Japan High School Baseball

 

High School baseball in Japan is akin to college football in the U.S. (It's a real big deal!)

Doubleheaders are common in tournaments and the same pitcher may pitch both games. (This would never happen in the U.S.)

There are two important national annual baseball tournaments - Spring Koshien (National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament) and Summer Koshien (National High School Baseball Championship). The finals are held at Hanshin Koshien Stadium located near Kobe in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. These nationwide tournaments are as popular as professional baseball games. Qualifying tournaments are often televised locally and each game of the final stage at Koshien is televised nationally..

Summer Koshien takes place during the summer school vacation period, culminating in a two-week final tournament with 49 teams in August (with two from Hokkaidō and Tokyo and one from each of the other prefectures). The 49 schools taking part in the finals represent regional champions of each of the prefectures of Japan. From mid-June to August, regional tournaments are held to decide who is sent to Koshien. (The Nishiura team is playing in the Saitama prefecture tournament.)

Of the 49 teams in the finals, 34 teams meet in the first round, and 15 teams join at the second round (32 teams play in the second round). Therefore it takes either five or six wins for a team to win the championship. The tournament used to start on August 8th but has been changed to start a day or two early. (The Nishiura team plays Tosei then Sakitama in the "third" round.)

For third year students, a loss at the Summer Koshien signifies an end to their high school baseball career, as there are no other major tournaments for the rest of their academic career. (That's why the Tosei catcher's so sad!) The tournament theme song is "The Laurels of Victory Shine on You" (sung in the anime). It is common for players to collect soil from the stadium grounds as souvenir after their team has played their final game (usually after a loss). For third year students the dirt is usually kept as memorabilia, whereas lower grade players often use it as motivation to return to the tournament once again.

The summer rules are the same as in the spring. It is a single elimination tournament with nine inning games. Games are declared official after seven complete innings in the case of suspension (due to weather), except for the championship game which must be played to completion. For the regional tournaments, games are ended if one team leads by at least ten runs after five innings or seven runs after seven innings ("called game"), except in the championship games. Designated hitters are not used. Four umpires are used, except for night games in which two outfield line umpires are added.

Usually, 1st year students cannot take part in Spring Kōshien (only 2nd and 3rd year students), so in three years of high school there are five chances for a player to go to Kōshien.