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...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day 11 - Semifinal #2 - Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate) vs. Rifu (Miyagi)

The 2nd semifinal feature two more interesting teams. Say what you will about Hanamaki Higashi's ace Kikuchi - showy, cocky, even a bit arrogant. But there one more thing you can say about him - dominant. He backs up his attitude with a 145 kph fastball that just blows by batters.

Meanwhile, there's 21st century team Rifu. Usually, 21st century teams have not fared too well at Koshien. In fact since 2001, only 7 teams out of the 17 prior participants have won their first game. But Rifu was seems to be a bit stronger than most. They had actually made the Best 4 of the Tohoku Fall Tournament. They defeated a generally good Sakata Minami (Yamagata) squad 3-2 in 11 innings, and then lost in 14 to Ichinoseki Gakuin (I'm still a bit puzzled why Ichinoseki Gakuin did not get invited even though they were runner-ups, but I digress). So it's not like they were a pushover.

They proved that on the field. After annihilated Kakegawa Nishi, they squeaked one out against Narashino winning in the bottom of the 9th. Paired against Waseda Jitsugyou, they had their work cut out for them. But a 5-run 5th inning shocked everyone as they held on to win 5-4.

Not sine Ginoza of Okinawa back in 2001 (the first year of the 21st century team) has such a team advanced to the Best 4. And if they want to reach the championship game, they have to beat the now remaining pitcher yet to yield a run.

Discount them all you want, they've proven everyone (including myself) wrong...

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

Rifu (Miyagi)
C Endou
CF Fujiwara
1B Baba
RF Inoue
SS Sakurada
3B Yunomura
LF Katou Shuuta
2B Satou Yuuji
P Tsukamoto

1:20 PM - First Pitch

Top 1st
Kashiwaba with a safety bunt! Yunomura comes it, not really charging and his throw to 1st isn't in time! Leadoff man on for Hanamaki! Ryuuhei moves him over to 2nd. Kawamura advances him to 3rd with a grounder to 2nd... but Sarukawa hits a weak grounder to 2nd to end the threat.

Bottom 1st
While Kikuchi does yield a two-out walk to Baba, he strikes out the side. That half-game of rest did him some good.

Top 2nd
Tsukamoto quickly gets 2 outs, but then Ryuujirou hits one to deep left! Shuuta stands there for a second then turns around as he's completely fooled! Ryuujirou rounds 2nd and Shuuta's throw in isn't even close to his cutoff man! Ryuujirou takes 3rd!

But Kikuchi grounds out to short and the inning is over.

Bottom 2nd
Rifu gets contact on the ball, but to no avail. A 1-2-3 inning for Kikuchi.

Top 3rd
Tsukamoto gets his 1-2-3 innings and he's holding up well against Hanamaki Higashi.

Bottom 3rd
Yuuji starts off the inning by working a walk. Tsukamoto moves him to 2nd.

And Endou takes a pitch to right. Ryuujirou runs back, to the wall???


Endou takes the first pitch the opposite field just over the fence for a 2-run homerun!! And the last pitcher to not give up a run, gives up 2 in spectacular fashion! Rifu leads 2-0!!!

Then during Baba's AB, Fujiwara goes for 2nd and makes it!

And then he walks Fujiwara on 4 straight! This is uncharted territory for Kikuchi and the Hanamaki squad!

But he settles down. He stirkes out Baba looking, and gets Inoue to ground out to 2nd. But Rifu continues to shock the nation as they take a 2-0 lead!!

Top 4th
One down for Hanamaki, and Sarukawa singles past a diving Yuuji into right! But Tsukamoto strikes out Yokokura for the 2nd out!

Chiba looking to keep the inning going. He drives one to deep center! Fujiwara ranges back, and has to leap to make the catch!! A really close call there by the Rifu defense.

Bottom 4th
Yunomura steps in with one out and hits one to deep right center! That's to the wall! Yunomura pushes for 3! But the throw from Kashiwaba is in plenty of time to get him!

After that, it's just a 1-2-3 inning for Kikuchi. Kinda.

