All Japan University ChampionsYuki Saito and company have done it!!! After qualifying for the 56th All Japan University Championship Tournament by winning the Tokyo Big 6 League, the boys from Waseda entered a field of big time programs vying for the crown of all university crowns. Here's a rundown of the games.
June 14th vs. Kyushu International University
In a game that was supposed to be a lopsided win for the Waseda boys, Kyushu International made a serious run at eliminating Saito's bunch early. Waseda couldn't mount an effective rally against any of three Kyushu pitchers, managing to only scratch across 2 runs heading into the 9th. Kyushu would bat last, and got starting pitcher Matsushita into some trouble, scoring a run and putting runners on first and second with two outs. The home club sent up a pinch hitter, and manager Ota went to the pen for the final out. He brought in Saito to mop up the last out. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but Saito gave up a ringing line drive that bounced in front of the left field wall. The runner came around to the plate and was promptly gunned down, ending the game. Saito looked stunned, worried, and then delighted. Waseda survived the first day.
June 15th vs. Kansai International University
On this afternoon, Waseda chose to start Sudata against Kansai International. Sudata was often the choice of manager Ota to precede Saito as a more experienced pitcher. The Waseda lineup was fierce, scoring 5 runs in the second and 4 more in the third to stake their starter to a big lead. With one out in the fifth Sudata got into trouble and was removed after allowing 2 runs to Kansai. Another run was surrendered by the pen in that frame, but that was all she wrote as Waseda sealed the 16-3 victory with a 7 run rally in the top of the 9th. No Saito, but then again, no need.
June 16th vs. Soka University
Yuki Saito took the hill in a very big moment for the freshman ace. Soka University stood in the way of a berth in the championship game and the pressure was on. Saito coughed up a run in the 1st, but looked very cool in escaping any further damage. His Waseda boys helped pick him up with 6 huge runs in an extended bottom of the first that virtually locked up the game. Waseda would score 4 more runs in the course of the contest, but it was hardly necessary as Saito went 5 complete on 82 pitches, allowing 2 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6. Matsushita and Sudata nailed down the remainder of the game and Waseda was in the big final against Tokai University.
June 17th vs. Tokai University
Saito would once again get the starting nod for Waseda, a sure sign that he is the man in charge of the rotation from now on. The pressure would be on, but it couldn't be anything like the highly charged two days in the Koshien Final less than a year ago. Waseda got on the board in the 1st with a single run, before Saito even took the hill. Certainly, that had to be a relief as the young ace worked his magic for 5.2 innings before surrendering a single run to Tokai. Waseda had scratched across two more runs for Saito, so the lead appeared fairly safe at 3-1. At 102 pitches near the end of the 6th, manager Ota came out to relieve Saito and replace him with Matsushita to finish off the title. That he did with 3.1 innings of scoreless relief. Saito's final line: 5.2 IP, 7 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts, 1 ER.
The title lives with Waseda, and Saito will next head to the US to pitch in the US/Japan University Games. Workouts will begin very soon, so there's no rest for the weary. It will be interesting to see him pitch against American university athletes. His final line for the 56th All Japan University Games was:
11 IP, 10 hits, 5 walks, 12 Ks, 2 ER, 1.63 ERA, 1.364 WHIP, 9.82 K/9