Our last semifinal feature a hometown team squaring off against the prefecture that finished runner-up last year.
Houtoku is looking for Hyogo's first semifinal appearance since 2000 when Ikuei got there. After close wins against Tonami Kougyou and Fukui Shougyou, they beat up on Saga Gakuen 13-5 to get to the Best 8.
They've done it using a combination of their ace Oonishi Kazunari, and 1st year reliever Tamura Ichirou. While Oonishi has started the other 3 games, it will be the first year Tamura who will start this game.
For Niigata Meikun, this is only the 5 time a team from that prefecture has reached the Best 8. Before Nihon Bunri did it last year, the last occurrence was in 1984. Now, Niigata Meikun looks to get their prefecture to the Best 4 for the 2nd consecutive year.
They've advanced by defeating a decent Kyoto Gaidai Nishi 5-3, than sliding past Nishi Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku 1-0. They too depend on a tandem of pitchers in ace Ikeda Shun and Kanda Kenta.
So, who will advance for the right to face Kounan?
Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)
CF Yashiro Kazuma
2B Tani Koushirou
3B Nakashima ?
1B Koshii Yuuki
C Morita Kouki
LF Kinoshita Yuuki
RF Urasaki Hiromasa
P Tamura Ichirou (#11)
SS Haseba Takashi
Niigata Meikun (Niigata)
2B Yamamoto Hidemasa
CF Machiya Shougo
SS Tamura Masahiro
RF Karasawa Maki
1B Urushihara (Hiromu)
C Matou Ryou
3B Itou Gou
P Ikeda Shun
LF Nishiyama Takashi
13:40 - First Pitch!
Yashiro and Tani both hit groundouts to start the game. Two down now and Nakashima singles to right. But Ikeda retires cleanup batter Koshii with a grounder to 2nd.
Ichirou walks Yamamoto to start off the inning. Satou-kantoku elects not to bunt, but Machiya goes down swinging for the first out.
Masahiro with a shot to left! Kinoshita backpedaling makes the catch for the 2nd out!
Ah.... Now Ichirou hits Karasawa with a pitch putting runners on 1st and 2nd.
Urushihara bails him out by taking the first pitch and hitting into a fielder's choice at 2nd.
Ikeda continuing to induce groundballs from the Houtoku batters. Morita and Urasaki ground out to short, and Kinoshita hits one back to Ikeda.
Ichirou records his 2nd K as he gets tall Matou to swing on a high fastball. After a first pitch comebacker from Itou, Ichirou gets Ikeda swinging to end the inning.
Ichirou's control looks good here to start for Houtoku, If he can keep this up, Houtoku will have good chances in this game.
Ichirou takes a 3-2 pitch just outside for a lead off walk.
Haseba showing bunt, lays it down down the 3rd base line.
Itou charging, fields, double clutches, and throws high! It pulls Urushihara off the bag! All safe!
Now Yashiro lays down another bunt and moves the runners along 90 feet.
One down and Tani grounds one to 2nd! But Tamura doesn't head home! Yamamoto goes to 1st and there's 2 out!
Nakashima with a base hit to center! Tamura coming home, Haseba being waved around! Machiya with the throw home, Matou with the swipe tag...
The just get Haseba at the plate! 3 out! But Houtoku strikes first in the quarterfinal leading 1-0!
Two quick outs for Ichirou when he walks Machiya.
Masahiro with a shot down the left field line... foul!
Machiya takes off for 2nd! Morita with the throw to 2nd, but Haseba is slow with the tag! Machiya slides in safe!
Full count to Masahiro and the pitch hits him! But he was swinging when he was hit and is called out to end the inning!
He stays down for a bit as an assistant from Houtoku comes over with some spray. Masahiro though gets up quickly and shakes it off as if to say that he doesn't need it and heads to the dugout.
Koshii with a grounder to left to open the inning and he's bunted to 2nd.
Urasaki with a grounder up the middle! That's past a diving Masahiro into center! Koshii stops at 3rd.
Kinoshita with the squeeze down the 1st base line! Ikeda watching it on the line, decides to try and let it run foul, but it stays fair... stays fair... and at the last minute goes a little bit to the right where he picks it up, foul!!
What a bad break for Houtoku!
Kinoshita tries it again but this time Ikeda glove tosses and Koshii is trapped! He's run down, but gives enought ime to allow the runners to advance to 2nd and 3rd.
Ichirou hits a grounder to the right side! Yamamoto running into the outfield grass fields it! Throws to Ikeda covering 1st and they get the out! Nice piece of fielding by Meikun!
But a fortunate roll helps keep Houtoku off the boards here in the 4th!
