Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tokyo Big Six, Week 6, Sunday -- Futagami's Shutout, Nomura's Triumphant Return, and Photostalking Hosei

Onward to Sunday, where the postgame was actually more crazy than the games themselves. (Continued, kind of, from Saturday's post. As I mentioned, I got to meet a bunch of the Hosei players after Sunday's games.)

Being as I am relatively broke right now, I decided to sit in the outfield for Sunday's games, since women (and children) can sit there for free. What sucks is, Sunday turned out to be a bright and sunny day that would have been ideal for taking photos, as opposed to Saturday's cold cloudy weather. Alas. So instead, I found myself sitting under an umbrella to avoid sunburn as I watched the games.

Game 1 - Keio 1, Meiji 3

For whatever reason, Nobuaki Nakabayashi was the starting pitcher for Keio AGAIN, despite having started and thrown 6 innings the day before. This time, Yusuke Nomura was apparently well enough to pitch, so he got the start for Meiji. Nomura got the dreaded flu a few weeks ago and sat out the Todai series last week and the first game of the Keio series this week.

And yet again Meiji took an early lead when their first batter Fumiya Araki (playing CF this time) walked, was bunted up, advanced on a Kento Yajima groundout and scored when Takayuki Chida singled to left. 1-0. In the bottom of the 5th inning, Shogo Shashiki hit a solo home run that just cleared the centerfield wall, making it 2-0. Keio captain Urushibata answered that in the top of the 6th with a solo home run of his own over the left-field wall, 2-1.

Nakabayashi came out of the game after 5 innings. His replacement Takumi Matsuo struck out Araki to start off the bottom of the 6th, but then walked Yamaguchi, and Yajima singled to center, advancing Yamaguchi to third. Sidearmer Yuki Murayama replaced Matsuo on the mound then, but Meiji cleanup batter Chida hit a sac fly to left, scoring Yamaguchi. 3-1.

Nomura only lasted 7 innings, and Keio really should have been more effective against his replacement Kazuki Nishijima, except they saw fit to do things like strike out bunting instead. Takayuki Morita also pitched a scoreless inning for Meiji, and Junpei "JP" Komuro finished out the last inning for Keio. It wasn't a particularly exciting game aside from the home runs, and it was over in about two hours total.

I watched Tatsuya Ohishi shag flies for a few minutes warming up with the Waseda outfielders (yeah, he's weird like that) and then I moved over to the Hosei side of the outfield because I saw that Kisho Kagami was throwing in the bullpen, and I wanted to watch him. Plus, I was technically cheering for Hosei in this game anyway, and the Waseda side was getting relatively full.

Game 2 - Waseda 0, Hosei 1

The starters for this game were Yuya Fukui for Waseda, and Kazuhito Futagami for Hosei. Hosei was in a must-win position still -- for any chance at all at the championship this semester, they HAD to defeat Waseda in the series, and they were coming off a 3-3 12-inning tie on Saturday. On the other hand, Fukui was responsible for Waseda's only lost game this semester, and Futagami is Hosei's ace, so it seemed hopeful.

The game remained scoreless for six innings in what turned out to be more of a pitcher's duel than expected. In those first six innings, Fukui allowed all of two base runners on two hits.

Meanwhile Futagami found himself in a few pinches. Waseda managed to load the bases in the 4th inning after an Udaka single, Yamada walk, and Hiroki Kojima sliding headfirst into 1st base at the same time Yoh Sasaki arrived there with a grounder he didn't quite field cleanly. But Futagami managed to strike out Hironobu Hara to end that threat.

In the 5th inning he got pretty lucky -- he hit Takashi Gotoh in the side to start the inning, and Gotoh advanced on a bunt and a Hiroki Matsunaga single. What happened next can only be described, as they say in the vernacular, as an "epic pile of fail" for Waseda. With one out, Koji Udaka tried to squeeze bunt for Gotoh to score the run, but first baseman Sasaki charged the bunt, tagged Udaka out on his way past, and then threw the ball home and Gotoh got stuck in a rundown, eventually getting tagged out as well for an inning-ending double play.

Hosei finally broke through in the 7th inning. Hiroshi Taki singled to center. He was then left standing on first for a while as Masatoshi Matsumoto hit a pop fly out and Sasaki struck out, but then Taki stole second base during Shuhei Ishikawa's at-bat, and Ishikawa walked anyway. With two on and two out, Yudai Kajiya managed to get ahold of a pitch for a single to left, and Taki scored! 1-0.

Fukui was out after that inning and the last 6 Hosei batters were retired by Kensuke Ohno (4) and Kenta Matsushita (2).

