Before we go on, I would like to say that from the start this Koshien tournament has been absolutely enjoyable to watch - and the draws for the Best 8 and Best 4 only seem to continue the expected excitement. There's always some slow spots, but this year's tournament as been very exciting - and I wish I had actually been able to go like I originally planned (stupid project delays...).
Today's schedule starts with vaunted Teikyou facing off against Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (who was good, but in the 1st half century of Koshien).
Teikyou's pitching has been all that it's been billed up to be so far. Hirahara has been spectacular, giving up 3 runs in 13.1 IP. But perhaps the show-stealer for Teikyou is their 1st year "super rookie" Itou Takuro, who can already hit 90 and whose slider is as nasty as the best of them. He even gets notice in an article highlighting Kikuchi Yusei!
There was no doubt about their hitting, and now that the pitching depth is for real, they look to be an unstoppable force to win it all.
Hoping to to so will be Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Kenritsu needs to be added to the name because there is a Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou - Kenritsu = Prefectural, Shiritsu = City). This is their first Best 8 appearance since 1978.
The key component to Gifushou's success will lie with their ace Yamada Tomohiro. Not only has he pitched well in his 2 games, but he has also been knocking the cover off the ball going 4-7 with 7 RBI's! Ikai, as expected has also delivered so far, going 3-7 and 4 RBI's. But in order to defeat Teikyou, they'll need everyone to contribute, from top to bottom.
Teikyou (Higashi Tokyo)
Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu)
CF Matsuda Tomohiro
P Yamada Tomohiro
1B Yokoyama (#13)
SS Fukuda (#16)
11:00 AM - First pitch!
Kaneko sneaks a grounder past Yokoyama into right! Leadoff runner on for Teikyou.
Taguchi bunts him over to 2nd, and a grounder up the middle fielded by Fukuda gets the 2nd out, but moves Kaneko to 3rd.
Satou draws a walk, and there's runners at the corners for Teikyou!
Liner! That's past the outstretched glove of Fukuda into center! Kaneko scores and it's 1-0 Teikyou!! Satou advances to 3rd and runners are at the corners again!
Hoshi with a liner to center! But Tomohiro is there for the catch. 3 down, but Teikyou strikes first!
Tomohiro with a single back up the middle to give Gifusho a leadoff runner!
Fujita tries to bunt the runner over, but Hirahara fields it and fires to 2nd - and they get the lead runner!
Ikai up, and he's frozen on a fastball on the outside corner! He's down on 3 pitches and there's 2 outs!
Cleaup batter Ezaki steps in now...
Grounder! It's through to right! Fujita rounds 3rd going home. Yoshioka up with the throw and Fujita holds up! But the ball is over thrown! Hirahara's there, then fires to 3rd! THAT'S OVERTHROWN!!! Fujita now comes in and we have a tie game!! 1-1! What a bizarre play!
Ezaki now at 2nd for Yamada.
Another grounder, and that's through to left! Ariga with it, but this time the really do send the runner home! The toss in was light, and Matsumoto has to fire it home! Ezaki slides around Haraguchi and touches home, safe! Gifushou takes the 2-1 lead!!
Yokoyama strikes out looking to end the inning, but uncharacteristic errors on Teikyou's part give Gifushou the lead!
Yoshioka hit by Yamada to start the inning! He still looks a bit shaky out there.
Ariga looking to bunt, but he pops it up!! Yokoyama comes in and makes the catch!
Matsumoto comes up also looking to bunt, and successfully lays it down. Yoshioka at 2nd with 2 down for Kaneko.
1-1 for Kaneko when he fouls a pitch off. But it didn't sound right... Sure enough, Hirabayashi is called for catcher's interference and Kakeko takes 1st.
Small opportunity here for Teikyou, but Taguchi grounds out to 2nd, ending the inning.
Hirahara gets the first two batters out (Kodama on a grounder to 1st, and Hirabayashi striking out looking), but then has trouble with Hirabayashi - walking him after falling behind 3-1.
And he goes full on Matsuda as well, though he strikes him out to end the inning.
One down for cleanup batter Satou, and he singles to center!
Maeda-kantoku with the hit and run! Haraguchi handcuffed but hits a short fly close to the left field line, and that's in for a base hit! Runners at the corners for Hoshi!
1-1 to Hoshi and SQUEEZE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But it's fouled off! 1-2, now what?
Slider away, swung for strike 3!
2 down and it's up to 2nd year Yoshioka...