Top 5th
Ryuujirou with a soft liner that just goes over a leaping Sakurada! Kikuchi with the bunt, but tries to stall up the first base line. Baba comes over and it's a hard collision for the out. The home plate umpire has a word with Kikuchi before he goes back to the dugout.

One out, runner on 2nd for Yamada. He puts down the bunt. Endou with the ball, but the throw to 1st pulls Baba off the bag!! All safe. E2 and runners at the corners with one out!

Top batter Kashiwaba up. Grounder back up the middle! Yuuji ranges over makes the diving stop! Toss to 2nd, safe! Throw to 1st is in time. But Ryuujirou scores and Hanamaki has cut the deficit in half 2-1!!

Had not Yamada not gone on the play, the inning would have been over!

Ryuuhei steps up and hits a hard grounder right at 3rd. But it goes through Yunomura and into left! Yamada races for home!! Fuse charging in, makes the throw home! Endou with the ball and makes the swipe tag! Yamada's out at the plate! A possibly disasterous error turns into the 3rd out!

Bottom 5th
Kikuchi is starting to look human now!

Tsukamoto starts with a one-out single to right. Endou follows that up with a grounder to left! Obara-kantoku elects to bunt the runners along and Fujiwara executes the bunt.

2 down, runners on 2nd and 3rd for Baba! And after the count runs full, he walks him. Manrui!

But Kikuchi escapes! He gets Inoue to ground out to short to end the inning!

Top 6th
Hanamaki's offense starts again with one down. Sarukawa lines one to 1st, but it glances off Baba's glove! He gets the ball, but Tsukamoto isn't covering! E3!

Yokokura drives one down the right field line, but Inoue is there for the catch. 2 down.

Chiba lines one through the infield and into left! Runners at 1st and 2nd! AHH!!! He hits Ryuujirou! Manrui for Hanamaki Higashi!!

Kikuchi up hoping to help his cause. Count goes 2-2 when he reaches down for one! The ball heads to center and it falls in front of a charging Fujiwara!! Sarukawa scores! The throw home is cut off and Chiba scores!! Kikuchi with the bloop single and the error comes back to haunt Rifu!! Hanamaki Higashi takes the 3-2 lead!!

And Obara-kantoku feels like he's seen enough. He pulls Tsukamoto and #10 Takahashi enters the game. It's a bit curious since it wasn't really bad pitching that led to the 2 runs.

But Takahashi does get the job done, getting Yamada to ground out to first. But Rifu has given up the lead here in the 6th!

Bottom 6th
With the lead and new life, Kikuchi seems to return to his former self, retiring the side in order. Even gives a guts pose when he strikes out Fuse for out #3.

Top 7th
Kashiwaba opens "Lucky 7" with a single back up the middle. Ryouhei though can't lay the bunt and grounds out to 2nd. The Hanamaki batters seem to have an easier time with Takahashi as Kawamura also singles up the middle.

The pitching change could backfire of Rifu...

But Sarukawa grounds to 2nd! Yuuji starts the inning-ending 4-6-3 double play!

However, while Rifu just fell behind, time is already starting to run out on Rifu.

Bottom 7th
Yuuji with a grounder to the left side, Sarukawa charges, but gives up on it! Kawamura, backing up the play fields the ball and makes the throw to 1st just in time to get Yuuji!

Kikuchi retires the next two batter in quick order, and it looks like Rifu's chance to advance may have slipped away!

Top 8th
And their defense isn't helping them out. Yokokura singles down the right field line, but Inoue misplays the ball! Yokokura advances to 2nd! And the first pitch is misplayed by Endou! It gets away from him and Yokokura heads to 3rd! And Chiba walks on 4 straight to put runners at the corners with no down!

Obara-kantoku has a quick conference on the mound.


Ryuujirou goes for the bunt, but misses! Yokokura wasn't going though, but Chiba steals 2nd! Now a base hit blows the game open!

But Takahashi strikes out Ryuujirou for out number one!

Kikuchi up yet again to help his cause.


