Taiwan KanOs Japan for Under 21 Championship

They say life imitates art. In a movie named Kano a high school team from Taiwan living under Japanese occupation during World War II go to Japan to play in the high school Koshien tournament. The centerfielder for the under 21 Taiwan team, Yu Ning Tsao, is one of the principal characters in the movie. The high school team is not expected to be competitive in the tournament since baseball in the late 1930s was in its infancy in Taiwan. Not only did this team do well, but they finished second in the tournament, an amazing feat that was celebrated in Taiwan. It is credited with popularizing the sport of baseball in Taiwan.

Taiwan is not so much the underdog these days, ranked in the top five in the IBAF baseball rankings. However, when facing Japan they are considered the underdogs. Life was sweet and celebratory for those in attendance after their 9-0 pummeling of Japan yesterday. It was a party in the stadium all night long, beginning with the electronic music forcing people to bounce in their seats to the flinging of the paper ribbons that ensnared you like a spiderweb after it came down from its flight once victory was complete.

The opening day pitch began with the actress from the movie Kano riding her bike on the field and parking it in front of the mound to throw out the first pitch. Tsao was there to greet her and not having seen the movie myworld is assuming she portrayed his girlfriend in the movie. Japan was the home team for this game and they seemed a little antsy with these festivities. In twenty years there may be a movie of this event and another actor will play Tsao, who led his team in hitting beginning this game with a .458 average.

Taiwan appeared to have lost an opportunity in the first inning when after two were out they loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. With the hopes of the fans built up for an immediate strike Kuo Lin Lo popped to second to end the inning.

Starting pitcher Chun Lin Kuo worked seven shutout innings, allowing only four hits. In the bottom of the first he retired all three batters on groundouts to the cheer of the Taiwan faithful.

It was the second inning where you began to feel something special was about to happen. Taiwan took advantage of three walks and a crucial error to score two runs. With the bases loaded and one out starting pitcher Yudai Mori had already walked in a run throwing four straight balls to Tsung Hsien Lee. Yuya Yokahama came in from the bullpen to replace Modi. Yuya appeared to get out of the inning when he got Tai Chan Yang to ground one back to him for what appeared to be a home to first double play. Unfortunately for Japan Yuya threw the ball over the head of the catcher to the backstop to allow the second run to score. Taiwan scored a third run in the inning on another possible double play grounder to short, but the second baseman’s throw to first was wide.

Yesterday Taiwan lost to Japan 6-2 after leading 2-0 after five. The Taiwanese manager had removed their starting pitcher after the fifth and the bullpen imploded, coughing up six runs. This would not happen tonight.

In the fourth Hsien Chieh Chen started off the inning with a single off Yuya Yokahama. The Japanese outfielders seemed to be playing the Taiwan hitters shallow all night and it paid dearly when Tsung Hsien Lee split the left centerfield gap for a double to drive in Chen. Tai Chun Yang followed by powering one over the head of the centerfielder to make it 5-0 Taiwan. The fans were dancing in the aisles in celebration.

Japan seemed to have comeback in their mind in the bottom frame. Their first two hitters, Taisei Makihara and Kensuke Kondo singled to put the fans back on edge. Uncle R.J. began his chant of “Out, Out, Out” and ‘Strike, Strike, Strike”. The Japanese hitters complied, though Kuo probably had more to do with that than Uncle R.J., striking out the last two hitters to keep the Japanese scoreless.

Poor fielding by Japan in the seventh iced the game for Taiwan. A leadoff single from Tai Chan Yang started the inning. Po Jung Yang hit a hard grounder that secondbaseman Fumiya Hojo butchered. The scorer ruled it a hit. Ryosuke Nomura became the fourth Samurai reliever to come into the game. Hojo failed to reach another grounder that was legitimately ruled a single to load the bases setting the stage for Chieh Chih Su, who blasted a double over the head of the centerfielder. Two runs scored and Su was thinking triple. Unfortunately Yi Hung Chen had stopped at third and Su was caught in a pickle. Japan eventually threw Chen out at home when he broke for the plate. The score was now 7-0. The fans started passing out the rolled up paper ribbons smelling victory.

Taiwan scored two more runs in the eighth to make it 9-0. The Taiwan manager felt comfortable removing Kuo from the game to bring in Tzu Wei Lin. Lin had the fans screaming raised an extra decibel level by striking out the side.

Game Notes: Myworld was sitting in the cheering section of Taiwan for the game. My hearing may never recover…Yu Ning Tsao made a nice diving catch in the second inning with a runner on first to prevent Japan from scoring a run. He also laid down a bunt in the eighth inning and dove head first into first. Hojo was late covering first on the bunt…Japan was also not holding the runners on first in the eighth. Tai Chan Yang seemed to irk some of the Japanese players with his steal of second, despite the pounding. Myworld noticed the glare of the firstbaseman into the Taiwan dugout…To begin the game there was a teen band playing on top of the dugout. They seemed very popular with the fans, especially the young ladies…A wave was started in the fifth and lasted almost all inning…Kiss Cam was on the video board, but more couples were too embarrassed to kiss, and what kissing was done was of the cheek variety…In the eighth the stadium played the Queen’s “We will we will Rock you” which gave the fans great joy in chanting the chorus.

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