It's the summer debut of the possible #1 draft pick - Hanamaki Higashi's ace Kikuchi Yuusei! The hard-throwing, fist-pumping ace makes his return to Koshien and this time looks to take it all!
Their first test may not be a pushover. Interestingly enough, had Seihou made it out of Nagasaki, we would be looking at a rematch of the spring finals in the first round! Instead, we have the team that sent Seihou home - Nagasaki Nichidai. I mentioned them not being a pushover - 4 years ago they made it to the Best 8. 2 years later, they reached the Best 4 only to be denied by neighboring Saga Kita. Now two years after that performance, they return looking to go even further.
But what a challenge they face here under the lights of Koshien...
Nagasaki Nichidai (Nagasaki)
CF Satou Ryouhei
RF Sasaki (#15)
P Kikuchi Yuusei
4:03 PM - First pitch!
Shimabukuro start the game with a base hit to right! Not perhaps the start Yuusei was looking for... Sensing runs at a premium, Koyanagi bunts him along for Koseto. While he advances the runner by grounding to 1st, there's 2 down now.
And sure enough, Honda grounds out to 2nd to end the inning. A leadoff hit goes for naught. But, interestingly enough, Nagasaki is getting contact on the ball.
Oosera has to work a bit with a couple of batters, but he's showing good control to start the game and retires the side in order.
2 down, and then Yamada crushes a pitch to deep left! Going, going...
Are you kidding me??!
Yamada with a homerun to left! Perhaps wind aided but nonetheless! The crowd is in shock as Yuusei gives up a homerun!! 1-0 Nagasaki!!!
Oosera grounds to 1st to end the inning, but Kikuchi finds himself behind!
Oosera is loooking solid on the mound, hitting his catcher's glove.
One down and Yokokura lines one to left, but Kosedo leaps and makes the catch! Great timing by the shortstop!
Two down and Oosera seems to have Chiba on an pitch on the outside corner, but doesn't get the call! And Chiba takes advantage with a single to left! Will the non-call become an issue?
Sasaki with a hot shot to 3rd! Nagato snares the ball and makes the throw to 2nd for the 3rd out! Some great defense by the team from Nagasaki!
Kikuchi records a 1-2-3 inning, but oddly enough, no K's as of yet. Nagasaki Nichidai continues to put the bat on the ball.
Oosera continues to induce grounders from the Hanamaki batters, and it's 3 up, 3 down!!
One down for Nagasaki Nichidai and cleanup batter Honda takes an outside pitch through the left side for a base hit!
In the chat room, someone mentioned that perhaps Kikuchi is saving some of his energy for the later rounds. But unfortunately for Kikuchi, this team isn't a pushover.
And he finally records his first K, getting Takao on a high inside fastball!
Maehara grounds out to 2nd and Kikuchi outside of that HR, looks solid.
Oosera gives up a two out base hit to Sarukawa, but that's all he gives up. He's certainly showing that he's no pushover!
Kikuchi exacts his revenge on the HR hitter Yamada by striking him out looking.
The next two batter work the count on Kikuchi a little, but are eventually retired. Nagasaki though still has the 1-0 lead.
Oosera gets his first K as Chiba goes down swinging.
But Sasaki singles to left center! Koyanagi quickly runs it down, limiting it to a single.
Kosedo throws the ball away! Sasaki advances to 2nd on the error! Chance for Hanamaki, and Kikuchi is up to bat!
But Oosera paints the outside corner for strike 3! WOW!
2 down for Yamada, and he tries a push bunt! But it goes foul! Oosera continues to bring the heat, hitting 147 kph!
And he gets Yamada on a pitch down and in the dirt! Hanamaki is denied yet again, and you have to wonder if there's a sense of panic starting to come over the team.
Kikuchi was cruising along getting the 1st two batters out. But then he hits Kosedo.
Runner on for Honda and....
HONDA CRUSHES ONE TO DEEP LEFT!!! THAT'S GOING, GOING....
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????
Honda with a two-run homerun, and Nagasaki Nishidai is up 3-0!!!! 3-0!!!!!!
Takao pops out, but this is unbelievable! The spring runnerups are down in their opening round game by 3 runs!
Oosera starts the 6th by walking leadoff batter Kashiwaba, his first of the day. Nerves?
Satou Ryouhei looks to bunt, and Nagato charges in! But Ryouhei pushes the bunt to the left side! Oosera's falling the wrong way and Nagato overcharges the ball! All safe!
And now Kawamura makes a traditional bunt to but 2 runners into scoring position.
Sarukawa up to try and drive them in. But instead he grounds to 1st. That gets one run in as Kashiwaba scores. 3-1.
And Yokokura drives one to right center! That scores Ryouhei and Hanamaki is within 1! 3-2!!!
Now a base hit by Chiba ties the game! AH!! Wild pitch!!!! Now the tying run is 90 feet away!!
Grounder up the middle! Kosedo runs over, dives... has it!! Throw to 1st... IN TIME!!!
A great defensive play by Kosedo preverves the slim 1-run lead!!!
Maehara with a comebacker, off Kikuchi's glove! Kawamura changes directions fields it, but the throw isn't in time! Leadoff single!
Now Yamada looks to bunt him over. NO!
He pulls it back and chops it over Sarukawa's head! Runners on 1st and 2nd now for Nagasaki Nichidai!
Oosera now looking to bunt these runners over. And he does. So now Nagasaki now has Hanamaki's position last half inning!
And Nagato's going to go for the safety squeeze! But it goes foul! Again?
Yes!! And Kikuchi has no play at home! He goes to 1st and Nagasaki gets another run! 4-2!!
Shimabukuro grounds to 2nd, but Nagasaki gets a precious insurance run!
