After the whirlwind that was the semifinals, all teams come back today on no rest to battle it out. This means the that champion will have to win 3 games in 3 days to claim the title. And if you're Oogaki Nichidai, 4 wins in 4 days!
But that's for later. Our opening semifinal is an interesting matchup. In the recent cycle of Hiroshima baseball, it was Jyousuikan who faded into the sunset while Kouryou took the lead spot. Ace Arihara has been waiting to take the hill at Koshien, and so far has proven to be up to the task with his most recent win a convincing 5-1 victory over Chuukyoudai Chuukyou.
Now when Nichidai-san was selected as the Tokyo/Kanto At-large bid, my first though was, "What?" Nichidai-san had lost to Teikyou in the semifinals, and there were some good teams in the Kanto Best 8 such as Urawa Gakuin, Touin Gakuen (who had lost to Yokohama Hayato in the prefectural finals last summer). Yet it was the well-known Nichidai-san that was selected.
I thought perhaps it was bias, allowing a big-name school to enter the tournament. They've been to Koshien many times, and would get some draw and attention. Looking at the team, there was nothing about it that screamed top tier. The hitting was a bit above average, they had multiple pitchers that they threw out there on the mound. It certainly didn't feel like a powerhouse team.
But at Koshien anything can happen, and Nichidai-san has proven me wrong. Now, their first 2 games were against 21st century teams, and while I will NOT pull a Nonomura, I will say that generally the 21st century teams are not of the same caliber. Now ace Fujita from Kouyou did give the team a fight, but they were able to move on. And against what I thought was an above-average Tsuruga Kehi team, they just annihilated 10-0.
And now here they are in the semifinals, and just 2 games away from the title. But they're facing by far their hardest test in Kouryou...
So let's pull the curtains on the penultimate day and let the games begin!
Kouryou (Hiroshima) - Chuugoku At-large
2B Fukuda Shuuhei
SS Toyota Takamitsu (#9)
RF Sanda Tatsuya (#6)
1B Maruko Tatsuya
CF Mikoshiba Daiki
LF Kuramasu Takahiro
3B Tokuda Shinyuu (#13)
P Arihara Kouhei
C Shintani Atsushi
Nichidai-san (Tokyo) - Kanto/Tokyo At-large
RF Takayama Shun
1B Ogihara Tatsurou (#4)
CF Hiraiwa Takuji
3B Yokoo Toshitake
P Yamazaki Sachiya
SS Yoshizawa Shougo
LF Azegami Shou
1B Sano Tomohito
C Suzuki Takahiro (#12)
11:02 - First pitch!
Fukuda starts off the game with a liner to center for a base hit!
Toyota showing bunt, but fouls it off. Tries again, but misses. 0-2 now... still showing bunt!
Pulls it back and slaps it into right! Fukuda rounding 2nd and reaches 3rd easily! Runners on 1st and 3rd right for Kouryou!
Sanda looking to put Kouryou on the board quickly.
Boy the stadium is EMPTY. Where IS everyone??!
Oh, this isn't good. Yamazaki behind 3-1 to Sanda! And he hits him! Manrui for Kouryou!!!
Ogura-kantoku calls time and calls a conference.
Maruko with a comebacker to Yamazaki! Home for one, throw to first, double play!! Maruko disastrously grounds into the 1-2-3 double play and there's 2 outs!
Mikoshiba hoping to salvage something out of this inning...
Yamazaki with a wild pitch that gets away from Suzuki! Toyota comes in to score and Kouryou does indeed get on the board! 1-0!
Mikoshiba walks putting runners at the corners again.
Another wild pitch by Yamazaki that Suzuki can't block!! Sanda walks in and it's 2-0 Kouryou!!
Kuramasu grounds out to short to end the inning, but after seeming to be on his way to getting out of an early mess, Yamazaki's 2 wild pitches negate it all!
Arihara starts Takayama with a steady diet of sliders, and strikes him out swinging.
Ogihara swings on Arihara's first fastball and grounds it to short. Toyota can't get a grip on it though and Ogihara reaches safely!
Arihara records his 2nd K as he gets Hiraiwa on an outside fastball.
Now it's Arihara with a wild pitch advancing Ogihara to 2nd!!
