Our middle game features a David vs. Goliath matchup - that almost didn't happen.
Nichidai-san actually had fallen behind Meitoku Gijyuku behind the excellent pitching of ace Omatsu. And as they extended the lead to 4-1 it seemed all but curtains for the tournament favorites. However, Omatsu had been tiring from the multitude of offspeed pitches he was throwing and it started catching up to him. They would come back to tie the game in the 7th and pulled ahead in the 8th to cap off the comeback.
Seisei jumped on Kyoto Seishou ace Nishino early and often and cruised to a 9-3 win. However, the offense was mainly achieved in a couple of innings, which while it indicates they can score in bunches, it also means that their offense can be starved at times - Tohoka Kikugawa was like that several years back. It's a dangerous way to play, especially against a powerhouse team like Nichidai-san.
Again, on paper Nichidai-san should be the favorite to win the game although the lack of hitting early in the game is of concern. Seisei's defense isn't terrible, but it isn't stellar either. They'll have their work cut out for them if they want to advance.
Seisei (Shizuoka) - Tokai Runner-up
CF Kumagai Shougo
RF MasudaRyuusuke (#17)
3B Matsuda Shouji
P Nomura Ryousuke
C Katou Shou
SS Tsuge Ryousuke
LF Sasaki Kazunori
1B Ishibashiri Naoki
2B Minami Shunya
Nichidai-san (Tokyo) - Tokyo Champions
RF Takayama Shun
LF Taniguchi Yuuta (#4)
CF Azegami Shou
3B Yokoo Toshitake
SS Shimizu Kouki
2B Suganuma Kenichi (#7)
1B Kaneko Ryouya
P Yoshinaga Kentarou
C Suzuki Takahiro
11:10 - Game start!
One down for Seisei and Masuda lines a 3-2 pitch into center for a base hit.
And a wild pitch from Yoshinaga to Matsuda advances Masuda into scoring position!
And Matsuda hits a hanging sinker to left! That's in for a base hit! Suganuma fires the ball home, but it's up the 1st base line and Suzuki has no play! Seisei jumps in front 1-0 on Matsuda's single!
Now Katou with a base hit off the end of his bat into center! That's their 3rd hit this inning and Yoshinaga is in trouble!
Tsuge with a shot down the right field line... foul!
Yoshinaga gets Tsuge to ground to short. Shimizu takes it to the bag himself to end the inning, but it's a rocky start for the ace. If Seisei's batters can continue making contact like that, Nichidai-san may be in trouble.
Takayama with a low liner at Tsuge. He blocks it, picks it up and makes the play for the out.
Taniguchi swings and misses to a nice looking shuuto from Nomura.
Azegami stubborn at the plate, fouling off pitch after pitch once the count ran full. On the 11th pitch, he drives a ball to left! Sasaki can't get to it and Azegami is rewarded with a double!
But Yokoo swings on the first pitch and pops out to Nomura to end the inning.
Sasaki makes good contact on a slow curve, but lines out to center.
Ishibashiri grounds out to 1st, and Asaga swings and misses on a high inside fastball.
Shimizu flies out to left to start the inning. Suganuma watches a shuuto work back onto the corner for strike 3. And Kaneko also flies out to left for the 3rd out.
Back to the top of the order and Kumagai is retired for the 2nd time as Shimizu ranges by 2nd to pick up the ball and make the play.
After a foul out by Masuda, Matsuda gets the green light at 3-1 but flies out to left to end the inning. It looks like since the 1st inning Yoshinaga has settle down considerably.
Yoshinaga leads off the inning with a hit to left-center! Sasaki retrieves it, but not before Yoshinaga reaches 2nd!
Suzuki bunts the runner along for the top of the order.
But Takayama pops it up! Matsuda in foul territory makes the catch for the 2nd out!
And Taniguchi also pops it up! Tsuge with the catch and Nichidai-san leaves the runner stranded on 3rd!
Another quick inning for Yoshinaga as he retires the 4-5-6 batters in just 7 pitches. Seisei still maintaining that 1 run lead.
Ah.. Nomura hits Azegami to start the inning.
Yokoo can't figure out the shuuto and swings and misses for the 1st out.
Shimizu with a shot past Matsuda down the left field line! Sasaki gets to the ball quickly and limits him to a single.
Suganuma can tie the game with a base hit, but he hits a slow grounder to 3rd! Matsuda charges in, and the only throw he can make is to first. But the runners advance and there's a chance a base hit gives Nichidai-san the lead.
Kaneko delivers that hit as he connects on a shuuto that gets too much of the plate into shallow center! Kumagai in to field it, but both runners score giving them ahead 2-1!
Yoshinaga goes down swinging to end the inning, but the team has rallied to take the lead!
