Osaka Touin came in with some questions. People know they could hit, but their pitching was suspect. This year, Fujinami has come in as the ace and has been more than serviceable on the mound.
However, one thing that may be concerning is that in their two games so far, all their runs have been scored from the 6th inning onwards. If they require their opposition to tire down the stretch, or the break to make their adjustments, they could be in trouble if they face a strong pitcher who can last the entire game.
I'm not convinced that ace Satou for Urawa Gakuin is that person. Yes, he's given up just 2 runs in his 2 games so far, but the opposition has not proven to be strong, or at least as strong as Osaka Touin anyways.
Furthermore, their offense stagnated tremendously against Mie, managing just 2 runs on 2 hits. And this time around they'll be facing Fujinami.
Urawa will have their hands full in this game as Osaka Touin has emerged as a contender for the senbatsu title.
Osaka Touin (Osaka)RF Mizumoto Gen
C Mori Tomoya
2B Oonishi Tomoya
1B Koike Yuuya (#5)
3B Kasamatsu Yuuya (#15)
LF Yasui Kouki
SS Mizutani Yukiya (#14)
P Fujinami Shintarou
CF Hakusui Kenta
Urawa Gakuin (Saitama)SS Takemura Haruki
C Rinzaki Tatsuya
CF Satou Takuya (#8)
RF Sasagawa Ryouhei
LF Yamane Yuuta
1B Akashi Hyuuma
3B Yoshikawa Tomoya (#15)
P Yamaguchi Rui (#11)
2B Midorikawa Koutarou
11:00 - First pitch!
Interesting. Both managers decide to go with relievers. I'm pretty sure that both will also be ready at the instant things go awry as you'd like to save your ace at this point, but not at the expense of losing the current game.
Let's see how Yamaguchi handles the start.
Mizumoto takes a couple to see Yamaguchi, but hits a comebacker to him in the end.
Oonishi first pitch flies out to right, and Mori flies out to center for a smooth 1-2-3 inning for spot starter Yamaguchi!
Not so smooth for Sawada as Takemura starts off the Urawa offense with a single to left! Rinzaki tries to bunt him to 2nd, but Sawada calmly throws out Takemura at 2nd!
Satou with a grounder to the right side, Koike dives but it bounces off his glove and deflects behind Oonishi! Rinzaki heads for 3rd, and there's runners at the corners now for Urawa!
Sasagawa with a comebacker up the middle! That's clear to center and Rinzaki scores the first run in favor of Urawa! It's 1-0!
Yamane stepping in and Fujinami quickly up in the bullpen. Perhaps the gamble backfired?
But Sawada gets Yamane to ground to 3rd! Kasamatsu tags 3rd for one, throw to 1st for the double play!
Yamaguchi probably given the mandate not to nibble and go after the Touin batters. How else would you explain the strikes he's throwing and getting ahead? Koike and Yasui both grounds out, and Kasagawa strikes out swingin and it seems like early on in the battle of relievers.
Akashi first pitch singles past Sawada into center! But once again the following batter cannot bunt the runner over as Yoshikawa free bunts and fouls out.
So Yamaguchi does it as Mori-kantoku looks for a one-timer from Midorikawa.
But he hits a comebacker to Sawada and that's the inning.
One down, and Mizutani finally gets Osaka Touin their first hit as he singles to center. Nishitani-kantoku elects to have last batter Sawada bunt the runner along, and while he pops it up, it falls in fair and gets the job done.
Nishitani-kantoku will be trying for the timely hit from the top of the order.
But Mizumoto reaches out and pops it up! Yamane calls off Takemura and makes the catch for the 3rd out!
Sawada finally gets his 1-2-3 inning as he retires the top of the order in just 6 pitches. A stressless inning is probably what he and Nishitani-kantoku wanted.
Mori with their second 1-out single, this time shooting one to right.
But Koike hits it right to short! Takemura starts the 6-4-3 double play and the inning is over!
Now that I have time to look at the starters today, Sawada appears to have a fastball in the high 130s touching 140, a slider in the high 120-low 130s, and a change in the 110s.
Sasagawa and Yamane both get on top of a Sawada offering and groundout to short. Akashi gets under one and Yasui waves off Mizutani and makes the catch for the 3rd out. He's looked good after the first inning.
Yasui after a 7 pitch AB, hits a ball to fairly deep center, but Satou is there for the catch.
For Yamaguchi, he has a fastball in the low 130's, a two-seamer (?) in the high 120s and a change/curve in the 100s.
Kasamatsu with a liner to right and Osaka Touin gets a man on!
Hakusui follows that with a ball to left! But Yamane is there for the catch! Kasamatsu running back, but Yamane's throw lands in front of Kasamatsu as if to tell him he has to chance! Double play, and the inning is over!!
