Heading into the final game of the 2019 Men’s Softball World Championship, we told you about two men to be on the lookout for come game time. First, there was Hiraku Matsuda of Japan. Anyone who tuned in throughout the week knew what he was capable of and they were scheduling their lives around watching him do it some more.
Through 5 appearances Matsuda had a 4-0 record and a .27 ERA over 25.2 innings of work. Over those innings he’d given up just 1 run off 6 hits, walked 2 and struck out 43. On the field, he’d had 3 chances, and 3 putouts, for a perfect fielding percentage.
At the plate, Matsuda was no less threatening. Off the block he was DH for Japan. Ahead of game time on Sunday he was hitting .611 with 6 runs off 11 hits, including a double, 2 triples and 3 homeruns. He’d driven in 13 and collected a total of 25 bases over 18 at bats.
The other name we picked up on, late in the tournament ourselves, was Gian Scialacomo, the 20-year old shortstop from Argentina. The man was perfect ahead of Argentina’s run at the country’s first championship title. Perfect on the field and at the plate. Over his 7 plate appearances he had 7 runs off 7 hits and 7 total bases with a homerun and an RBI. He had also stolen 3 bases.
By tournament’s end Hiraku’s ERA had risen to .46 over 30.2 inning, giving up 2 runs off 11 hits while striking out 47. His batting average had dropped to .545. Matsuda finished the tournament perfect on defense with 1 putout and 6 assists.
Gian closed out the week batting .700 over 10 at bats and fielding perfectly though 9 games with 2 putouts and 5 assists.
After the final game we had the opportunity to speak with both men about their preparation process for the Worlds.
For Matsuda, the focus was on calming his mind. A great call for any pitcher. “At the last tournament Japan did not do very well. This time I tried to live less in the distance and more in the moment. That let me be free of the stress.”
Gian, and the staff he trains with, were busy working on route memory and good old-fashioned fundamentals.
Sebastian Gervasutti, a world-renowned player from Argentina, was on-hand to help with the translation. According to Sebastian, the training program the Argentines follow is incredible regimented and consistent.
“They have a program. They do a gym workout. After that they go to the field and work on defense. After defense, they work on offense. Every single day, 7 days a week, whether it’s game day or not. After, they go to the games, sometimes they have a game in the night and, on the weekends, double headers too.”
During the opening game, the connection between Matsuda and his 1st baseman for the day, Tsukasa Oishi, was clear. We noticed he was listed as a catcher in the media guide and asked the question.
“We know one another well. Oishi is the other half of my regular battery. The catchers were all very, very helpful with keeping me focused.”
When we asked Gian to tell us how he got into the game of softball, we soon learned why Sebastian was nearby.
“My family is a softball family.”
Sebastian explained, “His dad introduced me to the sport. His dad, his uncles, everyone in the family, they started with softball when they were very young. 6-7 years old, I’m talking very young. These guys, he has two brothers, they are 3 brothers total, they started when they were little boys. They started going to the field. You know, when you see that from the kid and you have talent like him, it comes out in its own time.”
We asked Gian what he’d learned from the tournament. For this, Sebastian need not have interpreted. The message was clear. “I learned to play like I am at home and enjoy it, enjoy it, enjoy it.”