Yes, Oumi and their powder blue uniforms are once again back at Koushien, though just. They could have suffered a same fate as Souseikan in Kyushu after their 11-1 loss to Tenri (and after seeing Tenri's game yesterday, that's a pretty bad loss), if not for the fact that (a) the Kinki Region gets 6 bids instead of 4, and (b) Mizuguchi lost 15-3 to Riseisha and they lost to Oumi in the prefectural final, and while Naradai Fuzoku narrowly lost to Oumi, giving a bid to them instead would have meant that they would award 3 teams from Nara a bid - and Nara just isn't that good.
Remember what I said about a lot of teams before? They apply here too. Decent average, little power, and in their case - they don't steal many bases. Pitching-wise, their main ace strikes out a batter every 2 innings and carries a respectable WHIP (~1.25). He doesn't start all the games - in fact, #11 Yamada takes the hill to start when that happens, though he K's and BB's more batters.
Takasaki made it to the best 4 by defeating a pair of non-notable Toukaidai teams (Bouyou and Koufu) before losing to Sakushin Gakuin 6-3. In the prefecturals, they had a quality win against Maebashi Ikuei.
Honestly, there's only two possible reasons why Takasaki is even in the tournament. One is their ace Shimada who doesn't allow baserunners (0.89 WHIP), and the second, which I can't substantiate is their defense.
Because there is NO way their offense has anything to do with it. None.
I can say this with almost 100% certainty because you should not be able to reach the semifinals of the Kanto Super-Regional with a team batting average of 0.237.
That's right 0.237.
Not only that, they don't take many walks and don't steal bases. And yet, they scored 32 runs in 9 games. That's better than the Mariners. And they won 8 straight. Go figure.
Needless to say, I'm highly interested to see Takasaki in this game. Not to mention their uniforms which look like they've been taken from a train company.
Takasaki (Gunma)LF Matsui Akinori (#11)
CF Shimizu Sadamitsu
SS Nakazawa Shinya
1B Kaneko Yuuki
RF Tsukagoshi Riku
2B Kuragane Kousuke
3B Nakazato Shingo
C Uchihori Yuuto
P Shimada Satoshi
Oumi (Shiga)RF Kume Masashi (#8)
2B Fukui Shingo
LF Hashimoto Daiki
3B Fujiwara Ryuuji
CF Yamaguchi Kenta (#9)
1B Namazue Jyunki
SS Hayashida Yuusuke (#15)
C Tsusaka Jyun
P Murata Teito
The rain continues to fall, and the ground is sloppy at best. But they're going to get the 3rd game in no matter what it seems. So those powder blue unis will be dark soon enough.
14:50 - First Pitch!
Well, I guess if you have a bad BA, might as well try to get your hacks in on the first pitch strike. Matsui is retired on a grounder to 3rd, and Shimizu on a fly to left. Nakazawa takes a couple of pitches, but too flies out to left to end the inning.
Kume with a liner to center. Shimizu slips! But the ball comes right to him for the out! How lucky!
Fukui can't check his swing on a 3-2 fastball running inside! 2 down.
Shimada doesn't get the call on a 2-2 fastball, and winds up walking Hashimoto.
Fujiwara with a ball to right center, Shimizu ranging to his left, dives, but the ball glances off his glove! They have to chase it down, but Hashimoto stops at 3rd!
And that's lucky for Takasaki as Yamaguchi grounds to 3rd! Nakazato makes the throw to first and the side is retired!
Takasaki continuing their free-swinging style. Kaneko with a hard hit ball back up the middle, but unlucky for him Murata deflects it right to Fukui to make the play. Tsukagoshi almost gets lucky too when SS Hayashida almost drops the popup. And Kurogane hits a solid liner, but it's to a drawn in Kume for the 3rd out.
Hm. Namazue is caught looking on a change inside for the first out.
Hayashida, inserted into the lineup this game, bloops a ball just fair down the right field line.
But when Tsusaka grounds to 2nd, Kuragane starts the 4-6-3 double play and the inning is over! Some good defense so far as expected from Takasaki.
So about the pitchers. Murata is pretty much no different than others we've seen. Fastball in the low 130's, curve in the 110s.
And Takasaki continues to hack. Nakazato grounds out to 3rd. Uchihori first pitch swings and flies to left, and Shimada actually takes pitches! He works the count full but flies out to right.
Murata thinks he has strike 3 on a 2-2 fastball to Shimada, but he doesn't get the call. However he does get Shimada to fly out to right to end the inning. When I get a chance I think I know what's going on.
Oh jeez, the rain is back again and it's coming down hard.
Murata grounds to 2nd, and just about that time the rain comes down so hard you can hear it on the microphones!
And the umpires continue play? The ground is barely playable!
Finally, when Shimada throws a wild pitch over everyone to fall behind Kume 3-0, the umpires call everyone in.
15:17 - Rain Delay (Radar suggests it's a passing cell, so it probably won't be cancelled)
Ok, so since I have a minute now, I'll explain what might be Takasaki's strategy.
It seems apparent that Takasaki's offense isn't good, but by the numbers we've seen that to be the case.
So. That means you have to play good defense and have good pitching right? Makes sense.
But what about the hacking at the plate? Why would you swing away and shorten the game, especially if you can't hit?
Well, putting the ball in play (as long as it's not weak hits), means the defense has to play hard. Continuing to hit the ball in play means that the defense is continually on the move, even if you're just backing up.
But usually you have time to take a break since batters aren't swinging on the first pitch.
(15:25 - The rain seems to have slowed down now from a downpour, but it's still raining and the field was already pretty saturated to begin with.)
In Takasaki's case they are. So you're moving around constantly, and in the case of a 1-2-3 inning, going back and forth to and from the dugout.
So what if you're playing a game of endurance in a game of speed baseball? If you're not in the best of condition, could it be that you get just a little sloppy later?
If all that is the case, (1) the ground conditions are not good for Takasaki because it can cause havoc with their defense, (2) the ground conditions aren't good for putting grounders in play due to their strategy because with the sloppy conditions it will slow the ball down, and (3) this break isn't good because it's allowing the Oumi players to rest. They'd be better off having the game cancelled and starting over hoping to have better playing conditions and a better possibility of tiring the Oumi players out.
(15:29 - The head umpire comes out to talk about the field conditions with the stadium field staff. And it looks like the field staff are removing the tarps from the mound and batters area. And now a wheelbarrow of diamond dry is coming out. Dude, that's NOT going to be enough. AND it's raining a bit stronger now, WTF are you guys doing??)
(15:32 - The tarp comes out again on the mound and batters box. Good job guys... Seriously, combine the rain yesterday with the rain today and while the field has better drainage, I don't think it's that good.)
(15:40 - The cameras zoom in on the tarp at home and the um... mud around it. That can't be playable, can it?)
15:45 - The umpire comes out, walks to 1st... walks to 2nd... comes back home...
And that's that. It's still raining, the field is soaked, and the umpire calls it off.
This means there will be 4 games tomorrow. Games will begin at 8:30 with Oumi-Takasaki playing the last game at 16:00, and probably the teams will switch home/away.
The game being called will benefit Takasaki as long as the field conditions are better. (Which they should be.)
The teams go out to bow to their fans, and they gather up their stuff and head home to think about things for one more day.