Our matinee game is a bit of a doozy. Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku has earned their 3rd senbatsu appearance (all 3 have been in the 2000's) and get to face off against one of the heavy favorites Teikyou.
The strength of Kobe's team lies in ace Okamoto. Against a stacked field which included Toyodai Himeji, Kita-Ootsu, Tenri and Osaka Touin, he put up some great numbers (83.1 IP, 5.62 H/9, 7.67 K/9, 1.73 BB/9). And while Oogawa Kento has seen some time, make no mistake Okamoto's their man.
Offensively they look like most other clubs. Good average, some doubles power and patient enough to take some walks.
Teikyou comes into the tournament not with their high-powered offense as the cornerstone, but instead a strong pitching staff. 3rd-year Suzuki Shouta wears the ace number, but everyone knows the hype surrounding #11 Itou Takuro. Now some may claim that it's out of seniority that Suzuki wears #1, but the numbers say that he certainly holds his own:
Suzuki - 32 IP, 6.47 H/9, 10.41 K/9, 2.25 BB/9
Itou - 41.2 IP, 6.48 H/9, 8.86 K/9, 3.46 BB/9
Of course, they're back down to 2 primary pitchers, but at least they have others who have had some experience on the mound (Yamazaki, Kawakami, Ogiya).
Now that's not to say the offense isn't as potent as in years past. Their all or nothing mentality still gives them a decent average, but they average just about 2 doubles and 1 HR per game. But they're not afraid to take a walk. Sonoda is their big hitter (27 AB, 13 H, 5 2B, 4 3B, HR, 15 BB!) with Matsumoto being their other star hitter.
The game pretty much hinges on Okamoto Ken. If his numbers aren't a reflection of his abilities, this game is over. Otherwise, this could be a good one.
So it's Takurou Itou who takes the hill. Bet the fans who came are glad. He's certainly a hyped star, but a good one nonetheless.
Teikyou (Tokyo) - Tokyo Champions
3B Taguchi Masaki (#4)
2B Yoshioka Shun (#5)
LF Sonoda Takato
CF Kubota (Hirotomo)
RF Okabe (Michiori)
1B Suzuki Shouta (#1)
SS Matsumoto Gou
C Yasuo Toshiya
P Itou Takuro (#11)
Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Hyogo) - Kinki Champions
1B Ishioka Ryouta
CF Matsumura Naoya
RF Tanaka Suguru
P Okamoto Ken
LF Shinotou Takashi (#16)
3B Ishii Toshinori
2B Mano Keisuke
SS Shimono Kanta
C Fukuda Yuuto
11:39 - First pitch!
Taguchi begins the game with an 8 pitch AB which results in a single to right. Yoshioka moves him over to 2nd.
Okamoto comes right back and strikes out Sonoda on a slider inside. That was a 9 pitch AB though, so Teikyou is certainly making him work. That is borne out when Kubota doesn't swing the bat and takes a 5 pitch walk.
Fukuda come out and communicates with the defense.
Okabe up now. And the 1-0 pitch from Okamoto isn't handled by Fukuda! Runners advance! And Okamoto falls behind 3-1!
Grounder up the middle! Mano diving, has it! Throw to 1st... in time! Okamoto gets out of the inning with no damage! However, he did throw 28 pitches this inning.
Itou starts with a slider at 127, and another at 123. And there's the 142 that we're all expecting.
But he's throwing breaking balls. Slider gets Ishioka swinging for out 1.
Matsumura with a drive to deep center! Kubota running back, looking one way, then another, reaches out... and makes the catch right in front of the wall!
Tanaka earns a two-out walk. And now Okamoto is ahead 3-0! He's given the green light 3-1 and he drives the ball to deep center! This one is easier for Kubota as he parks under it for the 3rd out.
A couple of drives against Itou early is a bit surprising.
Suzuki goes down swinging. I like what I'm seeing from Okamoto.
And just like that, Matsumoto blasts one over Tanaka's head right to the wall for a double.
Yasuo grounds to 2nd, but it advances the runner.
Itou up and OW!
First pitch from Okamoto hits him in the upper leg! He walks it off, but OW!
Taguchi grounds to 2nd to end the inning. We'll ahve to see how Itou handles the mound after being hit.
Shinotou with a chopper in front of home! Itou and Yasuo converge on the ball and wait on it, but it just dies! They forgot that with the wet ground, the ball wasn't going to move much! Infield hit for Shinotou!
Hit-and-run for Ishii! He strikes out swinging! Throw to 2nd gets past Taguchi!
Runner on 2nd with one down, but Mano can't advance him. He grounds to short and Shinotou has to hold.
Shimono with a drive to left center! That falls in front of the wall! Shinotou comes around to score on the double by Shimono and Kobe takes the lead 1-0!
Fukuda lifts one to right center, but he got too much under it. Kubota comes in and makes the catch. 3 outs, but Kobe gets to Itou and takes the lead!
Yoshioka with a shallow popfly. Shimiono, Shinotou and Matsumura all converge on the ball, and it's Shinotou who makes the catch.
Looks like the wind is blowing quite a bit again.
