Shimonoseki Kokusai high school baseball club made history. The final of the 104th national high school baseball championship, Summer Koshien, was held at Koshien Stadium, Hyogo, Japan, on August 22. Shimonoseki Kokusai of Yamaguchi Prefecture, a first-time finalist, lost the game against Sendai Ikuei Gakuen of Miyagi Prefecture. Although it was the first team from Yamaguchi Prefecture to reach the final at the tournament since 1958, it failed to capture its first Summer Koshien title.
Shimonoseki Kokusai, however, attracted many high school baseball fans. They won continuously against the top two Championship contender teams. One of the teams was Osaka Toin high school, who showed overwhelming strength because they won two national tournaments this season, such as Meiji Jingu in Tokyo and the Spring Koshien tournament before the Summer Koshien.
Shimonoseki Kokusai clashed with Osaka Toin in the quarterfinals. Osaka Toin dominantly pushed forward the game, but Shimonoseki Kokusai changed the situation with a triple-play to escape from a pinch of no-outs runners on first and second base. The triple-play was only the ninth time in the Summer Koshien history of more than 100 years. In the ninth, with a 3-4 score, Shimonoseki Kokusai made a chance with one out, runners on second and third base, and a clutch hitter, Yuto Kaya, hit a two-run single to turn the table. Shimonoseki Kokusai finally won a come-from-behind victory, 5-4. No one expected the favorite for the title to lose in the quarterfinals. More than 30,000 fans were excited in the Stadium.
Shimonoseki Kokusai played Ohmi high school, another favorite for the title. Ohmi was the second-place team in this Spring Koshien tournament. They captured one of the best pitchers, Haruto Yamada of Ohmi. Shimonoseki Kokusai effectively scored with unabated vigor from the first inning and made sure to win the game by two squeezes in the eighth, 8-2.
Although Shimonoseki Kokusai lost the final match, they admirably had a performance throughout the tournament. The finalist consisted of two good pitchers, Kosei Koga and Shin Nakai, and a solid hitting lineup. Captain Setora Yamashita put the team together very well.
Shimonoseki Kokusai was a weak team with almost no wins when Hidenao Sakahara became a manager in 2005. Sakahara started from collecting hopeful players and built the team by giving them hard training with affection. The manager successfully led the team to the 99th Summer Koshien in 2017 for the first time in the school's history. After then, the school achieved two-time Spring Koshien participation and five-time Summer Koshien participation with manager Sakahara.
Captain, Yamashita said after the final, "I wanted Mr.Sakahara to be a manager of the No.1 team in Japan."
Pitcher and shortstop Nakai said, "it was good for me to play in this team."
Manager Sakahara said to players crying with tears, "Thank you for coming to this school."
They made high school baseball history.
Shimonoseki Kokusai left a deep impression this summer.
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