Closing out the festivities of opening day is a team that is quite the story.
Soushi Gakuen's ballclub can almost be considered a real-life Seishuu Gakuen (see Major). Prior to 2010, the school was an all-girls school. In less than just one year this team of 1st years finished runner-up in the prefecturals - albeit getting steamrolled by Kanzei, then clearing the super-regionals only to lose once again to Kanzei - this time by a respectable margin. This after losing to Konkou Gakuen 7-0 in the opening round of the summer qualifiers! Soushi Gakuen now holds the record for a team to reach Koushien after the clubs inception!
So given the very small history of the team, there's very little to go on on these guys.
Soushi Gakuen, much like the other first-timers today did not get an easy 1st round draw. Instead, they draw a "mid-major" team in Hokkai. Hokkai has made numerous appearances at Koushien, however much like most Hokkaido teams they seem to wilt once they head southwest.
Hokkai wasn't challenged in block play save for a game against Toukai Dai-yon, and then not until the quarterfinals when they defeated Hokkaido Sakae, Sapporo Dai-ichi and Hokushou to win the title.
Soushi Gakuen (Okayama) - Chuugoku Runner-up
SS Noyama Shinsuke
CF Tomamori Naoya
3B Yoshida Hiroki
1B Kanayama Takahiro
LF Tamai Ryouta
C Sutou Ryousei
2B Suetani Shuuto
P Tomita Kazushige
RF Koyama Yuuji (#18)
Hokkai (Hokkaido) - Hokkaido Champions
SS Mori Takahiro
3B Tama Taisuke
2B Kawasaki Kazuya
RF Kawagoe Seiji
LF Ujiie Ryou
1B Zeniya Kouki
C Tamaki Kouta
P Tamakuma Shouichi
CF Isoda Kouyou
14:45 - Game start!
Captain Noyama with a grounder past a diving Kawasaki into right! Nagasawa-kantoku playing by the traditional book has Tomomori bunting the runner along.
But Yoshida goes down swinging, so it's up to Kanayama. He goes down swinging, so no dice for Soushi Gakuen in their 1st inning.
Huh, Tomita has an interesting delivery where he hold the ball down near his hip. I'm not sure I've noticed that before.
Mori though fights a couple off before hitting a single to right. Hirakawa-kantoku also calls for the bunt, and this time, Kawasaki hits a comebacker past the glove of Tomita into center! Mori stops at 3rd, but quickly Tomita and Soushi Gakuen is in a pinch.
That doesn't help... Sudou loses sight of the 1-1 pitch and Kawasaki goes to 2nd.
Kawagoe zips one past a diving Suetani into right, and Mori scores from 3rd! Kawazaki is held at 3rd, but Hokkai is on the board at 1-0! Nagasawa-kantoku with a conference to try and settle down the team.
Tomita records the 2nd out as he induce Ujiie to pop out to Suetani in foul territory.
But perhaps nerves are involved here as Tomita's control continues to have issues. He walks Zeniya giving Hokkai a manrui situation.
And after a ball to Tamaki, Nagasawa-kantoku goes into panic mode? #10 Yamamoto comes in for Koyama and takes the mound. Tomita goes to left.
Yamamoto is a sidewinder, but not a low thrower.
And he gets Soushi out of the jam!! He strikes out Tamaki and limits the damage to one run!
Soushi Gakuen not fazed it seem by that pinch. Tamai bloops one into left for a leadoff single!
Sutou looks to have gotten a hold of one, but not enough as Ujiie is able to range over to his right for the catch.
Suetani tries to surprise with the sac bunt, and Tamakuma bobbles the ball, but his throw to 1st is just in time for the out.
So Nagasawa-kantoku will look for the one-timer from Tomita.
But Tomita is fooled by Tamakuma, and the inning is over.
So Yamamoto has a fastball in the high 120's and a slider in the 110's. He seems to be having more success on the mound, and has better control of his pitches.
He gets Tamakuma to ground out easily to short, but Isoda flares one to left for a base hit.
Back to the top of the order, and while Yamamoto gets ahead of Mori 0-2, Mori continues to foul off pitches.
Hirakawa takes the opportunity to take off for 2nd! But Sutou makes a good throw which leads Noyama right into Hirakawa blocking him for the out.
Finally Yamamoto wins the battle, getting Mori to groundout to 2nd on the 10th pitch of the AB.
