In the Taiwan Junior Baseball Championship last weekend, powerhouse Shan Hua Senior High School of Greater Tainan edged Ren Yi High School of Chiayi City by scoring the winning run in the ninth inning to earn a narrow 4-3 victory that propelled them to the round-of-16.
Having adopted a new, expanded format of 51 teams this year, the high-school baseball championship — known as the “Black Leopard Banner” — was restructured by the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA), the body in charge of developing amateur baseball.
In other results, Tainan Senior Marine Fishery Vocational School blanked Tatung High School of Taipei 15-0 to advance in the tournament, while Cheng Te High School of Hsinchu County also grabbed a berth with a lopsided 24-0 triumph over Tung Shih Vocational High School of Greater Taichung.
Among the other teams reaching the round-of-16 were several perennial contenders, including Ku Pao Vocational High School of New Taipei City, Taoyuan County’s Ping Cheng High School, Nan Ying Vocational High School in Greater Tainan and Greater Taichung’s Si Yuan High School.
“The competition is organized by the CTBA and the sports council. We want to expand youth baseball to all high schools. Already, we are seeing positive effects, with more students wanting to sign up for school teams next year. So the tournament will definitely be larger next year,” CTBA secretary-general Richard Lin said.
“We are looking to emulate the success of Japan’s Koshien competition [a national high-school baseball championship], which has built up a near 100-year-old history with rich traditions,” Lin added, “We hope to sustain the initiative with the support of the public and private sectors, as well as the participation of every high-school team in the nation. Perhaps then the Black Leopard Banner competition can become as long-lasting as the Koshien.”
With the preliminary rounds all wrapped up, the teams willl take a break at the end of the year before the round-of-16 contests start on Thursday next week at the Tianmu Baseball Stadium in Taipei. The championship final is scheduled for Jan. 12.
The value of such competitions can be seen in a previous national high-school championship known as the “Golden Dragon Banner,” which was held 1995 and 2003. Many of the event’s participants went on to become big stars in overseas leagues.
Notable players from that era are known as the “Golden Dragon Banner” generation. They include some of the nation’s biggest international stars, such as Chen Wei-yin, currently with the Baltimore Orioles; former New York Yankee Wang Chien-ming; Kuo Hong-chih, a former Los Angeles Dodger; Kevin Huang, formerly at the Boston Red Sox in the minor leagues; ex-Detroit Tiger Ni Fu-te; the Cleveland Indians’ Lee Chen-chang; Chen Chin-feng, another former Dodger; and Chang Chih-chia, who played for the Seibu Lions in Japan.