Wednesday, April 2, 2014

86th Senbatsu - Day 12 - Championship - Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto) vs. Riseisha (Osaka)

And so we reach the championship game.  For all the potential favorites that were out there, we are left with an all-Kinki affair, and a rematch at that.

Riseisha has made it here dominating every game, until that completely nuts game against legitimate contender (and first timers!) Toyokawa.  Despite jumping on not relief starter Abe, but actually ace Tanaka Sora (who had been one of the more dominating pitchers), reliever Nagatani looked finally human for once and they found themselves seemingly in a dogfight late.

However for Toyokawa, they gambled - going all out on offense at the expense of pitching, reminding all of us of the famous (or infamous depending on who you rooted for) Teikyou-Chiben Wakayama game of 2006.  And without #11 Ochiai due to illness, they were out of legitimate pitchers.  Imai-kantoku did his best to find an emergency pitcher, but much like Teikyou, it was all in vain.

I did not have Riseisha as a possible contender for the title, mainly because the pitching didn't seem to hold water.  However, they have succeeded by jumping on their opposition early, and forcing their hand relative to pitching and their offense pressing playing from behind.  Mizota isn't really a stud ace, but has been serviceable despite giving up several runs.  Instead, the heft of the weight actually falls upon Nagatani who is generally tasked with holding the line, wherever it is when he enters the game.  But yesterday's efforts may mean that his effectiveness might be cracking just a bit.

Ryuukokudai Heian had the potential to be a contender considering that Harada-kantoku had been supposedly combining multiple pitchers together to complete a game - essentially breaking the game up into smaller parts that each pitcher could handle.

And yet, for the most part at Koushien, he instead has asked these pitchers to go a full 9 - instead alternating his starters.  This isn't new news, other teams such as Narashino have done it before.  So far, it's been #10 Takahashi Keiji and unknown #18 Motouji Reiji (he wasn't even on the fall roster!!).  Ace Nakata has been put in relief, but outside of his 4.1IP performance, has been used in short stints.  Not a surprise since I believe from reports he's actually considered their "closer".  And there's still 2 pitchers that they haven't used - #11 Inudzuka Takaya and #16 Minato Youichi.  Harada-kantoku has made his pitching as close to true pitching staff as we've seen.

The offense is also impressive from a skill standpoint.  There have been points where Heian have shown their power (hey, it's that Motouji guy hitting a HR!).  But as the Kiryuu Dai-ichi game showed us, these guys can run.  Now sure, against Sano Nichidai, they were like the Blues Brothers, just running around and around, but if done properly it looks to be a legitimate threat.  Speed doesn't slump, and Heian appears to have speed for days.

Now as mentioned before, this is a rematch.  These teams played in the Kinki Super-Regional semifinals with Heian winning that game 11-7.  In that game, Keiji started for Heian, struggled, and then handed it over to Inudzuka who gave up apparently just 1 run thereafter.

On the other side, Nagatani actually started that game, and had two bad innings where he was tagged for 4 runs apiece.  He handed it over to the relief staff who failed to record and out, before ace Mizota entered the game, and finished the final 2.2 innings while giving up another 3 runs.

There should be no secrets going into this game.  These teams are familiar with each other well enough (even #18 Motouji now that Riseisha has 2 games of data) and should make for a very competitive, high-tension final.

The ouen-dans are ready, Riseisha's yellow R, and Heian's black H displayed prominently.  For both Harada-kantoku and Okada-kantoku, it's a high point in their long tenures.  Okada's is approaching 30 years, Harada 20...

So without further ado... our championship game!

Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
CF Tokumoto Kentarou
RF Ootani Tsukasa
2B Himeno Taisei
1B Kawai Taisei
LF Nakaguchi Daichi
3B Tsune Hitoshi
SS Ishikawa Takuya
C Takahashi Yuuya
P Takahashi Keiji (#10)

Riseisha (Osaka)
3B Tsuji Motomasa
2B Inoue Kazuya
SS Yoshida Yuuki
LF Nakayama Shouta
RF Nishimura Takahiro
C Hatta Natsu
CF Kanaoka Youhei (#13)
1B Kinuta Shouta (#14)
P Mizota Yuuto

____________________________________________________________

12:34 - First Pitch!

So Harada-kantoku will go with Keiji once more like the semifinal.  Riseisha goes with Mizota to start instead....

And a cute little elementary school girl throws out the championship game's ceremonial 1st pitch.  Aw....

Top 1st
Tokumoto scorches a slider down the right field line!  He's going for 3!  Riseisha has to throw as he gets in standing triple!

Ootani ball back up middle!  Inoue runs it down, glove tosses to Yoshida, but he has no throw!  Nice try, but Tokumoto scores to make to 1-0 Heian!!

Himeno showing bunt, but can't lay it down running the count to 2 strikes.

Shows bunt!  And he lays it down.

#10 Nagatani already in the bullpen as Mizota falls behind 2-0.

Kawai slicer down left field line... just foul!

Ball 4!  Mizota puts another runner on as Hatta goes to to talk to his ace...

It doesn't help!  Mizota walks Nakaguchi on 4 straight and it's manrui for Heian!  Hatta goes out for another talk as Nagatani warms up...

Ball 1 way high!  Will Tsune hand Mizota the rope?

Doesn't need to!  Mizota hits him in the back!  Oshidashi dead ball and it's 3-0 Heian!

And still no change at P!

Finally, a first pitch strike to Ishikawa.  He swings and fouls off another, behind 1-2.

Checks his swing, just....  Umpire doesn't give go around.

Jammed!  Pops it up to 2nd.  Inoue on the outfield grass, makes the catch,  2 down.

Mizota still struggling with the zone.  Falls behind Yuuya 2-0 before firing 2 to level the count.

Pops it up!  Kinuta near the bullpen, makes the catch to retire the side.

But Heian has decided to take the fight to Riseisha and put them on their heels!  Despite the barrage Mizota stays in.

Bottom 1st
How will Riseisha respond?

Before that, Himeno is apparently getting treatment for something.  For what I'm not sure.  He emerges, and looks ok, but not sure what happened there.

Keiji not looking too sharp, falling behind Tsuji 3-0, and then hits him!  Oy.

The wildness works to Keiji's advantage against Inoue who was trying to bunt.  Winds up behind 0-2.

Lunges to bunt, and pushes it foul!  1 out!  Why bunt on that pitch?

Keiji at least missing in the right places, but still not close and wait a sec.. a pitch that looked over the plate is called ball 4??

Nakayama up now with the douten run on base.

And suddenly, against the righty, he gets ahead 0-2?!  Then gives one back on a waste pitch.

Nakayama ball down the right field line... foul!!!  Just foul!

Fastball inside, just a little too much...

SANSHIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Keiji throws out the curve and Nakayama is way out in front for the 2nd out!

Nishimura high chopper in front of the plate!  Keiji waits for it, turns and fires.. 3 out!  Keiji has his own issues on the mound, but unlike his counterpart, gets the donut!

Top 2nd
A better start to the inning for Mizota as Keiji rolls one to short for the first out.

Tokumoto still going after Mizota, but gets under a pitch this time.  Nakayama coming in, makes the sliding catch for the 2nd out.

Ootani up, behind early, he works the count full... only to watch the changeup go right down the middle for the 3rd out.  Well, for at least an inning, Mizota has settled down.

Bottom 2nd
Hatta sharp liner through the left side for a leadoff single.  Kanaoka, getting a start after his efforts last game,bunts the runner along.  Riseisha fine with playing for 1 run early.

Kinuta goes after a high pitch and hits it up the middle!  Inoue looks to be there, but no!  It somehow gets by him and into center!  Hatta being sent home!  Throw from Tokumoto... not in time!  Kinuta gets a run back with a timely single!  2-1!

Mizota up, and he bunts the runner along for the top of the order.

Tsuji ball up middle!  Ishikawa just picks it up off the end of his glove!  Square and throws to 1st... 3 out!!!  Nice play by Ishikawa to keep the lead!

Top 3rd
One down, and I don't think Mizota wants to face Kawai at all.  He winds up walking him for the 2nd time.

And now he's missing the zone on Nakaguchi as well, and walks him again on 4 straight!

Are they trying to work around the 4 & 5 batters?? So they'll walk 2 batters just to get to Tsune?

It might work though!  Tsune grounds to 2nd.  Yoshida to 2nd for 1, throw to first high!  Kinuta tries the tag, but he's safe!  Heian still has a chance!

Ishikawa grounder to the right side!  That's by Kinuta!  That gets by Inoue too!! Base hit!  Kawai scores!  Tsune to 3rd!  Ishikawa going to 2nd... throw from Tsuji... OUT!!!

Ishikawa runs himself out of the inning trying to take an extra base!  The run does score, but Riseisha avoids more.  3-1 Heian!

Bottom 3rd
Inoue gets Riseisha another leadoff runner with a hard single past a diving Ishikawa.  Yoshida not bunting though.

Yoshida takes the slider the other way!  It slices down the left field line fair!  Inoue heads to 3rd and Riseisha with a great opportunity here!

And it looks like it's forced Harada-kantoku's hand here.  #18 Motouji comes in for Keiji to take the hill.

Okada-kantoku elects to bunt!  Nakayama lays it down, and advances Yoshida to 2nd.  Interesting...

Nishmura chopper!  Runners going on contact!   Tsune goes home... and Inoue doesn't even make it there.  2 out.

Motouji though being very careful with Hatta.  Borderline pitches all the way, yet he sneaks one in and gets a swinging strike on a change.  Full count.

Grounder to 2nd!  Himeno gathers it in!  Takes his time, goes to 1st... 3 out!  Motouji gets Heian out of a no out, runners at the corners situation!

Top 4th
Yuuya swings on a high fastball and drives it to right center.  Tateishi and Nishimura headed towards the wall!  It lands just in front of it!  Yuuya already around 2nd, and reaches 3rd without a throw!

Motouji looking for any decent fly ball to get the runner in, has the count run to 2 strikes and fights a pair off.

But Mizota wins the battle, twisting him on a fastball inside.

Now the hard part begins.  Leadoff batter Tokumoto steps in.

However, he is not eager.  Takes his pitches, gets ahead 3-1.  Takes a change for strike 2.

Fastball outside and up!  Tokumoto takes it the other way!  Yoshida has no play and Yuuya makes it 4-1!

And Tokumoto takes off for 2nd!  Throw from Hatta, not nearly in time!  Now a base hit from Ootani could tack on another!

But again, he's patient.  Not chasing, and works his count full.

SANSHIN!

This time though, Mizota breaks out the change and Ootani swings and misses for the 2nd out.

If Riseisha is really unintentionally intentionally walking the 4-5 batters, they probably would like to get Himeno out.

And they do.  Himeno flies to left to end the inning.

Bottom 4th
Kanaoka with a screamer towards 2nd.  Himeno smothers it, goes to 1st for the out.

But Kinuta needs a moment at 1st after Motouji hits home on the first pitch.  Okada-kantoku has Mizota bunting.

You don't suppose in this case, Harada-kantoku had Kinuta put on base so Okada-kantoku would waste an out with a bunt?

Well with the count 1-2, he tries it anyways, lays it down on the line, and Yuuya makes the executive decision to make the play at 1st since they were running out of time for any play whatsoever.

Top of the order and Tsuji.

He's looking for his pitch, but Motouji makes the decision for him with a slider for strike 2.

And he gets him to chase the slider down and away for the 3rd out!

Top 5th
Well, it looks like my working around of the middle batter theory isn't really valid.  Mizota is going after Kawai and strikes him out swinging on the slider.

Goes after Nakaguchi as well.  And on a full count, he climbs the ladder on him and it's back-to-back K's.  That's just weird for the 4-5 batters...

