Well, so far the games have gone almost as "planned" today. Kochi-Shinkou Gakuen was close as expected, and even be considered more exciting. Morimoto for Chuukyoudai Chuukyou was a bit shakier than expected, and Moriokadai Fuzoku put up one heck of a fight - but Chuukyou held on for the win.
The last game of the day should be interesting. Chiben Wakayama, who earned an at-large bid, will be looking to give Takashima-kantoku his record-breaking win. They'll look to do that against the Hokushinetsu champions Takaoka Shougyou.
The team is in a bit of flux again mainly with the loss of ace Okada. And in the meantime, Takashima has been auditioning players for the position. Frontrunner is current ace Yoshimoto Hiroshi, a southpaw with a slider, curve and change. His other go-to guy is Aoki Yuuto, another lefty. Miyagawa has been used also, perhaps being the main righty on the staff while Uenoyama hasn't really seen much work.
If one were to look at the team's stats for the fall, one would think they're a big offensive team. But the problem with that thinking can be seen by the times Chiben has appeared at Koshien recently:
Spring - '94, '96, '00, '02-'03, '06, '08
Summer - '91-'93, '96-'00, '02-'03, '05-'09
Yeah. They've been the team from Wakayama. And if you've looked at the qualifying over the past couple of years, it just hasn't been close.
So while the Kinki region is strong as a whole, Wakayama outside of Chiben Wakayama is fairly weak. That means that the numbers they post could be considered inflated. Indeed once they left the cozy confines of their prefecture, they defeated Shiga #2 Yasu Koukou easily, but then fell 7-6 to Ritsumeikan Uji.
Nevertheless, potential offensive players to watch are Yamamoto and Nishikawa.
Takaoka Shougyou was the winner of the Hokushinesu region. Unfortunately, yet perhaps rightly so, that region is not really considered a strong region. Nihon Bunri's run to the finals last summer was an amazing and rare occurrence.
But what may give them a chance was the teams they played to win the tournament. They includes such teams as Kanazawa, Chuuetsu, Fukui Koudai Fukui and Tsuruga Kehi in the super-regionals - then Akita Shougyou and Toukaidai Sagami in the Meiji Jingu Taikai. These teams have had Koshien experience so their performance could be considered more "proven" than otherwise considered.
Pitching duties predominantly fall to ace Nabeta who throws around 130 with a curve and slider. His numbers look particularly impressive (81 IP, 7.22 H/9, 8.11 K/9, 1.11 BB/9). Occasionally Shindou will start to spell Nabeda, but he does not get a lot of work.
Offensively, the team doesn't hit for a high average (given the competition though, this could be correctly adjusted compared to say a Chiben Wakayama). But they do get extra-base hits (15 2B and 10 3B in 11 games). They don't really walk nor steal bases. Players to watch would be Matsushima and Yamamoto.
We've seen "finesse" pitchers succeed here so far. But even if you discount Chiben's offense Nabeta will have to pitch a great game to advance into the next round.
Hm. It looks like Takashima-kantoku is going a different direction on the mound. He's sending #11 Fujii Tsuyoshi to start! I don't have any information on him and a quick search shows that he was an ace in middle school and has a two-seam, cutter, fork, slider and curve. Yet he's seen no game experience at all! Interesting selection by the manager!
Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama) - Kinki At-large
CF Shiroyama Akinori
2B Iwasado Ryou
RF Nishikawa Haruki
1B Yamamoto Sadahiro
C Michibata Shunsuke
LF Miyakawa Yuuki (#10)
3B Seto Yuuzuke
SS Ogasawara Tomohiro
P Fujii Tsuyoshi (#11)
Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama) - Hokushinetsu Champion
SS Teragoshi Shouta
2B Murata Yuusuke
C Matsushima Masaki
RF Yamamoto Keisuke
1B Takamori Shouhei
LF Tsuchiya Yuuho
3B Yamamichi Atsuo
P Nabeta Hironari
CF Mukaiyama Makoto
14:43 - First pitch!
Not a particularly good start for Nabeta as he walks leadoff batter Shiroyama.
Iwasado showing bunt, but Nabeta's first 2 pitches are high. After a strike, he lays the bunt down and Nabeta goes for 2nd, but it's clearly going to be late! Everyone's safe! Who was telling him to go (or not to go) to 2nd?
Matsushima out to the mount to talk to Nabeta.
Haruki up now, and while he shows bunt, it seems like he's swinging away.
Grounder to 2nd! Murata to Teragoshi for one, relay to Takamori, double play!
4-6-3 double play puts Takasho one out away from getting out of the inning!
But Nabeta's control issues persist! He falls behind Yamamoto 3-0 before firing a strike in. Yamamoto's given the green light and fouls it off running the count full.
SANSHIN! Nabeta fires a slider in for strike 3 and they're out of the inning!
Teragoshi with a single back up the middle! Murata immediately bunts him to 2nd.
Michibata out to the mound to talk to Fujii.
Matsushima looking for the timely hit. Tries the safety bunt! Pushes it foul.
And Matsushima goes down swinging for the 2nd out!
