While the overlying tone of Koushien has been muted a bit because of recent events, the JHBF has decided that the show must go on. Personally, I agree with the sentiment because I think the kids who qualified should get the chance to experience Koushien (especially those who are representing their school's first appearance), and it brings a sense of normalcy to the people. So while things have changed a little (no march-in during the opening ceremony and no cheering in the oen-dan - which I will certainly miss), I believe it will help the people cope.
And with that, the opening game of the 83rd Haru Koushien is about to get underway!
I had always thought that Kagawa Nishi had been a strong team within the prefecture (and even within Shikoku), yet I'm surprised to see that this is actually their first time at senbatsu! Not only will this be their first time, but they get to open up the tournament!
Kagawa Nishi finished runner-up in the Shikoku Super-Regional, yet their fall was a mixed bag. They finished runner-up in the prefecturals, defeating Takamatsu Shougyou and Kanonji Chuo before giving up 2 runs to Sangawa in the bottom of the 9th. Then they edged Jyounan and defeated Kochi, but then was annihilated by Meitoku Gijyuku. So while they qualified, it's hard to judge just exactly how good they are.
Their first round test will be tough as they square off against 2009 Natsu runner-up Nihon Bunri. Nihon Bunri has always been a decent team out of the Hokushinetsu region, regularly reaching both the Haru and Natsu Koushien tournaments. But it wasn't until their 2009 run where they had one of the most exciting finishes in history that finally put them on the map.
While ace Itou Naoki has left, the effects of that game should have lingered on. In at least the short-term this should provide them with an added boost that may help sustain the success of the school.
So, how have they taken advantage of this opportunity?
Nihon Bunri also finished runner-up in their region, but their performance was much more even. They won the prefecturals on the back of good pitching primarily in 2nd year ace Tamura Yuuma. Their excellent pitching continued on through the likes of Matsushou Gakuen and Yuugakukan, but Ooi-kantoku decided to go with fellow 2nd year Hatano Yousuke instead (much like the Matsushou Gakuen game), and Kanazawa was able to take advantage for a 4-2 win.
Nihon Bunri's offense does not seem that extraordinary, so their run may be predicated on how their pitching holds up.
It should be a good game, given that Kagawa isn't a true newcomer, but I think Nihon Bunri should advance from this matchup.
Kagawa Nishi (Kagawa) - Shikoku Runner-up
LF Oota Hiroto
2B Mori Kouichi
CF Kominami Kengo
3B Kobayashi Masakazu
1B Ogawa Shouhei
RF Fujiwara Shigeru
C Nakanishi Daisuke (#12)
P Utsunomiya Kenta
SS Yano Kouhei
Nihon Bunri (Niigata) - Hokushinetsu Runner-up
CF Karasawa Tomoya (#13)
2B Noguchi Tatsuyoshi
LF Yumoto Shouta
C Murakami Masashi
RF Nanba Masaya
1B Yoshida Yuu
SS Akiyama Masaki
3B Takahashi Kou
P Tamura Yuuma
10:10 - Game start!
Tamura off to a good start as Oota pops one out in foul territory. Takahashi is under it for the first out.
Tamura's offerings aren't that fast and Mori shoots one back up the middle for a base hit.
The fastball is sitting in the low 130's and his curve in the mid 110's.
We see a slider against Kominami at the low 120's-high 110's... and Kominami lazily flies out to center.
Cleanup batter Kobayashi is rather patient at the plate, taking the first two pitches for balls and one for a strike.
And Tamura gets Kobayashi to hit an easy fly to right to end the inning. Not a bad start for Tamura, but the batters are taking pitches - 15 for the 1st inning.
One pitch, one out. Karasawa takes the first pitch right to Yano. He makes the putout at 1st.
Utsunomiya is about the same as Tamura. Fastball in the mid-130's, just hit 137 against Noguchi, with a curve/slider in the mid-110's.
Noguchi with a fly to center. Kominami running back, still running as it goes over his head! Noguchi in with a double!
Yumoto with a shot to right! That's in for a base hit! Fujiwara bobbles the bounce! They're sending Noguchi in, and the throw is cut off! Noguchi scores giving Nihon Bunri the 1-0 lead!
Murakami going on the first pitch hits one to the right side! Mori with the great backhanded stop! Goes to 2nd for one, throw to 1st by Yano in plenty of time to beat a diving Murakami to end the inning.
But Nihon Bunri gets on the board first!
After a groundout by Oota to start the inning, Fujiwara takes his time at the plate, gets ahead 3-0, and is plunked for ball 4.
おっと。 The first pitch is high, and now Nakanishi is up 2-0. He's given the green light, but swings away at a high fastball. Slider is wide for ball 3, and Tamura's in danger of walking his 2nd batter. Nakanishi bails him out for a pitch by swinging at another high fastball. Count goes full and after a foul ball, Nakanishi is frozen on a slider for strike 3! Murakami fires to 2nd and Fujiwara is thrown out easily for the strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out DP to end the inning.
