It certainly has been an interesting tournament so far. Many of the matchups certainly haven't gone as expected. If this indeed is a tournament that is upside-down, we'll see it here today.
Our morning game today should be a good matchup. Kochi is a perennial Koshien team having made appearance in either the haru or natsu Koshien in each of the past 6 decades (this one included).
This years version appears to be a bit of a work in progress. Senior ace Tsutsui is their guy, pitching almost every inning for the squad. He only throws in the low 130's, but he sports a slider, curve and knuckleball (I'd love to see him throw that) and leans on those offspeed pitches for success as he induces a lot of contact (8.116 H/9, 3.907 K/9) and exhibits good control (1.873 BB/9).
Offensively, the team is predominantly a singles squad (.106 ISO) who don't really walk or steal bases. Takamura and Sakamoto provide some of the little pop they provide.
Shinkou Gakuen's strength is their offense. They take their walks (.347 AVG/.413 OBP), steal bases (32 SB in 12 games), and find the gaps (.167 ISO). Maenaka and Yokogawa provide the pop while captain Masuda provides the speed (12 SB).
On the mound, it's all about ace Maenaka. He pitched all but 2 innings in tournament play. He's a sidearmer with a good slider, and also has a superb defense behind him. Peripheral-wise he looks pretty good (6 H/9, 6.413 K/9) although he does yield a few walks (3.038 BB/9). Durability may be an issue because as many good games as he throws out there, he'll have one bad game - and in a single-elimination format, you cannot afford to have that.
Kochi has the experience, but Shinkou Gakuen might have the better team. And that's why I think it'll be an interesting game.
Kochi (Kochi) - Shikoku Runner-up
SS Kamei Masato
CF Sakamoto Daishi
LF Ikechi Yuuya
1B Takemura Hitoshi
3B Umehara Kazuki
RF Yamazaki Jyunji
P Tsutsui Taichi
C Yamazaki Tomoya
2B Takagi Kazuki
Shinkou Gakuen (Hyogo) - Kinki 3/4
SS Masuda Kukiya
RF Yokogawa Shun
3B Itou Ryousuke
1B Iseki Takashi
LF Fujishima Hirotoshi
CF Furutani Ryouhei
P Maenaka Masashi
C Shimizu Shouta
2B Hatokawa Takuma
9:01 - First Pitch!
Boy, the weekday + the weather seems to have scared the masses. It's empty. The field looks pretty wet, but not to the point where there's puddles.
Maenaka isn't really a side armer, more like a 3/4 delivery. He has a fastball in the mid 130's and a slider in the 120's.
He gets Kamei to ground to first for the first out.
Oh. He has some type of change at 110 kph. Control on his offspeed stuff is good. Fastball, a little less so, Has a bit of a motion in towards a right handed batter.
Loses Sakamoto on a full count fastball inside.
Throws that change again for strike 1 to Ikechi. He ground to 2nd. Toss to short is there, but Masuda is a bit late getting there and his relay to 1st isn't in time.
Whoa. He climbed the ladder at 141 on Takemura. And caught him looking on one at 139.
Hmmm... Me thinks he has a shuuto as well which is the one in the mid 130's.
It's hard to tell if Tsutsui throws the knuckleball at all. His first couple pitches come in in the low 110's as he gets Masuda to ground to short. Then there's another pitch in the high 120's that Yokogawa grounds to 2nd.
Itou with a grounder up the middle. Takagi runs it down, but has no momentum on the throw. Itou reaches 1st safely.
It looks like the pitch in the high 120's is the fastball. The 110's can either be his curve or slider.
And Iseki takes one of those 110 pitches and pops it up to shallow center where Sakamoto makes the catch to retire the side.
Umehara strikes out on a fastball low. Maenaka is doing a good job keeping his pitches down in the zone.
And just as I say that, he leaves one a bit up and Jyunji sends that through the left side for a base hit.
Tsutsui with another hard grounder to the left side. Masuda runs it down, and snags it! He turns, fires to 2nd while his momentum is going to 3rd, and makes the out!! Fine defensive play there by captain Masuda!!!
And another change high in the zone is hit by Tomoya past a diving Masuda to center! Tsutsui breaks for 3rd! Throw from Furutani goes to 3rd!? Tsutsui is in easily, but Itou cuts it off and fires back to 2nd! Hatokawa gets it and they get Tomoya as he tried to take 2nd on the throw! 3 out! Another heads up play by the defense!
Fujishima goes down swinging for the 1st out.
Furutani though lines a fastball down to left for a single!
Maenaka up and looking to bunt. Tsutsui is minding the runner quite a bit. Shinkou oen-dan playing really fast.
And wow. Maenaka bends deep down to bunt the ball and he successfully keeps it fair to advance the runner.
Battery conference between Tomoya and Tsutsui.
WIN! Shimizu's AB music is Eva! Whoo!
Shimada-kantoku barking out orders to his defense.