AH! The wild pitch immediately becomes damaging as Yokoo drives a fastball the opposite way to right center! Sanda gets the ball in, but not before Ogihara scores to make it a 2-1 ballgame!!
Yamazaki with a ball back up the middle! Mikoshiba throwing the ball home as Yokoo is waved home! Shintani with the tag, but not in time! Yokoo is called safe and just like that Nichidai-san has leveled the score!! 2-2!!
And Arihara walks Yoshizawa! After what seemed like a good start, he has looked erratic on the mound.
Count goes full on Azegami and the runners will be taking off again. Azegami grounds to 1st to end the inning.
Some inconsistent pitching on both sides to start the game. Is the back-to-back games affecting them?
Yamazaki settling down here in the 2nd. He gets a 1-2-3 inning as he retires the bottom of Kouryou's order in a mere 7 pitches:
- Tokuda grounds to 2nd
- Arihara flies out to center
- Shintani pops up to short
We'll see if he's back to normal next inning.
Some umbrellas come out behind home plate. Guess the rain's coming down a bit more now.
Arihara has a similar inning to Yamazaki:
- Sano grounds out to 3rd
- Suzuki grounds out to short
- Takayama grounds back to Arihara
He needed a couple more pitches than Yamazaki, but again, we'll see if he's back to normal as well...
Fukuda leads off the 3rd with a base hit to left. Toyota looking to bunt him along but Yamazaki isn't letting him.
So on the 1-2 pitch he pulls it back and swings away! It's a hit-and-run! Toyota hits a grounder to short and Yoshizawa's only play is to 1st.
Sanda with a grounder back to Yamazaki! It hits his feet and deflects to the right of 2nd! But Ogihara is there to pick it up and make the out at 1st. Fukuda advances to 3rd, but there's 2 down.
Yoshizawa falls behind Maruko 3-0 but manages to work the count back full. Eventually he induces a groundout to 2nd to end the inning.
Yamazaki has another relatively short inning, but his inability to throw strikes is still a bit concerning.
Ogihara with a drive to left!!! Kuramasu running back to the wall!!
Ogihara drives a hanging curve into the left field stands!!! Nichidai-san takes the lead just like that 3-2!!
And then he loses Hiraiwa after being ahead 1-2!
Yokoo isn't bunting here, Ogura's letting him swinging away! And he drives one to deep center! Mikoshiba a couple of steps in front of the wall makes the catch!
Now Arihara loses Yamazaki as well! Arihara doesn't look sharp at all again!
Shintani out to the mound to try and calm Arihara down.
Doesn't work!! Yoshizawa with a grounder through the gap to left! Manrui for Nichidai-san!!
Conference on the mound now. This game can slip out of control quickly if Arihara's not careful.
Chopper to 2nd! Fukuda with it, tags Yoshizawa! Throw to 1st for the double play and Arihara gets out of the inning giving up only the homerun!
It certainly could have been worse, and while Arihara got out of the mess, his lack of control is also disconcerting.
This could be a wild game if this keeps up...
Mikoshiba leads off the 4th with a grounder up the middle that sneaks by Yoshizawa!
Kouryou's oen-dan is playing Dash Keio! (Although perhaps a tad slow...)
Kuramasu not bunting, and hits a grounder to 1st! Sano throws to 2nd for one, relay back to Yoshizaki, two!! The double play wipes out the opportunity!
(AUGH!! Kuramasu, run THROUGH the bag!!!!!)
Tokuda earns a two-out walk.
Arihara up now. And Yamazaki's 1-2 pitch is in the dirt and Tokuda takes off for 2nd!
Chance for Arihara to even the score, but he's frozen on a fastball inside to end the inning.
Sano with a high chopper back to Arihara who snags it and throws to 1st for the out.
Suzuki goes down on a slider down and outside.
Hm? Ogura-kantoku pinch hits for Takayama. But he also goes down swinging.
He looks good this time around, but how long will that last?
Ootsuka says in the game and plays RF.
Pitching change for Nichidai-san! Ogura-kantoku will look to the bullpen to hold the game now.
Yamazaki is relieved for the first time by #10 Kumasaka. He moves to 1st while Kumasaka comes in for Sano to take the hill.
