Friday, August 28, 2009

Fall Tournament Format

I'm working on getting my team database together to translate the fall tournament brackets faster. In the meantime, I'll go ahead and explain the fall tournament.

As we know the Haru Koshien (i.e. Spring Koshien, Senbatsu) is an invitational tournament.

The question is, how are the invitations handed out?

Well, they are given out based upon the results of the fall tournament. But unlike the Natsu Koshien, each prefecture doesn't get a bid. Instead, regions get bids. Mandatory bids are as follows:
  • Hokkaido - 1
  • Tohoku - 2
  • Kanto (ex Tokyo) - 4
  • Tokyo - 1
  • Hokushinetsu - 2
  • Tokai - 2
  • Kinki - 6
  • Chuugoku - 2
  • Shikoku - 2
  • Kyushu - 4
That makes 26. Then there are 3 "flex" bids that are distributed to wherever the committee sees fit (but one max per region), and then the final 3 bids are given to what are 21st century teams.

21st century teams are a way to give teams who may get close to qualifying a chance to compete. A team from each prefecture is nominated around November-December. Then each region nominates one of those nominees to the selection committee by December 15th. Finally, the committee selects the three 21st century teams.

There is one catch. The 21st century team cannot be from a region that has received a "flex" bid. Therefore, 6 of the 10 regions will receive an extra bid.

So that's the high level summary. Let's delve down further.

Well, each region has their own tournament. And in general they take the top finishers from each prefecture and put them in semi-seeded brackets to determine the winner. Some prefectures will get more bids in the regionals than others.

Within each prefecture their qualifiers can vary. Most at the top have a traditional single elimination bracket. But to get to that bracket, some have area round-robin play with winners advancing to the next level. Others give bids to the prefectural brackets via a double, or even triple elimination depending on how many that particular area gets.

So unlike the Natsu Koshien qualifying, losing doesn't always mean you're automatically eliminated.

But because the formats all vary, I may not be able to provide as detailed information as I'd like.

There you have it. And because some regions started fall tournaments while Natsu Koshien was still running, the baseball season literally doesn't stop. You finish the Natsu Koshien qualifying, then turn around and get the new team together and ready for the fall tournament. No wonder why seeing 1st years is rare.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 15 - Finals - Nihon Bunri (Niigata) vs. Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi)

So, we've reached the finals. And as mentioned before, it's the viewed underdog in Nihon Bunri versus the Aichi powerhouse Chuukyoudai Chuukyou.

Will it be as one-sided as people say it is? Or are we just underestimating the team from Niigata? Surely, ace Itou has done an admirable job on the mound, and has baffled the opponent's batters. Is there one more game left for him?

Enough talking. We've seen these teams.


Nihon Bunri (Niigata)
2B Kitte
SS Takahashi Jyunnosuke
1B Takeishi
RF Yoshida
LF Takahashi Yoshihito
P Itou Naoki
CF Yumoto
C Wakabayashi
3B Nakamura

Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi)
SS Yamanaka
2B Kunitomo
3B Kawai
P Doubayashi
C Isomura
LF Itou Takahiko
1B Shibata
RF Kaneyama
CF Iwatsuki


1:01 PM - First pitch!

Top 1st
The siren blares and the first pitch is over for a strike! Ahead 0-2 on Kitte. And popped out in foul territory to 1st for the first out.

Fastball gets over to start Jyunnosuke off, but falls behind 2-1. Another breaking pitch over levels the count. Yet another one goes outside. He's sure throwing out a lot of breaking pitches...

And he takes lines one to center!

Ooi-kantoku is electing not to bunt. And Doubayashi continues to throw breaking pitches! He falls behind Takeishi 2-0 before throwing one. Takeishi fouls one off to level the count.

Ooi calls for the hit and run! But Takeishi grounds it to 2nd! Kunitomo feeds it to short and the throw to 1st... completes the double play!!

Bottom 1st
Yamanaka just gets a hold of the first pitch and grounds it into center! Kunitomo bunts the runner over for Kawai.

First pitch swinging! Kawai lifts one to left center! Yoshihito ranges to his left, and a little more... and a little more... and makes the catch.

2 down for Doubayashi. Itou falls behind 3-1, and...

Doubayashi with a drive to right center!!!! Yumoto and Yoshida running to the wall...


Doubayashi giving his team the early 2-0 lead with a homerun!!! Certainly not the way Bunri wanted to start this game...

And then he walks Isomura on 4 straight.

And Itou takes the first pich and sends it through the right side! Runners on the corners for Chuukyou!! Not a good start.

But Shibata flies one to left to end the inning.

Doubayashi takes a hanging breaking pitch and gives his team the early lead. It's certainly far from over, but how will they respond?

Top 2nd
Cleanup batter Yoshida up 2-0 on Doubayashi, and he with a liner down the left field line! He's in with a leadoff double!

Itou with a drive to the right-center field gap! That falls in between the fielders! Yoshida scores and Bunri has taken one back! 2-1!!!

Itou looking to tie the game with a base hit. Falls behind 1-2. Evens it up on a ball in the dirt. Inside for ball 3! SANSHIN!!! Itou's fooled on a slider by Doubayashi! 1 down.

1st year Yumoto up now. He's certainly taking his hacks, but too falls behind 1-2. And another breaking pitch results in another swing and miss! 2 down!

Down to #8 batter Wakabayashi. He falls behind 0-2. Not fooled on the breaking pitch. But is fooled on the 2nd one! Doubayashi strikes out the side after giving up leadoff doubles! Bunri gets back 1, but perhaps could have tied the game!

Bottom 2nd
Itou still up there throwing strikes. He gets Kaneyama swinging to start the inning.

But Iwatsuki lines the first one to left for a base hit.

Yamanaka with a grounder right to short! Jyunnosuke starts the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning!

Top 3rd
Last batter Nakamura falls behind 1-2 and fouls off a couple of pitches before leveling the count. But a fastball inside freezes him! One down.

Kitte grounds the first ball to short and there's 2 down.


Jyunnosuke with a drive deep down the left field line!! Itou to the wall!!


2nd year Jyunnosuke ties the game with a homerun! They certainly aren't intimidated!!!! 2-2!!!!!

Takeishi grounds out to short, but we have a tie ball game!!!

Bottom 3rd
Kunitomo is returning the favor of Nakamura by working Itou full..

But he's frozen on a breaking pitch on the outside corner!!

The heart of the Chuukyou lineup is up now, and Itou continues after them.

Kawai grounds one to 1st! But the ball gets away from Takeishi! It's too late when he gets it! E3!!

And that brings up Doubayashi!

But this time Oofuji-kantoku sending the runner! Throw from Wakabayashi is high and Kawai's in safely.

Itou falls behind Doubayashi 3-1, and walks him... Runners on 1st and 2nd for Isomura!

Isomura with a shot through the left side!! Kawai holds at 3rd and it's manrui for Takahiko!

Naoki gets ahead 0-2... SANSHIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Naoki gets Takahiko swinging on a changeup! 2 down!

One more to go in Shibata! Breaking pitch over for strike 1! Fouled off and Naoki's up 0-2!!


WOW!! He throws a 0-2 slider and all Shibata can do is watch!!!! Naoki gets out of a bases loaded jam with 2 strikeouts!!!!!!!!!!!

Top 4th
Yoshida swinging on the first pitch and pops up to Kunitomo behind 2nd.

Yamanaka taking a 0-1 pitch past Doubayashi! But Yamanaka dives and gets it! They ball trickles away though and he can't make a throw! One on for Bunri!

Naoki with a drive to center!!!!! That's going deep!!! Iwatsuki running back.. leaps...

MAKES THE CATCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH MY GOD!!!!

At full sprint, Iwatsuki runs back, leaps, makes the catch, crashes into the wall, and holds on!!

WHAT A PLAY!!!!!!!

Yumoto grounds out to 1st to end the inning, but Iwatsuki makes a saving catch in center!!!!

Bottom 4th
Kaneyama with a slow grounder up the 1st base side. It gets past Naoki! Kitte charges in, but his throw is late! Runner on!

Iwatsuki with the bunt! But Takeishi elects to wait to see if it goes foul... and it does!

But that's close... that could have easily stayed fair...

Iwatsuki tries it again, but Naoki has it and fires to 2nd!!! They get the lead runner! The chance pays off!!! One down!

Yamanaka first pitch swinging, pops it up! Wakabayashi behind home plate makes the catch! 2 down.

Kunitomo tries the safety bunt But Nakamura charges in and makes a strong throw to get the out!

Top 5th
Wakabayashi goes down swinging to start the inning.

