Tuesday, August 3, 2010

USA 8 vs Canada 1 - World University Baseball Championships - August 2, 2010

Yesterday was the 4th and final day of the round robin games at the WUBC. Over the weekend, Cuba defeated Korea 18-0 and Japan 13-7 to take first place in group B. Meanwhile the USA had to go to extra innings to knock off Chinese Taipei 8-7 in a seesaw battle. The other games were all blowouts as Canada beat Sri Lanka 18-0 while China lost to Japan 15-0 and Korea 13-4.

All of this means that group B is set with Cuba, Japan, Korea, and China finishing 1 through 4. But group A saw Canada and the US both 2-0, while Chinese Taipei and Sri Lanka were 0-2. In the afternoon, the Taiwanese hammered Sri Lanka 16-0 to take 3rd and set up a meeting with Japan today. But it was the evening game between the US and Canada (above) that would decide 1st place and the easier path to the semi-finals with the winner playing China while the loser would get Korea in the quarterfinals.

Yokohama Stadium

After a weekend of games in Jingu Stadium, the day-night doubleheaders moved to Yokohama Stadium. This is the home ground of the Yokohama BayStars. Built in 1978, it's another typically nondescript NPB stadium, although one of the better ones, which isn't saying much. Orange seats encircle the field tapering down as they approach centerfield. There is a large section of shiny blue seats between the bases which seem to be the most expensive section when the BayStars but I'm not sure why. The extremely annoying protective screen doesn't stretch down the lines as it does in other stadiums, so there are actually some good seats near home plate. There's also a relatively large foul area which puts you further away from the action. The bases are surrounded by dirt, but the basepaths are actually turf painted brown.

The best thing about it is that it is located right next to Kannai station in downtown Yokohama, which is a great city and well worth visiting if you are touring Japan. Otherwise, the ballpark is another testament to Japanese baseball's preference for function over fan comfort.

The Game

Canada was the home team and also had the advantage of having Sunday off while the USA had played a 4-hour contest against Chinese Taipei. The States started Matt Barnes (Connecticut, above), who is considered a top prospect in the 2011 MLB draft. He showed why last night. His fastball was overpowering, hitting 92-93 regularly and Canadian hitters had trouble getting around on it. He didn't toss much offspeed stuff, just kept working the fastball to different locations and challenging the batters to do something. He ended up pitching 7 scoreless, yielding just 3 hits and striking out 8.

Meanwhile, Canada started Eric Brown (UBC), who walked the first batter of the game, Andrew Maggi of Arizona State. Nolan Fontana (Florida) followed with a sharp liner on a hit and run play (above) to the third baseman Mark Ellis (Southern Mississippi) who doubled up Maggi much to the relief of Canadian fans.

Brown was not so fortunate in the second inning though, giving up a leadoff double to George Springer (Connecticut) who was singled home by DH Nick Ramirez (Cal State Fullerton, above). That's Springer scoring below. Although that was all the Yanks would get in the inning, Brown was removed after just two frames.

Luis Castillo (Bellevue, above) replaced him and pitched two strong innings before the Americans finally got going. After two walks to lead off the 5th, Maggi drove a double to the left field wall to make it 2-0. A wild pitch was a blessing for Canada though as Steve Rodriguez (UCLA, below) was called out trying to make it home. In reality, he was safe as the tag missed him by a mile and the US manager had a loud argument with the umpire, to no avail. Didn't matter much as Nolan Fontana (Florida) grounded out to score Maggi.

In the 6th, Canada committed two grievous errors, including a dropped fly ball at the fence by Aaron Dunsmore (Dayton), and the USA plated two gimme runs to make it 5-0. A singleton in the 7th and a homer from Jason Esposito (Vanderbilt) in the 8th put the game out of reach. Canada did manage a run on a bases-loaded walk from Ryan Fleming (Georgia State) off Sean Gilmartin (Florida State) but Ramirez was brought in from the DH position to close the game, which he did by retiring all 4 batters he faced. It was his RBI single in the ninth that capped the scoring to make the final 8-1.

Jackie Bradley Jr of NCAA Champion South Carolina grounds out

It was not a pretty game as the Americans showed their superiority in all aspects of the sport. The only thing Canada was better at was fan cheering. There was a rambunctious group of Canucks cheering on their team and getting some of the local fans involved as well. It was nice to see a young Japanese kid ran back and forth with the Canadian flag.

The Quarterfinals

The US gets to play China today in Yokohama while Canada has a tougher battle against Korea. For some reason, this game is being played at a stadium about 2 hours from where I live, so I won't be going. Tomorrow sees both games in Yokohama: Cuba and Sri Lanka in the afternoon with Japan taking on Chinese Taipei in the evening.

Thoughts on the Tournament

I was hoping for a Japan-US final but they will meet in the semis now, assuming that Japan beats the Taiwanese tomorrow. The winner of that game would likely meet Cuba in the final.

This tournament uses wood bats, thankfully. The NCAA uses metal bats and it really ruins the games for me (ping is not a baseball sound), but it didn't seem like the players have any trouble pounding out hits with the wood sticks.

One thing that sucks about this tournament is that games on the same day are not played one after another, but rather are scheduled with 3 hour breaks and require separate admission. It's 2,000 yen to get in ($23) which is not cheap. The quality has been sorely lacking too. It surprises me that they can't find 8 countries with a solid baseball program at the college level, so ridiculously weak teams like Sri Lanka and China are here. I guess in many of the Latin countries such as the Dominican Republic, players are already signed by the time they are eligible for this tournament.

There are some annoying in-stadium things that you'll only find in Japan. First, after every foul ball into the stands, they announce in both English and Japanese to watch out for foul balls. Even if the same batter fouls 4 in a row into the seats, they will dutifully remind us each and every time to be careful. Another useful bit of advice is to drink water to avoid heatstroke. This was repeated several times as well, despite it being a night game and relatively cool. Finally, within seconds of the final out, a guy started yelling over a megaphone telling us that the game was over and we had to clear out the stadium. Duh, really?! Just give us a few minutes to watch the celebration and complete the scorecard, OK. We're not planning to stay the night. And with just 500 people, there's no need for the megaphone. These examples demonstrate how frustratingly stupid Japan can be - they are not capable of adapting their script as circumstances dictate. Hence 20 years of economic malaise, but that's another story.



1 comment:

  1. Sean,
    You're the man! A USA-Japan semifinal, holy crap, I wish I could be there. How many fans you guessing will show up? 10,000? You think Japan throws Saito too??

    Should be a really good one!!