Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 1-3 Recap

So, I was all ready for Koushien today, and while the games were great, it felt like my mind was somewhere else all day. And I mean that in the sense that I don't know what the heck I was doing for most of it.

I got up at the right time, headed to the subway to go to Umeda so I could withdraw money. I got off at Nanba and started walking around, not finding the Japan Post office I had researched online. Kept walking, tried asking, gave up and went to Koushien. Noting it was 7:50 AM already, and I was supposed to be there at 8, I was screwed already.

Then on the train I realized my mistake. Why the heck did I get off at Nanba?

Crap, now not only did I not get money, I'd get there even later.

8:30 later...

All inside seats were sold out so I went to the 1st alps stands where Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi Takasaki, Kanazawa and Seikou Gakuin were.

Then proceeded to burn up in the heat. Suffice it to say I'm red all over, and I forgot my sunblock... and now I look like someone that nobody would want to deal with.

And in the rush I had no time to buy drinks before getting to the stadium, so I was paying 250 instead of 150 yen. More doh.

I did get to talk to 2 nice young women who I think were attending Ritsumeikan University. No pictures for those of you wondering. I get a bit hesitant asking girls about taking pictures. They soon realized my strange understanding of Japanese. I can read most kanji, understand what they're saying (though I think not as much as I actually can - that one's for you Deanna), so yeah.

Also, I need to figure out my purpose at Koushien. I can enjoy it, which means no scoring, I can do what I normally do which is scoring and no pictures, or I can figure out some way to incorporate it all, but the biggest problem is taking pictures. I don't want to leave the camera out in the sun, or hold it with my sweaty hands, but if I put it away I'm going to miss stuff. And if I take pictures I can't score.


So today I scored the games, had thoughts on the oen-dans though I didn't take pictures or videos during the games. Suffice it to say today was a test run and it went about as poorly as possible.

But the games themselves were good, I'll recap as best I can though from the alps stands it was harder to gauge stuff.

Day 1
Game 1 - Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma) vs. Imabari Nishi (Ehime)
Gunma has been one of those prefectures that I can't figure out. It seems like they're more metropolitan than not, but they have little success at Koushien. Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi having played none of the "big" name teams in the prefecuture discounts their performance a bit. Imabari Nishi defeated a resurging Niita for the title, but not much else of note.

When the game started, it seemed evident who was the better team. Imabari Nishi ace Hayashi had problems with control and it was made worse whenever there were runners on base as he would throw constantly to keep the runners on (though it was later found to be a necessary evil).

Compounding things was what seemed like a shaky defense as well. 3B Suehiro took the brunt of it early, but the team suffered as a whole.

On the other hand was #10 Hayashi who was keeping everything in check it seemed. In fact, he didn't even give up a hit in the first 3 innings, though that would change.

Scoring came first for Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi. After another walk and a single, Hayashi would finally be relieved of his duties once Uchida successfully sac bunted.

When Yanagisawa laid down the squeeze, I thought one was going to score before I was surprised to see Kadomura coming home too! The throw was late and Kadomura seemed to make a great slide.

The key I think was Nakanishi's hesitation in coming in to field it. I think he was waiting for it to see if it went foul. But that allowed Kenkoudai to send the trailing runner home successfully. So 2-0 in favor of my alps stands.

Another run in the 4th after Yumoto singles, steals 2nd and scores on the hit and run and things looked good at 3-0.

But then it went all wrong for Hoshino. After a solid one-out single by Gouta, it seemed that Hoshino was the victim of unfortunate luck as one ball gets by the 3B, and the 2nd was missed by a diving Uno, though you can't really fault him.

That was followed by a double from Itou and a 2-run single from Suehiro, and it was now 4-3 Imabari Nishi.

Two batters and one more run later, and Hoshino was pulled for #11 Miki. Why ace Katagai hadn't come in yet I don't know.

But Takasaki Kenkoudai is fortunate when on a single by top batter Minomi, they aggressively send Ishimaru home - and when I mean aggressively, I mean no matter what - and is out by a mile.

Though they managed to stop the bleeding, the problem was new pitcher #10 Yano. His delivery, which I think would endear himself to Deanna, was very odd and probably threw off the timing on the batters. And while they struggled, an insurance run scored without a benefit of a hit in the 6th (walk, bunt FC E1, sac bunt, wild pitch) made it 6-3.

Kenkoudai would finally get to Yano in the 7th thanks to a leadoff triple by cleanup batter Kadomura. He'd be sac-flied home by Yanagisawa and the deficit was now 2 at 6-4.