Nakamura first pitch swinging, grounds to 3rd... and Kitte hits the first pitch and flies out to shallow left. A quick inning for Doubayashi as Chuukyou goes back on offense, looking for the lead.

Bottom 5th
Kawai with a chopper up the middle! Kitte charging over, and Kawai's slide just beats out the throw!

And Doubayashi with a drive deep, but foul!! Wow he got around on that ball really fast.

He doesn't miss with this one! 1-2 fastball from Naoki is driven to left!! Yoshihito has to play that off the wall! Kawai holds up at 3rd as he had to wait to see if the ball would be caught! Runners on 2nd and 3rd for Chuukyou with nobody down!

Isomura up. Falls behind 0-2....


Naoki gets Isomura swinging on a slider for out #1!

Takahiko up now... Count goes to 2-2... and he starts foulding off pitches. Oofuji-kantoki wants a chopper and he wants one now.

But Takahiko fouls one off, the lines one foul...


Naoki gets Takahiko swinging for the 2nd out!

And he's ahead fo Shibata 0-2!! Pitch outside and he doesn't chase...

Grounder to short! Jyunnosuke up with it, makes the throw to 1st...

3 OUT!!!!

How lucky (or clutch) is this guy!!!! Manrui 1 down, strikes out the next 2 batters. Runners on 2nd and 3rd with no down, strikes the next two batters out and induces a grounder!!!!

We head to the break tied at 2-2!!!!!

Top 6th
Jyunnosuke starts off the post break with a liner to left for a leadoff base hit!

Takeishi not bunting! And is hit by Doubayashi!!! Runners on 1st and 2nd for Bunri!!

And Oofuji-kantoku quickly makes a move!!

Doubayashi is being taken off the mound! He's moved to right. Kaneyama moves to center and #10 Morimoto comes in for Iwatsuki and takes the mound.

Yoshida looking to bunt to set the runners up for Yoshihito.

NO!!! He pounds one into the ground!! Kunitomo with it and goes to 1st! Just as good as it advances the runners.

And they're going after Yoshihito! First pitch fouled off!

But Isomura comes out to talk to Morimoto. And Oofuji-kantoku sends someone out.

Strike 2, inside corner! They're really going after him! Pitch outside in the dirt for 1-2. Grounder to short!! Runners taking off! Yamanaka goes home and they have Jyunnosuke out at home!! Runners at 1st and 3rd for Itou.


He makes good contact, sends it to left... but he gets under it and it's an easy play for Takahiko! Morimoto gets Chuukyou out fo the inning!!!

Bottom 6th
Kaneyama grounds out to 2nd after running the count full.

New P Morimoto does the same, but draws a walk.

AH!!! A wild pitch by Naoki sends Kaneyama to 2nd!!!

Yamanaka with a sharp grounder to short, and it bounces off Jyunnosuke! Morimoto was scrambling back to 2nd, and can only advance to 3rd!!

Kunitomo with anothe sharp grounder to 3rd! That bounces off Nakamura, but goes right to Jyunnosuke! Runners hold!


Naoki gets ahead of Kawai 1-2... SANSHIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He does it again!!! 2 down for Bunri!!!

But the biggest test is yet to come... Doubayashi steps up. Gets ahead 0-1!

Liner! That goes into left!! Morimoto scores! Kunitomo comes around 3rd... he scores! It couldn't last forever could it?? Doubayashi comes through again and has all 4 RBI's. It's 4-2!!

And Isomura is hit by Naoki! Manrui again for Chuukyou!

Itou with a high chopper! Itou fields it, but there's no one covering 1st!!! All safe!!! Kunitomo scores and it's 5-2 Chuukyou!!!


Doubayashi scores! Isomura scores!! Takahiko rounding 3rd... he scores!! It's a bases clearing triple for Morimoto and Chuukyou has blown this one wide open! It's 8-2!!

Kaneyama back up once again. And Naoki walks him on 4 straight! Runners on 1st and 2nd!

But Morimoto strikes out to end the inning.

Chuukyou sends 11 batters, and scores 6 runs. Is it over?

Top 7th
Yumoto really working on Morimoto. Count goes full, fouls off pitch after pitch after pitch...

And on the 11th he singles to center!! #16 Murayama comes in to pinch run.

Wakabayashi then hits a grounder through the left side!!! Runners on 1st and 2nd!

Nakamura with a grounder! That's over Kunitomo's glove into right! Murayama comes in to score and it 8-3!!! Is there something brewing here??


Kitte weakly grounds to 2nd! Kunitomo goes to Yamanaka for one, throw to Shibata... double play! It's a momentum killer for Bunri!!

Sure enough, Jyunnosuke flies out to left to end the inning.

Bottom 7th
#15 Asatsuma in for Murayama and in center.

Yamanaka with a liner to left to start the inning. Playing with the lead, Oofuji has Kunitomo bunt the runner over.

Kawai with a liner down the right field line! Yamanaka scores from 2nd and they get the run back! 9-3!

But Naoki gets Doubayashi to pop up to Jyunnosuke behind 2nd base for the 2nd out.

Isomura though hits a liner to center! Kawai comes around to score and it's 10-3!

Takahiko grounds out to 2nd, but Chuukyou has extened their lead.

Top 8th
#17 Morimasa in for Itou in left.

Try as they might, Bunri can't get anything started. Takeishi grounds out to short. Yoshida pops out to Shibata in foul territory.

Yoshihito though collects his 3rd base hit with a single to right.

Naoki with a grounder to 3rd. Kawai muffs the ball, then tries to throw to 2nd. But it gets away from Kunitomo! Yoshihito advances to 3rd!

#13 Tanabe comes in to pinch hit for Asatsuma.


A wild pitch by Morimoto scores Yoshihito! It's 10-4!

Tanabe is battling, fouling off pitches... but strikes out!!

They get a run back, but it's far from what they need...

Bottom 8th
#18 Yaguchi in for PH Tanabe and goes to center.

Shibata leads off with a single to left.

Kaneyama bunts him to 2nd...

But he's left stranded there as Morimoto grounds out to 1st, and Yamanaka grounds out to 3rd to end the inning.

Top 9th
Last chance for Bunri!

Doubayashi re-takes the mound for the 9th inning... Morimoto goes to 1st and Shibata goes to right...

Wakabayashi down 1-2, strikes out looking!

Nakamura first pitch, grounds to short! Yamanaka fumbles it, but has time! Makes the throw and there 2 down!

Last chance in Kitte now. Count goes full and...


Jyunnosuke now trying to continue the game... Falls behind 1-2...

Wild pitch by Doubayashi sends Kitte to 2nd, but he's far from the tying run.

Driven by Jyunnosuke! Down the left field line!!!!


Oh, that was so close!!!

Fouls another one off...

Over Jyunnosuke's head... full count!

Reaches down and fouls it off!!!


Jyunnosuke drives Kitte in with a double and it 10-5!

Still aways to go...

Oofuji-kantoku with a conference...

Takeishi now trying to keep the rally alive... Falls behind 1-2...

Just outside! 2-2! That was close!

Just reaches down and gets a piece of it! He's still alive!

And again gets down and reaches for it!

LINER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DOWN THE RIGHT FIELD LINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shibata chasing it around the wall!!! Takeishi in with a triple!! Jyunnosuke scores and it's 10-6!!!!

Yoshida up trying to keep the rally alive.

Pops up a 1-0 pitch! Kawai in foul territory looking for it.. CAN'T FIND IT!!!! IT DROPS FOUL!!!

AND THEN DOUBAYASHI HITS YOSHIDA!!! Runners on 1st and 3rd!

Oofuji-kantoku has seen enough. He sends Morimoto back onto the mound! Doubayashi goes back to right and Shibata to 1st...

Yoshihito up... count runs full!!!

Reaches down and fouls one off!!

Reaches out and fould another one off!!!

LOW FOR BALL 4!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Low and outside for ball 1!!!! Outside for ball 2!!!!

GROUNDER THROUGH THE LEFT SIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


SAFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT'S 10-8!!!!

#12 Ishidzuka up to pinch hit for Yaguchi...

SINGLE THROUGH THE LEFT SIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

YOSHIHITO ROUNDS 3RD!!! TAKAHIKO MUFFS THE BALL!!! HE SCORES AND IT'S 10-9!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


#16 Hirano in to pinch run for Ishidzuka!

Wakabayshi up looking to tie the game with yet another base hit!!!


CAUGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! KAWAI CATCHES THE LINER AND THE GAME IS OVER!!!!!!!!!!!

Wakabayashi immediately crumples onto the Koshien grounds as the Chuukyou bench charge the field!!! Chuukyou barely holds off a 9th inning 2-out rally by Nihon Bunri and holds on to win 10-9!!!!!

