Finally, we reach the much anticipated game to end the day...
There has been a lot of hype surrounding Shinta Hifumi and Toukaidai Sagami. Heck, he's on the cover of the Homerun magazine I have. That's a lot of pub for a pitcher making his first Koshien appearance.
Looking at his raw stuff, you can kind of see why. He throws in the mid to upper 140's(!) with a slider, curve, change and forkball. His numbers are not other worldly, but still impressive (1.48 ERA, 0.928 WHIP, 7.237 K/9, 2.691 BB/9).
It also helps that he's supported by a good offense (.351/.492/.508). And it's not just one or two players either. The hitting is just about across the board meaning that the opposing pitchers gets little to no break at all. They didn't face easy competition either. They faced the likes of Urawa Gakuin, Hanasaki Tokuharu and Teikyou before losing 10-9 to Oogaki Nichidai in a game where Hifumi didn't start due to an injury.
About the only thing that could possibly derail them is if for some reason Hifumi's nail issues still persist several months later. But I can't imagine that being the case.
Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa) - Kanto Champions
RF Watanabe Masaru
CF Usuda Tetsuya
2B Tanaka Shunta (#14)
3B Fukuyama Ryou
P Hifumi Shinta
1B Someya Yuutarou (#6)
C Ooshiro Takumi
LF Sugano Tsuyoshi
SS Kurokawa Tatsuya (#4)
Jiyuugaoka (Fukuoka) - Kyushu 3/4
2B Yanagi Takuma
CF Itadani Takahiro
P Ono Gouki
LF Koga Shouta
C Nakamura Keita
1B Sotono Takamasa
RF Furubashi Jirou
SS Fujii Shouta
3B Miyzaki Shinnosuke
14:49 - First pitch!
Toukaidai Sagami's oen-dan has some type of xylophone??
Watanabe with a grounder past a diving Yanagi into center! He's going for 2! Relay from Itadani... not in time! Watanabe slides in just before the tag for a leadoff double!! And boy is their oen-dan section filled up!
Usuda trying for a safety bunt, but pops it foul. Tries to lay down a proper bunt, but pops it up! Nakamura under it and makes the catch! One down.
Tanaka up for Sagami.
And their band has some original rally music. It's upbeat, light, and rather catchy. It's definitely not powerful like Chiben Wakayama or Nichidai-san, but it's different - and sometimes different is good.
And Tanaka with a single to the right of Fujii and into left! Watanabe scores and Sagami is quickly up 1-0!
Nakamura comes out to talk to Ono to settle him down.
And Fukuyama tries for the safety bunt! He pops it foul though.
Now Tanaka tries to get 2nd outright! Throw from Nakamura is in time, but Fujii is slow with the tag and Tanaka slides in safe!!
Hm... overhead replay shows that Fujii might have a case. He's slow with the swipe, but it's still bang-bang.
Ono really minding Tanaka - even at 2nd.
Fukuyama grounds out to 1st, but that allows Tanaka to advance to 3rd.
Our first look at Hifumi is at the plate instead of on the mound.
He hits a nubber up the 3rd base line. Miyazaki charging in, throws it to 1st. It's short, but Sotono makes the nice pick for the out! Still Toukaidai Sagami jumps out to the quick lead!
Yanagi with a fly to right and Watanabe is there to make the catch.
Itadani reaches out and flares a ball to right center for a single.
Ono steps in against Hifumi.
Hm... Hifumi's speeds seem rather pedestrian. His fastball is sitting in the mid 130's, while the slider is in the low 120's and change in the mid 100's.
But he gets Ono to hit a grounder to short. Kurokawa to Tanaka for one, relay to Someya, two! 6-4-3 double play ends the inning!
Ono allows another leadoff runner as he walks Someya.
Hey, Dash Keio is playing!
Someya takes off for 2nd on the first pitch! Nakamura's throw again in time, and this time Fujii makes the quick tag for the out!
Takumi with a hard liner to right for a base hit.
Sugano with a hard shot, but Fujii makes the catch! Throws to Sotono and they double up Someya!
We finally see Hifumi hit 140, but that was on a high fastball way out of the zone. Although Shouta does offer and strike out on the pitch.
First pitch to Nakamura is 142, but it's behind his feet.
And Nakamura ends up walking. Those pitches from Hifumi didn't seem close at all.
He's seems to be locating a little better. He fires 3-140 kph fastballs in, getting Sotono looking on the last one.
He gets Furubashi looking on a 144kph fastball, but Hifumi's control still feels a little off...
Kurokawa strikes out looking on 3 straight from Ono.
And Watanabe strikes out looking too, and he knew it!
