Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day 12 - Championship - Seihō (Nagasaki) vs. Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate)

After a very exciting Koushien tournament, the championship comes down to 2 teams well deserving of being here. The aces of Seihou and Hanamaki Higashi were almost untouchable throughout the tournament. How dominating were they?

Imamura (Seihou) - 35 IP, 1 ER, 25 H, 42 K, 10 BB, 0.26 ERA
Kikuchi (Hanamaki Higashi) - 31 IP, 2 ER, 18 H, 37 K, 6 BB, 0.58 ERA

And add that both aces did not give up their runs until the semifinal games, and you have to think these were the top of the class.

It's also a battle of styles as well. Kikuchi has already shown to be very emotional, even going so far as to displaying a guts pose after each strikeout as if to show up the batter. Imamura on the other hand has a stoic face, even when in the motion of throwing a pitch. But the face is an intimidating one, giving the impression that you're going to be out no matter what you do.

There's no mistake about this game. We are in for a low-scoring, highly entertaining pitchers' duel....

And I want Seihou to win really badly...

Seihou (Nagasaki)
3B Yahisa
CF Tominaga
C Kawamoto
1B Yamazaki
P Imamura
LF Tsuji
RF Yoshida
2B Shimazaki
SS Hashimoto

Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate)
2B Kashiwaba
CF Satou Ryouhei
SS Kawamura
3B Sarukawa
C Chiba
P Kikuchi
1B Yokokura
RF Satou Ryuujirou
LF Yamada

12:32 PM - First Pitch

Top 1st
Yahisa takes the first pitch and chops it up the 3rd base line. It trickles into left, but he doesn't take 2nd!

Tominaga looks to bunt him along while Kikuchi continues to look Yahisa back. But he does put the bunt down. A charging Yokokura overruns the ball! He recovers, and makes the throw to Kashiwaba for the out! But he stays down! Tominaga accidentally steps on Kashiwaba's foot! After they come with the spray, he's back up and ready to play.

Kawamoto with the safety bunt! It goes up the 3rd base line!! Sarukawa charges and makes the play at 1st! Two down for Seihou!

And Kikuchi gets out of the jam by getting Yamazaki to pop out in foul territory!!

Bottom 1st
One down for Imamura when he hits Ryouhei! But then he catches him stealing 2nd! He throws to Hashimoto for the 2nd out!

And then up 1-2 on Kawamura, he walks him! Hanamaki has yet another baserunner here in the 1st!

But Imamura gets Sarukawa to ground to 3rd to end the inning. Both pitchers off to a bit of a shaky start, but perhaps a combination of just feeling things out and the batters being more discerning.

Top 2nd
Tsuji draws a one-out walk to get the offense going.

Yoshida with a liner to right! That's falling, and CAUGHT!! Ryuujirou dives and makes the catch!! Tsuji scurries back to 1st! The throw from Ryuujirou is in time, double play!! A great play preventing a possible big inning!!

Bottom 2nd
Yokokura gets a single with 2 down, but a comebacker by Ryuujirou is fielded by Imamura and the side is retired.

Top 3rd
Shimazaki with a grounder to the left side. Sarukawa up with the ball, but loses it! He gets it back, but it's too late! E5!

Hashimoto bunts him to 2nd as the lineup turns over. And rain starts to come down at Koushien...

Yahisa, batttles with Kikuchi fouling off pitches after he fouls one off his leg! It pays off as he takes the 8th pitch and grounds one through to right! Shimazaki stops at 3rd as Ryuujirou makes a strong throw home! But Seihou has runners at the corners with one down!

Tominaga squares to bunt, but pulls it back! He hits it, but it's right at Kawamura! Toss to 2nd for one, throw to 1st, just in time!! Kikuchi gets out of the jam with some great defense and the score remains tied!

Bottom 3rd
Again, Imamura gives up a two-out hit, this time a single up the middle to Ryouhei. But Kawamura flies out to left and the inning is over.

