Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 4 - Game 3 - Kokugakuin Kugayama (Tokyo) vs. Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto)

Final game of the day highlights 2 teams that have done well within the prefecture, but not necessarily have reached Koushien.

Kokugakuin Kugayama has Nichidai-san to thank for securing an "automatic" bid. But their tournament resume isn't that bad either. After advancing out of block play, they were thrown into one of the 1st round games. After defeating Yasuda Gakuen, Kokugakuin Kugayama had to play Obirin, Shuutoku and Waseda Gakuin in consecutive games - all above-average teams in Tokyo.

Then in the semifinals they faced Hachiouji who had defeated Nichidai-ni the game before (Nichidai-ni isn't as good as their counterpart Nichidai-san, but they're not bad). Hachiouji would surprisingly give Kokugakuin a run for their money, sending the game into extras before they would score 4 in the 10th to advance to the finals. There they faced Nichidai-san who held them to just 5 hits in a 4-0 shutout loss.

Kyushu Gakuin did not face particularly strong competition early, then suddenly had a scare against Kumamoto Kokufu in the semifinals but won 3-2. Then in the prefectural final they couldn't gain any traction against Shuugakukan, losing 7-2.

Still, they qualified for the super-regionals where after a win over Karatsu Shougyou, they held on to defeat last year's haru-natsu champion Kounan 6-5. That setup yet another summer rematch against Kagoshima Jitsugyou. And much like the Tenri-Riseisha game, the losing team in the summer got their revenge in the fall as ace Noda would limit Kyushu to just 5 hits falling 4-1.

This should be a good, competitive game between these two teams, and Kyushu Gakuin has had recent tournament experience so they may have a slight advantage.

Kokugakuin Kugayama (Tokyo) - Meiji Jingu Bid
CF Tamegai Kenya
3B Izumiya Yuuki
SS Matsuda Shin
RF Kimura Yuuto
P Kawaguchi Takato
1B Nii Shinnosuke
2B Ri Pokkon (#14)
C Kikuchi Taishi
LF Kamegai Yuu

Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto) - Kyushu 3rd/4th Place
SS Mizowaki Hayato
RF Shimoda Yuuto
CF Yamashita Tsubasa
3B Hagiwara Hideyuki
1B Okayama Shirou
C Sakai Soushirou
LF Tamura Takuya
P Ootsuka Takahito
2B Kiyama Taihei


13:30 - Game start!

Top 1st
Ootsuka strikes out Tamegai to start the game. Izumiya quickly grounds to short.

Ootsuka is a southpaw who throws 3/4's with a low 130s fastball and a slider in the high 110s-lower 120s.

Matsuda with a grounder to 3rd, Hagiwara boots it, gets it back but the throw is late.

Now Ootsuka walks Kimura on 4 straight and there's a developing situation now for Kyushu Gakuin.

Kawaguchi with a comebacker to Ootsuka! He doesn't get down to get the ball and it's under his glove into center! Matsuda scores as Kimura advances to 3rd on the bobble by CF Yamashita and it's runners at the corners! It's 1-0!

But Ootsuka gets Nii to swing on an outside pitch to end the inning, but an error leads to a run, as is wont to do.

Bottom 1st
Mizowaki with a grounder to 3rd. Hagiwara with the ball, but the throw is high!

おい! Wild pitch from Kawaguchi and Mizowaki heads to 2nd.

おいおい!! Another wild pitch and Mizowaki is at 3rd!

Shimoda walks and it's runners at the corners already.

Yamashita with a grounder to short. Matsuda goes to 2nd for one, but Masuda's throw to 1st is high and goes into the camera well! 2nd E already, and there's a runner on 2nd. Mizowaki scores and it's 1-1 just like that.

And now Yamashita takes off for 3rd! Throw is late and he's in safely.

Oh boy... Ootsuka walks Hagiwara, the ball gets away from Kawaguchi and Yamashita scores to make it 2-1!

Kawaguchi finally gets a reprieve when Okayama goes down swinging for the 2nd out, but then he turns around and falls behind Sakai 2-0.

Sakai with a shot down the right field line! Shimoda running over to the foul pole, collides with the wall, but the ball goes bouncing back towards 2nd! Hagiwara scores on the triple and it's now 3-1 Kyushu Gakuin!

