Risshoudai Shounan is down to 13 players as now 5 are out with the flu. They were like this in their last game as well...
Risshoudai Shounan (Shimane)
1B Ookura (#13)
3B Inomata (#14)
Nihon Bunri (Niigata)
SS Takahashi Jyunnousuke
LF Takahashi Yoshihito
2:22 PM - First pitch!
Itou looking good to start. He induces to grounders and an infield fly to retire the side in order.
Jyunnosuke gets a one-out single to center to get Bunri's offense started. Takeishi moves him to 2nd with a grounder to 1st, but Yoshida flies out to deep left right at the foul line.
Sakida leads it off, and drives one deep down the left field line, but foul! Later in the AB, he pokes one into left center.
Narita up and Oota-kantoku looks to set the game in motion, and sends Sakida! But Wakabayashi fires a strike to 2nd and they gun him down!
Ookura with a liner right back at Itou! He catches it! Throws to 1st, doubles off Narita to end the inning!
Yoshihito gives Bunri a leadoff runner as he singles past a diving Inomata.
Itou with a grounder back up the middle. Yamawaki gets it, steps on 2nd for one, throw to first... Ookura can't pick it!
Yumoto works the count full, and then Ooi-kantoku starts the hit-and-run! After two fouls, the 3rd try sees Yumoto chop one past a diving Takagi into right!
Runners on 1st and 3rd now for Bunri!
Wakabayashi with a grounder to 3rd, but Inomata kicks it! He chases it down, but has no play!!! E5, and manrui for Bunri!!
And Nakamura takes the first pitch and it's a ground ball through to left!
Itou comes in and it's 1-0 Bunri!!
Kitte up looking to open the gates here in the 1st, but he grounds to short! Yamawaki starts the 6-4-3 double play and ends the inning! No further damage is done, but Nihon Bunri has taken the early lead!
Itou baffling the Risshoudai batters, striking out 2 more on his way to another 1-2-3 inning.
Sakida seems to clamp down after throwing a couple of balls. He falls behind Jyunnosuke 3-0 before filling up the count and getting him to pop out to 3rd. He does the same to Takeishi before grounding out to 1st.
But then the Bunri batters start jumping on the strikes...
Yoshida singles back up the middle. Then Ooi-kantoku pulls the hit-and-run again and Yoshihito singles to right! Runners at the corners for Itou!
Itou works the count full, and draws the walk! Another manrui pinch for Risshoudai!
Yumoto with a hard liner! But it's right at Doumoto! 3 out!
Nihon Bunri lets another great scoring opportunity go to waste!
Itou was about to cruise through the 4th when Gotou drives a ball away to right center! He's off to the races as the outfielders run to the ball! And he's in easily with a triple!!
Sakida up looking for the timely hit. But after falling behind 3-1, they elect to walk him. Runners on the corners for Narita.
And Narita hits a blooper to center! Yumoto charging in, but it falls! Douten!! Gotou scores and Risshoudai has tied it up! 1-1!!
Runners at the corners again for Ookura!
Itou can't seem to find the strike zone! He falls behind 3-1... and walks him!!! Risshoudai with their own manrui chance!
Doumoto up and there's nowhere to put him!
Itou falls behind 2-0! But manages to throw 2 strikes! Next pitch fouled off! And then the count goes full! Runners will take off now...
HIGH! BALL 4! Oshidashi! Itou walks in a run and Risshoudai has taken the lead, 2-1!!!
Itou finally gets ahead of a batter in Takagi, and strikes him out on a pitch high and outside, but his lack of control has cost the team the lead for the time being!
One down for Bunri and Nakamura scorches one past a diving Inomata down the line. He's in with a double.
Ah! The ball gets away from Narita and Nakamura advances to 3rd! Douten runner 90 feet away!
And then Sakida walks Kitte! Runners at the corners.
Jyunnosuke gets into a long AB against Sakida, fouling off pitch after pitch. And he breaks through! It's a grounder to left field and Nakamura scores to tie the game! 2-2!!
Kitte advances to 3rd and there's runners at the corners once again for Takeishi!
But he hits a grounder to 2nd! Takagi goes to 2nd for one, relay to 1st, not in time!
What's this? Jyunnosuke is called for runner interference and Takeishi called out! Inning over!
Here in the 4th, Bunri has tied the game!
Itou looks much better this inning, getting ahead of the Risshoudai batters and once again returning to the 1-2-3 inning.
2 down for Bunri in the 5th and Itou gets his first hit of the game, driving one into the left center field gap for a double!
Sakida though, leaves it at that as Yumoto flies out to deep center.
As we head to the break, we find the two teams deadlocked at 2-2. It's a 4-inning game now. Who will be the hero?
Itou strikes out Gotou to lead the inning, his 6th of the day.
Sakita with a drive to left! Yoshihito back to the wall!!!!!
Sakita with the gyakuten home run to left!!! The short-staffed squad is finding ways to fight! 3-2!!!