Tsune grounds to short for the 3rd out  and it's just Mizota's 2nd 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom 5th
Inoue with a liner to center, but perhaps off the end of the bat and Tokumoto is there for the catch.

Yoshida ball up middle.  Himeno slides over, but can't field it cleanly!  Desperate throw to 1st, not in time!  E4.

AH!  And a low pitch from Motouji scoots on the grounder under Hatta!  Yoshida advances to 2nd!

Nakayama with a ball up the middle!  Himeno makes a great sliding catch!  Double clutches, goes to 1st, gets the out!  He comes back with a great play after the error!

AH!  Nishimura gets a hold of a pitch!  Tokumoto sprinting to the wall!   Leaps!  Just out of his reach!  Yoshida scores and it's a 4-2 ballgame on Nishimura's double!

Hatta looking to make it a one-run game with a base hit.

But he can't!  Motouji with the change gets him swinging and keeps the lead at 2!  We hit the break with Riseisha continuing to chase Heian.  But Motouji in relief has for the most part kept Riseisha at bay.  It's possible in the final Harada-kantoku will go back to splitting the game up into parts like he did in the fall taikais.

Top 6th
Ishikawa badly fooled on a fastball outside, goes down on 3 straight.

Yuuya making it look easy, liner to right for a single. Motouji not bunting, not after that HR in the first game  Makes decent contact, but it's a fly right to Kanaoka for the 2nd out.

Tokumoto with his 3rd hit of the day, a single through the opposite way.

Ootani waiting for his pitch, takes a real borderline one for ball 3... but can't get fortunate twice. He gets rung up and the inning is over.

Bottom 6th
Kanaoka with a blooper to right center.  Tokumoto and Himeno converge, but can't get there in time!  Leadoff runner on again for Riseisha!

After Kinuta bunts the runner over, Mizota is called back.  His day is done as #17 Tsujii comes to hit.  He grounds to 2nd, and advances the runner for the top of the order.

Tsuji though, doesn't have a hit so far...

SANSHIN!!!

And still doesn't!  He chases the forkball and the side is retired!

Top 7th
#10 Nagatani as expected, comes to the mound looking to maintain the line for Riseisha.

His job starts against the 3-4-5 hitters for Heian.

Himeno having a better time of it against Nagatani, has an 9 pitch AB capped off with a liner to center for a base hit.  Kawai, despite having 2 strikes, successfully bunts him along.

Nakaguchi in a prolonged AB against Nagatani, fouling off several pitches...

But Riseisha wins again!  Nagatani has him chasing the slider way outside for the 2nd out.

Tsune trying to get his first base hit, but Nagatani pulls out the slider again, and he foul tips it into the glove for the 3rd out!  Nagatani giving up the leadoff hit, but bearing down after that.  Holds the line for now, but they're slowly running out of time.

Bottom 7th
Lucky 7 for Riseisha, can they start a rally?

0-2 for Inoue, grounder to short for the 1st out.

Motouji issues his first walk of the game, walking Yoshida on 4 straight.

But Nakayama swings on the first pitch and grounds to 3rd!  Tsune goes to 2nd for 1... Himeno to 1st... double play!!  They turn the double play to end the inning!

Top 8th
Defensive changes for Riseisha.  #8 Tateishi comes in for Nakayama and goes to CF.  Kanaoka goes to LF.

Ishikawa a quick flyout to left.

Yuuya with his 3rd hit, waiting on the slider hits it to left.

Motouji hitting, but chases the fastball away for the 2nd out.

Oh?  Balk called on Nagatani? Ah, he really didn't step towards first on that pickoff throw.

Tokumoto with a controlled swing, tries to poke one the other way, but it's hit too hard and Kanaoka makes the catch.

Bottom 8th
Nishimura grounder to short, throw to 1st.  LATE!!!  Ishikawa takes too much time getting the ball off and it's a base hit for Riseisha!  Oh, that's a mental error there from Ishikawa.

Riseisha meanwhile not bunting.  With just 6 outs to play, you might not be able to afford giving one up.

They may not have to!  Motouji falls behind Hatta 3-1 and just gets the call on an inside fastball.

Hit and run!  Grounder to short!  Ishikawa bounces it to first.. and Kawai makes the pick for the out!  Oh, that's dangerous.

And #11 Inudzuka is warming up with the count 2-0 to Kanaoka.  Make that 3-0!  Will we see his first appearance in the finals?

Well, Motouji gets two strikes in to fill up the count, but then bounces a ball for ball 4!  Runners on 1st and 2nd for Riseisha as indeed #11 Inudzuka makes his first appearance on the mound!

His first batter will be Kinuta, no easy out at all.

Hard liner down the right field line foul!

Inudzuka has a weird motion that almost looks like he throwing overhand, yet trying to create a sidearm action?

Either way, after that first foul, he falls behind 3-1!  AND WALKS HIM!!!  Manrui for Heian!!

Nagatani up to hit, but he doesn't really.  What will Okada-kantoku do?

Slow curve way high.  Curve way low!

And after that pitch, Harada-kantoku can't afford to wait any longer.  In comes the first right hander, their closer ace Nakata.

But he enters the game with the bases loaded and the count 2-0!  Not much room for error at all!  Did Harada-kantoku mismanage the bullpen?

Pitch high!  3-0!!

Fastball over for a strike.  3-1.  Fastball again... full count!!!

SANSHIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nakata goes for the slider on a full count and gets the K!  Oh, that takes a lot of balls...

Tsuji up and Nakata gets ahead 1-2!  Waste pitch, 2-2 (Can you really afford that?)

Tsuji jammed!  Grounder back to Nakata!  Goes to 1st... 3 OUT!!!!!

Kawai pumps his fist as Nakata gets out of a manrui 1-out pinch!!!

Top 9th
Ootani walks on 4 pitches to start.  Oh, is this the end for Riseisha?  Himeno bunts him along.

OH?????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kawai crushes a ball! Is it gone?  Is it gone??  Nishimura looking up!

HAITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kawai all but puts the game away with a 2-run HR!  6-2 Heian!!!

Nagatani gets the final 2 outs, but Heian is all but on the precipice of winning the 86th Haru Koushien!

Bottom 9th
Inoue at least will not give up without a fight.  He singles to left center.

Nakata falls behind Yoshida 3-1, but fills up the count, and gets a popup!  Ishikawa secures it for the first out!

#3 Miura to hit for Tateishi, hits a ball down the right field line.. foul!

Count goes to 2-2... now 3-2.

Liner!  But right to Ishikawa!  2 down!! Nishimura the last chance.

Flyball to center!  Tokumoto under it.  Makes the catch!

The team runs out of the dugout as Ryuukokudai Heian wins their first ever senbatsu, 6-2!!

Ryuukokudai Heian had the whole package this Koushien, with a deep pitching staff and an offense that flashed both power and speed.   And outside of the Kiryuu Dai-ichi game, they never trailed in any matchup.  And when they were down, they continued to fight inning after inning putting extreme pressure on a team already tired from 2 consecutive games. Finally, they always seemed to understand the situation at hand.

It was about as complete a performance you could find from a champion.

Credit should be given to Riseisha as well.  Perhaps not considered a title contender to start the tournament, they slowly made their case game after game, putting teams away with their offense and the combination of Mizota and Nagatani on the mound.  And after laying ace Tanaka Sora and Tokoyawa to rest in the semifinal, you had to wonder if this would be their year, especially with the opportunity to avenge the loss they suffered in the Kinki Super-Regional semifinal.

It was not to be though, as it was Heian who played their own game to perfection.  They will have to wait for another time, perhaps a possible draw at Natsu Koushien for another shot.

But congratulations are in order for both teams and for the first time champs Ryuukokudai Heian!

Notable Players
Takahashi Keiji (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 2+ IP, ER, 4 H, 2 K, BB, HBP
Motouji Reiji (Ryuukokudai Heian) - W, 5.1+ IP, ER, 3 H, 3 K, 2 BB, HBP
Nakata Ryuuji (Ryuukokudai Heian) - SV, 1.2 IP, 0 ER, H, K, 0 BB
Tokumoto Kentarou (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 3-5, 3B, R, SB
Kawai Taisei (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 1-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB
Takahashi Yuuya (Ryuukokudai Heian) -3-4, 3B, R
Mizota Yuuto (Riseisha) - L, 6 IP, 4 ER, 7 H, 7 K, 4 BB, HBP
Nagatani Takahiro (Riseisha) -  3 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 3 K, BB
Nishimura Takahiro (Riseisha) - 2-5, 2B, RBI
Inoue Kazuya (Riseisha) - 2-5

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

86th Senbatsu - Day 11 - Semifinal 2 - Sano Nichidai (Tochigi) vs. Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)

Things are always what they seem, it seems... so perhaps this matchup isn't what I think it is.

I say that because Ryuukokudai Heian looked rather average against Kiryuu Dai-ichi - a team that had played 24 innings over the last 2 days.  They started a "relief" pitcher as it were, and from all indications Heian should have dominated.

But perhaps they let their guard down, or looked past them in some way, because Kiryuu came out swinging and put the title contender on their heels.  Give credit to them, they didn't panic, continued to play their own game - which was putting pressure on the basepaths, and the plan worked beautifully as Kiryuu finally had to go to the ace who had gone the aforementioned 24 innings.

Sano Nichidai was given a gift by Meitoku Gijyuku.  Mabuchi-kantoku wanted to play the same-handed matchup so much, he intentionally walked a batter with 3rd base open to do so.  He had tried it in the 7th and it worked out - but not for the reasons perhaps that he thought, but this was a bridge way, way too far to cross.  At some point you have to believe that your team is good enough to get an out.  Instead, Meitoku gave up 2 runs in the 11th, and that pretty much sent them home.

The bigger issue is that Tajima allowed Meitoku to even get back in the game.  They're not a high-scoring squad, but somehow strung 5 consecutive hits to score 4 runs and take the lead.  It's its a symptom of his mentality, then Sano Nichidai had better give him the lead, or else they could be in trouble.

Ryuukokudai Heian still looks like the stronger team, but the shine has been dulled a bit.  An all-Kinki final is at stake if they can win, but Sano Nichidai stands in the way.

Sano Nichidai (Tochigi)
SS Takemura Ritsuki
CF Nagasawa Yoshitaka
2B Yoshida Toshiki
LF Inaba Kousei
RF Koizumi Keita
1B Tamura Kaito
3B Kakizawa Fumiya
P Tajima Daiki
C Sagawa Shou

Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
CF Tokumoto Kentarou
RF Ootani Tsukasa
2B Himeno Taisei
1B Kawai Taisei
LF Nakaguchi Daichi
3B Tsune Hitoshi
SS Ishikawa Takuya
C Takahashi Yuuya
P Takahashi Keiji (#10)

____________________________________________________________

14:35 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Harada-kantoku alternating back to Keiji for the semifinals.

Takemura grounder to 2nd to start the game.  Himeno on the grass throws to 1st for the out.

But he can't get Nagasawa's ball as it goes to right for a base hit.

AHHHH!!!  Nagasawa picked off at 1st by Keiji!  2 down!

And that's a shame because Yoshida singles through short.

And so does Inaba!  It could have been manrui 1 out.

Instead, Koizumi fouls out to Tamura and that's the inning.

Bottom 1st
Tajima unexpectedly on to start the game.  Tokumoto flies out to right, and Ootani grounds to 2nd.

But on his 2nd full count of the game, he just comes too far inside of Himeno and walks him.

And of course I jinx Tajima.  He falls behind Kawai 3-1 before filling up the count.

And then he hits him on the head with an offspeed pitch.  Guess I spoke too soon.

Nakaguchi though pops it up!  Tamura makes the catch and the 2-out chance goes for naught.

