Pictures by Osamu Takezaki and Kaede Moriyama (Japan Softball Association)
Singapore’s Japanese connection in pitcher Taiki Kang, was in his element giving Hong Kong no chance against him and had two home runs, as the Republic trounced them 22-0 in the called game in after three innings, in the opening U18 Men Softball Asia Cup 2023 game at the Kochi Softball Fields at Kochi Athletic Recreation Park, Haruno.
The game started an hour late (scheduled 9am), as the pitch was unfit for play after and overnight downpour which saw the pitch waterlogged in certain areas.
The volunteer groundsmen using foam, shovels and wheel barrows drained out the water, before fresh dry soil was put on and the pitch was lined, before the teams were allowed to have their practice and begin the game.
It took Singapore an hour and half to demolish Hong Kong, who besides having to deal with Taiki, were letdown by their poor pitching and even changing their pitchers on two occasions, was no help.
Seeto Wang Hin Ryan started as pitcher before infield player Chan Shing Hei took over and then Chit Huang. All three had problems, with them pitching all over.
Chinese Taipei’s woes continued for their second back-to-back game when wet down 0-15 to host Japan.
Lucky for Chinese Taipei, Japan just did what they needed to win for a called game in three innings chalking 3 runs in the bottom first innings, four in the second and 8 in the third.
Singapore on the other hand, besides having a great pitcher in Taiki, also had to thank him for two home runs in the first and second inning, bringing home four runs each time for a grand slam.
But Taiki was modest. “ I just did my best and glad that everything worked well for me and my team.
“What is important is that I must be consistent. One game does not win us the tournament,” said Taiki who turns 19 on August 14.
“I am actually lucky to be playing in this tournament, as it it is a Under-18 tournament but because it was postponed from last year, Softball Asia and WBSC, have decided that those who were born in the year 2004, still could compete in both the Asia Cup and World Cup as 19 year old.”
Taiki, who speaks some Japanese, was last in Osaka five years ago with his Japanese mother and Singaporean father. His mother is a Singapore citizen now.
“I am born and bred in Singapore and study at Nanyang Polytechnic,” said the banking and finance student, who follows the footsteps of his parents who are both have finance backgrounds.
Taiki said that he was actually an infield player, but started off as a pitcher recently when his team lacked a pitcher.
“But it was just for fun and went back to be an infield player, until I was told to train as a pitcher for the Asia Cup,” said Taiki who pitch is power-packed between 100 to 108 kmh.
Asked about his power behind his pitch he said: “ I only started to go to the gym a month ago to build some muscle and strength and also train seriously as a pitcher.”
But judging from his performance as a pitcher and batter, Taiki certainly looks to be a stand out in this tournament.
Taiki, the second in his family, had his older brother, Kenji, playing softball too, but since ha stopped.
Yesterday, to share Taiki’s joy was his father, who was in the stands.
“My mother could not come because of work,” said Taiki.
Singapore coach, Muhammad Farhan Harahap, said that Taiki certainly played a key role in his team’s victory.
“As a pitcher he was consistent and above all he is an all-weather pitcher. That is why were not concerned about the wet and soggy pitch, as we knew Taiki will stand out,” said Farhan.
Just like Taiki, Farhan said that it was a great start to the tournament, but need to be consistent and intend to take one match at a time.
“We treat every opponent with respect here. No team is going to be easy to beat.
“Our aim here is to qualify for the World Cup in Mexico in November as the top two teams and if we can have a shot at Cup, it will be great,” said Farhan who made their team selection in March and have been in training for two months.
Singapore in the second game of the day, where rain being the problem again, saw their game scheduled to be played on pitch B, shifted to the main pitch as pitch B where they were supposed to play was waterlogged and too soggy.
Moving to the main, Singapore was leading 3-1 against Chinese Taipei, when play had to be halted after 57 minutes of play as rain came down again.
A meeting was called by tournament director and Softball Asia president, Datuk Low Beng Choo with technical officials, umpires and team officials to discuss the pitch condition.
After much deliberation, Datuk Low decided that since the pitch was unplayable and cannot be repaired, as it was still raining and light was failing, to postpone the ‘halted match’ between Singapore and Chinese Taipei and the last match of the day between Japan and India, to be played tomorrow (Friday).
“The revised fixtures will see both pitch A and B used and although it will cramp up the fixtures, we have no choice. Let us hope and pray that we will have better weather tomorrow,” said Datuk Low.
“The tournament will resume tomorrow with postponed matches at 10.00am and two of Friday’s scheduled fixtures. The remaining of Friday’s fixtures will be played on Saturday, the last day of the tournament.”
TODAY’S RESULTS AND REVISED FIXTURES:
Singapore 22 Hong Kong 0
India v Chinese Taipei (match postponed because of late arrival of India)
Japan 15 Hong Kong 0
Chinese Taipei 1 Singapore 3 (match halted after 57 minutes and later postponed to tomorrow)
Japan India (match postponed to tomorrow)
TOMORROW’S (THURSDAY) FIXTURES:
10.00am Singapore v Chinese Taipei (halted and postponed match) – Pitch A
10.30am Japan v India (Postponed matches) – Pitch B
1.0pm Hong Kong v Chinese Taipei – Pitch A
1.30pm India v Singapore – Pitch B
8.00am Japan v Chinese Taipei – Pitch A
8.00am Hong Kong v India – Pitch B
11.00am Japan v Singapore – Pitch A
11.00am India v Chinese Taipei- Pitch B (Postponed match today morning)
1.30pm Bronze Medal PR#3 v PR#4
3.30pm Gold Medal PR#1 v PR#2