THE next generation of Japanese superstars, a combined Tokyo Universities team, certainly lived up to its hype after prevailing 4-0 in its Friendship Series against a Queensland under-25 team on the Gold Coast.
While two of the scores were heavy defeats for the hosts (16-2 and 16-0 in the first and fourth games), the Queenslanders were always going to be up against it.
This touring team featured stars from Tokai University, the recent champions of the All Japan University Baseball Championships.
Tokai University was crowned the best baseball team out of 378 university clubs, winning its first title since 2001.
The Queenslanders showed some fight in games two and three though, losing 7-5 and 6-3, with the series finishing at the Palm Meadows complex last night.
Tokyo Universities captain and catcher Atsushi Shintani said the popularity of baseball in his home country had to be seen to be believed.
"We fill our stadiums for college games. We'd get over 20,000 every game," he told APN through a translator.
That is in comparison to the handful of family and friends that turned out to support Queensland against the Japanese, as baseball has a relatively low profile in Australia.
Shintani, who came up with a run batted in, in each of the two games he played against Queensland, is constantly working on his game.
"I train six days every week, and only have one day off," he said.
"I want to make it to the pro level in Japan."
Shintani said he looks up to Japanese star pitcher for the New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka.
Queensland Under-25 assistant coach Brad Dutton, who plays for the Brisbane Bandits in the Australian Baseball League, said the losses were to be expected against the powerhouse touring team.
"They didn't have any weak players, and they were mostly ABL-standard players," he said.
"We were a little intimidated in the first game, but in the second game we showed a lot of fight."
Dutton said his standout players were first baseman Mitch Nilsson (nephew of Australian Major League All Star Dave Nilsson) and pitcher Jeremy Atkinson.
Nilsson came up with three hits for the series (one each in the first three games).
Atkinson was one of the few pitchers that didn't leak too many runs, giving up three in the four innings he threw over two games.
Both Atkinson and Nilsson have represented the Bandits.
Dutton is hoping the top players in his team like Atkinson and Nilsson can help the Bandits into the post-season this summer, after the club picked up the wooden spoon in three of the past four competitions.
"We're hoping some fringe Bandits players are right here in this squad. It's been hard in previous seasons when they've had to draw guys straight from the under-18 or under-23 Queensland teams," Dutton said.
"But there's a good crop of players here now.
"Anything can happen with the Bandits this season.
"Last season we had six or seven tight losses, and who knows what could happen this summer if we turn those into wins."
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