Sonoda earns a one-out walk. Again Teikyou is not bunting.
Hit and run! Kubota tries to check his swing on an up and in pitch but the ball finds his bat! It goes down the 3rd base line and goes foul.
Behind 1-2, Kubota goes to bunt! Ah, but he pops it up! Fukuda under it, makes the catch and Sonoda returns to 1st. 2 down.
And now Sonoda tries to take the base himself! Throw to 2nd by Fukuda... in time! They gun down Sonoda and Teikyou is held scoreless again!
Itou still giving up some very long outs here. Ishioka starts off the inning with a deep drive to left. Sonoda going back gets it, but is pretty close to the fence.
Matsumura with a comebacker that Itou gets out of the way of and Kobe has a man on.
And Aoki-kantoku sends Matsumura! Yasuo up with the throw, Matsumoto with it, but drops it as he tries to make the tag!
Itou comes right back and strikes out Tanaka! 2 down.
Cleanup batter Okamoto up now trying to give himself a bigger cushion. But Itou gets ahead 1-2.
Grounder through the left side! Matsumura being sent home! Sonoda up with the throw! Yasuo up the line trying to field it and Matsumura bowls him over before the ball gets there! Yasuo has no time to field it as Matsumura rolls over and touches home plate! Okamoto with the timely hit giving his team a 2-0 lead!
Shinotou pops it up. Taguchi under it in foul territory makes the catch, but Kobe gets another run and is leading Teikyou 2-0!
Okamoto continues to look good on the mound getting Okabe to fly out to left.
Ace number Suzuki though gets a single to right. Then Matsumoto with a towering fly to shallow left center. The outfielders converge, but defer to Shimono who overruns the ball! All safe!
Yasuo up. Liner! Shimono makes the leaping catch! WOW! Runners retreat to their base as Shimono makes up for the miss with a great play!
And Okamoto strikes out Itou to end the inning! Teikyou unable to score again!
Ishii with another base hit off of Itou with a liner to right! Mano bunts him over to 2nd. Kobe Kokusaidai threatening again!
Shimono showing bunt, but probably to distract Itou. He grounds to short. Matsumoto with the stop, fumbles with the ball a little, but makes the play at 1st. 2 down.
Fukuda with a grounder to short. Easy play for Matsumoto and the inning is over.
Taguchi with a chopper to the left side. Ishii gets it on the hop and makes the throw to 1st.
Yoshioka with a hard hit to 3rd. Ishii with a great stop! Picks it up, throw to 1st... in time! Nice play!
Sonoda on a full count sends one back up the middle for a 2-out single.
Kubota with a high popup. Shimono under it and the side is retired. Okamoto doing a masterful job on the mound!
Quick inning for Itou. Grounder to short, K and grounder to 1st - all in 8 pitches. He's still throws hard, but doesn't seem as intimidating as he was during the summer.
Okamoto continues to mow down hitters. Okabe gets fooled, reaches out and pops it up to left.
AHH!!!! Suzuki with a drive to deep center!! Matsumura turning around and sprinting to the wall! He stops, looks, leaps...
AND MAKES THE CATCH!! WOW!!!!!
Matsumura with a fine play in center robbing what certainly would have been a double, maybe a triple!
And Okamoto finishes the job striking out Matsumoto looking! 6 in the books and Okamoto has kept Teikyou off the board!!
Okamoto leads off the inning working a leadoff walk. And now Aoki-kantoku has Shinotou bunting! 2 runs is certainly not enough against this offense.
But Ishii goes down swinging on what appears to be a shuuto (don't quote me on it, my knowledge of pitches is very limited). 2 outs.
Mano now tasked with getting the run in as "Train Train" plays. Itou throws offspeed stuff at him and gets ahead 1-2. Fastball outside, and Mano just fouls it off.
Grounder up the middle! But Matsumoto is there! Gathers himself, throw to 1st is in time for the 3rd out.
Kobe wastes another opportunity to play add-on here in the 6th.
Yasuo harmlessly grounds out to 2nd to start the inning.
And I didn't know Itou's music was "Popeye the Sailor Man". For someone his build, makes sense. And he holds up on a pitch inside for ball 3. That seemed awfully close to hold up on.
But it works and he earns a walk. That brings up back to the top of the order and Taguchi.
And he shows bunt (I mean a bunt as last as possible)! Lays it down the 3rd base line! Fukuda retrieving it, throws to first... beats out a diving Taguchi! Wouldn't have made it if he had run through, but would have liked it if he tried to.
Anyways 2 down for Yoshioka. Okamoto falls behind him 2-0.
Grounder to 1st! Ishioka there with the dive! Gets up, but Okamoto isn't covering 1st! Ishioka running back to the bag dives, but Yoshioka's dive beats him out! All safe!!
Where the heck was Okamoto?
Aoki-kantoku might have been wondering the same thing. And he makes a surprising change.
He pulls Okamoto! Well, not really - he moves him to left. The displaced Shinotou moves over to center while #10 Ookawa takes Matsumura's spot in the lineup and takes the hill.
