• Kyodo

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High school baseball sensation Kotaro Kiyomiya hit his 107th home run Friday, tying the all-time national record for senior high school players as his Waseda Jitsugyo defeated Hachioji 4-1 in a qualifier for next month’s National High School Baseball Championship

The 18-year-old senior led off the seventh inning with a solo homer into the left-center field stands to score Waseda’s third run in a semifinal game of the contest to decide the western Tokyo representative at the national tournament.

Kiyomiya, who is the team captain, shares the all-time mark with Hiroki Yamamoto who played for Shinko Gakuen through the summer of 2012.

“After I swung at the pitch, I thought it might be a hit, but I think all my training made that one homer possible,” Kiyomiya said after the game. “Before I went to bat, the manager told me to create a scoring opportunity so I was thinking only about getting on base.”

Spectators of all ages applauded and cheered as Kiyomiya crossed the plate at Jingu Stadium where about 17,000 turned out to watch the morning game.

“I think Hachioji’s pitches were difficult to hit. To be able to hit a homer was amazing,” said Shuhei Nakamura, 28, who came from Yamagata Prefecture. “It took me three hours to get here, but it was worth it.”

Tsuyoshi Abe and his 11-year-old son Hikaru arrived at the stadium at 7 a.m., three hours before the game began.

“I wasn’t sure if there will be seats because Kiyomiya is a huge star,” Abe said. “I wanted to show my son the 107th homer because he is also playing baseball.

“Kiyomiya has become more and more popular, but his batting is not influenced by it. He never changes his batting style,” Abe added. “I want my son to override Kiyomiya’s record when he is in high school.”

Hikaru Abe said, “Kiyomiya hits a lot of homers when the team needs it. I want to play like him.”

The record for home runs in high school is an unofficial figure that the media or players themselves tally. It includes homers hit during practice games as well, without having specific regulations as to the number of games or the stadium.

Yamamoto, 23, who did not pursue a career in professional baseball and joined West Japan Railway Co. where he played for its corporate team until last year, said he hopes Kiyomiya will surpass the record soon.

“It’s impressive that he’s able to hit (home runs) amid all the attention,” Yamamoto said in a statement issued by JR West. “I think he will become a player who will lead Japanese baseball. You cannot compare him with me. I hope he will play baseball without worrying about what others think of him.”

Waseda Jitsugyo, which missed out on a place in the national tournament last year with a quarterfinal loss to Hachioji, will face Tokaidai Sugao in Sunday’s western Tokyo final.

“It’s good if I can mark a new record, but it’s no use if we can’t win the game,” Kiyomiya has said. “I hope I can bat as usual.”

The annual national championship takes place at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, starting on Aug. 7.

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