Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Sho" Me the Way to Go Home

The 2nd round of Koshien's 79th annual Spring Invitational has just launched itself both literally and figuratively into action. The first game of the 2nd round featured Osaka Toin High School against Sano Nihon University High. If you've been reading here recently you'll know that Osaka Toin means Sho Nakata. In the post just prior to this I recapped Nakata's first game of the tournament in which he was the starting pitcher and #4 batter. I was highly critical of his pitching ability, although I think he's a very good thrower. He was not the starter for Toin today, and instead took his more natural right field.

Sano leads off a very interesting left fielder named Viana Welisson from Sao Paolo, Brazil (pictured above, left). He learned about baseball from the many second and third generation Japanese growing up in a country where soccer is king. Those kids play baseball, and taught Welisson about Koshien. He took to the sport, and came to Japan to pursue his dream. On the big stage today he was excellent, going 2-4 with a walk, a run, and 2 RBIs. Unfortunately for the 3rd year leadoff man, his team was defeated in a slugfest 11-8. Welisson will have to hold his dreams for a Koshien title until the Summer Tournament, when the pressure is at its highest. He finished the event hitting .500 after 2 games.

The story of this ballgame was Sho Nakata. After an 0-3 performance with an HBP and an RBI in Game One, Nakata put on a show today.

In the first inning, with two outs and a runner on 1st, Nakata worked a walk against the clearly intimidated starter, Idei, of Sanichi. He scorched the first pitch foul, took a high fastball for ball one, took an outside fork for ball two, laced an inside fastball foul past the third baseman, took a high fastball four ball three, and then watched a change up just miss for ball four.

In the third inning, with one out, runners on 1st and 2nd, and a run in, the young slugger took strike one on a fastball down the middle. On the second pitch he watched a fastball sail outside for ball one. On the third pitch, Nakata took a high and inside fastball off the hands foul. The fourth pitch was a fastball outside, for ball two. With the count now 2 balls and 2 strikes, Toin's cleanup man leaned into a pitch and sent it sailing over the left field wall into the stands for a huge three run shot to break the game open. The home run was measured at 150 meters, or 492+ feet.

His next at bat came in the fourth inning with no outs and a runner on 1st. At this point the score was already 6-3 in favor of the Osaka club. Idei fell behind Nakata 2 balls and 1 strike on a couple of missed fastballs and a hard foul ball. Nakata looked at a fat fastball and took a full swing lining a bullet into the left center field stands for his 2nd home run of the game. This was the first time a player had hit home runs in consecutive at bats during Koshien since Hideki Matsui did it in 1992. The news services are all running headlines calling Nakata a "monster like Godzilla" this afternoon.

Nakata attempted to make this a 3 home run affair in his very next at bat flying out to center, and then duplicating that result in his final at bat in the 8th. Toin advances to face Tokoha Gakuen Kikugawa on the 31st for a chance to advance to the Final Four. What will Sho do for an encore?


At 2:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mike-

Thanks for the posts! Does it look like we're headed for a Toin vs. Teikyo showdown in the final?

At 6:26 AM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

I think so. It's a tough matchup for anyone against them....

At 10:26 PM, Blogger Edwin said...

Looks like Tokoha Gakuen Kikugawa didn't get the memo about a Osaka Touin-Teikyou Koukou matchup. Osaka Touin's offense felt lacking in the game, and while Tanaka Sho had more control this game (walking 3, hitting 0), Tokoha caught up to his pitches as the game wore on, driving several deep.

I'd say the favorite is Teikyou now, but who knows against the Kouryou team from Hiroshima.

At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Youtube of Nakata's 2 homeruns:


At 8:32 PM, Blogger Edwin said...

Teikyo didn't start Ota today, and it seems like it doesn't matter since they seem to own the teams early. And since they have always been the away team, with the exception of Ichikawa who had one inning to do something, the game seems over before it even starts.

It'd be nice to see how Teikyo fares if the game is close or they're behind early, but I'm beginning to think that's not going to happen.

At 12:18 AM, Blogger Edwin said...

I should really stick to my instincts. Oogaki really took it to the Teikyou pitching staff. From the way the coach handled the pitching situation it was like he wanted Takashima to pitch (albeit on a short leash), he didn't trust Ota after his performance against Ichikawa, and perhaps after having him pitch the last two games, he didn't want to use Kakigahara (although in Japanese HS baseball overuse is generally unheard of).

With two relatively new newcomers (Tokoha's 2nd appearance, Oogaki's 1st), I think this will be an interesting final. I've watched all of Tokoha's games except for the semifinal, and only the first round game (vs. Kita Ootsu) and the semifinal (vs. Teikyou).

While I like what I've seen from Tokoha, I think they are more likely win only if they are in a low scoring game.

At 11:00 PM, Blogger Edwin said...

Once again I was wrong. Looks like Tokoha had the power to rally once again when it mattered. I feel bad for Oogaki Nichidai as it has to be such a terrible way to lose. But you have to tip your hat to Tokoha Gakuen Kikugawa Koukou for gutsy play against Osaka Touin, Kumamoto Kougyou and Oogaki Nichidai.

It will be interesting to see if they can make the Summer Koushien Tournament and if they can make another run at it. Admittedlty they do not have overpowering pitching and their offense is a bit streaky. But man what a run!

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