Category > Koshien

Stars of Summer Koshien

» 21 August 2011 » In amateur baseball, Koshien » 4 Comments

Now that the 93rd National High School Baseball Championship, or Summer Koshien, has concluded, it’s time to take a look at the players who shined on high school baseball’s biggest stage.

As you may recall, there were many standouts from the Spring Tournament, which was won by Kanagawa Prefecture’s Tokaidai Sagami. The spring champs, however, didn’t make it into the field of 49 finalists.

Nichidai San, who represents West Tokyo (East and West are split in the tournament), came close to titles in both Spring 2010 and 2011 (finalists and semi-finalists, respectively). They were finally crowned champions on Saturday.

Sanko, as they are known, were one of only three teams in the field given the highest pre-tournament rating by all three sports dailies polled (Hochi (Yomiuri), Nikkan Sports and Sponichi). They were prohibitive favorites and are perhaps a bit over-represented represented below. That said, they lived up to the billing and did not wilt under pressure.

Here are some of this tournament’s standout individual performers:

Kentaro Yoshinaga, pitcher, Nichidai San, West Tokyo

Where would Nichidai San be without their ace pitcher? Not basking in the glory of a national championship, for sure. The right-hander started 5 out of his team’s 6 games, pitching all but 4 1/3 innings of the tournament.

Over his 49 2/3 innings, he allowed 42 hits but struck out a healthy 59 batters. He struck out at least double digits in three games, suffering only one major hiccup; a 15 hit, 8 earned run pounding at the hands of Shimane’s Kaisei. His team bailed him out with one of their patented big innings (in this case, a 6-run 6th) and the team advanced.

Yoshinaga finished with a 2.90 tournament ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, both improvements on his Spring tournament numbers.

Despite being tired and laboring at times during the final game, he was still able to pitch his team to an 11-0 win and hold opponents Kosei Gakuin to 5 hits.

Yoshinao Kamata, pitcher, Kanazawa, Ishikawa

My “pitcher to watch” from the Spring, Kamata did not disappoint. Unlike Nichidai San, his Ishikawa team was not blessed with a potent offense. He K’ed 10 in an opening game 4-0 shutout, scattering 5 hits. He repeated the strikeout total in his second start, scattering 8 hits in a 4-2 victory.

In his third start Kamata ran into a very good Narashino team from Chiba, who edged Ishikawa 2-1. In that game his fastball reached 153 KPH, his high velocity for the tournament.

The fireballer struck out 29 over 26 innings, allowing 21 hits and putting up a tidy 1.04 ERA. Unfortunately his offense only provided him with an equal 21 hits to work with.

Yujo Kitagata, pitcher, Karatsu Sho, Saga

Admittedly, Kitagata came out of nowhere for me. His school hadn’t been to Summer Koshien since 1984 and I hadn’t paid too much attention to the Saga Prefectural qualifiers.

Tied for the hardest thrower with Kamata at 153 KPH, his scouting report said he featured a slider, cut fastball, curve, and forkball. I noticed the fastball and a power slider, because he relied on them to mow down opposing batters.

Against Furukawa Kogyo, he allowed just 4 hits and struck out 13, but was wild, walking 6 batters. It added up to three earned runs on his ledger, but his team won 9-4.

They didn’t win their second round game, though, as Sakushin Gakuin beat him 3-2. He struck out 10 again, walked 3, and allowed only 1 earned run. It wasn’t good enough, but he seems to have a promising future ahead.

Shunsuke Michibata, catcher, Chiben Wakayama, Wakayama

Of the highly regarded “big name” catchers (Michibata, Kensuke Kondo and Shuto Takajo) that made it to Koshien, it is debatable whether the Chiben Wakayama backstop had the best tournament. He gets the nod because Kondo and Takajo had truncated tournaments; both their teams lost early on. Nichdai San’s Takahiro Suzuki made terrific plays in the field; I just don’t think his bat is on par with the others.

