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SAMURAI JAPAN Interview

Samurai Japan Interview Vol.15 Interview with Women's National Team players Isozaki and Nakashima

8/31/2014Women's

Samurai Japan Interview Vol.15 Interview with Women's National Team players Isozaki and Nakashima

Yukari Isozaki(Samurai Japan)

Truly Japan's ace player, Yukari Isozaki (Samurai Japan) shined in the 5th IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup and was named tournament MVP and Best Pitcher. It is hoped that she will also be an ace player in the next tournament as well. We asked Isozaki about her ambitions for the tournament.

----At the last tournament you led Japan to victory as the team's ace. Looking back again what do you think were the reasons for your victory?

In the tournament before the last one, the 4th tournament in Venezuela, our opponents hit pretty well against me in the preliminary round and we lost a game. It was a bad feeling. The manager at that time, Manager Shintani, told me that if I slowed my curve balls down I could pitch better. Up until the 5th World Cup I worked on my curve balls. At the last tournament with curve balls at the core of my pitching I was able to strike out batters and I think I contributed to victory.

----At the next tournament people are hoping you will be an ace again. How do you feel about that?

At the last tournament I got the MVP award so people around me have big hopes but I think that as long as I just do a good job handling the games that are entrusted to me, that will be enough.

----I think at the next tournament you will often be named as a starter. What kind of mental attitude do you need to play a good game?

This is also advice I got from Manager Shintani in the 4th World Cup, he taught me that it was important to pitch with a good rhythm. Just being conscious of that, I've become able to play good games most of the time. In the end I think if the pitcher's rhythm is bad then it's hard for the fielders to defend so I want to throw at a good tempo.

----What means have you come up with to pitch without blunders?

I'm not a pitcher who can overwhelm batters with my strength so I just have to try to be the type of pitcher who can get the ball when it's hit. I think about what I can do to control the situation after a hit. Also, when we are in a pinch I try not to think of myself as being driven into a corner but rather try to consciously throw so that it is fun. This brings out my natural ability. Even in a pinch, I think the other players can see from the bench and feel easy if a pitcher can stand on the mound and throw confidently. I always try to be that way.

----Isozaki, you've already been in many international tournaments. What kind of pitching do you think will be the key against the world powerhouse teams?

In the end if you just throw fast balls they will easily be hit so the point is how you vary your pitches. I don't know what kind of batters there will be from our opponents, the United States, Canada and Australia. In the last tournament breaking balls were effective. This time I've been practicing slow curves more than before so that I really have them down pat. I want to use those to compete effectively.

----Finally, please share with us some of your enthusiasm for the upcoming tournament.

I've been granted the dream of many women baseball players from all of Japan so I want to show what I've got. I would love to show everyone a fourth straight victory.

Risa Nakashima(Astraia)

This is Risa Nakashima (Astraia), who has appeared since the 2nd IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup and has played in four straight tournaments. At the next tournament you'll be pulling the team along by filling the roles of both pitcher and vice-captain. Also, Nakashima changed to a sidearm delivery. We spoke with her about her obsessiveness when it comes to pitching as well as her ambitions.

----Nakashima, you also played in the 3rd tournament in Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture. What significance do you take from the fact that the tournament will be held in Japan?

The tournament was held in Japan and we also won there, so I think that was the start of a lot of progress for all of women's baseball. I take it as a big chance for women's baseball to spread further in Japan.

The most moving thing about the 3rd tournament in Matsuyama was that there were 10,000 spectators at the final. I hope to see such a large number of fans this time in Miyazaki as well.

----Looking toward this tournament, you changed from an overhand delivery to a sidearm delivery. Why did you change your pitching style?

I've felt I wanted to try a sidearm delivery even since I was using an overhand delivery. When I was throwing overhand I mostly aimed to strike batters out with balls that were not so much powerful as mainly straight. By changing to sidearm delivery I've gotten benefits on my sliders, screwballs, sinkers and change ups; the balls we throw for a change of pace. I'm able to pitch so that batters cannot get a ball they want and really kill it.

----Have you found it more fun to throw with a sidearm delivery?

By changing to a sidearm delivery I was able to learn the fun of pitching to outwit an opponent. It's a pleasant feeling to throw away from the spot the batter is aiming for and make them hit a grounder to third. I always pitch with the ideal of throwing 21 balls in 7 innings, the best possible finish, in mind.

----There are a lot of power batters on the other strong teams. What kind of pitching do you want to show against such powerful batters?

I don't have any information on my opponents, but thinking about the trends of the last tournament, many of the batters were tall, had long arms and a lot of strength. Because of that I want to bunch them up by throwing a lot of pitches on the inside. If I throw low and to the outside, the bat could reach the ball and it could lead to a Texas leaguer. That's why I feel pitching to the inside is important in international tournaments.

----Nakashima, in regular games you are mainly trusted with being the closer. What kind of mental attitude does it take to be a closer.

Well, I don't have a switch that I can turn on from the opening to the closing of the game. From the 1st to the 3rd innings I do my bench work thoroughly. Even when I'm not throwing I have a lot to do and put the team before myself. As the end of the game gets closer I start to do my own preparations. Also, I work as vice captain so I keep the spirit of the bench up and strongly support the players who are going on the field with my words. I'm constantly thinking about what we should be doing while on the bench and I think I've conveyed that to the younger players. I think that will be one of my roles for the upcoming tournament.

----From listening to your words I have strong, good feelings about the Women's National Team. Lastly, please say something to stir up enthusiasm for the next tournament.

Our fourth straight win is at stake. Since we achieved our three-peat our team members have changed and so have the players on the opposing teams. We won't let our guard down, we won't treat the result as a given, we will be a united team and fight hard during each and every game.

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