Tuesday, August 23, 2016

98th Natsu Koushien - Final Thoughts

Well, another Natsu Koushien tournament is over, and while perhaps there were some surprises along the way, the eventual winner (at least to me, but perhaps to the Japanese not) wasn't.

I'm glad that schools like Toukai Dai-yon and Hokkai have made the finals, but as we've seen it took a special team in Komadai Tomakomai that could win the whole thing (and that was pre-Tanaka!).and barring a special performance the result was pretty much expected.

And in a way, that's kind of sad. Sure, like the NCAA tournament in general the best of the best are generally going to get to the final stages. But Koushien has always been pushed as a tournament that any team can win - and there are some cases where that happens. More often than not though it's a school like Osaka Touin that wins and while that may do it for most, it doesn't for me.

Now, I guess while Sakushin Gakuin has been a mainstay, the fact that they hadn't won since 1962 (when they won haru-natsu, aka spring-summer), and the young Kobari-kantoku who is just 33, has quietly turned Sakushin Gakuin into a powerhouse in the last 10 years (yes, he was 23 when he became the manager) is something to be lauded - though be careful of becoming the Osaka Touin of the East. Well, to me be careful, to the rest I'm sure they love it.

As for the rest of the tournament, there are continued signs that managers are getting it and are taking into account strategies that should have been implemented a while ago. Not bunting, running through 1st base for the simplest stuff. Managing pitcher's innings (when possible) as an example of more egregious behavior that is changing.

But for all the good that may have happened, what I will remember is Kousei and Shuugakukan...

Where the heck do I even start?

I guess Kousei first. Kousei was one of the exceptions of a private school who had done well that I rooted for, if nothing else because they were from Aomori, and in that stretch where they lost to Nichidai-san and Osaka Touin in 3 straight calendar finals they deserve to get one of them. Just one.

But after the managerial performance by Kosaka-kantoku this tournament, I refuse to root for them until he is replaced.

Against Touhou, having just scored 3 in the 7th to go up 9-2, Kosaka-kantoku sends in ace Sakurai to close the game out. Seems simple enough. He wasn't all that great in the end against Shiritsu Amagasaki but with a 7 run lead it should be fine.

Except it wasn't. He gave up 2 runs in the 7th, and then in the 8th gave up 1 more. So from 9-2, it became 9-5. And by this point, I'm basically saying either Sakurai needs to be replaced right now, or if he gives up a run in the 9th.

Not only does Sakurai not get replaced, he gives up not 1, but 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th as his team blows a 7 run lead - and you could see it coming from miles away.

No matter how you look at it, the loss falls squarely at the feet of Kosaka-kantoku. If Sakurai was the last pitcher available, that's on him for getting to that situation where he had no other options available, especially since he wasn't dominant and he faltered late against an average to below average team. If he left him in there because he's the ace, then that is on him for sticking to old traditions that need to die a fire. Either way Kosaka-kantoku should be fired for complete mismanagement.

And then there's Shuugakukan. From fellow followers, apparently they were a very polarizing team and I can see why. They had 4 above-average pitchers on their staff. Most teams would just like to have 1 bona-fide ace, but they had at least 4 above-average pitchers on their staff. With that you can manage innings, have the flexibility to go to someone else if one struggles, and be a front-runner to win a tournament. You'd think that managing the bullpen could be so easy, a caveman could do it.

Too bad Kajisha-kantoku apparently isn't a caveman.

Facing Hokkai in the semifinals, this should have been a cakewalk (sorry Hokkai, but it's the truth). Starter Kawabata came in and got out of 2 manrui situations. Bottom 2, Kawabata was due up in the order. He had thrown the most innings out of all 4, and could be forgiven if he needed extra rest even with the sharing of duties. Kajisha-kantoku had the perfect opportunity to PH for Kawabata, send in one of your other pitchers to start the 3rd having gotten away with murder basically, and work on winning the game.

Instead, Kajisha-kantoku leaves him in to hit and sends him out to start the next inning. And only after he lets the first 2 runners on, and get 2 outs does he send in Nakai. And he proceeds to give up a bases-clearing triple. After that it's all downhill from there because even though Arimura and Taura eventually stabilize the situation, they're a lighter offensive team needing to stage a comeback.

His strategy in the 3rd smacks one of ill-planning and panic instead of an actual strategy. If Kajisha-kantoku was perhaps trying to walk the tightrope as long as possible when he didn't PH for him in the 2nd, then he has 1 of 3 options:

  1. Replace Kawabata when he walked Satou Taiga to start the inning. Having survived 2 "dai pinchi", you give Kawabata one last chance to work with a clean slate. At the first sign of trouble, you pull him since his luck absolutely can't last forever. 
  2. Stick with Kawabata with 2 outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd. Now, this strategy I've actually frowned upon because I always think that kantoku's run with a pitcher too long and by the time the P has been replaced, it's too late. HOWEVER, since this is the prevalent thinking, he wouldn't be faulted (by the media) if Oonishi had gotten a hit off of Kawabata instead since Kajisha already proved he was sticking with Kawabata through the 1st and 2nd innings. This despite having 3 other pitchers available. (By the way, this makes the least sense, but could still be "explained" away)
  3. With Oonishi due up, send in Arimura to replace Kawabata. Nakai, Taura and Kawabata are all lefty pitchers, with Arimura the only righty. If Kawabata can play the field with any level of competency, you play the matchup with RH v RH by sending in Arimura, then you can send Arimura to the field to come in when necessary to face a dangerous RHB.
Instead, he doesn't do 1, doesn't stick the the plan to do 2, and when he does 3, he sends in another lefty which doesn't make sense at that moment. Would they still have given up runs if any of the alternate scenarios were run? Sure. But instead, he apparently panicked, cost his team runs, put them on their back foots and in an uncomfortable position to stage a comeback.

And what seemed like a fairly winnable game turned into a big fat "L", with Kajisha's surprised face burned into my memory and I wish I could just burn that.

For complete mismanagement of a dream pitching staff, Kajisha-kantoku should have been fired right after the game and made to find his own way back to Kumamoto.

So yeah, those two games are the things I will remember the most. Well, that and Chuukyou's no-hitter turned loss, and there's not much else to say on that other than just feeling bad for them.