Hokkai's ace Tamakuma isn't flamethrower, but he does locate well. He works at a very fast clip, and has one heck of a curve which is almost like a D-curve of sorts.
Yamamoto goes down on 3 straight pitches, and we're back to the top of the order. After getting ahead in the count, Tamakuma throws 2 bad pitches, hitting Noyama.
And on a 1-1 pitch Noyama takes off! The throw goes into 2nd, but both players are backing up and he's in safely!
But Tomomori is fooled on a V-slider and there's 2 down.
And Noyama takes off for 3rd??!
Tamaki with the throw in plenty of time and the inning is over. Perhaps it's to setup the next inning in case it's unsuccessful?
Yamamoto continues to locate really well, getting the outside corner to get Tama looking.
He continues to throw strikes at Hokkai forcing them to swing away. Of course after going 0-2 on Kawasaki, he throws 2 balls. Still, he gets Kawasaki to fly out to 2nd.
Hm... with 2 down, Yamamoto seems careful around Kawagoe. He gets him to pop up to shallow right center, but Tomita continues to charge in... and can't get to it! It falls in the outfield triangle and Kawagoe winds up at 2nd!
Yamamoto is perhaps too careful around the middle batters, but it doesn't hurt him for now as Ujiie grounds out to 2nd to end the inning.
Yeah, Tamakuma's pitching isn't spectacular, as his fastball is in the low-mid 130's, but he can locate. In addition, Soushi's batters are swinging away. Yoshida grounds back to Tamakuma, while Kanayama and Tamai fly out to center and left making for a quick inning and Hokkai back on the sticks.
It would seem that the Hokkai batters are losing patience after facing so many strikes from Yamamoto. Zeniya swings 2-0 and grounds to Noyama. Tamaki first pitch flies out to left.
Tamakuma tries to extend the AB, and it pays off with a shot back up the middle, past a diving Noyama into center.
Perhaps the Hokkai batters are getting a better feel as Isoda also hits one back up the middle past Yamamoto. But Suetani charges in, makes a nice pick and throw to retire the side.
Soushi Gakuen is making contact on Tamakuma's pitches, it's just that it's either bad contact or right at someone (or both).
Sutou grounds out to 2nd, Suetani hits a liner, but right at Kawagoe, and Tomita hits a weak chopper back to Tamakuma.
Mori with a dribbler that just gets past a diving Noyama into left center gives Hokkai its first leadoff runner since the 1st.
Tama squares to bunt, but instead pops it up! Sutou springs from behind the plate and makes the catch up the 3rd base line.
One down, and now it's Kawasaki's turn to start fouling off pitches. Yamamoto grounds to 2nd. Suetani makes a great flip to 2nd for one, but Noyama's relay isn't in time. 2 down.
Oh? A slow curve from Yamamoto? Kawagoe fouls that off.
うまい！ Yamamoto freezes Kawagoe on a 2-seamer back over the plate and we head to the break with RP Yamamoto holding the fort against the established Hokkai squad. However, they can't seem to solve Tamakuma just yet.
Part of Tamakuma's success is his varying speeds. There's that fastball in the mid 130's, then that curve at the high 100's, and that slider in the 110's.
Yamamoto goes down swinging, and Noyama looks up in disgust as his knees break on a slider over the plate for Tamakuma's 2nd K of the inning.
And Tamamori swings on a low slider and just walks away. Tamakuma strikes out the side, and Soushi continues to have no answer.
While the Soushi offense continues to frustrate, Yamamoto continues to do the same to the Hokkai batters. Certainly they're seeing the ball, but not well enough to get a hit. Try as Tamaki might to foul off pitches, he is retired along with Ujiie and Zeniya in Yamamoto's 2nd 1-2-3 inning.
A blast from Yoshida! He drives a hard curve to left center! And he's gunning for two! The throw is offline and Soushi has the tying run in scoring position!
Nagasawa-kantoku is electing not to bunt!
Kanayama reaches down and flares one to left-center! That's in front of Ujiie, and suddenly there's runners at the corners with no out!
Tamai isn't showing squeeze either! But Tamakuma gets ahead quickly 0-2! Now what?
But Tamai pulls the bunt back! Kanayama takes off for 2nd! Throw from Tamaki is there, but Kawasaki can't make the tag!! Now a base hit can give them the lead!
Tamai with a fly to left! Ujiie has to back up! He gets under it, makes the catch! Yoshida charges home! Relay from Mori, not in time! 同点!!! Soushi Gakuen ties the game on the sac fly from Tamai! 1-1!!!
Sutou tries to take advantage of the momentum, but instead takest he first pitch and pops out to 2nd.
Suetani with a chance to give Soushi the lead!
But Tamakuma breaks his knees with another slider! He's out of the inning, but not before Soushi levels the score!
Tamakuma with a fly to deep left center. Tomita ranging over looks to have it... but whiffs!!!! Tomomori backing up the play gets the ball in, but not before Tamakuma's in with a double!
Nagasawa-kantoku, perhaps seeing that he'll be riding Yamamoto, pulls Tomita for #9 Shouji.
And now with Isoda's sac bunt, Hokkai threatens to retake the lead!
Worse yet, it's the top of the order up now!
Mori with a shot to the left side! Noyama in makes a diving stop!!!!!! Throws to 1st and Kanayama makes a great pick! Tamakuma has to hold! Nice play by Noyama keeps the hope alive!
Tama up looking for that timely hit, gets ahead 2-1, but cannot get his timing right. Count goes even, then he fouls one off away.
He makes contact, but it's right at Noyama!! Soushi is out of the jam! We're in a 2-inning game now, who will take it?
Shouji up for his first AB, and is completely fooled by Tamakuma. One down.
Yamamoto with a grounder up the middle... Mori loses the ball! Throw to 1st is late and Soushi has a runner on! Of course Yamamoto makes it closer by diving, but we've been down that road before.
Again, Nagasawa-kantoku electing not to bunt.
Ooooo.... down 0-2, Noyama lets a close one go by for a ball. Noyama fighting here at the dish. But Tamakuma gets him to fly out to Ujiie for the 2nd out.
Up to Tamamori now. He grounds to 2nd. Kawasaki fields it near the bag, bobbles, but has enough time to flip it to Mori for the force.
The longer Hokkai leaves the game as it is, the greater the chance Soushi has to win. Hokkai should be looking to get ahead now.
It's perfect given that the 3-4-5 batters are up now, but none have been able to get to RP Yamamoto. Kawasaki hits a fly to left, but Tamai runs it down at the line.
Kawagoe with a drive to right center! Tomomori and Shouji run to the wall...
Cleanup batter Kawagoe gets to Yamamoto in the biggest way possible with a homerun! There's a bit of confusion as the ball bounced back into play, but the replay clearly shows it clearing the fence. Nevertheless Hokkai does indeed retake the lead at 2-1!!
After a groundout by Ujiie, Zeniya hits one to deep left center! That falls at the base of the wall and Zeniya is in with a double!
Is Yamamoto at his limit?
Perhaps, although he gets Tamaki to ground out to 2nd.
But that one slip up by Yamamoto may be the difference!
Yoshida with a comebacker at Tamakuma! It's off Tamakuma! Mori charging in, throws to first against a diving Yoshida....
Yet another case of a team robbing themselves of a hit.
Kanayama with a drive to right center! Kawagoe running towards the wall, makes the catch!!!
Tamai with another drive, this time to left center!!! Isoda can't run it down! Tamai in with a double!!!
Hirakawa-kantoku sending out Captain Nishio to settle the team. #16 Suzuki comes in to pinch run!
Up to Sutou now...
Grounder to short! Mori up with it! Throw to 1st...
Despite a valiant effort by the first timers, one late mistake winds up being the difference in the ball game. Certainly, the first years showed that their performance was no fluke and they do indeed belong here at Senbatsu. If they can just get past Kanzei, perhaps they have a real chance to get back here in the summer.
As for Hokkai, they certainly should feel lucky they were able to escape with a victory. But they will not be able to get away with such play in the next round. Although if favorite Tenri manages to get past the 1st round, I won't guarantee that they need their A game to move onto the Best 8.
Yamamoto Ryou - L, 8.1 IP, ER, 7 H, 3 K, 0 BB
Tamai Ryouta - 2-3, 2B, RBI
Yoshida Hiroki - 1-4, 2B, R
Tamakuma Shouichi - CG, ER, 5 H, 10 K, BB
Tamakuma Shouichi - 2-3, 2B
Kawagoe Seiji - 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, K
Mori Takahiro - 2-4, R