Sakushin Gakuin made the Best 4 at Natsu Koushien last year before losing to eventual runner-up Kousei Gakuin. In the fall, they defeated teams such as Hanasaki Tokuharu and Yokohama before being shutout by Urawa Gakuin in the championship.
Offensively, they look like they have some power through the lineup, but suffer the same issue that Kamimura Gakuen has - below-average contact. They have two speedsters at the top of the lineup, so expect them to try and run and run often when the order turns over.
On the mound is ace Ootani, another contact-type pitcher who doesn't strikeout a bunch of hitters (4.4 K/9), but counters it by limiting runners (1.11 WHIP).
Kurashiki Shougyou's keystone win was a 7-5 gyakuten win over Jyosuikan in the first round of the super-regionals. They would eventually lose 4-1 in the finals to Tottori Jyouhoku. They have almost the reverse problem Sakushin has, good contact, but little in extra base hits - which has been a recurring theme of a lot of teams which have played so far.
In addition, their ace Nishi allows a high number of baserunners (1.56 WHIP), and still doesn't strike out a lot of batters (5.29 K/9).
This game will probably be another one of those where the team from the more populous region will win out. I say this because the talent pool tends to be greater in more populous areas. It's just a general fact.
Kurashiki Shougyou (Okayama)2B Fujii Shouri
RF Harukawa Yasunori
CF Sakada Jyunichi
1B Okada Seiji
C Michishita Kouta
LF Yokota Yamato
SS Katayama Yoshiki
3B Shimizu Shigeru
P Nishi Ryuusei
Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi)CF Tsuruta Kouya
LF Haneishi Hiroki
SS Ishii Kazunari
1B Takayama Ryousuke (#9)
P Ootani ShigehiroC Yamashita Yuuto
RF Fuse Kyouhei (#16)
2B Asano Shouya3B Takashima Shouma
Looks like the rain which was was though to have passed is back again. There was some rain near the end of the last game, and has come back before the start of the game. But it looks like it's cleared up enough and the players take the field! It looks like Shinohara may be injured so Takayama shifts to 1B and Fuse holds the fort in right.
11:45 - First Pitch!
Fujii with a short liner over Takayama's head! Asano backing up the play throws to Ootani covering, but he can't hold on! Base hit!
Harukawa not bunting, and takes a ball away through the left side! No out, runners on 1st and 2nd for Sakada!
Sakada with the quick safety bunt! Takashima charges in but Sakada beats out the throw! Manrui immediately and Ootani in trouble!
But Okada swings at the first pitch and grounds it to Ishii! He steps on 2nd for one, throws to 1st for the double play! They concede the run for the 2 outs and Kurashiki takes a 1-0 lead!
The rain is coming down harder now it seems.
Michishita grounds out to 3rd for the third out and Ootani is fortunate to have given up just the one run.
After Nishi records two outs to start the inning, he walks Ishii. Then on two consecutive pitches, one is blocked but still allows Ishii to steal 2nd, then a wild pitch sends him to 3rd.
Nishi loses Takayama on 4 straight and he doesn't look comfortable on the mound at all in the rain.
Ootani up and he's thrown two more balls before getting the outside corner. Ootani gets fooled on a screwball and the count's even at 2-2.
SANSHIN! Nishi gets it together, getting Ootani on a slider inside for the 3rd out!
The rain may play a part in this game one way or another before it ends here.
And it already is as the grounds crew is called out to work on the mound. And it looks like the umpires have called in the players while they put some equivalent of diamond dry onto the field. The rain continues to fall though, but I think they're trying to get this game in one way or another having already lost a day.
After about a 5 minute delay, the players are out again and we're ready to start play again.
Yokota gets the Kurashou offense going with a single to right!
And Katayama on a bunt attempt hits him on his right hand, and Ootani is in a pinch again here in the 2nd!
Wild pitch from Ootani! Runners advance a base and now Kobari-kantoku calls time.