Top 2nd
Keiji struggling with command?  He hits Tamura to start the 2nd inning.  And while Kakizawa is showing bunt, Keiji throws 3 balls...

And walks him!!  Uh oh.  #1 Nakata Ryuuji is warming up, but his longest outing is 1 inning.  Will he be called into long relief?

Tajima up, tries to bunt, but fouls the first offering off.  Fouls the second off and it looks like he's going to have to hit now.

Grounder to 2nd!  Himeno goes to 2nd, one, goes to 1st, double play!

No wait!  No neighborhood call for Ishikawa!  Kakizawa is safe at first, and it's a 4-6-3 retirement of Tajima.  Now a Sagawa base hit can score 2!

SQUEEZE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Matsumoto-kantoku calls for the squeeze on 2-2, but the pitch is high and Sagawa bunts it foul!  2 down for Nichidai!

Takemura up to try and give Nichidai the early lead.  Works the count full..

Ball 4!  Takemura holds off on a very borderline pitch and gets the walk!  Manrui for Nichidai!

But Nagasawa swings on the first pitch and grounds to Kawai!  He goes to the bag for the 3rd out, and Sano Nichidai is kind of getting in it's own way to start...

Bottom 2nd
Tajima hits his 2nd batter, this time the feet of Tsune.

Ishikawa to bunt, misses on the low offering, and Sagawa fires to 1st?

They pick off Tsune off 1st! He gets caught jumping the wrong way when Ishikawa misses the bunt and is picked off!  A rare unforced error by Heian on the basepaths!

And that proves costly as Ishikawa drives a ball to deep left center!!  Nagasawa chasing it back to the wall...

Bounces off the padding!  It goes back into play, but not before Ishikawa has a double!

Yuuya with a looper over Yoshida for a base hit!  Ishikawa comes home as Koizumi fires it back!  It's way late, and that allows Yuuya to advance to 2nd! 1-0 Heian!

Keiji goes down quickly for 2 outs.  Tajima trying to limit the damage.

He gets ahead of Tokumoto 1-2, before he starts fouling off a couple.

Drive to right.  Koizumi going towards the foul pole, still going... まさか!

HAITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tokumoto with a 2-run HR to right!  Heian showing the power this time around takes a 3-0 lead!!

Ootani with a soft liner to short ends the inning, but Heian again making the opposition crack under pressure!

Top 3rd
Of course Heian makes it a little tough on themselves.

One down, Inaba hits a slow bounder up the 3rd base line.  Tsune charging in, can't time the hop and Inaba reaches safely!  Base hit for Inaba.

And now Keiji hits Koizumi!  Keiji giving Nichidai an opportunity to get back in the game!

But Tamura goes after the first pitch and grounds to short.  It's a slow roller so Himeno elects to just go to 2nd to keep the force.

It's not needed as Kakizawa flies out to left to end the inning.

Bottom 3rd
Tajima once again gets 2 quick out and looks for a clean inning.

Nakaguchi making that difficult as he works the count full.  Hits scorcher to 3rd.  Kakizawa smothers it!  Throw to 1st, in time to retire the side! Tajima gets his clean inning!

Top 4th
Keiji though, does the same against the 9-1-2 batters of Nichidai and he may have settled down after the first couple of innings.

Bottom 4th
Tsune grounder to short.  Takemura there, but he doesn't field it cleanly!  E6 and Heian gets another runner.

Ishikawa with the bunt, but it's right to Tajima!  He goes to 2nd for 1, Takeumra to 1st, double play!

Tajima about to skate through an inning 1-2-3, but then hits Yuuya on the first pitch.

Fortunately Keiji is not a good batter, and he strikes out to end the inning.

Top 5th
Keiji has settled down into his groove, and despite Inaba's 3rd hit, he gets his 3 outs with no issue.

Bottom 5th
One down for Ootani and he hits a single through short.

Harada-kantoku puts on the hit-and-run, and Himeno hits a seeing-eye single back up the middle for a base hit!  Ootani advances to 3rd.

Kawai with a single through the right side!

Ootani scores!  Throw home not in time, but they have Kawi caught off 1st!  They start the rundown and tag him out!  Himeno meanwhile takes off for home!  Throw back home...

In time, double play!!

It a 9-2-3-6-2 double play! I think.  Either way, Heian with some weird running decisions after last game, but they do have the lead going into the break.

Top 6th
One down for Nichidai and Kakizawa lines a ball into center.  Keiji follows that up by hitting Tajima and giving Nichidai a good scoring opportunity.

Tajima though feels generous, and proceeds to get himself picked off 1st.

Which is a big shame because Sagawa then singles to left, scoring Kakizawa to make it 4-1.

Takemura flies out to end the inning, but Nichidai isn't doing themselves any favors.

Bottom 6th
Unlike the majority of the other innings, Tajima gets a break in the 6th as it takes just 9 pitches to retire the side in order.

Top 7th
Nagasawa with hard grounder to 2nd.  Himeno doesn't field it cleanly, but his throw to 1st just beats a diving Nagasawa.

And so it continues to go with Sano Nichidai.  Unforced errors costing them over and over.  Yoshida and Inaba are retired thereafter and it looks pretty grim for Sano Nichidai.

Bottom 7th
Yet another error from Nichidai.  Kakizawa with plenty of time on the Yuuya grounder, airmails the throw to 1st and Yuuya is safe.  Keiji bunts him to 2nd.

Tokumoto actually shows bunt?!  And fouls it off?

"Aha ha, just kidding", he says apparently.  He lines a ball down the right field line fair, and hustles all the way to 3rd.  Yuuya can trot home and it's 5-1.

Ootani continues the hitting with a liner over Kakizawa's glove down the left field line.  He's in with an RBI double and it's 6-1.  Matsumoto-kantoku calling time, but I wonder what he can do at this point.

Tajima gets the final 2 outs, but Sano Nichidai is down 5 with just 2 innings to go.

Top 8th
Koizumi gets himself out diving into first in a foot race with a covering Keiji.  But outside of a 2-out hit by Kakizawa, Keiji is easily cruising along.

Bottom 8th
Things just falling apart now for Sano Nichidai.

After a one-out Tsune single, Ishikawa singles back up the middle.  Tsune goes to take 3rd, and the throw goes into the dugout.  It's a 2-base error and Tsune scores to make it 7-1.

Yuuya sac fly to center makes it an 8-1 game before Keiji grounds out to end the inning.

Top 9th
It's pretty much a formality at this point.  Sagawa thought, fighting until the end, gets a leadoff single.

But it's wiped out by a 1-6-3 double play.  Quickly 2 down.  Nagasawa grounder to 1st.  Tamura makes the tag on the diving Nagasawa and that's the game!

We will have an all-Kinki final with Ryuukokudai Heian's 8-1 victory over Sano Nichidai!

Sano Nichidai had a great run, but it ends here at the hands of the Kinki champions who continue to show different aspects of their game - speed in one, power in another.  And no team outside of surprisingly enough Kiryuu Dai-ichi has been able to give them trouble.  And with Harada's management of the pitching staff, they look to be in good position in the final.

Notable Players
Takahashi Keiji (Ryuukokudai Heian) - CG, ER, 9 H, 4 K, 2 BB, 3 HBP
Tokumoto Kentarou (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 2-4, 3B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI
Ootani Tsukasa (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 2-4, 2B, R, RBI
Ishikwa Takuya (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 2-4, 2B, 2 R
Tajima Daiki (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 8 IP, 5 ER, 10 H, 3 K, 1 BB, 3 HBP
Inaba Kousei (Sano Nichdai) - 3-4
Kakizawa Fumiya (Sano Nichidai) - 2-3, R, BB
Sagawa Shou (Sano Nichidai) - 2-4, RBI

86th Senbatsu - Day 11 - Semifinal 1 - Riseisha (Osaka) vs. Toyokawa (Aichi)

Semifinal action means the 2nd consecutive game for all 4 teams.  Winning it all means winning 3 games in 3 days - something that is a lot to ask for a lot of teams, even the best of them.

Riseisha and Toyokawa both won their game in handy fashion 6-2.  Riseisha's offense continues to impress, this time around putting early pressure on Fukuchiyama Seibi and not letting go.  Mizota was his usual successful, but shaky self and had to concede the mound again to Nagatani, who does have more than just the fastball, though I think he likes to see if batters can hit it.  He's become more than a serviceable reliever, and has steadied the ship when things appear to go awry.

Toyokawa has impressed in every step of the way, defeating the likes of Nihon Bunri and yesterday Okinawa Shougaku.  The offense isn't as strong as Riseisha, but seems to have good prep for the opposing starter.

But really, their strength is ace Tanaka Sora.  He has been dominant in every game so far, thanks to his various pitches and strong control.  Now, there were some hiccups in their most recent game against Okinawa Shougaku, and stamina will of course be an issue now.

However, if Tanaka can continue on like this, it's possible we will have 2 title holders that were first time participants (Maebashi Ikuei currently holds the Natsu Koushien title).

Riseisha (Osaka)
3B Tsuji Motomasa
2B Inoue Kazuya
SS Yoshida Yuuki
LF Nakayama Shouta
RF Nishimura Takahiro
C Hatta Natsu
1B Kinuta Shouta (#14)
CF Tateishi Satoshi
P Mizota Yuuto

Toyokawa (Aichi)
3B Nakamura Kazuya
CF Sugiura Kenta
C Himi Taisuke
SS Takakuwa Heishirou
1B Itou Tappei
RF Takeichi Keishi
LF Yamada Daichi
P Abe Tatsuya (#10)
2B Shima Kairi

____________________________________________________________

11:03 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Interesting!  Toyokawa goes to their bench to start the game!  Abe will see his first action in the Senbatsu semifinals!!

Abe is a left against a left-heavy lineup.

First two pitches are changeups for balls.  Misses again and it's 3-0. Finally gets a fastball over for a strike.

But he throws ball 4!  Leadoff runner on for Riseisha!  Inoue showing bunt, but Abe still having some trouble finding the bottom of the zone.

Inoue tries to lay a low pitch down, but fouls it off and now has 2 strikes.  Still showing bunt, and successfully lays it down.  Yoshida up to try and drive the run in with a base hit.

Hard grounder right to Shima!  He blocks it, and goes to 1st for the out.  Runner advances to 3rd.

Once again, Abe falls behind to Nakayama.

Nakayama to right, but Takeichi doesn't have to move to make the 3rd out.  It's shaky at best for Abe right now.  Can he settle down, or how long can he hold out?

Bottom 1st
On the other side Mizota will start, but how long before he steps aside as well?

He too can't seem to find the zone, falling behind leadoff batter Nakamura 3-0 as well!  Ball 4 and Toyokawa has a runner on!

And already #10 Nagatani is warming up.

Sugiura lays down the bunt, but Mizota up with it!  Goes to 2nd and cuts down the lead runner!

Bad break for Toyokawa, but Himi picks them up with a first pitch single to left!  Toyokawa threatening here in the 1st!

Ah, but Takakuwa gets jammed inside!  He gets the bat around, but hits a sky fly!  Tateishi makes the catch for the 2nd out.

Mizota continues to get himself into trouble.  Against Itou, he's not really close and walks him on 4 straight.  Manrui for Takeichi!

And I don't think they were working around Itou, because he falls behind Takeichi 2-0!

Takeichi pops it up!  Inoue camping under it, makes the catch for the 3rd out and Mizota dodges a bullet!

Top 2nd
Liner back up middle!  It hits Abe in the leg!  He goes to field it, but has no play.  More importantly he is definitly hurting.

Ace Tanaka immediately warms up.

But after some itai spray, and a couple of warmups, he seems good to go.

Hatta tests him with a bunt, which he fields no problem.