Unlike so many other teams who perhaps folded up their tents, Nihon Bunri continued to fight, time and time again. Even when down 6, then 7, they never gave up. And for a moment, it seemed like it was possible.

And although they may not have won, the valiant effort they gave throughout the tournament, culminating with the last rally in the top of the 9th, is one to be appreciated. If you wish to send a message of thanks their e-mail is here.

But of course we can't forget the victors. Chuukyoudai Chuukyou in their victory brings the title back to their school, and back to the prefecture, for the first time in 43 years. Led by their ace Doubayashi, 2nd year reliever Morimoto, and Kawai, they were able to get through the 49 team field and come out as the champions. For Oofuji-kantoku it's a bit much for him to handle as he breaks down while his team rounds the field.

But who can blame him? He's watching his kids who he's worked with achieve the goal that over 4041 teams this year started off trying to obtain.

And with that, we conclude the 91st Natsu Koshien Baseball Tournament. We have seen a lot of exciting games this year from start to finish. A lot of good stories, a lot of great comebacks, and a showcase of many players we will surely see in the future.

But as this one is ending, the fall tournaments are already underway to determine the participants in next year's Senbatsu (Haru Koshien).

And so the next set of stars are being born. The tournament may have ended, but kokoyakyuu never does...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 14 - Game 2 - Semifinals - Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate) vs. Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi)

So surprise team Nihon Bunri has made it to the finals. Who will be the other?

The other matchup would be intriguing if there wasn't a cloud hanging over the matchup.

No, not literally, but if you've been following the tournament, you know that Kikuchi Yuusei was injured in their quarterfinal game versus Meihou. So much so that he had to be pulled alltogether.

The overhanging question was, "Will he play today?" We saw what happened to the team after his departure. Sarukawa and the Hanamaki squad lost the 4-1 lead and in fact fell behind 6-4 going into the top of the 9th. But they ralled to tie the game, send it into extras and win it in the 10th.

Well, the lineups are out and #1 for Hanamaki Higashi is not on it. We don't know if this means that he's out altogether, or if Sasaki-kantoku is holding him out as long as possible, only putting him on the mound when he absolutely has to.

Does this perhaps swing the pendulum over to Chuukyou? It's not certain. But it does at least level the playing field.

Both teams have played 4 games. Hanamaki Higashi survived a scare in the first round, advanced out of their bracket by defeating Tohoku, and had that inspiring Best 8 game against Meihou.

For Chuukyou, they survived a scare against Kansei Gakuin, advanced easily out of their bracket against Nagano Nihon and shut down Miyakonojyou Shougyou 6-2.

The questions will be:
  • How much will Kikuchi's absence affect the team?
  • How much will the team rally around Kikuchi's absence?

Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate)
2B Kashiwaba
CF Satou Ryouhei
SS Kawamura
3B Sarukawa
1B Yokokura
C Chiba
LF Sasaki Daiki (#15)
P Yoshida (#14)
RF Yamada

Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi)
SS Yamanaka
2B Kunitomo
3B Kawai
P Doubayashi
C Isomura
LF Itou
1B Shibata
RF Kaneyama
CF Iwatsuki


1:30 PM - First pitch!

Top 1st
Doubayashi not off to a good start here. He walks Kashiwaba to start the inning. Ryouhei immediately bunts him along.

Kawamura swings away, but grounds to 1st. Kashiwaba at 3rd now.

And I can't tell if they're pitching around him or if Doubayashi doesn't have control, but he walks Sarukawa on 4 straight! Runners at the corners!

But Yokokura grounds out to 3rd, and the inning is over.

Bottom 1st
So 2nd-year #14 Yoshida Ryou takes the mound.

And he's off to a bit of a shaky start. He walks Yamanaka to start it off, and is moved to 2nd.

But Kawai hits a comebacker to Yoshida! He looks Yamanaka off and goes to 1st! 2 down!

The 3rd out though will be tough. It's cleanup batter Doubayashi. The outfield is playing almost all the way back to the wall.

(And Kikuchi Yuusei is throwing in the bullpen??!)

But it backfires! Doubayashi singles through the left side! Daiki has to charge in, and that means that Yamanaka can round 3rd and score! The leadoff walk comes in to score and Chuukyou takes the early lead! 1-0!!

Yoshida does strike out Isomura to retire the side, but now the new question is:
  • How long will Sasaki-kantoku wait to bring out Kikuchi, if at all??

Top 2nd
Doubayashi after the shaky first, retires the Hanamaki side in order with 3 infield groundouts.

Bottom 2nd
Yamada gets himself into more trouble again. He walks Itou to start the inning, and just like last inning is bunted over to 2nd - looking for someone at the bottom of the lineup to deliver.

#17 Watanabe is warming up in the bullpen...

Yamada strikes out Kaneyama on a ball in the dirt for out number 2!

And Iwatsuki swings on the first pitch and flies out to center! Yamada gets out of the inning!

Top 3rd
One down for Hanamaki Higashi when Kashiwaba singles back up the middle.

Ryouhei looking to bunt, but a ball in the dirt by Doubayashi is blocked by Isomura, but gets away from him! Kashiwaba advances to 2nd!

And Ryouhei hits a short chopper, advancing him to 3rd! Now a base hit by Kawamura can tie the game.

Ah... but Kawamura swings at a ball in the dirt for strike 3 to end the inning.

Bottom 3rd
Yamada collects his 3rd K striking out Yamanaka to start the inning.

Then Kunitomo hits a comebacker up the middle! It's off Yamada and goes to the right side! Kashiwaba changes direction, but can't get to it in time.

But Kawai strikes out Kawai on 3 straight! 2 down!

And Doubayashi steps up to the plate again. The LF and CF are playing way back, as in like 5 feet away from the ball back. It's the no doubles defense. But if Doubayashi were to ground a ball through the infield, it may score a run again!

Yoshida doesn't give him the chance! He makes him chase a pitch outside and retires the side! So far, he seems to be holding his own.

Top 4th
Cleanup batter Sarukawa singles past a diving Kunitomo into center!

Yokokura looks to bunt him along, but it's too hard! Doubayashi fields it and goes to 2nd for the force! 1 down!

Chiba with a grounder through to left! Runners on 1st and 2nd for Hanamaki!

Daiki up, and he works the count full!


Daiki lays down the squeeze, but it's right in front of home! Isomura grabs the ball, goes to tag Yokokura! He's out! Throws to 1st.... DOUBLE PLAY!!!

The squeeze turns into an inning ending double play! What a bad break for Hanamaki!

Bottom 4th

Isomura takes a 1-1 offering to deep left center!!!! Daiki to the wall...


Isomura with a homerun!!! It's now 2-0!!

And with one down, Shibata singles to center!

Kaneyama with a popup to short center! Kashiwaba runs out, and muffs the catch! E4 and the runners are at the corners!

That's it for Yoshida. #12 Saitou comes into the game.

Iwatsuki with the bunt, but he pops it up! Chiba secures it and there's 2 outs!

Yamanaka up... grounder through the left side! Shibata comes around and he scores! 3-0 Chuukyou!

AHHH!!!!!! Saitou hits Kunitomo to load the bases!!!

OH? What's this?? Kikuchi Yuusei is entering the game!

But he still doesn't look to be 100%....

And Kawai drives a 1-0 pitch down the left field line! Yamada runs over, dives.... and it just gets past him! All 3 runners will score! Kawai with the bases clearing triple and it's 6-0...

Doubayashi grounds out to 1st, but certainly the damage has been done and perhaps fatally...

Top 5th
Yuusei up to bat to start the inning and flies out to right. Still seems to be in pain running around the bases.

And Doubayashi retires the side in order here in the 5th. Could they be done already??

Bottom 5th
Yuusei strikes out Isomura to start the inning. Perhaps he can hold them back...

Oh dear...

Itou pulls a ball to right center!!!


It's 7-0 and that may put an end to it... Itou's homerun could mean the end of Hanamaki Higashi's run...

Indeed, with the game probably out of reach, Yuusei is pulled from the mound. Sarukawa takes the mound, Yuusei goes to left, and Daiki goes to 3rd.

Shibata lines one to center. He's sent to 2nd after Sarukawa is called for a balk. Kaneyama walks. Runners on 1st and 2nd for Chuukyou.

Iwatsuki moves the runners to 2nd and 3rd.

But Yanamaka grounds out to 3rd and that ends the inning.

With Yuusei out through, It seems all but a formality now.

Top 6th
Ryouhei tries a safety bunt down the 1st base line... Doubayashi tosses to Shibata as Ryouhei dives and crashes over 1st - perhaps as a show of the frustration, but the drive they they want to have, but just can't without their ace... But the bench applauds the effort.