Cleanup batter Yamamoto to try and get the timely hit. But he flies out to Shiroyama to end the inning. Both teams with opportunities in the 1st, but nothing comes out of it.
Nabeta gest Michibata to hit a shallow fly to right, and Murata is under it for the first out.
But Miyakawa with a drive to right center that bounces all the way to the wall for a double!
Seto with a drive to right! Yamamoto backpedaling, leaps and makes the catch! Miyakawa returns back to 2nd. 2 down.
One more batter in Ogasawara for Nabeta to get out. But Ogasawa singles past a diving Teragoshi! Tsuchiya up with it quickly and Miyakawa has to hold at 3rd.
Fujii up to try and give himself a lead. Meanwhile Matshshima goes back to the mound to talk with Nabeta.
But Fujii grounds to 2nd. Murata with some difficulty tossing it, but has plenty of time to make the force at 2nd to end the inning. Once again Murata plays magician and gets out of the inning, but really - how long can he keep this up?
Fujii gets Takamori swinging for the first out, but then turns around and walks Tsuchiya.
Yamamichi's oen-dan music is Hare Hare Yukai!!!!!!!!!!!!
HARUHI FOR THE WIN!
Unfortunately, Yamamichi loses as he cannot check his swing.
Nabeda up, but Miyabukuro-kantoku sends Tsuchiya on the 1-2 pitch! Michibata throws to 2nd and Iwasado makes the tag for the 3rd out!
Shiroyama up and oddly enough I haven't heard the oen-dan play Jock Rock yet...
Grounder to short, and Teragoshi can't pickup the ball! He's charged with the error. Iwasado immediately with the sac bunt and Chiben Wakayama is threatening.
Nabeta gets ahead of Haruki 1-2, but then misses badly on the next 2 running the count full.
But Haruki hits a grounder to 2nd. Murata with it, but Takamori was going to get it as well! Takamori and Nabeda scramble to 1st, but it's too late! Infield hit for Murata and runners are at the corners for Chiben!
Now all Yamamoto needs is a sac fly to get Chiben on the board.
And I still don't hear Jock Rock. What gives?
Yamamoto gets the job done. Lifts a 1-2 slider to right. Takaoka's Yamamoto (boy that's confusing) camps under the ball, but can't put a good throw on it and the relay throw from Murata is late. Chiben Wakayama takes the lead 1-0.
Michibata flies out to center to end the inning, but Chiben strikes first!
Fujii records his 4th K as Nabeda whiffs on a forkball.
Mukaiyama gets ahead 3-0 on Fujii, but ends up flying out to Miyakawa in left-center.
Back to the top of the order and Teragoshi, and ace Yoshimoto is warming up in the bullpen.
Teragoshi works Fujii for an 8 pitch AB, but hits a grounder back to Fujii to end the inning.
Miyakawa grounds back to Nabeda for the 1st out.
Hm... looks like it's starting to rain again as some umbrellas are coming out.
Seto with a hard chopper up the 3rd base line, but Yamamichi makes the grab and the strong throw to 1st.
Ogasawara continues to test the defense with a grounder to the left side. Teragoshi with the sliding backhanded grab, pops up and makes another good throw to nail Ogasawara (who by the way is running through the bag, yay!)
Murata with an easy grounder to Iwasado for the 1st out.
Matsushima with a swinging bunt, but the ball dies in the mud right in front of home. That allows Michibata to get it and make the easy throw to 1st for the 2nd out.
Yamamoto (Keisuke) up now. Hits a grounder to 3rd. Seto block the ball, picks it up, and throws to first, WIDE!
Seto's throw is wide right and gets by Yamamoto (Sadahiro). E5 gives Takasho a runner with 2 down.
Takamori though pops it up in foul territory and Michibata makes the catch in front of the Takasho dugout for the 3rd out.,
Ah, there we go. No Koshien with Chiben Wakayama is complete without Jock Rock, and I finally hear it as Fuji starts out the 5th inning.
Fujii with a grounder back up the middle to lead off the inning.
No doubt Shiroyama is bunting here. But bunts the first pitch foul. Lays the 2nd one down though and gets the job done.
Iwasado up and ooo....
Nabeta throws the 1-0 pitch behind Iwasado's head.
And Nabeta loses Iwasado! Runners on 1st and 2nd for Chiben and the ground really doesn't look good.
Miyabukuro-kantoku barks out directions as Haruki steps in.
Haruki with a drive to right center! That zips by Keisuke and goes all the way to the wall! Fujii scores, Iwasado all the way from 1st scores! The throw by Keisuke misses both cutoff men and Haruki is in with a 2-run triple!! 3-0 Chiben!
Sadahiro with a grounder that zips by Yamamichi into left, scoring Haruki and making it 4-0.
Nabeta now having issues finding the plate. #10 Shindou is warming up as Nabeta walks Michibata on 4 straight.
Miyakawa with a fly to left center. But the defense was shifted to right! Tsuchiya and Mukaiyama converge, but can't get to the ball! Sadahiro's being sent home and the relay throw is high! Sadahiro scores and it's 5-0!