Another wild pitch from Ootani! Yokota scores and Kurashou is up 2-0!
Shimizu with a single to center scoring Katayama! No reprieve this time around as Nishi sacrifices the runner along. Fujii grounds to 2nd, but advances the runner to 3rd.
Harukawa K's to end the inning, but Ootani's mistakes cost them a couple more runs.
Yamashita with a hard liner to left. Yokota trying to make the sliding catch, but instead it deflects off him! Yokota comes in with a double!
Fuse with a liner up the middle! Katayama just misses it, but Yamashita has to hold because he had to wait for the ball to get through first. Runners on 1st and 2nd as Morimitsu-kantoku calls time.
Asano tries to bunt the runners along, but fouls it off and now is down 0-2. He still manages to lay it down and advance the runners.
Now it's Nishi's turn to be in a pinch! He hits Takashima and its manrui as the lineup turns over!
But he doesn't panic and strikes out Tsuruta on a slider inside. 2 outs!
He continues aggressively, getting ahead on Haneishi 1-2. But Haneishi holds off on a slider outside and the count goes full. Everyone will take off on the next pitch...
Grounder to the right side... base hit! One run will score... 2 runs will score! Haneishi's timely hit pulls Sakushin within 1. It's 3-2!!
Haneishi takes off on the first pitch! No throw from Michishita! Now a base hit could give them the lead.
After getting ahead of Ishii 1-2, again the count runs full. There is an open base but would you really?
Nubber up the first base line. Okada with it, tosses to Nishi, SAFE?
The 1st base umpire calls him not touching the bag! He hurriedly throws home, but it's not in time! 2 runs score on the error and Sakushin Gakuin gets the gyakuten run, 4-3!
Takayama flies out to right, but the miss at 1st proves costly. Did he really miss it??
The rain has returned again and it's coming down hard. Sakada pops out to short.
Ootani seemingly picking up the pace as a game after 5 is an official game and they're ahead.
Okada strikes out swinging on a high fastball and Michishita pops out to left. 3 outs and they're one step closer.
Looks like the rain has stopped, but the errors haven't. Okada muffs the grounder from Ootani and Nishi is late in covering.
Yamashita swinging away, hits a liner to center that Sakada just gets to.
Fuse tries the surprise bunt, but Okada is there quickly. Fujii is a little tardy getting to 1st, but they get the out.
Asano goes down and hits one to center! Ootani scores and it's 5-3 Sakushin Gakuin!
Takashima strikes out to end the inning, but Sakushin extends their lead.
Ootani doing a decent job given the conditions. He appears to have a fastball in the mid 130s, a two-seamer, and at least a slider in the high 110s-low 120s.
Yokota and now Katayama both are frozen by fastballs from Ootani and there's quickly 2 down.
Shimizu lines out to 1st and Kurashiki has to head out to the field again
The camera points to the skies past right field, and there's clear blue skies, so I don't think there's much to worry about for a called game. Not sure who that would have wanted that when, but no matter anymore.
Ootani was on his way to a quick inning, but when Haneishi hit a grounder to short, Katayama airmailed the throw. Ishii's K would have been the 3rd out, instead it's the 2nd and Haneishi steals 2nd to boot.
Takayama makes Kurashou pay! He drives a ball over Yokota's head for a double! Haneishi scores to make it a 6-3 game!
But Nishi can't get the inning to end. He walks Ootani, then throws a wild pitch allowing the runners to advance.
Yamashita with a hard hit ball up the middle! Fujii with the diving stop, fires to first... in time! Nice play to prevent more runs for scoring! But they do fall one more run behind.
Kurashou's offense has stalled over the last couple of innings. None of Kurashiki's batters are making good contact and are retired in order.
Sakushin's batters are having about as much luck, but are getting breaks. One out, Asano hits a popup to shallow center, but no one can get to it and it falls in.
Now, Michishita throws him out trying to steal 2nd, but then Takayama gets a glancing blow to the head from a pitch and takes 1st.