Narita follows that up with a liner to left! Risshoudai is hitting the ball hard now off of Itou!
Liner by Ookura! But Takeishi catches it and touches first for the double play! Inning over! Another nice play by the Bunri defense!
Wakabayashi leads the Bunri rally with a leadoff single up the middle! He's bunted to 2nd for Kitte.
And Kitte with a drive to left center! The outfield is in and they have to run back!
Wakabayashi scores, and Kitte just beats the tag from Inomata! (Although I wonder if he was really safe.)
AH!!!!!! Sakida's pitchout throw goes all the way to the backstop! Kitte comes in to score! Gyakuten!!! 3-3!!!
Jyunnosuke with a drive to right! Doumoto running over, but that falls in! He's in with a double!!
Sakida gets Takeishi to ground to 2nd, although Jyunnosuke advances to 3rd.
Yoshida up and AHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Another wild pitch by Sakida allows Jyunnosuke to come in and it's 5-3 Bunri!
Sakida then walks Yoshida! Is he finally at his limit?
Yoshihito grounds out to 1st, but it's Nihon Bunri who's ahead now!
Now with the lead, Itou seems to be pitching a bit more relaxed now. Against the bottom of the lineup, he doesn't let a ball leave the infield as he retires the side.
Itou singles back up the middle to lead off the inning. Yumoto isn't bunting and hits a high chopper up the middle! Takagi charges in makes the throw, and makes the out!
Then Sakida gets Wakabayashi to pop out to shallow center. 2 down.
Nakamura with a drive to deep left!!! Gotou running back to the wall! It's off the top! He's in with a double as Itou comes around to score, 6-3!
And Kitte gets by Sakida. Runners at 1st and 2nd, and Sakida looks to be running out of gas.
But he gets Jyunnosuke to fly out to right to end the inning.
Yamawaki first pitch swinging! He drives onto to deep left for a double! Good opportunity for Risshoudai to get a run back here.
Ono with a grounder to short. That won't do it, one down.
Gotou up and now it's Itou with the wild pitch! Yamawaki goes to 3rd!
It a grounder to short! But Yamawaki was heading home on contact! Jyunnosuke goes home and they have him! Ah.... 2 down.
And it's a waste as Sakida singles through to right, which would have scored a run.
Narita with a drive to right, but Yoshida is there for the 3rd out... A lost opportunity for Risshoudai...
Takeishi leading off the 8th with a liner off the fence in right for a double! Sakida looks spent.
Yoshida drives one to deep left, and he races around for a triple. 7-3.
Yoshihito with a drive to deep right! Doumoto to the wall, and that's a homerun for Yoshihito... 9-3, and I guess with the influenza, they have no more pitchers left...
The camera goes to Sakida, who stands on the mound as a man who is beat. He has nothing left, there's no one to relieve him, and he has to finish the game... He's trying to fight back the tears and get his team to the 9th inning.
Itou with a grounder up the middle. Takahashi charges in, throws to 1st. It's wide, but Ookura gets it and makes the tag! One down.
Yumoto walks on 4 straight... #17 Asatsuma comes to run for Yumoto.
Sakida strikes out Wakabayashi on a high pitch! 2 down! Just one more...
Nakamura singles up the middle. Asatusma, after stealing a base, is held up at 3rd. Kitte with a drive to deep center. That's in for a base hit. Asatsuma scores. Nakamura comes around 3rd, he scores. Narita fires to 2nd and they get Kitte.
Sakita finally gets his 3rd out, and he breaks down as he runs to the dugout... His job finally done, he lets out all the emotions he had held in on the mound...
Ookura leading off the 9th, grounds out to first...
Then Doumoto pops out to Nakamura at 3rd for the 2nd out...
#12 Takahashi comes in to pinch hit for Takagi. He hits a grounder to short, and the game is over.
Nihon Bunri advances to the Best 4, and it's the first time a team from Niigata has ever reached the Best 4.
Now, I know that I tend to go on about the losing team, perhaps to a fault. But I hope you cannot blame me for talking about this team from Risshoudai Shounan.
This was their first ever appearance at Koshien. They fought toe-to-toe with Karyou, and won dramatically on a sayonara homerun. Then, days before your next game you find out that 4 of your players have come down with the influenza, including 2 of your starters, and your only other pitcher.
And yet you come out, and find a way to rally from behind to win and advance into the Best 8.
Only to lose one more person, and now you're down to 13. The odds are stacked against you, - you're short players, your ace pitcher is the only one you have. And yet, with a chance in your first Koshien to make the Best 4, you continue on.
And for 5.5 innings, you do. You even take the lead. Maybe there's something out there willing you on.
Only to have that hope immediately dashed. Your ace pitcher is running out of gas, and there's only so much you can do. And eventually there's nothing you can do. He stands on the mound alone, fighting back tears just so he can bring his guys in one last time.
If there is a team that exemplifies the spirit of Koshien so far, it's these guys. To continue battling on despite the circumstances, even when all may be lost.
I applaud their efforts, and I hope others do the same.