Tsuruga Kehi blew through most of the Hokushinetsu Super-Regional before having to go 13 innings to earn a 1-0 win against a severe underdog in Chikyuu Kankyou. More red flags appear when you look more in-depth. They went into extras against Tottori Jyouhoku tied at 2 (I don't count tiebreaker rules in analyzing teams), and despite the relative ease in which they won the title, their offensive stats appear to reflect more of balls falling into play more than anything else.
So like many other teams, the burden falls upon ace Yamamoto Shouta and reliever Kishimoto Jyunki. Yamamoto induces more contact, while Kishimoto appears to have a bit of control issues which lead to more K's, but more BB's as well.
Urawa Gakuin survived against Toukaidai Sagami, and a shootout against Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi before winning their super-regional. Their offense seems to be more of their calling card, as their top hitter is actually their ace number - Satou Takuya. I say ace number because Urawa Gakuin doesn't really have an ace to speak of - though if you were pressed to name a starter, it would actually be #11 Yamaguchi Rui. Even then, he only pitched about a quarter of the team's innings.
But since Satou's bat has to play he gets shifted to CF when Yamaguchi takes the mound, which in turn moves Ishibashi to LF. It'll be interesting to see how Mori-kantoku handles this first round matchup. Because while they have offense, sending a weaker pitcher out in the first couple of innings may backfire even despite the apparent lack of consistent offense.
Urawa Gakuin (Saitama)SS Takemura Haruki
C Rinzaki Tatsuya
P Satou Takuya
RF Sasagawa Ryouhei
CF Ishibashi Tsukasa
1B Akashi Hyuuma
3B Kigure Naito
LF Yamane Yuuta
2B Midorikawa Koutarou
Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui)RF Maeoka Ryouta
2B Nishihara Kyousuke
SS Nishikawa Ryouma
1B Okada Yuuta
C Kita Ryouta
CF Yamamoto Tatsuhiko
P Yamamoto Shouta
LF Iwata Shinya (#18)
3B Yonemitsu Issei
13:12 - First pitch!
Takemura starts off the game fouling out to Yonemitsu near the bullpen home plates. Rinzaki grounds one right up the 3rd base line. Yonezawa tries to backhand it, but it glances off and Rinzaki is on on the base hit.
Shouta is being a bit careful here on Satou, nibbling after getting ahead 1-2. Unfortunately, he walks him which puts Shouta in a pinch early with cleanup batter Sasagawa up.
Brave putting a slow curve at 98 for a strike.
Except that he hits him on then next pitch and it's manrui for Ishibashi.
Swings and misses on a 132 slider away. He's looking for the base hit.
And if not for the early trouble, Deanna might like Shouta. His hat flies off after some of his pitches.
And Shouta gets him on a 117 change for the 2nd out. He's almost out of the inning! Captain Akashi stands in trying to not the big opportunity pass them by.
But he hits a grounder to 3rd! Yonemitsu hauls it in and throws to 2nd for the third out! Tsuruga Kehi is out of the jam!
Nishihara starts off the offense with a one-out single through the left side. But he's thrown out trying to steal 2nd...
Nishikawa then walks on 4 straight, which would have been better had the runner been there. And while he successfully steals 2nd, Okada chops back Takemura for the 3rd out
Shouta seems to have a fastball that sits in the mid-130's, with a slider in the 120;s, change in the 110's, and a slow curve in the high 90's. Control seems to be an issue as he releases early causing the ball to be high.
And now the issue is compounded further as Yonemitsu throws the bunt by Midorikawa wide! Runners advance and Tsuruga Kehi is back in a pinch again!
Takemura takes the first pitch to deep left! Iwata gently secures it, conceding the run. Midorikawa advances to 3rd as Urawa Gakuin takes a 1-0 lead!
Urawa's batters have a good approach against the lefty Shouta. Their lefties are trying to take the pitches the other way instead of fighting it. Rinzaki stays alive doing so and earns a walk. Runners at the corners for Satou, and he lines the first pitch over Nishikawa's head to left center! Both runners score and Shouta-kun risks letting the game get away early as Urawa leads 3-0!