Despite Kinuta being the #7 hitter, Abe working exclusively away, and Kinuta still manages to pull the ball to the right side, advancing the runner along.

SQUEEZE?

Tateishi with the running bunt, but fouls it off.

AH!  But Abe hits Tateishi, putting runners at the corners for Mizota!

Mizota not known for being a great hitter though and falls behind 1-2.  Does manage to just foul one off though... and barely another...

I don't know if Abe is trying to get him to chase, but 2 balls put the count full!

SANSHIN!!!!

Abe pulls the curve on Mizota and he goes down swinging! 3 out!

Bottom 2nd
Mizota getting a breather against the bottom of Toyokawa's lineup.  Yamada and Abe groundout on a total of 3 pitches.

Shima though, proves to be tougher.  2-2 count, fouls off a couple.

Grounder up 1st base line... Fair!!  Kinuta just a tad late and it's down the line!  Shima in with a double!

Nakamura up, looking to open the scoring with a base hit.

Nakamura gets around the inside pitch and pulls it to right!  It falls in front of Tateishi!  Shima waved around, throw home, cut off!!  Toyokawa takes the 1-0 lead on the 2-out timely by Nakamura!!

Sugiura grounder to 2nd.  Inoue there, but it takes a high hop!  He can't field it cleanly and his throw to 1st is not in time!  Base hit!

Toyokawa can't add any more though.  Himi grounds to 2nd and Inoue goes the short way for the 3rd out.

Top 3rd
Abe again gives up a lead runner as he walks Tsuji for the 2nd time.  And for the second time Inoue bunts him over.

And for the second time, Yoshida grounds to 2nd, advancing the runner.

Will Nakayama, for the second time, fly out to right?

As a matter of fact.  Yes!

Bottom 3rd
Takakuwa somehow extends out and then pulls the ball to left for a base hit.  That's a bit of strength needed there.  Itou bunts him to 2nd.

Actually, Mizota isn't doing all that badly considering that he's not wild, but missing location.  Of course, that has presented themselves it's own issues.

Takeichi though still can't get level on the ball and pops out to Inoue again.

Yamada a hard grounder, but right to Yoshida.  Goes to 1st and the side is retired.

Top 4th
It's also the battle of the ouen-dan's.  Toyokawa with the red background and the TK logo, while Riseisha with the blue-purple background and yellow block R.

Nishimura with their 4th leadoff runner in as many innings with a slicing single to left!

Hatta not showing bunt here, is Okada-kantoku changing things up?

Nope, Hatta lays it down on the 1-1 pitch instead.

Abe working outside to Kinuta, gets ahead 0-2...  gets him ahead of the change and pops it up!  Shima out in the grass makes the catch for the 2nd out.

Abe has really settled down too.  Despite the leadoff batter reaching every inning, he has held them in check.

And then Abe throws a wild pitch... Nishimura heads to 3rd...  Count though 2-2.

SANSHIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tateishi can only watch as the slider goes over for strike 3!

Bottom 4th
Abe helping his cause!  Grounder to 3rd, gets an assist from a higher hop, and it goes over Tsuji's glove to right!

Shima tries to bunt, but winds up with 2 strikes.  Will he bunt?

Buster!  But hits it foul.

Nakamura blooper to center, Tateishi coming in, but can't get to it! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

The ball cues off to the right and gets by Tateishi!  Nakayama running to cover and Abe is sent home!  And now Nakayama can't field it!  Tateishi scores and Nakayama ends up and 2nd on the error!  2-0 Toyokawa!

And despite that not being a hard hit, and an error on the outfield #10 Nagatani comes in the game...

Nagatani not off to a great start, plunks Sugiura on the numbers.  He's tended to at 1st as Himi steps in.

No panic though.  Nagatani gets a fly ball from Himi for the 2nd out.

Takakuwa completely fooled on the 0-2 slider, has to make contact, and grounds to 2rd for the 3rd out.

Top 5th
Abe finally gets the leadoff batter out.  Nagatani grounds to short.

After another quick grounder, he almost gets a clean inning, but Inoue's grounder to 2nd is bobbled by Shima!  Throw to 1st is too late!

Yoshida grounder to 1st. Now Itou can't field the ball!  Abe hurries to cover but Yoshida gets there first!  2 errors and Riseisha has a small threat brewing!  Imai-kantoku calls for time.

Nakayama grounder to 2nd!  Shima looks to have it, goes to 1st..  3 out!

I'm sure they held their collective breath on that ball, but they get out of the inning with yet again, no damage.

Bottom 5th
Meanwhile Nagatani is doing Nagatani things.  Like striking out Itou on 3 straight.  And then following that up with a fastball on the corner to get Takeichi.

Yamada breaks it up with a first pitch sharp single through the left side.

And what's this?  Abe follows suit!  Toyokawa with their own mini threat with 2 down!

#9 Shima called to try and extend the lead...

Ball back up middle!  But it's just a shade too slow as Yoshida fields it and flips to Inoue for the 3rd out.

But Abe is doing a great job in relief holding Riseisha scoreless!  Toyokawa meanwhile has knocked ace Mizota out with the 2-0 lead and now has to deal with Nagatani!

Top 6th
Imai-kantoku figures that's enough for Abe and ace Tanaka enters the game to close it out!

But now it's Tanaka playing with fire!  He walks Nishimura to lead off the post-break action.

And now Abe walks Hatta??  Abe putting himself in a big pinch!

Kinuta lays down the bunt and Riseisha has the douten runner in scoring position!

Okuda-kantoku pulling out all stops, sending in #3 Miura to hit for Tateishi.

And he punishes one to deep left center!  Sugiura chasing it, but it falls in front of the wall!  Both will score and we have a new ballgame!  It's 2-2!!

AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Tanaka's pitch goes off of Himi's glove and to the backstop!  Miura takes 3rd!

Tanaka bearing down, gets Nagatani on nothing but sliders for the 2nd out.

Tsuji liner!  But right to Itou for the 3rd out.  But Riseisha has tied the game!!

Bottom 6th
#12 Kanaoka takes over in CF.

Nakamura with a ball to shallow left.  Nakayama coming in, slides, but the ball goes off his glove!  Nakamura reaches with a leadoff double and is moved to 3rd by Sugiura.

And perhaps they are walking Himi to get to the righty Takakuwa.

It works!  Takakuwa grounds to 2nd!  Inoue starts the 4... 6.... 3... double play to retire the side!

Top 7th
One down for Riseisha, and Yoshida hits a clean single through the left side.

And then Tanaka hits Nakayama!  Oh boy, he's not looking sharp at all.

Nishiyama clean single through the left side!  Yoshida rounding 3rd, being waved home!  Throw goes to the cutoff and just like that Riseisha has the lead!  It's 3-2!

Hatta base hit to center!  Nakayama holds at 3rd and it's manrui for Riseisha!

Imai-kantoku desperate to find an answer, calls time.

Kinuta has the answer for them!  He singles through the gap at 2nd!  Nakayama scores!  Hatta waved around, he scores!  Riseisha blowing Tanaka up here in relief!  They lead 5-2!!

Things continue to get worse as Tanaka walks Kanaoka on 4 straight and it's manrui yet again!!

Nagatani with a hard grounder to short!  Takakuwa bobbles it, but fires home to just get Hatta for the 2nd out.

Tanaka's inning finally comes to a close when Tsuji flies to left.  But Riseisha jumps not on Abe, but Tanaka!!

Bottom 6th
Itou tries to start a rally with a ball up the middle.  Takeichi showing bunt, but goes for the buster hit... flies out to right.

And the inning comes to a screeching halt as Yamada grounds into the 4-6-3 double play!

Top 7th
Imai-kantoku seeing the writing on the wall, puts in #13 Sugita to replace Tanaka on the mound.

Tries to work Inoue away, but leaves the fastball just over the plate. Inoue hits one to shallow left center!  Sugiura coming in , can't get there!  Inoue busting it out of the box, gets to 2nd!  Yoshioka bunts him along to 3rd.

Now #17 Tsujii comes to hit for Nakayama.  But he pops out to 1st.

Nishimura comes through again!  Base hit to left scores one more to make it 6-2.

Sugita trying to bring the game home, is struggling as well and walks Hatta...

Kinuta grounds to short to end the inning, but it looks like the game has been decided.

Bottom 8th
#16 Furutani comes in for PH Tsujii and goes to center.  Kanaoka moves to LF.

#18 Yamamoto to hit for Sugita, base hit to right.

One down for Nakamura and he gets his 4th hit of the game with a single through the left side.  Though after a pop out from Sugiura, it looks like another 0.

But Himi with a single through short scores Yamamoto to make it a 6-3 ballgame.  But there's still down 3.

Takakuwa first pitch single up middle into center!  Tokumoto whiffs on the ball!  He has to double back and Nakamura scores to make it 6-4!  That gets Okada-kantoku's attention, and he calls for time.

Itou looking to keep the momentum going.

Pops it up!  Tsune an Nakaguchi converging on the ball in foul territory, but no one calls for it!  It drops in foul and Itou's AB continues!

(Apologies for the commentary afterwards, I was trying to do my bowling league and my normal blogging.  So much happened in the last 2 innings of regulation, I lost track... and my mind.

My reactions are in italics...)

WHAT?????

Itou swings on the next pitch and hits a gapper to left center!!  Himi scores!  Takakuwa running, takes 3rd on the double by Itou and it's 6-5!!

IT'S FREAKING 6-5!!!

Toyokawa is only one run behind with the douten run just 90 feet away!  And the gyakuten run is at 2nd!!

And the Toyokawa ouen-dan, already loud, gets even louder as they can sense the comeback completing itself...

Takeichi taking his hacks, but behind 1-2...

Liner!!  It's back up the middle and into center!  Takakuwa scores!  Takeichi being waved around!  Throw from Tateishi.... NOT IN TIME!!!!

NO WAY!!! THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING!!!!!

Toyokawa has somehow with 2 outs put together 5 runs and has taken the lead!!!!

IT'S 7-6 TOYOKAWA!!!!!!!!!

Yamada pops up to 2nd to end the inning, but Toyokawa is now 3 outs away from advancing to the final!!

Top 9th
Imai-kantoku sends in #17 Ookouchi to pitch.  But I look at my roster and he's an OF??  What about Ochiai?? (I learned later that he was sick and unavailable to pitch)

So if Ookouchi is pitching... does that mean they have no pitchers left??   I remember my first trip to Natsu Koushien back in 2006.  Teikyou trailed Chiben Wakayama 8-4 going into the top of the 9th.  They somehow went and scored 8 in the top of the 9th capped off with a PH 3-run HR.  That PH was for their pitcher.  And they had none left.  Try as they might, they couldn't find one to close the game.  Chiben Wakayama went on to win in sayonara fashion 13-12.

I began to wonder if this might end up the same way...  I felt helpless for Teikyou back then when I blurted out (much to the surprise of everyone) that they had no pitchers left.  I really didn't want to see that again now.

First two pitches are balls and same goes the 3rd.  Not terrible, but not in the zone either.

Finally a strike.

Oh no....

Kanaoka drives a ball to left!  Yamada going back to the fence!

No....

HAITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First batter for Riseisha confirms my fears.  It's a douten HR for Kanaoka and we're at 7-7...

The question will be now, can they somehow find 3 outs?

There's one as Nagatani pops out to 2nd...

But each batter is a battle... After falling behind 3-0, he works the count full.

Yet still walks him...

There's 2... Inoue reaches out and pops a ball up to 3rd.  Nakamura makes the catch.

Yoshida up to try his hand at Ookouchi.

Tsuji takes off for 2nd!!  Throw in... not in time!  Gyakuten runner in scoring position!

