Okay, now comes the test game for me.
Over the last couple of years, I made it no secret that Tenri was one of my favorite teams, if nothing else because I stayed there during my first and third trips there and they seemed like a powerhouse. Yet, under closer inspection combined with recent results suggest that Tenri (and subsequently Nara as a whole) was a weaker prefecture that was dominated by 2 teams (Tenri and Chiben Gakuen). Furthermore, Chiben Gakuen has supplanted Tenri at the top of the prefecture.
So Tenri has a lot to prove to everyone that they're still relevant (including myself).
Defensively, Tenri has always been solid. Pitching has always been at least average, but offensively they seem to have issues. Compounding the issue is that this team, despite being the Kinki Super-Regional runner-up, is more power starved than usual. That'll definitely be a problem.
And they're facing Kanto quarterfinalists Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi.
Kendai broke through with their first summer appearance last year, and now have turned around and qualified for senbatsu. Their watermark game was against Urawa Gakuin where they put up 7 runs. However, they lost 11-7 and we don't quite know how good Urawa is just yet.
Kendai's offense numbers are better than that of Tenri, and even if strength of super-regionals are a push, that still gives an edge to Kendai. On the mound, the teams appear to be a push with neither carrying a dominating ace. Both Nakatani (Tenri) and Miki (Kendai) pitch to contact.
I expect this to be a close game, but the edge has to go to Kendai.
Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma)CF Takeuchi Tsukasa
2B Nakayama Keita
C Nagasaka Kenya
3B Uchida Ryouta
1B Oosawa Yoshiyuki
RF Kanbe Kazuki
LF Kobayashi Ryuutarou
SS Akiyama Kousuke
P Miki Keita
Tenri (Nara)CF Higashihara Masahi
2B Watase Yuuya
RF Kimura Hide
SS Yoshimura Kousuke
LF Kuroda Kouta
3B Kumamoto Shuu (#14)
1B Furuta Rui (#5)
P Nakatani Keita
C Yamagishi Masaki (#17)
11:15 - First Pitch!
Takeuchi is a stubborm leadoff batter and takes 8 pitches before hitting a ball pas a diving SS. He then proceeds to steal 2nd with little effort. Tenri and Nakatani in a pinch early.
Nakayama tries to put the bunt down, but he free bunts foul and there's one out!
And now Takeuchi makes a mistake. He's caught off 2nd when a ball goes in the dirt and is thrown out! 2 down!
Nakatani gets Nagasaka to strike out looking and the inning is over!
Higashihara with a walk to start the 1st! Watase bunts him along and Tenri has a chance!
That gets compounded when Kimura's grounder to 2nd is booted and everyone's safe!
But now it's Tenri's turn to make a mistake as Kimura tries to steal 2nd and is thrown out easily!
Yoshimura strikes out looking to end the inning and it's missed opportunities on both sides!
Nakatani goes back into the fire immediately as Uchida singles through the left side! He steals 2nd easily, and now a single to right by Oosawa puts runners at the corners with no down!
Hashimoto-kantoku calls for time.
Tenri's pitching looks rather pedestrian right now. Nakantani is hitting only the high 120s-low 130s along with what seems like a circle change in the high 90s-low 100s.
Kanbe gets the job done, and while he grounds into the 6-4-3 DP, Uchida scores and it's 1-0.
Oh? Hashimoto-kantoku pulls Nakatani for #11 Yamamoto Tatsuya. In looking at the conference plus the fast pull it looks like the team isn't quite sure of the game plan. About the only thing that makes sense is that they're going with the righty.
But it seems to be of no use as Kobayashi drives a ball over Kimura's head and to the wall! He quickly rounds the bases for a triple!
The announcers mention that he has a slow curve, and possibly a slider. If his main secondary is a slow curve, I worry about Tenri's prospects.
Akiyama flies out to center to end the inning, but not before Kendai takes the lead!
Miki continues to pitch well, recording two quick outs. But Furuta puts an end to that as he takes one into the opposite field gap for a double!
From what I see, Miki has a fastball in the high 120s-low 130s, a slider in the low 120s and a change of some sort in the100s.
That's as much as they can get though as Tatsuya grounds to 3rd to end the inning.
Quick inning for Yamamoto in relief. Miki grounds to short, though he almost beats the throw while Takeuchi fouls out to 3B and Nakayama goes down on 3 straight.
Last batter Yamagishi up, makes good control, but lines out to center.
Higashihara gets ahead 3-0, but allows Miki to pump in 2 strikes to fill the count. Still, he manages to work a walk. Wakase , unable to bunt hits the first ball back at Miki. It deflects off his leg, but stays in front of him. He throws out the runner at 1st and seems fine.
And Kimura, instead of testing to see Miki's delivery, swings at the first pitch and pops out to 2nd to end the inning.
Well, Tatsuya has settled down nicely. He records his 2nd 1-2-3 inning against the heart of the Kendai order. Location of pitches look good and the batters aren't making good contact.
Miki records his 2nd K of the game as cleanup batter Yoshimura swings on a letter-high pitch away.
Kurota lifts a ball up on the first pitch and Nagasaka barely moves to catch it.
And while Kumamoto hits a hard grounder that bounces off Uchida, his throw beats a diving Kumamoto (dang it, stop doing that!)
By the way, does anyone notice that Miki's pace seems faster than when the game started?
Tatsuya loses control of a pitch and hits Kanbe to start off the 5th. But Aoyagi-kantoku doesn't have Kobayashi bunt. Instead, he grounds to 1st, and Furuta goes to 2nd for the lead runner.
Instead, Akiyama bunts, but it's right at Tatsuya who goes to 2nd for the force again.
