So, now comes the 2nd team everyone wants to see, and that's the senbatsu champions Kounan. We have a team trying to repeat as Natsu Koushien champions, and one who's trying to win both the spring and summer Koushien titles!
Well, we all know that Kounan is trying for the "slam" as it were, winning the spring and summer titles. The advantage of trying to achieve that versus Chuukyou's attempt to repeat is that you generally return the same squad that won the prior title. So, Shimabukuro comes back to dominate on the mound, while probably one of the best hitters this year, Ganeko Moritsugu, once again occupies the #3 spot in the lineup. While I like seeing new teams from different prefectures, that might also help Kounan in their bid with a lot of the established teams not participating. Not necessarily like they need it.
Naruto did everything they were supposed to as a seeded team, and defeated 2 other seeded teams in Kawashima and Komatsushima. They're led by ace Yoshida Tadahiro, who can throw in the low 140's with a curve and slider. But disturbingly, for a person who throws a bit harder than the average, he strikes out a paltry 3.38 batters/9. It's not exactly an endorsement of him as a whole, especially given the level of competition, so against this lineup from Kounan it could be dangerous.
This is definitely a game where Naruto will have to play a near-perfect game if they want to pull off the upset.
2B Tsugawa (Hiroki)
RF Kishishita Masayuki
SS Sanada Kazuhisa
LF Suzue Keita
CF Shundou Ryousuke
C Inoue Daisuke
1B Ishido Tadatsugu
3B Sugimoto (Keiga)
P Yoshida Tadahiro
2B Kuniyoshi Tairiku
CF Ketashiro Kai
3B Ganeko Moritsugu
1B Maehira Daiki
RF Mekaru Keisuke
C Yamakawa Daisuke
LF Irei Shinya
P Shimabukuro Yousuke
2B Ooshiro Kouji (#6)
15:52 - First Pitch!
Shimabukuro hasn't skipped a beat. He continues to locate very well, and when he misses, misses low. Retires the 3 batters in order with ease.
After 2 quick flyouts, Ganeko singles to left. Maehira makes Yoshida duck on a buzzer, but Sanada fields it and makes the putout at 2nd to end the inning.
Dr. K goes to work, striking out Suzue swinging, then Shundou strikes out on a ball in the dirt, but Yamakawa loses sight of it and Shundou reaches 1st.
AH! A wild pitch bounces in front of Yamakawa and goes to the backstop! Shundou advances to 2nd!
Inoue walks... This isn't good for Shimabukuro early...
Moriwaki-kantoku not electing to bunt and they get punished! Ishidou strikes out looking on a fastball on the outside corner!
Shimabukuro has a chance to get 4 K's in an inning!
Sugimoto hits a hard liner, but right at Kuniyoshi for the 3rd out.
Mekaru with a shot over Suzue! That takes a hop to the wall and Mekaru's in with a leadoff double!
Yamakawa with a liner to center! And Shundou misplays it! It gets behind him and Mekaru who originally stopped at 3rd comes home! 1-0 Kounan!!
And Irei with a first pitch single to right! 2-0 Kounan!
Moriwaki-kantoku calls a conference. Can't let it get away this early!
Irei takes off for 2nd! But Inoue with a good throw and they get him at 2nd! One down, bases clear!
Shimabukuro with a grounder to short, but Sanada boots it!
Ooshiro with a grounder to 1st, Ishidou goes to 2nd, AHH!!!! He airmails it!! Everyone advances a base, and things are going downhill quickly for Naruto!
Kuniyoshi is walked to load the bases, and create the force.
But Ketashiro hits a fly to deep center, scoring Shimabukuro to make it 3-0! Ganeko pops out to 1st to end the inning, but Naruto implodes on themselves to the tune of 3 runs here in the 2nd.
Tsugawa with a gapper on his birthday! That goes into right center for a one out double!
AH! Another wild pitch from Shimabukuro sends Tsugawa to 3rd! And then he walks Kishishita! Runners at the corners for Sanada!
Hm... Shimabukuro isn't looking as sharp the last two innings with the wild pitches and all.
But Sanada bails him out! He hits a slow comebacker that Ooshiro charges. He turns around and throws back to 2nd! Kuniyoshi goes to 1st and they complete the double play to end the inning! Nice turn there by the infield!
Yoshida almost gets a 1-2-3 inning, but Yamakawa spoils it, singling past a diving Ishidou.
Irei grounds out to Sugimoto despite a slightly errant throw by Sugimoto.