And he starts his appearance by hitting Shintani. Then he walks Fukuda! Oy, this isn't looking good...
Toyota immediately looking to bunt the runners over. But he fails twice and falls behind 1-2.
And he's still trying! But pulls it back for ball 2. 5th pitch, and he lays it down! Suzuki gets it and goes to 1st, but that's a risky call there by Nakai-kantoku.
Looks like Ogura doesn't like what he sees and replaces Kumasaka with #11 Yoshinaga.
...and he proceeds to strike out Sanda swinging. Yoshinaga has a huge speed difference (high 130 fastball, high 110 slider).
The control on those offspeed pitches though is lacking a bit, and he walks Maruko to load the bases!!
But Mikoshiba swings at the first pitch and grounds to 1st! Yamazaki has it for the 3rd out and Nichidai-san is out of the inning!
I don't know about the bullpen for Nichidai-san. It looks a bit shaky - but at least they have Yamazaki still in the game in case things go awry.
Ogihara grounds out to 3rd to start the inning as Nichidai-san plays their own rally music again (I really like it, but I don't know if any of the Koshien music CD's would have it...)
Hiraiwa goes down swinging, and Yokoo quickly fouls out to Shintani.
We head to the break with Nichidai holding a 1-run lead. The pitching has been a bit sloppy and with the weather conditions as they are, it might stay that way.
Kuramasu back from the break with a shot over Azegami's head! It one-hops the wall and he's in with a leadoff double!
Eh? Nakai-kantoku is pinch hitting for Tokuda. #14 Ninomiya is coming in.
And he's bunting??
He lays it down and Yokoo throws to Ogihara for the out, but it's still strange to see a person pinch hit just to bunt.
Tying run 90 feet away now for Arihara... but he goes down swinging on a change inside!!! 2 down for Kouryou!
Up to Shintani now...
Eh? After the first pitch to Shintani, Ogura-kantoku makes a defensive change???
#16 Kobayashi comes in for Ootsuka and goes to CF. Hiraiwa goes to RF.
How does this make sense, and why now at 1-0?
And after all that on a 3-0 count, Shintani is hit again! Runners on the corners for top batter Fukuda.
Count goes full on Fukuda runners take off, but he just fouls it off. 7th pitch, runners take off again, and it's ball 4! Manrui for Kouryou!
Ever since the defensive change, it seems like Yoshinaga's all out of sorts.
Toyota up now and I'm pretty sure he's not bunting this time.
Liner to right!! That's over Ogihara's head! Kuramasu scores, Shintani with the wide turn at 3rd, he's being waved home! Hiraiwa with the throw home, but Suzuki is up the first base line and can't make the tag! Toyota with a 2-out timely hit and Kouryou takes the lead! It's 4-3!!
Sanda steps in looking for another timely hit to extend the lead! The oen-dan is playing much louder urging the team to go.
And after a pitch above Sanda's head, Yoshinaga falls behind 3-1! Suzuki goes out to settle him down.
Sanda with the green light, but fouls it off!
And Yoshinaga gets him swinging on another changeup! Suzuki loses the handle on the ball, but makes the throw to 1st to end the inning.
But walks by Yoshinaga wind up hurting him as he relinquishes the lead here in the 6th!
Ninomiya stays in the game and takes over at 3B.
Yamazaki leads off the 6th with a single through the infield to right.
Yoshizawa with the bunt, Arihara's throw to 1st just beats out a running Yoshizawa.
Azegami with a grounder through Arihara's legs and into center!! They're sending Yamazaki home!! Mikoshiba fires it in but the relay from Toyota is wide and Yamazaki scores! We're all tied at 4-4!!
Yoshinaga slices one past Maruko into right!! Azegami holds at 2nd, but Nichidai-san is threatening!
Arihara trying to shut it down, but Ogura is looking for a bunt! Suzuki fouls the 0-1 pitch off and he's probably swinging away now.
But he pops it up! Fukuda next to 2nd makes the catch as the infield fly rule is called and there's 2 down.
EH? Kobayashi trying for the safety bunt, but misses on a pitch down and outside.
Arihara pitching him away, and Kobayashi bites on a change. 1-2.