This time Sasaki-kantoku does call for the squeeze!! Takahashi gets to the ball quickly, throws home and AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He throws it wide of Endou and it goes all the way to the backstop!! Yokokura scores! Chiba rounds 3rd and he scores!! Hanamaki Higashi does blow it open thanks to Kikuchi yet again, and it's 5-2!!

Yamada looking to keep the inning going, draws a walk!

Obara-kantoku makes another pitching change. #11 Katou Hiroki comes in. Still only 1 down in the 8th.

Hiroki gets Kashiwaba to fly out to left. 2 down.

Ryuuhei though hits a grounder to the left side! Sakurada dives, and it goes off of him into left! Kikuchi rounds 3rd, and Fuse bobbles the ball! But Kikuchi was heading back to 3rd, so he doesn't advance. But it's manrui for Hanamaki Higashi!

Hiroki gets Kawamura to strike out, but Hanamaki extends it's lead. And against Kikuchi, 3 runs is a lot.

Bottom 8th
It's just about over for Rifu now. Kikuchi retires the side in order and the magical run looks over here in the Best 4.

Top 9th
Hiroki walks Sarukawa to start the inning. He's bunted over for Chiba, but he pops it up to 2nd. Ryuujirou grounds to short and the inning is over...

Bottom 9th
3 runs in 3 outs for Rifu. That's what they face here...

But they fight on. Sakurada fouls off pitches at the dish until Kikuchi strikes him out on an outside pitch.

Yunomura though singles to right!! There's some life!

He's replaced by #16 Watanabe as it starts to rain yet again at Koushien.

And Fuse with a grounder up the middle! Kawamura with the ball, steps on 2nd for one, throw to 1st, in time to beat a leaping Fuse!

Rifu looked like it was going to continue it's amazing run. But poor defense won't get you there, and Hanamaki Higashi jumped on that to rally and defeat Rifu in good fashion.

Give Rifu a round of applause, but now we head to the finals. And it's the matchup that I think people were hoping for as the tournament progressed. Two intimidating and strong pitchers face off...

Imamura Takeru (Seihou Koukou - Saza-cho, Nagasaki)


Kikuchi Yuusei (Hanamaki Higashi Koukou - Hanamaki-shi, Iwate)

Day 11 - Semifinal #1 - Hōtoku Gakuen (Hyogo) vs. Seihō (Nagasaki)

We have reached the semifinals. Some familiar faces, some not so familiar. For Houtoku Gakuen it's been an interesting road. They barely get out of their first game against Takasaki Shougyou, annihilated a surprisingly flat Imabari Nishi, then was trading punches with Chuukyoudai Chuukyou before prevailing in the top of the 9th.

Seihou, on the other hand has relatively breezed through. On the back of ace Imamura, he has pitches 26 shutout innings (he didn't pitch the 9th against Minoshima). Only Fukuchiyama Seibi proved to be a tough match, but that was because of their pitching, not their hitting.

It's partially bias, but I think Seihou finally has the complete package. Their trademark offense combined finally with an amazing ace equals championship game (and hopefully the title). Houtoku's pitching has been a bit suspect to me, and I don't think it'll last against Seihou's offense.

Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)
CF Tsuji
2B Nojima
1B Miyamoto
3B Saigou
C Hiramoto
SS Momiyama
LF Fujikura
RF Nara
P Miyatani

Seihou (Nagasaki)
3B Yahisa
CF Tominaga
C Kawamoto
1B Yamazaki
P Imamura
LF Tsuji
SS Hashimoto
2B Shimazaki (#14)
RF Yoshida
11:02 AM - First Pitch

Top 1st
Tsuji takes the first pitch and bloops it to left center for a base hit!! Nice way to start the game!! And Nagata-kantoku is using the hit-and-run!! But Nojima pops out to right!

They continue to press!! Tsuji takes off for 2nd on the first pitch to Miyamoto!! But Kawamoto rifles it to 2nd and they gun him down! 2 down!

And Iwamura freezes Miyamoto for the 3rd out!

Bottom 1st
Seihou is hacking away at the plate to start the game! After Yahisa strikes out, Tominaga and Kawamoto fly out on back-to-back pitches to quickly end the inning.