Michibata was part of a good offense that put up 23 runs in just 3 games. He went 5 for 15, having a nice 3 for 6 day in round 2.

Toshitake Yoko, third base, Nichdai San, West Tokyo

One might say that Sanko’s third sacker is a little overweight. Fortunately for the champs, his bat is also pretty hefty.

In the qualifying tournament leading up to the Koshien finals, Yokoo put up a .500/.571/.792 line over 7 games.

In the finals he went out and improved upon it. He bashed out a ridiculous .625/.690/.708 (15 for 24).

Shun Takayama, right field, Nichdai San, West Tokyo

Another guy whose bat made a huge statement in the tournament. He tattooed pitchers for a line of .500 (13 for 26) while getting on base at a .536 clip and slugging a silly .885. He hit two critical home runs, including one in the final game to dead center.

Honorable mention:

Sho Azegami, center field, Nichdai San, West Tokyo

The team captain played a stellar CF and was one of Sanko’s reliable offensive weapons (6 for 24). His slow start in the early rounds held his numbers down.

Hiroaki Saiuchi, pitcher, Seiko Gakuin, Fukushima

Struck out 16 in his opening game. 19 IP, 16 H, 30 K over tournament (2 games).

Author’s note: For even more coverage and a non-stop Nichidai San love-fest, please visit Deanna Rubin’s wonderful Marinerds, etc. site.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

A Brief Commercial Announcement

» 24 July 2011 » In Koshien » 2 Comments

Well over a year ago, filmmaker Alex Shear sent me a copy of his film Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball. Shame on me for taking this long to mention it, but I figured with the summer Koshien coming up, now would be a good time.

I’ve watched through the Kokoyaku a couple times now and it’s definitely a unique look at the commitment, tradition and emotion that goes into Koshien, Japan’s largest amateur sporting event. Plus, the film closes with a great rendition of Earth, Wind and Fire’s September. Kokoyaku is available on Hulu, so don’t take my word for it…

Continue reading...

A Quick Koshien Qualifying Roundup

» 19 July 2011 » In amateur baseball, Koshien » 4 Comments

It’s one of my favorite times of year. Japan’s high schools baseball teams are once again marching on the road to Summer Koshien. Here are a few items making news:

  • Nara powerhouse Tenri is out of this summer’s qualifying games due to violence within the club. The Japan Student Baseball Association handed down a two month suspension on June 14th, and their absence opens a path for Chiben Gakuen or another school to represent Nara at Koshien. Interestingly, it has been either Tenri or Chiben Gakuen representing the prefecture for 36 of the last 39 summer tournaments, while Koriyama holds the other three. Kansai Chuo is highly ranked this year; might this be their chance to make the dance for the first time ever?
  • Speaking of first-timers, congratulations to Itoman of Okinawa, the first team to punch their ticket to Nishinomiya. Itoman held on in the prefectural final to beat Chubu Shogyo, 2-1. If I’m not mistaken, they will become the geographically southernmost Japanese school to play at Koshien, though there were teams representing Taiwan in the days when the island was under Japanese rule.
  • Spring and Summer 2010 champions Konan saw their great run end in that same Okinawa qualifying bracket. The loss of their fine left handed starter Yosuke Shimabukuro to graduation was more than they could overcome.
  • Narashino, one of the stronger teams from Chiba Prefecture, has a  great marching band. While their baseball is entertaining, something special happens when their boys are batting and they fire up their instruments. You can hear an audio clip of them here. The sonic treat alone is worth tuning into their games for.
  • Yokohama, a traditional power in Kanagawa Prefecture, is looking a bit shaky these days. While they breezed through their first game with a 10-0 score, they struggled to overcome a plucky Yokohama Shogyo squad on Monday (July 18th). Tokaidai Sagami, the Spring champions and 2010 Summer Koshien runners-up to the aforementioned Konan, are looking strong again and would like their shot to win it all. Getting out of the Kanagawa qualifier, with its 186 teams, won’t be easy.
  • Typhoon Ma-on has disrupted the schedules in the southern parts of Japan. As it makes landfall during the week, expect the cancellations to spread. Let’s hope the storm passes quickly, and that everyone in the affected areas stays safe and dry.