Tamura singles to left and it's 4-1. Wasn't expecting this from Kokugakuin to start.

Kawaguchi gets Ootsuka to strike out looking to end the inning, but a disjointed inning by Kokugakuin Kugayama erases the lead and puts them in the hole.

Top 2nd
Ri starts the 2nd inning with a flair to left. Kikuchi bunts him along as Koura-kantoku will look to chip away at the deficit.

However Kamegai can't bring him home flying out to left. And Tamegai harmlessly grounds to 1st to end the inning.

Bottom 2nd
Well, Kawaguchi seemed like a capable pitcher as he can throw in the upper 130s/140 with a slider in the upper 110s and a curve in the lower 110s.

After a K to start the inning, Mizowaki pops up to 1st, but the umpires get together and call catcher's interference.

And things go downhill from there. Shimoda singles to center, sending Mizowaki to 3rd. Then Yamashita singles past Matsuda into center plating Mizowaki making it 5-1.

Hagiawara with a blast to right, but the wind knocks it down allowing Kimura to make the catch in front of the wall.

And now Yamashita takes off for 2nd with no throw... And Okayama singles to center. Both runners score and it's 7-1 Kyushu Gakuin.

Sakai strikes out swinging to end the inning, but this is just ugly. What happened to the team that make it to the prefectural finals?

Top 3rd
Izumiya with a drive to center - Yamashita running back to the wall, but can't chase it down and he's in with a leadoff double.

Matsuda hits a fly to right, deep enough to send the runner to 3rd.

And a bit uncharacteristically, Ootsuka walks Kimura on 4 straight.

Kawaguchi with a liner to center, but just enough air to let Yamashita field it for the 2nd out.

Nii to try and get some runs back. Kimura takes off on the 1st pitch with no throw.

Nii crushes a hanging slider to right! Shimoda scrambling back will not get to it! That's all the way to the wall and Nii has a 2-RBI triple! It's 7-3!!

おっと。 Now Ootsuka hits Ri.

And now Kikuchi shoots one through the left side! Nii scores and it's 7-4! Sakai-kantoku calling a conference. Things are getting a bit out of hand.

Kamegai with a drive to left center!!! Tamura and Yamashita converge on the ball...

And Yamashita makes a great sliding catch to end the inning! Otherwise Kokugakuin could be within 1 run!

Bottom 3rd
What will Kawaguchi do now that the team has rallied a bit?

Well, Tamura goes down looking on a nice fastball on the outside corner.

Ootsuka flies out to left... and Kiyama pops out to Nii in foul territory! A 1-2-3 inning for Kawaguchi! Let's see what happens on the sticks now!

Top 4th
But while Kokugakuin has stemmed the losses, and got back a couple of runs, things seem to have stalled a bit. Back to the top of the order and a chance for another big inning, but Ootstka settles down. He retires Tamegai and Izumiya via the flyball, and Matsuda hits a weak comebacker for a 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom 4th
Kyushu Gakuin's offense seems to have stalled now that Kokugakuin's pitching and defense have stabilized. 5 pitches to record 3 outs and Kyushu Gakuin will have to go out on defense again.

Top 5th
Kimura with a first-pitch single past Okayama into right. No bunting here, they're going to swing away.

But Kawaguchi flies out to center, and Nii flies to right and there's quickly 2 outs.

Make that 3 as Ri hits another dribbler back to Ootsuka.

Bottom 5th
Kawaguchi continuing to sit down the Kyushu Gakuin batters. Hagiwara strikes out swinging on an outside fastball. Okayama goes down when he can't check his swing on a curve in the dirt (although I'm not so sure about that). And Sakai, like Hagiwara swings on a fastball outside.

Kawaguchi strikes out the side, but he needed this in the 1st and 2nd innings too. Instead, his team finds itself down 3 runs heading into the break.

Top 6th
The bats have yet to find the spark they had in the 3rd.

Kikuchi grounds to 1st, Kamegai strikes out swinging (badly), and Tamegai grounds to 1st as well.

Bottom 6th
Tamura breaks the hitting drought with a single to right. Sakai-kantoku will have Ootsuka bunt. He does so, and Kawaguchi almost throws it away, but Nii spins and tags Ootsuka as he runs by.

Kiyama flies out to right, just deep enough to advance the runner.

Kawaguchi though gets Mizowaki to pop out to Izumiya in foul territory to end the inning.