And after working the count 3-2, Yamada walks him! Manrui for Teikyou!
Ariga walking up to the plate... But he grounds out to 2nd! Yamada out of another pinch!
Fujita with a grounder to right! Yoshioka dives to his left, but can't get it! Leadoff runner for Gifushou!
Ikai looking to bunt, but Hirahara isn't throwing a strike! And after two way high pitches Maeda-kantoku has seen enough. He brings in his 1st year, #18 Itou!
Hirahara goes to 3rd, Taguchi goes to CF, Kaneko goes to LF, and Itou comes in Ariga's spot in the lineup.
And quickly Itou's filled up the count! But a 3-0 count is too hard to have a P come in and he walks him! Runners on 1st and 2nd with no down!!
Cleanup batter Ezaki up, but Fujita-kantoku elects to have him bunt the runners over! Which he does.
Now it's Yamada looking for the timely.
And after getting ahead of Yamada, Itou fills up the count! Fastball, outside corner... NO! BALL 4!! Itou can't believe it! Manrui for Gifushou!!
Maeda-kantoku sends Matsusako out for a conference. Big pinch for Teikou, big chance for Gifushou!
Yokoyama at bat... Chopper! That's over Hoshi into right!!!! Fujita scores! Ikai scores!!! 2-RBI double for Yokoyama!! It's 4-1 Gifushou!!
Kodama up now and SQUEEZE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Kodama with the push bunt up the first base side! Hoshi runs in, but his only play is to 1st!! It's 5-1 Gifushou!!!!
Fukuda grounds the first pitch right back up the middle! That's through for a base hit! Yokoyama scores and IT'S 6-1 GIFUSHOU!!!!!
Fujita-kantoku looking for more and sends Fukuda! But he's gunned down byt Haraguchi to end the inning.
BUT! Gifushou has scored 4 here in the 3rd! Everyone is stunned as Gifushou is taking Teikyou to task!
Yamada is having no trouble with the Teikyou lineup! Facing the 9-1-2 batters, he gets Matsumoto to flyout to right, Kaneko to ground to 2nd, and Taguchi to strike out looking! He's showing good control this game!
#15 Yamazaki comes in to pitch for Itou. He's the pitcher with the knuckleball, but I wonder if we'll see it here.
But it's not a good start for him! Hirabayashi singles through to left! And after a sac bunt, he hits Fujita! One down, runners at 1st and 2nd!
But he gets Ikai to pop out to short and Ezaki to line out to right, so he gets out of the slight jam. And I don't think I've seen the knuckleball yet.
Hirahara leads off the 5th with a single back up the middle.
Satou follows that up with a single through to left! Quickly there's runners at 1st and 2nd for Teikyou!
Haraguchi falls behind 1-2, tries to stay alive, but hits a grounder to 2nd! Fujita with it, tags Satou for 1, but can't complete the DP at 1st.
Hoshi up, and Maeka-kantoku sends Haraguchi! Hirabayashi with the fake throw just in case they try the double steal. Runners on 2nd and 3rd now.
And he hits a slow chopper up the middle. Fukuda ranges over, concecdes the run as he goes to 1st, and it's 6-2. Haraguchi moves to 3rd.
Yoshioka up now. Grounder up the middle! Fujita dives and cuts it off! But the throw to 1st is late! Haraguchi scores and it's 6-3 Teikyou!!
Ah, what's this? The umpires call time! Ah! Yokokura is bleeding around the eye! They take him to the bench.
Ow.... we get a chance to see the replays, and the ball one hopped right to his eye... ow ow ow....
After a little wait, #3 Izumida comes out of the dugout and takes over duties at 1st.
So runner on 1st for new P Yamazaki. He works the count full and...
Yamada with a pitch on the outside corner and they get Yamazaki!
But Teikyou gets a pair of runs back and they're only down 3.
One down for Gifushou, and new 1B Izumida lines one to left for a single.
Kodama with the bunt down the 3rd base line! It's a beauty! Haraguchi comes over to field it, throws to AH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Haraguchi's throw to 1st is over everyone!!!!
The runners advance to 2nd and 3rd and Teikyou's in a big pinch yet again!
But Yamazaki gets Fukuda to strike out! 2 outs!
And Hirabayashi grounds out to short! Yamazaki gets out of the jam!
We head to the break, but Gifushou still has the 3 run lead! Can they close it out in the next 4 innings?
One down for Kaneko and he hits a grounder to 3rd. But it takes a hop and goes off Ikai's glove into left!