Kawamura grounds out to 2nd for the 2nd out.

And Sarukawa lines one past a diving Kawai down the left field line! He breaks for 2nd! Itou with the throw to 2nd and... OUT!!!

Sarukawa perhaps pressing, gets thrown out trying to stretch out the hit...

Bottom 6th
And Yuusei has been pulled out of the game.

#9 Satou Ryuujirou comes in for Yuusei and takes right. Yamada moves to left.

Kunitomo draws a leadoff walk.

Kawai singles to left, but Yamada muffs the ball and it goes behind him.

Kunitomo scores all the way from 1st and Kawai heads to 3rd. 8-0.

Doubayashi walks, and there's runners at the corners...

Isomura lays down the squeeze and is successful. Kawai scores and it's 9-0.

Itou strikes out, and Shibata hits a high pop up to Chiba to end the inning...

Top 7th
Yokokura with a single through the left side. Chiba singles to right! Perhaps they can score a run with the runners at the corners?

Daiki grounds to 3rd, and Chuukyou elects for the 5-4-3 double play and Yokokura does score. Hanamaki Higashi avoids the shutout, 9-1.

Ryuujirou grounds out to 2nd to end the inning.

Bottom 7th
Kaneyama takes a 0-1 offering to deep right, and that leaves the yard. 10-1.

Sarukawa retires the next 3 batters, including 2 K's.

Top 8th
Hanamaki goes down in order. Certainly they haven't really given up, but I think they know that perhaps this wasn't their year.

Bottom 8th
Kawai equals Kaneyama's feat in the 7th, hitting a leadoff homerun to right. 11-1. Doubayashi singles to right, and after being bunted over, Sarukawa retires the next two batters and Hanamaki is down to their final AB's.

Top 9th
#11 Morimoto come in for Itou and takes the hill. Doubayashi moves to left.

Kawamura fights off a couple of pitches, but pops out to 3rd in foul territory.

Sarukawa, always the fighter, singles to center.

But the game ends when Yokokura grounds to 1st. Shibata tags the bag, then goes to Yamanaka at 2nd who then runs down Sarukawa to end the game.

And then it finally all comes out. Kikuchi is being pulled from the bench as he starts crying. His dream of winning the Natsu Koshien wasn't defeated by another team, it was defeated by his own body.

And that's probably the hardest thing from him to take. That he couldn't finish what he started, that he couldn't be there as the ace leading his team on the field. That perhaps he feels he let his team down.

And that couldn't be further from the truth.

We saw him doing everything possible to help his team, even when he wasn't on the mound. Cheering people on, coming out himself when Sasaki-kantoku wanted a conference. There's nothing more that he could have done save for going out there and possibly injuring himself irreparably that he could have done.

Sure, some may have been bristled a bit seeing his demeanor on the mound - but I think it's there as a way to show his support to his teammates - to keep their spirits up no matter what.

Wherever his travels take him next, I'm sure the media will follow, but so will a lot more people who he may have endeared themselves to from this tournament.

I will certainly let him and the team know, and I hope you do the same.

So. We've finally reached our final 2 teams. And it's an all central final. Chuukyoudai Chuukyou will look to win the title for Aichi since they last won it in 1966. Their opponent will be Nihon Bunri out of Niigata - looking for the prefecture's first ever Natsu Koshien championship!

Certainly Chuukyoudai Chuukyou will be the heavy favorites, but Nihon Bunri has showed everyone wrong time and time again. Will they prove everyone wrong?

Natsu Koshien no kesshou! Otanoshimini!

Day 14 - Game 1 - Semifinals - Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu) vs.

This certainly wasn't the semifinal we were expecting. Perhaps Nihon Bunri, but Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou? Where's Teikyou?

Perhaps fatigue, or the pressure of the moment got to the team, but suddenly the couldn't hit, and almost all their aces struggled. And for the 3rd time this decade, they're turned away at the Best 8.

Probably viewed as the longshot in the Best 4, and perhaps rightly so, Nihon Bunri has had a relative easy schedule to the Best 4. In bracket play, the defeated Sangawa (Kagawa) 4-3, then exploded against Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa 12-5.

They drew Risshoudai Shounan in the Best 8, a team who had made it to the best 8 winning their bracket final with only 14 players. And when they took the field against Nihon Bunri, they only had 13, and no other pitchers other than their ace number. As a result, Bunri advanced to the Best 4.

It's not to say they haven't earned it though. The team offensively has done really well, with 6 of the starting 9 hitting over .400 led by 3B Nakamura who is 7-9. Itou certainly has pitched well, with a line of 10 ER, 25 H, 30 K and 6 BB in 27 IP. Facing their first real test, how will they do?

For Kenritsu Gifu Shouyou, this is their first Best 4 appearance since 1964. After having no problem with Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku in their first round, played PL Gakuen in the bracket final. And PL, without ace Nakano, were a completely different team. Inoue couldn't hold against the Gifushou offense and Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou advanced to the Best 8.

The draw wasn't nice to them though as they had to play Teikyou - and offensive-minded squad that seemed to have pitchers coming out of the ears! But as mentioned earlier, the offense couldn't get started against ace Yamada, while ace Hirahara was stomped upon by the Gifu offense.

Like Nihon Bunri, ace Yamada is the star - both on the mound and at the plate. He's given up 6 ER and 22 H, all while striking out only 16 and walking 5. Offensively he's 5-10 with 8 RBI's.

The questions for today's game will be:
  • Will each pitcher hold up today?
  • Can Nihon Bunri continue the hitting of the last 2 games?

Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu)
CF Matsuda Tomohiro
2B Fujita
LF Ezaki
3B Ikai
P Yamada Tomohiro
RF Kodama
1B Izumida
SS Sakaida
C Hirabayashi

Nihon Bunri (Niigata)
2B Kitte
SS Takahashi Jyunnosuke
1B Takeishi
RF Yoshida
LF Takahashi Yoshihito
P Itou
CF Yumoto
C Wakabayashi
3B Nakamura


11:00 AM - First pitch!

Top 1st
Itou off to a great start, striking out Tomohiro and Fujita to start both swingin on curveballs.

But then Ezaki takes one away into right center all the way to the wall! He's headed for 2, but then dahses for 3rd when the relay throw is muffed by the 2B! Just like that Gifushou has a scoring oppotunity!

But Ikai check swings a grounder to the right side! Kitte goes over and makes the throw to 1st to end the inning.

Bottom 1st
Yamada also looking good. Location looks good and offspeed pitches are breaking nicely. Perhaps it's playing one less game that's benefited both teams?

Kitte grounds out to 3rd, Jyunnosuke strikes out looking on a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner, and Takeishi flies out to short center.

Top 2nd
Small hiccup here in the 2nd. After striking out Yamada looking, he falls behind Kodama and walks him.

After several throws over to 1st, Kodama takes off for 2nd! But it's a pitchout and Wakabayashi throws to 2nd! Nakamura over and they make the out! 2 down.

And Izumida strikes out swinging to end the inning.

Bottom 2nd
Yamada gives Bunri their first runner as he hits Yoshida. Ooi-kantoku elects not to have Yoshihito bunt.

Yoshihito hits one hard at Ikai, and he can't quite stop it! It trickles behind him! Sakaida retrieves it, but all safe!

Itou bunts the runners over for Yumoto, and Bunri has a good chance here!

But Yumoto with a grounder to the left side! Fujita charges in and looks the runners back! Then he goes to 1st for the 2nd out!

Ah~~~ and Wakabayashi hits a grounder up the middle that Sakaida easily fields and throws to 1st for the 3rd out. A great opportunity lost for Bunri!

Top 3rd
Sakaida gives Gifushou another base runner as he singles through the infield to left. He's bunted over for the top of the lineup and Tomohiro.

Grounder up the middle! Kitte dives... and makes the stop! Throws from his knees, out! Nice play by Kitte to prevent the run from scoring!

Itou still not out of trouble yet. Still has a runner on 3rd with 2 down. And Fujita is giving him fits as the count goes full. But on the 8th pitch, he pops it up! Nakamura in foul territory makes the catch!

Bottom 3rd
Nakamura with a single back up the middle into center gives Bunri another leadoff runner, After a sac bunt, they have a good chance to score a run.

That is unless Jyunnosuke happens to ground one to short and the lead runner is caught trying to advance to 3rd like what has happened so many times earlier. Oh? That actually happened?


Takeishi then singles to short after the ball takes an irregular bounce right as Sakaida was about to field it. Runners on 1st and 2nd for Yoshida.

But he hits a grounder to 3rd and Ikai goes to the bag for the 3rd out.

Top 4th
Itou looking really good. One groundout and two flyouts later and he has a 1-2-3 inning!

