Day 14 was the semifinal games. But in reality it really felt that the winner of the Nichidai-san v. Kanzei game would have the definitive inside track to the title.
No offense to our first semifinal participants Sakushin Gakuin or Kousei Gakuin, but barring a Nihon Bunri type run (with a happier ending), neither team really had shown that they would be able to withstand a finals matchup.
Nevertheless, the winner of the game would be able to at least claim that they reach the Natsu Koushien final.
And the game was a relative runaway. Kousei Gakuin would score 2 in the bottom of the 1st. In the top of the 3rd, we had a 95+ minute rain delay where I sat for a while then had to evacuate to the concourse because well... it was pouring like no other.
Despite the break, Sakushin couldn't get any traction as they just managed 6 hits against ace Akita and fell 5-0, giving Kousei Gakuin Aomori's 2nd finals representative since Misawa in 1969.
So were were onto the main event. Kanzei's Mizuhara versus Sanko's Yoshinaga...
Eh? Mizuhara's not starting? It's Katada?? I hope they know what they're doing...
What? Yoshinaga's not starting either? It's Saitou?? What's going on here? Is this a case of who blinks first?
Well, whatever it was, it seemed Kanzei's gamble wasn't paying off. Right off the bat in the bottom of the 1st Katada hits Shimizu and walks Kaneko, which can't be a good thing as Azegami singles up the middle to give Sanko the quick lead.
Kanzei though struck back in the 2nd. Two solid hits by Watanabe and Katada lead off the inning, and Seki's fielder's choice tied the game at 1.
Now, Katada was more than holding his own against Sanko. So much so that it seemed like if Kanzei could take advantage, they may have a chance at the upset after all!
But despite my analysis showing that perhaps batters should be more patient against Yoshinaga, Kanzei wound up swinging away time and time again - with little results.
Yoshinaga would finally enter the game in the 5th after #9 batter Fukui got a bunt single and Ogura worked a walk. He got Sanko out of the mess and continued to shut down the Kanzei offense.
And so the game continued tied at 1 apiece......
Until the 7th...
That was when Katada issued a leadoff walk to Suzuki. Then he should have been picked off, but Katada's throw was short and they were unable to get him.
So he was bunted to 2nd, and then Katada hit Shimizu for the 2nd time - loading the bases. This was the first serious pinch he was in since the 1st.
Kaneko would make sure Katada paid for it, driving a single through the right side plating Suzuki and giving Sanko the 2-1 lead. Eura-kantoku, hoping to stem the losses sent in Arihara.
But throwing your ace into a bases loaded pinch already down 2-1...
It almost worked.
A grounder to 2nd may have been an inning ending double play, but Fukui instead goes home...
...and his throw short hops home and gets away from Seki allowing one more run to score making it 4-1.
That play seemed to open the flood gates as the next 4 people would reach safely - with Suganuma's 3-run HR in between.
By the time the carnage was over, Arihara was relieved from the mound and Sanko led 9-1.
And while Kanzei would finally get to Yoshinaga with 3 runs, it was far from enough. Sanko would win 14-4.
So that would setup the finals the next day between Kousei Gakuin and Nichidai-san.
But really going into the game it felt like not a matter of if, but when Nichidai-san would just take control of the game.
While Kousei's Akita would manage to stave them off, the answer was the 3rd inning.
2 down, and in an attempt to pitch inside, he hits Azegami. Then with the outfield playing WAAAAAYYY back, Yokoo bloops one to right. And the coup de grâce was Takayama blasting a 3-run HR to center.
Kousei did show some life in the 5th when a single and walk put runners at 1st and 2nd with just one down. Though Matsumoto would fly out to left, Akita delivered a single to right. Trying to plate the run they send Kanayama home, only to get gunned down by Takayama.
Sanko would then decide to add an insurance run to punish Kousei for trying to score... then added 5 more in the 7th for good measure.
An 11-0 victory would give Sanko their 2nd Natsu Koushien title. It gave Deanna's team the victory, and my teams left on the side of the road for dead.
*sighs* There's always next year?