Now the page quickly turns to the Aki taikai and potential qualification for next year's haru koushien. With me getting up in age (though yes I'm not THAT old), and my current semi-unstable job situation, I may need to reevaluate how I do things going forward. There may be some developments in the near future as to my coverage.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

98th Natsu Koushien - Day 15, Championship - Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) v Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido)

Well, here we are at the finals. Sakushin Gakuin and Hokkai, 2 well-known names, but one perhaps not known for going far. Hokkai played one of their best games yesterday, they'll need an even better one today - especially from ace Oonishi.

Sakushin Gakuin may just need to avoid making major mistakes that have felled other teams. Provided of course Imai holds up the whole game. He got some much needed rest, but he's still on his 4th game in 5 days and the signs of fatigue are already there.

I want a competitive game first and foremost. A blowout would just be such a downer at this point.

Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi)
  • def Jinsei Gakuen 3-0
  • def Hanasaki Tokuharu 6-2
  • def Kisaradzu Sougou 3-1
  • def Meitoku Gijyuku 10-2
SS Yamamoto Genki (山本 挙輝)
RF Yamanoi Ryuuga (山ノ井 隆雅)
CF Kobayashi Koutarou (小林 虎太郎)
1B Irie Taisei (入江 大生)
2B Fujino Yuusuke (藤野 佑介)
LF Ikari Taisei (碇 大誠)
3B Shinozaki Takashi (篠崎 高志)
C Ayugase Kazuya (鮎ケ瀬 一也)
P Imai Tetsuya (今井 達也)

Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido)
  • def Matsuyama Seiryou 2x-1
  • def Nichinan Gakuen 4-1
  • def Seikou Gakuin 7-3
  • def Shuugakukan 4-3
SS Ono Yuuya (小野 雄哉)
2B Kanno Shinji (菅野 伸樹)
3B Satou Yuuki (佐藤 佑樹)
C Satou Taiga (佐藤 大雅)
1B Kawamura Yuuto (川村 友斗)
LF (15)Fuse Taisei (布施 太聖)
RF Gehou Tadashi (下方 忠嗣)
P Oonishi Kento (大西 健斗)
CF Suzuki Yamato (鈴木 大和)

____________________________________________________________

14:00 - First pitch

4 pitch walk to Yamamoto, 1 more to Yamanoi before he swings on obvious ball on a hit-and-run. Yamanoi swinging to the benefit of Oonishi as he hits into a 6-4-3 double play.

But now Oonishi hits Kobayashi, bringing up the dreaded Irie. Except that he strikes out on a slider away from Oonishi!

Hokkai's first inning also sees Imai struggle a bit on the mound. the difference is that Hokkai is trying to get their knocks off of Imai as opposed to Sakushin trying to get on base against Oonishi. Kanno gets a 1-out single, but it's 2 groundouts thereafter. We even saw cleanup hitter Taiga show a bust-and-run method presumably in an effort to make contact.

That even continues into the 2nd. Kawamura draws a walk, and after a bunt, Gehou shows bunt but ends up chopping one back to Imai.

Oonishi draws the 2nd walk of the inning, bringing up last batter Suzuki.

And he slices the first pitch down the left field line... FAIR! It's in for a base hit and Kawamura scores to give Hokkai the 1-0 lead!

Sakushin Gakuin tries to find a response. Yamamoto sneaks one past Yuuki and Ono can't chase it down as it goes into left. He's able to take 2nd on a stolen base but Kobayashi grounds out to short.

They also now make a change sending in #16 Suzuki for LF Ikari. Not sure why.

Also, the top of the Hokkai order really wants to get after Imai, but all they get instead is 3 quick outs. I don't think that's what they need. Imai though uses it to pump in a 152 kph fastball. That's nice, but that doesn't equal a win.

What does is a leadoff walk by Irie. And then Oonishi leaves one fat in the strike zone and Fujino crushes it to center. It bounces off the top of the fence for a double.

Walking new LF Suzuki isn't a bad thing as it creates a force, but Hirakawa-kantoku calls for time.

Shinozaki with a chopper up 1st base line, Kawamura charging, but it goes under his glove! Kanno backup but everyone's safe and we're tied at 1-1!

Ayugase with a base up past Oonishi and into center! Sakushin Gakuin leads 2-1!

Imai with a single to right, that brings in one more. 3-1 and it looks to be the end of Oonishi, for now anyways. #11 Tama comes in for Fuse and takes the mound. Oonishi goes to LF.

But with no outs, it'll be really difficult to avoid giving up runs. Yamamoto makes sure of that with a hustle double to right, making it 5-1.

Tama gets 2 outs before having to face Irie, He doesn't back down either, giving him nothing to hit and eventually walking him to load the bases. Fujino grounds out to end the inning, but I'll need to see some type of response from Hokkai to think they stand any chance.

And there is a little life. Tama, in his 1st AB at Koushien singles to left. Gehou on the next pitch lits a sinking liner to left, but the defensive replacement Suzuki makes a great diving catch! That kills the rally, though thery're at least getting good contact on Imai.

Unfortunately it may not matter as Hokkai continues to fall further behind. Suzuki lays down a bunt and beats out a surprised Tama. Shinozaki on hit and run singles to right.

And then on Imai's AB he strikes out on ball in dirt. When Taiga goes to throw to 1st, Suzuki comes home and is safe to make it a 6-1 game.

With Hokkai still a mess at the plate, the game looked over before, but seems for sure now.

As a result, the rest of the game is just a victory procession for Sakushin Gakuin. The result not in doubt anymore. Sakushin Gakuin adds on a run, but the game ends 7-1.

Sakushin Gakuin is still the only team from Tochigi to win either Haru or Natsu Koushien tournaments having won both in 1962. Hokkai is the runner-up, the 2nd runner-up for a Hokkaido school in either tournament in as many years. I wish I could say it's because Hokkaido is getting stronger, but I don't think I could. Still it's a good thing for the region, reasons aside. Don't count out Clark Kokusai either now that the Komadai Iwamizawa kantoku is now there.

And so as the closing ceremonies take place, we close the curtain on another Natsu Koushien tournament. We saw things that we're used to seeing, some things that were new, some things that should never had happened, to things that we were glad that did. The game continues to change in Japan for better or worse. For me I can only hope that the idea of any team getting to Koushien can continue to hold.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

98th Natsu Koushien - Day 14, Semifinal 2 - Shuugakukan (Kumamoto) v Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido)

I have to admit, since I wasn't able to do my normal things before the Koushien tournament this year, I never got to see that Shuugakukan has not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 possible starting pitchers who can throw upper 130s at the minimum.

