Interesting enough, all games on the docket for opening day all include teams who are new to senbatsu. Maebashi Ikuei is that team here in the matinee game, earning the floating bid over Kasukabe Kyouei, Kasumigaura and Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku. That floating bid was automatically given to the Kanto super-region after Nichidai-san won the Meiji Jingu Tournament granting Tokyo a 2nd bid.
Maebashi Ikuei had a strong showing starting in the prefecturals where they defeated both Kiryuu Dai-ichi and Takasaki Shougyou to win the fall title, then after handling Washinomiya actually held the lead against Toukaidai Sagami before falling late.
I mentioned in a prior post that a lot of the teams that qualified were rather chalky (i.e. they were teams that have been there before and regularly). While Maebashi Ikuei isn't facing one of those teams per se, you could consider team a team quickly on the rise.
That team is Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku - Kyukoku for short.
Kyukoku is led by Wakao-kantoku who worked with Darvish Yu back at Tohoku. He took over a program in a prefecture that is surprisingly fractured given the large population. In his time there he has sent the team to Natsu Koushien, and now to their 2nd ever senbatsu appearance. Teams in Fukuoka have been put on notice that if they're not careful, they'll all be left behind.
Kyukoku blew through the opening rounds of the prefectural tournament before winning close games against Touchiku and Kurume Shougyou to take the prefectural title. Then ace Miyoshi Takumi would get them though Senshuudai Tamana, Okinawa Shogaku and a plucky Hasami squad before he gave out in the late innings against Kagoshima Jitsugyou in the finals.
Kyukoku has shown they have offense for days, but it does seem to go away against tougher competition, so it'll seem unlikely that we'll see a blowout.
Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) - Kanto/Tokyo Floating Bid
CF Ida Manabu
2B Watanabe Yuuya
C Takahashi Ryousuke
1B Ushizaki Kouta
SS Mohara Masataka
RF Kanzawa Masato
3B Aoki Ryou
P Takahashi Takumi (#10)
LF Tajima Ryou (#11)
Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Fukuoka) - Kyushu Runner-up
2B Hirabaru Yuuta
CF Andou Akito
P Miyoshi Takumi
C Takajyou Shuuto
RF Ryuu Kounosuke
1B Hanada Shun
LF Katou Ryou
3B Tokiyoshi Seiya
SS Ishisaki Yuuma
12:36 - Game start!
Miyoshi gets the Ida to hit a weak comebacker to start the game.
Miyoshi works quickly and is getting strikes. He induces a grounder to 2nd from Watanabe, and another one to 1st on Ryousuke.
It's a quick inning, and Miyoshi's offerings are pretty much standard fare.
Ikeda looked to get off to a good start to as he got Hirabaru to pop out to short, and Andou to hit a grounder to 3rd. But then he issued a 4 pitch walk to Miyoshi.
Takajyou gets a hold of a pitch and drives it to left! Tajima goes back to the wall, looks up!
Takajyou with the first home run of this year's senbatsu gives Kyukoku the 2-0 lead!!
Ryuu grounds out to 2nd to end the inning, but Maebashi Ikuei will have to play catch-up early!
Miyoshi with the lead now goes on the offensive.
Ushizaki goes down swinging... and so does Mohara. And just to change things up a bit, Kanzawa is caught looking (although the pitch seemed a bit low). Miyoshi strikes out the side and Kyukoku is quickly back on the bats.
Ikeda's pitching is more aggressive now, perhaps a bit peeved he gave up those runs. Hanada goes down after the ump calls he didn't check his swing. Katou too goes down swinging for 2 outs.
But again he can't close the deal, hitting Tokiyoshi to give Kyukoku a runner.
And then Ishisako lifts a ball to center! Ida running back, but it's over his head! That falls at the base of the wall and they're sending Tokiyoshi home! Mohara makes a strong throw, but it's just a bit late as Tokiyoshi slides around the tag making it 3-0 Kyukoku!
Now a 4 pitch walk to Hirabaru and things are getting bad for Maebashi Ikuei. Arai-kantoku calls a conference.
Andou with a grounder through the infield into left. Ishisako is sent home! Tajima with the throw, but it's offline and it's now 4-0 Kyukoku!
Ace Ikeda is warming up, but his jacket is on. I wonder if he was injured somewhere and that's why they went to Takumi.
Takumi does get Miyoshi to swing at a high fastball ending the inning, but the deficit for Maebashi gets bigger.
Aoki gives Maebashi Ikuei their first hit with a single to center.
あら？ #7 Sakurai is hitting for Takumi, which means his day is over.
Sakurai grounds out to 2nd, but advances the runner. Perhaps Maebashi can get on the board.
But Tajima flies out to shallow left, and Ida hits a comebacker to Miyoshi to end the inning.
Ace Ikeda takes the mound now, but perhaps a bit late. He looks to have a standard fastball in the low 130's with sliders and curves in the 110's.
The fastball looks to have some tailing action in on righties, and Takajyou flies out to right.
Ryuu grounds out to 2nd and Ikeda looked to have righted the ship. That is until he bounces one at Hanada and clips him on the foot as he tried to jump out of the way.