Tamura doesn't have the best control right now, and if Kagawa Nishi is patient, they may get that equalizing run sooner rather than later.
Utsunomiya working at a quick pace. Nanba hits the first pitch to 2nd for the first out.
Working on Yoshida, he nibbles on the outside after getting ahead. After running the count full, Yoshida lines one back at Utsunomiya. He stops it with his glove and makes the play at 1st for out #2.
Akiyama also gets to a full count and hits one right to the gap in right center. It isn't hard, but it falls in the right place as Akiyama is in with a 2-out double.
Utsunomiya continues to work the outside corner against right-handed batters, and although he may have been squeezed, he walks Takahashi and it's getting slightly hairy.
But Tamura can't lay off the outside pitches, and he bails on a couple of pitches to end the inning.
After making Tamura work the last two innings, the batters start swinging away with no results. Utsunomiya strikes out, Yano grounds to short, and Oota takes the first pitch to 1st where Yoshida takes it himself to end the inning.
Back to the top of the order for Nihon Bunri and Karasawa flies out to left. Noguchi with a harmless grounder to 2nd and there's quickly 2 outs.
Yumoto taking a fastball past a diving Mori for his 2nd hit of the day!
But he takes off on the first pitch and Nakanishi makes a great throw to nail him for the 3rd out.
Mori falls behind 0-2, and while he evens the count, he grounds to 2nd.
Kominami once again patient, and he walks on 4 straight! Runner on for Kagawa Nishi.
Murakami perhaps crossed up there, has the ball get away, but Kominami doesn't advance.
Meanwhile, Tamura begins to throw a heavy diet of off-speed pitches, and falls behind Kobayashi 2-1. But Kobayashi hacks away and flies out to right.
Iwagami -kantoku calls for the hit-and-run! And Ogawa puts the ball where Akiyama was! Kominami rounding 2nd, going for 3! Throw from Yumoto not in time and the tying run is 90 feet away!
But Fujiwara gets a bit impatient. He swings at the first pitch, fouling it off - then after falling behind 0-2, swings on a low slider for out number 3.
There's progress, and there's still time, but Utsunomiya has to keep the team in it.
Murakami with a fly to right. Fujiwara backpedaling, speeds up at the last second, reaches up and makes the catch. A bit lazy there, but it worked.
おっと。 After getting ahead 1-2, Utsunomiya hits Nanba. Iwagami-kantoku calls for a quick conference.
Utsunomiya hasn't recovered yet, falling behind 2-0 to Yoshida. Two swings later though, and he's back to even. And a late slider fools Yoshida for strike 3.
And Yano snags a liner from Akiyama for the 3rd out.
Oh! The Tohoku squad is in the outfield stands watching the game!
Tamura still having control issues, falling behind Nakanishi 3-1, and issues a leadoff walk!
You have to assume Utsunomiya is bunting, and he is, but Tamura quickly fields it and fires to 2nd to get Nakanishi!
Yano is squaring to bunt as well, but Tamura starts off with 2 balls! #10 Yoshida is in the bullpen warming up.
Yano lays down the bunt, but there's 2 outs now.
Ah! A low pitch from Tamura goes under Murakami and to the backstop, and the runner advances to 3rd.
And now Oota takes a walk! Tamura back in the same pinch as last inning.
Mori looking to extend the inning, works the count full. But a grounder right to Yoshida ends the inning. Another opportunity wasted.
Nihon Bunri seems fine heading into the break as Takahashi first pitch swings to right center, and Tamura takes the first pitch to short.
Karasawa though takes a couple of pitches, gets ahead of the count, but he too grounds out to Yano to end the inning.
The lead is 1 for Nihon Bunri, but Kagawa Nishi is getting more opportunities on the basepaths.
Graphic shows that Tamura is already at 80 pitches. Will Kagawa Nishi continue to rack up the pitch count?
Kominami leads off, and is swinging away more now, fouling off several offerings from Tamura. Meanwhile, #11 Hatano is now up in the Nihon Bunri bullpen.
And it looks like Tamura gets the call on a tailing fastball that looked like it still missed the inside corner. Nevertheless, one out.
Kobayashi with an easy grounder to Nogawa for the 2nd out. And Nogawa with a fine throw after charging at a grounder from Ogawa to retire the side.
Yumoto collects his 3rd hit of the day with a one-out liner over a leaping Yano into left.
Ah! Ogawa misses the throw from Utsunomiya and it goes into foul territory! Yumoto advances to scoring position!
And now Murakami walks! Runners on 1st and 2nd and there is activity now in the Kagawa bullpen.
Nanba is almost hit by another ball, and the count runs full on him! He checks his swing on the pitch and now the bases are loaded!
Iwagami-kantoku calls for a full conference now as the situation is getting critical for Kagawa Nishi.
