Our last game of the day features 2 teams on the rise, although one may be better off now that their ace has graduated.
Kanzei, after the Dass Romash years kind of disappeared from Okayama for a while. However, it would just be a matter of time before they would reload and challenge again. Unlike other prefectures, Kanzei had to qualify just like everyone else, advancing out of pool play with a 3-0 record, although they did have a 1-0 win over Kouyou (no, not that one). They then breezed though to the finals (although they did have a closer game against Okayama Kyousei), and schooled the freshmen from Soushi Gakuen 17-1.
Then in the super-regionals, the team pitched 4 shutouts, defeating Hiroshima Sougou Gijyutsu and Soushi Gakuen (again). However, in the last 3 games the offense managed just 8 runs. So the offense may be of some concern going into the game.
I say that because their opponent is Toukaidai Sagami - the team that was last years natsu runner-up. Yes, they did have ace Hifumi Shinta, but he wasn't really the ace pitcher many thought him to be. Yes, he did have pro velocity, but his change to a sidearm late in his HS career created a ton of walks and hit batters. Now that he's graduated, if they can get above average pitchers combined with their offense could make them a stronger team than before!
Behind ace Kondou Masataka, they cruised to the Kanagawa final where he faltered in the last inning against Yokohama. In the super-regionals the games were much more competitive with teams getting to Kondou - especially Maebashi Ikuei, who actually held the lead for a couple of innings. In the finals against Urawa Gakuin, they had to rally from behind, which they did, but while Kondou gave up the sayonara run, it had more to do with an error and a walk more than anything else.
Still, while Kondou has shown to be a more than serviceable pitcher, endurance - especially as the turnaround between games shorten significantly (especially for teams that play late in the 1st round) may be an issue. If that's true, they'll have to depend on the relief staff to help him out. Otherwise, it may be an earlier exit than expected.
Kanzei (Okayama) - Chuugoku Champions
CF Ogura Takahiro
RF Sejima Masaaki
SS Mizuhara Hiroto
3B Watanabe Yuuki (#9)
2B Fukui Kanjyuurou
1B Seki Yasunori
P Katada Yuuta
C Hata Ryosuke
LF Horikita Hayato (#12)
Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa) - Kanto Runner-up
RF Watanabe Masaru
CF Usuda Tetsuya
2B Tanaka Shunta
C Satou Hirotsugu
LF Sugano Tsuyoshi
3B Morishita Shouhei
1B Mitsui Takuya
SS Hashimoto Takuma
P Shouji Takuya (#17)
14:08 - Game start!
Ogura starts off the game with a hit to shallow center! Sejima looks to bunt, but can't so he has to swing away, and strikes out.
Ogura takes off on the 1-1 pitch to Mizuhara! No throw!
And Mizuhara works a walk! Runners on 1st and 2nd now for Kanzei!
Watanabe up, and he walks on 4 straight! Manrui for Kanzei and there's only one out!
Fukui up, and he strikes out on a slider away! 2 outs!
Seki with a shot to right, but it's right at Watanabe to retire the side! Shouji looking shaky to start but he doesn't break in the 1st!
Watanabe working Katada early, fills the count before hitting a single to center!
Usuda up and Katada is paying a lot of attention to the runner.
Should be paying attention to the batter as Usuda singles through the left side! Watanabe with an aggressive turn goes for 3rd! No throw! Runners at the corners and Kanzei already in a pinch!
Tanaka up and Usuda takes off for 2nd! No throw from Hata! Base hit can score 2!
But Tanaka swings at a ball down and away for strike 3! One out!
Katada can't get out of the mess! Satou singles past a drawn in Seki! Sejima gets the ball in but not before both runners score and Toukaidai Sagami jumps out to a 2-0 lead!
Katada finally does settle down as he gets Sugano to fly out to right, and Morishita to ground out to short to end the inning. But Toukaidai Sagami is their usual offensive selves here in the early going!
I can't really see anything that special about Shouji. He's a lefty for sure, has a fastball in the 120s, I think a slider in the high 100s, and a slow curve in the 90s.
One down for Kanzei, and Hata hits a comebacker up the middle for a base hit! Shouji's pitching troubles continue as he walks his 3rd batter in Horikita.
Ogura not bunting, but does a swinging bunt! Satou throws to 3rd and gets the lead runner for the 2nd out!
Sejima with a blast to right, but he hangs it up! Watanabe is there near the wall for the catch to end the inning.
Mitsui with a grounder to 2nd. It's under Fukui's glove for a base hit!
Hashimoto not bunting, but hits a high chopper! Katada waits for it, fires to 1st for the out.
Shouji up, grounds back to 1st for the 2nd out as Mitsui advances to 3rd.
Watanabe grounds to the right side. Seki ranges over to get it, but his throw to 1st is early! Katada isn't even close to the bag and it goes into the dugout! Mitsui scores and Watanabe advances to 2nd on the error! 3-0 Toukaidai Sagami!
Usuda with a blast to right center! Ogura sprinting back, reaches out his glove, and it glances off! They get the ball in, but not before Usuda in with an RBI triple to make it 4-0!
Tanaka tries the safety bunt, but Katada is there to field it easily for the 3rd out. But Sagami's bats are out in force and Kanzei is unable to do anything to stop them so far.
