Our 2nd semifinal of the day was one I thought might be interesting if it happened, and lo and behold, they drew each other in the Best 8!
Kounan we all know from senbatsu, Shimabukuro on the mound, and the well-rounded offense from top to bottom - that hasn't changed. About the only chink in their armor is that Shimabukuro has had small gaps where his pitches are more than hittable which has led to some runs.
Seikou Gakuin has been a pleasant surprise. Under the guise of their newly minted #1 Saiuchi, they pulled off the upset of Kouryou, and then defeated a solid Riseisha squad. Offense is certainly a concern, especially against Shimabukuro, but as long as Saiuchi keeps the team in the game, I thought they had one of the better chances to defeat Kounan. Throw in the fact that Shimabukuro is working on less than a day's rest, and it seems like the chances increase.
So, what will we see today?
Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima)
SS Murashima Daisuke
CF Nemoto Koichi
2B Yamaguchi Kouki
1B Endou Masahiro
RF Sanpei (Eiki)
3B Saitou Hideya
C Hoshi Yuutarou
LF Itakura Kouta
P Saiuchi Hiroaki
2B Kuniyoshi Tairiku
CF Ketashiro Kai
3B Ganeko Moritsugu
1B Maehira Daiki
RF Mekaru Keisuke
C Yamakawa Daisuke
LF Irei Shinya
P Shimabukuro Yousuke
SS Ooshiro Kouji
13:50 - First Pitch!
Shimabukuro starts off the game with a strikeout of Murashima on a fastball inside!
Nemoto strikes out on a fastball down and away!
And Yamaguchi pops it up in foul teritory! Ganeko near the camera well makes the catch! Shimabukuro's thrown all fastballs!
Kuniyoshi with a leadoff single through the right side! Gakiya will play for the single run.
But Ganeko pops up to center! Nemoto ranging to his left makes the sliding catch!
And Saiuchi gets Maehira to ground to short to end the inning!
Masahiro with a drive down the left field alley for a double! Sanpei moves him to 3rd.
Hideya with a shot down the right field line, fair! Hideya's in with an RBI double! 1-0 Seikou!
Hoshi with a scorcher down the left field line fair! That's good for a double! Hideya scores and it's 2-0 Saikou!
Itakura pops it up. Ooshiro under it for the 2nd out.
Saiuchi with a grounder through the left side for a base hit! Hoshi comes around, HE SCORES!!
IT'S 3-0 SEIKOU GAKUIN!
They're looking for the fastball and swinging away!
Murashima with a grounder to the right side. It deflects off of Kuniyoshi's glove and into right! Saitou advances to 3rd!
And Gakiya-kantoku calls a conference. This is a surprising turn of events...
Murashima takes off on the 1-1 pitch. No throw! A base hit here could blow it wide open!!
But Shimabukuro strikes Nemoto out swinging to end the inning.
The stadium is quiet as the scoreboard reads 3 runs for Seikou here in the top of the 2nd!
Mekaruwith a grounder back up the middle for a leadoff hit. He's bunted to 2nd for Irei.
Irei with a ball to the right center gap! That'll go to the wall! Mekaru scores and Kounan quickly strikes back with a run, 3-1!
Shimabukuro with a fly to right. Sanpei with the catch, and Irei tags up! The throw is on a line to home, but Hoshi can't handle it! Irei scores and it's 3-2 Seikou!!
Ooshiro with a single past Yamaguchi into center! And he goes to steal 2nd! He slides in safe!
Kuniyoshi with his 2nd hit, another ball through the left side! Ooshiro stops at 3rd and there's runners at the corners!
Saitou-kantoku with a conference. Are they really going to give the lead up this quickly?
Kuniyoshi takes off for 2nd! Throw from Hoshi and he's trapped between bases? He's run down 2-6-3 and just like that the inning is over! That has to be a missed sign somewhere...
Shimabukuro was about to get a 1-2-3 inning when Sanpei singles past Ganeko into left.
But he quickly shuts it down by striking out Hideya for his 5th K.
Ketashiro gives Kounan another leadoff runner as he hits a high fastball to left. Ganeko moves the douten run into scoring position for cleanup batter Maehira who has for the most part struggled this tournament.
But he delivers a base hit up the middle! Ketashiro, originally thinking it was going to be fielded went back to 2nd, then bolted for 3rd and beat the throw from Nemoto.
Runners at the corners now.
Mekaru with a chopper past Yamaguchi! Ketashiro comes in ! Douten!!!
Yamakawa with a grounder to short! Murashima to Yamaguchi to Masahiro for the inning-ending double play!
But the lead for Seikou is short lived as Kounan's offense roars right back!
Hoshi with a ball to the left side. Ooshiro with a great stop! And he makes a strong throw to 1st for the out!
Shimabukuro retires the next two batters for a 1-2-3 inning, and Kounan is back on the sticks again.
One down and Shimabukuro hits a popup to shallow center. Yamaguchi and Nemoto range towards it, and they bump into each other! The ball drops in! E4, and that's Seikou's first error!
Ooshiro tries the push bunt up the 1st base line! Saiuchi barely runs it down and tosses it to 1st for the 2nd out.