And we have seen all 4 pitchers at some point in time:
#1 - Arimura Taisei (140 kph) - 2 G, 2.1 IP, 0 ER,  0 H, 2 K, 2 BB
#10 - Nakai Yuusuke (141 kph) - 2 G, 6.2 IP, 0 ER, 7 H, 4 K, 1 BB
#11 - Taura Fumimaru (141 kph) - 2 G, 1 GS, 7.1 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 4 K, 3 BB
#12 - Kawabata Kento (141 kph) - 3 G, 2 GS. 10.2 IP, 1 ER, 13 K, 2 BB

That's just ridiculous. I've NEVER seen a team with that much good pitching.  And with 3 of them splitting time, it's hard to think that any one of them is completely empty in the tank. "Ace" Arimura has had the least amount of work. and you have to figure he'll see some extra time with just 2 games to go. And if one struggles, you have options - actual options.

The only weakness, and we saw it last game, is their offense. Despite scoring 4 runs last game, it was on just 5 hits. And they only drew 2 walks to boot. There are 2 batters who have been consistent - SS Matsuo Taiga and LF Amamoto Kousuke who have gone 6-13 and 7-10 respectively, but the drop in hits is concerning as that does leave less room for error on the pitching side, though they have options.

Hokkai is by far the underdog in the matchup. They barely survived against Matsuyama Seiryou, defeated an average Nichinan Gakuen team, and somehow were the team to finally defeat a weaker Seikou Gakuin.

Ace Oonishi will probably be in hot water all night, having pitched all innings so far for Hokkai. His K/BB rates have improved of sorts (6/6, 3/0, 6/2), but I can't imagine him having the same success against this lineup, especially having given up 3 runs in his last outing.

Offensively the one person who stands out is 1B Kawamura who is 5-11 with a HR. The team is batting around 0.333, but against this pitching staff you have to imagine that won't last.

Shuugakukan (Kumamoto)
  • def Tokoha Kikugawa 6-1
  • def Inabe Sougou Gakuen 6-1
  • def Jyousou Gakuin 4-1
SS Matsuo Taiga (松尾 大河)
CF Harada Takumi (原田 拓実)
1B Kimoto Ryouga (木本 凌雅)
C Kuki Ryuuhei (九鬼 隆平)
LF Amamoto Kousuke (天本 昂佑)
3B Hirobe Shuuhei (廣部 就平)
2B Horie Kouhei (堀江 航平)
RF Kimura Yuuji (木村 勇次)
P (12) Kawabata Kento (川端 健斗)

Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido)
  • def Matsuyama Seiryou 2x-1
  • def Nichinan Gakuen 4-1
  • def Seikou Gakuin 7-3
SS Ono Yuuya (小野 雄哉)
2B Kanno Shinji (菅野 伸樹)
3B Satou Yuuki (佐藤 佑樹)
C Satou Taiga (佐藤 大雅)
1B Kawamura Yuuto (川村 友斗)
LF (15)Fuse Taisei (布施 太聖)
RF Gehou Tadashi (下方 忠嗣)
P Oonishi Kento (大西 健斗)
CF Suzuki Yamato (鈴木 大和)

____________________________________________________________

13:05 - First pitch

It's an active first inning for Shuugakukan. Matsuo triples to right center, Harada walks. He then gets thrown out at 2nd, Oonishi uncorks a wild pitch, but they recover to throw out Matsuo at home. Kimoto singles to right and finally Amamoto saves extra bases when he lays out for a shallow liner to left.

All that for no runs.

Meanwhile Ono draws a leadoff walk off Kawabata. 2 outs now, and Taiga hits a ball hard at 1st. Kimoto blocks it in front of him, but stumbles, looks to toss to 1st but Kawabata is nowhere to be found! That continues the inning, runners at the corners, no wait, now manrui after he hits Kawamura and where is the rest of the pitching staff?

He gets fortunate when Fuse hits a chopper to the left side. He fields it, and throws to 1st for the 3rd out.

Kajisha-kantoku has a chance to relieve Kawabata by PH for him int he 3rd, but he doesn't...

Come the bottom of the 3rd it all finally bites him in the ass. Kawabata gives up a leadoff walk and a base hit. After getting 2 outs, he is finally relieved by #10 Nakai, but it's with runners on 2nd and 3rd.

And you knew the good luck wasn't going to last. Oonishi drives a ball to the right center field wall for a bases clearing triple. After that, Hirobe throws wide to 1st on a grounder.

0-0 becomes a 2-0 deficit, becomes a 3-0 deficit.

If Shuugakukan goes on to lose this game, it is WORSE than the Kousei loss because he had 3 other competent pitchers available and failed to go to ANY ONE OF THEM. Any team would kill for 2 above average pitchers, Kajisha-kantoku possibly has 4. 4!

He should be fired on the spot and have to find his own way back to Kumamoto.

Anyways, the game basically continues with one way direction all pointed at Hokkai. They get 1st 2nd with one out in the 4th, thanks to an error, then in the 5th, gives up a leadoff walk and after a fielder's choice, gives up singles to Ono and Kanno for a 4-0 game as we hit the break.

Never expected this.

Top 7th, Shuugakukan gets their best chance yet to score. Kuki doubles to right center. Amamoto singles through the left side for runners at the corners.

Yet Hirobe flies out to shallow center. Horie check swings into fair territory and is out 2-3. Then, Kajisha-kantoku PH for Arimura... with his last P #11 Taura!!

A wild pitch gets a runner in for 4-1. Taura for his part walks. But Hanjyou grounds out to 2nd and 1 run is all they get!

And then one major error makes this a game. 2 down, Matsuo on 2nd thanks to a HBP. Kuki with a base hit to right which might score 1.

Until the ball somehow gets past Gehou's glove... and all the way to the wall.

In shades of Waseda Jitsugyou-Kanzei, Kuki makes it all the way around and beats the throw in. We have a 4-3 game.

I REPEAT, WE HAVE A 4-3 GAME.

Now, Hokkai would go quietly in the 8th, leaving it all to Shuugakukan to make one last run.

But the bottom of the lineup was due, a 6-9 part of the lineup which to this point was 1-11...

Hirobe grounds out to 3rd...

Horie grounds out to 2nd... Last chance in Taura...

Chopper to short, throw to 1st... safe!! Taura's slide doesn't cost him as he still gets in ahead of the throw!

Up to Hanjyou...