And Taguchi gets around an inside pitch and grounds that one through to left! Runners on 1st and 2nd with only one down!
Fujita-kantoku calls a quick coference.
Hirahara up. Grounder to the left side! Fukuda over, quick throw to 2nd gets 1, throw to 1st... Not in time!
2 down, runners on the corners for Satou.
And true to form, Maeda-kantoku sends Hirahara to 2nd! And once again, no throw! Now a base hit could bring Teikyou within 1!
Count goes full! Next pitch...
Yamada strikes out Satou to end the inning!
Ah... Yamazaki hits Tomohiro on the leg to start the inning. He hobbles to 1st, but after some spray, he's fine.
Fujita looking to bunt. NO!
He pulls it back and swings away! But it's a popup in foul territiory! Hirahara runs down the line, then takes a hard left! He stumbles on the bullpen mound, makes the catch and crashes into the wall! But he holds on for the catch!! One down!
Ikai gets ahead of Yamazaki and gets the green light after going ahead 3-0. 3-1 and he lines ine hard to right! But Satou is there and Tomohiro has to retreat quickly!
Ezaki grounds to 2nd and Yamazaki has held Gifu off the board!
After two quick ground outs by Haraguchi and Hoshi, Yoshioka singles through the left side! Runner on for Teikyou!
#13 Okabe comes in to pinch hit for Yamazaki signaling the end of his day.
And Yamada gets him to ground out to short to end the inning! Teikyou still remains down 3, but there's only 2 innings left for them to rally!
#11 Suzuki comes in for Okabe and takes the hill.
He gives up a two-out single to Kodama, but otherwise reitres the side without much trouble.
Still, with all the pitching Teikyou may have, they need their offense to put something together.
But against Yamada they just can't seem to do it!
Matsumoto grounds out to short. Then Kaneko hits a soft popup to 2nd! There's already 2 outs for Teikyou!
Taguchi does give them a runner when Taguchi singles through the right side, so perhaps their's still hope.
Maeda-kantoku sends him! Taguchi takes off on the first pitch! Hirabayashi fires to 2nd, Sakaida with the swipe tag... Taguchi looking up sees nothing, raises his hadn to call time..
The 2nd base umpire calls him out! 3 outs!!
Teikyou runs themselves out of an inning and now they have just 3 outs remaining.
Hirabayashi, certainly looking for an extra run singles back up the middle!
And first pitch he takes off for 2nd! But Haraguchi throws to 2nd, and they have him by a mile! One down.
Matsuda with a fly to left. Kankeko starts drifting back towards the left field line and makes the catch. 2 down.
Fujita hasn't given up on the idea just yet. He sneaks one by a diving Yoshioka into right.
Ikai with a ball to shallow center. Taguchi charging in... Dives!
But misses the ball! Fujita has to hold at 3rd!
Runners at 2nd and 3rd for Gifushou...
Suzuki goes 2-2 on Ezaki and...
Suzuki retires the side and again keeps Gifushou off the board!
Last chance for Teikyou...
Hirahara with a grounder to the right side! Fujita goes to his right, fields it. Throw... Beats a diving Hirahara!!!
AUGH! DIVING INTO 1ST IS NOT GENERALLY A GOOD THING! IF YOU HAD RUN THAT OUT YOU'D BE SAFE!
So it's one down for Satou. He works the count full...
and drives one to deep right! That's by Kodama and to the wall! Satou rounding 2nd going for 3rd! He stumbles slightly! Throw in from Fujita and HE'S OUT BY A MILE!!!
WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU EVER TRY FOR 3 THERE! YOU'RE NOT EVEN THE TYING RUN!
And so Teikyou's down to their final out, when perhaps they shouldn't have any!
Haraguchi the last chance...
First pitch popup!!! Foul territory! Ikai goes over, gets under it and...
Ikai secures the ball and Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou pulls off the upset of Teikyou and advances to a best 4 matchup with Nihon Bunri!!!
Needless to say, this is a shocker! Sure, the Teikyou offense didnt' feel as powerful as past years, but they also seemed to have the pitching this time around. And yet, in this game, both seemed to fail them. It's rather puzzling how year after year Teikyou can fall just short.
But you have to give credit where credit is due. Yamada pitched a great game keeping the Teikyou offense at bay while their offense took advantage of perhaps a less than sharp Hirahara and Itou and scored all the runs they needed.
So now one semifinal is set. It's Nihon Bunri vs. Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou. Who will face Hanamaki Higashi?