One down for Seisei and Ishibashiri break the hitless drought with a ball to the right of Suganuma into right.
Asaga bunts him along for the top of the order and Kumagai. Yoshinaga gets him swinging on a sinker to end the inning!
Nomura back to baffling batters as Suzuki and Takayama pop out to the infield.
With 2 down, Taniguchi singles back up the middle.
But then he tries to steal 2nd on the 1-1 pitch. Katou comes out firing and makes an accurate throw that leads Tsuge to the bag to make the tag.
So Seisei heads into the break in a close battle against Nichidai-san. Unfortunately, while they scored the opening run, timely hitting by Kaneko has Nichidai-san up by a 2-1 margin. Can the boys from Shizuoka find a way to get to Yoshinaga again?
One down for Seisei and Matsuda bloops one to center for a base hit.
Nomura strikes out swinging, but when Suzuki tries to make a snap throw to 1st, he nails Nomura in the head. That's going to hurt.
Katou with a single to center. Matsuda holds at 2nd.
Tsuge looking to get the douten runner in, looks at a fastball on the outside corner for strike 3!
Nomura feeling no ill effects of getting plunked in the head. He retires the 3-4-5 batters of Nichidai-san and Seisei will go back on offense.
Sasaki starts the inning off by takes a ball the other way for a leadoff single. Ishibashiri bunts the runner along for Asaga.
But Asaga swings and misses on a slider away, and he knows it too!
And Kumagai grounds out to short to end the inning! Seisei is only down 1, but is also running out of time!
Suganuma with a ground back up the middle for a base hit. Kaneko bunts him along for Yoshinaga.
Yoshinaga hits a pop fly to shallow right. Asaga, Sasaki and Kumagai all converge on the ball, but it falls in between all of them! Suganuma, thinking the ball would be caught, advances only to 3rd.
Suzuki lays down the bunt, but Katou is on it immediately! Suganuma is caught between the bases! He's run down and there's 2 outs!
Takayama with a grounder through the left side! Yoshinaga rounding 3rd, being waved home! Throw from Sasaki is up the 3rd base line, but it sets up Katou to make the catch and block the plate! Satou holds onto the ball and they get the out! Yoshinaga, jacket and all turns and lays on his back as if to say, "Dang it!"
Seisei keeps the deficit at 1 as they go back on offense looking for that tying run.
No luck though for Seisei. Yoshinaga just needs 8 pitches to retire the 2-3-4 batters. Time is running out for the first timers.
Nomura walks Taniguchi to start off the 8th - his first walk of the game! Katou goes out to meet with him and he does look a little tired. Azegami bunts him along for Yokoo.
And Yokoo drives one down the left field line.... FOUL! Wow, that was smashed. But Nomura gets him to ground out to 3rd! Matsuda looks the runner back and there's 2 down!
Shimizu with a ball back up the middle! Kumagai charging in, boots the ball! He keeps it in front of him, but he has no throw home! Taniguchi scores and Nichidai-san gets an all-important insurance run here in the 8th! 3-1!
Suganuma flies out to center to end the inning, but Yoshinaga will take the hill with a little more breathing room!
Katou to lead off the 9th, lines out to Azegami.
Tsuge with a grounder up the middle, Shimizu dives, and it's off the end of his glove into center for a base hit!
Sasaki up, but he can't check his swing on a slider outside! He looks up in disbelief as he realizes his error!
#18 Ishikawa is up for Ishibashiri as Seisei's last chance.
Ishikawa swings and misses on a change! Nichidai-san advances with a 3-1 win over Seisei!!
Seisei more than held its own against the powerhouse from Tokyo with ace Nomura yielding just 3 runs in a complete game effort. The bats were able to get to Yoshinaga's pitching, but they were never able to the timely hits when they really needed it. Seisei's always been a team that has been in contention to go to Koushien, and this performance proves that they're the real deal. Don't be surprised to seem them make another run in the summer.
Nichidai-san has to be a little disappointed at the performance. They did win to advance to the Best 8, but they haven't been as dominating as perhaps they were expecting. Yoshinaga too has proven to be hittable, which could be of concern as the team progresses in the tournament. While facing Kakogawa Kita isn't one of the big name squads per se, it seems their room for error is a bit smaller than once thought.
Nomura Ryousuke - L, CG, 3 ER, 9 H, 5 K, BB, HBP
Matsuda Shuuji - 2-4, RBI
Katou Shou - 2-4
Yoshinaga Kentarou - W, CG, ER, 8 H, 8 K
Kaneko Ryouya - 1-2, 2 RBI
Shimizu Kouki - 2-4, K
Azegami Shou - 1-3, 2B, R, HBP