Chopper to short again... throw to 1st... GAME SET!

There is no comeback, Hokkai holds on for a 4-3 win!

Hokkai almost gives it up in bizarre circumstances but they prevail. Shuugakukan's run at a title is short circuited, but not because of the players, it is because of Kajisha-kantoku not utilizing his entire pitching staff. A pitching staff that mind you any manager would kill for. 4 viable pitchers.

And yet, Kawabata was the one most used, and perhaps the one most likely to be pulled at any sign of trouble. Except he wasn't. He was left in to endure two manrun situations and was only replaced when again there were runners in scoring position. He was left in when you could have lifted him for a PH after struggling for the 2nd straight inning.

None of that happened. And as a result, they were in a hole they could never get out of.

This loss is worse in my opinion because Kajisha-kantoku obviously had options and failed to use them. This when it seemed he had managed it well to this point.

They could have won the championship. They instead are going home.

Hokkai will get their chance to be the 2nd team from Hokkaido to win Natsu Koushien. But it will not be easy. They will need the same patience they showed today against Imai tomorrow. And Oonishi will probably need to pitch the game of his life.

It's not impossible. But it'll be difficult.

98th Natsu Koushien - Day 14, Semifinal 1 - Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) v Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)

Well, we're down to the nitty gritty. Best 4, 2 games, 18 innings (minimum anyways) to the title. And perhaps in an oddity, we have teams from all across the country. First up are the central teams, Sakushin Gakuin and Meitoku Gijyuku.

Sakushin Gakuin in terms of competition probably has the strongest resume having defeated 2 Kanto schools. Ace Imai has pitched all innings so far, posted the following lines:
  • 8/12 vs Jinsei Gakuen - CG SHO, 5 H, 13 K, 2 BB
  • 8/18 vs Hanasaki Tokuharu - CG, 2 ER, 6 H, 10 K, 4 BB
  • 8/19 vs Kisaradzu Sougou  - CG, ER, 6 H, 7 K, BB
Now, there were signs that Imai perhaps was reaching the end of his tank against Kisaradzu Sougou. If not for them running themselves out of innings, it's possible Sakushin Gakuin isn't here now. Now, he was pitching on back-to-back days, so it can be understandable. But, he's only got one day to rest before this game - how much he's got in the tank will be key. He might be able to get through this game, but the final could be another story.

Offensively, it's all about SS Irie. He's hit a HR in each game so far, joining a very short list of players to do so:
  • 1979 - Kagawa Nobukyuki (Nami Shougyou)
  • 1985 - Kiyohara Kazuhiro (PL Gakuen), Fujii Susumu (Ube Shougyou)
  • 1990 - Matsumoto Kengo (Ube Shougyou)
  • 2001 - Harashima Masamitsu (Nichidai-san)
  • 2008 - Hagiawara Keigo (Osaka Touin)
He's 6-12, with 5 RBIs, 0 Ks and 1 BB. If I were Meitoku Gijyuku, he would not get a pitch to hit, no way no how. This especially since the bottom of the Sakushin lineup is a combined 6-30! Walk him and take your chances elsewhere.

Meitoku Gijyuku I had written off as one of the weaker version of this team. And while they are here in the best 4, they were fortunate to have one of the weaker schedules, defeating Sakai who had a long absence between appearances, and Kadena who were first timers. The only win they could hang their hat on was Naruto, who in the round prior defeated Chiben Gakuen.

The team has used predominantly 2 pitchers, ace Nakano Yasutoshi and #10 Kanatsu Tomoyasu. Neither though are all that dominant. The Naruto game aside where Nakano struck out 8 and walked 3, the pitchers combined for just 5 K's and 4 BB's in 17 innings of work. Now, they did yield just 12 hits in the three games they worked, but if you look at their results as a whole, including their loss in the spring to Ryuukokudai Heian, and you have to have reservations about their staff, successful as they have been.

Offensively, the team's been all over the place, but the one seemingly consistent batter is C Koga Yuudai who is 7-12, but with just 1 RBI. This despite the fact that he has batted 5th, and then last game 4th in the lineup.

It's still hard for me to believe that Meitoku Gijyuku is a contender, even here in the Best 4. I still expect Sakushin Gakuin to reach the finals provided that Imai isn't gassed.

Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi)
  • def Jinsei Gakuen 3-0
  • def Hanasaki Tokuharu 6-2
  • def Kisaradzu Sougou 3-1
SS Yamamoto Genki (山本 挙輝)
RF Yamanoi Ryuuga (山ノ井 隆雅)
1B Irie Taisei (入江 大生)
CF Kobayashi Koutarou (小林 虎太郎)
2B Fujino Yuusuke (藤野 佑介)
LF Ikari Taisei (碇 大誠)
3B Shinozaki Takashi (篠崎 高志)
C Ayugase Kazuya (鮎ケ瀬 一也)
P Imai Tetsuya (今井 達也)

Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
  • def Sakai 7-2
  • def Kadena 13-5
  • def Naruto 3-0
CF Tachibana Kotarou (立花 虎太郎)
LF Nishimura Shun (西村 舜)
1B Nishiura Souta (西浦 颯大)
C Koga Yuudai (古賀 優大)
RF (18)Taniai Yuuto (谷合 悠斗)
3B Ookita Kaito (大北 海斗)
SS Takamura Kazushi (高村 和志)
2B Imai Ryousuke (今井 涼介)
P Nakano Yasutoshi (中野 恭聖)

____________________________________________________________

10:03 - First Pitch!

Nakano certainly not blowing by hitters, gets a bad break when Yamanoi's grounder to 1st is missed by Nishiura and deflects past Imai into right. Yamanoi steals 2nd, leaving 1st open, and Nakano doesn't give in, doesn't give Irie a pitch to hit and walks him instead on a 3-2 pitch inside.

The 2nd out comes when Kobayashi hits a dribbler to the right side. Imai's only play is to 1st, but a base hit could score 2. That job is for Fujino now and he's certainly battling, taking a 1-2 pitch just outside, and then barely making contact on a similar pitch.

Makes contact! Down the RF line... FAIR!! It's just fair as both runners will easily score! Fujino at 2nd and Sakushin Gakuin up 2-0! Nakano tried to jam him inside, but Fujino gets the bat in front and makes a great timely hit!

But come the bottom of the inning, there are immediate concerns. While Imai strikes out Tachibana to start off the inning, the control seems to be lacking. And in fact he walks Nishimura.

Nishiura takes some time to come out for his AB as his foot was stepped on on the final play of the top of the 1st. His response is to attack the first pitch and drive it down the RF line foul.

But instead Mabuchi-kantoku calls for the hit-and-run! Nishiura on a 1-2 pitch lines a single to right, and it's runners at the corners for Meitoku Gijyuku! Throw in another walk to Koga and it's manrui, one out!

1st year Taniai has a chance to bring his team level.

He get a fastball down the middle, but it's a grounder to short! He runs to 2nd for 1, throws to 1st... and it beats out a diving Taniai! 3 outs! Imai survives the 1st, but he'll still have 8 innings to go...

Bottom 2 and Ookita not getting message. He's swinging away and flies out to right. Takamura though does stay patient and gets a walk, that's Imai's 3rd BB already. Imai showing bunt, but while the bottom of the lineup is struggling you can't give a struggling pitcher outs.

And he does swing! Grounder back up the middle! AH! Yamamoto makes a great diving stop! Tags 2nd for 1, throw to 1st... not in time! But an excellent play by the SS!

Nakano does his best at the plate, but eventually Imai strikes him out looking and the side is retired.

Now, Sakushin perhaps recognizing the situation they're in, are going for it. Yamamoto single to right bobbled by Taniai (who's not having a great game so far) and Yamamoto takes the extra base. Yamanoi singles to right and it's runners at the corners.

Irie still doesn't get his HR, grounds to 2nd. Imai can't get the ball out of the glove and as a result can only get the runner at 2nd while a runner scores. 3-0.

That failure proves costly. Kobayashi hits a fly ball to right, Taniai goes back, but misplays the ball and it's off the wall. Irie had to hold up thinking it was caught and ends up only at 3rd. Not a good game for Taniai...

And now Fujino with a ball deep to left center, and that's off the wall. Both runners score and it's 5-0.

Meitoku gets one of those runs back when Nishimura booms a HR off Imai to left. 5-1.

Nishiura gets hit, and Koga gets a fastball middle and gets a base hit the other way. 2 on for Taniai.

But he takes just one pitch outside before attacking a similar one and popping out, essentially killing the rally.

Sakushin Gakuin snuffing out any possible resistance left goes back to back doubles by the bottom of the lineup no less to start the 4th. Toss in there a couple more hits from Yamanoi and Kobayashi and you have an 8-1 ballgame and Nakano KOd.

And almost to add insult to injury Fujino lines a ball right at new P Kanadzu and he has to basically use survival reflexes to not get a ball planted in his face.

Meitoku gets a run back thanks to an error and sac fly, only to see that evaporate immediately in the top of the 5th with a triple for Shinozaki and a sac fly of their own. 9-2.

Sakushin continues to add runs with 1 in the 6th, while Imai is relieved and sent into the field which is really smart given the score. #10 Ugajin comes in to pitch.

Now, Ugajin does put the bases loaded with 1 out yielding 3 straight singles, but he comes right back to strikeout a game Wakiya on a slider inside, then Ooktita gives a ball a ride, but falls short of the warning track.

The game finally winds down with Irie of all people taking the mound, throwing low-mid 140s heat. and a mid-120s slider. Sakushin Gakuin cruises to the final with a 10-2 win.

And it seems inevitable really. I never though Meitoku Gijyuku was a contender, but in that first inning they could have set the tone if they were to level the score. They didn't and it was pretty much over from there.

Still, they got to the Best 4, easy road or not. Give them credit for getting here, but it was about as far as they were going to go.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

98th Natsu Koushien - Day 12, Game 4 - Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) v Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba)

Well, 3 relatively non-competitve games so far. Sakushin Gakuin has looked really good so far, and is poised to make it's best run for the title since 2011.

Standing in their way is Kisaradzu Sougou, which has had to survive several low scoring games. The question is if they're up to challenge. Oddly, these teams have not met in the last 10 years.

Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi)
  • def Jinsei Gakuen 3-0
  • def Hanasaki Tokuharu 6-2
SS Yamamoto Genki (山本 挙輝)
RF Yamanoi Ryuuga (山ノ井 隆雅)
1B Irie Taisei (入江 大生)
CF Kobayashi Koutarou (小林 虎太郎)
2B Fujino Yuusuke (藤野 佑介)
LF Ikari Taisei (碇 大誠)
3B Shinozaki Takashi (篠崎 高志)
C Ayugase Kazuya (鮎ケ瀬 一也)
P Imai Tetsuya (今井 達也)

Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba)
  • def Karatsu Shougyou 2-0
  • def Hiroshima Shinjyou 2-0
SS Minemura Takaki (峯村 貴希)
CF Kido Ryou (木戸 涼)
2B Koike Kouki (小池 航貴)
RF Toriumi Ranma (鳥海 嵐万)
LF Hosoda Yuuki (細田 悠貴)
3B Inoue Mizuki (井上 瑞樹)
1B Yamashita Hikaru (山下 輝)
P Hayakawa Takahisa (早川 隆久)
C Oozawa Shou (大沢 翔)

____________________________________________________________

15:55 - First pitch!

Well, that didn't take long. 2 outs, Irie up, Hayakawa puts a fastball middle-middle, and Irie takes it out to left center. 1-0.

Outside of that HR though, both Hayakawa and Imai are basically sending the batters home without supper. Though for Hayakawa it has to be concerning that through 2 all balls hit into play are fly balls.

Oh boy... I write that and right after Hayakawa walks Yamamoto, Yamanoi is the next to take Hayakawa deep, this time to right. 3-0 Sakushin Gakuin...

Imai on the other hand has not had a putout in the outfield through 3 innings. A total contrast of results so far, and all favoring Sakushin Gakuin.

Kisaradzu Sougou would get a chance in the 4th. Kido collects their first hit on a liner to center. A sac bunt moves him into scoring position, but outside of Hosoda getting plunked, it's business as usual for Imai, striking out Toriumi for the 2nd time and getting Inoue to fly out, again.

They get a smaller chance before the break. 2 down, Oozawa singles to left. After Minemura bloops one for a base hit, it's up to Kido, but he strikes out looking - Imai's 6th in the game - to end the inning.

It really doesn't look good for Kisaradzu Sougou. To win, they'll need to match their entire output so far over the next 4 innings.

Their next opportunity comes in the 7th. Inoue walks to lead off the inning, but by the time it reaches Oosawa, Inoue has only made it to 2nd and there's 2 out. Still, Oosawa is able to pull an outside fastball for a base hit and the shutout is averted, 3-1.

Ah... but the inning ends abruptly when Imai picks off Oosawa to end the inning. The momentum built just fizzles like that and they're down to their final 6 outs.

8th inning, and they've dug their own grave. One down, Koike gets a single. Toriumi follows that up next pitch with a ball deep to left. The 3B coach waves Koike around, but Yamamoto's relay throw home guns him down. Instead of 2nd/3rd, 1 out, you have 2nd, 2 outs. and Hosoda strikes out looking. That's pretty much game there.

And it is. Kisaradzu Sougou provides no resistance in the 9th as they fall 3-1. And really, they can only point the finger at themselves. Getting picked off in the 7th, getting thrown out at home in the 8th. Both were opportunities to draw within 1 or even tie the game. Instead they walk away with nothing against an ace that perhaps was vulnerable.

As for Sakushin Gakuin, they advance, but Imai was certainly under pressure in the late innings. He didn't need to exert himself to throw 152 at the end, and only serves to deplete those reserves just that little more. Yes, they're facing Meitoku Gijyuku, but if your ace struggles any team can be in it.

98th Natsu Koushien - Day 12, Game 3 - Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido) v Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima)

With the first two winners not drawing each other, this matchup can breathe easy not having to face Sakushin Gakuin. Shuugakukan is still in play, which is why for the winner of this game, perhaps drawing Meitoku Gijyuku is the lesser of two evils.

Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido)
  • def Matsuyama Seiryou 2x-1
  • def Nichinan Gakuen 4-1
SS Ono Yuuya (小野 雄哉)
2B Kanno Shinji (菅野 伸樹)
3B Satou Yuuki (佐藤 佑樹)
C Satou Taiga (佐藤 大雅)
1B Kawamura Yuuto (川村 友斗)
LF (15)Fuse Taisei (布施 太聖)
RF Gehou Tadashi (下方 忠嗣)
P Oonishi Kento (大西 健斗)
CF Suzuki Yamato (鈴木 大和)

Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima)
  • def Clark Kokusai 5-2
  • def Touhou 5-3
3B Matsumoto Kouki (松本 康希)
2B Koizumi Teppei (小泉 徹平)
CF (9)Kanou Satsuki (加納 皐)
P (8)Suzuki Takuto (鈴木 拓人)
LF Kamakura Takashi(鎌倉 誠)
CF (15) Satou Shunya (佐藤 駿矢)
SS Segawa Kouki (瀬川 航騎)
1B (13)Nishikawa Shouya (西川 将也)
C Kadoi Taijyu (門井 泰寿)
____________________________________________________________

13:05 - First pitch!

For Hokkai, this couldn't have been that much worse of a 1st inning.

Satou boots the first groundball from Matsumoto, Oonishi hits 2 batters, a wild pitch scores the first run, a shallow fly ball that shouldn't score anyone does because they can't get under it comfortably, and the first base hit scored the 3rd run of the inning. 3-0 Seikou Gakuin after 1.

Unfortunately for Seikou, they were not immune to the ugliness either. Suzuki walks the first batter, walks another batter after a sac bunt, gives up an RBI single to Oonishi, saw 2B Koizumi flay miss his toss to 2nd on a double play, and then Suzuku hit a batter to bring a 2nd run in, making it a 3-2 ballgame.

Oy. You guys are playing for a spot in the Best 4, clean it up would you?

The do for an inning, but Hokkai almost blows it yet again. Oonishi gives up back-to-back singles to Kanou and Suzuki before Satou is able to snag a hot shot from Kamamura, step on 3rd for 1, and throw to 1st for the double play to retire the side.

Instead it's Seikou Gakuin who falters again. 4th inning, Gehou singles. After a failed bunt, Suzuka lays one down and not only does it work, but everyone's safe! And then with 2 down, Sugano singles to right, followed right behind by Satou, each scoring 1 meaning that Hokkai amazingly has the 4-3 lead!

And they add to it! Kawamura up to lead off the 5th and he blasts a ball to right center! The fielders converge and it's gone! Solo HR for Hokkai and they're leading 5-3!!

Saitou-kantoku relieves Suzuki with #11 Suzuki Takuto who walks 2 of his 3 batters and throws a wild pitch. #18 Saitou comes in and immediately Hokkai's Suzuki lays down the squeeze, which works, putting them ahead 6-3, which is where we are at the break.
Needless to say, the game up until this point hasn't been pretty, and with Seikou changing pitchers twice in an inning, it might yet get worse.

Thankfully for them it doesn't get too much worse. They give up a run in the 8th. Problem was, they weren't able to generate many opportunities until the 8th where Kanou hit a double, but got thrown out trying to go to 3rd on a grounder to short. After that, Kamakura hit a double that would have scored 1. Instead PH #16 Nakaya grounds out to 2nd netting the team a donut.

And so Seikou Gakuin goes down to Hokkai no less. Just to be clear, I don't like the school because it has won Fukushima 10 times in a row. But I don't dislike the players. It's not their fault they went to the best school - the only school perhaps - that they may remember to go to Koushien. It's what the school represents that I don't like.

Which is why I still feel bad when I see the players from Seikou crying. Their summer is over and a spot in the Best 4 wasn't that far away.

98th Natsu Koushien - Day 12, Game 2 - Naruto (Tokushima) v Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)

Next up is an-all Shikoku matchup. Meitoku Gijyuku and Naruto faced off in the spring taikai where Meitoku Gijuku won 3-2. Of course that game doesn't have the importance this one does - a spot in the Best 4 two days from now.

Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
  • def Sakai 7-2
  • def Kadena 13-5
CF Tachibana Kotarou (立花 虎太郎)
LF Nishimura Shun (西村 舜)
1B Nishiura Souta (西浦 颯大)
C Koga Yuudai (古賀 優大)
RF (18)Taniai Yuuto (谷合 悠斗)
3B Ookita Kaito (大北 海斗)
SS Takamura Kazushi (高村 和志)
2B Imai Ryousuke (今井 涼介)
P Nakano Yasutoshi (中野 恭聖)

Naruto (Tokushima)
  • def Saku Chousei 3-2
  • def Chiben Gakuen 5-2
  • def Moriokadai Fuzoku 11-9
SS Hino Koutarou (日野 洸太郎)
2B Kamata Kouhei (鎌田 航平)
1B Fuji Yoshimoto (冨士 佳資)
CF Tezuka Kaito (手束 海斗)
C Sahara Yuudai (佐原 雄大)
RF Yatake Masaya (矢竹 将弥)
P Kawano Ryuusei (河野 竜生)
LF Watanabe Yuuya (渡辺 裕哉)
3B Takeishi Ren (武石 蓮)

____________________________________________________________

10:40 - First Pitch!