Continue reading...

Tags: ,

Stars of Senbatsu

» 03 April 2011 » In Koshien » 9 Comments

Tomorrow’s professional baseball stars have to come from somewhere, and in Japan more often than not a young ballplayer will cut his teeth with a top high school team. The best kokoyakyu (high school baseball) teams are featured in two annual national tournaments, known colloquially as Spring and Summer Koshien. The spring tournament, or Senbatsu, is an invitational competition involving 32 teams. This year’s champion, Tokaidai Sagami, was crowned on Sunday. Here’s a look at some of the top individual performers from the just-concluded event:

Shuuto Takajo, C, Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku

Though his team fell short in the final game, Kyukou’s catcher put on one of the best hitting shows of the tournament. He batted 12-for-19 (.632) over 5 games and had a stretch of 8 consecutive hits. His talent was best on display when he batted 5-for-5 with a double against Hokkai.

Yoshinao Kamata, RHP, Kanazawa

Though his team lasted only one game, it was clear from the outset that Kamata was the best professional pitching prospect this tournament had to offer. His fastball reached 150 kph, but more importantly he has good command and movement of an excellent slider and change-up. He started out fooling batters with a terrific ability to change speeds and locate his pitches. His pitch selection was intelligent.

His defense failed him, however, and by the 5th inning seemed to either run out of gas or let frustration get the better of him. His team had very little offense as well and it all lead to a 4-0 loss in which he allowed 8 hits but struck out 11. He needs to improve his stamina, but should be an exciting player to look out for this summer.

Tokaidai Sagami hitters: Hirotsugu Satoh (C) Shunta Tanaka (IF) Tetsuya Usuda (CF), Masaru Watanabe (RF)

I’m cheating a bit on this one. I had wanted to select one player to represent how powerful this team’s offense was, and I couldn’t. The team banged out a tournament record 74 hits and outscored their final two opponents by a combined score of 22-3 (46-9 overall). These four players alone, who comprise the top of the lineup, went 21-for-42 (.500) with 11 extra base hits over just those two games! In the championship game, Watanabe also played outstanding defense, making two difficult catches in deep right field and the team ran the bases very aggressively. It made a huge difference as their offensive machine steamrolled the competition.

Takumi Miyoshi, RHP, Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku

It’s hard to get through Koshien without an ace, and Kyukoku had Miyoshi to lean on. The right hander started out the tournament like gangbusters, striking out 23 batters and allowing only 12 hits over his first 18 innings pitched. As the competition became tougher, his numbers dipped, but he was still able to maintain a 3.00 ERA for the tournament despite taking a 14 hit, 6 run pounding in the final game. While he didn’t hit for much average, Miyoshi clubbed two home runs of his own.

Sho Azegami, CF, Nichidai-san

The only player to outdo Takajo in a single-game performance, Azegami’s highlight game was a 6-for-6 day in a 13-2 win over Kakogawa Kita. Over the entire tournament he batted .688 (11-for-16) for his strong Tokyo team. He knocked in 6 runs while adding 3 doubles and a triple to his ledger. Over his four game stint, it added up to a 1.000 slugging percentage. Unfortunately, his team was done in by Kyukoku in the semifinal round.

Ryoma Matsuda, RHP, Hasami

Lastly, it wouldn’t be right to conclude without mentioning the stellar individual effort of Ryoma Matsuda. He was able to stifle a traditionally strong Yokohama High School in his opening game, allowing no earned runs. He showed a similar effort in the second round, surrendering two runs (1 earned). Despite this, his team bowed out of the competition by not providing him any run support that day, and Matsuda finished the tournament 1-1 with a 0.50 ERA.

