For all the talk about speeding up MLB games, a 50-inning high school rubber baseball game in Japan might be the perfect catalyst to starting up productive talks in the United States.
Chukyo and Sotoku, two teams competing in the semifinals of the 59th National High School Rubber Baseball Tournament, traded zeros for 49 innings before Chukyo scraped three runs across the board in the 50th inning.
As MLB's Cut4 noted, the marathon game spanned multiple days and featured nearly 1,400 pitches:
Chukyo starting pitcher Taiga Matsui tossed 709 pitches to earn the win, allowing 26 hits along the way. Jukiya Ishioka of Sotoku tossed 689 pitches, allowing 22 hits.
The game lasted four days, meaning the pitchers came back after multiple lengthy pauses to continue pitching. Had the game continued through 54 innings, the outcome would have been decided by a lottery.
Throwing a rubber ball generally creates less stress on one's arm, but that doesn't lessen how impressive (or mildly horrifying) it is that these high schoolers combined for nearly 1,400 pitches.
"This game was the physically hardest ever for me," Matsui told The Asahi Shimbun after the marathon game mercifully reached its conclusion. "But I showed my (fighting) spirit. As my teammates scored three runs (in the 50th inning), I was able to throw in a relaxed manner in the bottom of the inning. Ishioka was a good rival for me."
Had a game like this occurred in the United States, it unquestionably would have unfolded differently. Pitch counts are a big point of debate, and there's no way a high schooler would have topped 150 pitches or so—even with a rubber ball.
It was truly incredible to see Matsui and Ishioka battle the way they did, though. Hats off to both youngsters, even if Ishioka had to go out with the loss.
Here's hoping both hurlers get a long break before they take the mound again, as there's no doubt each player deserves one after such a lengthy and impressive performance.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR