Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 5 - Game 1 - Toyama Shougyou (Toyama) vs. Kounan (Okinawa)

There is a sense of anticipation for today's games. We've already seen one favorite go down already, the question is - will another?

Our warmup game features Kounan out of Okinawa, who made it to the best 4 of the Kyushu fall tournament before falling to Kamimura Gakuen - and Toyama Shougyou who was 1 inning away from claiming the Hokushinestu fall tournament before collapsing against Nihon Bunri.

9:02 AM - First Pitch

Top 1st
Shimabukuro gets off to a hot start, striking out the side. It's early, but are there shades of Kikuchi and Hanamaki Higashi from yesterday?

Bottom 1st
While not as dominating as Shimabukuro, Murakami also retires the side in order. Both pitchers do not seem overpowering, so it could be up to the ace's control throughout the game.

Top 2nd
Shimabukuro strikes out the first 2 batters of the 2nd inning before giving up a soft single into left-center! And then he strikes out Murakami to end the inning! He has retired all 6 batters via the strikeout to start the game! The Toyama batters are just plain fooled by Shimabukuro!!

Bottom 2nd
Murakami also gives up his first baserunner, walking Furikawa to start the inning. Ishikawa moves him along, and Kounan has the first scoring chance. Then Murakami walks Maehira on 4 straight as well! Runners at 1st and 2nd for Yamagawa!!

Yamagawa with the grounder back up the middle! Morimoto gets to the ball quickly and prevents Furikawa from going home. But manrui chance for Kounan!!

First pitch ball to Shimabukuro has Sawada-kantoku calling a conference on the mound. There's nowhere to put him. Ball in the dirt and it's 2-0! Looks to squeeze, ball is away! 3-0!! Finally puts one down the middle, 3-1. Lots of pressure now for Murakami!

He bunts it in the air!! Kido gets under it for out number 2! One chance lost for Kounan! Last batter Ketashiro steps up looking for the timely hit. First pitch wide, 1-0. Next, low but fouled off. Next pitch... grounded to short! Kumazen has it and makes the play at 2nd! Murakami gets out of bases loaded with no damage!

Top 3rd
And the inning begins for Toyama... with another strikeout. Mabuchi is also retired, but he lines out to 3rd. And with Yokoyama flying out to center, Shimabukuro continues his dominance over the Toyama hitters.

Bottom 3rd
Mekaru puts a charge into the ball, but it lands just foul down the 3rd base line. Murakami still struggles with his control, but manages to strike him out on a very borderline pitch! However, he does retire the side in order and the game remains scoreless.

Top 4th
Morimoto leads off the inning with a single to right! Miyai can't put down the bunt! 2 strikes and he's still squared to bunt! He pushes it down the 1st base line! Shimabukuro follows it down, it stays fair... stays fair... stays fair, and goes foul just before the 1st base bag!!! Miyai strikes out!

Undeterred, Sawada-kantoku asks for another bunt and Kido puts it down! Runner at 2nd, 2 down for Yamamoto.

He weakly grounds to 1st and the inning is over.

Bottom 4th
Murakami continues to struggle with his command, but pitches just well enough to avoid the big situations now. He goes full on 2 of the 3 batters but retires them both.

Top 5th
Shimabukuro returns to his form early in the game, striking out the side in order. That's 11 K's for Shimabukuro through 5!!

Bottom 5th
Aided by the low strike, Murakami has settled down - relatively speaking. Still a little off with his off-speed pitches, he retires the side in quick fashion.

Top 6th
This is beyond unreal. For the 4th time this game, Shimabukuro records all 3 outs of the inning via the K. That's 13 so far. 13!

Bottom 6th
Murakami really has settled down from his shaky start. Kounan goes down in order, perhaps due to his inconsistent pitching, or his improved pitching... one of the two.

Top 7th
Cleanup batter Kido gets only the 3rd hit off of Shimabukuro! Runner on 1st, and one down for Toyama Shougyou! But Shimabukuro records his 14th K and there's 2 down for Kumazen.

And a grounder to left gives them runners at 1st and 2nd for ace Murakami! Can he help his own cause?

Meanwhile, Shimabukuro faces only the 2nd challenge of the day from Toyama. His pace has slowed significantly, throwing back to the runners at both 1st and 2nd. Eventually the count is worked full on Murakami. The payoff pitch... is a move toward 2nd. Reset and... WILD PITCH!!!

The ball is live!! The runners are off! Yamagawa rushes back to get the ball which has gone to the backscreen! KIDO'S HEADING HOME!!!!!!

Yamagawa throws it to Shimabukuro! The tag.... HE'S OUT!!! They make the play at home and Toyama Shougyou is denied the go-ahead run! What a play!!!!!

Bottom 7th
With momentum on their side, Ishikawa leads off the inning with a liner to center.

Gakiya-kantoku elects to have Maehira swing away, but he fouls it off. Then the bunt is put back on, and he can't put it down.... so he's back to swinging away.

And Ishikawa not waiting for the bunt tries to steal 2nd. Kido with the strong throw and he's out by a mile! Maehira grounds to 3rd to end the inning.

Top 8th
Shimabukuro continues to baffle the Toyama batters, recording one more K along the way.

Bottom 8th
Murakami has matched Shimabukuro inning for inning now, retiring the side in order for the 6th consecutive inning.

Top 9th
We head into the last inning of regulation scoreless and both pitchers shutting the offenses down.

Morimoto with a grounder to the right side. Yamagawa runs behind Maehira, fields it and throws to first, but the throw is low and Shimabukuro trips trying to field it! E4 and Toyama Shougyou has a great oppotunity in the 9th!

Miyai puts down the bunt, Maehira charges, gets the ball... to Kuniyoshi for one, back to Yamagawa... 2! They turn the double play! And the bases are empty once again!

Shimabukuro strikes out Kido and Toyama is turned away! Can Kounan turn this to their advantage?

Bottom 9th
One down, Yamamoto with a slow roller to the right side. Miyai and Yokoda converge on the ball leaving no one at 1st! Murakami comes over, but it's too late!

Conference on the mound as the sayonara runner stands at 1st.

#16 Oowan comes in to PH for Mekaru. And he puts the bunt down! Yamamoto at 2nd with two down. Can Furikawa deliver?

No! It's a fly to right, and we head to enchousen yet again!!

Top 10th
Kumazen collects his 3rd hit off of Shimabukuro with a one-out single to center! Murakami attempts the sac bunt, but can't put it down. Tries again, and fails... But he's still asked to bunt!

And he puts it down! Kumazen advances to 2nd for Yokoda, 2 down.

Yokoda with the comebacker. Shimabukuro loses the handle on the ball. Throw to 1st, not in time! E1!! Runners at the corners with 2 down!

Mabuchi up to bat. 1-1 and Yokoda steals 2nd! Now a base hit scores 2!

Mabuchi hits the ball, liner to center!! Kumazen scores! Yokoda rounds 3rd, throw home... not in time!!! Mabuchi gets the timely hits and Toyama Shougyou takes the 2-0 lead!!!

Yokoyama strikes out to end the inning, but they have taken the lead here in the 10th inning!

Bottom 10th
Last gasp here for Kounan. Ishikawa grounds to short, that's one down. Maehira grounds to 1st, 2 down... It's up to Yamagawa now...

And Murakami walks him! There's life for Kounan, and Shimabukuro steps up representing the tying run! The count runs full and he's down to his final strike.

Single through the left side and Kounan lives on!! Conference on the mound as Ketashiro comes up to bat. Is there something left in the tank? The oen-dan cheers louder and louder hoping for anything to extend the game.

But a grounder to 2nd ends the game for Kounan! Despite Shimabukuro's amazing 19 strikeouts, it is his error in the 10 inning that costs them the game. Credit to Kounan for fighting on, but more to Murakami and Toyama Shougyou for persevering and prevailing.

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