Brave Hong Kong earn the respect of world-leading Japan after giving them a huge scare in baseball’s Asian Cup
Home side go down 2-0 in a game that was on a knife-edge
Hong Kong were one swing away from causing one of the biggest upsets in Asian women’s baseball at the BFA Women’s Baseball Asian Cup this afternoon.
World number one Japan ultimately held on to a 2-0 lead to edge out the home side, but suffered a huge scare in the last inning at Sai Tso Wan.
After infielder Vivien Cheung Wai-yee hit the sweet spot, Hong Kong’s second and third runners dashed towards the home base – much to the delight of the roaring home crowd – only to be pipped at the base by clever Japanese catchers.
“One swing can be the difference in a ball game,” says coach Anthony Bennett, who along with manager Jose Au Wing-leung and coach Leung Yu-ching orchestrated the valiant performance. “We tried to squeeze something through and take the momentum, but unfortunately it didn’t pan out.”
Tenth-ranked Hong Kong’s aggressive start was a cause for concern, as it appeared the team was overeager to score points early on. A cautious Japan comfortably dealt with the attacks and soon secured what would be the only two points of the game.
What followed was a throwing masterclass from pitcher Tiffany Au Ho-ying, who became a mainstay on the hill at the top of each inning.
“Credit to the team for going toe-to-toe against Japan. We performed better than expected and that was largely due to [Tiffany],” says coach Au.
“It was a no-brainer [to keep her on the field]. Tiffany kept us in the game and continued to attack,” says Bennett.
The 19-year-old Au admitted there were some nerves when facing hitters from the top women’s team in the world, but did not let it faze her.
“I threw well today. I made it so that [Japan] were forced to hit the ball in places they didn’t want to,” she reveals.
Au was quick to praise the team’s defence, who for the fourth inning onwards did not give Japan a sniff at any point.
“Our fielding and our hands were really good today. I think we finally warmed up from the previous matches, so expect even better,” says Au.
The impressive shutout was capped off with an outrageous piece of outfield play at the bottom of the sixth inning. Michelle Kwan Man-hoi flailed backwards to catch what looked like a certain point-scoring hit from Japan, giving Hong Kong hope in the last inning.
The girls came up just short, but a close contest against a team of such magnitude only brings more promise.
“When you play the world number one, it’s essential that you make the routine plays. Then, the great plays take care of themselves.”
“We wanted them to take us seriously, to have a little respect for us. We accepted the challenge and rose to the occasion today.”
Hong Kong’s final game is against eighth-ranked Korea tomorrow afternoon. Korea now sit alongside Hong Kong in the overall leader board – with two wins and two losses – following a 17-0 loss to Chinese Taipei this afternoon. The result was not dissimilar to Hong Kong’s 17-1 loss to Chinese Taipei on Monday.
The stakes could not be higher, as Bennett explains:
“After our showing today, we have the opportunity to move up in the rankings if we get a big win against Korea.
“We want to take care of the baseball like we did today.”