In the meantime, Futagami was still pitching into the 9th, despite starting the inning at 117 pitches. Kojima led off with an iffy infield single to third. Pinch-hitter Taketo Shinsako utterly failed at bunting him over, but then Kojima stole second on the second pitch to pinch-hitter Ayuki Matsumoto, who eventually grounded out, advancing Kojima to third. Ayuki, by the way, is the younger brother of former Waseda and current Yokohama Baystars outfielder Keijiro.

The last batter of the game turned out to be a pinch-hitter as well... none other than Tatsuya Ohishi. (You know, the team's closer.) I guess the plan was for Ohishi to activate his super-human powers and drive in the tying run and then pitch Waseda to another tie or win, but instead he ended up grounding out to second to end the game. Futagami threw 130 pitches for the complete-game shutout and win.

My friend Ogura came to find me in the 8th inning as she got bored and cold sitting in the Hosei infield (she's in her 50's and a Meiji fan anyway) and ran out of camera battery as well. We left the stadium together, and happened to end up at the front gate of Jingu around the same time the Hosei players started coming out. As it turns out, only Meiji and Waseda have charter buses to bring the players back home; the other universities, the players take the train or subway to get back, just like normal human beings. And only Waseda seems to have the crazy player-shield thing going on.

Crazy Postgame Photostalking

I ran into another acquaintance of mine as we were walking towards the front gate, Mizushima-san. I forget if I've mentioned him here before, but he's a guy I see sometimes at Kamagaya in the standard stalking area. We got to talking way back at the start of this year and it came out that I'm a college ball fan and he's a Hosei alum, so every time we see each other at Kamagaya, we'd usually babble a bit about random Hosei baseball players, although I don't think there are any on the Fighters right now except Inaba.

What I don't think he ever made clear to me in all of that time is that he's not just a Hosei alum who goes to all the games, he's actually a HOSEI BASEBALL TEAM ALUM. As such, he knows ALL of the guys on the team, and funnier, they all call him "sempai". I'm not sure exactly how old he is -- I think around my age, maybe a bit older.

He introduced me to almost all the regulars on the team, as the players were coming out to go home, dressed in their suit-like school uniforms. Other fans were hanging out also trying to get autographs or photos or to just chat with the players a little bit; I get the feeling that a decent part of the crowd were also just Hosei students or alumni hanging out there. But either way, it was a little embarrassing in a way, as I was figuring out who the players were, Mizushima was pointing out guys like "hey, there's so-and-so. Do you want a photo with him? Want me to introduce you?" And then he'd just say hi to the players and say "this is one of my Fighters fan friends, I'm trying to turn her into a Hosei fan too!" I felt like a huge dork in some cases but sometimes it was funny.

Actually, though, before Mizushima went crazy introducing me to people, I went off and tagged Kisho Kagami on my own -- I was like "I HAVE to get a photo with him and I'm not missing this chance", since Kagami is my favorite Hosei pitcher. Kagami turns out to be a real sweetheart, he was actually on his way out but he didn't mind getting a photo with me, and a photo with Ogura too. I told him I was a huge fan of his and asked if he'd be pitching tomorrow (meaning Monday at that point), and he said he wasn't sure one way or another because he didn't know if his arm was up to it and it was a very important game. I told him I hoped he felt better soon and I wanted to come watch him pitch next week, and he thanked me and smiled.

So, here is me with Kagami.

And I also took a photo of just him:

Here's a photo I took of him at the game on Sept 26th, just to show what he looks like when in uniform and that I didn't just get a photo with a cute college boy and claim he's my favorite pitcher:

Such a nice guy and such a great pitcher. I still remember when he struck out 26 Waseda batters in one weekend last fall. Of course, why the hell anyone in their right mind made him pitch 22 innings in one weekend and throw 215 pitches in one 14-inning day is beyond me (I'm not making that up), and I bet that weekend was a large reason why he's had shoulder trouble since. Sigh.

Here's me with some of the other players...

Kazuhito Futagami, Hosei's ace pitcher who WILL get drafted this fall. Unfortunately whoever took the photo was kind of shaky and so it's a little blurry, but whatever.

Here I am with Hisashi Takeuchi, who has also submitted his letter of intent to be considered in this fall's draft. Takeuchi is capable of throwing 154 km/h, supposedly, but I've never seen him actually do it. He is a big strong kid though and I've heard scouts are pretty high on him, so who knows. I also got Takeuchi's autograph, so if he does get drafted, that'll be nice to have someday, I'm sure.

(Here's what Takeuchi looks like in uniform -- from Saturday's game.)

