Whee! We're finally at the first game of Senbatsu!! And it features one of my teams, Tenri Koukou out of Nara-ken! A new change at the top looks to create new changes on the field. They have been struggling as of late with success at Koshien, but with a strong defense they hope to finally make a deep run.
Tsuruga Kehi is generally a station-to-station team, depending on timely hitting and walks to get the job done. Normally, their left-handed lineup would be favorable for them, but Tenri's ace Numata is... you guessed it. A lefty.
There is hope for Tsuruga though if the left-handed matchup is unfavorable. Numata isn't necessarily able to go for a full game. And especially as the tournament progresses they'll need to save his arm. So closing duties will probably fall to #10 Nishiura Kenta or #12 Nishiguchi Tasuku - neither of which are as strong as Numata is. So if they can keep the game close and get to the bullpen, there is a chance they can win.
Tenri (Nara) - Kansai At-large
2B Iwasaki Ryouta (#6)
C Kamezawa Hideaki
CF Nakamura Shougo
SS Yasuda Kouki (#5)
LF Uchino Satoshi
1B Date Shougo
RF Hasegawa Shouma (#17)
P Numata Yuuga
3B Sakakura Yuuki (#4)
Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui) - Hokushinetsu Runner-up
CF Nishikiori Daisuke
2B Hayashi Rui
LF Nakao Yuuto
RF Yoshida Masataka
C Kubo Yuuta
SS Kanayama Yoshihiro
1B Okuno Kyouhei (#13)
P Takahara Yuusuke (#10)
3B Kawashita Ryuusei
10:35 - First Pitch!
The wind is blowing really hard at Koshien and it shows when leadoff batter Iwasaki pops one up to shallow right and Hayashi gets turned around! Iwasaki starts off with a leadoff double!
Kamezawa squares to bunt and lays it down. Okuno charges in, and makes the throw to 1st. Tenri already with a scoring opportunity!
Count 1-0 and Nakamura lines one down the left field line... FOUL! He comes back and works the count to 3-1... and just fouls one back to the backstop. Next pitch popped up to shallow left! Kanayama goes out, and it goes off his glove! Iwasaki charges home from 3rd! Kanayama quickly gets it, throws home... And it's a great throw! Kubo gets the throw and makes the tag for the out! Nice recovery from Kanayama, but perhaps Iwasaki shouldn't have gone on that play... But Nakamura takes the opportunity to get to 2nd and in scoring position.
Takahara falls behind Yasuda 3-0! He may have avoided the run, but he can't put runners on base! Finally, he gets a strike in.
And a pitch to the outside is driven by Yasuda to center! Nishikiori races back! Leaps, and it's over his head!! It's to the wall! Nakamura scores easily as Yasuda has a stand-up RBI triple!! It's 1-0 Tenri!!
Takahara continues to have trouble throwing strikes as he falls behind Uchino 2-0. And he drives one to right for a hit! Yasuda strolls home and it's 2-0 in favor of Tenri now!! If Takahara isn't careful, the game could be over quickly!
And finally on a 1-0 count, he gets Date to swing at one for a strike. And it looks like Date's been given the green light to swing away.
And swing away he does! He whiffs at a 1-2 changeup in the dirt and the inning is finally over. So the top of the 1st is finally over, but not before Tenri jumps out to a 2-run lead!
Numata takes care of Nishikiori quickly as he induces a grounder to short. Yasuda has a little trouble fielding it and makes a low throw, but it's dug out.
Hayashi falls behind 1-2, then swings at a ball down and away for the 2nd out.
And Nakao pops one up in foul territory. Sakakura gets under it and Tsuruga Kehi is down in order.
Bench starter Hasegawa drives one to left! That's over a leaping Nakao, and Hasegawa's in with a stand up double!
Numata looks to bunt him along. But he falls behind 1-2 and has to swing away. He manages to work the count full, keeps himself alive, and hits a scorcher. But it's right at Hayashi. It gets the job done as Hasegawa moves to 3rd.
Last man Sakakura looks for a sac fly or a base hit to drive in the run. Takahara is finally throwing strikes. And Sakakura swings under a pitch on the outside corner for the 2nd out.
And Takahara gets Iwasaki to pop up in foul territory where Okuno makes the catch next to the fence for the 3rd out. A bit shaky still, but better than the 1st.
Cleanup batter Yoshida swings at a pitch high to go down swinging.