Kobayashi swings on another change and grounds out to 2nd. But Nichidai-san has come back to equalize and it's a new ballgame!
Maruko with a drive to right!! Hiraiwa running to the fence but stops!
A no-doubt-about-it home run by Maruko and just like that Kouryou has the lead again!! It's 5-4!!
And Ogura-kantoku makes another pitching change! Yoshizawa comes in from short to take the hill. Ogihara moves across the bag to short, and #15 Negishi comes in for Yoshinaga to play 2nd.
Yoshizawa gets Mikoshiba on a slider for the first out.
The rain seems to be picking up now at Koshien as umbrellas are popping up all over the stadium.
However, he too has control issues as he walks Kuramasu,
Ninomiya showing bunt again, but pulls it back for ball 1. Shows bunt again, but pulls it back to swing! Does it again, and fouls it off. One more time, but this time he hits it back to Yoshizawa! He goes to 2nd for one, relay by Ogihara, double play!
Yoshizawa gets the last two outs here in the 7th, but Maruko's homerun gives Kouryou the lead once again!
Arihara firing sliders at Ogihara gets him looking.
Hiraiwa up as Arihara breaks the 100 pitch mark. He hits a sharp grounder to 1st. Maruko backhands it and runs to 1st for the 2nd out.
And Yokoo goes down swinging to end the inning! Kouryou still hanging on to their one run lead!
Arihara with a grounder to short, but Ogihara's throw is high! It goes into the camera well as Arihara is given 2nd! Chance for Kouryou to extend the lead!
Shintani a given to bunt here. His first attempt goes foul. After a pitch low, he tries again but fouls that one off down the 3rd base side too! 1-2 now, and he's bunting again! But he fouls that off to and is retired! One down!
Back to the top of the order and Fukuda. Will he be bunting too?
Doesn't look like it. But he goes down looking! 2 down now and Arihara is still at 2nd!
But Yoshizawa hits Toyota! He extends the inning? Will it come back to hurt him?
Sanda up, but he pops it up! Yamazaki under it in foul territory for the catch to retire the side!! Kouryou with a runner on 2nd and no out can't get the runner home! They'll have to settle for the 1-run lead once again!
Yamazaki with a swinging bunt that slowly goes up the left side! Ninomiya comes in gets it, double clutches and his throw is high! Yamazaki on base with an infield hit! Yoshizawa immediately bunts him over into scoring position.
The rain is coming down harder now...
And Arihara walks Azegami on 4 straight!! Runners on 1st and 2nd for Nichidai-san!
Negishi up for his first AB and Arihara's first pitch goes way outside! He evens the count though.
Negishi shows bunt! Lays it down. Arihara with it, throws to first!!!!!!!!!!!
He throws it away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The ball goes up the line as Yamazaki scores! We're tied at 5-5 and Nichidai has runners at 2nd and 3rd!!
#17 Shimizu comes in to pinch hit for Suzuki.
Arihara's first pitch is a fastball way in front!
Shimizu with a hard shot that Maruko cannot get his glove fully on! The ball dies as it rolls into the outfield allowing both Azegami and Negishi to score as Sanda has to run it down!! It's 7-5 Nichidai-san!!
Kobayashi with a bunt down the third base line! Ninomiya running in throws it first... SAFE!!! Kobayashi's dives just beats out the throw and everyone's safe!!
Ogihara up now, and Arihara seems to be a bit rattled. He looks down on the mound after his 1-0 pitch perhaps worried about his footing.
And Ogihara with a single back up the middle! That's past a diving Fukuda into center! Shimizu rounds third and he will score! It's now 8-5 Nichidai!
Hiraiwa up, and Arihara seems to continue having issues with his footing on the mound after his delivery... He continues to work the mound to try and find some thing comfortable.
But he must still be having issues as he walks Hiraiwa!
Shintani goes up to him to have a few words. As he leaves, Arihara is looking around.
Then there's a shot of Arihara looking towards the dugout as Nakai-kantoku is folding his arms. Arihara goes back and tries to work on the mound moving dirt/mud around.
He doesn't look comfortable out there at all and it seems like he's trying to find a way to get the mound fixed, for the umpires to call a rain delay, or to just get off the mound....
2-1 on Yokoo and Arihara continues to work the mound...
