Is there more hope for today's games? Well, first on the docket is the second 21st Century Team to take the field in Sumoto versus the Shikoku fall champions Naruto.
Sumoto is the only team of the 3 invited to not have made the super-regional bracket. They made it to the Hyogo semifinals where they lost 6-0 to Koushien regular Houtoku Gakuen, then was eliminated from super-regional play by Ikuei 9-2. Their only notable win was a 13-6 win over recent attendee Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku.
At a glance their offense doesn't look much different than some of the one's we've seen here that have been eliminated - not much power, a batting average lower than most, and not much speed to speak of. Shimagaki is their to-go ace, but his peripherals (K/9, BB/9, etc) are not stellar either. So Sumoto on paper has a bit of work to do it seems.
Naruto won the Shikoku super-regional defeating notable teams in the region such as Imabari Nishi, Takamatsu Shougyou, and Kochi. Shikoku isn't the powerhouse it once was, but they're not a bunch of slouches now either.
Naruto's offense looks slightly better than Sumoto's, especially given that they had a couple more games against relatively stronger teams in the super-regional. But the numbers suggest that a lot of it is speed based (for instance more triples than doubles, and a decent amount of SB's). Furthermore, ace Gotouda's peripherals are nothing to write home about either (1.478 WHIP, ~5.4 K/9). That's where reliever Kobayashi comes in, though while he allows less runners, he also has a worse strikeout rate than Goutouda.
With average pitching, it would seem that Naruto's slightly above-average speed and offense would be the difference in the game.
Sumoto (Hyogo)LF Taniguchi Yuusuke (#8)
CF Hosokawa Shou (#17)
RF Ishizaka Taichi
3B Iida Takuya (#5)
2B Masai Daisuke
1B Shimohara Akihiro
SS Matsubara Hiroki (#6)
C Oomura RyuusukeP Shimagaki Ryouta
Naruto (Tokushima)SS Kawano Yuuto
CF Shimada Jyukito
LF Inaoka Kenta
1B Sugimoto Keita
RF Yamato Taira
3B Matsumoto Takanori
C Kusaka Hiroki (#12)
P Goutouda Shuusaku
2B Nakano Yuuki
09:00 - First Pitch!
Gotouda showing decent control in the early going, freezing Taniguchi on a pitch on the outside corner. Noguchi-kantoku must have seen something to send in #17 Hosokawa, and he's rather stubborn at the plate, fouling off pitches as he gets the count full. However, he grounds out to short, though makes it close as Kawano double clutches.
And Ishizaka swings on a slow change to end the inning.
Ooh. Not a good start for Shimagaki. He hits Kawano to start the game. Shimada almost is safe on a sac bunt, but gets the job done anyways.
Hm? I'm surprised. Shimagaki isn't throwing hard, but gets both Inaoka and Sugimoto to strike out swinging to end the inning!
Sumoto's uniforms are so old-school, I like them.
Ah. Iida K's on a splitter in the dirt.
Goutouda doesn't throw particularly hard. Fastball in the low-mid 130s, slider in the high 110s-low 120s, and a slow curve in the high 90s-low 100s. Can't see where the split finger lies in that range.
2 down after a Masai fly to center and Shimohara lines the first hit into left. Matsubara follows that up with one that almost takes out Shimohara! Runners at 1st and 2nd, as Kusaka comes out to the plate.
And Oomura goes down on a curve on the outside corner! Goutouda gets out of the jam!
Yamato with a slow chopper up the middle, but Matsubara calmly picks it up and makes the throw to 1st.
Shimagaki isn't a fireballer, and has a similar arsenal. Fastball in the low-mid 130s, slider in the high 110s-low 120s, and he has a fork in the 120s.
Matsumoto in fact, swings on one to strike out.
Kusaka with Cruel Angel's Thesis playing...
And he goes down on another forkball to end the inning. That's 4 K's for Shimagaki already!