But Kobari-kantoku rolls the dice again, and once again Takayama is thrown out on a delayed steal to end the inning. We get to the break with Sakushin doubling up Kurashou 6-3.
Okada finally breaks the hit drought with a one-out single to left.
Ootani then has a ball get away from him and he hits Michishita in the wrist! Runners on 1st and 2nd with one down as Kobari-kantoku calls for time.
Oof. Another ball gets away from Ootani and Yokota has to quickly duck away.
Yokota with a solid strike, but it's right at Tsuruta for the 2nd out. Katayama stands in, with Kurashou in no position to afford not scoring here.
But Ootani blows an inside fastball by him and Kurashou is denied!
Nishi takes the mound having thrown 124 pitches. He's got a lot more work to do to keep his team in the game.
As for Nishi himself, he throws in the high 120s-low 130s with a slider sitting in the high 110s-low 120s and a change in the 100s.
Tsuruta goes down for the 3rd time, this time looking at a fastball outside.
Nishi then finally stops Haneishi from getting on base getting a groundout to 2nd.
Ishii with a low liner to center. Sakada diving, makes the catch! Risky move there, but it pays off! Nishi gets a proper 1-2-3 inning but still finds himself trailing by 3 as they enter the lucky 7.
Still, the Kurasho batters are not making good contact. Shimizu flies out to right. Nishi gets under one behind 0-2 and flies out to center.
Oop. The rain is back...
But even in the rain, Ootani continues to exhibit very good control.
Fujii flies out to right and well, there goes the lucky 7. 2 innings left to mount a comeback.
Takayama gets another bloop hit as the ball falls in once again between Katayama and Yokota.
Ootani tries to bunt the runner along, but is called out when the umpire deems he wasn't able to pull back his bat in time. One down.
Yamashita though singles through the left side, putting pressure back on Nishi.
Fuse grounds into a fielder's choice at 2nd, which places runners at the corners for Asano.
Asano with a grounder past Katayama into left. Takayama score to make it a 7-3 ballgame.
Takashima with another short popup, this time to right. Harukawa charges in and uses the wet turf to make a great sliding catch!
Harukawa inadvertantly jumps into the path of the ball as it was thrown behind him. Oh well, man on!
Sakada swinging on the hit-and-run! Asano with the diving attempt but it goes through! Runners on 1st and 2nd with no down!
No bunting anymore - Okada's swinging away!
Count runs in his favor 2-0. Two seamer inside for strike 1. Another one jams him and he flies out to left. 1 down.
Michishita hits a slow grounder to 3rd. He's retired and there's 2 down. They need to score these runs to have any chance in the 9th.
The task falls to Yokota, 1-3 on the day.
But like Michishita, he bails on an outside pitch and hits a slow roller to 3rd. Takashima makes the play and Kurashou's opportunity is wasted.
Nishi retires the side in order, tallying his 10th and 11th K's of the game. Yet it'll go for naught if they can't come back in the 9th
Bottom third of the order up in Katayama, Shimizu and Nishi...
Katayama grounds out to 2nd for the first out... Shimizu trying to foul off pitches looking for a better one, pops out to 2nd.
#15 Oosugi comes in to PH for Nishi, but falls behind 0-2 quickly. He's jammed and Takashima makes the catch near the mound to end the game.
Kurashiki Shougyou was never able to recover after giving up the 4-spot in the 2nd. Despite 11 K's from their ace Nishi, the offense was never able to gain traction to close the deficit. Not a bad job done by the boys from Okayama, but their road ends here. As for Sakushin Gakuin, it's yet another win at Koushien. The offense did looks sporadic at times, but they did have plenty of opportunities. Next up will be Naruto.
Ootani Shigehiro (Sakushin Gakuin) - CG, 3 ER, 7 H, 5 K, 3 BB
Takayama Ryousuke (Sakushin Gakuin) - 2-3, 2B, R, RBI, BB
Shimizu Shigeru (Kurashiki Shougyou) - 1-4, RBI