And now Ooi-kantoku calls on #15 Usuda to PH for Yoshida. Interesting call here.
Usuda falls behind 1-2 count goes even and Utsunomiya is shaking Nakanishi off over and over. Pitch is in the dirt and the count runs full again...
Slider is fouled off by Usuda...
And Usuda gets under a pitch and lifts it to left center! The outfield was shaded to pull and the fielders can't get to the ball! It falls in front of the wall as Yumoto and Murakami score! 3-0 Nihon Bunri with only one down!!
And Akiyama with a liner past a drawn in infield and that's into center! Kominami's throw is cut off as 2 more runners score making it 5-0 Nihon Bunri!!
Takahashi with a ball to deep left! But it goes foul. Utsunomiya gets him to bail on a low slider for the 2nd out. Tamura does the same to end the inning, but Usuda's timely pinch-hit sparks a 4-run inning giving Nihon Bunri what should be a comfortable lead.
Usuda stays in the game to play 1st.
After 2 quick outs by Fujiwara and Nakanishi, Utsunomiya takes pitches and eventually draws a walk.
That patient sentiment isn't shared by the bottom of the order though. Yano takes the first pitch and lines it just foul down the right field line. And after falling behind 0-2, pops one up. Noguchi moves in just in front of 2nd and makes the catch, retiring the side.
Karasawa attempts the safety bunt to get on base, but Kobayashi is there to make a great throw for the first out.
Noguchi dribbles one past the glove of Mori into center for a base hit. Runner on for Yumoto who is perfect on the day.
Noguchi with a great swing getting a low ball from Utsunomiya, but just lines it foul down the right field line.
Sanshin!! Utsunomiya gets Yumoto to swing on a slider in the dirt for strike 3!
Murakami flies out to right to end the inning, but down 5 with 2 innings to go it doesn't look good for the boys from Shikoku.
Oota with a popup in foul territory. Takahashi running towards his dugout, backhands... and falls into the dugout!
But he has the ball!! What a great (if not dangerous) play by Takahashi!
Mori with a bunt, but he pops it up! Tamura quickly off the mound to his left, reaches back and makes the catch!
And with Kominami grounding out to 1st, Nihon Bunri is probably all but assured a spot in the next round.
One out, and Usuda gets his 2nd hit lining one to left.
2-2 on Akiyama, and Utsunomiya looks like he was squeezed there by the ump. He subsequently walks Akiyama, putting runners at 1st and 2nd with one out.
Takahashi takes a flat offering from Utsunomiya and drives it to deep left center. That falls in front of the wall! Usuda and Akiyama score on a one-out triple by Takahashi! 7-0 Bunri.
And that'll be hit for Utsunomiya. #10 Okada comes in from the pen to relieve the ace. His compliment of pitches is about the same, as the speed too.
Oy. Okada's offerings too are rather flat, and Tamura plays add on with a liner to right. 8-0.
After a flyout to right, Okada plunks Karasawa, and the game threatens to get really out of control.
Okada does strike out Yumoto to end the inning, but the ending is surely not in doubt anymore. Kagawa will get their last at-bats, then gather their Koushien dirt and head back to Kagawa.
Kobayashi with a looper over Akiyama into left center for a base hit.
#15 Oosako comes into PH for Ogawa, and falls behind 0-2. He eventually swings high on an offspeed pitch and is retired for out #1.
Wild pitch from Tamura sends Kobayashi to 2nd. And another one on the very next pitch brings him to 3rd. Fujiwara then earns a walk, and perhaps Kagawa Nishi can avoid a shutout.
#13 Teraoka comes in to PH for Nakanishi. But he's fooled by the offspeed offerings of Tamura and falls behind 0-2. And he goes down swinging on a high fastball.
It's down to #2 Yamazaki, who is in to PH for Okada.
He hits a dribbler past a diving Noguchi into right! Kobayashi comes home and Kagawa Nishi avoids the shutout! 8-1!
And now Yano gets ahead 3-1 on Tamura. Count goes full, high chopper goes foul.
Yano swings at a low off-speed and it goes right to Noguchi, who retires him for the final out.
Kagawa Nishi put up a good fight early on against Nihon Bunri, but they were unable to get anything going. Eventually the pitching of Kagawa Nishi broke down and Nihon Bunri won going away.
Surely the boys of Shikoku are disappointed, but I think they made a good showing for the opening game.
Kobayashi Masakazu (Kagawa Nishi) - 1-4, R
Yamazaki Yuuichi (Kagawa Nishi) - 1-1, RBI
Yumoto Shouta (Nihon Bunri) - 3-5, R, 2 K
Usuda Hiroya (Nihon Bunri) - 2-2, 2B, R, 2 RBI
Noguchi Tatsuyoshi (Nihon Bunri) - 2-5, 2B, R
Tamura Yuuma (Nihon Bunri) - CG, 1 ER, 6 K, 5 BB