And he hits one to left center! Sakamoto running it down, puts the glove out and it's off the glove! Furutani comes around to score as Shimizu slides into 2nd! Tough play for Sakamoto there, but it might have been catchable. Still, it a double for Shimizu and Shinkou Gakuen is on the board first, 1-0!
AH!!! Wild pitch gets away form Tomoya and goes out of play! Shimizu is given 3rd.
Shimada-kantoku screams for time. Finally, Tomoya sees it and they confer on the mound.
Hatokawa gets ahead in the count 3-1, but gets caught looking at a low pitch (catcher might have helped frame that one). Nevertheless, Shimizu is stranded at 3rd but Shinkou takes the lead here in the 2nd!
Kamei flicks a ball to left center for a 1-out single.
And on a 2-2 count, Shimada sends Kamei to 2nd! Throw from Shimizu isn't in time.
Sakmoto grounds right to Iseki who makes the putout. Kamei goes to 3rd.
Ikechi takes a high slider and pushes it down the right field line for a hit! Kamei scores and we're all tied up! 1-1!
And Ikechi breaks for 2nd. Huh?? Shimizu's throw to 2nd and no one's covering?? And Ikechi wasn't going to 2nd, but now that the ball travels into center, he does! That's an error, but I don't know on whom.
逆転! Takemura lines one past a diving Iseki and down the right field line! Ikechi easily scores from 2nd and just like that Kochi takes the lead! 2-1!
Umehara with a base hit to right! Takemura takes 3rd as the throw is cutoff. Runners at the corners with 2 out!
Kitahara-kantoku calls a conference on the mound. Can't let this get away from them here.
Jyunji with a grounder towards 1st. Iseki dives, but can't make the play! Hatokawa backs up the play, but by the time he gets it just on the outfield grass, he has no play! Takemura scores and it 3-1 Kochi!
Hatokawa's stop though prevents Umehara from advancing to 3rd.
Tsutsui ground to 2nd. Hatokawa with the nice play to end the inning, but not before Kochi roars back with 3 runs of their own here in the 3rd.
But the top of the order for Shinkou goes down quietly. Well almost. After a grounder to short by Masuda, Yokogawa hits a sharp liner right to short. And after Itou crushes one foul down the left field side, grounds out weakly to Tsutsui to end the inning.
Maenaka gets 2 quick outs as Tomoya strikes out looking and Takagi lines out to left.
Kamei with a hard grounder through the right side for a single.
Ohhh boy... Sakamoto drives one to deep right center. The outfield is in and immediately chases after it as it goes all the way to the wall! Kamei rounding 3rd and he's in as Sakamoto has a stand-up triple! It's 4-1 Kochi!
Ikechi strikes out swinging, but Kochi tacks on another run. Could this be getting away from Shinkou?
After Iseki strikes out swinging, Fujishima sneaks one past a diving Takagi for a single.
Furutani with his 2nd hit as he gets a base hit to left. Runners on 1st and 2nd.
EH??? Kitahara calls for the double steal!! Tomoya's throw to 3rd is short and everyone's safe! That's a ballsy call there.
Maenaka with a grounder past Kamei. That's into left! Fujishima scores and it's 4-2 Shinkou! Still only one down!
Shimizu is up now, he had the double in his 1st AB.
Wide pitchout by Tsutsui. And now Shimizu appears to be squaring to bunt!
Another pitchout!? Next pitch is on the outside corned called for a strike. Count at 2-1.
Another pitchout! But this time Maenaka takes off for 2nd! Throw from Tomoya is not handled and gets past the infield! Furutani comes in to score and they've trimmed the deficit down to 1! 4-3!
The replay shows what happened. Takagi was charging in to cutoff the throw to prevent Furutani from a delayed steal of home. Problem was that when he didn't cut it off, he shielded it from Kamei who then couldn't make the play at 2nd. Thus the ball trickling into the outfield.
And now Shimizu walks! Is Shinkou able to equalize?
Hatokawa though is looking to bunt with 1 out... and lays it down.
The lineup is reset to the top of the order. Masuda up looking to tie or take the lead. But he's 0-2 on the day.
Make that 0-3. He grounds back to Tsutsui who goes to 1st. Inning is over, but due to some hitting by Shinkou and a untimely error, Shinkou is back in the game!
Takemura with a hard grounder to 1st, but Iseki makes the diving stop. Flip to Maenaka is in time to make the out! Nice play!
After a groundout by Umehara to short, Jyunji lines one past a leaping Masuda to left for his 3rd hit of the day!
Tsutsui grounds to 2nd though to end the inning.
It's a quick inning for Tsustui finally. Yokogawa posp to left. Itou strikes out swinging, and Iseki grounds to short.
After a lineout to center by Tomoya, Maenaka walks Takagi.
Kamei gets jammed, but still takes the ball fairly deep to left. Fujishima makes the catch and there's 2 down.
Now Sakamoto who hit the triple is up to bat.
Maenaka is called for a balk as he tries to pickoff Takagi. He's given 2nd.