A wild pitch sends Satou to 3rd, but Sasagawa is fooled and pops out to left, but not before Urawa takes an early lead!
Satou retires the side in 8 pitches, which gives me just enough time to say that he apparently has a fastball and shuuto in the low-mid 130's, and at least a change in the high 100's.
The troubles continue for Shouta as Ishibashi bloops one over Nishihara for a leadoff single. Mori-kantoku will play for one run as he has Akashi bunt the runner along.
But he freezes Kigura on an inside fastball at the knees for out number 2!
Yamane with a grounder to first, but Okada's dive doesn't secure the ball! It deflects to the left and behind Nishihara who is backing up the play! Ishibashi scores and Urawa leads 4-0!
Yamane is thrown out trying to steal 2nd, but Urawa pads onto their lead. Tsuruga Kehi needs to stem the tide soon.
#18 Iwata gives the team that spark as he takes the pitch the other way right into the middle of the left-center field gap! He dives in unnecessarily with a leadoff triple!
Satou is giving Yonemitsu nothing to hit as everything is low. Yet Yonemits swings away at the first 2 before finally holding off and filling up the count. He finally makes contact, sending a fly to center. Ishibashi comes up throwing, but they cut it off conceding the run. Tsuruga Kehi gets that run back and trails again by 3, 4-1.
However, the lefties cannot hold off on the change low and keep striking out - that goes for Maeoka for the 2nd out.
Nishihara lines one back at Satou, who picks it for the 3rd out! While Tsuruga has a bit of work to do, at least they're on the board.
Midorikawa drives a ball the other way over the drawn in outfield! Tatsuhiko runs back to the wall to chase it down, and Midorikawa slides in with a leadoff triple!
Shouta shows his defensive skills backhanding a liner from Takemura for the 1st out. Still needs 2 more.
He gets one, but Rinzaki hits a ball to right. Maeoka makes a throw home on the fly, but gets under it a bit and Midorikawa slides in to make it a 4-run game again. 5-1.
Satou pops out to end the inning, but Urawa Gakuin widens the lead once again.
Kehi's batter's are trying to work the count. Okada takes the count full and singles to center. But Kita swings and misses when he goes full. 2 outs for Tatsuhiko.
Tatsuhiko takes the count full yet again, and works a walk! We're approaching the bottom of the lineup, so we'll see how well that strategy works.
Shouta up now to help his own cause and narrow the deficit. Meanwhile #16 Watanabe warms up in the bullpen. With no ace, Mori-kantoku is probably free to make changes at will.
Shouta can't hold off those changes outside, and falls behind 1-2.... and strikes out on yet another one of those pitches.
Shouta issues his 4th walk to Sasagawa to lead off the 5th, and Azuma-kantoku has #10 Kishimoto start to warm up in the bullpen as Ishibashi bunts the runner along.
Akashi pops up to shallow center, and Kigure to left to make it Shouta's first low-stress inning.
Tsuruga Kehi now goes for the swing early approach. After a pop fly to 2nd, Yonemitsu doubles to left center, cycling the lineup back to the top.
Maeoka with a grounder to the left side and just wide of a diving Takemura! Yonemitsu has to hold up for the grounder to get through, so runners at the corners with 1 out!
Nishihara stands in hoping to take advantage, but he crouches down and watches strike one on the outside corner. Strike two comes inside on a slider.
Satou tries to get him to bite on one outside, but he doesn't. Instead he swings away at the next outside pitch, but grounds to short. Takemura snags it, but it pops out on the transition! He makes the play at 1st (just), and Yonemitsu scores to make it 5-2!
Nishikawa grounds to short, and Takemura makes the routine play to end the inning. We head to the break with Urawa seemingly in control of the game. It's not that Tsuruga Kehi, or their ace Shouta is bad, I guess he's just not as effective as Satou.