It doesn't matter though as Katou lines out to right to end the inning.
Watanabe gets another leadoff runner for Maebashi as he hits a liner over Hirabaru's head.
Ryousuke though goes down on 3 straight pitches, flailing on a ball way outside for the K.
But now Ushizaki earns a walk, and there's a chance for Maebashi Ikuei.
Mohara gets a hold of one and sends it to right! But he just gets under it and Ryuu is able to park in front of the wall for the 2nd out.
Kanzawa with a pop up to shallow right-center. Hirabaru backpedaling, turns around! The ball falls in between him and Andou! Watanabe comes in to score, and Kanzawa reaches 2nd! Big chance for Maebashi!
Miyoshi though gets Aoki to pop one up in foul territory. Tokiyoshi near the dugout makes the catch to retire the side, but not before Maebashi Ikuei gets on the board.
Ikeda has certainly settled down the team on the field. Tokiyoshi grounds out to Aoki who then makes a fine stop on a scorcher down the line by Ishisako. And a flyout to center from Hirabaru quickly ends the inning.
Miyoshi seems to have settled down from that shaky 4th inning. Ikeda flies out to right, and then Tajima and Ida both strike out looking for a 1-2-3 inning.
Ikeda leaves a fastball right down the heart of the plate and Andou crushes it down the right field line for a homerun!! 5-0 Kyukoku!
Miyoshi goes down to get a curve and drive that to left center!! It can't be!!!
IT IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HAITA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Back-to-back homeruns by Andou and Miyoshi and it's now 6-0!
Ikeda finally ends it getting Takajyou to ground out to Watanabe for out #1.
But the relief is short lived!!!
Ryuu with a drive down the right field line!!! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!!!
Ryuu hits a homerun! That's 3 in 4 batters! 7-0 Kyukoku!!
Hanada gets a hold of a pitch and sends that to center. Ida is there to make the catch. Katou sends one to left, and Tajima is there for the 3rd out.
There's no doubt though that Kyukoku is seeing the ball well and driving it deep. Maebashi Ikuei will be happy to reach the break. Hopefully they can rally in the 2nd half of the game.
Miyoshi registers another K, this time on Watanabe on a high fastball.
And after a groundout to 2nd by Ryousuke, Ushizaki goes down looking on a nice slider for a quick inning by Miyoshi. It's pretty much cruise mode now.
Ikeda off to shaky start hitting Tokiyoshi, but after a sac bunt, he gets Hirabaru to fly out to left for the 2nd out.
But now comes that part of the lineup that crushed Ikeda. And the intimidation shows as he walks Andou.
He's able to go back into the dugout though after Mohara makes a nice backhanded stop to rob Miyoshi of a hit.
Mohara with a grounder to 2nd, but Hirabaru boots it! E4 and Maebashi gets a leadoff runner.
There's no bunting now, they need runs more than advancement.
Kanzawa pops out to right...
Aoki with a fly down the left field line. Katou can't run it down and the runners advance 90 feet.
But Ikeda grounds right to Tokiyoshi. He bobbles it, steps on 3rd for one, throw gets a slow Ikeda by a good bit for a double play. That was a bit surprising.
Takajyou with a short grounder down the 3rd base line. Aoki charges, but it glances off the glove! It's ruled a hit and Kyukoku has a runner on.
Looks like Wakao-kantoku wants to practice small ball, and has Ryuu bunt. Takajyou advances to 3rd after Hanada grounds right to Ushizaki.
Ikeda gets Katou to ground out to short for the 3rd out, but the game looks to be all but secured for Kyukoku,
#17 Ichiba is in to PH for Tajima, but goes down swinging on 3 straight.
Back to the top of the order and Ida hits a scorcher that bounces off Hanada. Hirabaru is there to field it, but the throw to 1st is late.
Miyoshi gets Watanabe to get under a pitch and Hanada moves in for the 2nd out.
Ryousuke goes down swinging on a high fastball yet again, and the side is retired.
#18 Kurihara comes in for Ichiba and takes over in LF.
Ikeda gets a fairly easy 1-2-3 inning against the 8-9-1 batters, and it'll be last ups for Maebashi Ikuei.
Miyoshi throwing a slow curve now in the low 100's, probably getting some work in. He retires the side quietly and just like that Kyuoku is in the next round.
As mentioned in the Koushien chat room, 2 blowouts. But with 2 new teams, that is to be expected. Kyukoku truly is a team on the rise, and it'll be interesting to see how they will fare against Nihon Bunri.
For Maebashi Ikuei, their stay at Koushien didn't last long, but I'm sure they enjoyed it nonetheless. Who knows? They may have a shot this summer to go again!
Aoki Ryou - 2-3
Kanzaawa Masato - 1-4, 2B, RBI, 2K
Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku
Andou/Miyoshi - Back-to-back HRs
Andou Akito - 2-3, HR, R, RBI, BB
Miyoshi Takumi - 1-3, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB
Takajyou Shuuto - 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI
Ryuu Kounosuke - 1-3, HR, R, RBI
Miyoshi Takumi - CG, ER, 3 H, 11 K, BB