs. Kansai Kokusai

Went to Jingu on Saturday for the All-Japan College Baseball tournament semi-finals. The first game was Hosei University (Tokyo Big 6 League) against Kansai Kokusai University (Hanshin University League), and the second game was Soka University (New Tokyo University League) against Fuji University (North Tohoku League).

Me being a Tokyo Big 6 fangirl, I was really familiar with Hosei, but had to get up to speed on the other teams. I knew that Kansai Kokusai is where the Fighters' Ryo Sakakibara went, but that was about it. The thing is, these tournaments are a great way to see a lot of the good college teams. It's just a shame all the games were held during work hours for the most part.

I dragged Gen to the games because he's cool and I thought he'd enjoy them because he also loves Koshien, and to me, college baseball is like the spirit of Koshien with a higher level of play. Although "dragged" might not really be the right word since actually, he was kind enough to show up early and get two great seats right behind the first-base dugout so we could take a ton of photos.

Ace Kazuhito Futagami started for Hosei, and my thought was that if he could go most of the game, Hosei would probably win. Given I didn't know that much about Kansai Kokusai's starter Tajima except that he was really short (like 165 centimeters) and left-handed. He wasn't getting a ton of speed on his pitches but he was getting decent movement.

However, Hosei put a run on the board from the get-go; their leadoff man Shingo Kamegai singled to right, Shota Waizumi bunted him up, and freshman Hiroshi Taki batted him in. Taki eventually ended up being 4-for-4 on the day with all three of Hosei's RBIs.

Hosei's next two runs came in the 3rd inning and 5th inning, both on the EXACT same sequence: Tetsuro Matsumoto leads off with a single to center, Shingo Kamegai sac bunts him to second, Shota Waizumi hits a fly ball out to center for the 2nd out, and Hiroshi Taki singles to right to score Matsumoto. No joke. In the 5th inning, as the sequence unfolded the second time and Waizumi popped out to right, I said to Gen, "And now Taki singles to right and scores Matsumoto..." and Taki grounded to first, and somehow the ball must have hit a rock or something, because it suddenly BOUNCED up in the air over Kansai's first baseman Kanemaru and went into right field! Amazing.

Kansai Kokusai, for their part, managed to put two runs on the board against Futagami; in the third inning third baseman Yamamoto singled to right, was bunted up by catcher Fukuyama, and then shortstop Watanabe hit a single to right, and for whatever reason they stopped Yamamoto at third (I think he could have made it). Left fielder Sosuke Tanaka grounded to second, and Yamamoto scored as Watanabe was out on the force; second baseman Yoshikawa grounded out after that.

A similar sequence unfolded in the top of the 7th when Yamamoto walked, Fukuyama bunted him up, but this time Watanabe struck out before Sosuke Tanaka singled to drive in Yamamoto. It left the game seeming pretty close at 3-2.

For whatever reason, though, after Kansai Kokusai pitcher Masuda (who came in in the 3rd inning) struck out Tetsuro Matsumoto to start off the bottom of the 7th, they took him out for left-handed pitcher Kodai (I think) Matsunaga, and that was where the floodgates started to open. Shingo Kamegai singled to third, where third baseman Yamamoto kind of bobbled the ball, and then Shota Waizumi grounded to second; Kamegai was out on the force but Waizumi was safe at first (which is still kind of crazy since it looked like a really nice double play from our angle). So instead of the inning being over, Hiroshi Taki hit his fourth single of the day, this time to left field. Kansai Kokusai switched pitchers again, this time to Naohito (I think) Kitajima, a righty. Kitajima pitched to Masatoshi Matsumoto, Hosei's Big 6 batting champ who hadn't yet gotten a hit in the tournament... and Matsumoto chose that exact moment to hit a double to left field. Waizumi scored. Taki scored. Hosei was up 5-2.

Although they stopped the game for a few minutes in the 8th inning when Futagami came out for an injury delay, he came back into the game. The 8th inning was sloppy but the Kansai batters kept hitting groundballs and the Hosei fielders kept throwing out the lead batter at third. Futagami eventually finished out yet another complete game, throwing 115 pitches, as Hosei advanced to the finals.

I stayed for the second game too, but I don't have time to write about it yet (which is going to be weird if I do write about it after the finals actually occur, but hey).

Here are some of my photos, in no particular order:

Kazuhito Futagami in the first inning.

A sequence of photos:

Tetsuro Matsumoto comes running home in the third inning...

...he makes a diving headfirst slide and grab for the plate just as Kansai Kokusai catcher Fukuyama gets the ball...

...and he's safe! safe! Hosei goes back ahead 2-1!

Kansai starter Tajima, who was little and left-handed.

Kansai Kokusai pitcher Naoya Masuda at a weird angle.

Masuda comes back to the dugout.

Kansai Kokusai catcher Tatsuya Fukuyama comes back home after the batters fail to drive him in. He got all dusty taking a headfirst slide into first base.

Lefty pitcher Matsunaga.

Hiroshi Taki high-fives Shota Waizumi after Masatoshi Matsumoto drives them both in with the double in the 7th inning.

Kokusai pitcher Kitajima.

Hosei slugger Ryo Imai, who didn't play in this game, but who literally spent the entire game standing outside of the dugout yelling into a megaphone. He's the crazy kid who hit that walkoff homerun that won Hosei the Big 6 championship title.

Kazuhito Futagami is still pitching into the 9th.

Final score: Hosei 5, Kansai Kokusai 2.

In other notes...

Hosei had their usual full band out there, but Kansai Kokusai seemed to have only brought their tubas and baritone horns with them. I don't know if that's normal or not for them. At first, it had this really weird effect of feeling totally somber, like a funeral dirge, but once you got used to it, it was actually really cool! They were playing things like Whiteberry's Natsumatsuri, and YMCA, and all this crazy stuff, and they do cheers like the Hanshin Tigers' wasshoi, and so on.

About halfway through the game, a friend of mine who's a baseball scout came over to chat for a while. It was really good to see him, but besides that, it made me have two revelations about Kazuhito Futagami: first, his name which looks kind of like a Japanese proverb (二神一人, two gods one person) is actually that way on purpose; Futagami is from a kind of middle-of-nowhere fishing town in Kochi. Second, I realized that even though he's a really good pitcher, he has really good control and so on, the reason I just find him boring to watch is because I don't see anything special about him. Whereas I like watching Kisho Kagami because he's crazy. I like pitchers who seem somewhat out of the ordinary, and while Futagami is pretty talented, from a non-scout eye like mine, he's just not that exciting.

Also, sunburn. Sigh. I put on some sunscreen but apparently did a sloppy job, and when I played volleyball later that evening I was really feeling the pain. Oops.

I'll try to post about the Soka-Fuji game in a day or two -- first I'm headed to Chiba for the Marines-Tigers game, and something tells me that'll be more important to write about first.

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