With the 6th coming up, and Osaka Touin seemingly scoring runs in the 2nd half, I wonder when Satou's coming in?
Well, I get my answer! One down and #8 Ishibashi pinch hits for Yamaguchi! Satou will in fact come in to close out the last 4 innings!
Meanwhile Ishibashi hits a seeing-eye single through the right side!
Midorikawa not bunting, and goes down looking for the 2nd out.
Takemura at 2-2, and Ishibashi takes off! Throw from Mori and Mizutani makes a fine swipe to get Ishibashi. Urawa will have the top of the order in the 6th.
So we hit the break, and perhaps Mori-kantoku was thinking the same thing I was. Save your ace for the later innings and use your reliever to hold off the early innings since Osaka Touin is a bit of a slow starter.
However, Urawa has only scored one run on spot starter Sawada. That lead will be tentative for the next 4 innings.
As expected #1 Satou takes the mound, and PH Ishibashi takes up over in CF.
And aftter Mizutani grounds out, Nishitani-kantoku matches Mori-kantoku! #18 Morishima comes to hit for Sawada, which means that Fujinami will be coming in the game, and indeed he is warming up in the bullpen.
Meanwhile, Morishima is battling Satou at the plate. 8th pitch Satou finally gets him to ground out to 1st for the 2nd out.
Mizumoto with a 2-out single up the middle.
Oonishi, looking to extend the inning, works the count full, but hits a fly to left! Yamane easily under it for the 3rd out and Osaka Touin puts up another 0.
Fujinami is headed to the hill now, so Urawa has won the first half of the battle. How will the 2nd half fare?
Takemura up, looks to strikeout on a slider outside, but the umpire calls foul? It didn't look like he touched it?! As a result, Fujinami has to throw 2 extra pitches, but gets his K.
Rinzaki with a grounder to short. Mizutani's up with the ball, but his throw to 1st pulls Koike off the bag! E6!
But Mizutani makes up for the error! Satou grounds one up the middle, Mizutani steps on 2nd for one, throws to 1st for the double play!
This pitcher's duel is flying by as we've averaged 10 minutes an inning. Can Osaka Touin finally start their 2nd half rally?
Mori on a full count hacks at a shoulder high fastball and lines it over Midorikawa for a base hit!
Nishitani-kantoku has cleanup batter Koike bunt the runner along for Yasui.
Two slow curves from Satou and he's behind 2-0. The count goes full again, but this time Yasui can't get around on a fastball inside and strikes out.
Mori-kantoku calls time as Kasamatsu stands in. It looks like they're going to be careful with him as he's not throwing anything in the zone.
But as I say that, Kasamatsu reaches down on a ball and lines one back up the middle to center! Ishibashi charging, but his throw won't make it in time! Mori scores and Kasamatsu strikes again! Osaka Touin scores the douten run! We're at 1-1!
Hakusui with a hard ball back to Satou! He fields it and throws to 1st to retire the side. But Osaka Touin finally gets their offense going tying the game here in the lucky 7th!
Sasagawa says to Kasamatsu, "You're not the only one who can do that!" and takes a high fastball and lines it to right center!
Yamane trying to bunt has to get out of the way, but the bat makes contact with the ball! Mori finally realizes it and makes a last second dive for the ball, but can't get it! Foul ball!
And that works out for Urawa! Yamane takes the next pitch and singles through the left side! Runners on 1st and 2nd with no down!
Akashi tries to lay down the bunt, but fouls it off! Mori-kantoku calls him over but he can't lay it down again! 1-2 and he pops it up! Koike over near Urawa's dugout, falls and doesn't catch it!
And wouldn't you know it, Akashi takes the next pitch and hits it past Mizutani into left! Two fortunate events for Urawa and it's manrui with no down!
Nishitani-kantoku calling time. What to do?
Well, Yoshikawa is swinging away! But he falls behind 0-2!
Sanshin!! Fujinami takes it into his own hands and gets Yoshikawa on a slider out of the zone for the first out!
Nishitani-kantoku calling for time again. Certainly the infield will be playing in for a play at home.
Ishibashi now up for Urawa, and first pitch Fujinami wheels wide at 154 kph.
After that he goes after him, getting ahead 1-2. No squeeze from Mori-kantoku, but you've got to hit the ball!
Ishikawa swings and misses on a 150 kph fastball down and away for the 2nd out!
Nishitani-kantoku calling time one more time. 2 bullets dodged, one more to go in Midorikawa... He's 3-8 so far, but 0-2 today.
Swing and a miss on a ball in the dirt. 0-1... another slider in the dirt, another swing and miss, 0-2... Waste pitch outside, 1-2... Slider in the same place, but no call! 2-2...