Hanamaki isn't quite ready to roll over just yet!
Sasaki starts the inning with a single through the left side.
And Kikuchi puts the drag bunt down! Yamada has it, but Shimabukuro isn't covering 1st! Kikuchi beats him and it's all safe!!
Now last batter Yamada looks to bunt the runners along and create the same situation for the 3rd straight half inning! And he does!
So now the tying run stands on 2nd.
Kinjyou-kantoku elects to lift Oosera?? #11 Terao comes in Maehara's spot to pitch. Oosera goes to right.
Why in your right mind would you lift your pitcher now??!
And Kashiwaba singles back up the middle! Sasaki scores and it's 4-3!
Then with the count 1-2, Kasiwaba goes for 2nd! But it's a pitchout! Honda throws to 2nd, but Kikuchi breaks for home! The throw back by Kosedo... not in time!! The double steal works and we have a tie game!! 4-4!!
Terao's retires the next 2 batters, but the tie game gives Kikuchi a new chance! And with as many chances as he's been given, this may be fatal for Nagasaki.
Kikuchi is late coming out, and #14 Yoshida Ryou warms up in the bullpen. They wonder if Kikuchi is injured and speculate he's hurt his ankle. After the replay, it seems like it's his ribs. But Kikuchi emerges and during warmups does show some pain throwing, and it is indeed his ribs.
(MY ISP CUT OFF SOMEHOW, @*^^&^#&%#%^^ ISP. I MISSED THE LAST PART OF THE GAME!!!)
So. I'll have to recreate the last 2 innings (Thanks to Westbay-san for the play-by-play for the bottom of the 8th/part of the top 9th). The commentary won't be as exciting as watching it live though...
Kikuchi's first test will be Koyanagi. Doesn't seem the worse for wear though, getting ahead 1-2. But then Koyanagi works the count full.
And he drives a ball to deep left! Yamada running back, to the wall!
Koyanagi delivers the 3rd home run off of Kikuchi and just when I thought that Nagasaki Nichidai was gone and dead, they come back and retake the lead! It's 5-4 Nichidai and the upset is back on!
And after Kosedo strikes out, Honda take the 2nd pitch and sends that back up the middle. And Takao follows that up on the next pitch with a drive to right! That's down for a double! Honda has to hold at 3rd, but Nagasaki is threatening to score again!
Terao up with one down, and he's showing bunt! He gets it down, but Kikuchi is there! He tosses it to Chiba and Honda is out at home! A critical squeeze bunt fails and now there's 2 down! Yamada grounds out to 2nd to end the threat, but with 6 outs left, Kikuchi finds himself behind yet again!!
Sarukawa leads off the inning, and works the count full, but then sends one back up the middle, past a diving Kosedo and into center field for a leadoff single!
Yokokura looks to bunt the tying run into scoring position, and Terao makes multiple throws to 1st to keep the runner close. But despite Terao's distraction, Yokokura can't put the bunt down! It's 1-2 and he has to swing away.
AH!!! Just when Terao had him, he hits him! Now there's runners at 1st and 2nd with nobody out!
And that's it for Terao. Oosera comes back in from right to take the mound, while #9 Okamura enters the game in right. Now he has to hold off an impending storm from the Hanamaki squad.
But Chiba starts off with a bunt to move the runners over. Oosera goes to field, but he can't get a hold of the ball! All safe!! Manrui Hanamaki Higashi, and still no down!!
AH!!!! Sasaki drives the first pitch to deep center! Koyanagi running back to the wall! It falls at the base of the wall! Sarukawa scores! Yokokura scores!! Chiba, all the way from 1st, he scores!!!! A bases-clearing triple by Sasaki could spell the death blow for Nagasaki Nichidai! 逆転!! 7-5!!
#9 Satou Ryuujirou comes in to pinch-run for the jubilant Sasaki.
Kikuchi, looking for another run, moves the runner along to 3rd.
Last batter Yamada comes up and immediately shows squeeze. 1-0 pitch and he puts it down! Nagato charges and gets it, but his only play is to 1st! The throw is high, but gets the job done. Yamada gets his job done and now it's 8-5.
Kashiwaba grounds out to short, but indeed the Kinjyou-kantoku's decision to send Terao to the mound has cost them. He's charged with 2 runs, but really responsible for 4 and Nagasaki Nichidai once again looks lost.
Satou Ryuujirou stays in the game and goes to right. Yamada shifts to left.
#16 Sakamoto come in to pinch-hit for Oosera, but he strikes out on 3 straight. One down.
#12 Matsuo comes in to pinch-hit for Nagato, and he walks on 4 straight! One one, and one down for the top of the order and Shimabukuro.
But he lifts the ball to center, and Ryouhei has it for out number 2!
Now it's down to Koyanagi. Can he keep the game alive?
Kikuchi is giving him nothing to hit. But he hangs one in the middle of the plate! Koyanagi takes a swing but fouls it back! Then he offers at a slider down and in for strike 2! Another pitch down for 2-2... and
Sanshin! Koyanagi strikes out on another slider and Hanamaki Higashi has completed the comeback! In an amazing game, they rally 3 times to defeat a strong Nagasaki Nichidai squad!
But the win has to be overshadowed by the questionable decision by Nichidai's Kinjyou-kantoku to pull Oosera the first time around for Terao. We won't know if it would have changed the game, but I think most would agree that it would have given them a better chance. It's not like other cases where the pitcher was just plain ineffective. Oosera had for the most part dominated the Hanamaki Higashi batters. So this move must be put into the light.
That being said, this game could mean trouble for everyone else. Having to play at a high level in the first game, and gaining confidence in their abilities could mean that they become an even greater force than they already are.