** I would like to thank my friends Edwin Dizon (who can be found on Twitter as @RealEdwinDizon) and Shin for their input and insight during these past two weeks. I could not have compiled this list without their help.

A special thank you goes to Michael Westbay for once again providing all the Koshien fans a free online space to interact, watch, chat, and learn together during Senbatsu.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Spring Koshien Begins Today

» 22 March 2011 » In Koshien » 8 Comments

In an attempt to return to some degree of normalcy, 83rd Spring Koshien (Senbatsu) will begin today.

While NPB is still sorting out their issues and starting dates, the 32 team high school invitational tournament will begin Wednesday morning as scheduled.

If you’ve followed Japanese baseball for any length of time, you know that the two major annual high school tournaments are breeding grounds for the NPB stars of tomorrow. The games are followed closely not only by passionate fans and alums, but pro scouts as well.

Games can normally be watched for free online here. If you need rosters, scheduled match-ups, or game times in either Japanese or English, the Kokoyakyu blog is an excellent source. Game recaps and analysis are also provided.

Pick a team and let the games begin!

Continue reading...

Tags: , , ,

Contreras, Son Reportedly Looking for Move to Japan

» 21 November 2009 » In Koshien, npb, npb draft » 9 Comments

Here’s one I didn’t think of: Jose Conteras is reportedly looking for a job in Japan.

Sanspo reported a few days ago that Contreras reached out to the Hanshin Tigers, who despite being in need of pitching, aren’t interested in his services. The Hanshin source quoted by Sanspo said that “it seems like he wants to play in Japan. We’ve already decided against it, but it’s not 100%,” later adding, “(Contreras) seems like he would be quite inexpensive, so there will probably be other teams that show interest.”

Sanspo also pointed out that this would be the first time NPB is in the mix for a big-name player since Sammy Sosa tried to get a deal in Japan for the 2006 season.[1]

I didn’t think much of this story at first, but now it makes a little more sense. Today Nikkan Sports published a report saying that Contreras’s son, Kevin, is hoping to take part in an exchange program to Fukuoka’s Yanagawa high school. Kevin, 16, is a catcher at the IMG Baseball Academy in Florida, where he heard about the Koshien Tournament from his Japanese academy-mates. Yanagawa has played in the spring and summer Koshien Tournaments a total of 16 times.

The Contreras family is going to visit Japan next week, to look for Jose’s next employer and visit Kevin’s prospective high school. If Kevin does wind up attending high school in Fukuoka, the geographically close SoftBank Hawks and Hiroshima Carp would appear to be the most logical choices. I saw Contreras once or twice after he was traded to Colorado, and he showed a good fastball and splitter, which makes me think he has a little life left as a reliever. Then again, I saw him pitch against the Giants. Even at 37, he has good enough stuff to succeed in Japan, whether he has the health and composure to is another question. If everything comes together, this has the makings of a great story.

[1] After posting a dreadful season for Baltimore, Sosa offered to play the 2006 season for the Yokohama BayStars for 50m yen ($500k), but was turned away. A Yokohama executive was quoted in the media as saying “just because a player can’t play in America, it doesn’t mean he can play in Japan. He’d leave in two months.”

Continue reading...

Tags: , ,

USA-Japan High School Baseball Games

» 08 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, international baseball, Koshien, nichibei » Comments Off

The USA-Japan High School Baseball Games recently took place at the Urban Youth Academy Baseball Field in Compton, California. The exchange  started in 2006 and current Rakuten Golden Eagles ace Masahiro Tanaka was included on the Japan roster of the first series.

The three-game series between the two teams ended up without a real winner as it concluded with one win, one loss and one tie for both teams. The overall run total ended up with the Urban Youth Academy scoring 15 runs versus Japan’s 16 runs, so if you really want to determine a winner, Japan is your answer.