Kubo flies out to Uchino on the left field line for the 2nd out.
Kanayama goes down swinging and the inning is quickly over.
Kamesawa hits a grounder through the left side for a leadoff single.
Nishimura tries to bunt him along, but after falling behind has to swing away and flies out to right. But Yasuda comes right back and pops a high pitch into center for a bloop hit. Runners at 1st and 2nd and a chance for Tenri.
But Uchino pops one up in the infield and Kanayama secures it for the 2nd out.
Date comes up now with 2 out to try and drive in the run. He falls behind 1-2, but drives a ball through the left side! Kamesawa rounds for home as Nakao makes the throw. It's not in time and Tenri takes the 3-0 lead! Date breaks for 2nd and the throw by Kubo isn't in time! Runners on 2nd and 3rd for Tenri with 2 down!
But Hasegawa pops the 1st pitch to left and the inning is over. But Tenri extends their lead by another run!
Okuno goes down swinging for the first out. That's the 4th K for Numata.
And Tsuruga Kehi gets their first hit as Takahara lines one to right for a single!
Kawashita lays down the bunt. Sakakura makes the throw, but Date can't get the handle on it and everyone's safe!
Numata's first pitch after that is a breaking ball wide. He can't be happy about that error.
And Nishikiori hits a grounder hard to the left side! Iwasaki runs it down and throws to 3rd to get the lead runner! But the throw to 2nd is wild and goes to the outfield! Kawashita advances to 3rd and there's runners at the corners with 2 down.
But Hayashi flies out to center and the inning is over.
Ookubo warms up as Takahara gets Numata to ground out to 1st.
Sakakura lines one into shallow center for a base hit.
And in an surprising move, Nishiura Jyouji (#15) comes to pinch hit for Iwasaki. He lays down the bunt to move the runner over for Kamezawa.
Ah! A pitch in the dirt is mishandled by Kubo and Sakakura advances to 3rd!
Kamezawa stays alive by fouling off a slow curve, and then another. He works the count full... and earns a walk! Runners at the corners and the inning is still alive for Nakamura.
Takahara can only seem to locate his slow curve, while his fastball is all over the map. He gets ahead of Nakamura 1-2, but a fastball inside evens the count.
And Takahara gets Nakamura to swing at a pitch in the dirt for strike 3! Kubo applies the tag and the inning is over!
Nishiura Jyouji stays in the game and plays 3rd. Sakakura moves to 2nd.
Numata gets Nakao to weakly ground out back to the mound for the first out.
Yoshida then takes the next pitch and bloops it down the right field line for a single.
Kubo grounds one through to right! Hasegawa misplays the ball! The runners break for 2nd and 3rd! Hasegawa's throw is not in time and now a base hit brings Tsuruga Kehi within 1!
Kanayama scorches one right at new 2B Sakakura! It bounces off his chest, but he manages to make the play at 1st. The runners were taking off on contact, so Yoshida comes in to score and it's now 3-1 Tenri.
And Numata gets Okuda to swing at a pitch down in the zone for the 3rd out. But Tsuruga Kehi is on the board!
Yasuda gets a hold of a 2-0 fastball, but it's a easy jog for Yoshida for the first out.
Uchino hits another 2-0 fastball, this time to center and this time for a base hit.
Takahara falls behind Date 2-0, but Tanaka-kantoku puts on the hit-and-run and Date fouls off a pitch above his eyeballs.
The next pitch he drills, but it's right at Kanayama who quickly throws to 1st! And Uchino is doubled off to end the inning!
In a surprising move, Tanaka-kantoku has pulled Numata and put in #12 Nishiguchi! I'm not sure what's going on here, but if Numata has truly left the game, this is terrible for Tenri! He needs to stay in the game longer if they are to keep their winning chances!
He gets Takahara to fly out to left, but Nishiguchi's control looks anything but good.
In fact, his pitches are all over the place and Kamezawa has to flail around to get them.
Kawashita gets a hold of a pitch in the zone and lines it to right!
Nishiguchi falls behind leadoff batter Nishikiori 2-0. He manages to get the count full, but walks him to advance the runners. This isn't good for Tenri at all...
Hayashi lays down the bunt. Nishiguchi goes to get it, but his throw is way high! But Hasegawa is backing up the play! He catches the ball and charges in! Kawashita motions back to 3rd, but if fooled when Hasegawa fakes a throw! Now he's caught between 3rd and home! Hasegawa throws it to Kamezawa who begins the rundown! Kawashita is tagged out, but not before the other runners advance to 2nd and 3rd.
