Tokaidai Sagami High School wins spring Koshien title amid pandemic

(Photo: Tokaidai Sagami High School players Eiki Ishikawa, front, and Hayato Ishita embrace after winning the spring high school baseball invitational tournament championship game 3-2 over Meiho High School at Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, western Japan, on April 1)

NISHINOMIYA, Japan (April 1Kyodo) -- Tokaidai Sagami of Kanagawa Prefecture pulled off a 3-2 "sayonara" walk-off victory over Meiho of Oita Prefecture in the final of the spring invitational high school baseball tournament before a limited audience on Thursday.

Both the smaller-scale spring version, known as "Senbatsu," and the more popular summer version of the prestigious event that showcases the best Japanese high school players were canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year's spring tournament at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, near Osaka and Kobe, featured 32 schools and opened on March 19 with strict COVID-19 safety measures in place. Up to 10,000 spectators were allowed per game.

Normally all teams march into the stadium for the opening ceremony, but only the six schools with games on the first day took part.

Organizers confirmed all PCR tests carried out on players and team officials before the tournament and after their first-round games returned negative.

The spring title was Tokaidai Sagami's third and the school's first in 10 years.