Top 7th
Izumiya up and he singles to right to start things off in the Lucky 7.

Matsuda looks at a fastball down the middle for strike 3, but Izumiya steals 2nd on the K.

Kimura works the count full, but has to swing away and pops it up to Mizowaki for the 2nd out.

Kawaguchi reaches down on an offpseed pitch and pokes it to right! That's in for a base hit and it's now 7-5!!

And although Ri flies out to center on the first pitch, Kokugakuin Kugayama pulls just a little closer.

Bottom 7th
The Kyushu Gakuin batters are working the counts, trying to get anything started, but it doesn't work. Shimoda grounds to short, Yamashita grounds to 1st, and Hagiwara pops up to Matsuda.

Top 8th
Kokugakuin will need to keep the offense moving forward.

Ri with a hot shot to short, but Mizowaki picks it and throws to 1st for the out. Nice play!

Kikuchi with a liner down the left field line! He's turning for 2! Relay from Mizowaki... and Kiyama tags him out at 2nd! Boy, that was a good idea, but he slid way too early...

And that running mistake could be costly as Kamegai singles back up the middle.

Back to the top of the order and Tamegai with a grounder to 1st...

that gets by Okayama!

Conference from Sakai-kantoku... If not for that baserunning mistake it would be a one-run game. Izumiya with a chance to get his team within 1.

Tamegai goes on the 0-1 pitch and there's no throw! Now a base hit could tie it!

OH! He just reaches out to foul that one off!


Izumiya, putting the team on his back completes the comeback!!!! It's now 7-7!!!!

Ootsuka strikes out Matusda for the 2nd time to end the inning, but Kokugakuin has rallied for down 7-1 to tie the game!!!

Bottom 8th
So how will Kyushu Gakuin respond?

Okayama with a grounder to the right side, Nii with the great stop and toss to Kawaguchi for the first out.

Sakai with a scorcher to the left side, and Izumiya is there with the diving stop, makes the throw to 1st for the 2nd out!

What can't this guy do??

And Tamura goes down looking on a fastball on the outside corner to retire the side!

Kyushu Gakuin looks stunned at the turn of events, but the game isn't over yet! Can they get themselves together in time??

Top 9th
Ootsuka gets a groundout from Kimura to short for the 1st out.

Kawaguchi first-pitch swinging pops out to Hagiwara.

And Nii grounds out to short. Mizowaki makes a good play out of it, and for now, Kokugakuin Kugayama's charge has been held back.

Bottom 9th
Kyushu Gakuin still with a chance to end it in regulation. The inning will start off with Ootsuka. But he grounds out to short. Matsuda taking a bit more time with the throw.

#18 Idzuno comes in to hit for Kiyama. But he goes down swinging on a fastball low.

Mizowaki up and he drives one to deep left center! The fielders converge on it...

and it goes off of Kamegai's glove!!! Mizowaki round the bases and slides into 3rd!

Conference now from Koura-kantoku, what will they do now?


The first pitch from Kawaguchi goes low and under Kikuchi! He scrambles back! Mizowaki charging home!! Toss from Kikuchi....

SAFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! サヨナラ!!!

What an awful way to end the game... After all the work put into rallying all the way back, a ball that glances off the glove of the outfielder, and then a ball that bounces under the catcher gives it all away...

Like a friend at the Koshien chat room said... In some ways, it's worse than getting blown out... Because here, you had hope, you had a chance, you made it all the way back... and then right when you felt that things were on your side, it all gets taken away from you.

I don't know if Kokugakuin Kugayama deserved to move on after their comeback, but I do know that they didn't deserve to lose this way. Not in such a twisted way that brought the game full circle. It's just soul-crushing - you can see it on Kawaguchi's face after Mizowaki was called safe, the shock that the run was safe, to the realization that the game was over and they had lost.

I'm done with this game. I'll deal with the notable players tomorrow.

Notable Players
Kokugauin Kugayama
Izumiya Yuuki - 3-5, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI
Kawaguchi Takato - 2-5, 2 RBI
Kikuchi Taishi - 2-3, RBI

Kyushu Gakuin
Tamura Takuya - 2-4, 2 K
Sakai Soushirou - 1-4, 3B, R, 2 RBI, 2 K
Mizowaki Hayato - 1-5, 3B, 3 R

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