Unfortunately, I can't tell whether it's because of Okamoto's lack of hustle on the play, if he thinks he's getting tired, or something completely different.
Ookawa is coming into a dangerous situation. Teikyou with the tying run on at 1st with 2 down.
One final conference on the mound, and he's off and going.
Ookawa quickly gets up on Sonoda 0-2. Next pitch, way outside.
And Sonoda reaches out and hits one to left. Okamoto coming it, but holds up! He plays it on the bounce and Itou scores! It's 2-1 Kobe and the tying run is in scoring position for Kubota!
Uh oh! Ookawa falls behind 3-0! And a pitch inside loads the bases! Maeda-kantoku sends Matsumoto to talk to Abe before he steps in. A base hit here and they could take the lead!
Abe with a bloop fly to left! Okamoto sprinting towards the foul line, still running, dives, rolls...
MAKES THE CATCH!!!
Wow! Dead sprint by Okamoto and the dive to make the catch to end the inning! He can't preserve the lead on the mound, but he instead does it on the field!
Teikyou has cut the lead to a razor-thin 1 run. And while Kobe has stopped the possible deluge, the dam is showing more cracks than ever, especially with Okamoto not on the hill.
The momentum if nothing else seems to be shifting. The Kobe batters are getting fooled by Itou who certainly has returned to form.
Shimono gets fooled on another offspeed pitch. Fukuda makes contact, but it's right at Taguchi. And just to change things up, he blows a 144kph fastball past Ishioka on the outside part of the plate.
It's appears obvious that Kobe is playing hang-on. The question is whether or not they will actually be able to do so.
AH!!! Suzuki with a drive to center! Shinotou immediately running back to the wall, leaping up, but it hits the 1st level landing!! Ace number Suzuki has just tied the game up with one swing of the bat!!! 2-2!!
And that's it for Ookawa. #12 Oota comes in for him and takes the hill. Okamoto still standing in left.
It's a good start for Oota as Matsumoto grounds to 2nd.
Yasuo steps in, and after a long AB earns a walk. Itou up trying to bunt him along, Oota pitching outside. Falls behind 3-1! But 2 pitches later he walks him! For heavens sake, let them bunt!
Taguchi up, not bunting now! Grounder, through to right! Tanaka up with it and Yasuo being sent home! Tanaka's throw home... OUT!
A great throw by Tanaka guns down Yasuo and keeps the game knotted at 2 and now there's 2 outs!
Yoshioka looking to break the tie. Oota falls behind 3-0! Next 2 pitches Yoshioka lets pass, trying to get on any way possible. Full count pitch... inside! Oota walks Yoshioka and now it's manrui for Teikyou with Sonoda up!
1-1 pitch from Oota is in the dirt and Fukuda doesn't get down enough to block it! It 5-holes him and goes all the way to the backstop! He races back to get it, but its too late! Itou scores and Teikyou has taken the lead 3-2 on a passed ball!!!
Now there's runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 out and Teikyou can blow it wide open! Sonoda though grounds out to Ishioka to end the inning.
But the expected has happened. Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku couldn't pull away from Teikyou and allowed them to stay in the game. And as a result they were able to stage a comeback and take the lead here in the late innings!
Now Kobe Kokusai will have to play their own version of catchup, but with only 6 outs to do it.
#15 Utsumi comes in to PH for Oota, meaning his day is done. But he goes down swinging.
Tanaka working the count full, but all he can do is ground out to 2nd.
And now Okamoto stands in trying to help his team. Quickly finds himself down 0-2. Pitch way inside is taken for ball 1.
Fastball outside corner... doesn't get the call!
Fastball up! Okamoto misses! 147kph high cheese from Itou and the inning is over!
3 outs left for Kobe, but it feels like it's already over...
#11 Miyauchi comes in now as the 4th pitcher for Kobe hoping to keep the deficit at 1 and give his team a chance.
Kubota lifts one to left, Okamoto running back, changing direction and makes the catch. Didn't seem too sure out there.
Abe reaching out and lining one just out of the reach of Shimono.
Suzuki up again, and they're going right after him. And he pops one up in the infield! Mano under it just in the outfield grass for the 2nd out.
And Matsumoto flies out to center. The game heads to the bottom of the 9th with Teikyou holding the 1-run lead. Can Kobe find a way to plate just one run??
It's the 5-6-7 hitters for Kobe up.
Shinotou to lead it off, and he gets ahead 3-1. But he swings away and flies out to center!
Ishii up next, falls behind 0-2... grounds out to 3rd. 2 down!
Mano goes back to the dugout, looks like #7 Omatsu is coming in as a pinch-hitter here.
But like many other batters, he falls behind 0-2... Takes a pitch outside for ball 1. Another and the count is even.
Gets jammed! Grounder to 1st... Suzuki dives and has it. Stumbles as he gets up, and has to sprint to 1st! Jumps to the bag! Omatsu dives!
OUT! Suzuki just beats out a diving Omatsu and that ends the game!!
Okamoto and the bullpen could not hold onto a lead against Teikyou and go down here in the 1st round! They certainly had opportunities, but were never able to fully capitalize on them. As a result they will have to pack their bags and head home.