"Sho" Me the Way to Go HomeThe 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?