Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What we learned - Day 2

We finally have our first full day of competition, and there are a few more things to glean from yesterday's action:

1) Sometimes the stage can be too much for the players.
We saw it not once, but twice yesterday.  First with Shizuoka and the multitude of errors by the infield, and then with Oita and their continued crossup of signs.

You can practice all you want, but when that siren sounds and they start playing, it probably hits the kids that "hey, I've actually done it, I'm here at Koushien".  And that can make a kid play the game a bit too fast, or perhaps misread a sign from their kantoku - and no matter how much you coach them, you can't avoid that human element.

2) Sometimes the stage can be too much for a kantoku.
That would be the case with Fujishiro's Kobari-kantoku.  Staked to an 8-0 lead early, he watched as Oogaki Nichidai started clawing their way back.  And when you saw in the 6th inning him sending in #11 Yamazaki to take the hill, them removing him one batter later after 2 wild pitches and a walk, you knew that basically he was in full panic mode.  (You could also reference Teikyou v. Chiben Wakayama from 2006 which I was a witness for)

I've followed 高校野球 long enough to know when there is a meltdown in progress.  That aforementioned game in 2006 was my first exposure to the Hindenburg-type slow burns that occur more often than you'd think.  A lot of times it's due to the players pressing, but sometimes the kantoku just runs out of ideas and throws everything at the wall hoping something sticks.

3) 高校野球 seems to not have learned the art of letting a team hang themselves... sort of...
The one peeve I had, and it really started back in 2011 with Nichidai-san, was the fact that when a team faces a pitcher that is struggling on the mound - specifically not being able to find the zone, the opposing team doesn't just sit there and let the pitcher hang themselves.

Shizuoka had that opportunity against Seiryou's Iwashita, who seemed to not be able to hit the broad side of the barn, they had worked the counts early.  But as the game progressed, they started swinging earlier in counts and letting Iwashita build confidence.  Same thing with Oita and Nihon Bunri ace Iidzuka.

Now was it because the game was close and the team started pressing? Perhaps.  But then that falls upon the kantoku to keep the kids sticking to the gameplan.

There may be an exception though.  It seemed rather curious that Iidzuka was struggling on the mound and yet his walks all happened to be with one out.  And then Oita's Sano-kantoku would bunt the runner over every time, putting the team with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd looking for a one timer.

Now Oita finally burned Nihon Bunri with Inoue's triple to score a run, but how much you want to bet they had film of Oita doing that exact strategy and gambled that they could bait Oita to doing it and getting free outs knowing that more often than not, the runner would be stranded?

4) For all that 高校野球 is glorified, remember that they are just kids.
That gets forgotten a lot because I think people see them as the best of the best.  And when a comeback occurs or a team wins a close game, we go wild on the efforts of the winners.  But for every winner, there is always a loser and for them the loss can be as crushing as the celebration is for the winners.

That was made more than evident in Fujishiro's loss to Oogaki Nichidai.  Up 8 runs after their part of the 1st, the team watched helplessly as that lead slipped away, as Takeuchi was just plain out of gas and there was no better alternative.

After the game was over, none of the players were consolable.  Especially Takeuchi who could do nothing but just stand there and watch his pitches be drilled over and over again.  Of course, there were cameras taking pictures of them, and while it's certainly their job, it's just another indignity they have to face.

Sure, we'll see post-Koshien videos on Nettoh Koushien with them laughing and seemingly over it, but it doesn't cover the fact that they suffered a very hard loss.  It's the reason why such victories if I celebrate them at all are muted nowadays.

So perhaps keep that in mind as we go forward.

1 comment:

JH said...

Thanks for the post. In my opinion, this is by far the most inspiring one I have seen in this blog (in which I spent the past few years reading every part of it.)

While tears and sweats of Koshien agitate the next generation to dream the hallowed ground, the players who shed those tears and sweats are left with bitter pain. The fans (such as myself) are moved by their joys and sorrows, but somehow we are exploiting those kids' emotions for our enjoyment......

I believe many cheered at Oogaki Nichidai's unwithering will which enabled the comeback, and I also believe that many rooted for Fujishiro and joined them in tears when the game was finally lost. Perhaps people could do both, or maybe not. What would be fans' raison d'etre to the players, and vice versa? What would be our meaning to the players whom we dearly cheer for?

Where do we stand on Koshien....I probably should spend some time on this before the next day and the return of Koshien's 魔物.

Thanks again.