Midorikawa goes down on a 3rd slider and Fujinami, after giving up three singles, strikes out 3 batters to get out of the inning! That's a bad sign for Urawa Gakuin.
Mizutani pops out to Midorikawa for the first out. Fujinami is jammed and grounds out to short.
Mizumoto with a gapper to right center! Ishibashi runs it down, but not before Mizumoto reaches 2nd! Small chance here for Osaka Touin!
Ootani with a hard shot to left! But it's right at Yamane for the 3rd out!
If Urawa Gakuin is to win this, it needs to do it in regulation. If they go into extras, they risk Satou tiring and giving up the winning run...
To that end, the top of the order is due up for Urawa.
Takemura with a grounder to 2nd, but Oonishi can't field the ball! By the time he makes the throw, Takemura's dives into 1st! E4 and the go-ahead runner is on base!
Fujinami giving nothing for Rinzaki to bunt, and he free bunts and fouls out! One down!
Satou up, and he's looking to get on base as he works the count full. Makes good contact but pulls it foul!
But he takes the next pitch and takes it the other way for a base hit! Runners at 1st and 2nd for cleanup batter Sasagawa!
Sasagawa with a slicer to shallow left center! Yasui charging in, slides... and makes the catch!! 2 down for Urawa!
It's down to Yamane. They can't let this opportunity pass them by again.
Grounder to 3rd. Kasamatsu with the ball, throws.. And it's wide!!!
Koike has to leave 1st to field it and everyone's safe! Manrui for Urawa with Akashi coming up! He's 2-3 on the day.
Fastball outside and low for ball 1... Fastball inside for ball 2! Fastball high swung and fouled off!
NO! HE MISSED IT! THE BALL GETS PAST MORI AND GOES TO THE BACKSTOP!!!!!
Takemura comes home and it's 2-1 Urawa Gakuin! Mori couldn't handle the 150 kph ball and Urawa takes the lead!
Akashi flies out to right to end the inning, but it's an Osaka Touin error that gives Urawa the lead late!
#18 Yasumuro comes in for Ishibashi in CF.
Mori up trying to get his offense started.
He reaches out with one arm and whips a single to right! Sasagawa playing back charges in, and Mori is headed to 2nd!!
Sasagawa with the throw to 2nd... Mori slides in...
It almost looked like the umpire was about to call safe, but then tilted his head as if to say, "Nope, you didn't get in there after all", and rings him up!
Mori kneeling at 2nd can't believe it! One down for Osaka Touin here in the 9th!
Koike up and Satou is careful with him. But he winds up walking him and putting the douten runner on!
YASUI WITH A DRIVE TO THE LEFT CENTER GAP!!!!
Yamane and Yasumuro running back to the wall chasing it down! Koike being waved around 3rd... he scores!!! Douten Osaka Touin!! We're tied at 2-2!!!!
Mori-kantoku calls for time as Kasamatsu steps in. Two slow curves from Satou and he's up 0-2. Kasamatsu can't hold his swing and goes down for the 2nd out.
HAKUSUI WITH A GROUNDER BACK UP THE MIDDLE!!!!!! MIDORIGAWA DIVES BUT IT GOES THROUGH!!!
Yasumuro with the throw home, but it's not in time!! Gyakuten 3-2 Osaka Touin!!!
Mizutani goes down swinging, but Osaka Touin waits until the last possible moment to tie and take the lead!
From one up to one down, Urawa Gakuin now has to fight from behind!
#5 Kigure hits for Yoshikawa, but he grounds out to 3rd, one down!
Yasumuro steps in, but he's down on three straight! 2 down! Last chance in Midorikawa! He falls behind 1-2, fouls off a pitch, then singles back up the middle! Douten runner on!
And now Takemura with a ball back up the middle! Mizutani can't get to it and there's runners on 1st and 2nd now!
Rinzaki to keep the inning going, but he swings at the first pitch and grounds to short! Mizutani with it, goes to 2nd, and Osaka Touin comes from behind in the 9th to advance to the Best 4!
What a finish!!!!!
Just when you though that Osaka Touin had perhaps gotten their offense going, Urawa Gakuin seemed to finally cash in on an opportunity... only to see Osaka Touin's offense come back and take the lead. Urawa Gakuin tried to make one last rally, but it just falls short.
I think Urawa Gakuin came in with the right strategy. Send in your reliever to survive the first couple of innings, then bring in your ace to hold off the impending Osaka Touin assault. And it almost worked. But Osaka Touin still found a way to turn on the offense at the end and claim victory. About the only thing you could critisize would be the outfield playing no-doubles depth once Koike had gotten on base. Otherwise, Urawa Gakuin's Mori-kantoku and his team should be commended for their efforts, and they definitely feel like a team that can challenge in the summer!