And Nakao pops up to Nakamura for the 3rd out! Tenri is out of the inning, but will certainly have issues going forward.
Hasegawa hits a pop fly on a slow curve down the left field line for the 1st out. Nishiguchi gets under a fastball and pops that one to Hayashi in shallow right. And Sakakura flies out to left as Tenri is retired in order.
After a quick start by Tenri, they can't seem to get anything going against Takahara.
Nishiguchi's control continues to have issues. Yoshida golfs a low pitch and bloops it over Nishiura's head and into shallow left for a leadoff single. Kubo bunts him along to 2nd.
Kanayama falls behind 1-2 and Nishiguchi gets him to ground out to 3rd. Nishiura looks Yoshida back and makes the throw for the 2nd out.
Now it's Hayashi-kantoku's turn to make a change and #3 Ishibashi comes in to PH for Okuno,
Meanwhile Nishiguchi's control continues to be terrible. His first 2 pitches aren't even close. The 3rd is better, but still wide and it's 3-0. And another high and outside means ball 4.
Runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 out for Takahara.
And Nishiguchi finally throws a strike. He actually gets ahead of Takahara 1-2! But Nishiguchi can't get the final blow! Takahara continues to foul off pitch after pitch after pitch! Doesn't even matter if it's in the zone, he's fouling it off! The AB has gone 9 pitches so far!
And it pays off!! On the 10th pitch of the AB, he takes a ball low and in and sends it past Date and down the right field line! Yoshida rounds 3rd and scores easily on the RBI double by Takahara! It's 3-2 Tenri, but Tsuruga is threatening to take the lead with a base hit!
Nighiguchi tries to get out of the jam, gets ahead of Kawashita 1-2. But again he has control issues.
But he gets Kawashita to ground to 1st. Except that Date can't get get a good hold of the ball! He loses it! He gets it back, tosses to Nishiguchi covering... but the diving Kawashita is safe!!! The error proves costly as Ishibashi comes home to score and we are tied up at 3-3!!
Runners at the corners with 2 down for Nishikiori. Nishiguchi gets ahead 0-2.
But Nishikiori lines one to right! Takahara scores, and Tsuruga Kehi takes the lead 4-3!!!
Runners at the corners again, still 2 down for Hayashi. Nishiguchi gets ahead of him 1-2.
And Nishikiori takes off for 2nd! Throw is cut off by Sakakura to prevent Kawashita from coming home.
And Hayashi grounds one to the left side. That's through for a base hit! Kawashita scores, Nishikiori rounds 3rd heading for home... he scores! It's now 6-3 in favor of Tsuruga Kehi! The error by Date has led to 4 runs!
Nakao comes to the plate as the 9th batter this inning. Nishiguchi finally ends the inning with a K, but the damage has been done. Inconsistent pitching and an untimely error takes a 2 run lead and turns it into a 3 run deficit.
Here I was thinking that the new manager might help Tenri, but honestly I think it may have gotten worse. At least back then I could question a squeeze bunt. But when it's this egregious as a pitching change knowing what your bullpen can (or in this case can't) do is unforgivable.
The wind has certainly been sucked out of Tenri's sails. Furthermore, they can't seem to figure out Takahara's pitching between his 120 kph fastball and his under-100 kph slow curve.
Nishiura softly lines out to left, while Yoshida makes a shoestring catch on a ball hit by Kamezawa. And Nakamura gets jammed and weakly grounds out to 2nd.
Down 3 with 6 outs to go after watching your team rally for 5 runs. I like Tenri, but I don't think it's possible.
#16 Inoue comes in for Hasegawa and takes over in right.
Yoshida leads off the 7th with a liner to right.
And after that, Tanaka-kantoku has seen enough. Nishiguchi is pulled for #10 Nishiura Kenta.
Kubo squares to bunt and successfully lays it down as Jyouji charges into make the throw.
Apparently Kenta can bring the heat as he throws a pitch 148 kph which Kanayama pops out in foul territory.
And another to Ishibashi. And another at 147... but it seems his control too is a bit lacking as well. Ishibashi reaches out on a pitch and hits it back to Kenta who makes the play at 1st to end the inning.
Takahara's pitches are inducing the Tenri batters to hit them into the air for easy outs.