Kuniyoshi with his THIRD hit of the game as he shoots a ball through to left! Shimabukuro holds at 3rd!
Count 1-2 to Ketashiro. Fastball down and in.... ball! Fastball inside... ball!!!
Oh, Saiuchi doesn't look happy about that...
And Ketashiro takes full advantage!!!!! He drives one to right center! It's going to the wall! That'll clear the bases! Ketashiro in with a triple, 5-3!!
Saitou-kantoku makes the change... #11 Haga Tomoya comes in to relieve Saiuchi. You have to wonder if he was squeezed on those two pitches because that certainly affected him...
Ganeko wiht a grounder to 2nd. Yamaguchi boots it!!! He runs it down, throws to 1st, but it's too late!! Ketashiro scores and it's 6-3 Kounan!!
Maehira grounds out to 2nd to end the inning, but a possible borderline call costs Seikou 3 runs!
Murashima with a single through the left side. Saitou tries the hit and run, but Nemoto chops one back to Shimabukuro who goes to 1st. He advances to 3rd on the flyout by Yamaguchi to right.
Masahiro in a battle against Shimabukuro trying to get the runner in. He fouls a couple off as the count runs full...
SANSHIN!!!! Masahiro can't catch up to a Shimabukuro fastball, and he's out of the inning!
Mekaru with a single to left to start the inning.
AH!! Haga's pickoff throw to 1st is missed by Endou! Mekaru advances to 2nd!
AH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wild pitch by Haga advances Mekaru to 3rd!! What's going on with Seikou??!
Yamakawa with a single through the right side! Mekaru comes in and it's 7-3!
Hit and run! Irei with a grounder up the middle! Yamaguchi charges back tosses to 2nd for one, and Murashima throws to 1st for the double play!
Shimabukuro grounds out to 2nd to end the inning, but Kounan continues to add on!
Shimabukuro with a good lead now begins to go in cruise control. 2 flyouts and a K later, and they're back in the dugout.
Haga is doing what he can on the mound as he quickly retires the side in order to get his team back on offense.
Seikou Gakuin in a bit of panic mode as the batters are becoming more aggressive at the plate. 6 pitches and Shimabukuro is back in the dugout...
Haga continues to shut down the Kounan offense, as he gets 2 groundouts and a fly to center for yet another 1-2-3 inning.
Nemoto finally gets something started in the 8th with a single to the right side. And although they're down 4, he takes off for 2nd and beats the throw from Yamakawa!
So Yamaguchi swings away, but he pops it up to left.
Masahiro with a slow roller to the right side! Kuniyoshi charges, throws to 1st, but it's not in time! Runners at the corners!
Sanpei looking to cut the deficit down...
SANSHIN!!!!! He goes down on a forkball!
And Hideya hits a fly to left! Irei under it for the 3rd out! Seikou will be down to their last 3 outs in the 9th...
2 down for Kounan and Haga gives up hist first hit since the 5th as Shimabukuro singles through the right side.
Ooshiro follows that up with a liner down the right field line! Ooshiro's in with a double!
And that brings up Kuniyoshi Tairiku, who's 3-4 on the day...
He's walked by Haga and it'smanrui for Kounan!
Ketashiro with a ball to left center! Nemoto running over, dives... It's off his glove!!!! Everyone's going to score! Ketashiro in with a double and it's 10-3...
And now Ganeko walks...
Thankfully for Seikou, Maehira grounds to 1st to end the inning...
Changes for Kounan. #11 Kawamitsu Kouya comes in for Maehira and takes the hill. Shimabukuro goes to right, and Mekaru goes to 1st.
Hoshi in a desperate battle against Kawamitsu, runs the count full and fouls off pitches. But on the 11th pitch Kawamitsu gets him on a high fastball.
#13 Fukuda (Akihito?) comes in to hit for Itakura, and he draws a walk!
#14 Saitou Yuuki comes in to run for him while #17 Nakamura Shouta comes in to PH for Haga.
Grounder to 3rd... Ganeko can't field the ball! That's Kounan's first error!
Murashima with a grounder up the 3rd base line! Ganeko tries to let it go foul, it doesn't! Base hit for Murashima!!
Nemoto looking to keep the inning going...
Nemoto strikes out swinging to end the game!
And so Shimabukuro and Kounan are just two games away from the Haru-Natsu sweep!
Saiuchi and Haga felt the full force of Kounan's offense. Admittedly, the game probably turned on the two borderline pitches to Ketashiro in the 4th. But you can see that Kounan from top to bottom have good hitters, and power ones at that. It's why they succeeded this year, when in years past when Shimabukuro went, he was stopped in the 1st game because of a lack of defense - despite striking out 15+.
Seikou's run was certainly impressive, and I believed they had one of the better chances to defeat Kounan. With the less than 24 hour turnaround for Kounan, I thought their chances were better.
The 3-0 start proved that they could indeed score on Shimabukuro. But baseball is about pitching and hitting, and today the pitching wasn't enough for Seikou.
But a good effort nonetheless for Seikou, they just happened to run into a really, really good team.