Shouji controlling play against Kanzei now. He retires the heart of the order in order, invoking his life-saving reflexes when Fukui lined a shot right back at his head.
One down for Sagami and the wheels begin moving again. After Katada hits Sugano, Morishita grounds one through to right.
Runners on 1st and 2nd, and they both take off! No throw again!
A base hit here could make it really messy.
Mitsui with a comebacker to Katada! They have Sugano caught up! They begin the rundown, and right when Sugano goes back to 3rd, Morishita vacates 3rd! Now they get Morishita in a rundown! He's tagged out by Mizuhara, and Mizuhara throws to 3rd! They tag Mitsui for the 1-2-5-6-5(?) double play!
Boy, that's some bad baserunning going on.
Shouji isn't throwing hard, but the batters I think are trying to crush the ball. Problem is, it's right to players.
Seki flies out to deep center. Katada to deep right. And try as Hata might to get on base, he grounds out to short to end the inning.
Hashimoto starts the inning with a hit to left. After a sac bunt by Shouji, Watanabe reaches out and grounds a ball to short, advancing the runner to 3rd.
2 outs for Usuda.
Usuda with a drive to left! That's to the wall! Horikita gets it in, but Hashimoto scores to make it 5-0!! Satou is actually a HR away from the cycle!
Eura-kantoku decides that's enough for Katada and makes mass changes.
#5 Kobayashi comes in for Horikita and goes to 3B, Watanabe moves to SS, Mizuhara head to the mound, Katada goes to RF, and Sejima goes to LF.
But Watanabe can't seem to stem the bleeding. He walks Tanaka on 4 straight...
And the runners keep stealing bases! And there's still no throw from Hata!
Then Satou hits a ball down the right field line fair! Katada retrieves it, but not before 2 more runs score to make it 7-0 Toukaidai Sagami!
Sugano grounds to short to end the inning, but Sagami is in full control of the game.
Kobayashi with a grounder that Morishita whiffs on and he's on base.
But the other batters continue to pop up the ball. Ogura and Sejima both fly out to left, and Mizuhara goes down swinging to end the inning...
After recording his first K in Morishita, Mizuhara walks Mitsui on 4 straight.
Then he taps Hashimoto on the head. After an infield fly by Shouji, Watanabe grounds to 1st, but it goes right under the legs of Seki into right! Mitsui comes in to score, making it 8-0.
And Watanabe takes off for 2nd! Hata makes a throw, but Mizuhara cuts it off.
Usuda up with a chance for the cycle. Count is 2-2 and Mizuhara makes a good pitch on the outside corner, but doesn't get the call. That proves costly as the very next pitch goes wild allowing Hashimoto to score and making it 9-0.
Mizuhara retires Usuda to short, but heading into the break it's all Toukaidai Sagami.
Kanzei's batters seem to continue uppercutting Shouji's pitchers as Watanabe flies out to center, Fukui pops up to Morishita in foul territory and Seki flies to center in an 1-2-3 inning.
Mizuhashi gets Kanzei's first 1-2-3 inning of the game, retiring the heart of the Sagami order no less. But it's much too late to help Kanzei now.
Katada with a hard liner to right for a base hit. But Hata grounds into the 4-6-3 double play to erase the runner. Kobayashi flies out to right to end the inning.
One down and Mitsui hits a ball down the right field line! Katada running over, sliding, but it goes off his glove! Fukui retrieves it but not before he's in with a triple!
Hashimoto up and he tries a squeeze! But he pops it up! Mizuhara charging in makes the catch! Mitsui easily doubled off at 3rd to end the inning.
Kanzei has probably accepted defeat at this time. They quickly go down in order as the game marches toward completion.
#13 Oochou, who pinch hit for Sejima in the last half inning, takes over in LF.
Mizuhara gets his 2nd 1-2-3 inning, retiring Usuda for the 2nd time, and Kanzei will get one more chance at the sticks.
Watanabe flies out to center.
#10 Koyama comes in to hit for Fukui, and singles to left.
Seki follows that up with a single past a diving Morishita.
Katada with a grounder past Tanaka into right. Koyama comes in to score and breaks the shutout! 9-1!
#12 Toda in to hit for Hata, but the C's have no luck as he pops out to Tanaka for the 2nd out.
Last chance in Kobayashi. And working the count full, he gets ball 4.
Back to the top of the order and Ogura, who swings on the first pitch and flies out to center. Usuda over to field it and that's the game.
As expected Toukaidai Sagami's offense was in full display. What was surprising was (a) how an unknown in Shouji Takuya held Kanzei off guard for the entire game, while (b) Kanzei was just unable to do anything in the game.
It's hard to say if Toukaidai Sagami as a whole is better than last year. It sure seems like it, but gauging against Kanzei when they just didn't look all that good is hard to do. But they do seem solid enough to make a good run.
Kanzei too will have to go back to the drawing board. It appears that they have a ways to go if it wants to compete this summer.
Mizuhara Hiroto - 4.1 IP, ER, 2 H, 3 K, 2 BB, HBP
Katada Yuuta - 2-4, RBI
Shouji Takuya - W, CG, ER, 6 H, 3 K, 4 BB
Usuda Tetsuya - 3-5, 2B, 3B , 2 R, 2 RBI
Satou Hirotsugu - 2-4, 2B, 4 RBI
Mitsui Takuya - 2-3, 3B, 2 R, BB