Well, after a rather rainsoaked afternoon and early morning, the officials have decided to go ahead with the 2nd semifinal at a bit of a later start (14:00) perhaps to allow the field to dry a bit.
This semifinal though is one worth waiting for. Kounan and ace Shimabukuro have not only broken the 1st round curse, but have progressed to the Best 4 with some convincing victories over Chiben Wakayama and Teikyou. In 3 complete games so far, he has given up 25 hits and struck out 32, while just walking only 9 batters! Certainly he has shown that his stuff is for real.
But perhaps what has been real surprising has been the offense. In the past, Shimabukuro would throw a gem on the mound. But with the offense unable to do anything he would still be tacked with the loss. No more though. In what probably was a favorable matchup against Kanzei the offense was able to put several runs across and put their ace at ease. They may have also been fortunate in that they faced a Chiben Wakayama squad that did not have a standout ace, then faced a Teikyou squad that decided to not throw 2nd-year ace Itou onto the mound. Ketashiro and Ganeko have been the primary sparks in the offense.
But that will probably change here in the semifinals as they will certainly face Oogaki Nichidai's ace Kassai.
The Meiji Jingu Taikai champions seem to be hitting their stride at the right time. After a nailbiter against Kawashima in the first round where they won in 10, they turned around and ran circles around Osaka Touin's staff belting out 2 homers in the process. Finally in the quarterfinals, they actually rested Kassai and put #10 Achira on the mound. Didn't matter. I felt so bad for the Hokushou kids in that game as they would go down 10-0 after just 3 innings. But it serves to prove that the team is more than ready to beat teams that they should.
Kounan will have to watch out for Koo and Andou as they have provided much of the offense for Oogaki Nichidai.
Kounan (Okinawa) - Kyushu 3/4
2B Kuniyoshi Tairiku (#6)
CF Ketashiro Kai
3B Ganeko Moritsugu
1B Maehira Daiki
RF Mekaru Keisuke
C Yamakawa Daisuke
LF Irei Shinya
P Shimabukuro Yousuke
2B Ooshiro Kouji (#15)
Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu) - Tokai Champions
CF Morita Shouken
SS Kojima Takuya
RF Gotou Kenta
1B Takada Naohiro
3B Koo Takudai
LF Andou Yoshirou
2B Nagaoka Yoshiki
C Tokimoto Ryou
P Kassai Yukiya
14:02 - First pitch!
After falling behind 2-0, he fires two fastballs in to even the count. Count goes full and Tairiku lines one, but right to Andou.
Kassai keeping his pitches low, but the Kounan batters are making him work. Ketashiro runs the count full, fouls a couple of pitches off and earns a walk.
And Gakiya-kantoku sends Ketashiro to 2nd! Tokimoto with the throw, it's there in time, but Kojima doesn't go over far enough to put the tag on! Ketashiro slides in and he's safe!!
Kassai continues to keep the balls down, but they're not in the zone! Ganeko earns a walk!!
Sakaguchi-kantoku immediately calls a conference.
Maehira swings away as if he was hitting one out, but gets caught in a curve.
Ooo.... Kassai throws it way outside and Tokimoto has to dive over to get it.
And Maehira is jammed! Grounder to 2nd! Nagaoka to Kojima for one, relay to Takada... TWO! A timely double play ends the threat and Oogaki Nichidai will head into the dugout to pick up the sticks!
Looks like Oogaki is implementing the same strategy. Count goes 2-2 on Morita and he starts fouling off pitches, then takes ball 3, then continues to foul off more pitches. They're getting closer to the left field foul line.
But he gets caught looking at a fastball inside!
Kojima up, this time falls behind 0-2, and strikes out on a pitch outside! Shimabukuro quickly with 2 K's!
Gotou looking to break the streak of K's, and he does, but it's a jammed dribbler up the 1st base side that Shimabukuro tosses to 1st for the 3rd out. Extra day's rest may have helped him.
Mekaru falling behind early in the count once again but works it full, then has to just walk away on a pitch on the outside part of the plate.
Yamakawa up, gets ahead 2-1. Then hits a drive down the right field line! Gotou back to the pole...
Yamakawa this time bringing the braun as he hits a homerun to right!! It's 1-0 Kounan!!
Irei up.. and he's hit on a 2-2 pitch! Shimabukuro wastes no time in bunting him over to 2nd. 2 down now for Kouji.
And he hits a drive to center! Morita trying to run it down, but can't get it! Irei rounds 3rd, and he scores! Irei with an RBI double and it's 2-0 Kounan!!