Bottom 4th
Yoshihito continues his hot hitting with a chopper just over Yamada's glove into center! It's the 3rd consecutive leadoff runner for Bunri.

Ooi-kantoku doesn't ask Itou to bunt, and he swings away - but flies it to right.

But a wild pitch to Yumoto moves Yoshihito into scoring position!

Yumoto can't get the timely as he grounds out to 1st. It does however, move Yoshihito to 3rd.

But Yamada goes off and walks Wakabayashi! Runners at the corners now for last batter Nakamura.

However, he grounds out to 2nd to end the inning.

We have a really good pitcher's duel on our hands! Neither pitcher has shown any real weaknesses so far, so we may be in for a really good game!

Top 5th
One down for Gifushou and Izumida singles to left. Fujita-kantoku has Sakaida bunt the runner over for a one-shot with Hirabayashi.

But Hirabayashi grounds back to Itou to end the inning.

Bottom 5th
Kitte drives one to center! That's by Tomohiro and to the wall! Kitte is pushing for 3! Thow from Sakaida... SAFE!!!

Wow! The ball got there before him, but he manages to sneak into 3rd! Runner on 3rd, no down for Jynnosuke!

Lines one! It's through to right! Jyunnosuke scores and Nihon Bunri breakes the scoreless tie here in the 5th. 1-0!!!

Yamada finally gets his first out of the inning as he strikes out Takeishi on a fastball on the outside corner.

Then he gets Yoshida to ground one to short. But Sakaida boots the ball! Fujita tries to get the ball to at least get the force - but to no avail! All safe!

Runners on 1st and 2nd for Yoshihito!

It a shot to 3rd! But Ikai gets it! Steps on 3rd for 1, goes to 1st for the inning ending double play!

So we hit the break with the aces dueling it out. But Bunri breaks through and now leads 1-0!

Top 6th
Itou continues to be efficient with his pitching, although helped a little by Gifushou swinging away early in counts. He's getting ahead of hitters, and as a result retires the side in just 9 pitches, including 2 K's!

Bottom 6th
Itou with a grounder past a diving Ikai! That goes down the line and Itou's in with a stand up double!

Yumoto is swinging away, but he strikes out! One down.

Wakabayashi swings at the first pitch, but hits it back to Yamada. He looks the runner back and makes the play at 1st. 2 down.

Nakamura now needing a base hit to score Itou.

And he singles to right! Itou rounding 3rd, and the throw is cutoff! He scores and Bunri is up 2-0!!

Kitte grounds out to 3rd, but Bunri has extended the lead!

Top 7th
Gifushou isn't going to make this easy though. Ikai draws a walk after Itou falls behind. He comes right back to strike out Yamada for the first out.

Kodama with a grounder to 3rd. Nakamura with a diving stop... The ball slighly gets away. Quickly gets it and fires to 1st - and they get him!

Whoo.. that was a bit close there.

And then Itou walks Izumida on 4 straight!

Ooi-kantoku calls a conference after Fujita-kantoku decides to pinch hit #13 Yokoyama for Sakaida. Count goes full and...


Itou strikes out Yokoyama to end the inning!

Bottom 7th
#16 Fujita comes in for PH Yokoyama to play short.

Yamada still isn't really getting ahead of the hitters, but he is inducing contact.

Jyunnosuke flies out to 2nd, Takeishi grounds out to 1st.

And after a chopper by Yoshida up the middle, Yoshihito grounds out to 2nd to end the inning.

Top 8th
2 innings left for Gifushou, but they're only down 2.

One down and Tomohiro drives one to deep left center! Yumoto has to play it off the wall! Tomohiro is on with a one out double!

Liner by Fujita! But it's right at Jyunnosuke! He goes to 2nd for the double play!!! A bad break for Gifushou!! Now they'll be down to their final 3 outs.

Bottom 8th
Yamada does what he can. He gives up a one-out single to Yumoto, but holds them scoreless. Now all he can do is leave it to his offense.

Top 9th
#17 Asatsuma takes over duties in center after #14 Murayama came in to PR for Yumoto in the 8th

Ezaki up. Drives the 1-2 pitch deep to left!!! Yoshihito running to the wall, jumps on the padding....


Just foul!!!

Again with the 1-2...


Ezaki chases a ball high in the zone for strike 3!! One down!

Ikai up. Count goes to 2-2...

Single through the right side!!!

Now the tying runner comes up to the plate in Yamada. The count once again goes to 2-2 and...


Itou strikes out Yamada and now Gifushou is down to their final out!

First pitch driven to left center!!!! That's all the way to the wall! Ikai rounding 3rd, being sent home! He scores! Furukawa with the pinch hit RBI double and Gifushou is within 1!!!!! It's 2-1!!

Izumida now needing only a timely hit to tie the game! First pitch is fouled off! Next pitch...

grounder to short! Jyunnosuke up with the ball! Throw to 1st...


Nihon Bunri has done it! They've pulled off the win and have advanced to the finals!! This is the first time a team from Niigata has gone to the Best 4 and now to the finals!!!

As for Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou, they certainly played a strong tournament, beating the likes of PL Gakuen and Teikyou. But their run falls short at the hands of Itou and Nihon Bunri.

Sure, they could ask what might have happened. After all, defeating those 2 formidable opponents would certainly mean that you have a good shot of getting to the finals. And it hurts losing to a squad that certainly seemed beatable. But perhaps the Nihon Bunri squad just isn't getting the credit it deserves, and that their amazing run just could not encompass one more such win. However, they certainly had a wonderful tournament, and they'll be able to take that with them back to Gifu.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 13 - Game 2 - Quarterfinals - Miyakonojyou Shougyou (Miyazaki) vs. Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi)

Our last best 8 game is an intriguing matchup. Certainly, if Chiben Wakayama had advanced out of its bracket, a Chiben-Chuukyou matchup would have been fun to watch.

But a funny thing happened on their way through the bracket...

...and that was the team from Miyzaki-ken. Miyakonojyou Shougyou under ace Shinnishi completely dismantled Chiben Wakayama from top to bottom, yielding a mere 5 hits to the Chiben lineup. Meanwhile, the offense pounded out 4 runs (3 of which were in the 1st) on 12 hits and never gave them a chance.

So it's Miyakonojyou Shougyou that advances to the Best 8. They actually did the same thing in their only other apppearance - reaching the Best 8 back in 1981. They're looking to do better this time around. Shinnishi has been spectacular so far (3 ER in 25 IP), while the lineup from just about top to bottom is raking the ball - led by Mera, Tominaga and Matsubara.

As mentioned earlier, Miyakonojyou's opponent will be Chuukyoudai Chuukyou. Led by ace Doubayashi, they've had to endure some big scares in the last 2 rounds. In the 2nd round, they were in a close game with Kansei Gakuin when they broke though with the douten run. Then in the bottom of the 9th, with C/P Yamazaki back on the mound, Kawai hits a sayonara home run to advance.

In the bracket final, they jumped on Nagano Nichidai 5-0 in the first, only to see that lead evaporate. By the mid-game break, Chuukyou found themselves in a 5-5 tie.

But they would explode afterwards, scoring 4 in the 6th and 7th innings before closing it out with 2 more in the 8th as RP Morimoto shut down the Nichidai squad.

Certainly Doubayashi's struggles in the last game give Chuukyou some reason for pause here in the Best 8 game. Will they have to turn to Morimoto to carry them once again?

Offensively, the team is hitting at the same clip the Miyakonojyou batters are, led by the aforementioned Kawai and Doubayashi. They may need to have the offense turn it up a notch to give the pitching staff some breathing room.

At stake is a Best 4 matchup with the uncertain Hanamaki Higashi squad.

Miyakonojyou Shougyou (Miyazaki)
RF Yoshihara
LF Oosako
CF Fujimoto
SS Uchida
3B Matsubara
1B Tominaga
C Mera
P Shinnishi
2B Yamashita

Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi)
SS Yamanaka
2B Kunitomo
3B Kawai
P Doubayashi
C Isomura
LF Itou
1B Shibata
RF Kaneyama
CF Iwatsuki


1:46 PM - First pitch!

Top 1st
Yoshihara takes the 1-2 pitch back up the middle. Yamanaka snags it behind 2nd, makes a spin throw, but it's nowhere near 1st! Doesn't go out of play though.

Kawano-kantoku has Oosako move him over looking for the quick strike.

But Fujimoto swing and misses on an offspeed pitch inside for strike 3. Two down.

Uchida grounds out to 2nd, and Miyakonojyou is retired here in the 1st.

Bottom 1st
Two quick groundouts for Shinnishi, and things look good to start.