Tachibana getting Meitoku Gijyuku off to a roaring start as he triples to left center. However, none of the next 3 batters can bring him home! Nishimura pops out, Nishiura watches a fastball on the outer edge, and Koga chases a slider for the 3rd out!

Meitoku does get on the board one inning later though. Ookita would hit a one-out single up the middle. Two batters late, Imai would hit a two-seamer left over the plate by Kawano and line it to left. Watanabe's throw is high and that allows Ookita to slide under the tag. 1-0.

Unfortunately I nodded off, and in the meantime Meitoku got hits from Taniai, Takamura and Imai to make the score 2-0. Nakano's grounder to short would have ended the inning but Hino bobbles it and everyone's safe.  They get to tack on one more when Kawano walks a run and Naruto is in a bit of a bother down 3-0.

While I nodded in and out, in reality there just wasn't much else to the game. Naruto got just 3 hits and 7 base runners on the day, but at no point did you think Meitoku Gijyuku was in danger. And they had many other opportunities to score though they didn't in the end and it wasn't necessary.

98th Natsu Koushien - Day 12, Game 1 - Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki) v Shuugakukan (Kumamoto)

Having defeated Riseisha, Jyousou Gakuin has to feel good about themselves, and people have to look at them with a more discerning eye for as a title contender. Shuugakukan has had it easy so far with 2 wins against so-so competition. Jyousou should present a huge step up. Will they be able to handle it?

Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki)
  • def Oumi 11-0
  • def Chuukyou 8-3
  • def Riseisha 7-4
2B Arimura Kouta (有村 恒汰)
CF Suyama Yuuki (陶山 勇軌)
1B Miyazawa Toyota (宮里 豊汰)
3B Hanawa Naoki (花輪 直輝)
C Shimizu Kazema (清水 風馬)
SS Nakamura Jin (中村 迅)
LF Ishikawa Dai (石川 大)
P Suzuki Shouta (鈴木 昭汰)
RF Suzuki Kaito (鈴木 海斗)

Shuugakukan (Kumamoto)
  • def Tokoha Kikugawa 6-1
  • def Inabe Sougou Gakuen 6-1
SS Matsuo Taiga (松尾 大河)
CF Harada Takumi (原田 拓実)
1B Kimoto Ryouga (木本 凌雅)
C Kuki Ryuuhei (九鬼 隆平)
LF Amamoto Kousuke (天本 昂佑)
3B Hirobe Shuuhei (廣部 就平)
2B Horie Kouhei (堀江 航平)
RF Kimura Yuuji (木村 勇次)
P (12) Kawabata Kento (川端 健斗)

____________________________________________________________

08:00 - First pitch

Well, Kawabata gives up a leadoff walk, which could always spell trouble. But he then trades 2 outs for 2 bases meaning Hanawa's groundout to 2nd leaves the runner stranded.

Shouta is also having some of his own issues on the mound for Jyousou Gakuin. Primarily that #3 batter Kimoto hit a line single down the right field line, and then it took a great running catch by Suyama to prevent an extra base hit by Kuki to deep right center.

It actually seems like Kawabata is the better pitcher early. Despite the leadoff walk, he's setting down the Jyousou lineup, even striking out the side in the 2nd with some well located pitches.

And now out of nowhere, Shouta leaves a ball up to Amamoto and he drives one to left! Ishikawa going back to the wall, but it's gone! 1-0 Shuugakukan and this is a bit of a surprise.

Now, Suzuki retires the side thereafter, but it's clear who has the scoring chances right now.

Oh boy...

Shuugakukan doubles their lead in the 3rd when Shouta leaves a fastball middle-milddle and Matsuo drives that to left for a HR! 2-0 Shuugakukan and we may have something on our hands!

I did mention this on twitter that Shuugakukan did beat Seiseikou, Kumamoto Kougyou, Buntoku and Kyushu Gakuin, all above average schools in the prefecture. But what really stands out is that Shuugakukan has possibly 4 viable pitchers they can turn to! Ace Arimura, #10 Nakai, #11 Taura and today's starter #12 Kawabata. That's a huge advantage in late stages, provided they get there.

Which of course Jyousou Gakuin is trying to prevent. And in the 5th they finally get to Kawabata.

First Nakamura gets a 1-out walk. 2 down, with Nakamura on 2nd now from a wild pitch and Shouta despite being relieved, hits a single to left, scoring Nakamura and making it 2-1 before the break,

Shuugakukan uses the break to send in someone from the bullpen, this time it's #10 Nakai, who retires the top of the Jyousou lineup in order.

In the bottom of the 6th it all goes wrong for Jyousou Gakuin. 2 outs, and Hirobe has just hit a dobule to left center. Horie seeming hits a routine grounder to short. but Nakamura has it go 5-hole on him and into the outfield allowing Hirobe to score making it a 3-1 ballgame. And if that weren't bad enough he gets another grounder, tries to go the short way for the out, but throws it in the dirt and it goes into the outfield.

Throw in a wild pitch from Kurata for good measure and Shuugakukan scores 2 runs in the 6th without the benefit of a hit to make it 4-1,

The game seemed in hand, but they gave themselves a scare in the 9th. Nakai would give up back to back ringing singles to start the inning. And even after a 1-out walk to Shimizu, Kajisha-kantoku sticks with Nakai. Only when Nakamura pops out does he send in ace Arimura. Jyousou Gakuin counters with #12 Yoshinari.

In the end though, Yoshinari would not be able to lift the bat off the shoulder as he would go down looking to end the game.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

98th Natsu Koushien - Day 11, Game 4 - Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki) v Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido)

Last Round of 16 game. Winner gets a crack at Seikou Gakuin, which seems like a good and bad matchup at the same time by now. From the games so far, Hokkai by far has the bigger task ahead of them while Nichinan Gakuen has shown their competence in their games so far.

Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki)
CF (16)Matsunaga Haruomi (松永 悠臣)
3B Yoshiga Kenshin (芳賀 憲伸)
2B Maeda Naoki (前田 尚輝)
LF Masuda Kaisei (益田 海成)
RF Hamamoto Itsuki (浜本 樹)
C Hagiwara Hiro (萩原 哲)
SS Ishijima Yuuto (石嶋 友翔)
1B Ishida Kouhei (石田 航平)
P Moriyama Genki (森山 弦暉)

Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido)
SS Ono Yuuya (小野 雄哉)
2B Kanno Shinji (菅野 伸樹)
3B Satou Yuuki (佐藤 佑樹)
C Satou Taiga (佐藤 大雅)
1B Kawamura Yuuto (川村 友斗)
LF (15)Fuse Taisei (布施 太聖)
RF Gehou Tadashi (下方 忠嗣)
P Oonishi Kento (大西 健斗)
CF Suzuki Yamato (鈴木 大和)

____________________________________________________________

15:22 - First pitch!

Well, Nichinan Gakuen not wasting any time. Yoshiga hits a single through the left side. 2 down now and Yoshiga at 3rd, Masuda hits a hard grounder up the 3rd base line and off of Yuuki into foul territory. Yoshiga scores easily and it's 1-0 just like that.

Surprisingly to me anyways, Hokkai would have a response soon after. Bottom 2nd,Taiga leads off with a base hit past Maeda. 2 down and Taiga now at 3rd, Gehou would hit a single to left and there we are at a tie game, 1-1.

I'm actually surprised to see Hokkai having as much success as they are against ace Moriyama. I guess part of it is that Moriyama isn't really firing it in there as he maxes out in the mid-120s. So in the 3rd they have runners at the corners and 2 out, but fail to score. and then in the 4th they get back to back hits from Fuse and Gehou, but when Oonishi strikes out Fuse must've had his signs crossed up because he's stuck in no-man's land and run down for the 3rd out. While they have the advantage right now on offense, they need to be converting these opportunities into runs.

The game hits the break all square at 1-1. Neither ace is completely dominating if you look at strikeouts, but both have managed the game really well as it has zipped along at a quick 50 minutes.

Hokkai would get first crack at breaking the deadlock. Bottom 6, Yuuki whizzes one past Moriyama into center for a base hit. Taiga lays down a bunt, but the Nichinan defense waits for it to go foul... which it never does! And to make matters worse, after a conference, Kawamura lays down a bunt that Moriyama fields, goes to 3rd, only to see the 3B not covering the bag! All safe and it's manrui, no out!!

Now Nichinan gets one of those outs back when Fuse grounds to short. Ishijima goes home for 1, but that's all they get.

And now Gehou grounds to short! Ishijima goes to 2nd for 1, throw to 1st is the double play and somehow Nichinan Gakuen escapes!

However, they aren't immediately able to turn that into momentum for their side, so it kind of sits in the middle while the two teams fight for it. In the meantime, both teams scuffle at the plate.

And then suddenly the run comes out of nowhere. Bottom 8th, Moriyama innocuously hits Sugano. After a sac bunt Taiga drives a ball into the left center field gap! That will score Sugano and it's 2-1 Hokkai!

And then...

Kawamura hits a ball to right, Hamamoto chases after it, goes to the wall...

And it's gone! It's gone! Hamamoto hits a 2-run HR and Hokkai is suddenly up 4-1!!

There would be no coming back for Nichinan Gakuen as Moriyama futilely screams while holding back tears. Nichinan would go down in order in the 9th as Hokkai moves onto the best 8, 4-1.

98th Natsu Koushien - Day 11, Game 3 - Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba) v Hiroshima Shinjyou (Hiroshima)

Headache gone, but not 100%. Last game disappointed a bit, let's see if things pick up in the afternoon session.

Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba)
2B Koike Kouki (小池 航貴)
CF Kido Ryou (木戸 涼)
SS Minemura Takaki (峯村 貴希)
RF Toriumi Ranma (鳥海 嵐万)
1B Yamashita Hikaru (山下 輝)
LF Hosoda Yuuki (細田 悠貴)
3B Inoue Mizuki (井上 瑞樹)
P Hayakawa Takahisa (早川 隆久)
C Oozawa Shou (大沢 翔)

Hiroshima Shinjyou (Hiroshima)
2B Sugimura Hiroyoshi (杉村 泰嘉)
3B Furukawa (田中 政範)
LF (14)Tanaka Masanori (田中 政範)
RF Kitatani Shougo (北谷 奨吾)
1B Ogawa Toranousuke (小河 虎之介)
C Furumoto Kouki (古本 幸希)
CF Kawauchi Kyouei (河内 恭英)
P Hori Mizuki (堀 瑞輝)
SS Tanaka Ryouta (田中 亮太)

____________________________________________________________

13:27 - First Pitch!

I didn't even get a chance to finish putting my twitter post to this blog post when Kido blasted a ball through the hamazake and out to RF for a home run. 1-0 Kidaradzu Sougou.

I thought perhaps it might be another one of those games. Thankfully it wasn't because Hori would shut it down afterwards.

And actually, both aces would shut things down for a while. Hori wouldn't give up a hit until the 3rd when OOsawa would hit a double to right center, but be stranded. Hayakawa wouldn't give up a hit until the 4th when Sugimura would get a leadoff single back up the middle. He would get picked off by Oozawa, and then on a Furukawa walk Tanaka would ground into the 6-4-3 double play.

The difference is while both were recording their fair share of strikeouts, Hori would get a few flyball outs while Hayakawa were almost all on the ground.

Kisaradzu Sougou would get one more chance to add to their lead in the 5th after a leadoff hit, but Hosoda would be stranded at 2nd as the bottom of the lineup would be unable to deliver.

So at the break the aces combined have given up just 4 hits, 1 walk and stuck out 9. At this point, since Kisaradzu Sougou has the lead, the impetus will be on them to get their offense going soon.

The problem is, they're only with 1 of the 4 hits while Kisaradzu Sougou has had runners on for the last couple. There was the aforementioned 5th, the 6th where they got a 1-out single (that was later picked off), and now int he 7th when Toriumi gets a leadoff single.

Later in the inning, 2 down Toriumi on 2nd, Inoue comes through with a base hit up the middle. Toriumi is waved home and the throw not nearly in time. 2-0 and Hiroshima Shinjyou's task gets that much harder.

And while Hori would only give up 2 runs, his team would only be able to muster just 3 hits against ace Hayakawa as they would indeed fall 2-0. A masterful performance by the Chiba ace. And he must continue that because next up will be Sakushin Gakuin!