So, Imai-kantoku elects to intentionally walk Furutani to get to Furutani.

But it's not Furutani, but #15 Fukuyama.  Okada-kantoku playing the lefty-righty matchup.

And like as if Imai-kantoku had a full bullpen, he makes a change!  It's 1B Itou who takes the hill!  #16 Satou comes in for reliever Ookouchi and goes to 1B.

What in the world is Imai-kantoku doing?  It's obvious he has no real pitchers left...  And yet he's laughing!  Really??  I guess maybe if you know you're already in this situation, and you put yourself in it, then I suppose you can.  But this is for a place in the finals!

And perhaps as expected, he's struggling - and yet having some success against the PH.  Count goes to 2-2 as Fukuyama fouls off a pair...

SANSHIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have no idea what that pitch is, but Fukuyama chases it outside and somehow, someway, Toyokawa has gotten out of the inning!!

Bottom 9th
But given the bullpen stuations, it is tenuous at the very best.  If Toyokawa wants to win this game, they have to win now.  There's no way these emergency pitchers can hold on for much longer, and yes I know it's been just 1 inning, but it's the truth - especially against an offensively minded team such as Riseisha.

The bad part is that Toyokawa has their 8-9-1 hitters up. And looking at their roster, they are very low on options.  Imai-kantoku will have to run with what he has...

Riseisha on the other hand, has their bullets to use.  PH Fukuyama goes to 1B, Kinuta goes to 2B.  Inoue goes to RF, and Nishimura goes to CF.

First up, new 1B Satou.  He doesn't look totally outmatched, but the count falls to 1-2.

SANSHIN!  Nagatani goes inside with a fastball and Satou cannot catch up!

Shima first pitch swinging!  It's a dying ball to center..  Nishimura charging in... makes the running catch.  Quickly 2 down.

Last chance really in Nakamura, he's gotten on base all 5 times today.

Ball to left!  Kanaoka ranging to his right, in foul territory... makes the catch!

Side retired for Toyokawa, and they will have to survive another half inning.  But judging from the 2 bench players left, I don't think there's much they can do at this point.

Top 10th
And the inning ominously begins with Nishimura taking the first pitch through the left side, he's 5-5 with a walk now.  Hatta squaring to bunt, but Itou not giving him anything so far buntable.  And now Itou is behind 3-0....

Ball 4...  Oh boy....

Kinuta now squaring to bunt.  Lays it down.  Ah....

Nakamura slips charging in!  Throw to 1st, not in time!  Bunt base hit for Kinuta on the slip by Nakamura and Toyokawa is really in a world of trouble...

Time for Toyokawa as Tanaka comes out for Imai-kantoku.

*sighs*

The first pitch from Itou hits Kanaoka on the head, and that brings in a run.  8-7 Riseisha and a game that already appeared over, probably is now.

Imai-kantoku firing probably his last bullet.  Itou is leaving the mound, but who is replacing him? Even his own players are standing around wondering what's going on...

And it appears that C Himi will actually take the hill!  Itou goes back to 1B, and #12 Imai goes in Satou's place to work behind the plate.  The players are all laughing, and I suppose by this time now that's about as much as you can do given the circumstances.

At this point the only bench player left is IF #14 Yoshimura (Remember that Ochiai is unavailable due to illness).

Perhaps as expected, Himi struggles on the mound, falling behind Nagatani 3-1, but manages to fill up the count.

But his full count pitch goes way up and in, and it's a 9-7 game.

Tsuji chopper up middle!  Over Himi's head, and through the drawn in infield!  One run scores, Kanaoka being waved around!  Throw from Sugiura... not in time and it's 11-7...

Inoue tries to lay down the bunt, but Himi goes to 3rd and easily gets Nagatani for just the 1st out...

Yoshida chopper to left side.  Nakamura tries to play the hop, but it gets by him for a base hit.  Manrui yet again for Riseisha.

#12 Nakamura in to hit for Fukuyama.

First pitch fly down the right field line!  Takeichi sprinting over... reaches out... makes the catch!  He slips and falls, but Tsuji was going to tag up anyways.  12-7.

Nishimura up for his 2nd AB this inning. Yoshida takes off for 2nd, no throw.

Count runs full on Nishimura, chopper in front of the plate.  Himi charging in, quick throw... gets Nishimura to end the inning.  But as expected, Riseisha has blown it open.

Bottom 10th
Nakamura stays in to play 1B.

Sugiura trying to start the long road back with a single back up the middle.

Despite the deficit, the ouen-dan playing Ama-chan, and about as vocal as ever.  Just in case, #18 Honjyou for Riseisha is warming up.

Himi jammed inside, pops it up!  Kanaoka coming in to shallow left center, makes the catch for the 1st out.

Takakuwa at the plate now... he pops it up!  Nakamura under it in foul territory, and there's 2 down.

Itou the last chance for Toyokawa...

Fly to center.  Nishimura going back, still going back... stops...and makes the catch to end the game.

Toyokawa gave just about all it could give in this game, but just ran out of options at the end and thus fell short to Riseisha 12-7 here in 10.

It's too bad really as Toyokawa really did have a title contender on their hands.  But everything started when Imai-kantoku oddly enough put his ace pitcher in relief.  You can't fault him though, relief starter Abe had been playing with fire during all 5 innings of work.  You didn't want to keep him in the game too long, so putting in your ace to work the last 4 innings made sense.

What perhaps he might have though about in hindsight is that Riseisha could have been preparing for Tanaka all along.  And if so, putting him in would have been the worst thing he could have done.

It certainly seemed to be the case as Riseisha jumped n him for 5 runs.  And with Nagatani on the mound, it seemed like they had no shot.

Credit Toyokawa though, they didn't give up, they got to Nagatani and actually took the lead!

But it came at a high price...

Bringing back memories of a famous games 8 years ago, Imai-kantoku had pinch-hit for his last official pitcher as he was already down a pitcher due to illness.  He tried to patch a staff together with what he had left, and while they had given up lead, still had a chance to win the game in regulation.

And much like the Meitoku Gijyuku-Chiben Wakayama game, Toyokawa needed to win it in regulation.  This time around though it was not to be.  And Riseisha put the game away in enchousen.

I do hope to see Toyokawa back at Koushien again, but with Aichi as it is, it might be a tough thing to ask for.

As for Riseisha, they are the first team to enter the finals.  They certainly got their biggest scare today, and the more reliable Nagatani has shown his first cracks of weaknesses.  Will they be able to hold on for one more game to win the title??

Monday, March 31, 2014

86th Senbatsu - Day 10 - Quarterfinal 4 - Kiryuu Dai-ichi (Gunma) vs. Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)

Our last game may just be a formality now.  With the rest day gone, in order for Kiryuu Dai-ichi will have to win an unprecedented 5 games in 5 days, having already played 24 innings in those first 2 steps of that feat.

And given the fact that in the replay they went with ace Yamada again - it lends itself to not if, but when his arm will finally collapse.  With the team's offensive struggles to boot their prospects don't look too good, not that they were anyways but at least got an extra game in.

Heian has looked rather impressive, dispatching the Tohoku champs in their most recent game (though Kousei didn't look like they showed up to play).  What is also noteworthy is that they have used a different pitcher for each of the first two games, allowing his staff to pretty much get rest - especially since it's 3 games in 3 days for the title now.

There's nothing that would indicate that Heian won't advance to Best 4 today.

Kiryuu Dai-ichi (Gunma)
LF Yoshida Ryuuto
2B Ishii Shouta
RF Yanagiya Sansuke
1B Yamada Tomoki (#1)
C Onoda Toki
CF Kubo Shunsuke
3B Kubota Shinji
SS Takahashi Shoukei
P Toumiya Mao (#11)

Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
CF Tokumoto Kentarou
RF Ootani Tsukasa
2B Himeno Taisei
1B Kawai Taisei
LF Nakaguchi Daichi
3B Tsune Hitoshi
SS Ishikawa Takuya
C Takahashi Yuuya
P Motouji Reiji (#18)

____________________________________________________________

15:19 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Motouji on the mound again for Heian and he's off and running.  Strikes out Yoshida looking on a slider.

Ishii with a ball to the gap in short, Tsune ranges to field it, but it bounces off his glove and into the air!  It goes behind Ishikawa for a base hit!

But Yanagiya hits a grounder to short!  Ishikawa starts the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning!

Bottom 1st
Going to Toumiya for Fukuda-kantoku probably can't be helped with Yamada going 24 innings in 2 days.  He's at first, so if Toumiya struggles (which his peripherals suggest), he might yet still enter.

And it indeed is a shaky start as Toumiya walks Tokumoto to start his campaign.

But Tokumoto has the twichy foot and takes off for 2nd too early!  Toumiya starts the rundown and there's 1 out!

Again a deep count to Ootani, but he flies out to left.

Looks like it's going to be a lot of near walks as Himeno goes to 2-2.  But Toumiya puts over the slider for strike 3!!

One down, 8 to go...

Top 2nd
Yamada leads off with a clean single through the left side!  Onoda puts down the bunt, but Kawai elects to go to 2nd!!  His throw is high and Ishikawa can't secure it!  All safe!

Kubo now looking to bunt as well, but winds up fouling a couple off.  2 strikes, and he's still bunting!  He lays it down and successfully advances the runners!

Kubota with the first pitch single to center!  Yamada scores and it's Kiryuu Dai-ichi that takes the early lead! 1-0!

Shoukei up now to perhaps extend the lead with a sac fly or base hit.

Chopper to 3rd!  Onoda has to scramble back, and Tsune goes to 2nd!  They get the runner there and keep the force at either 1st or 2nd.

Toumiya to try and help his own cause with a base hit.

Drive to left!!  Nakaguchi going back, going back!! Makes the, NO!!

Nakaguchi tries to make the basket catch, but can't finish it!  Onoda scores!  Shoukei running all the way from 1st, he scores!!  Kiryuu Dai-ichi is up 3-0!!

Yoshida grounder to 1st.  Kawai makes the tag, AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The ball somehow gets knocked out of Kawai's glove and that means Yoshida is safe!  Even more important, Toumiya scores from 2nd and it's 4-0 Kiryuu Dai-ichi!

Ishii flies out to right, but this is certainly a surprise!

Bottom 2nd
Of course, it's back to the nail-biting game that is Toumiya.

He walks Kawai to lead off the inning, and is bunted over.

Tsune with a single to left!  Yoshida tries to go home with the throw, but it's not in time and it allows Tsune to take 2nd!  4-1 Kiryuu.

(Hint to Yoshida - keep the force on.  You know Toumiya isn't that great, but you're putting him an bad position)

Case in point, Ishikawa grounder to short would have been an inning ending double play.  Instead, it's 2 outs, runner on 3rd for Yuuya.

No harm this time though as Yuuya flies out to right.  But Heian is taking the slow road back to douten.

Top 3rd
Yanagiya becomes the 2nd K victim as he goes after Motouji's slider.

Meanwhile, Yamada has Kawai on his backside as he scorches a grounder to right.

But Onoda too chases the slider, and Kubo grounds to 2nd to end the inning.

Bottom 3rd
Toumiya going after Motouji, despite him being a hitting pitcher.  But he gets him all twisted on a fastball inside for the 1st out.

After getting ahead of Tokumoto 1-2, the count runs full, and he misses inside for his 3rd walk.

And it gets even more hairy when Toumiya plunks Ootani on the back.  Fukuda-kantoke calls time as #18 Takano warms up in the bullpen.

Toumiya still can't find the zone, falling behind 2-0 to Himeno as well...

DOUBLE STEAL!!!  Onoda fires to 3rd, but not in time!  And it's 3-0 to Himeno!

Toumiya puts one over, Himeno takes.  And another!!