Top 4th
It's interesting. Seihou has noticed Kikuchi's quick tempo and has asked for time several times this inning. I wondered when a team would start doing that to break the rhythm, and Seihou is the first I can remember doing so.

Yamazaki up, grounder to 2nd, and Kashiwaba fumbles the ball! He reaches safely!

Imamura with a grounder to the left side! Kawamura runs over, dives and stops it! But he has no play! Another great chance for Seihou!

Yoshida-kantoku elects not to bunt in this situation. The count runs full, and sanshin! A fastball hits the outside corner for the 2nd out! And then he strikes out Yoshida to end the inning!

Bottom 4th
Chiba is awarded 1st after being hit (although he really didn't do anything to get out of the way). But he's quickly wiped out after Kikuchi grounds into the inning-ending 4-6-3 double play!

Top 5th
Seihou gets its leadoff runner on for the 3rd time this game! Shimazaki shoots one to left for a single. He's moved into scoring position.

Lineup turns over for Yahisa who is already 2-2! He hits a deep fly to center, but Ryouhei is there to make the catch. Shimazaki advances to 3rd on the play. Tominaga though, grounds to 1st and Seihou cannot get that timely hit!

Bottom 5th
The side is retired, but not before a really strange play. Ryuujirou pops one up high in front of home. Everyone converges on the ball, but no one fields it! It falls in! But Ryuujirou stayed in the box! By the time he started running it was too late and he was called out.

Top 6th
Kikuchi finally has his 1-2-3 inning. Things are starting to speed up here in the middle innings.

Bottom 6th
Ryouhei draws a one-out walk, but after a fielder's choice, Kawamura gets thrown out trying to steal 2nd. Through 6, we are still scoreless!

Top 7th
Things are going quickly for Kikuchi. He gets the first two down, but then walks Shimazaki.

Hashimoto steps in. He can't sacrifice here, so he'll have to swing away. And swing away he does!! He drives a ball to deep center! Ryouhei goes back to field it, but it falls just in front of the wall! Shimazaki is flying around the bases. The throw home is cut off byt Kikuchi and he scores! Seihou has gotten to the opposing pitcher first and they have the 1-0 lead!!

Yahisa flies out to right, but Kikuchi finds himself behind for only the 2nd time this tournament! Can they equalize against Imamura?

Bottom 7th
Kikuchi tries to jump start the offense with a two-out walk. And while Hanamaki's batters are more patient, they still aren't getting good looks at the ball. Yokokura, after a 7 pitch AB grounds to short.

Top 8th
Kikuchi gives up a single with 2 down to Yamazaki, but shuts down Imamura thereafter...

He has been outstanding this game, with the only blemish being a two-out walk that eventually lead to the only run of the game. But there is only so much that he can do. Hanamaki Higashi has only 6 outs left to try and turn the tide offensively.

Bottom 8th
With one down, last batter Yamada shoots one through to left. With outs at a premium, Sasaki-kantoku elects not to bunt. Kashiwaba then chops one hits a high chopper to right! Yamazaki jumps and has it, but there's no one to cover 1st! Imamura hurries over, but it's too late! Kashiwaba is safe and the tying run is at 2nd with only one down!!

Ryouhei up, and he squares to bunt! Pulls it back though for ball 1.

Squares up again, and Yamada goes for 3rd! Buy Ryouhei pulls it back! Kawamoto up with the ball and fires to 3rd! He throws a strike to 3rd and Yahisa makes the tag!! OUT!!! I don't know if it was a case of mixed signs, but Yamada is hung out to dry! What a mistake by Hanamaki Higashi!!

Ryouhei puts down the drag bunt up the right side!! That gets past Imamura!! Shimazaki charges to the ball, but the throw to 1st is late!! Safe!! And the ball gets away from Yamazaki, and Kashiwaba advances to 3rd! 2 down, but Hanamaki has the tying run just 90 feet away!

Yoshida-kantoku calls a conference hoping that he can get the team to relax and get the final out.