Top 2nd
The aces are just flying through the lineups! Houtoku's batters are just swinging away! Imamura only needs 6 pitches to retire the side!

Bottom 2nd
YAMAZAKI DRIVES A BALL!!! That's deep to left!! Fujikura to the wall!!


WOW!! Yamazaki hits a homerun to left!! Seihou is up 1-0!!

Imamura with a liner to left-center!! That's in for a base hit! Imamura pushes for 2nd!! Throw in, safe!! Imamura with a double and Seihou is threatening again!!

Tsuji bunts him over to 3rd. Now a sac fly can give them a 2-run lead!!

Hashimoto grounds to 2nd, but it's not enough! And Shimazaki grounds to short to end the inning. BUT!! Yamazaki's home run gives Seihou the lead!

Top 3rd
Fujikura with a comebacker! Imamura can't stop it and it goes to center for a base hit!

Nara with a great bunt on a slider down and in and Fujikura moves to scoring position!

Ace Miyatani can help his own cause. Count goes to 2-2 and he starts fouling off pitches. 8th pitch, low! Count runs full!! 9th pitch, Miyatani swings and misses!!

2 down, and back to the top of the order for Tsuji! But he pops it up to Yahisa and the inning is over!!

Bottom 3rd
Yoshida gets the bottom of the 3rd started with a bloop single to center! Back to the top of the order and Yahisa!

Yoshida-kantoku isn't electing to bunt here either! Count runs to 3-1 on Yahisa! Ball 4!! Miyatani is having trouble finding the plate! Runners on 1st and 2nd with no out!

And now Tominaga puts down the bunt. The runners advance to 2nd and 3rd for Kawamoto!!

Kawamoto though hits a comebacker to Miyatani! The runners go back as he makes the play at 1st! 2 down!!

Jock Rock starts playing as Yamazaki steps in!! Nagata-kantoku calls a conference to talk about how to deal with him!!

They're pitching him away. And with the count 2-1, they may be going for the intentional walk!


They pitch to him and he drives a low pitch back up the middle! Miyatani stabs at it, but it's through and into center!!!! Yoshida scores!! Yahisa comes around, he scores!! Yamazaki with a 2-run single and it's 3-0 Seihou!!

And Miyatani walks Imamura on 4 straight!!

That's enough for Nagata-kantoku. He pulls Miyatani from the game. Miyamoto comes in from 1B to relieve him. #11 Wada replaces Miyatani in the 9-spot and plays 1st.

Miyamoto gets Yoshida to fly out to right to end the inning, but Yamazaki is a one-man wrecking crew!! 2-2 with a homerun and all 3 RBI's for Seihou!!

Top 4th
Miyamoto starts Houtoku's offense with a one-out single through the right side! But Imamura clamps down, striking out Saigou and getting Hiramoto to ground to 3rd! He continues to dominate the Houtoku batters!!

Bottom 4th
Miyamoto struggles with the batters a bit, but he stems the Seihou attack! He retires the side in order for the 1st time since the 1st!

Top 5th
A slight rain comes down as we begin the 5th.

Imamura is about to breeze through the inning when Nara grounds one through the left side. But that's only a small blip as Wada flies out to center to end the inning... No team has really threatened Imamura this tournament!

Bottom 5th
The rain starts to come down a little more and the people move for the comforts under the overhang.

Yahisa stars off the inning with a comebacker up the middle for a leadoff single!!

Tominaga bunts him over as the rain falls down a little harder! It would behoove Seihou to get through 5!! But I bet Seihou would like another run or two...

Miyamoto though has other plans! He strikes out Kawamoto, but now faces Yamazaki!!

AND HE SINGLES TO RIGHT!!!!! Yahisa comes in and it's 4-0!!! YAMAZAKI IS ON FIRE!!

Imamura with a grounder through the right side!! Seihou continues to assault Houtoku's pitching!

Jock Rock!!

Tsuji with a foul ball that goes off SS Hashimoto's ankle!! He tries to shake it off as they get an ice pack for him. Ouch. Miyamoto does get him to ground to 1st, but Yamazaki tacks on another run!