Himeno with a ball to deep right!  Yanagiya near the foul pole makes the catch, and Tokumoto can walk home to make it a 4-2 ballgame!  Ootani advances to 3rd on the play.

Kawai up, and Toumiya falls behind him 3-1...  Gives up yet another walk...

Finally, Toumiya gets ahead for a change, 1-2 on Nakaguchi...

Liner down 1st base line, foul, but he's perhaps timing things up now.

Kawai takes off for 2nd, but it's a slow curve from Toumiya and Onoda has no throw.  Now a base hit can tie the game!

Toumiya wins!  He gets Nakaguchi to fly out to center and he yields only the 1 yet again.  He can't keep doing that though...

Top 4th
Tsune makes a great stretching catch on a liner from Shoukei on what looked like a clean inning.  But a small hiccup as Motouji walks Toumiya.

Yoshida though makes that hiccup look a bit bigger after Yoshida singles to right, putting runners at the corners!

But Ishii gets under one and flies out to center.  Tokumoto secures it for the the 3rd out.

Bottom 4th
Fukuda-kantoku will try to piece together this game on the mound.  #15 Itoi comes in to pitch and occupies Toumiya's spot in the lineup.

Good start as Tsune swings and misses on the slider for the first out.

Ishikawa with a ball back up the middle, Ishii tries to make the sliding catch, but it gets through.

Now Ishikawa getting in on stealing act!  He takes off on the 1-1 count and beats the throw!

Once again though, Itoi pulls the string on the slider, striking out Yuuya for the second out.

Itou successfully puts up the bagel as Motouji grounds to 3rd to end the inning.

Top 5th
One down and Yamada booms a ball to dead center!  Tokumoto sprinting back, makes the catch near the fence for the 2nd out.

The clean inning is ruined when Motouji walks Onoda, but that's the extent of the things as Kubo strikes out looking to end the inning.

Bottom 5th
Tokumoto finally gets to put the ball in play, but flies out to right.  Instead it's Ootani who gest a single back up the middle.

But Itou gets ahead of Himeno 0-2...  and then throws the ball away on a throw to 1st!  Now Himeno has a chance to get back yet another run.

Himeno gets more life afer Kubota can't catch a foul fly!  Will that come back to haunt them?

NO!  Himeno swings and misses on the slider and there's 2 outs!

Onoda goes out to have a word with Itoi before pitching to Kawai.  Once again, Itou is ahead of Kawai 1-2 before the pseudo-pitchout.  And another ball wide fills up the count.

Ball 4!  They elect to go outside, but he doesn't do anything.  Douten runner on base for Nakaguchi.

But Nakaguchi hits one off the end of the bat!  Kubo in cengter to field it and the inning is over!  We hit the break with Kiryuu Dai-ichi nursing a 2-run lead over Ryuukokudai Heian!

Top 6th
Harada-kantoku makes a change before the 6th.  Motouji leaves the mound and in steps ace number Nakata.

And he's working quickly on the mound.  Against the bottom of Kiryuu's lineup, he gets Kubo to foul out to Kawai and Shoukei to ground to 2nd.  He then emphatically heads to the dugout as he rings up Itou on the slider.

Bottom 6th
?  Itou walks Tsune, but that pitch even though it didn't hit the framed glove still came over for what I thought was a strike.

Tsune takes off!  Onoda fies to 2nd... OUT!!

Onoda finally wins the battle as he guns down Tsune!

But Itoi puts the runner back on 1st as he hits Ishikawa.

Ishikawa takes off for 2nd, but Onoda can't secure the ball to make the throw!  Heian is running roughshot on the basepaths!

Whatever was working for Itoi isn't as he falls behind Yuuya 3-1 before finally getting a swing.

SANSHIN!!!!!  Yuuya strikes out looking on a fastball inside!

Well, Nakata was in for his 1 inning as #17 Iwashita comes in to hit for him.  And now Fukuda-kantoku sends in sidearmer #18 Takano to counter!

And Iwashita is all crossed up!  He falls behind 0-2, but manages to take a couple to level the count.

SANSHIN!!!!!!

Iwashita feebly swings at the curve and Heian is held off the board!

Top 7th
#10 Takahashi Keiji enters the game now presumably to finish the game.  This as ace Yamada warms up in the bullpen!

As for Keiji, his inning is rather short. Just a grand total of 7 pitches and he retires the top of the Kiryuu lineup.

Bottom 7th
Fukuda-kantoku things he's gone far enough.  Ace Yamada takes the hill as #3 Hayamizu enters the last spot in the lineup and takes over at 1B.

Tokumoto greets him with a single to right.  And then he takes off for 2nd!  Onoda double-clutches and this throw is way late!

Ootani grounder to short, AHHHH!!!!

Shoukei can't field the ball and everyone's safe!!!  Fukuda-kantoku quickly calls for time...

Himeno up, looking to bunt the runners along.

AHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yamada throws to 2nd, but no one's covering!  Shoukei is late and it goes into center!  everyone advances a base on the error!

Yamada makes that error effectively a bunt as Himeno strikes out on a slider outside.

Kawai up to try and possibly tie the game.  Gives the ball a rip, but foul.

Grounder to 3rd!  Kubota bounces the ball home!  Onoda's tag is late as a result and it's 4-3!

Nakaguchi with a liner to right!  Yanagiya makes the catch, Ootani tagging up!  Yanagiya's throw home... not in time!!  Heian has jumped on Kiryuu's miscues and has tied the game in their lucky 7!

Top 8th
Now how will Kiryuu respond now that their lead is gone?

After such a good start at the plate, Yamada is retired for the 2nd time chasing the slider outside.

2 down for Kiryuu, Kubo gets Kiryuu's first hit since the 4th with a single to right.

Kubo takes off for 2nd!  No throw from Yuuya!  Kiryuu with a mini-chance as they walk Kubota on 4 straight.  Harada-kantoku calls for time.

Keiji gets ahead of Shoukei 0-2, but Shoukei levels the count.

Shoukei gets one off the handle and towards 3rd!  Tsune makes the throw to 1st, 3 out!

Bottom 8th
Is this the final stanza for Kiryuu Dai-ichi?  Yamada hits Tsune to start off the inning.  Ishikawa bunts him along.

Yuuya with ball to deep center!  Kubo makes the catch, but Tsune advances another 90 feet.  It'll be up to Keiji to try and drive the run in.

Rip down the 1st base line.. Foul!!!!!

Now with 2 strikes, he starts fouling off anything close.  1, 2, 3 foul balls.  Yet another foul...  Ball 2...  Ball 3!  The top of the lineup looms large!

Grounder to short!  Shoukei up with it!  Throw to 1st.. 3 out!  Yamada sneaks out of one as we head to the final inning of regulation!

Top 9th
Hayamizu in for his first AB.  Winds up flying to center for the 1st out.

Yoshioka with a liner to right, but it's right to Otani for the 2nd out.

And Kiryuu will have to play for enchousen as Ishii lines to 2nd  for the 3rd out!

Bottom 9th
Chopper to short by Tokumoto, quick throw to 1st... in time!  But not by much!

Full count to Ootani, but he flies out to right.

Himeno pops it up!  Onoda secures it for the 3rd out.  We're headed to enchousen again!

Top 10th
Yanagiya singles to left for a base hit!  Yamada in to bunt, lays it down.

Onoda can't drive him in!  Popup to center too shallow to even advance the runner.

SANSHIN!  Kubo can only turn and head back to the dugout after being rung up!

Bottom 10th
Comebacker from Kawai hits Yamada in foot and deflects toward the right side!

Wild pitch!  Kawai advances to 2nd!  And now 3rd as Nakaguchi bunts him along.

Time from Fukuda-kantoku as the sayonara run is 90 feet away!

They will not walk Tsune and Yuuya to load the bases.  Or so I thought. Depsite getting 2 strikes, they wind up waking Tsune, and then walk Yuuya to indeed load the bases.

Wild pitch!!!!  Kawai sprints home and Heian comes back to win 5-4 in 10 innings!

(Final writeup tomorrow as I am falling asleep)

86th Senbatsu - Day 10 - Quarterfinal 3 - Sano Nichidai (Tochigi) vs. Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)

Meitoku Gijyuku as expected has reached the Best 8 with still a chance to win senbatsu. However, their road has perhaps been too rough for them to finish the race.

Ace Jyunichirou Kishi, already under stress from his weak offense, had to survive 15 innings against Chiben Wakayama.  That one game has already had implications as in their last game versus Kanto Dai-ichi as he did not look as sharp - despite the fact they still went on to win the game.  They day off they were supposed to get, they got yesterday, so it'll be 27+ innings for Kishi going forward to win.  He may win this one, but it doesn't look like he'll hold out.

Sano Nichidai's first big test in Chiben Gakuen almost ended in disaster.  Out to a 4-1 lead, unforced errors allowed Chiben to get back into the game and force enchousen.  They pulled it out in 10, but those mental errors will prove costly.  In addition, their offense hasn't been all too impressive either, which may be a relief to Kishi.

The saving grace is ace Tajima who has looked more than serviceable in his 2 games.  There was the hiccup late against Chiben Gakuen, so perhaps stamina might come into play though like Kishi the day off should help.

Sano Nichidai (Tochigi)
SS Takemura Ritsuki
CF Nagasawa Yoshitaka
2B Yoshida Toshiki
LF Inaba Kousei
RF Koizumi Keita
1B Tamura Kaito
3B Kakizawa Fumiya
P Tajima Daiki
C Sagawa Shou

Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
3B Ozaki Yuuto
RF Sanada Kazuto
LF Tada Tougo
1B Nishioka Souta (#11)
P Kishi Jyuunichirou
SS Yasuda Takayuki
2B Mori Shouma
C Mizuno Katsuya (#13)
CF Ootani Yuuki

____________________________________________________________

13:15 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Before the siren can even finish, Takemura hits a single into center!  Nagasawa bunts him over.

Yoshida with hit to right, the ball gets by Sanada and goes to the wall!  Takemura already in, but Yoshida advances to 3rd on the error!! 1-0 Sano Nichidai!

Mabuchi-kantoku calls for time.

Inaba up to tack on another run, but his fly to left is too short!  Yoshida holds up.

Koizumi flies out to left to end the inning, but a couple of base hits give Sano Nichidai the early lead!

Bottom 1st
Grounder to short from Ozaki, Takemura fumbles with the ball, his throw to 1st is high but Tamura makes the tag!

Ah.. but he's hurt.  He may have landed funny and is taken off for treatment.  It's taking quite a while too, might have been really serious...

It's also really quiet in the stadium right now...

And he emerges to take his position!  But how will his mobility be?

More importantly, the break may have affected Tajima a bit as he walks Sanada.

Tada pops up a short bunt that falls in.  Tajima goes to 1st to just get Tada for the 2nd out.  Meitoku will play for 1.

Nishoka with a slider to left center!  Sanada rounds 3rd and will easily score to tie the game at 1-1!

Kishi gets grazed by Tajima and the 2-out rally continues.  I think we have the home plate umpire that will call go-arounds and HBP easily.

Tajima gets Yasuda to hit one off the end of his bat back to him.  Goes to 1st for the 3rd out, but we're back level.

Top 2nd
One down for Nichidai and Kakizawa gets one off the end of his bat, but pokes it to left center for a base hit.

Tajima shows bunt early in the AB, but is hitting after the count hits 2 strikes.

It's a hit and run, but Tajima just kind of dumps it to Kishi.  It's pretty much a bunt as Tajima is retired.

Sagawa working the count on Kishi, runs it full... and hits a ball to right center!  Ootani has no chance at it as Kakizawa comes around to score on the double!  Sano Nichidai retakes the lead at 2-1!

Takemura tries to poke a ball for a base hit, but flies out to Tada for the 3rd out.  Considering that Kishi has given up a run in each of the first 2 innings he does not to appear to be 100% stamina-wise.

Bottom 2nd
And this is Meitoku's problem.  If they get into a scoring affair with Sano Nichidai, they will lose as their offense is not capable of scoring a lot of runs.

And as the bottom of the order goes down in order with little resistance, Kishi needs to draw the line and soon.

Top 3rd
It's not necessarily that Kishi is leaving pitches in the zone.  They're just hittable.

One down and Yoshida takes it the other way, just out of the reach of Ozaki for a single.

Hit-and run!  Kishi this time leaves it over and Inaba hits a hard grounder to the left side!  Yasuda sprinting over, and it's off his glove!  He has to chase it down as Yoshida takes 3rd!  Nichidai threatening again!

Koizumi with yet another fly to left, but it's too shallow and Yoshida has to hold.

Tamura with a grounder to the right side, but a diving Nishoka can't get to it!  Yoshida scores and it's 3-1 Sano Nichidai!

Kakizawa with another groudner to the right side, Mori going over, slides... and doesn't come up with it!  Inaba scores and it's 4-1!

Kishi finally gets out of the inning, but it's only because Ozaki fielded the hot grounder from Tajima and could just step on the bag at 3rd for the out.

Kishi's speed doesn't look too terrible, but he was already looking a bit out of sorts in the prior game, and it's just worse here...

Bottom 3rd
That and they don't really have the offense to play a barnburner game like this might be headed towards.

Still, Tajima doesn't attack the batters and walks Sanada to lead off the inning.  Tada tries to bunt, but Kakizawa comes up with it quickly and fires to 2nd to get the lead runner.

Mabuchi-kantoku goes for the hit and run instead, but Nishoka can only advance the runner with a groundout to 3rd.  A pop up by Kishi ends the inning.

Top 4th
One down for Sano Nichidai and they get yet another runner as Takaemura singles to center.

This time around though, Kishi retires both Nagasawa and Yoshida (who had been 2-2) and gets his first bagel of the game.

Bottom 4th
Meitoku continues to have issues at the dish.  Mori's fly out to to right get sandwiched by Tajima's first 2 K's of the game for his first 1-2-3 inning.

Top 5th
Sano Nichidai's batters suddenly change tack as both Inaba and Koizumi both swing early and are retired.  Tamura's flyout to center makes it a 7 pitch inning.

Bottom 5th
Ootani searching to get on base, swings early in the count and grounds to short.  Tajima has had his moments, but he looks better this game than in his last.

Ozaki hits a hard liner right at Tamura for the 2nd out... and Sanada looks befuddled as Sagawa's pitch frame goes back over the plate on a ball down the middle for strike 3.  Another victim of changing location after the batter takes a peek down to see where they're going with the pitch.

And so we hit the break with Sano Nichidai holding onto that early 4-1 lead.  Meitoku will be hard pressed to find a way to score 3 runs given their offense, and while Kishi has leveled off from his poor start, there's no guarantee he can hold on for the whole game.

Top 6th
Kishi has indeed settled down with yet another short inning of routine stuff.  Kakizawa grounds out to short, Tajima strikes out swinging and Sagawa hits a lazy fly to left in a grand total of 9 pitches.  He's keeping his team in it, but it may be too late.

Bottom 6th
Tada with a chopper to short, Takemura has to wait for the hop, but his throw to 1st beats a diving Tada for the out.

Nishioka comes back and lines a ball to right for a base hit.  Kishi follows that up whipping the bat around and shoots a ball through the left side for a base hit.

And now Yasuda with a grounder through the right side!  Nishoka holds at 3rd and it's manrui for Meitoku!  Where did this come from?  Matsumoto-kantoku calls time.

Mori with a single through the left side!  Everyone advances a station and it's 4-2!

Now 5 straight hits from Meitoku!!  Mizuno with a ball to right center!  Kishi scores!  Yasuda coming around, he scores!! WE'RE TIED UP AT 4-4!! WTF?!

Matsumoto-kantoku calling time again, as I'm sure he's as shocked as I am about Meitoku's explosion at the plate.

Ootani grounder to short!  Takemura goes to 2nd for 1, throw to first... not in time!!!  Ootani's slide beats out the throw and that means Mori scores from 3rd to give Meitoku the 5-4 lead!!

Ozaki flies out to right to end the inning, but out of nowhere Meitoku has put a big inning together and not only closed the deficit, but taken the lead!!

Top 7th
Now can Sano Nichidai play from behind?  Top of the order due up.

Takemura fly ball to left, Tada slips!  He gets back up and charges in making the running catch.  But afterwards #3 Oonishi comes out to replace him at LF.

But Nagasawa drives a ball to left center!  Ootani runs it down but not before Nagasawa has a double!

And now Mabuchi-kantoku intentionally walks Yoshida??  I can understand if it's the 9th, but here in the 7th?

DOUBLE STEAL!!!

Mizuno fires to 3rd, but Nagasawa slides in time and the walk backfires as there are 2 runners in scoring position now for Inaba!

Kishi still fighting though, gets the count to 2-2...  but they it goes full after a pitchout.

Flyball to left!  Oonishi with it and Nagasawa comes home!  Throw in is up the first base line and Mizuno's tag isn't in time!  We're back tied at 5-5!!

Mabuchi-kantoku calls time again as Koizumi steps in.

Count at 2-2, Mizuno goes out to talk with Kishi and it's a rather long chat.

They try to go inside to Koizumi, but it's just too much inside.

They double up and Koizumi hits one to center!  But it hands up and Ootani tracks it for the 3rd out.  The intentional walk was still a bit questionable, but regardless we're tied up again!

Bottom 7th
It looks like Meitoku is back to normal after that power inning.  Sanada grounds back to Tajima, new LF Oonishi can't check his swing, and Nishoka just flat out misses the ball to end the inning.

Top 8th
So if Meitoku's offense is back to normal, and the game is tied, Kishi cannot afford to give up another run.

Tamura with a liner to center!  Ootani late going back, leaps!  And makes the great contorting catch!  Not sure how he did that, but he makes the desperate leaping catch!

More defensive work as Ozaki smothers a hot shot from Kakizawa and makes the strong throw to 1st for the out.

And Tajima challenges Ootani again with a shallow ball to center, but he's up for it as well, making the diving catch to end the inning.

Bottom 8th
Not the best time for Tajima to lose the strike zone... he walks Kishi to lead off the inning!  Yasuda bunts him over for Mori.  Can he deliver the go-ahead shot?

Chopper to 3rd. Kakizawa with it, looks Kishi back and goes to 1st for the 2nd out!  It'll be up to Mizuno to drive in the run now.

Mizuno pops it up!  Sagawa going near his dugout, makes the catch!!  And tumbles into his dugout!  He holds up the glove with the ball, and the side is retired.  He also looks to be ok, which is good considering that was a good spill he had there.

Top 9th
Sadly Sagawa can't turn that into something at the plate as he grounds to short.

Back to the top of the lineup and Takemura, down 0-2, fouls off several balls before he can inside out one to left for a base hit.

Nagasawa butns the ball, Kishi slips while fielding the ball, throw to 1st.. SAFE!!!  Nagasawa slides in ahead of the throw and now Kishi is in a pinch!

This with Yoshida up to bat!

Kishi jams him!  It's a grounder to 1st.  Nishioka's only play is to 1st and they go ahead run is 90 feet away!

But Inaba pops it up!  Mori secures the ball and the side is retired!

Bottom 9th
Can Meitoku avoid another enchousen game?

#9 batter Ootani leads off the inning, but goes down swinging on the slider.  Back to the top of the order and Ozaki.

But Ozaki extends out to hit an outside pitch and flies out to Koizumi for the 2nd out.

Down to Sanada to keep the inning going.  They really can't afford to have it go to extras.

SANSHIN!!  Tajima's pitch supposedly catches the outside edge and we are indeed headed to enchousen!

Top 10th
Kishi will have to make the best of it.  He gives the outside forkball to Koizumi and he chases it.

After Mori takes a trip to the outfield to make a catch, Kishi collects yet another K as his slider is waved at my Kakizawa.

Bottom 10th
Apparently Oonishi isn't much of a hitter as he tries the safety bunt to get on base.  Doesn't quite work.

Nishioka with a hard shot goes into right for a base hit!

Kishi with a ball to the gap in short, and Takemura playing to his left, has to scramble over to get it.  Makes the sliding grab, but has no play!  Matsumoto-kantoku calls time.

What's this??  Yasuda singles to center!  Nishioka has to hold at 3rd, but it's manrui with just 1 out!

Mori gets extra instructions before heading up to bat.  Any decent fly could end this.

Goes after the first pitch, fouls it off!

Grounder up middle!!!  Takemura goes towards 2nd, dives... makes the stop!  Steps on 2nd, throw to 1st... IN TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Takemura saves the game with the 6-3 double play to end the inning!!!

Top 11th
Can Sano Nichidai turn that momentum into a run?

One down for Nichidai, and Sagawa singles to right center!  Mabuchi-kantoku calls time as Nagasawa steps in.

AH!!!  Kishi hits Nagasawa to bring up Yoshida!!

They're being extra careful with him, but do you really want to walk him?  Count goes to 2-0...

3-0! Are they really?? They are!!  They walk him to go after Inaba!!  This despite the fact it loads the bases!

But Kishi goes after him and he's quickly up 0-2.  After a pitchout, they try the slider but he doesn't bite!

Slow chopper to the left side!  Yasuda has it, but has no throw!  Sagawa scores and the strategy blows up in Mabuchi-kantoku's face!

Koizumi with a single to left!  Nagasawa scores!  Yoshida sent home!  Throw from Oonishi... in time to get Yoshida!

But 2 runs score on a backfired strategy and Meitoku will have to scramble to get back into the game.

Bottom 11th
Which is something they're not really accustomed to doing, despite the 4-run 6th.

Mizuno grounds out to 3rd... So does PH #14 Takahashi.

Already down to Ozaki... and he hits a fly to center!  Nagasawa over to field it... Game set!  Sano Nichidai wins in 11 7-5!

But perhaps instead of the fact that Kishi had to play another extra inning game, or that the offense somehow found a way to get back in the game, the focus and deserved criticism will be placed on Mabuchi-kantoku who decided with 3rd base "open" to walk Yoshida for the 2nd time to face Inaba in a same-handed matchup.  That plan backfired and cost his team the game.

Surely there comes a point where you can manage to give your team the best ability to get out of the inning, but walking to put the go-ahead run on 3rd base - even with 2 outs - is just plain mismanagement.

About the only good thing about this is that Kishi doesn't have to throw anymore.

For Sano Nichidai, they find themselves fortunate to advance despite blowing a 3-run lead.  Needless to say, despite falling into the doldrums of the middle innings, they woke up late and did what was necessary to win the game.  They may have trouble in the semifinals as the pitching is still suspect, but they can rejoice in the face that I believe this is their first time ever in the Best 4 of any Koushien.

Notable Players
Tajima Daiki (Sano Nichidai) - 11 IP, 5 ER, 9 H, 7 K, 3 BB, 2 HBP
Inaba Kousei (Sano Nichidai) - 2-5, R, 2 RBI
Yoshida Toshiki (Sano Nichidai) - 2-4, R, RBI, SB, 2 IBB
Kishi Jyunichirou (Meitoku Giyuku) - 11 IP, 7 ER, 15 H, 3 K, BB, 2 IBB
Nishioka Souta (Meitoku Giyuku) - 3-5, R, RBI
Kishi Jyunichirou (Meitoku Giyuku) - 2-3, R, BB, HBP
Mizuno Katsuya (Meitoku Giyuku) - 1-5, 2 RBI

86th Senbatsu - Day 10 - Quarterfinal 2 - Toyokawa (Aichi) vs. Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa)

Toyokawa has not been intimidated all senbatsu so far.  A gutsy opening game versus Nihon Bunri, and then easily handling Ikeda (and the history behind it).