Usuda with a grounder to 1st. Sotono throws to Ono, but throws behind him!!
Nakamura fires back to Ono who tags Usuda and he's called out! Usuda turned towards 2nd and had to get back to 1st, but didn't get back in time! 3 out!
Well that was a quick inning. Fujii quickly grounded out to short, Miyazaki tried a safety bunt down the 3rd base line but Fukuyama makes a good play, then Yanagi strikes out on 3 straight.
Tanaka with a grounder that is just out of the reach of a diving Fujii into left. Fukuyama tries the safety bunt, but he pops it up! Nakamura in foul territory makes the catch. That the 2nd failed bunt by Sagami!
And Ono is really slowing the pace of play repeatedly throwing to 1st. Then he falls behind 2-0.
Count goes to 2-2, and there's more throws to 1st.
Hifumi with a grounder that sneaks past Fujii to left. Tanaka holds up at 2nd.
Ono falls behind Someya 3-0, and #10 Yukuhiro comes out of the dugout to play catch, just in case.
Hey, it's the wind/percussion version of Dash Keio! I just realized their band is like a military-style one!
Ono fills up the count, and Nakamura fires to 2nd!! Tanaka is caught napping at 2nd and he's thrown out!! Monma-kantoku can't do anything but scratch his head...
Someya grounds out to 2nd to end the inning, but Toukaidai Sagami's baserunning awareness seems a bit questionable at best.
Itadani with a fister that loops above Hifumi. Kurokawa ranging over, but can't play the bounce cleanly! His throw to first... not in time!! Kurokawa is charged with an error on the play.
Ono lays down the sac bunt to advance Itadani.
Shouta hits a fly to right. Watanabe on the foul line makes the catch. Itadani touching up! Watanabe relays to Tanaka, throw to 3rd... not in time! Itadani slides in right before the tag, and the tying run is 90 feet away!
Nakamura hits a grounder to short, Fujii with the stop. Throw to 1st... and Sotono makes a great pick off the ground to make the out and retire the side!
Hifumi's given up one hit, but I'm still puzzled about his lack of velocity.
Takumi first pitch swinging flies out to center.
Sugano up... and the band is playing Yankee Doodle Dandy?
Anyways, Sugano goes down swinging, and so does #9 batter Kurokawa for a quick 1-2-3 inning.
Sotono gets Jiyuugaoka their 2nd hit of the game leading off the 5th with a single to center. Furubashi bunts him into scoring position.
Fujii with a grounder to 3rd. Fukuyama with a good stop and the throw to 1st. Sotono has to hold at 2nd and there's 2 outs.
What's this? Suetsugu-kantoku is having #10 Yukihiro is pinch hitting for Miyazaki? Does this mean that Ono's stint on the mound is over for now?
Yukuhiro with a drive!! Sugano running back... leaps... it's over his head!!!!
That's all the way to the wall!! Sotono scores on the pinch hit double by Yukuhiro!!! 1-1!!
Yanagi strikes out swinging, to end the inning, but Jiyuugaoka has tied the game heading into the break!!
So Ono is still on the mound. Yukuhiro instead goes to play 3rd.
Watanabe leads off the 6th, but since the leadoff double to start the game, has been silent. He pops out to Yanagi behind 2nd base.
Usuda hit a slow grounder to the right side. Sotono charging gets the ball, but Ono is late in covering and Usuda beats him to the bag!
More throwing by Ono to 1st as the oen-dan plays music that suggests, "HURRY UP!!"... Hah.
Tanaka with a grounder to 2nd! Yanagi starts the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning!
I swear though, I've never seen a pitch at Koshien throw over to a bag as often as Ono. And he's left-handed!
Hifumi falls behind Itadani 3-0 before firing 2 in there to fill up the count. But he ends up losing him anyways.
The announcers are wondering the same thing I am. Where's Hifumi's control?
Ono bunts a high chopper in front of the plate and Hifumi goes to 1st for the out.
Shouta with a liner over a leaping Kurokawa into left center! Usuda over to quickly get it and Itadani only gets to 3rd as he had to wait to see if the ball would clear first.
And Suetsugu sends Shouta on the 0-2 pitch!! And it seems to catch the defense off guard! Looks like it was a delayed steal!
Now a base hit by Nakamura can score 2! Ah, but he pops it up short! Sugano in foul territory has it and the runners can't tag up! 2 down!
And Hifumi gets Sotono to hit a comebacker! Hifumi tosses to 1st and gets out of the jam!
Ono gets Fukuyama to ground out to short.
One down for Hifumi and he hits a scorcher to the left side. Fujii goes over to field it, but it gets there too quickly and it goes through him and trickles into left field for a base hit.
