Japan followed up their victories last weekend with a 12-0 perfect game victory over Australia on Tuesday and a 12-1 victory over Korea on Wednesday. Japan finished pool play with a 4-0 record, tied with the Dominican Republic for the best record. Japan won the tie breaker based on runs against (4 vs. 19) so they ended up being the number one seed for the international bracket, which meant that they would play at 5 PM on Thursday in the international bracket semifinal against the fourth seed, which was Korea.
I was able to make this game after work, so I showed up once again with my camera and a couple of Hoshino cards, hoping that the third time would be a charm. Unfortunately, I discovered that he had returned to Japan that morning. So much for supporting the team. Perhaps he got spooked when he learned there was this strange person stalking him. (In defense of Hoshino, I learned today while watching my recording of today's game vs. Mexico that Hoshino not only was responsible for putting a Japanese team together for this tournament, he's been its principal financial backer as well. So he supports the team whether he actually appears at a game or not.)
Despite not finding Hoshino, I had a great time at these games. The semifinal game against Korea was a tight ballgame early, with Japan only leading by 2-0 until they blew the game open by scoring five runs in the bottom of the fifth. Must have been strange for Japan - it was the first game since Saturday that they'd had to play more than four innings. The final score was 7-0.
Here's some pictures. Here's one of the players running out during the introductions:
Lined up for the National Anthems:
One of the Japanese players read the Babe Ruth Baseball Code Of Conduct:
Japanese starter Akira Ouro:
Coming off the field after the top of the first:
The Oendan section was in force again:
A couple random player pictures:
The flags in center field:
I watched an inning or so from the berm in right field:
A couple more random player shots:
Mexico defeated the Dominican Republic team in the other semifinal Thursday, setting up a rematch of last Saturday's tournament opener for the international bracket final. Behind a great performance by their pitcher and a couple key baserunning mistakes by Japan (they'd made a couple similar mistakes against Korea, but it didn't cost them), Mexico squeaked out a 1-0 victory this afternoon to move into the final tomorrow against the US bracket champ from Montgomery County, Maryland. It turns out that Japan was fighting history today - since this tournament was first played in Aberdeen in 2003, Mexico has been the international bracket winner every year.
So better luck to both the Japanese team and me next year. Maybe they'll get a championship and I'll get a Senichi Hoshino autograph!