But then Kawai with a grounder past Uchida into center...

And then Doubayashi with a grounder through to left! Runners on 1st and 2nd for Chuukyou with 2 down.


Isomura takes the first pitch from Shinnishi and drives it to left center! Oosako and Fujimoto jog to the wall!!!


Isomura with a 3-run homerun!!! That was drilled at least 10 rows up!! Chuukyou explodes here early!! 3-0!!!

Top 2nd
Doubayashi with 2 quick outs, but on Mera's grounder to 3rd, Kawai airmails the throw. Runner on for Shinnishi.

But he woudl eventually fly out to down the right field line to end the inning. Doubayashi looks pretty solid on the mound early. It won't help Miyakonojyou that they're already down 3-0.

Bottom 2nd
One down for Chuukyou and Kaneyama draws a 4 pitch walk. Oofuji-kantoku elects to bunt him allong hoping for a timely from Yamanaka.

Alas, he hits a pop fly to right and the inning is over.

Top 3rd
One down, Yoshihara drives one to deep left center, but the outfield is playing back and Iwatsuki runs over to make the catch.

Oosako does get on base with a liner above Doubayashi's head into center.

Fujimoto though strikes out for the 2nd time today, and the inning is over.

Bottom 3rd
Shinnishi gives Chuukyou a leadoff runner as he walks Kunitomo to start the inning.

Oofuji-kantoku sends Kunitomo! Throw up 2nd is off line and he's safe!

Kawai though strikes out, effective turning the SB into a bunt.

Doubayashi with what seemed like a bailout swing, but he drives it into the right center gap! And it's all the way to the wall! Kunitomo scores! Doubayashi goes for 3, and like just like Teikyou's move in the 9th, Doubayashi is thrown out at 3rd. But it's 4-0 now in favor of Chuukyou.

Which is disappointing as Isomura drives one to right! That's over Yoshihara and to the wall! He's in with a double!

Itou with a grounder to 2nd, but Yamashita fumbles the ball. His throw is late and Chuukyou has runners at the corners!

Shinnishi gets Shibata to fly out to center and that ends the inning.

Top 4th
One down for Miyakonojyou and Matsubara bloops one into right field for his team's 3rd hit of the day.

Tomimaga follows that up with a single back up the middle! Runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 down!

Oofuji-kantoku calls a conference, trying to settle down the team.

But Mera has none of it! He lines one over Kawai's head and down the line! Matsubara scores! Itou runs it down, but it hugs the wall and he has to chase it down! Tominaga scores! Mera with the timely 2-RBI double! Miyakonojyou's cut the lead in half, 4-2!!

Shinnishi up now looking to bring his team within 1.

Hard grounder to 3rd! Kawai has it! Fires to 2nd!!!!!!!

Mera's scrambling back! Yamanaka with the tag! That's one out! Fires to 1st... double play!!!

Mera's baserunning error leads to an inning ending double play! Miyakonojyou though has made the deficit more managable!

Bottom 4th
Kawano-kantoku makes a pitching change. Fujimoto comes in from center to take the mound. Shinnishi moves to right while Yoshihara moves to center.

And it's just what the kantoku ordered! He retires the side in order, striking out 2!

Top 5th
Last batter Yamashita draws a walk to start the inning.

Yoshihara tries to lay down the bunt. However he fails twice and has to swing away... and strikes out.

Kawano-kantoku looks for the one timer has he has Oosako bunt the runner over into scoring position.

But he's looking for it in Fujimoto, who has struck out twice today...

...and he strikes out again to end the inning...

Bottom 5th
Fujimoto crusies along with the first two outs, then starts treading carefully around cleanup batter Doubayashi, walking him on 4 straight.

But that's to pitch to Isomura, who's 2-2 with a double and homerun?

It works though! He grounds back to Fujimoto and that ends the inning!

We head to the break with Chuukyou ahead 4-2, but it's certainly not comfortable.

Top 6th
However, Miyakonojyou cannot get anything going again after the 4th. A popup to short by Uchida, a flyout to right by Matsubara, and a grounder to 3rd by Tominaga... all in 8 pitches.

Bottom 6th
Itou leads off Chuukyou's offense in the 6th with a single back up the middle. Shibata moves him over to 2nd, and is subsequently moved to 3rd when Kaneyama grounds out to 2nd.

That leaves the job of timely hit to Iwatsuki.

But Fujimoto strikes him out on an offspeed pitch! He's done a wonderful job in relief!!

Top 7th
Now the offense needs to turn around and support its pitcher.

But Mera goes down swinging...

Shinnishi goes down swinging...

#15 Beppu comes in to pinch hit for Yamashita... and goes down swinging...

It's not looking good...

Bottom 7th
#14 Miyamoto comes in for PH Beppu and takes over at 2nd.

Fujimoto walks Yamanaka to lead off the 7th, and Oofuji-kantoku has him moved over looking for an insurance run.

Kawano-kantoku calls a conference to get the team settled.

But Kawai lines one to left! That's down for a base hit! Yamanaka heading home! Throw in by Oosako is cut off by Mera. They get that insurance run and it's 5-2!

Doubayashi goes down and drives the first pitch to deep left center! Oosako running over, slides, but can't get it! Kawai flies around the bases and scores all the way from 1st! It's 6-2 Chuukyou and the game seems to be slipping away from Miyakonojyou...

And a 0-2 wild pitch by Fujimoto sends Doubayashi to 3rd!

But Fujimoto strikes out Isomura for the 2nd out... and Itou grounds out to 2nd to end the inning.

Chuukyou though adds 2 more runs to their lead, and down 4 with 2 innings left, it may be enough.

Top 8th
And it certainly looks that way. Miyakonojyou is retired in order without much effort. It may just be a formality for Chuukyou now...

Bottom 8th
At least the defense is still fighting! After a single to left by Shibata, Kaneyama tries to bunt the runner over. But Mera jumps on the ball and fires to 2nd for 1. Relay to 1st... double play!!

And with Iwatuski grounding out to 2nd, we're down to the final 3 outs for Miyakonojyou Shougyou!

Top 9th
Uchida goes to 2-2, but falls swinging...

Matsubara hits a sharp ball to 3rd! But Matsubara picks it! Throws to 1st, 2 out!

And down to Tominaga... he grounds to 2nd. Kunitomo fumbles the ball, but gathers it and throws to 1st... Game Set!

Miyakonojyou Shougyou, just like 28 years ago in their only other Koshien appearance falls in the Best 8 to Chuukyoudai Chuukyou. They played a wonderful game, and unfortunately are the ones who will have to head home.

But oh the memories! From defeating Seibou Gakuen in the first round, to their shocking upset of Chiben Wakayama under the lights. This certainly won't be a Koshien they'll ever forget! Yes, as with 48 other teams, they'll say it ended too short, but all 48 teams can also say that they leave with their heads held high, even if they're down after a loss. They'll scoop up the Koshien dirt, take it home with them back to Miyakonojyou and talk about the plays they made, the hits that went through, all while under the summer sun and in front of the nation for all to see...

Day 13 - Game 1 - Quarterfinals - Teikyou (Higashi Tokyo) vs. Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu)

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)
CF Kaneko
3B Taguchi
P Hirahara
RF Satou
C Haraguchi
1B Hoshi
2B Yoshioka
LF Ariga
SS Matsumoto

Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu)
CF Matsuda Tomohiro
2B Fujita
3B Ikai
LF Ezaki
P Yamada Tomohiro
1B Yokoyama (#13)
RF Kodama
SS Fukuda (#16)
C Hirabayashi


11:00 AM - First pitch!

Top 1st
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!

Bottom 1st
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!

Top 2nd
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.

Bottom 2nd
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.

Top 3rd
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!

Top 3rd
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!

Top 4th
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!

Bottom 4th
#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.

Top 5th
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.

Bottom 5th
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?

Top 6th
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!

Bottom 6th
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!

Top 7th
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!

Bottom 7th
#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.

Top 8th
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.

Bottom 8th
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!

Top 9th
Last chance for Teikyou...

Hirahara with a grounder to the right side! Fujita goes to his right, fields it. Throw... Beats a diving Hirahara!!!


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!!!


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?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 12 - Game 2 - Quarterfinals - Risshoudai Shounan (Shimane) vs. Nihon Bunri (Niigata)


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)
SS Yamawaki
CF Ono
LF Gotou
P Sakida
C Narita
1B Ookura (#13)
RF Doumoto
2B Takagi
3B Inomata (#14)

Nihon Bunri (Niigata)
2B Kitte
SS Takahashi Jyunnousuke
1B Takeishi
RF Yoshida
LF Takahashi Yoshihito
P Itou
CF Yumoto
C Wakabayashi
3B Nakamura


2:22 PM - First pitch!

