We're down to our best 4 teams, and the way the draw has gone, you could almost call it either a battle of Kanto vs. everyone else, or one of Nishi vs. Higashi Japan.
This game will feature the teams not from the Kanto region, that is Kounan and Houtoku Gakuen.
6 teams from Okinawa have gotten this far, and only twice has a team made it to the championship game (Okinawa Suisan, 1990-91, lost both). Kounan was one of those team to make it this far, 42 years ago.
This team, who wan senbatsu, has a good chance of finally giving the prefecture their first Natsu Koushien winner. With Shimabukuro on the mound combined with a well-balanced (yet powerful) offense, there is little in the way of weaknesses for Kounan.
Houtoku Gakuen is no stranger to being here, having won it all back in 1981 (although they've only reached this stage one other time in Natsu Koushien).
Outside of the Saga Gakuen game, Houtoku depends highly on their pitching tandem of ace Oonishi Kazunari and 1st-year Tamura Ichirou as their offense is a bit lacking. With Tamura having pitched primarily in yesterday's win, chances are they will be leaning on Ooshiro today.
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
Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)
CF Yashiro Kazuma
2B Tani Koushirou
3B Nakashima ?
1B Koshii Yuuki
C Morita Kouki
RF Urasaki Hiromasa
LF Kinoshita Yuuki
P Oonishi Kazunari
SS Haseba Takashi
11:00 - First Pitch!
Tairiku continues his hot hitting at Koushien with a grounder to left for a leadoff single!
It's a hit and run! Ketashiro pokes it through the right side, and Kounan has runners at the corners!
Again no bunt! Ganeko with a grounder to 1st. Koshii goes home and Tairiku is tagged out at the plate!
Maehira, comebacker to Oonishi! Goes to Haseba for one, relay to Koshii, double play!!!
Oonishi gets out of a no down, runners at the corners pinch here in the first!!!!!
Yashiro opens Houtoku's offense with a single to center and is bunted along.
Nakashima with a hard grounder to 1st. It bounces off of Maehira and into right! Mekaru charges in to the ball, but Yashiro rounds 3rd and will score the opening run of the game! Houtoku leads 1-0!!
Nakashima off for 2nd! Koshii swings and the ball gets away from Yamakawa! No chance for a throw!
Koshii trying to continue the inning works the count full, but looks at a called strike 3 on the outside corner!
AH! Shimabukuro hits Morita! Runners on 1st and 2nd!
Karaburi sanshin! Urasaki strikes out on a 144 kph fastball to end the inning! But Houtoku has struck first against senbatsu champions Kounan!
Kounan's batters forced to be aggressive at the plate as Oonishi throws strikes.
3 batters + 6 pitches + 6 strikes = 3 outs
Shimabukuro gives up another leadoff hit! Kinoshita singles to center!
He's moved along to 2nd. And now Yamakawa has him stuck between 2nd and 3rd! He's going to throw to 2nd, but last second bounces it in the dirt towards 3rd when he sees Kinoshita breaking for 3rd! Ganeko goes down the 3rd base line to field it, and can't get back in time to tag Kinoshita!
What Yamakawa should have done was to charge the runner like we've seen some heads-up teams do to close the distance.
And now last batter Hasebe draws a walk on a 3-2 pitch just outside! Shimabukuro in trouble again!!
Yashiro with the squeeze on the 1-1 pitch, but it goes foul!
And now Shimabukuro can't seem to find the plate with his offspeed pitches! Ahead 1-2, he walks Yashiro to load the bases!
We saw a lot of fastballs at the beginning of last game, could it be that he has lost the feel of his offspeed pitches??
Shimabukuro goes back to the fastball with a 144 kph fastball, and a 145 kph fastball for the 2nd out!
It's more fastballs to Nakashima, the count goes to 2-2...
Nakashima with a drive to left center!! Ketashiro chases after it, dives... but it's no use!! The ball goes way above his head and bounces to the wall!! Everyone's going to score! The throw comes in as Nakashima slides into 3rd!
IT'S 4-0 HOUTOKU GAKUEN!!!!!
Now Koshii gets a hold of a hanging forkball and hits a grounder to right! Nakashima scores and the score is 5-0!!!!!