Tanaka Sora is the lynchpin in this team.  His dominance on the mound is what has helped this team reach the quarterfinals in their first ever appearance.  The only question will be - now that the schedule has changed to play 3 games in 3 days, can he hold out until the end?

Okinawa Shougaku's last win of 8-1 is a bit deceiving as the game was tied at 1-1 before they pulled away in the 2nd half.  The offense can take advantage of weak pitching perhaps, but may not get that benefit here.  In that, fist half of the game though, they had just 3 hits - and all in the 1st inning.

I'm not sure they were expecting Toyokawa when the brackets first came out, but I wonder if perhaps they would have rather taken that revenge matchup versus Nihon Bunri instead...

Toyokawa (Aichi)
3B Nakamura Kazuya
CF Sugiura Kenta
C Himi Taisuke
SS Takakuwa Heishirou
1B Itou Tappei
RF Takeichi Keishi
LF Yamada Daichi
P Tanaka Sora
2B Shima Kairi

Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa)
CF Akamine Ken
2B Kubo Shuuto
LF Nishihira Daiki
3B Asato Takeru
1B Uehara Kouta
SS Sunagawa Osamu
C Irabu Shouta
P Yamashiro Daichi
2B Nakamura Masaki (#13)

____________________________________________________________

10:48 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Kazuya pops a ball down the left field line, fair!  He's on with the leadoff hit.  Sugiura bunts him along.

AH!  A pitch low gets away from Irabu and Kazuya advances to 3rd!

Himi with the looper falls into center and Toyokawa quickly strikes! 1-0!

Takakuwa with a ball down the right field line, and that's fair!  Himi goes to 3rd, and Takakuwa takes 2nd as Kubo gets the ball in!  Yamashiro in big trouble early!

Itou liner opposite way, over a leaping Asato!!  Himi scores from 3rd, Nishihira has trouble fielding it and Takakuwa comes home!!  Throw is cut off and Toyokawa leads 3-0 now!!

Higa-kantoku quickly calls time.

Takeichi just out in front of the slider and pops it up for the 2nd out.

Yamashiro finally gets out of the inning with Yamada's groundout to short, but Okinawa Shougaku have dug themselves a hole early!

Bottom 1st
Well, that's new.  Tanaka doesn't seem to getting some of those borderline calls and he walks Akamine to start the game. It continues with Kubo, though he lays down the bunt.

Nishihira hits a comebacker to Tanaka who catches Akamine off 2nd, but in trying to run him down Nishihira goes to 2nd... so it's a wash with a lot of effort expended (unless Nishihira is slower than Akamine).

Doesn't matter though as Asato just dribbles a ball back to Tanaka for the 3rd out.

Top 2nd
The bottom of Toyokawa's lineup seems to provide Yamashiro no trouble as he gets Tanaka to groundout to 1st and Shima to chase the slider.

It's the top of the lineup that gives him fits.

Kazuya painting the lines apparently as he grounds a ball past a diving Uehara down the 1st base line for a double!

Then he hits Sugiura (it was a full count) to put runners on for Himi who already has a timely hit.  Can he add one more?

YES!!  He singles to right!  Kazuya rounding 3rd, throw coming in for Kubo up the 3rd base line, and it gets away from Irabu!  He scrambles to get it and Sugiura is waved home!  Irabu looks home, but no one's home!  Sugiura comes in uncontested and it's 5-0!

Takakuwa grounds to 3rd, and after Asato makes a great grab (the ball looked like it wanted to spin a different direction), the side is retired.

But for the Meiji Jingu champs, this looks real bad.

Bottom 2nd
Uehara singles to center to leadoff the inning, and it looks like Higa will play a run at a time as Sunagawa bunts him over.

But Irabu grounds back to Tanaka, and Yamashiro chases the slider for the final 2 outs, stranding him at 2nd.

Top 3rd
In an attempt to shake things up, Higa-kantoku sends Kubo in to take the hill. Yamashiro goes to replace him in RF.

Man the umpire today has a narrow strike zone.  I swear that 1-2 pitch to Itou was on the corner.  And if it was, it cost him as Itou hits a ball to the left side.  Sunagawa gets to the gap, but boots the ball away!  Base hit for Toyokawa!  Takeichi bunts him along to 2nd.

Oh dear.

Yamada takes one the other way into the right center field gap!  Itou can stroll home and it's 6-0 Toyokawa!

Kubo gets the last 2 batters out, Toyokawa is putting the foot down on Okishou's throats right now...

Bottom 3rd
Tanaka is having some control issues, but nothing serious to be worried about yet.  He strikes out 2 more batters en route to his first 1-2-3 inning.

Top 4th
Kubo perhaps settling down in relief as he gets Kazuya and Sugiura on grounders.

I say that and then Himi goes off and doubles into left center.

Takakuwa with a drive to left center!!  Akamine going back to his right...  still going...

Makes the catch near the wall for the 3rd out!  They finally get a donut on the board, but it still took a bit of work.

Bottom 4th
Nishihira with a ball off the end of the bat going like a bunt up the 3rd base side.  Nakamura charging in, his throw is late and one hops Itou and up in the air!  Shima backs up the play though.

Asato not bunting here as perhaps they're a bit too far behind now with the game almost half over.

But he hits a grounder to 3rd!  Nakamura smothers it, looks to 2nd then fires to 1st, just beating out Asato.

Uehara takes one the other way!  Takakuwa can't get to it and it goes to left! There's no throw home on the play and Okishou is on the board thanks to Uehara! 6-1.

Sunagawa his one back to Tanaka!  Goes to 2nd for one, AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Both Takakuwa and Shima are there at 2nd, but neither one get the ball!!  It goes to center as everyone is safe!  E6 and that gets Imai-kantoku to call time.

Irabu chopper up middle!  Takakuwa shovels it to Shima, who goes to 1st for the inning-ending double play!

The error by the middle infielders don't cost them any more runs, but Okinawa Shougaku is on the board, and in some ways that's just as important.

Top 5th
Kubo outside of the 3rd has done outstanding in relief.  Toyokawa's batters are still making contact, but nothing like what they were against Yamashiro.

Bottom 5th
After that shaky bit, Tanaka gets to feast against the bottom of Okishou's lineup.  And much like the 3rd he racks up 2 more K's in a 1-2-3 inning.

Tanaka has looked a bit more hittable against the middle parts of the lineup, but has only given up the 1 run.  Okishou can at least be comforted that Kubo is doing a great job in emergency relief.

Top 6th
There's a breakthrough in the 8-9 batters as Shima gets a one-out single to left center.

But Kubo again doing some fine work.  Kazuya chases the high curve and grounds into the 4-6-3 double play.

Bottom 6th
Tanaka gets two consecutive groundouts from Kubo and Nishihira, before serving one over that Asato takes back up the middle for a basehit.

Uehara hits a ball into left center, Sugiura racing to his right... makes the running catch to end the inning!

Top 7th
Kubo walking Sugiura on 4 straight gets a timeout from Higa-kantoku.

And Himi, who's 3-3 on the day, lays down the bunt!  It's successful, but he's also 3-3 today!

Kubo gets one of the 2 outs he needs when Takakuwa plays golf and pops out to short.

Ama-chan plays with the ouen dan in full voice.

Sanshin!  Itou chases the slider inside for the 3rd out.

Bottom 7th
2 quick outs for Tanaka, and Yamashiro's day is officially done.  #10 Kinjyou comes to hit for him and gets hit himself.

But Nakamura grounds to short and Okishou fails to gain any more traction.

Top 8th
Kinjyou stays in to play RF.

Toyokawa's bats have fallen to a murmur against Kubo.  Once again he records a clean inning to at least given them a chance at a comeback.

Bottom 8th
Akamine with a rip over a leaping Nakamura down the left field line!  He's in with a leadoff triple!

Imai-kantoku calls time as a graphic has him at 101 pitches.

Kubo swings on the first pitch and hits a chopper to 3rd.  Akamine holds as the out is recorded at 1st.

Tanaka leaves one over the plate and Nishihira drives that over Yamada's head and to the wall!  Akamine scores on the double to make it 6-2.  It's a start, but there's a ways to go.

SANSHIN!!  Tanaka goes with the slider outside instead of the shuuto and Asato misses for the 2nd out!

Uehara trying to continue the inning, falls behind 1-2.  Tanaka runs off the mound on what he thinks is strike 3, but the ump perhaps squeezes him.

But Uehara hits a soft grounder to 2nd.  Shima makes the out at 1st and Okishou is limited to just the 1!

Top 9th
Shima, after a slow start, hits a seeing eye single through the right side!

Kazuya with the buster hit, hits one to the left side.  Asato has no play as he was crashing in, and by the time Sunagawa gets to it, he has no play!

Sugiura instead shows the bunt late and moves the runners along for Himi.  It's another chance situation for him.  Can he deliver a 3rd time?  Will Okishou even let him?

Kubo pitching him outside.  Might just put him on.

But no, they catch the outside edge for strike 2.

SANSHIN!!!!!!

They go with the change and Himi bites!  He's finally retired!

Takakuwa with a ball to center, but Akamine is there to make the catch for the 3rd out.  Kubo's done his part giving up just 1 run over 7 innings of work.

Bottom 9th
Now, can the offense dig deep and find something?

Sunagawa scorcher to the left side, Nakamura with the diving stop.  Quick throw to 1st... Short hops Itou and he can't secure it!  Leadoff batter on for Okishou.

#4 Fuchigami in to hit for Irabu...

Fouls off a couple and the count is at 2-2.

Grounder up middle!  Takakuwa to 2nd for 1, Shima to 1st... double play!  Okishou down to their final out!

Kinjyou the last chance...

Kinjyou low shot right to Shima, has to play the in between hop and it goes off his glove into right!  There's still some life for Okishou.

And now Nakamura gets his first hit at the right time, with a ball back up the middle for a base hit.  The dream continues.

But it does come to an end.  Akamine grounds to 2nd.  Shima gathers it and goes to 1st to end the game!  First timers Toyokawa moves on to the Best 4 with a 6-2 win!

Toyokawa never gave Okinawa Shougaku a chance to be in this game.  The opened the scoring early, expanded the lead, and in some ways crushed Okishout's spirit.  Kubo kept them in the game, but the offense could never get themselves right after that start.

And once again Okinawa Shougaku falls short, despite their successful fall campaign.  They'll have to right the ship once again for the summer campaign.

Toyokawa meanwhile is the team no one wants to face.  Riseisha will get the honors tomorrow.

But there are some cracks.  The 3-4-5 batters for Okishou were 5-12, and while that's not enough to create offense per se, it is an indicator that perhaps he's a bit more vulnerable than we thought.  And remember that they'll have no rest going forward, so how will his arm hold up?

Still, they're a scary team.

Notable Players
Tanaka Sora (Toyokawa) - CG, ER, 8 H, 6 K, BB
Himi Taisuke (Toyokawa) - 3-4, 2B, R, RBI
Nakamura Kazuya (Toyokawa) - 3-5, 2B, 2R
Itou Tappei (Toyokawa) - 2-4
Yamashiro Daichi (Okinawa Shougaku) - 2 IP, 5 ER, 6 H, K, 0 BB, HBP
Kubo Shuuto (Okinawa Shougaku) - 7 IP, ER, 6 H, 5 K, BB
Nishihira Daiki (Okinawa Shougaku) - 2-4, 2B, R, RBI
Uehara Kouta (Okinawa Shougaku) - 2-4