Goutouda is back to a rhythm on the mound as he strikes out Shimagaki on 3 straight, then induce popups on Taniguchi and Hosokawa on 3 pitches. Just like that Naruto is back on the bats!
The cameras are moving around a bit. The system that brought rain is still around, just blowing a lot of wind around.
Shimagaki gets 2 groundouts to Masai, then freezes leadoff batter Kawano on a change outside.
The sun is finally peeking out, but it's still windy out there.
Ishisaka works the count full, but grounds to 2nd. But Nakano charging in can't field it! By the time he doubles back, Ishisaka is safe!
Cleanup batter Iida is showing bunt? Takes strike 1. Now it's a bust-and-run?? And now he's swinging away and fouls one off!
He fouls off another one, and it's playable, but the wind is blowing hard from right to left that it goes out fo reach.
He slowly works the count to 2-2 as he fouls off a slow curve. Then again as he bails on a fastball outside. And again.
Iida finally puts it in play, but it's right at Kawano who starts the 6-4-3 double play. 2 down.
Masai gets plunked right on the knee so Sumoto has a runner back on base for Shimohara.
Shimohara makes Goutouda pay! He lines a ball into the opposite field gap! It goes all the way to the wall as Masai scores easily! Shimohara's RBI triple gives them the 1-0 lead!
Whoa. Matsubara is just fast on that slow curve lining it just left of Shimohara!
And he can't pull the trigger on a change on the outside corner! Goutouda gets his 3rd out, but not before his hit batsmen comes around to score!
Shimada with a grounder to 3rd, and it bounces off Iida! He has no shot at 1st anymore, and from the replay it looks like it hit him in not so nice of a spot.
Well, Inaoka is as expected bunting. And while Shimagaki is trying to force a bad bunt, he's fallen behind 3-0 and has to go after him. Gets one on the inside corner for strike 1, but then Inaoka gets his bunt down.
Ah! Now Shimagaki hits Sugimoto! Still 1 down, but now 2 runners on!
But Shimogaki gets Yamato to swing on a slider for the 2nd out!
And he gets out of the inning as Matsumoto grounds to 3rd! Iida makes the throw to 1st and a great stretch by Shimohara gets the out!
Oomura times a slow curve and easily lines one to left center to start the inning. Shimagaki lays the but down, and Sumoto threatens again.
Taniguchi with the swinging bunt, but fortunately for Naruto it goes foul.
Taniguchi though whiffs on a change in the dirt for the 2nd out.
Hosokawa too can't hold off on a bad pitch and Goutouda and company heads back to the dugout.
Shimagaki records his 7th K as Kusaka swings on a slider off the plate.
Gotouda with a slow grounder to short. Iida gets there first, but can't get a grip on the ball. Goutouda safe at first on the error.
Nakano offers a bunt on the first pitch but misses. With the count 2-1 he tries again, but fouls it off. Nakano looks like he's going to free bunt, but the ball goes wide and the count runs full.
He basically gets his bunt as Goutouda takes off and he grounds out to 2nd.
Kawano with a shot down the left field line.. foul!
SANSHIN! Shimagaki gets him on a slider in the dirt and the inning is over! Sumoto heads to the dugout holding onto a slim 1-run lead into the break!
One down for Sumoto and Iida takes a ball away into the left center field gap! Shiamda gets to it, but Iida's pushing for 2! The throw is cutoff and he's in there safely!
And now trying to pitch inside, Goutouda hits Masai! Runners at 1st and 2nd with 1 down as Moriwaki-kantoku calls for time.
And the wrong guy for Naruto is coming up, Shimohara...
He looks at a curve right down the middle for strike 1. He holds off the next 2 pitches and gets ahead. Pitch inside makes it 3-1. Will they just walk him?
Nope, he throws his curve in there for strike 2. Full count!
SANSHIN! Shimohara goes over the curve and strikes out! Now all Goutouda needs is an out from Matsubara.
Two curves/changes later and Matsubara's behind 0-2. But Matsubara offers on yet another curve away and Goutouda gets out of the jam!