Top 1st
Itou looking good to start. He induces to grounders and an infield fly to retire the side in order.

Bottom 1st
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.

Top 2nd
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!

Bottom 2nd
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!

Top 3rd
Itou baffling the Risshoudai batters, striking out 2 more on his way to another 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom 3rd
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!

Top 4th
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!

Bottom 4th
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!

Top 5th
Itou looks much better this inning, getting ahead of the Risshoudai batters and once again returning to the 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom 5th
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?

Top 6th
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!

Bottom 6th
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!

Top 7th
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.

Bottom 7th
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.

Top 8th
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...

Bottom 8th
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...

Top 9th
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.

The final draw is determined!

After the amazing game between Hanamaki Higashi and Meihou, the draw for the best 4 is held...

And the semifinal draw is:
  • Game 1 - Teikyou-Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou vs. Nihon Bunri-Risshoudai Shounan
  • Game 2 - Hanamaki Higashi vs. Chuukyoudai Chuukyou-Miyakonojyou Shougyou

Day 12 - Game 1 - Quarterfinals - Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate) vs. Meihou (Oita)

So we're finally in our Best 8. And I think we have 4 good games in store!

In game 1, we have Meihou's Noguchi and Imamiya facing off against Hanamaki Higashi's Kikuchi Yuusei.

When you discuss Meihou you think of Imamiya Kenta - but you have to some credit to Noguchi. He had a hiccup in the round of 16 match versus Tokoha Tachibana, but he has done a good job giving up 6 ER in 16.2 IP.

Although I guess looking at Imamiya's line, 13.1 IP, 2 ER, 12 K, 0 BB, 3 HBP - is pretty darned good. Add to that that in the last game versus Tokoha Tachibana, he hit 153 kph on the gun for a fastball combined with an offspeed of 128 kph, it could be pretty nasty.

Turn to Hanamaki Higashi, we have the start of the tournament - Kikuchi Yuusei. But the comments about him have been far from dominating. He almost lost his first round game against Nagasaki Nichidai - and perhaps should have if not for the questionable decision by the Nagasaki Nichidai kantoku. He then kept his team in the games against his kantoku's old team - Yokohama Hayato, before pulling ahead late. And in the bracket final, he finally started turning it on against Miyagi's Tohoku squad.

Still, people have commented that he's not the fireballer we'd thought we'd see. In fact his K rates are rather lower than expected (22 K in 27 IP). Plus, he didn't hit the 150's until his last game versus Tohoku.

So what gives?

Perhaps he knew from Senbatsu that he lost a lot of speed by the time he reached the final and is pacing himself through the first rounds...

Perhaps in a way to prepare for the NPB or MLB, or wherever he goes, he's been learning to throw his secondary pitches (slider, curve) for strikes so that he's not regarded as just a fastball pitcher...

But whatever the reason, this is where the road will get tougher, and I don't have any doubt that he'll start pitching 100% if he hasn't already.

So which side will prevail?

Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate)
2B Kashiwaba
CF Satou Ryouhei
SS Kawamura
3B Sarukawa
1B Yokokura
C Chiba
LF Sasaki Daiki (#15)
P Kikuchi Yuusei
RF Yamada

Meihou (Oita)
RF Hirai
2B Sunagawa
P Imamiya
C Abe
LF Kotobuki (#18)
CF Kawano
1B Matsumoto
SS Shinokawa (#16)
3B Inagaki


11:00 AM - First pitch!

Top 1st
Imamiya taking the hill to start, gets ahead of Kashiwaba 0-2, but then glances a ball off his head! For precautionary reasons, Yamada comes in to run.

Ryouhei bunts him along to 2nd, and an early opportunity for Hanamaki!

But Kawamura hits a comebacker! Imamiya looks him back, but when he goes to 1st, Yamada takes off! The throw by Matsumoto to 3rd is late and now Hanamaki has the first run 90 feet away!

And Imamiya strikes out Sunagawa to end the inning! Outside of the dead ball, he's looked pretty solid with all of his pitches. As for the fastball, he's hitting about 145 kph.

Bottom 1st
Kikuchi is throwing quite a few off-speed pitches to start, 3 to Hirai who gets ahead of the pitch and grounds it to 1st.

But then he starts throwing fastballs at Sunagawa who grounds out to short.

Imamiya up and takes the first pitch to deep center!!! But he gets under it and Ryouhei stands a couple of feet from the warning track and catches it for the third out!

Top 2nd
Yokokura starts off the 2nd with a base hit to right. Chiba looking to bunt, but Imamiya tries to go around the bunt! But instead he walks him on 4 straight pitches outside!

So now runners on 1st and 2nd as Daiki bunts the runners along. That brings up Yuusei! What will Sasaki-kantoku do?

Yuusei with a drag bunt! But that's foul!

Then it's a squeeze!!!! But he bunts that foul!

1-2 now... can't bunt, right?

Instead he hits a chopper to 1st! Sunagawa has it, but has to go to 1st! Yokokura scores and Hanamaki is up 1-0!! Now Chiba stands at 3rd with two down.

And Yamada tries for the bunt base hit, but is retired quickly by Imamiya to ed the inning.

But Hanamaki is quickly on the board!

Bottom 2nd
Yuusei certainly is off to a good start. He's throwing inside without much trouble and is throwing his pitches for strikes. He racks up 2 K's for his 2nd 1-2-3 inning.

Top 3rd
Imamiya almost cruises to a 1-2-3 inning, but after 2 grounds outs, Kawamura hits another one to 1st. But Matsumoto can't get a handle on the ball and Kawamura is safe!

Then with the count 2-2 to Sarukawa, Kawamura takes off for 2nd! But no one's covering the bag when Abe throws to 2nd! But Kawano is there to make sure he doesn't advance any further.

But Meihou doesn't have to worry as Sarukawa strikes out to end the inning.

Bottom 3rd
Meihou's batters look tentative at the plate against Yuusei. As a result, they either aren't able to catch up to the fastball or are fooled by his off speed pitches.

Rack up two more K's for Yuusei as he retires the side in order yet again.

Top 4th
#15 Kimori is in for Matsumoto.

Yokokura with a drive to left center! That to the wall and Yokoru has the lead off double!

Chiba with the bunt, and it gets by Imamiya! Inagaki comes in, but it's too late! All safe!!!!

Daiki hits a comebacker! That's off Imamiya's glove! It's deflected slightly left of 2nd, but Shinokawa was setup for it to come straight back! He has to go back to get it, and his toss to 2nd is not in time! All safe, and Yokokura scores!! Hanamaki Higashi is up 2-0!!!

Runners at 1st and 2nd, and Yuusei puts down the bunt. He's retired at first, but takes a fall! Everyone gasps, but he's okay and gets up.

Yamada up and a Imamiya is in trouble...

And he takes the 2-2 pitch through the left side! Chiba comes in to score and it's 3-0!!

That'll be it for Imamiya. Daigoubou-kantoku brinds in Noguchi for Inagaki as Imamiya moves to 3rd.

First pitch to Kashiwaba is lined back through the middle! Daiki scores and it's now 4-0 Hanamaki! And still 1 down!

But Ryouhei tries to bunt the runners over and instead pops out.

And Kawamura flies out to left to end the inning. But Hanamaki is making this game start to look one-sided!!

Bottom 4th
Hirai with a hard liner, but it's right at Yokokura! One down.

Sunagawa gets ahead of Kikuchi 3-1, but swings away and grounds to short. 2 down.

And behind 0-2, Imamiya hits a chopper in front of the plate. Chiba gets it and throws him out! Side retired!!

Top 5th
Sunagawa drives the 3-2 pitch deep down the right field line! Hirai to the pole, looks up!!!


The ball just sneaks foul!!! But he gets on base anyways as Noguchi walks him a pitch later.

Yokokura tries for a safety bunt, and both Kimori and Sunagawa go for the ball! Kimori has it as Noguchi races over and beats Yokokura to the bag! One down.

But then the count goes full on Chiba and Noguchi walks him! Runners on 1st and 2nd.

And what's this?? Daigoubou-kantoku pulls Noguchi and puts in #10 Yamano!!

Is this desparation? Noguchi only goes for 1 inning! And Yamano isn't a hard thrower!

But he gets Daiki to ground to 2nd! Sungawa goes to Shinokawa for 1, throw to 1st, double play! Yamano gets out of the inning, but what about later?

Bottom 5th
Kikuchi falls behind Abe 3-0. Will he lose his perfect game?

YES! He walks him and Meihou has their first runner!

And then he loses his no-hitter!!!