Morita flies out to right to end the inning, but Kounan is in serious trouble. Shimabukuro seems to have no control of any of his offspeed offerings, and Houtoku is looking dead red! There's no way Kounan has a chance if he can't figure it out!
How does Kounan respond to this?
Again, Oonishi is throwing strikes and forcing the batters to swing. Shimabukuro and Ooshiro both groundout.
Tairiku with a grounder to 2nd, but Tani boots it! Runner on for Kounan.
Ketashiro with a fly deep down the left field line. Kinoshita jumps on top of the padded wall and climbs the fence trying to make the catch! That's reminiscent of Akamatsu's catch for the Hiroshima Carp!
And now Ketashiro is hit by Oonishi! Runners on 1st and 2nd!
Ganeko steps in. But Maehira is on deck, and he's been practically ineffective the entire tournament (3-17, 2 K, HBP). I would actually consider walking Ganeko to get to Maehira.
Ganeko with a hard liner to right! It's in for a base hit, but Tairiku has to hold at 3rd!
And so Maehira steps in...
... and grounds out to 2nd to end the inning...
Kinoshita with a grounder up the middle. Shimabukuro trying for the kick save, but misses!
And now Kinoshita is trying for 2! But Yamagawa makes a strong throw to 2nd and Kinoshita pops up and walks back towards the dugout before the call is even made.
Oonishi strikes out to end the inning. Shimabukuro has 4 K's, but is down 5.
Kounan's offense almost seems to be fully pressing down 5, they've been totally thrown off now that they find themselves behind by a wide margin! 8 pitches and Oonishi is back in the dugout!!
One down, and Yashiro gets on for his 3rd time today, this time a single to center. And now Tani walks!
Kounan cannot afford to go down any further here!
Nakashima flies out to center for the 2nd out...
Shimabukuro gets Koshii on a fastball high and away for the 3rd out!
Shimabukuro with a grounder past a diving Tani into center!
Ooshiro with a grounder to 3rd! Nakashima with the great pick!
He throws it away going to 2nd!! Shimabukuro advances to 3rd! Chance for Kounan!!
Tairiku is finally retired! Oonishi gets him out swinging for the first out!
Ketashiro with a hit to left! Shimabukuro scores. Kinoshita fumbles with the ball and Ooshiro is being sent home! Throw comes in, and Ooshiro goes outside and slides around the tag!!! He's safe! Kounan on the board at 5-2!
Nagata-kantoku with a conference with Ganeko up to bat and 1st base open. I'd still consider walking him to get to Maehira.
Ganeko with a single up the middle! Ketashiro being sent home! He has to!!!!
Throw from Yashiro goes to Tani, his throw home is in time, but Ketashiro slides outside again and misses the tag! 5-3 Houtoku!!
And that brings up Maehira. Can he break his slump?
No! Grounds to 2nd! Tani to Haseba for one, his throw to Koshii, more than in time for the double play!
Maehira's struggles continue and have killed 2 opportunities by Kounan!
One down and Urasaki draws a 4-pitch walk.
Kinoshita not bunting, but hits a comebacker to Shimabukuro! He goes to Ooshiro for one, AH!!!!!!!!
His throw to 1st is high and goes to the camera well! E6 and the runner advances to 2nd!
Oonishi with a liner, but it's right to Irei for the 3rd out.
As we head to the break, Kounan has been able to cut into the early deficit Shimabukuro put them in, but they still trail by 2 and Shimabukuro is far from being back to normal.
Mekaru with a grounder to 3rd. Nakashima with the nice pick, twirls, but his throw to 1st is wide and Koshii's stretch can't get the ball!
Yamakawa looks to bunt him, but he three bunts and there's one down!
So Mekaru takes matters into his own hands! He takes off for 2nd! Throw from Morita is wide and he's in safely!
But Irei grounds out to 2nd and there's 2 down with Mekaru standing 90 feet away from home.
Shimabukuro looking for a base hit to help his cause...
He pokes one through the left side! Mekaru scores and Kounan has pulled within 1!! It's 5-4!!!!!
Ooshiro grounds out to Koshii to end the inning, but a 5-0 lead for Houtoku has almost all but evaporated!!
One down for Houtoku and Yashiro hits a ball to the left center field gap! That gets by the fielders and all the way to the wall! Yashiro rounding 2nd, heading for 3rd!! Relay throw from Ooshiro...