It wouldn't be until the 9th when Kenkoudai would strike again and boy did they ever. Bloop since, double to left immediately put the tying runners on base.

And who else but Yanagisawa would drive them in with a gapper to LCF past the fielders to tie the game!

But after Yanagisawa is tagged out on a contact play, it didn't seem like they'd be able to push the gyakuten run through.

But after a groundout advancing Nagatomo to 2nd, it was ace Katagai (who had come in in the 6th) who blooped one down the left field line, scoring the go-ahead run!

And with their ace on the mound, it was curtains for the team from Ehime. 7-6 and Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi's reward is.... Yokohama.

Game 2 - Kanazawa (Ishikawa) vs. Ise Kougyou (Mie)
Now don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like Kamata from Kanazawa, it was just that I didn't get the big deal about him.

Yes, he can throw 150km/h. But without control it's no good and that's where my problem with him lied.

But this game was different. A lot of breaking balls early, and a fastball that wasn't even approaching 150. And much like how they dialed down Felix Hernandez in Seattle, a dialed down version of Kamata works too. And when he decided to hit 150 and more, once again the control wasn't there it seemed.

We may never have figured that out had 2nd batter for Isekou, Hashimoto, not missed 2nd on his way to 3rd.

Instead, it was Kanazawa who would score first in the 2nd with a double by Koshida to left.

While the game stayed at 1-0 for a while, it never seemed like Kanazawa was in any danger.

That was made even more apparent when Koshida up again in the 6th hits what I though was a flyball to left... only to see it leave for a 3-run HR??!!!

Kamata throws a complete game 5-hit shutout, striking out 10!

Game 3 - Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki) vs. Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima)
So the one thing I was wondering was if Seikou Gakuin would lift the curse of Fukushima.

Early signs didn't look promising though ace Saiuchi seemed to be the victim of some bad luck, or perhaps some poor defense as a ball hit to left by Nichinan's cleanup Sakiyo catches the LF off guard somehow as he sprints at the last minute and winds up being behind it for a 2-run double!

Things continued to be going against Saiuchi when he throws a wild pitch with the bases loaded in the 5th. By now, down 3-0, I'm thinking that it's another failed year for Fukushima.

However, Saitou Yuuki (the 2B), triples to right center, helping to get one run back.

By the way, it was interesting to hear one Saitou Yuuki, but 2? And then to have the announcer have to repeat the name, first name and number?

Anyways, the tide seemed to start turning in the 6th when after issuing 2 walks to start the inning, Furuichi was replaced by #10 Murata. Though he was able to get out of the inning, once the Seikou batters started being patient, Murata started walking batters of his own.

Walking the top 2 batters more than likely spelled disaster and when a single by Mashiro turns into a double thanks to an error by the RF making it 3-2, it seemed inevitable. Haga brings in the douten run with a ball off the 2B, and Fukuda completes the comeback with a sac fly to right.

By this time Saiuchi had settled down and the win was in sight. Top 9, one down, but a chop single by Kasaoka followed by a clean one by Saikyo and Saiuchi wasn't in good shape. But after striking out Yamamoto he was just one out away.

Except that when he struck out Kakemoto, the ball got away from Fukuda and the run scored anyway!

Now Saiuchi would get out of the mess, but not before they'd have to start from scratch. And after they couldn't turn a one out double into the sayonara run, enchousen it was. Saiuchi would hold down the fort on the top half, and finish it quickly in the 10th when he gets his first hit of the game to score Nakamura.

Day 2
Game 1 - Narashino (Chiba) vs. Shizuoka (Shizuoka)
This had to be the game I was really waiting for. I mean, I would actually get to sit in the Narashino oen-dan. How cool is that? Well, for me at least.

Oh yeah, and their baseball team isn't half bad either.

But early on against a Shizuoka squad that had become one of the powerful teams in Shizuoka, They managed just 1 run amidst their multiple chances,

The offense would finally start turning around right after Shizuoka tied the game up in the 6th.

Shizuoka's ace Harazaki also helped via a couple of walks. 5 runs later and that's all she wrote. It's not a complete victory, but as long as they learn from it, I don't see any problems... yet.

Game 2 - Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido) vs. Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
2 powerhouses in 2 rural prefectures generally means a good game especially when they`re upper level talent.

Early in it was a case of both teams getting scoring chances but neither able to cash them in.

