Taiwan hopes to learn from Sunday’s missed chances

There are two ways Kuo-Chiang Lee can look at stranding runners in all but one inning in his Taoyuan, Taiwan, team’s 3-2 loss to Tokyo at Lamade Stadium.

They were missed opportunities for runs, though they also are teaching opportunities for the team’s manager.

Lee didn’t even mind the defeat Sunday – he knows Japan is a perennial power here – but he just hopes his players can learn from what happened.

“Winning or losing is very normal when playing these ballgames,” Lee said through an interpreter. “The most important thing is how they’ve already learned.”

Lee’s team made a run at Tokyo with a two-run sixth inning, but that wasn’t enough as Japan prevented the tying run after its own two-run sixth.

Spurred on by a rather large cheering section that included a handful of adults waving national flags from the bottom of the stands, Taiwan hoped to tie the game earlier than that, but never could. Its leadoff man Chia-Ming Lin, reached in the fifth, but then Teng-Yu Wang hit into a 5-3 double play when he popped up a bunt.

The fifth was the only inning Taiwan didn’t strand any runners, though its only runner in scoring position before the sixth inning was after Huai-Chien Lan’s first-inning two-out double.

What should have pleased Lee was that his team caused Japan at least as many missed opportunities. Japan left runners on base in each of the first three innings, and then Taiwan pitcher Shih-Che Chou struck out the side in the fourth and pitched a perfect fifth.

“If our pitcher can control the game, and he did, that’s the first thing we want to do,” Lee said. “But then, in the fifth inning, our kids tried to bunt the ball, but he failed and the result was a double play. That’s what hurts the most.”

That word, failure, might not be an exact translation of Lee’s overall thoughts, since he was mostly positive in describing his players’ night.

“It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, but it’s the whole process that’s most important to these players,” Lee said. “If they’ve performed well during the game, then they have a lot of opportunity.”

Lee wasn’t the only manager in this game trying to make sure the players felt as little pressure as possible. Japanese manager Masumi Omae said he could sense tension from his own team’s parents.

“In the Asian tournament, either Taiwan or Korea is the toughest opponent,” Omae said. “Always has been.”