And this time, to eliminate the force, Akiyama immediately steals 2nd. Meanwhile, Miki is patient at the plate and manages to earn a walk after the count ran full. That means that we're back to the top of the order and Takeuchi.
But he grounds to 1st. Furuta tosses to Tatsuya and the inning is over.
Furuta takes the first pitch through the left side and Tenri as their 2nd leadoff runner on.
And now Tatsuya is hit by a pitch!
Yamagishi lays down a bunt, Miki goes to cover it, but rolls over Oosawa and falls down! His throw to 1st is late and everyone's safe with no down!
Higashihara lays down the squeeze! The Kendai defense is off guard and Miki's only throw is to 1st. Tenri gets their douten run out of the way! 1-1!
Wakase with a single to right! Tatsuya comes home! Yamagishi is WHY ARE YOU SENDING HIM HOME?????
The throw from Kanbe is in plenty of time to get Yamagishi... *sighs*
And Kimura flies out to left to end the inning.
Tenri does get their gyakuten run to lead 2-1, but with bases loaded with no out it seems like it should have been more.
Coming out of the break, Tatsuya walks Nakayama putting the douten run on immediately.
Nagasaka up now and, hey! That's the Evangelion theme song again! Whee!
Oh, Nagasaka strikes out swinging, but Nakayama makes it equivalent to a sac bunt by stealing 2nd.
Uchida with a single back up through the middle! Higashihara with it but the throw home is cut off. Kendai comes right back to tie the game at 2-2!
Oosawa with a drive to left center! Higashihara back to the wall and makes the catch! Could they be finally adjusting to Tatsuya?
Kanbe up and Uchida takes off for 2nd! He's in safely!
But Tatsuya induces a groundout to 3rd from Kanbe to end the inning, but not before he gives up the lead they just got!
Yoshimura leads off the inning with a single back up the middle! But Kurota isn't bunting and swings away!
However, he flies out to center.
And now Kumamoto grounds into the 5-4-3 double play to quickly kill the inning!
And does anyone notice that Miki is going slower now?
Kobayashi grounds one through the right side for a leadoff single.
Akiyama with a ball into the left center field gap! Kurota over to field it and he bobbles it! Kobayashi is heading to 3rd and now being sent home! The throw home is late and he scores! Kurota's bobble costs them as Kobayashi scores all the way from 1st! 3-2 Kendai!
Miki proceeds to bunt Akiyama along to try and secure an insurance run.
Tatsuya throws it away! He throws it inside when Yamagishi was looking for something away and now Kendai leads 4-2!
Nakayama hits a grounder to 2nd, but Watase boots it! He can't recover and the inning continues!
Meanwhile, Tatsuya appears to be laboring. His balls are falling short, and now Nakayama steals 2nd!
Grounder to short and now Yoshimura misplays it! Nakamura scores to make it 5-2!
Uchida with a solid shot through the left side and I think they've gotten to Tatsuya now.
The inning finally ends when Uchida grounds out to short. But Kendai retakes the lead in their lucky 7 and now Tenri's offense must find a way to get those runs back.
Fortunate start for Tenri in their lucky 7 as a grounder to short by Furuta is mishandled. But Tatsuya swings away on the first pitch and fouls out to Oosawa.
And what seemed like a fortunate start goes kaput quickly as Yamagishi grounds to Miki who then initiates the 1-6-3 double play.
Tatsuya was about to have a quick 1-2-3 inning, but Akiyama got stubborn fouling off pitch after pitch before finally grounding to short to end the inning. Still though, they hold the lead.
Tenri gets a baserunner as Watase hits a high chopper over the mound. Akiyama goes to field it, but loses the ball on the transfer and Watase is safe on the infield hit.
However, Kimura grounds to 3rd. Uchida throws to 2nd, Nakayama makes the turn and throw just as he's taken out and they get the double play!
One down and top batter Takeuchi tests the defense by laying down a bunt. The throw from Kumamoto is late and he's on safely.
And now Takeuchi takes off for 2nd and just slides in safely!
Aoyagi-kantoku then starts the hit-and-run and Nakayama lines one to right! Takeuchi easily scores to make it 6-2.
Hashimoto-kantoku pulls the hook on Tatsuya and puts in #12 Urushihara.
His first batter Nagasaka tries to lay the bunt down, but pops it up! Urushihara runs to the first base line... and drops it! It's fair, his throw is late, and everyone's safe!!
Uchida follows that with a single to right! That scores Nakayama and it's now 7-2.
Oosawa with the squeeze! Urushihara's only play is to 1st and now its 8-2! The game has completely gotten away from Hashimoto-kantoku.
And with one strike on Kanbe, Aoyagi-kantoku sends in #16 Takasugi. And he hits one through the left side! Uchida scores and they're now ahead 9-2.
#15 Morinaga comes in for Takasugi, and steals 2nd!
But the inning mercifully comes to an end as Kobayashi flies to center.
#14 Kouno comes in for Morinaga and takes over in RF.
Yoshimura with a liner to center, Takeuchi dives and misses the ball! It rolls out to the wall as Yoshimura comes into 3rd!
#10 Sekiya comes to PH for Kurota and drives one to left! Kobayashi goes back to the wall and the field holds it in. Yoshimura scores to make it 9-3.
#3 Inabetsu comes in for Kumamoto, but pops out to 2nd. 2 down.
And Furuta grounds out to short. The throw from Akiyama is wide, but Oosawa makes the tag to end the game.
Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi wins in a runaway 9-3 over Tenri. They dominated in just about every stage of the game, but most importantly, they dominated on the mound. Tenri didn't have a solid ace on the mound, couldn't hit and even had troubles on the field. That combined led to the eventual rout.