Karasawa with a single to the left side to start the 4th. He's bunted over for Matou, but Ichirou's control is getting ahead off the Meikun batters forcing them to swing away.
Matou takes a high fastball for a strike 3, and Itou goes down swinging to end the inning!
Ikeda with his first easy inning since the 2nd retiring the 9-1-2 batters all on groundouts, all in 9 pitches.
Ichirou with his 4th walk/hit-by-pitch as he walks Ikeda to start the inning.
Nishiyama tries the bunt, but Ichirou fields it quickly and fires to 2nd to get the lead runner!
Yamamoto with a grounder to 2nd! Tani flips to Haseba for one, relay to Koshii, double play!! 4-6-3 double play turned by Houtoku ends the inning!
As we head into the break, Houtoku holds on to a slim 1-run lead as 1st-year Tamura Ichirou is managing the game on the mound!
Two quick outs for Ikeda and he's about to get out of the inning when Morita takes the 2-2 pitch to center for a single.
Urasaki though, grounds out to short to end the inning.
Machiya grounds out to 1st to start the inning.
Tamura with a clean hit to left for a single. He goes to 2nd after Karasawa's tough chopper up the line is fielded by Nakashima and he makes a good throw to 1st.
Urushihara goes first pitch swinging though, and hits a high comebacker to Ichirou. He goes to 1st for the 3rd out.
Ikeda gets his 3rd 1-2-3 inning, while in the process striking out fellow starter Ichirou for his first K of the game here in the 7th!
Conversely, Matou swings at a ball up and away for Ichirou's 7th K of the game.
Itou swings and misses on a slider high and away... and Ikeda flies out to Kinoshita on the left field foul line for the 3rd out!
Yashiro goes down and lines one over Masahiro into left for leadoff single. Tani bunts him into scoring position.
And what's this? Satou-kantoku stays true to his 2 pitchers system and sends in Kanda Kenta to finish the game for Niigata Meikun!
Nakashima with a grounder though to right! Yashiro rounding 3rd scores on the single! It's 2-0 Houtoku!
Koshii with a grounder to short! Masahiro smothers it! Flips to Yamamoto for one, his throw to first in time for the inning ending double play!
But Nakashima with the timely hit gets Houtoku a little more breathing room!
One down and top batter Yamamoto singles to left. Satou-kantoku will play for one run here in the 8th.
So 2 down runner in scoring postiion for Masahiro, and Nagata-kantoku calls a quick conference.
Masahiro with a grounder through the left side! Yamamoto comes around 3rd and scores! They've cut the deficit to 1! It's 2-1!!
Karasawa with a base hit past a diving Nakashima into left! Runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 down!
Nagata-kantoku not taking any more chances, pulling Ichirou for ace Oonishi Kazunari.
His first batter will be Urushihara. A base hit here could tie the game or even give them the lead.
Grounder to short! Haseba makes the great stop!! Stumbles and tosses to 2nd for the force!! 3 outs!!
The insurance run in the 8th has become even more key now that Meikun is now on the board.
Morita with a grounder to short. Masahiro with the high throw, but Urushihara makes the sweep tag for the out.
Urusaki goes down swinging on a high fastball for out number 2.
And Kinoshita strikes looking out a 3-2 fastball for out number 3!
So! We head to the bottom of the 9th with Houtoku holding a fragile one run lead! Can they close it out?
Meikun will send their 6-7-8 batters to the plate.
Matou grounds to 3rd. Itou with the stop, fumbles the ball, but has time to go to 1st for the first out.
Itou with a grounder to 2nd. 2 down...
Last chance in Kenta...
He pops it up! Urasaki under it.... game set!!
Houtoku holds on to defeat Niigata Meikun by the score of 2-1!!
A wonderful game played on both sides to close out quarterfinal play! It was a contrast of pitching styles on the mound, with Houtoku's Tamura K's versus Ikeda's pitch-to-contact style. And yet they held the opposing team at bay for 7+ innings until they both finally gave. The difference in the game was Kenta's first batter in relief singled to score a run, while Oonishi got his batter to ground out to short to end the inning.
Niigata Meikun's run matches those of only 3 others ever in prefecture history, and only exceeded by last year's Nihon Bunri squad. Personally, I hope that this is a trend of things to come from the mountainous prefecture.
Houtoku Gakuen keeps alive the home team's run here at Koushien, but it will certainly not get any easier from here as they will have less than a 24 hour turnaround before they face Kounan in the first semifinal. How will the first year Tamura Ichirou fare when he's called into action? Will the offense be able to generate key hits against Shimabukuro? These are valid questions, but ones that the coaching staff will have little time to address.