Back to the top of the order and Tairiku. And he walks! Runners on 1st and 2nd now for Kounan! Things could be getting out of hand quickly!
Ketashiro with a liner to left! That's in for a base hit! Kouji comes around to score and it now 3-0!! What the heck is happening??
Sakaguchi calls for another conference. They cannot let this game get further away from them, especially with Shimabukuro on the mound.
Fortunately, Ganeko grounds to 3rd to end the inning, but Kounan has put a 3-spot on the board... 3 runs could easily look like 10 against Shimabukuro...
So now what? Oogaki suddenly finds themselves down 3-0!
Cleanup batter Takada pops one up to Tairiku.
Koo reaches down, but hits a lazy fly to left.
Andou falls behind 0-2, lays off a ball outside and a curve in the dirt to level the count. Lays off another fastball just outside. And a high pitch sends him to 1st!
Runner on with 2 down for Nagaoka. Again Shimabukuro gets ahead 0-2. Hit-and-run, but Nagaoka just waves and misses for strike 3.
Maehira crushes a curve that Kassai leaves up! Gotou running back, but it one-hops to the wall! Maehira's in with a double!
Mekaru now with a liner to left! Gotou up with it and Maehira holds at 3rd! But runners at the corners for Kounan with no out!!
Yamakawa first pitch swinging crushes another one!!!!!!!
Gotou running back, and that's over his head! The runners takes off! Maehira scores!! Mekaru rounding 3rd and he scores! Yamakawa slides into 3rd with a 2-run triple!!! It's now 5-0!!!
And that's it for Kassai. Sakaguchi-kantoku pulls him for #10 Achira...
Irei with a drive to center!!! Morita running back to the wall! That's lands at the base!! Yamakawa scores on the double and it's 6-0!!
OH GOD!! Shimabukuro hits a high pitch just right of the right field foul pole!! They're just teeing off now!
But Shimabukuro goes down swinging.
Kouji with a looper to center. Kojima running out from short, leaping... makes the catch! 2 down.
Tairiku looking to keep the inning going, but he flies out to left. Inning is over, but Oogaki takes more damage. They're down 6 and taking on a lot of water.
Tokimoto with a fly to shallow center and Ketashiro runs it down.
New pitcher Achira up. Grounder to 1st and Maehira has it. Tosses to Shimabukuro for the 2nd out.
And Morita gets fooled on a pitch away and hits a soft comebacker to Shimabukuro for the 3rd out.
Oogaki can't seem to find anything against Shimabukuro.
Achira gets Ketashiro to hit an infield fly to Kojima.
...but then falls behind 2-0 to Ganeko.
OW. Ganeko hits a comebacker that goes off Achira and through the gap at short!
Maehira with a grounder to 1st. Takada with the throw to 2nd for 1, relay from Kojima not in time.
2 down, runner on 1st for Mekaru...
And he singles to left center! Runners on 1st and 2nd.
Yamakawa up, already with a homerun and triple...
He lines one to right!! That's in for a single! Maehira scores and it's 7-0!
Runners at the corners for Irei.
First pitch down the 3rd base line! Koo dives but can't get it! Mekaru rounds 3rd and scores on Irei's 2nd double! IT'S 8-0!!!
Shimabukuro with a hard shot! But Takada snags it for the 3rd out! But Kounan is just wailing on the Oogaki pitching!
Shimabukuro with the big cushion just continues to throw away. Kojima hits a high fly to left center that Ketashiro runs down. Gotou goes down swinging, and Takada flies out to right.
It really shouldn't be mentioned, but Shimabukuro is throwing a no-hitter...
Achira might be getting his first easy inning!
Kouji grounds to 2nd for the first out...
Back to the top of the order and Tairiku grounds to short for the 2nd out...
But Ganeko proves to be stubborn. He works the count full and continues to foul off pitches. Achira though gets his 1-2-3 inning as Ganeko grounds to 2nd.
Koo with a grounder back up the middle. Tairiku running it down,, makes a sliding backhanded grab! Throw to 1st for the out!
Andou with a sharp shot right at Kouji, but he corrals it and makes the 2nd out!
Nagaoka with a roller up the right side. Maehira charges, can't get it - but Tairiku backing up has it. Tosses to Shimabukuro... OUT!
Shimabukuro just beats Nagaoka to the bag for the 3rd out! Oogaki tried their best to get that first hit, but the Kounan defense is proving to be stubborn!!
The barrage of Kounan seems to have subsided as Ganeko weakly grounds out to 2nd.
Maehira gets up 3-1 and is given the green light - but grounds to 1st.
Achira gets his 2nd consecutive 1-2-3 inning as he flies out to Morita.