Outfielder Shingo Kamegai. He is apparently going to go "work" for Toyota next year, by which I mean play baseball for them. He's the one I was told is a lot like Inaba was when Inaba played for Hosei. Kamegai is also from Chukyodai Chukyo HS and from Aichi, and sadly currently has an injured leg. I was trying to think of something to say to him so I was basically like "Is your leg okay?" and he's like "It's pretty iffy... not really." I told him I saw him run out that grounder on Saturday and get carried off the field and I was worried about him. He seemed surprised but pleased by that.

After that we get into people I would have never bugged on my own but who Mizushima kind of convinced me to get photos with...

Catcher Takuya Hiromoto and outfielder Ryo Imai, both 3rd-years. Also seemed kind of WTF about being asked to take a photo with a gaijin, though I told Imai I saw his victory home run last semester and it was cool and I hoped to see him play more. Mizushima was like "Very international, huh? This girl is a crazy baseball nut."

(Hiromoto and Imai in uniform. I took these photos during Saturday's game too.)

I would have never had the guts to bug these guys on my own but... Kazuki Mishima and Hiroshi Taki. They are both freshmen and AWESOME. Mishima throws 150-154 and Taki is a pretty darn good shortstop. But I had no idea what the hell to say to them besides "you guys rule". Actually, I somewhat embarrassed myself because Mishima is from the same high school as Fighters rookie Takuya Nakashima, but I had no idea what high school that WAS at the time. I knew that Taki is from Sakaide, but nobody asked me that.

(Mishima and Taki during Saturday's game.)

Shuhei Ishikawa, the Hosei captain, and catcher-sometimes-1B.

(After he switched from 1B to catcher on Saturday.)

Ogura wanted a photo with Ishikawa, so we bugged him. Actually, she REALLY wanted a photo with Kentaro Abe, the little dude who coaches 3rd base, but we didn't manage to bug him. Abe's this ridiculously genki guy with glasses who really gets into the game and shouts a ton, and anyone who's watched a Hosei game usually recognizes him, though this year he started wearing contacts so it became harder to recognize him. (I think he's like 5'3" or so, though.)

I also said some "otsukaresama"s to a few of the other players that were hanging out. I actually think I recognize more Hosei players by face than any other Big 6 team right now, which is kind of crazy.

Anyway. I was invited to come sit in the Hosei ouendan for the Meiji-Hosei games next weekend and I'm seriously considering it. I think the "COOL NEW OUENDAN STYLE TO TRY OUT" factor will outweigh the "EVERYONE'S GOING TO BE STARING AT THE WHITE GIRL" factor in the end.


Monday's results

I didn't go to the games on Monday due to actually being at work, but essentially:

Keio lost 8-4 to lose the series to Meiji. You're not going to believe this, but Nobuaki Nakabayashi started this game TOO. Yes, he was PERSONALLY 1-2 in the 3 Keio games this weekend, pitching a total of 13 innings over 3 days and throwing 89, 64, and 51 pitches in those three games. Takayuki Chida and Kento Yajima both hit home runs in the first 2 innings for Meiji, and the team took a quick 7-0 lead. I truly have no idea why Nakabayashi was starting this game. I wonder if it'll affect his draftability at all.

Hosei beat Waseda 2-0! And even crazier, my boy Kagami pitched a complete game shutout to beat Handkerchief Boy! It sounds like he ran into one bases-loaded jam in the 2nd inning but then got a double play to get out of it, and most of the rest of the game was relatively smooth sailing. He only struck out one batter, but also only allowed 5 runners the entire game, 3 of which were in the same inning. That's pretty good!

Oh, Kagami-kun, I hope I can see you pitch next week, and next year, and into the future. But I also hope your arm doesn't fall off.

Anyway, because Hosei won today, they still have a chance at the championship. At this point, Hosei, Waseda, and Meiji all have 3 Series Points; Meiji's W/L record is 6-4 and the other two are 6-3-1. Hosei needs to beat Meiji next weekend and to have Waseda either outright lose Soukeisen, or for Hosei to win 2 games and lose 0 while Waseda wins 2 and loses 1. Something like that. At the very least, it's good for there to be an actual interesting run for the championship going on at this point still; if Waseda had won this series then they would basically be almost guaranteed the championship.

In the meantime, I also watched bits and pieces of the 1st Stage of the playoffs here -- Rakuten's game on Friday, Chunichi's games on Sunday and Monday. Very interesting, and I'll be watching the Fighters this week, except for Thursday when I go to the Tokyo Dome to see the Giants-Dragons game. Whee playoffs!

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