So instead, the first run comes off a solo shot by Kitagawa for Meitoku Gijyuku.

Hokkai ties it up when Zeniya lines a solid double down the left center field alley, then takes the lead thanks to an error by Umeda that extended the inning.

The lead wouldn't last very long though. Not even an inning as 2 consecutive dead balls can't be good in any circumstance.

And in the bottom of the 9th, an unfortunate error that would have sent the game into extras instead leads to the winning run.

Game 3 - Teikyou (Higashi Tokyo) vs. Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate)
As the game progressed, the personalities of each school were easily present. Even when they had Kikuchi Yuusei, Hanamaki Higashi was a plucky squad that just would never quit. No matter what the deficit it seemed like there was a way for them to get back into it.

For Teikyou, perhaps the best example was back when I went in 2006. Best 8 game versus Chiben Wakayama, down 8-4 top 9. Teikyou comes roaring back with 8 runs, capped off by a pinch-hit 3-run HR!

However, the PH was for their last pitcher and come bottom 9, no one, no matter who it was that they threw onto the mound could record 3 outs. Chiben Wakayama came back to win on a walk-off walk 13-12.

And I'll go ahead and say this now, but until Teikyou has a true ace (and at this point I don't think even Itou Naoki qualifies), they will never win Koushien.

Teikyou got ahead 2-0 in the first, but thanks to some patience and timely hitting they tied the game. They were aggressive in the top of the 1st after scoring the tying run (albeit a bit too aggressive).

Then down 5-2, they used some nice decoy running to tie it up again. And one more time in the 6th.

However, when Teikyou gets ahead one final time, Hanamaki Higashi is unable to come back. Not to mention that a dubious ruling of obstruction really costed them a scoring opportunity. I don't know what you're supposed to do if you're trying to bunt and have to get out of the way.

Day 3
Game 1 - Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) vs. Fukui Shougyou (Fukui)
Game 2 - Kuratsu Shougyou (Saga) vs. Furukawa Kougyou (Miyagi)

There isn't much to say about either game, except that both Fukui Shougyou and Furukawa Kougyou can't both be this bad... right?

I mean Fukui is not a great baseball prefecture per se, but to get hammered the way they did? And Furukawa Kougyou defeated both Tohoku AND Rifu to win the bid. How did they ever do that?

Now given, both teams did for the most part held their own - though Fukui Shougyou not as much and Furukawa Kougyou did show their tough side later on, but still fell.

Also, I'm not sure what to make of Kuratsu ace Kitakata. He has power, and seems to control it at times. I wonder though if he`s not another Itou Naoki.

Game 3 - Seki Shoukou (Gifu) vs. Jyosuikan (Hiroshima)
For a team that had to beat Oogaki Nichidai, they have to be somewhat decent. But it`s not a given that they`ll be able to handle Jyosuikan.

As the game progressed, there wasn`t anything that really stood out about either team. No star P, good defense on both sides, and perhaps a little light on the offensive side.

I did find it odd that Seki Shoukou would go to their 2nd pitcher Yasue in the 6th. Naijyou had been more than servicable, though the dead balls and and walks might have been a bit much.

Yet he was having his own troubles in the 7th but got saved thanks to a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play.

Moving to the 8th, Yasue seems to disagree with a ball 4 call, and then proceeds to give up a lined shot to Shinozaki. Again though the defense bails him out, getting the runner at home which included a collision that I don't see in kokoyakyu.

The game would go into extras where I really started to like it. There was a lot of good defense, especially on the Seki Shoukou side. Twice they got out of a jam with a very nicely turned double play. Then it was a great stop by 3B Komatsu.

Oddly enough, it might have been a defensive nuance that cost them the game.

Bottom 13, chopper to the right side. Yasue goes off the mound and reaches up for a ball that's a ways away. But I think as a result it froze his own defense, after which both the 1B and 2B went for the ball, and Yasue himself didn't realize he had to cover the bag.

Then I think he was still dwelling on that when his throw on the proceeding bunt went awry. Sayonara runner on 3rd with no down, and there's only so much you can luck you can pull...

Game 4 - Shigakukan (Aichi) vs. Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara (Osaka)
I wondered aloud if it was a bad omen when the coach of the Osaka squad wasn`t able to hit the last ball in their pregame practice.

What I didn't wonder was whether it was a bad omen for both teams because as much as the last game was exciting, this one was horrible to watch.

There was errors everywhere, poor judgement by the defenses, and Higashi-Osakadai advances.

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