And Yokoo with a liner to left for a base hit! Kuramasu bobbles the ball!! 2 runs come in to score and it's now 10-5!
Finally Nakai-kantoku puts Arihara out of his misery. #10 Ueno comes in to relieve him.
But Arihara's feelings are written all over his face. As if he felt frustrated and almost helpless as the inning unfolded before him.
It's not just the mound. The infield is looking pretty bad too.
Yamazaki up for the 2nd time this inning. He hits a grounder to the right side past a drawn in Maruko and into right for a base hit. Hiraiwa scores and it's now 11-5.
Yoshizawa swinging at a pitch way up and in hits a grounder though the left side! That scores another and it's now 12-5.
Azegami up and Ueno is having trouble getting the ball to the plate, and he seems like he's having mound issues. He throws 3 in front before getting one across.
But Azegami hits the next pitch back up the middle past a diving Fukuda into center! Yamazaki holds at 3rd and the bases are loaded again.
Man, you have to feel bad for Kouryou now. The rain has totally eaten them alive here in the 8th...
Negishi the 13th batter up this inning. Grounder to 1st. Maruko has it. Throw to 2nd....
His throw is way wide and goes into the outfield...
Yamazaki and Azegami come in to score making it 14-5...
And Nakai makes another pitching change. #11 Kawasaki comes in for Ueno who wasn't able to retire a single batter in the hopes of getting out of this inning.
Shimizu now up for his 2nd AB with runners on 1st and 2nd.
He hits a grounder to Maruko who goes to 1st for the out.
Kobayashi up with 2 down and runners at 2nd and 3rd. Tries the bunt, but fouls it off.
Kawasaki strikes him out to mercifully end the inning...
The rain has taken it's toll on Kouryou. 3 pitchers, 15 batters, 10 runs.
While they'll certainly get their last ups and Yoshizawa may have the same problems, 9 runs is a lot to ask for...
#18 Katou comes in for Shimizu to take over at C.
Maruko is called out on a check swing to start the 9th.
Mikoshiba tries to bunt, pulls it back, but after appealing to 3rd is called for a strike.
And Mikoshiba goes down looking. 2 down.
Kuramasu the last chance for Kouryou and Yoshizawa's first pitch goes all the way to the backstop. He eventually earns a walk.
Kuramasu's replaced by #16 Okamoto at 1st while #5 Yamauchi pinch hits for Ninomiya.
Yamauch singles to left, and there's runners at 1st and 2nd for Kawasaki.
Oh wait. #12 Naruhashi comes in to pinch hit for Kawasaki.
Count goes to 2-2 and they're down to their last strike. But Yoshizawa throws two pitches high, the 2nd going all the way to the backstop and the bases are loaded.
More changes. #18 Ueda goes in to pinch run for Naruhashi while #15 Eguchi pinch hits for Shintani. This leaves #17 Shimizu as the only bench player left for Kouryou.
Yoshizawa can't seem to get the ball down and he walks Eguchi to force in a run making it 14-6.
Back to the top of the order and Fukuda is swinging away.
Grounder to short, throw by Ogihara is wide! 2 runs come in to score making it 14-8.
Yoshizawa continues to have issues as he walks Toyota on 3 straight to load the bases again.
Ogura-kantoku calls a conference on the mound. While it'll take another run or two before he gets really concerned, he really doesn't want to get to that point.
Yoshizawa puts two in the zone and Kouryou is once again down to their final strike.
Sanda fouling a pitch off now having to protect the plate.
And Yoshizawa sails one to the backstop again and Eguchi comes in... make that slides in... to score making it 14-9.
Still 5 runs is a lot, and even a base hit to score the other 2 wouldn't make me that concerned if I were Nichidai-san.
And Sanda strikes out on a high fastball to end the game.
Nichidai-san advances to the championship game, and for Kouryou it seems the weather gods do not like Hiroshima for some reason as it has played a part in the last 2 Koshien tournaments - Jyousuikan vs. Kochi last summer and Kouryou here today. Perhaps you could call it bad timing, but if I were managing the team coming out of Hiroshima for the summer Koshien, I'd consider giving an offering wishing for good weather. It's really too bad Arihara had to end his tournament this way.