Uh oh. One down and Midorikawa hits a ball back at Shouta. It deflects off his left hand and goes to 1st. He immediately goes to the hand in a bit of pain. But after a bit of shaking and waiting, he says he's fine as he throws a couple of practice pitches.
Two pitches to Takemura, and he retires him on a grounder to short. Shouta has stopped the Urawa offense, but now it's his bats that must start heating up.
However, none of Tsuruga Kehi's batters can seem to make solid contact on the ball, as all three batters ground out weakly to the infield. Things are starting to look bleak for the Hokushinetsu champions.
Shouta continues to be careful with Satou, issuing his 2nd walk to him this game with 1 down. Sasagawa grounds one to the left of Nishihara, and yet he goes to 2nd for the force! Sasagawa gets that base back as he takes 2nd on the high throw from Kita.
But Shouta freezes Ishibashi on a slider outside for the 3rd out! No runs in Urawa's lucky 7, now what about Tsuruga Kehi?
No dice. The bottom of Kehi's lineup goes down in order with little difficulty and it looks like the door will be closing on their tournament here in the first round.
Kigure lines one off of Shouta and he goes down to the ground. The ball seems to deflect off the mitt and onto his ribs. That's the second one he's taken this game. He's being attended to, but that had to hurt. That hit by Kigure was a solid comebacker.
He's carried off the field to the doctors as #10 Kishimoto warms up.
After a couple of minutes Azuma-kantoku heads out and it looks like Shouta's day is done.
But not in the manner I was expecting. #10 Kishimoto comes in for Iwaki (who had the only good hit!) and takes the mound. Shouta actually returning to the field and taking over in left!
Kishimoto does well in relief, yielding a liner to center to Midorikawa, but retires the side with no damage done (except to Shouta).
Down 3, 2 innings to go, and the top of the order up.
But Tsuruga Kehi continues to struggle making good contact. Maeoka chops one to 1st. Nishihara grounds out to short. And despite having two slow curves for strikes, Nishikawa pulls a fastball, but Kigure snags it and throws to 1st for the third out. Not much left for Kehi now...
#12 comes in relief of Kita and takes over pitch calling duties.
And Kishimoto's good start seems to have gown awry in the 9th. He issues walks to Rinzaki and Satou, and Sasagawa grounds one through the right side, making it a 6-2 game.
Ishibashi squares to bunt, but Kishimoto's pitch bounced in between his legs and deflects to the 1st base side. Runners advance.
Akashi's single to right center makes it an 8-2 game and the end of Kishimoto's day. #11 Use comes in to pitch.
Yamane continues to pile it on as he grounds up up the 1st base line for a double. 9-2.
Midorikawa gets his 3rd hit of the game, a single through the right side. Runners at the corners as Takemura becomes the 9th batter to come to the plate.
Midorikawa takes off for 2nd, throw from Yamada is high and off Nishikawa's glove. Tatsuhiko bobbles picking up the ball and Yamane heads home. The throw is short and Yamane slides in safely. Urawa Gakuin hits double digits at 10-2.
Takehara flies out to right to mercifully end the inning.
#17 Nishoka takes over in center.
One down, backup C Yamada blasts one to center for a double. He's eventually replaced with 2 down with #15 Takegami. #13 Miyazaki comes to PH for Shouta with 2 down, and as many batters before grounded out to end the game.
The Hokushinetsu champions just couldn't get any good contact off of Satou, and thus was eliminated here today 10-2 by Urawa Gakuin. Another victim of poor offense.
Urawa Gakuin meanwhile will move on to face another "mid-major" team in Mie in 5 days.
Midorikawa Koutarou (Urawa Gakuin) - 3-5, 3B, 2 R, SB
Yamane Yuuta (Urawa Gakuin) - 2-4, 2B, 2R, RBI, BB, K
Satou Takuya (Urawa Gakuin) - CG, 2 ER, 6 H, 4 K, 2 BB
Iwaki Shinya (Tsuruga Kehi) - 1-3, 3B, R