Yashiro perhaps pressing a bit tries to stretch the double and is thrown out!
Tani flies out to Irei in left and the inning is over!
Tamura warming up again, no choice now for Nagata-kantoku as Kounan has almost equalized. My guess is that he tried to hold him out as long as possible, being a 1st year and throwing 7+ innings yesterday.
Top of the order and Tairiku. He singles back up the middle! Ketashiro bunts the douten run to 2nd.
Ganeko with a drive to right center! Yashiro running over, but the ball gets past him! That'll go all the way to the wall! Tairiku scores, 動転！！！
Kounan has come all the way back to tie the game!! And the gyakuten run in Ganeko stands just 90 feet away!!
Nagata-kantoku has no choice, he sends in Tamura Ichirou to take the hill with no room for error... Did he wait too long???
...and in steps Maehira... 3-20 for the tournament and in another key spot...
Grounder up the middle! That's through the infield! Ganeko scores!! 逆転！！！！！
Kounan has come back all the way from down 5-0 to take the lead here in the 7th!!!
It's not over yet! Mekaru lays down a bunt and sprints for 1st! Nakashima with the throw, but it's late! Runners on 1st and 2nd, and still only one down!
Yamakawa flies out to right for the 2nd out, but Maehira advances to 3rd.
But Tamura finally closes the door as Irei pops one up to Koshii on the 1st base line to end the inning.
However, Kounan has come back from the dead to take the lead with just 2 innings left to go!
How will Houtoku respond now that they're down 1?
They're swinging early perhaps pressing... Nakashima grounds to 2nd, and Koshii quickly flies to left.
Morita first pitch swinging grounds one through to left. But Urasaki hits a grounder to 2nd. Tairiku goes to 2nd and that ends the inning!
Tamura doing a good job in relief retiring the 8-9-1 batters with little issue, getting his team back in the dugout to pick up the sticks again...
Shimobukuro giving it all he's got!
Kinoshita goes down swinging on a high fastball!
Tamura up now..
Tamura looks at a fastball on the outside corner for the 2nd K.
Haseba strikes out on another high fastball and Shimabukuro has struck out the side here in the 8th!!!!!
One down for Kounan and Ganeko singles to right! That's brings up Maehira, what will he do?
He bunts the runner along! They're going for the one-timer!
Mekaru goes down after an 8 pitch AB! 3 outs!!! Tamura's done all he can do now....
...it's up to the offense to deliver....
Yashiro with a grounder to the right side....
Tairiku dives and his glove just gets the ball! Gets up, throws to 1st... One down!!! A fine play by by Tairiku here in the 9th!!!!!
Tani singles through the right side! Douten runner on for Houtoku Gakuen!
Nakashima up for Houtoku, he had the bases clearing triple in the 2nd, but has been silent since.
Karaburi sanshin!!!!! Nakashima swings at a high fastball for out number 2! Tani on the hits and run! Yamakawa throws to 2nd...
Yamakawa throws it away!!!!! The ball goes into the outfield and Tani heads to 3rd!!!!!!!!!!!
Last chance in cleanup batter Koshii... Haseba goes over to talk to him before he heads to the plate...
First pitch outside border for a strike...
...then a fastball down and away, ball 1!
Fastball swung on and missed, 1-2!!!
Fastball high... 2-2!
Koshii foul tips the fastball into Yamakawa's glove and he hangs on! Kounan wins!! Kounan wins!!!
Kounan comes from down 0-5 to come back and win against the hometown team of Houtoku Gakuen!
Kounan runs onto the field to celebrate, while Houtoku Gakuen is crushed... After the playing of Kounan's song, you can see the pain in the Houtoku players as they are just crushed after losing 6-5... and who can blame them? They had the favorite to win it all on the ropes, and it slipped away from them. It's is a bitter and painful defeat, and many are crying and some cannot get themselves to walk back to the dugout. Their performance on the field was well deserving of their run this year, but it will end here in the best 4. Tip your hat to the hometown 18, they still had a run to remember.
Kounan has a big issue going into tomorrow's game, and that is ace Shimabukuro. His control issues are ever real now, and he'll only have 24 hours to recover. Will he be okay for the final??