And Hanamaki bails him out!! Kawamura swing at the first pitch, and it's a towering pop up! Yahisa in foul territory secures it for the 3rd out and the side is retired! 2 great opportunities for the Hanamaki squad come up empty. And now they are 3 outs away from losing the championship game

Top 9th
Tsuji with a hard grounder to the right side! Kawamura dives and stops the ball, but that's all he can do! Leadoff batter on for Seihou! Yoshida looking to bunt him to 2nd as an insurance run would certainly be helpful. And indeed he is able to lay it down.

Sasaki-kantoku calls for a conference as he knows that if another run scores, it could mean the end.

And one more time, Kikuchi shuts Seihou down.

It's now crunchtime for Hanamaki Higashi. If Kikuchi and his team want a chace at the championship, they must score 1 run.

Bottom 9th
Sarukawa down swinging on an offspeed pitch in the dirt. Takes off for first but Kawamoto throws him out. One down...

Chiba suffers the same fate!! Two down!

And now Kikuchi steps to the plate, representing the last hope! First pitch singles up the middle!! There's still life!

Hashimoto with a high chopper up the middle! Hashimoto charges in, but he can't field the bounce! He recovers quickly, but has no play! All safe! Runners at 1st and 2nd with 2 down!

Yoshida-kantoku calls a conference. Surely the Seihou players know they're just one out away.

And Sasaki-kantoku calls up #14, 2nd year Sasaki to continue the rally...

Two sliders, and he's down to his final strike...

Imamura shakes Kawamoto several times, finally agreeing as he gives a smirk. Fastball, just misses the outside corner! 1-2!

Slider outside, fouled off!!

Fastball outside and high! 2-2!

Slider outside, fouled off again!!!

Slider, and he hits it! But it a fly to left!! Tsuji gets under it... game set!!!

The team runs to the mound as we finally see emotion from Imamura! Arms raised in the air, smiling as he's surrounded! Seihou has won the 81st Spring Koushien!! The cameras turn to Yoshida-kantoku, who laughs as the accomplishment he has just achieved!!

And Kikuchi, who's shown nothing but signs of strength throughout the tournament, is shown crying as the teams line up at home plate. After the bow, Imamura and Kikuchi shake hands - Imamura somewhat back to his normal self, while Kikuchi continues to try and hold back the tears.

It has been an amazing tournament. Admittedly, when I first looked at the bracket it seemed the tournament would not be that exciting. But oh, how I was wrong. The first game, a 12 inning match where Kurashiki Kougyou rallied back repeatedly to defeat Konkou Osaka 11-10 was to be an indicator of things to come...

Imabari Nishi with a sayonara hit in the bottom of the 9th to defeat Kousei Gakuin...

Fukuchiyama Seibi scoring 3 runs in the 15th inning to get by Kokushikan...

Kaisei defeating fall champions Keiou Gijuku...

PL Gakuen's Nakano versus Saijyou's Akiyama...

Toyama Shougyou overcoming 19 K's from Kounan's Shimabukuro to win in 12...

Waseda with a sayonara hit to left to defeat fall tournament runner-up Tenri...

Narashino with the 2nd sayonara hit of the day to defeat Hikone Higashi...

Kurashiki rallying once again but falling short to Chuukyoudai Chuukyou...

Seihou's Imamura vs. Fukuchiyama Seibi's Nagaoka...

PL Gakuen's Nakano pitching a no-hitter through 9.1 IP only to lose 2-1 in 10...

Narashino on the other side of the sayonara hit losing to Rifu...

21st century team Rifu makes it to the best 4, defeating of all teams Waseda Jitsugyou...

Seihou and Hanamaki Higashi's aces heading towards a collision at the final...

All leading up to this moment.

This has been one of the better Koshien tournaments from start to finish I've ever seen. Hopefully, you have enjoyed it as well.

Now the teams head to school, to practice and prepare for the summer run to Koushien. If this is an indicator of what is to come, we all will be in for one heck of a show...

No comments: