So yesterday we relatively eased into Koushien. After two games that went as expected, the team that perhaps surprised everyone in Soushi Gakuen almost did it again taking Hokkai to the wire.
The changes made at Koushien this year because of the Great Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake which include speeding up time between games means that the action just keeps on rolling from game to game, and there's little time to catch one's breath.
Today should be no different.
Opening today's action will be our first 21st Centrury team in Oodate Houmei. They took a circuitous route to Koushien which normally wouldn't happen if this was the Natsu Koushien. In the Kita regionals, they had lost to Noshiro Shougyou then won their part of the loser's bracket to make the prefecturals. There they had a quality win against Honjyou on their way to winning the prefecturals. Finally, they had went wire-to-wire with Aomori Yamada falling short 4-3.
They received their invitation based upon their strong play in the fall as well as their recent performance, and it is noted that the staff of 76 teachers do their best to balance work and extracurricular activities.
Oodate Houmei's opponent on paper is a team that should have a good chance to win it all. Yet much like a Texas or a Pittsburgh in college basketball, they underperform when it gets to tournament time.
That team is Tenri.
This year, they won their 7th super-regional title. The prefecturals were yet another formality as they, Chiben Gakuen and Kooriyama all reached the Best 4 for the n-teenth time. And with a 10-3 win over Kooriyama secured a spot in the super-regionals. There they wound up facing a relatively easier schedule early in the super-regionals , missing Osaka Touin (who was upset by Kakogawa Kita). They then had to scramble against Chiben Wakayama after giving up 5 runs in the 7th & 8th innings scoring a pair in the 8th, and 2 more in the bottom of the 9th for a sayonara win. Finally, they avenged their loss to Riseisha at last year's Natsu Koushien, taking the title 2-1.
Tenri's squad continues to be rather deep and solid, but surprisingly they were not challenged as much in the strong Kinki super-regionals. This could easily mask weaknesses that were not exploited in the fall, and could spell yet another early exit from Koushien. Although perhaps for one game, that may not be the case.
Oodate Houmei (Akita) - 21st Century Team
2B Shinomura Kyouhei
CF Yoshida Hayato
SS Onuki Keita
1B Sakuma Ryousuke
3B Sasake Kousuke
LF Takko Masaya
C Narita Shou
RF Satou Tasuku
P Saitou Kouhei
Tenri (Nara) - Kinki Champions
2B Nishura Jyouji
SS Okabe Ryou
LF Moriguchi Yuuki
1B Hasegawa Shouma
3B Date Shougo
CF Yanagimoto Keisuke
RF Higashida Motohiro
C Yoshida Ryouta
P Nakatani Keita (#11)
9:00 - Game start!
It's Nakatani on the mound. I think the longer he's out there, the better Tenri is.
Shinomura with a grounder up the middle. Okabe makes a diving stop behind the bag! Throw to first in time! Nice play by the Tenri defense to start the game!
Yoshida with a pop up to 2nd for the 2nd out.
Nakatani is about to get out of the inning when he walks Onuki. And with a runner on, I forgot that Nakanani pays a LOT of attention to the runner. He throws at least 5 times over to 1st.
Nevertheless, he comes back to strike out Sakuma to end the inning.
Saitou off to a good start as he gets Nishiura to pop out in foul territory.
He looks to have Okabe retired, but Onuki boots it! Throw is late and Tenri has a runner.
Morikawa-kantoku elects to go for the sac bunt, and Moriguchi lays it down. That sets it up for cleanup batter Hasegawa.
And a wild pitch from Saitou! Okabe goes to 3rd!
But Saitou settles down and gets Hasegawa to pop up to shallow center. Shinomura camps under it and makes the catch ending the threat.
Sasaki with a base hit to left! Oodate Houmei gets a leadoff runner!
Takko looks to bunt the runner along, but falls behind 1-2. Nakatani gets him to hit a fly to center. Yanagimoto runs in and makes the catch.
おっと。Nakatani hits Narita. It looks close on the replay, but I can see some deflection.
えぇぇぇぇぇぇぇぇぇ？ Nakatani hits Satou?????? It's manrui for Oodate Houmei!!
Saitou up, showing bunt, but it's probably a buster stance. Either way, he looks at 3 straight and there's 2 outs.
Back to the top of the order and Shinomura. Nakatani bearing down gets ahead 1-2, then gets Shinomura to pop up! Hasegawa under it just in foul territory and makes the catch! Tenri gets out of the jam!!
One down for Tenri, and Saitou "hits" (if you want to call it that) Yanagimoto with a slow curve.
There's no bunt here, but Higashida pops it up. Narita out from behind home plate down the 3rd base line makes the catch.
Yoshida up and Yanagimoto takes off for 2nd! He gets a good jump and steals the bag.
あら？ Yanagimoto takes off for 3rd! It's a slow curve, but Narita fires the ball to 3rd in plenty of time! I wonder if he got a good jump at all to be caught like that.
Just to look at Nakanani for a second, he's a southpaw that throws in the high 120's occasionally hitting 130. He has a slider in the 110's, and a curve in the 100's.
After retiring Yoshida to center, he can't find the plate against Onuki again and walks him for the 2nd time.
Saitou-kantoku calls for his cleanup batter to bunt, and Sakuma lays it down. Oodate Houmei will play for the run.
Sasaki though gets jammed on an inside slider and chops it back to Nakatani. He goes to 1st and the inning is over for Houmei. Nakatani's control doesn't look that sharp and it looks like there might be more opportunities for them in the coming innings.
Yoshida with a scorcher up the 3rd base line! Sasaki can't pick it! It's down the line and Yoshida's in with a double!
Nakatani tries to bunt him along, but it's too hard! Sakuma charges in and makes sure that Yoshida can't advance!
Back to the top of the order, and Nishiura. Saitou falls behind and walks him on 4 straight.
Okabe up, and he bunts!
Narita out quickly to field it, throw to 1st hits Okabe! Okabe collides with Sakuma! The ball goes in foul territory and the runners take off! Yoshida comes in to score and Tenri takes the lead on the throwing error by Narita! 1-0!
Moriguchi with a pop fly to shallow left. Takko charges in and looks to have it... but he reaches back and it goes behind him! Nishiura comes around to score and it's 2-0 Tenri!
Hasegawa with a single to left center. That's going to score Okabe and now it's 3-0!
Date with a base hit to right! That will load the bases for Tenri!
And now Yanagimoto with a drive to left center! That's into the gap, and the runners will wheel around! Everyone scores on Yanagimoto's triple and like that it's 6-0 Tenri!
And there's still one down.
Make that two. Higashida grounds out to 2nd. Shinomura checks the runner before recording the out.
Yoshida up for the 2nd time, and he collects his 2nd hit of the inning! It's a rocket single to left that scores Yanagimoto making it 7-0.
Saitou finally ends the inning as he gets Nakantani to hit a foul fly. Narita in foul territory has it for the 3rd out.
But 11 batters and 7 runs later, things don't look so good for Oodate Houmei.
One down, and Narita singles to left to try and get the offense going. Satou goes for the safety bunt down the 3rd base line, but Date charges in and makes a fine throw just beating a hustling Satou (See everyone? You go faster when you run through the bag!).
#17 Uesugi comes in to PH for Saitou. His day is mercifully done as #11 Yuzawa warms up in the bullpen.
Uesugi certainly is fighting at the plate fouling off 4 pitches after the count goes 2-2, but Nakatani gets him to ground out to 2nd to end the inning.
I was going to talk about Saitou, who was a lefty that threw in the 120's and had primarily thrown a lot of slow off-speed pitches, but as you can see, some good solid hits after an untimely misplay spelled his demise.
Yuzawa is a righty who seems to primarily throw fastballs which are in the low-mid 130s. Nishiura probably wasn't ready for the slight uptick in speed and goes down swinging.
But fastball seem to be the only thing he can throw as he walks Okabe on nothing but them.
Moriguchi keys in on it and hits a shot at 1st. Sakuma though makes a great pick! Steps on 1st for one, but the throw to 2nd is a bit off.
Hasegawa up, and we see an off speed pitch! But it's in the dirt and gets away from Narita! Okabe advances to 3rd.
Hasegawa then grounds one through the left side making it 8-0.
Date then hits a single to left, and Yanagimoto walks to make make it a manrui situation again. But Yuzawa with what looks like a shuuto strikes him out looking to end the inning.
Oodate Houmei's batter seem to be making better contact, but it's not helping. Shinohara flies out to deep left, and after a nice single by Yoshida, Onuki flies out to left, and Sakuma grounds to short to end the inning.
Yoshida with a hard shot at 3rd. Sasaki with the diving stop! Throw to 1st is short, but Sakuma makes a great pick to get the out!
Nakatani collects his first hit of the day as he singles to right.
Nishiura barely catches the end of the bat on the first pitch. Ball dribbles to Sakuma who makes the play at 1st.
With 2 down, and after getting ahead of Okabe 0-2, he walks him to put runners at 1st and 2nd.
2 more balls to Moriguchi and one wonders about how Yuzawa's endurance is.
Yuzawa does get Moriguchi to fly out to right to end the inning. The game heads to the break with Tenri comfortably ahead and in a great position to advance.
Nakatani still having some control issues as he grazes Sasaki's jersey on an inside fastball.
Takko hits a short pop. Nishiura charges in and picks it for the first out.
Narita hanging in there, can't hold up on his swing and goes down on strikes.
Satou with a grounder to 1st, and it bounces over Hasegawa's glove into right! That seemed like a whiff there.
#14 Togashi comes in to bat for Yuzawa, confirming that he was probably at the end of his line there in the 5th.
Two balls from Nakatani and Morikawa-kantoku calls for a conference.
Right after that, 2 strikes to even the count.
Tokashi hits a weak grounder to 2nd. Nishiura makes the easy flip to Okabe to retire the side.
# Kameta comes in to pitch for Oodate Houmei. He has a fastball that seems to sit in the mid-120's and a slider in the high 110's. The control isn't quite there though.
He does get Hasegawa to ground out to 1st, but has trouble against Date. Eventually Kameta retires him with a fly to center.
Yanagimoto swings through an inside off-speed pitch, and while he gets plunked, he's retired to end the inning.
Shinomura with a grounder to short. Okabe makes a nice stop but he hangs his throw up a little allowing Shinomura to reach safely!
Nakatani comes back to strike out Yoshida, and then Onuki hits a grounder to 2nd! Nishiura flips it to Okabe for 1, throw to 1st is in time for the 4-6-3 double play.
There's a slow curve from Kameta to Higashida. Oh, and then he hits him with another offspeed pitch.
After Yoshida bunts him along, #14 Yoshimura comes in to pinch-hit for Nakatani which means we'll see Nishiguchi in the next inning.
Kameta's control issues continue to plague him as he walks Yoshimura. #10 Masuoka comes in to run for Yoshimura.
Oodate Houmei thinks that turnabout is fair play as Kameta gets Nishiura to ground into their 4-6-3 double play to end the innning.
Right off the bat Nishiguchi has trouble hitting the plate. After falling behind 3-1, Sakuma singles to right.
Now Nishiguchi is a hard thrower. Probably the 1st so far to be able to hit the 140 mark.
But it doesn't matter how hard you throw it if the batters can hit it. Sasaki takes a pitch through the right side for another base hit.
#18 Abe in to PH for Takko. Certainly Oodate Houmei senses an opportunity here.
And Abe with a hard hit to the left side! Okabe ranges over to his right and fields it! He flips to 2nd for the force. One down, but still a good scoring opportunity.
Nishiguchi though surprises Narita with an offspeed pitch! Narita grounds to Nishiura who once again starts the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning!
Tenri looks to be ready to end the game as they quickly are retired 1-2-3 to end the inning.
Of course Nishiguchi isn't quite in a rush. He hits Satou on the first pitch. Pretty good plunk too. Follows that up with 2 more balls before throwing a strike. The count winds up full, and Nishiguchi walks Kameta.
Remember what I said at the beginning of the game about Nishiguchi?
And now Nishiguchi falls behind Shinomura 2-1! He manages to throw a strike in there to level the count, and finally gets enough control to throw 2 good pitches in a row to strike out Shinomura looking.
Yoshida looking to wait on pitches, but Nishiguchi works the count to 2-2. But Yoshida is fooled on a high fastball and knows it.
Last chance now in Onuki.
But he hits a soft liner to Okabe who secures it for the final out.
One misplay by Takko in the 3rd spelled disaster for Oodate Houmei. If not for that, they may have had a decent chance against Tenri.
Nonetheless Tenri does advance, however they will have to play better than that if they want to advance any further. Their bats will have to come alive in more than just one inning, and whatever Morikawa-kantoku does, he must find a way to keep Nakatani on the mound as long as possible. As seen in the last couple of innings, ace Nishiguchi can throw hard, but not effectively.
Sasaki Kousuke - 2-3, HBP
Satou Tasuku - 1-1, 2 HBP
Nakatani Keita - W, 7 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 3 K, 2 BB, 3 HBP
Hasegawa Shouma - 2-5, R, RBI
Date Shougo - 2-4, R
Yoshida Ryouta - 2-3, 2B, R