Kotobuki shoots one through the left side! The outfield is playing back and Abe goes all the way to 3rd! Runners on the corners, no down for Kawano!

And it's a drive to deep right!! Yamada going back... and the wind knocks it down! Yamada catches it in front of the fence! Abe comes in and Meihou is on the board, 4-1!!!

It's too bad as the wind is blowing out to left.

Kimori up for his first AB, and Yuusei falls behind him! He seems to be laboring a bit. But he gets him to ground to pop up to short. 2 down.

And what's this???

Yuusei is being relieved off the mound!!!!

Sarukawa comes from 3rd and takes the hill. Kikuchi moves to left and Daiki goes to 3rd.

Is Yuusei hurt??? Isn't that the only explanation???

But Sarukawa does get Shinokawa to pop up to 2nd to end the inning.

We head to the break with Hanamaki Higashi up 4-1, but the bigger question is...

What's going on with Kikuchi Yuusei??

Top 6th
There's a delay as Kikuchi is still in the dugout...

And Sasaki-kantoku comes back out, and #12 Saitou goes to the plate! Yuusei has left the game!!!

Saitou grounds out to 2nd for the first out.

Yamada with the bunt in front of the plate, and Abe and Yamano collide! Abe tries to throw to 1st, but it's not in time!

But Yamano gets Kashiwaba to strike out looking, and Ryouhei to ground out to short.

Bottom 6th
Saitou stays in the game to play left.

So, now Sarukawa's in for the rest of the game.... Does Meihou have a chance?

Yamano with a grounder to the left side! Just out of the reach of Sarukawa and Kawamura can't cleanly field it! Leadoff single for Meihou!

And Hirai scorches a grounder up the middle! Kawamura with the diving stop! Runs to 2nd for one, throw to 1st... Short! Yokokura can't pick it and it goes into the camera well!! Hirai goes to 2nd.

Sunagawa with a base hit to right! Hirai holds up ap 3rd! Runnes at the corners for Imamiya!!!!!

But he skies one to shallow center! Kawamura has it, and more importantly, Hirai can't tag up!!

It's up to Abe now.

And Sunagawa takes off for 2nd on the 1-0 pitch!!! The throw by Chiba is cut off to prevent the double steal! Now a base hit can bring them within 1!

After another ball, they elect to put Abe on to create the force.

Sasaki-kantoku calls for a conference as #18 Kotobuki steps in...

Ball 1 in the dirt!

Liner through the infield into right! Hirai scores! Sunagawa comes in and the throw is cut off! Kotobuki with the 2-RBI single and Meihou is within 1!!!!!! 4-3!!!!!!!

AH!!!! A wild pitch by Sarukawa sends the runners to 2nd and 3rd!!!! Now the gyakuten run is in scoring position!!!

And they elect to walk Kawano to create the force once again!

Kimori up now... Is it going to fall apart this quickly for Hanamaki Higashi??

Down the middle for strike 1. Chopper, foul down the 1st base line! Behind 0-2. Outside for ball 1. Outside for ball 2! Sarukawa takes too long and Kimori calls time... Lifted to left! Saitou coming in, reverses direction! Goes back and makes the catch! 3 down!

But Meihou has closed to within 1!!!

Top 7th
Sarukawa gets a one out walk, but something's changed within the Hanamaki Higashi ranks...

The batters are swinging away... it seems like there's a bit of worry within their ranks.

Yamano takes full advantage striking out Yokokura and Chiba to end the inning.

Bottom 7th
#9 Satou Ryuujirou comes in for Saitou and goes to right. Yamada goes to left.

The biggest test will be in this inning as to how Meihou responds.

Shinokawa runs the count full, and thinks he has ball 4, but is called out on strikes.

Yamano swings at the first pitch and grounds out to short.

Quickly 2 down for Meihou. But Hirai singles to center! Douten runner on base!

AHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A 1-0 wild pitch by Sarukawa sends Hirai to 2nd!! Now a base hit could tie the game!!

But Sunagawa flies out to left! 3 outs!

Certainly Hanamaki Higashi is in red alert mode. Only up one with their ace gone.

Top 8th
With one down, Ryuujirou lines one into left. #10 Shibata comes in for Yamada and bunts the runner over to 2nd.

2 down, runner on 2nd for top batter Kashiwaba.

Daigoubou-kantoku calls time to they can discuss strategy.

And they decide to intentionally walk Kashiwaba to get to Ryouhei!

Ryouhei grounds to 2nd! Sunagawa can't find the ball! But he sees it and goes to 2nd to end the inning!!!

Bottom 8th
#11 Sasaki Kouyuu comes in for PH Shibata and takes left.

Imamiya to lead off the 8th...

He hits a high fly to right center! Everyone's converging on the ball, but it falls in! Imamiya aggressively running, reaches 2nd! Douten runner in scoring position!!

Abe up looking for the timely. Count goes full...


Sarukawa gets Abe looking for strike 3!!! One down!

But Kotobuki is hit by Sarukawa!! Runners on 1st and 2nd!!

Sasaki-kantoku calls time and Yuusei heads to the mound! They have a conference as Kawano comes to the plate...

Grounder down the 1st base line! Yokokura dives, can't get it! FAIR!!!!

Imamiya rounds 3rd and scores!!! DOUTEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4-4!!!!!!



MEIHOU GYAKUTEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 6-4!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2nd year Kimori comes through with a 2-RBI double! And Meihou takes the lead!!!!!!

Shinokawa with a chopper up the middle. Kashiwaba charging in. Makes the snag. Throw to 1st... OUT! 2 down! Kimori advances to 3rd!

Sarukawa goes ahead 0-2 on Yamano, and..


Sarukawa strikes out Yamano to retires the side! BUT!! Meihou takes the lead here in the 9th!!!!

Top 9th
Last chance for Hanamaki Higashi...

Kawamura with a single through the right side for a single!

Sarukawa with a liner to right center! Kawamura rounding 2nd goes to 3rd! Runners at the corners with now down!


Yokokura offers but misses! Abe looks to 3rd, but that wasn't the object!!! Sarukawa takes 2nd on the commotion! Now a base hit ties the game!!!

SINGLE THROUGH TO CENTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

KAWAMURA SCORES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SARUKAWA ROUNDING 3RD.... HE SCORES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Yokokura comes through with a douten 2-run single!!!! IT'S 6-6!!!!!!

Chiba with the sac bunt and that advances Yokokura to ??

That's it for Yamano. Imamiya retakes the hill as #13 Numaguchi comes in for Yamano to take 3rd.

And Imamiya hits 152 kph! Then 154!!! And a slider to strike out Daiki!!!! 2 down!!!

Imamiya still throwing heat! There's one at 153!!! 151!! And Ryuujirou strikes out swinging!!!!

Imamiya comes in and slams the door! He keeps the game tied at 6 and gives his team a chance to win it in the bottom of the 9th!!!

Bottom 9th
Hirai leads off the inning with a single through to left! Sayonara runner on base! Sunagawa with the sac bunt.

And they intentionally walk Imamiya!

Runnners on 1st and 2nd with one down!

Abe gets ahead 2-1, but then flies out to shallow right! Hirai can't advance!

Kotobuki up and drives one to deep left! Kouyuu backpedals and makes the catch! We head into extras!!!!!

Top 10th
One down, Kashiwaba with a hard hit grounder to 3rd! It's off Numaguchi, and Kashiwaba is on base!

Ryouhei with the bunt! Kimori with it, tosses to 1st, out!

AH!!! But Ryouhei collides with Imamiya! He's down! Sasaki-kantoku goes out, as well as the doctors... The stretcher is called and he's taken off the field...

Kawamura steps in.

Ground ball... THROUGH!!! IT'S THROUGH TO RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

KASHIWABA HEAD SLIDES INTO HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 7-6 HANAMAKI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sarukawa grounds out to 1st, but Hanamaki has taken the lead here in the 10th!!!!!!!!

Bottom 10th
There's a delay as Ryouhei gets worked on in the dugout...

And he emerges!!! The crowd erupts in applause!!!!

Kawano with a drive to deep right center!!! Ryouhei and Ryuujirou converge... and Ryuujiryou has it!! Almost another collision out there!!

Kimori up... gets ahead 3-1... draws the walk!! Douten runner on base!

Shinokawa up, no bunting here! But he pops it up! Kawamura goes over into shallow center and makes the catch! 2 down!

Last chance for Meihou... #7 Saimaki comes in to pinch hit for Numaguchi.

Down low for ball one! Fastball up and in for strike 1!

Grounder to 2nd... Kashiwaba fumbles it! Gets it, throws to 1st....

OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GAME SET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hanamaki Higashi, without their ace pitcher, holds on to win 7-6!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Unbelievable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!