A recent first round qualifying game for the high school league national championship between rivals Nichidai Fujisawa (Japan University’s High School) and Buso ended in controversy after a botched infield fly ball was mishandled causing a Nichidai runner to steal home and earn a walk-off victory for their team.
During the bottom of the ninth, bases were loaded with one out and the score tied 2-2. The Nichidai batter hit an infield pop fly causing the umpire to call the infield fly rule. Either the players for Buso didn’t see the call or they forgot that the ball was live when an infield fly is called since as they were discussing the next pitch the third base runner had tagged up and quietly snuck into third to win the game.
The initially calm pitcher for Buso appealed the call but was denied, sealing the victory for Nichidai. Some Buso players disgusted with this outcome began to yell and refused to take part in the customary bow at the end of the game (akin to the handshake).
While the Buso infielders can certainly take partial blame for not playing the call right, this is another case of the infield fly rule causing controversy since at heart it’s purely a judgment call of whether or not the ball is easy to catch.
From watching the video the third baseman and the shortstop both go for the ball at the same time, conceivably interfering with each other. The third baseman taking a tumble during the catch might lend weight to that complaint.
Either way, when the call is made a player has no other choice but to go along with it and shouldn’t shrug sportsmanship in the end. The fans, on the other hand, might have a legitimate beef getting ripped off out of a dramatic finish between two top teams.
For people outside of Japan it may seem strange that so much emotion goes into high school baseball. In this country it’s at about the level as college basketball or football in the USA. Like those in sports, many people consider the high school level to be superior to the professional leagues.
Source: Golden Times (Japanese)