Interestingly, Monma-kantoku has Someya bunt the runner along.
Hm? 0-1 count to Takumi and Suetsugu-kantoku is making a defensive change? #13 Kusuda takes over for Furubashi in right. That seems strange.
Shouta with a grounder to 3rd, but Yukuhiro can't field it and it bounces into foul territory! Hifumi advances to 3rd on the error!
You know, it seems like whenever someone makes a defensive change mid-inning that an error generally follows. I don't know why managers do it...
Runners on the corners with 2 down and Suetsugu calls a conference.
Sugano with a comebacker to Ono! He reaches down to his left and snags it! Tosses to 1st and he's out of the inning!!
EH? I don't remember hearing this before! Oh right. New RF Kusuda is leading off the 7th for Jiyuugaoka, and that's why I now hear Evangelion.
Well, for a little while anyways. He goes down looking on 3 straight.
Fujii goes down swinging on a ball in the dirt that's not even close.
Yukuhiro first pitch swinging and hits a buzzer at Hifumi! He reaches down and gets it. Tosses to 1st for a 1-2-3 inning!
Kurokawa with a grounder back to Ono for out number 1.
Watanabe with a cut swing hits a fly ball down the left field line. Shouta over in foul territory at the fence makes the catch.
Usuda grounds out to short to end the inning, and that's another 1-2-3 inning by Ono!
We're approaching the end of regulation, and Toukaidai Sagami is keeping Jiyuugaoka in it.
After getting ahead of Yanagi 1-2, Hifumi walks Yanagi! Itadani looking to bunt Yanagi along, and puts it down. But it's too hard! Fukuyama gets it and throws to 2nd for the force! Kurokawa throws to 1st, but they only get one. Still, the failed bunt wastes an out!
Ono up, and Hifumi falls behind him 3-1. But Hifumi gets him to fly out to center for the 2nd out.
Shouta with a liner to right for a base hit! Itadani running on contact, gets to 3rd! Runners at the corners for Nakamura!
Now both oen-dan's are cheering! Sagami's is rooting Hifumi on, Jiyuugaoka's rooting on Nakamura.
And Hifumi walks Nakamura on 4 straight!!
Monma-kantoku calls a conference. It's marnui for Jiyuugaoka, but there's 2 down.
Sotono stepping in. Just looking for a base hit anywhere.
First pitch in for a strike. And time is called by the home plate umpire. He talks with the people in the box behind home plate, then talks to Suetsugu-kantoku. About what I don't know. But the umpire goes back to the box behind home and returns back to the plate.
The only thing I can tell is that there was some type of beeping sound before the umpire called time, but I don't know what that was.
And Sotono drives a high fastball to right center!! Usuda running over, dives... but can't get it! It goes towards the wall as the runners circle the bases!! Itadani scores! Shouta scores!! Nakamura scores!!! Sotono slides in with a bases clearing triple!! It's 4-1 Jiyuugaoka!!
Hifumi gets Kusuda to ground out to 1st to end the inning, but a timely hit puts Hifumi and Toukaidai Sagami behind the 8-ball with only 3 outs to go!
One has to wonder if the distraction caused by the umpire's time out might have thrown Hifumi off...
Ono suddenly finds himself 3 outs away from pulling off one of the bigger upsets at Koshien!
Uh oh. Perhaps the pressure is getting to him. He walks leadoff batter Tanaka.
Nakamura goes out to talk to Ono, then Suetsugu calls an official conference.
Um.. Ono's first pitch goes over Fukuyama's head.
But Fukuyama bails him out by swinging at the next pitch and flying out to center! One out!
Hifumi trying to rally the team, goes down and loops one into center for a base hit! Tanaka advances to 3rd!
Someya with a single to center! That scores Tanaka and that makes it 4-2, and there's still only 1 down!
Takumi up looking to keep the hit parade going.
Comebacker to Ono! Goes to 2nd for one!! Fujii's throw to first...
Jiyuugaoka's done it! They've upset tournament favorite and top prospect Hifumi Shinta 4-2!!!
To be honest, I'm in shock. About what I'm not sure. I think the foremost thought I have is, "Is that it?". As in - Is this really the team that seemed to have dominated the fall and whose only loss was to Oogaki Nichidai? Is that all Hifumi has to offer? Compared to what I had read, he looked very average on the mound. Could it be an injury? Maybe, but at the same time the offense looked inert as well. And they made baserunning mistakes as well.
Don't get me wrong. Jiyuugaoka should get all the credit in the world. Beating the Meiji Jingu Taikai runner-ups is no small feat. But there are a lot of questions I now have about Toukaidai Sagami...