Top 6th
One down for Houtoku when Nojima lines one to center. And with Miyamoto up, he goes for 2nd and takes it! He advances to 3rd on Miyamoto's grounder to 2nd.

And then he walks Saigou on 4 straight! Runners at the carners for Hiramoto!! And Imamura can't seem to find the plate! He falls behind 2-0!!

But Hiramoto bails him out!! He grounds to short and Hashimoto tosses it to Shimazaki to end the inning! Don't know if it was the weather, or their pitching sequence , but Imamura didn't look good there to Saigou and Hiramoto.

Bottom 6th
The rain is really coming down at Hanshin Koushien Kyuujyou. It's even apparent on screen how much it's falling.

Two down when Yoshida puts down a safety bunt! Miyamoto comes in to field it... the throw to 1st... not in time! The ball trickles up the first base line but Yoshida stays at 1st.

And with Yahisa up, Yoshida takes off! But Hiramoto's throw is in time for the out! Another 3 up, 3 down inning - so to speak.

Top 7th
Imamura is back to his normal self. He gets ahead of Momiyama and strikes him out swining. The same goes for Fujikura, but he grounds to short. Hashimoto is there, but he can't get a handle on it!! Error on Hashimoto gives Houtoku a runner!

Nagata-kantoku stays aggressive! Fujikura takes off for 2nd!! But it's a pitchout! Kawamoto easily throws him out! 2 down!!

And he gets Nara to strike out! But the ball gets away from Kawamoto and Nara reaches 1st!

But Imamura shuts them down again!! He gets Wada to ground to short and Imamura still has yet to yield a run!!

Bottom 7th
Miyamoto gets the first two batters out, but isn't getting the border calls on Kawamoto. He walks in on 4 straight and that means...

Yamazaki comes to the plate...

Houtoku and Miyamoto continue to pitch to him though. Count goes to 2-2, and he gets jammed! But he powers the ball into right for yet another base hit! Kawamoto advances to 3rd and it's runners at the corners for Seihou!!

Nagata-kantoku calls for another conference on the mound. Meanwhile, more Jock Rock!!

Miyamoto though can't find the zone! He falls behind Imamura 3-0! But a pitch down the middle and a jammed pitch fill up the count...

AND IT'S WAY HIGH!! Hiramoto has to jump up to snag it before it goes to the backstop!! Manrui for Tsuji! All this with 2 outs!

But Tsuji flies out to Tsuji in center, and Miyamoto gets out of the pinch!! That's great, but as they look at the scoreboard, they find themselves down 4 with only 6 outs to go.

Top 8th
It looks like the rain has finally subsided...

Imamura is just not nice. After a battle with leadoff batter Tsuji, he just freezes him on a fastball inside!

But then he walks Nojima. Miyamoto battles with Imamura trying to get on base. Nojima takes off for 2nd! No throw by Kawamoto! That's his 2nd stolen base!

And Miyamoto goes down swinging! 2 down for cleanup batter Saigou.

And he lines one to left! That's in for a single! Tsuji charging for home!! Fujikura takes a bit of a lackadaisical attitude to the ball, and the throw home isn't in time! Houtoku gets on the board, 4-1!! Imamura's streak of scoreless innings ends at 33.2 IP!!

Hiramoto then puts good bat on the all, but Tsuji is there to make the catch.

Bottom 8th
Miyamoto retires the bottom of the order, but as we head to the 9th inning they have 3 outs to score 3 runs.

Top 9th
Momiyama with a short grounder to the left side. Yahisa charges, snags the tough ball and makes the play at 1st!

Fujikura steps to the plate. He's frozen on an offspeed pitch and their down to their final out!!

Andn Nara flies out to left! Tsuji secures the ball, and Seihou wins 4-1!!

In their 2nd appearance at the spring Koushien, they again reach the finals! This time, they look to avenge their 21-0 loss at the hands of Yokohama and claim the title!

Imamura finally has given up a run, and looked a little shaky at times near the end of the game. Can he carry Seihou through one more game?