With one down, Uchino strikes out, but the ball gets away from Kubo and he can't get a handle on it! Uchino reaches base on the passed ball.
Date gets under a ball and hits it to center. Nishikiori goes back, goes back, and makes a last second dash back to make the catch.
New RF Inoue comes up to bat, and Uchino takes off for 2nd! Kubo makes the throw and Uchino is out by a good margin! That ends the inning and Tenri will be down to their last 3 outs, down by 3.
Nishiura Kenta continues to throw uncontrollable fastballs towards home, hitting 150 kph twice, but both being way up in the zone. But he does get Takahara to strikeout on a change down in the zone.
Kawashita hits a hard one, but it's right at Date who walks to the bag for the 2nd out.
Nishikiori lines a straight 150kph ball back up the middle for a 2-out single.
And Hayashi-kantoku decides he wants to set the wheels in motion and has Nishikiori break for 2nd! Kamezawa's throw is short and late and Nishikiori is in safely!
Kenta continues to hit higher speeds with a 152 kph ball outside. And on the next pitch, he hits 151, but Hayashi takes that pitch and sends it into left-center! Nishikiori comes in to score and it's now 7-3 Tsuruga Kehi!
And now Kenta is called for a balk advancing Hayashi to 2nd.
But Nakao pops a 3-2 pitch into foul territory. Date and Kamezawa converge and actually collide, but Date comes up with the ball for the 3rd out. But the deficit is now at 4 with 3 outs to go. Is there any hope for Tenri?
Inoue steps back to the plate again for his first AB and slices one to left-center for a leadoff single.
And Kenta slices another slow curve, this time to left. And Nakao misplays it! He doubles back, but Inoue continues running! He's being waved home! The throw is... not in time! Kubo's throw to 2nd is also late as Kenta takes 2nd on the throw home! And now it's 7-4 just like that!
Sakakura looks to keep the momentum going. Meanwhile, Takahara has missed with his first two balls!
But he's given the green light and hits a grounder to 2nd! And while Kenta advances to 3rd on the putout, Tenri cannot afford to give up outs at this juncture!
And Hayashi-kantoku, not wanting to see the game slip late, hands the ball off. Not to ace Ookubo though, but to #11 Fujisawa Shouta (who is supposedly their C??). From the looks of Takahara in the dugout, he looks beat.
So it'll be Fujisawa to close out the game against the top of Tenri's order. But his first two pitches to Jyouji are balls! That doesn't look too good.
But Jyouji is given the green light! He swings away, but pops it up! Kanayama backpedals towards center, backpedals, and makes a last second lunge backwards... and makes the catch! Tenri is down to their final out!
Tenri's hopes now fall to Kamezawa. He falls behind though 1-2!
Ooohh. That pitch was 55 feet. And that one was maybe 59. Full count. And that one is 59 as well! Runners at the corners with 2 down.
Nakamura up now to extend the game.
Fujisawa hits him! Manrui for Tenri, but there 2 down!
Tsuruga Kehi calls for a conference as captain Yasuda steps to the plate.
First pitch in the dirt away for ball 1. Second pitched fouled back! Kubo running to the fence, but runs out of room!
Slow curve in for strike 2! Tenri down to their last strike...
Off-speed down and away, 2-2...
SANSHIN!! Yasuda looks at a ball that is called a strike on the outside corner! It may have been low, but he let it go by anyways, and in what could be called an upset is sent home by Tsuruga Kehi 7-4 in the opening game of the tournament!
As much as the players have to be disappointed, I still point to the decision by Tanaka-kantoku to make the early pitching change in the 5th. While Numata had given up a run, going to a bullpen that was shaky at best, and to a pitcher who had only 6.1 innings of work in the fall tournaments and yielding 7 walks, was uncalled for. Tsuruga Kehi certainly earned the win, but Tenri equally earned their loss.
WP - Takahara Yuusuke (Tsuruga Kehi) - 8.1 IP, 3 ER, 9 H, 4 K, 0 BB
LP - Nishiguchi Tasuku (Tenri) - 2+ IP, 5 R, 1 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, K
Yoshida Masataka (Tsuruga Kehi) - 3-3, 2R, K
Hayashi Rui (Tsuruga Kehi) - 2-4, 3 RBI, K
Yasuda Kouki (Tenri) - 2-5, 3B, R, RBI, K
Uchino Satoshi (Tenri) - 2-4, 2B, R