Shimabukuro doesn't seem to be in his top form to start the tournament, but he's still managing to retire batters. He sits the side down in order, but there are a lot of short balls.
Ooshiro with a hard comebacker past Yoshida into center. But he's later caught trying to steal 2nd. Flyout to right ends the inning.
Sugimoto with Naruto's 3rd hit of the day as it's a one-out single to left.
Full count to Yoshida and he draws a walk. But Sugimoto was taking off for 2nd and Yamakawa threw to 2nd. But the throw was on the 1st base side and Ooshiro didn't see Sugimoto coming. It was a hard collision where the helmet of Sugimoto hits the face of Ooshiro. Ooshiro wound up with a bloody nose, while the helmet looks to have dug into Sugimoto's forehead leaving a bad mark.
Both have to leave the field for treatment. For now Ishidou will take over as an injury runner at 2nd. Ooshiro runs back to his dugout, still working on the bloody nose. He emerges and for now the game can continue. But Sugimoto's condition is still unknown.
Back to the top of the order and Tsugawa can help get a run back with a base hit here. But will the break have calmed him down?
Tsukawa swings at the first pitch and pops it up! Mekaru running in and he makes the catch! 2 down!
Kishishita with a liner to left! The 3B coach gives the stop sign and it's manrui for Sanada! Shimabukuro in a pinch!
But Shimabukuro throws a 145 kph fastball by Sanada for the strikeout! Shimabukuro dodges another bullet!
Looks like Sugimoto is okay, and he's back out on the field.
Ganeko collects his 2nd hit! It's a single to the left side. Again no bunt, with Gakiya electing to have Maehira swing away.
But he grounds into the 4-6-3 double play! The game heads into the break with Kounan still holding on to the 3-0 lead.
The lights turn on at Koushien, and umpires are added down the lines.
Shindou with a grounder to the right side. Kuniyoshi makes a nice diving stop near the outfield, but has no play at 1st.
They elect to bunt the runner along, but it doesn't pay off as Ishidou grounds out to 3rd.
Yamakawa with a one out single. Irei bunts him over... but Yoshida's throw to 1st is high! Yamakawa advances to 3rd! Another pinch for Naruto!
Shimabukuro hits a slow chopper to the right side. Tsugawa's only play is to 1st and Kounan extends the lead to 4-0!
And Ooshiro with a single down the right field line! Irei rounding 3rd and he scores! 5-0 now for Kounan!
Tairiki with a drive to left! Suzue running to the wall....
Tairiku with a 2-run homerun to left makes the score 7-0! Ketashiro grounds to short, but the game is well in hand for Kounan now!
Two down for Naruto and birthday boy Tsugawa hits a drive to left center! That's all the way to the wall and Tsugawa books it all the way to 3rd!
But once again, he's stranded as Kishishita strikes out looking...
Ganeko with a single back up the middle for a single. Maehira hits a comebacker to Yoshida who goes to 2nd for one, but Sanada's throw to first is offline and Maehira advances to 2nd.
#17 Ikemura Tomoyuki comes in to PR for Maehira.
Mekaru with a single to center. Shundou's throw in is offline allowing Mekaru to advance to 2nd! Another mess for Naruto!
But Yamakawa pops it up! Sanada secures it for the 2nd out!
Yoshida is about to get out of the jam when Irei singles to left! Ikemura scores, and Suzue's throw in goes off Inoue and gets away! Mekaru comes in to score and it's now 9-0!
Shimabukuro grounds out to 2nd, but Kounan continues to play add on!
With the game in hand, Gakiya makes a couple of changes. #11 Kawamitsu Kouya comes in for Ikemura and takes the mound. Shimabukuro goes to right and Mekaru to center.
Kawamitsu gives up a single to Suzue, but retires the other batters, including 2 K's.
Tairiku gets his 2nd hit as he hits a liner to center. Ketashiro follows that with a single to left.
Yoshida retires the next two batters and Naruto will get one last chance to avoid the shutout.
Ishidou grounds to first. And PH #11 Miyazaki and #10 Souno fare no better. Naruto is shutout by Kounan.
Certainly not the performance you would like to have, but at the same time, you were facing the spring champions. So you can't be too disappointed. At the same time, you made several errors on the field that were preventable and might have kept you in the game. But it's still sad to leave Koshien after a loss.
For Kounan, Shimabukuro looked a bit shaky in game, but they didn't need his best stuff today. Still, he'll need to get into top shape quickly as they'll face Meitoku Gijyuku next.