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Japan preps for quarters

by Kaz Nagatsuka

KAWASAKI — Shooting for a first-ever gold medal, Japan isn’t about to let its guard down against anyone and is treating every contest with a one-game-at-a-time mentality.

The host nation takes on Taiwan on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the 5th World University Baseball Championship.

Japan manager Tamotsu Enomoto said after his squad’s practice on Tuesday, that Japan can’t afford to preserve its pitchers for later games, which are likely to be against the United States in the semifinals and Cuba in the final.

“I am going to get all eight pitchers we have ready tomorrow,” Enomoto said. “We don’t want to (have) regrets by preserving (our pitchers).”

As a matter of fact, the Japanese team and Enomoto have never underestimated Taiwan, which fell short to the United States 8-7 after a tiebreaker in their first-round game on Sunday.

“What’s good about the Taiwanese team is,” Enomoto said, “that it has nasty but consistent pitchers.”

He added how his offense can come through will be a key to the game.

But Japan, which qualified in second place behind Cuba in Group B in the first round, is also known for its magnificent pitching corps, headed by famous right-hander Yuki Saito, his teammate at Waseda University Tatsuya Oishi and Tokai University’s Tomoyuki Sugano, a nephew of Yomiuri Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara.

“We have so many great pitchers it gives me a problem (about) who to use,” said Enomoto, the Kinki University manager, with a grin.

Enomoto said that he expects a pitcher’s duel against Taiwan, which means the first run will be enormously important.

“I don’t want a tiebreaker,” Enomoto said with a laugh. “We want to win, say, 3-2 or something like that.”

Up until this point, Enomoto openly revealed his starting pitchers. But now as it is the knockout round, he has changed his stance and gently declined to say who will be on the mound first on Wednesday.

“I wish I could tell you guys (the reporters) that,” Enomoto said. “But we want to win so badly, so I can’t say.

Many are speculating Meiji University right-hander Yusuke Nomura will take the hill for Japan.

“The Taiwanese manager (Yeh Chih-shien) brought me a souvenir. But we want a win more than that,” Enomoto said.