Shimagaki hits his 3rd batter in Shimada to lead off the inning.
And now Shimada tries for the steal! The throw is ther, but Matsubara is a tick too fast and has to reach behind him! He can't field the ball and Shimada is safe!
Inaoka still continues to show bunt, but fouls it off to make the count 2-2. He pulls it back and slaps it to short. Matsubara has no play at 3rd, so he gets the play at first.
Sugimoto with the slap through the drawn in infield and that easily scores the run. We're douten at 1-1!
And Yamato is bunting even with one down, but winds up offering and missing for the strikeout! 2 down.
Matsumoto grounds into the fielder's choice at 2nd, but post-break Naruto levels the score!
Oomura works the count on Goutouda, but grounds back to him for the first out. Shimagaki meanwhile continues to bite on the curves outside and strikes out for the 2nd time. Taniguchi makes it a 1-2-3 inning fouling out to Nakano.
Kusaka becomes Shimagaki's 4th hit batter and now Goutouda will look to put the gyakuten run in scoring position, and does so on the first pitch.
Nakano does his best, but swings under a change for the 2nd out. One more and Shimagaki avoids disaster.
But the lineup turns over to Kawano. Won't be easy.
Except that it is! Shimagaki gets ahead 0-2 then induces a weak grounder to 2nd for the 3rd out!
Hosokawa leads off the inning showing bunt, but grounds out to short.
The chart shows Goutouda at 118 pitches as Ishizaka steps in. Yet he's still locating his pitches well as a ball inside induces a grounder to 2nd.
Iida swings at a letter high fastball and it finds the gap between Kawano and Inaoka for a base hit.
Masai next to keep the inning going, but falls behind 1-2, and on a hit-and-run pops out to short.
Both pitchers are throwing their fair share of breaking balls at this point. Shimada manages to avoid one in the dirt, but grounds out to 2nd.
Inaoka with a short liner to 3rd and Iida snocones it for the 2nd out.
It's another quick inning as Sugimoto gets really jammed and hits an easy grounder to Shimagaki.
Well! We're in the 9th inning and the game is tied at 1! Will someone break through or are we headed to our first enchousen game?
Shimohara swings early and flies out to Shimada. 1 down.
#10 Kobayashi seems warmed up just in case, but Goutouda seems fine.
Foul popup by Matsubara and Kusaka should have it, but lets it drop! Second chance!
But Goutouda freezes him on a fastball for the 2nd out!
Oomura quickly goes down 0-2 swinging at balls away again, but just sneaks one past a diving Sugimoto and Nakano for a base hit!
Now Shimagaki has to help his own cause... but flies out to left... Now they'll have to hope for enchousen.
Shimagaki at 109 pitches heading into the 9th. That's actually pretty low.
OH! Yamato with a liner back at Shimagaki and he picks it off for the 1st out!
Shimagaki's off speed pitches are still on target and he picks off Matsumoto for his 11th K!
And Kusaka first pitch grounds to 2nd and we're headed to enchousen!
Goutoua delivers his 144th pitch to leadoff batter Taniguchi and he fouls it off. 144 still not terrible. Seriously.
Taniguchi pops out to short for the 1st out. Hosokawa tries the safety bunt, but his dive might have cost him the base...
Ishizaka first pitch grounds to 1st and Naruto is quickly back on the bats.
Goutouda with Naruto's 3rd hit of the day on a ball back up the middle!
Noguchi-kantoku calls time as this is a crucial time now for Shimagaki.
Nakano lays the bunt down and the sayonara run is in scoring position.
AH! Shimagaki with a mistake and Kawano drives it to deep left center! No one's going to get to it and Naruto gets the sayonara 2-1 win!!!
A well fought pitchers duel on both sides, Shimagaki's control slipped just a little sooner than Goutouda and Naruto takes advantage!
Give Shimagaki and Sumoto credit. They probably shouldn't have been this close against the Shikoku champions, but they fought them 10 hard innings. Nothing to complain about for the home squad.