Sakamoto with a hard liner, but Yokoyama is there to run it down. 3 out.
Fujishima hits a pop fly to left and Ikechi catches it near the foul line for the first out.
Looks like there are a few umbrellas out, might have to watch the weather going forward. Forgot that the overhang in the infield seats is bigger from the renovation.
Furutani with a hard liner to left center. Ikechi and Sakamoto converge, and Sakamoto's slide isn't in time! The ball gets by both of then all the way to the wall!!! Furutani turns on the jets rounding 1st! He's heading for 3 and makes it easily! What happened there? Was the outfield in too much? Either way, the tying run is 90 feet away!
Infield in for a play at the plate. But Maenaka hits a grounder past Umemura who had no time to react! It goes into left, Furutani comes in and we're all tied up! 動転!! 4-4!!
And Kitahara sends Maenaka to 2nd! Tomoya has to double clutch and as a result Maenaka gets in safely! Crafty play there by Kitahara-kantoku. He had Katsuura bring the jumper on for Maenaka to keep him warm, then immediately sends him to 2nd.
But both Shimizu and Hatokawa strike out swinging to end the inning, but it's a new ball game!
Umehara singles to right after Ikechi grounds to 2nd and Takemura K's. But he's stranded as Jyunji flies out to center.
2 quick outs for Tsutsui as Masuda grounds to 3rd and Yokogawa grounds to 1st.
Itou golfs a ball to right. Jyunji runs back to the fence??!!! Looks up!!
Itou takes the first pitch over the plate about 10 rows up the right field bleachers! And Shinkou Gakuen retakes the lead here in the 7th inning, 5-4!!!
Iseki tries a safety bunt, but a good play by Umehara and a dive by Iseki equals the 3rd out. But with one swing of the bat, Kochi's back is against the wall.
Nothing doing though for Kochi. Takagi earns his 2nd walk with 2 down, but Kamei K's to squash the potential threat. They find themselves down 1 with 3 outs to go...
The rain seems to be coming down a little harder as the fans behind home plate get their rain gear on.
Tsutsui does his job. He quickly retires the side in order, although Maenaka's drive takes Sakamoto to the wall. Shinkou looks contempt to end this in the 9th.
But Maenaka walks Sakamoto to start the inning! He tried to nibble, but the umpire nor Sakamoto would bite! Tying run on base!
Ikechi swinging away! Pops it up! Hatokawa under it for the first out!
Takemura has to swing away now. Falls behind 1-2, reaches out and hits one down the left field line... FAIR!! Fujishima running it down, but misplays the bounce off the wall and has to chase it around the outfield wall! Sakamoto rounding 3rd, coming home, and he scores!! Timely hit by Takemura ties the game! 5-5!!!
Umehara looking for the go-ahead hit! Grounder up the middle! But it's too slow and Hatokawa runs it down. Takemura has to hold at 2nd as the putout is made at 1st. 2 down.
And Maenaka gets Jyouji to pop it up! Iseki is under it for the 3rd out, and now Shinkou finds themselves tied heading into the bottom of the 9th!
Shimizu leading off the 9th with the Eva music... and grounds to 2nd.
Hatogawa walks on 4 straight! Now it's Shinkou with the winning run on base! Shimada-kantoku immediately calls time and has a conference.
Masuda swinging away early, tries a safety bunt, but it goes foul. Behind in the count 1-2, he has to swing away.
And the 2-2 pitch gets away from Tomoya! Hatogawa advances into scoring position!!
Full count and Masuda gets some instructions from the dugout.
He continues to stay alive in the AB barely fouling a pitch.
And he drives one to center, but right at Sakamoto! 2 down!
Yokogawa up, and if he gets on base Itou is on deck.
Drive to deep center!! Sakamoto racing back!!! But it falls in behind him!!! Hatogawa rounds 3rd, he scores!!!! サヨナラ!!!!!
Yokogawa gets his first hit, and boy is it ever a memorable one! Shinkou Gakuen comes back after Kochi ties it up in the top of the 9th for the victory!
You have to love the fight in Shinkou. They didn't let an early deficit get to them, they continued to fight, and it paid off.
As for Kochi you have to feel bad for them. They made some uncharacteristic errors that probably cost them the game. However, the team felt like they were still a work in progress, so don't be surprised if they're back this summer.
WP - Maenaka Masashi (Shinkou Gakuen) - CG, 5 ER, 12 H, 7 K, 4 BB
LP - Tsutsui Taichi (Kochi) - 8.2 IP, 6 ER, 10 H, 6 K, 2 BB
Furutani Ryouhei (Shinkou Gakuen) - 3-4, 3B, 3 R
Itou Ryousuke (Shinkou Gakuen) - 2-4, HR, R, RBI
Yokogawa Shun (Shinkou Gakuen) - 1-5, 2B, サヨナラ RBI
Sakamoto Daishi (Kochi) - 1-3, 3B, R, RBI, 2 BB
Yamazaki Jyunji (Kochi) - 3-5, RBI