1-2-3 innings are nice and all, but down 8-0, they'll need to get the sticks going quite a bit to get back in this one...
Heck, I think they'll just take one hit at this point.
Shimabukuro is out to prevent that from happening keeping pitches on the edges of the zone.
But it also means he's throwing a lot more pitches. It's 2-2 on Tokimoto and he's fouled 2... make that 3 off...
And hits a high popup. Ganeko coming in, Maehira also coming in. Shimabukuro staying out of the way. It's Ganeko who takes charge and moves in for the catch.
Achira up, but he just pops up to Tairiku.
3rd time through the lineup now for Shimabukuro, and he gets ahead of Morita 0-2.
Morita with a dribbler to the right side. But Maehira isn't going to get it! Tairiku has to hurry over to cover, and he won't get there in time! Morita's on with an infield single!
Perhaps if Maehira had gone to get it, Shimabukuro would have been able to cover and keep the no-hitter alive.
Instead the inning continues with Kojima. But he goes down swinging for only Shimabukuro's 5th K.
Oogaki Nichidai was able to prevent the no-hitter, but now what about the shutout?
Yamakawa steps up to bat just a double away from the cycle!!
Falls behind 1-2, but evens the count. Can he do it?
Curve high, full count...
And a curve ball freezes him! He strikes out looking! Will he get another AB?
Irei with a sharp shot at Kojima. He fumbles with the ball! Picks it up, throw to 1st... just beats Irei!
And Shimabukuro fouls out to Koo to end the inning. Another 1-2-3 inning for Achira.
Gotou with a hard grounder at Kouji! He dives, but it's off his glove and into left for a leadoff hit!
Takada with a drive to left! Irei backpedaling quickly... makes the catch!
Oogaki finally making some good contact with the ball.
Koo hits one to left in foul territory and Irei has enough room to run it down for the 2nd out.
And Andou can only look at a pitch on the outside corner for strike 3...
Another base hit, but little consolation.
Defensive change for Oogaki as #15 Takamura is in for Andou in LF.
Kouji with a grounder past a diving Takada, but Nagaoka backing up dives and gets it. Throws to Achira... OUT! Nice play on both ends on that one!
Tairiku though hits a liner to center for his 1st hit of the game.
Achira gets Ketashiro to fly to left for out number 2.
And Gakiya sends Tairiku! Tokimoto's throw to 2nd is in time for the out!!
Achira's called for a balk! Tairiku is given 2nd!
Ganeko drives a ball to deep left center, and that's all the way to the wall. Tairiku comes around to score on the double and it's 9-0.
Maehira up and it looks like Achira is a bit out of sorts. He falls behind Maehira 3-1, then he lines one hard foul.
Achira does get him to fly out to right, but that extra run probably hurts Oogaki even more.
Oh? Gakiya-kantoku looks to give Shimabukuro a break. Shimabukuro moves to right while #10 Sunakawa takes Mekaru's spot and takes the hill.
Sunakawa is a lefty who throws in the low 130's.
And it seems business as usual. Nagata flies out to center.
But Tokimoto gets Oogaki 3rd hit with a bloop to shallow right just out of the reach of Tairiku.
That's quickly erased as Achira hits a grounder right to Kouji who starts the 6-4-3 double play!
So we will indeed see Yamakawa and another attempt at the cycle.
First there's Sunakawa who just took the hill last half-inning.
And he drives one to center?!! That's over Morita's head and he's in with a double!
So now Yamakawa steps up needing a hit just like that for the cycle!
Curve outside 1-0... Fastball inside 2-0... Fastball low, but he fouls it off...
And he's jammed! Pop up right to Achira and he has it for the 2nd out. No cycle for him.
Now #16 Agena pinch hits for Irei.
And he hits one back up the middle! Kojima unable to get it and Sunakawa scores making it double digits. 10-0.
Shimabukuro quickly grounds out to short for the 2nd out.
Kouji with a hard liner to right, but Nagaoka leaps up high and snags it! Nice play to end the inning!
Agena stays in to play LF.
Last ups for Oogaki Nichidai.
Morita fighting hard at the plate and slices one down the left field line... fair! Agena runs it down, but Morita's in with a leadoff double!
Kojima looking to drive him in. He hits a grounder to 2nd which advances Morita to 3rd.
Sac fly from Gotou gets the job done, but he pops it up! Ganeko over in foul territory to get it and there 2 down!
Can Takada get the runner home? He's up 2-0...
But he hits a grounder right to Tairiku! Throw to 1st is in time for the final out and Kounan has the shutout and a spot in the finals against Nichidai-san!!
This should be fun!