But who really won?

It’s summer in Japan, which means its once again time to get young men out in the blazing heat to play highly competitive baseball in open-air stadiums. Health concerns aside, national high school baseball tournaments are a hallowed tradition in the country, and a tier of baseball enjoyed on par, if not more so, than the professional leagues.

As is often the case in high school or collegiate level sports, there’s a higher level of passion and drive that makes the games all the more exciting. To show just how hard all these kids play, the first game of the Chiba regional qualifying rounds of the 104th National High School Baseball Championship on 11 July was exemplary. It was during the game that Chiba Gakugei High School trounced Wasegaku High School 82-0. You might be wondering why no mercy rule was in place to stop this massacre, but in fact there was and Chiba Gakuei racked up over six dozen runs despite it.

▼ The scoreboard of the game

In Japanese high school baseball, a game is called if one team is ahead of the other by 10 or more runs at the end of the fifth or sixth inning, or seven or more runs at the end of the 7th or 8th inning. In this instance Chiba Gakugei was up by 65 points by the bottom of the second inning, so a called game was pretty much a foregone conclusion, but the rule wouldn’t kick in until at least three more innings were played.

This was the first time the team got a fifth-inning called game on their first game of the tournament, and that’s just one of the records set during this monumental game. Chiba Gakugei also broke the record for most runs in a single inning with 32 in the first, and then broke it again in the second inning with 33. Similarly they got the record for most home runs in a single inning with four in the first, and then went on to break that too, by knocking seven out of the park in the second inning. They also got the record for most consecutive runs ever.

A number of personal records were also made, such as third-year player Kensuke Saito who got back-to-back home runs for the first time. All in all, Chiba Gakugei got 17 home runs before the game was finally put to rest.

One record that surprisingly wasn’t broken, however, was biggest blowout. That’s held by a 122-0 victory by Too Gijuku High School in the Aomori Prefecture Tournament in 1998. At that time games were called in the seventh inning, but Too Gijuku had 93 runs by the fifth so still comparatively outscored Chiba Gakugei.

▼ The scoreboard from the Too Gijuku victory

In fact, the same day as the game between Chiba Gakugei and Wasegaku, a game in the Mie qualifying rounds Tournament ended with a score of 60-0, showing that lopsided victories aren’t all that uncommon at this stage in the competition. Nevertheless, readers of the news showed a great deal of sportsmanship in saluting both teams for doing their best despite the one-sided result.

“Thank you to all the players who did their best, and good luck in the next round, Chiba Gakugei.”
“Wasegaku seems like mainly a correspondence school, so it’s hard to get together to practice. At least they could get a chance to play.”
“It’s okay to lose by a large amount, as long as everyone is doing their best in this heat.”
“That score is like something in a cartoon.”
“Every team comes from a different background, so it’s not surprising. Good job to everyone involved!”
“This isn’t surprising since there’s a book about Wasegaku’s team called Weakest Nine. Any one who’s read it will probably give that team a big applause just for showing up.”

Weakest Nine: Youth of School Refusal High School Baseball Players (Saijaku Nine Futoko Kyuji no Seishun) was released in 2009 and penned by sportswriter Yuji Yanagikawa, who spent a year following the Wasegaku team. The book is a bleak yet inspiring true account of a team made up of a motley crew of dropouts and kids who refuse to attend other schools. Despite knowing full well that they have absolutely no chance of winning the national championship, they choose to face their fate and try anyway.

So, while it’s nice to see that Chiba Gakugei will go far in the tournament, we should also give Wasegaku a great deal of respect for having the strength to overcome their own adversities just to get on the field that day. The most important victories in life usually have little to do with the score of a game.

Source: Full-Count, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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