Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 4 - Game 2 - Mukawa (Hokkaido) vs. Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate)

Once again, we are treated to an exciting ball game to open the day. Our lunchtime game involves 2 teams in the northern stretches of Japan - Mukawa from Hokkaido and Hanamaki Higashi from Iwate. Mukawa had a tough road to the Hokkaido championship and also made a deep run in the Fall National Tournament. Hanamaki Higashi was one of the invitees from the Tohoku regional, chosen over Ichinoseki Gakuin.

11:35 AM - First Pitch

Top 1st
Kikuchi is not afraid to pitch inside. That much is evident pitching to leadoff batter Abe Akihiro. And he retires the side in what feels like dominating fashion. Perhaps it's because he's hitting 145 kph (90 mph) with his fastball...

Bottom 1st
Nishifuji retires the first two batters easily. Then Kawamura hits a slow grounder to 1st. Mori makes the grab, but Nishifuji isn't running hard to the bag! By the time he notices Kawamura right behind him it's too late and Kawamura beats him to the bag!

Saruwaka follows that up with a single through to right. And then Chiba hits a grounder up the middle! Haginaka with the dive, but it deflects off of him! Luckily for Mukawa it's across the bag at 2nd. Miaymoto runs it down and Kawamura holds at 3rd. But suddenly it's a manrui chance for Hanamaki Higashi!

But Nishifuji gets Yokokura to pop up and the inning is over! Mukawa avoids an early disaster!

Top 2nd
Mukawa goes down in order - but not before Abe Youhei puts a charge into the ball, sending it to deep center where Satou Ryouhei runs it down.

Bottom 2nd
Nishifuji manages to get through all three outs without incident this time, retiring the bottom of the order in, well... orderly fashion.

Top 3rd
Kikuchi is having his way with the Mukawa batters, retiring them in order yet again.

Bottom 3rd
Back to the top of the order and Kashiwaba gets hit by Nishifuji. Then he steals 2nd! Then Ryouhei puts down a safety bunt and takes everyone by surprise! Runners at the corners with no now for Hanamaki Higashi!

Kawamura steps up to the plate, having the first of those 3 consecutive hits in the 1st. He strikes out, but Ryouhei steals 2nd!

Sarukawa comes up and Nishifuji throws one in the dirt! It gets by Iwaya and to the backstop! Kashiwaba comes home and it's 1-0 Hanamaki! Sarukawa with a grounder to short can't score Ryouhei.

Chiba does though! He lines one down the right field line for a double, scoring Ryouhei and his double gives them a 2-0 lead!

Top 4th
Kikuchi's fast pace continues to sit down the Mukawa batters. He has still to yield a baserunner.

Bottom 4th
With one down, Kikuchi helps his own cause lining one into the left-center field gap for a double. Yamada puts down a safety bunt, and he reaches safely! Runners at the corners with one down for Kashiwaba!

He tries for the squeeze, but is unsuccessful and now asked to swing away. But then Sasaki-kantoku puts the squeeze back on! Kashiwaba bunts it down the first base line, but Mori charges (!) makes the throw home and they get Kikuchi at home! That's impressive.

Nishifuij is close to getting out of the pinch, but then he walks Ryouhei! And the bases are loaded yet again!

Kawamura lies one over Mori's head and into right! 2 runs come into score on the timely hit by Kawamura! Hanamaki Higashi extends its lead to 4-0!

Top 5th
Kikuchi retires the side once again notching another 2 K's and hitting 150 kph on the radar gun. And the announcers are noting that he has still to yield a base runner...

Bottom 5th
A relatively uneventful inning for Nishifuji as he only yields a 2-out double to Satou Ryuujirou who is subsequently thrown out stealing 3rd.

Top 6th
Mukawa presses for a base hit, but Kikuchi does not give - retiring the bottom third of Mukawa's lineup in 5 pitches.

Bottom 6th
Nishifuji is relieved from the mound as he and Yanagida switch places.

Yamada gets his 2nd bunt base hit of the game, only to be doubled up when Kashiwaba grounds to short.

Top 7th
Akihiro sends a drive to center, but the wind knocks it down for the first out. The next 2 come in quick succession and Kikuchi is perfect through 7!

Bottom 7th
#10 Ishii takes the mound for Mukawa, replacing Nishifuji. Yanagida returns to left.

Ryouhei starts off the inning with a leadoff walk. He's moved over to 2nd.

Sarukawa then hits a sharp liner to left! That's past Yanagida to the wall! Ryouhei scores on the double and Hanamaki adds on one more run, 5-0!

Top 8th
One down, Mori hits a hard liner, but it's right at Yokokura! Then he falls behind Kouhei 3-0! A strike just high enough, 3-1. But then a pitch in the dirt means that the perfect game is over! Kikuchi walks Kouhei giving Mukawa their first baserunner! But the no-hitter is still on!

And Kouhei gets thrown out stealing 2nd, so Kikuchi has still faced the minimum.

Bottom 8th
Sensing the end, Satou-kantoku does something I've always wondered didn't happen more often in games like these - en masse substitutions.
  • #12 Kobayashi replaces Iwata at C
  • #14 Nakazai replace Haginaka at 2B
  • #16 Takanishi replaces Miyamoto at SS
  • #17 Shindou replaces Yanagida in LF
MBS even had to put out a defensive diagram to show all the changes!

Kikuchi grounds to short, but new SS Takanishi makes a high throw pulling Mori off the bag.

Yamada tries to get his third bunt it, but thankfully the defense isn't that dense and new 3B Kanno makes the play. And with Kashiwaba grounding out to short, the question now is - can Kikuchi get the no-hitter?

Top 9th
#18 Yamada comes in to pinch hit, and he strikes out! One down!

#11 Takachi comes in to pinch hit for Kobayashi. AH!!! He hits one to left! That drops in for a base hit and Takachi denies Kikuchi the no-hitter!

#12 Hisano comes in to pinch hit for Nakazai. That move officially means that every player has been used in the game. I believe it's the first time in the 3 years I've been covering Koushien that a team has used all 18 players.

Hisano strikes out, 2 down. Akihiro steps up. and he delivers a base hit to right! Mukawa putting on a good showing here in the 9th!

Takanishi come up for his first AB. Kikuchi, in fitting fashion, strikes him out to end the game.

A dominating performance by Kikuchi, whose mannerisms on the mound are of someone who is confident to the point of being cocky. But he has the stuff to back it up, and one has to wonder how far he can take Hanamaki Higashi at Koushien.

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