Friday, November 20, 2009

40th Meiji Jingu Tournament - Final

And now we reach the finals where rising star Hifumi and Toukaidai Sagami out of Kanagawa faces off against Kassai and Oogaki Nichidai from Gifu.

But to do nail issues, Hifumi wouldn't take the mound to start. Instead, that would fall to their #2 starter Egawa Kyousuke (江川 恭介).

And to boot, the forecast showed rain for this championship game. Anyone remember the Kochi-Jyousuikan games at Koshien?

Right off the bat, Sagami would threaten against Kassai. Bottom of the 1st Sagami has runners at the corners with 1 out. They try to put down the squeeze but Kassai makes a fine defensive play to get the runner out at home and keep the game scoreless.

Oogaki would take that momentum into the top of the 2nd. With 1 out and a runner on 2nd, a timely hit would open the scoring, 1-0 Oogaki.

Bottom of the 2nd now, and the rain has fallen and is causing problems for Oogaki. A fielding error with 2 down costs them as Kanno would hit a double over the head of the right fielder tying the game up at 1-1.

And then things seemed to fall apart for Oogaki. Cleanup hitter Tanaka drives one to the right field fence for a triple giving Sagami the lead at 2-1. Then another error leads to a 3-1 lead...

Kassai then hits the next batter putting runners at 1st and 2nd with 2 down for Egawa. He caps off the inning by putting the ball in the right field seats for a 3-run homerun and a commanding 6-1 lead!!

Things started to look bleak for Oogaki until the 5th inning where some timely hitting would get them back in the game. They had runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 down when Morita would hit a double to left-center to cut the lead to 6-3. And then Obi(?) would deliver another hit to center making it a 2 run game at 6-4!

That seemed to give them momentum to work on. An inning later, they would have runners on 1st and 2nd with no down! However, Egawa and the defense would shut the door leaving it a 2-run margin.

Trying to extend the lead again in the bottom half of the inning Someya would lead off with a base hit bringing Egawa to the plate. It looked like a bunt-and-run, but instead Egawa pulled the bat back and swung away! But he lined it right to center and Someya was doubled off! It looked like a lost opportunity until Kassai hit the next batter, gave up a safety bunt and walked the next batter. Suddenly he was in another jam with the bases loaded! But he would slide out of it once again, and you have to wonder what could have been had they not had Egawa swing away.

And boy, did that swing momentum even more in Oogaki's favor. 7th inning now and Morita collects his 3rd RBI in the game with a solo HR off of Egawa making it a 6-5 game!! Even with 2 innings left, you had to feel that Oogaki would tie the game.

Apparently, so did Sagami. And they planned to do something about it. They would put Kassai into another pinch, getting the bases loaded with 2 down for the 2nd straight inning. This time, Sagami would not let this opportunity pass. Oogi(?) would deliver a base hit to left. But with a no doubles outfield, they were slow to get to the ball. What probably should have been a 2-run double turns into a 3-run double as a result and the lead was extended to 4 at 9-5!

But Egawa couldn't seem to make his new-found lead stick either. He gives up a leadoff walk and then a shot off of Takada's bat would go over the left fielder for a double putting the runners in scoring position. C Tokimoto would then deliver a short single to left scoring both runners and cutting the lead in half! 9-7!!

Egawa's day would end 2 batters later with runners at 1st and 2nd with 1 out. Hifumi would enter the game to get Sagami out of the jam and close the door. Sakaguchi-kantoku would gamble and bunt the runners over looking for the one shot to tie the game.

And he was looking at the right player to do it. Morita, already with a 3B and HR along with 3 RBI's completes the comeback with a double over the left fielder (again!)!! It's 9-9!!!!

But Sagami would try to strike back in the bottom of the 8th. Watanabe would lead off the inning with a single. They would once again go to the fake bunt and Watanabe would advance to 2nd on the play.

That would be it for Kassai. Sakaguchi-kantoku would pull him for Achira Takuma (阿知羅 拓馬) to try and stop the Sagami threat. He would do just that and the teams headed to the 9th all knotted at 9.

You had to wonder how strong Hifumi was with the nail issue and if this wasn't a desperate attempt by Sagami to hold the game. Because in the top of the 9th, Gotou would leadoff with a drive to left center for a triple. A hit batter thereafter would put the runners at the corners with no out.

But of all things, it would not be a base hit, or a sac fly that would get the go-ahead run across. Instead, Hifumi would be called for a balk and Oogaki would take its first lead at 10-9 in the last inning of regulation!

Sagami would mount one last rally in the bottom of the 9th. A leadoff walk would be bunted into scoring position for Hifumi. He would come through with a single to center, but they don't send the leading runner home! But it still put runners at the corners with only one down!

That would bring up Oogi who earlier delivered the timely bases clearing double. Achira though would not give in. He would strike Oogi out and Oogaki was one out away from the title. Sagami's last chance would be in Makishima. But a harmless grounder to 3rd would end the game and give Oogaki Nichidai and Sakaguchi-kantoku their 1st ever Meiji Jingu title!!

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