Game 1: Japan 8 – Urban Academy 5

Game 2: Japan 2- Urban Academy 2

Game 3: Japan 6- Urban Academy 8

The Japan team roster (link in Japanese) included a couple of top candidates for this year’s draft.

Continue reading...

Tags:

Colonel Sanders is Back

» 05 September 2009 » In Koshien, npb, sports business » 4 Comments

The Colonel Sanders will finally make an appearance back at the Koshien Stadium in front of the Hanshin fans. We mentioned earlier in the year that the famous Colonel Sanders statue has reemerged from the riverbed of the Dotonbori.

Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan Ltd. announced that the statue will make an appearance to the public on September 9th near Gate 5 starting from 3pm until 6:30pm. Fans will be able to see the statue without a game ticket.

The Hanshin Tigers are 20 games back from first place Yomiuri Giants and are 3.5 back from the last playoff spot. If they are able to slide in to take the last spot from the Yakult Swallows and eventually reach the Japan Series, Colonel Sanders should get some serious consideration for MVP votes.

Continue reading...

Pitch Counts at Koshien

» 28 August 2009 » In amateur baseball, international baseball, Koshien, pitching » 3 Comments

The response we received to my recent article about pitch counts reaffirmed to me that the subject is of interest to baseball fans. To continue on the topic, I will take a look at the Koshien High School Tournament, which is known to be grueling for pitchers.

49 teams representing each prefecture (Tokyo and Hokkaido with two each) qualify for the single-elimination tournament. There was a total of 48 games in the tournament. In those 48 games, 48 complete games were thrown. Naoki Itoh from runner-up Nippon Bunri was the hardest-working pitcher this year, throwing five total complete games including the final and averaged for 131 pitches per game. In the 48 complete games thrown, pitchers averaged a total of 127.88 pitches per game.

The most grueling game of the tournament was thrown by Hayato Shoji (Tokoha Gakuen Tachibana), who already had two complete games in the books when he threw 211 pitches in a twelve inning game. Ironically, Shoji had the most efficient complete game as well, with a 98-pitch effort. The face of this year’s tournament, Yusei Kikuchi of Hanamaki Higashi, threw three complete games (124, 118, 125 pitches) and was looking for more until he started suffering from back pain.

The Koshien Tournament is always an emotional dramatic event, but is it safe for pitchers such as Shoji to be throwing that much? There are handful of promising pitchers in the Koshien Tournament who will make it to the professional stage and may develop into key players in NPB or even the majors. Even though the injury suffered by Kikuchi does not look serious, evaluating a limit on  pitch counts at a high school tournament where the top teams will play up to six games in the fifteen days should be something we should consider about thinking about the future that lies for the face of Japanese baseball.

Continue reading...

Tags: , ,

NPB Bullet Points: Koshien Wraps Up, Dragons Get Sick Too

» 24 August 2009 » In amateur baseball, international baseball, Koshien, npb » 1 Comment

Koshien wrapped up yesterday with a wild finale. If you missed it live, you can still check it out in the Justin.tv archives. Standard justin.tv url-tweaking applies. On to the links…

Japanese Articles:

English Articles:

  • Goro Shigeno live-blogged yesterday’s Koshien final. Despite losing, Nihon Bunri put a great never-say-die effort.
  • With Koshien over, Japan will send a team of high school all-stars to Compton, CA for a three-game series against US all-stars. Gen has the Japanese roster, and before you ask, no Yusei Kikuchi will not take part, ostensibly due to his back injury.
  • Toshiya Sugiuchi struck out 15 Nippon Ham Fighters on Sunday and has quietly put up another excellent season.
  • I’m no Deanna, but I’ve travelled a bit and taken a few pictures. I decided to share a few of the better ones as desktop backgrounds. Give ‘em a look if you’re interested.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Continue reading...

Tags: , , ,