Seto with a drive to center! Mukaiyama running to the wall and it lands just in front! Michibata scores! Mukaiyama fires the ball in keeping Miyakawa from scoring, but that's the 6th batter to reach safely and it's 6-0 Chiben!
Conference on the mound, and at this point I don't think they're bringing in a relief pitcher unless things get really out of hand.
Ogasawara hits a fly to left, but it's not deep enough to get anyone in and there's 2 down.
Fujii steps up to the plate for the 2nd time this inning. He goes down looking to end the inning, but 10 batters come up to the plate, scoring 5 runs and probably putting the game out of reach.
Tsuchiya flies out to center to start the inning.
And now I can bob my head to Haruhi...
Or not. Yamamichi with good contact, but right to Haruki for the 2nd out.
(Oy! Stay at bat longer won't you!)
Nabeta goes down swinging. We head into the break, and Fujii has only given up 1 hit and 1 walk.
I barely have time to get set from the break when the top of the 6th is over!
Shiroyama flies out to left, Iwasado pops up to Takamori in foul territory, and Haruki grounds out to Murata to end the inning.
And the field looks like a complete mess. The lights are reflecting off the infield ground, and you can hear the players running through the muck.
Mukaiyama, trying to get on base, attempts a safety bunt, but pushes it foul. He works Fujii, but can only manage a grounder back to Fujii for the 1st out.
Teragoshi with a drive to right center! That goes past the outfielders and all the way to the wall! Shiroyama gets the ball in, but not before Teragoshi's in with a triple!
Sac fly from Murata will get the run in, but they need a hit more given the inning.
Murata falls behind 0-2 though. But Fujii leaves a ball in the middle and Murata sends it past Fujii into center! Teragoshi scores and Takasho is on the board! 6-1!
Miyabukuro puts on the hit-and run! But Matsushima fouls it off... And he goes down swinging on a ball in the... er... mud. That allows Murata to advance into scoring position for Keisuke.
Keisuke though, strikes out looking an a fastball on the inside corner to end the inning. They avoided the shutout, but they're still a bit of a ways from being back in contention.
It's getting pretty dark at Koshien now, and the shine off the ground is getting more pronounced.
Sadahiro hits a hard liner, but right at Mukaiyama who doesn't even have to move.
Michibata with a grounder past a diving Takamori into right for his first hit.
Miyakawa first pitch flies out to center, and Seto first pitch fouls out to Matsushima to end the inning.
Takamori quickly grounds out to 2nd for the 1st out.
Tsuchiya ahead 2-0 also grounds out to 2nd.
Yamamichi up and I get the Haruhi music... for about 3 seconds. He hits a dribble up the 3rd base line. Seto charges in, makes a fine throw to beat out a hustling Yamamichi.
The rain continues to fall with puddles forming behind home plate, amongst other areas.
Ogasawara grounds out to 3rd to start off the 8th.
Fujii goes down looking on 3 straight and there's quickly 2 down.
Oh, it's pouring now...
And just when Nabeta looked to have an easy 1-2-3 inning, he walks Shiroyama. But then jams Iwasado. He fists one towards short, but Teragoshi leaps and makes the catch to retire the side.
Wonder if the rain is affecting Fujii. He walks Nabeta to start off the inning.
First pitch from Fujii to Mukaiyama is way wide. Michibata has to leap out to get it.
But Mukaiyama offers at two pitches up and away and there's 1 down.
Teragoshi falls behind 0-2, and a wild pitch allows Nabeta to advance to 2nd. Teragoshi then manages to work the count full, but goes down swinging as well on a slider.
Murata with a hard shot! But Seto puts out his glove and comes up with it. And I don't think he can believe he caught the ball.
I think Chiben Wakayama wants to get out of the rain as soon as possible. Haruki is swinging away and grounds one back to Nabeta.
Sadahiro quickly follows with a fly out to center.
Michibata swinging at the first good pitch pops one to shallow right. Murata backpedaling, but the ball goes off his glove! Keisuke can't catch it off the bounce and Michibata slides into 2nd.
Hm... #7 Bandou pinch hitting for Miyakawa. But he goes down looking to end the inning.
Last ups for Takasho. #14 Nishikawa Yuusuke comes in for PH Bandou and takes over in LF.
Matsushima grounds out to Seto. Matsushima literally slid about 10 feet, hit the bag, and slid for like another 5. Man the field must be terrible.
Fujii walks Keisuke on 4 straight, and it's pretty obvious he's fighting the rain.
Oh dear lord. It is a large downpour out there. I guess the umpires decided to finish the game hell or high water. No pun intended.
Takamori pops one to short. Ogasawara just on the outfield grass makes the catch.
2 down for Tsuchiya and he singles through to right!
Yamamichi up with runners at 1st and 2nd. Perhaps another couple of sloppy hits and Takasho might be back in it.
Um.. the home plate umpire is wiping off home plate. Is that really going to help now?
Yamamichi grounds out to short, and Ogasawara tosses to Iwasado for the final out.
The game is finally over, and Takashima-kantoku now holds the record for wins at Koshien. And it was done in the pouring rain.
For Takaoka Shougyou, they certainly did their best given the conditions, but I guess fate had it in for them this day. The weather gods certainly have not been kind this year.