Naruto has looked anything but a contender for the title. Struggling against 21st century team Sumoto. They win in 10 and move on despite getting just 4 hits. Then against Sakushin Gakuin, they blow a 2-run lead, then give up a HR in the 10th. Yet they come back to win that one and find themselves here in the Best 8. About the only thing that Naruto has going for them is that they've found a way to win when it seems like they shouldn't have.
So if Naruto can somehow carry that trait throughout they have a chance.
But I just can't see a team be able to do that for 5 straight games, much less 3. Chances are the last public team to remain will fall today.
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 Namai Shintarou (#10)
Naruto (Tokushima)SS Kawano Yuuto
CF Shimada Jyukito
LF Inaoka Kenta
2B Sugimoto Keita (#3)
RF Yamato Taira
3B Matsumoto Takanori
C Kusaka Hiroki (#12)
P Kobayashi Naoto (#10)
1B Ise Hayato (#16)
13:36 - First pitch!
Once again, we see the relievers coming in to start for both teams. How will it play out this time around?
Like I was saying in an earlier game, people have gotten on base via dead ball for less. Takeuchi gets hit on a one bounder and he's awarded 1st despite not moving out of the way.
And of course with Takeuchi on, he takes off for 2nd. Throw from Kusaka not in time. The wheels start turning for Kendai.
Nakayama with the sac bunt, but Ise fields it and throws to 3rd??!
Takeuchi is there in plenty of time and that's just a bad decision by the Naruto 1B.
Nagasaka just pulls a ball foul down the 3rd base line. But he takes the next pitch and singles to right! Takeuchi scores. But as the throw comes to 3rd, Matsumoto catches Nagasaka off 1st base! He runs him down for the first out! The wheels there just moving a tad too fast, but Kendai takes a 1-0 lead!
Uchida with a blast to center!!! Shimada sprinting back to the wall, but it falls in in front of dead center! Nakayama scores on the double and Kendai now leads 2-0!!
Moriwaki-kantoku calling for time. Naoto getting hit early and often here in the 1st...
Oosawa with a comeback to Naoto and he catches Uchida off 2nd! He's run down for the 2nd out. Oosawa then tries to steal 2nd, but Kusaka throws him out to end the inning. A lot of running, a lot of getting caught off base, and 2 runs for Kendai to start the game.
Kawano with a ball to the right side. Nakayama ranging to his left, dives and snags the ball! Throw to 1st is in time for the out! Nice play!
Shimada first pitch grounds to 3rd for the 2nd out, but Inaoka after falling behind in the count works a walk.
But Namai gets Sugimoto to swing in front of a slider for the 3rd out.
Kanbe steps back on a full count pitch, the reaches down and hits one off the bat just over the infield into center for a leadoff single. Ryuutarou hits a hard grounder to 1st which bounces off Sugimoto, and his only play is to 1st.
Akiyama with a single back up the middle! Kanbe is being waved around 3rd! Shimada comes up throwing and it's right to Kusaka! He makes the tag Kanbe's out at home! 2 down!
But Akiyama takes the base back as he steals 2nd on the 2-2 pitch!
Naoto though, gets fellow starter Namai to swing on an outside fastball for the 3rd out!
It's a quick inning for Namai as he uses 7 pitches to retire the side in order.
It's a small victory for Naruto as Naoto retires leadoff batter Takeuchi.
Naoto then uses slow curves and a change to freeze Nakayama for the 2nd out.
Naoto appers to have a fastball in the high 120s-low 130s, with a change in the 110s and a slow curve in the 90s.
Nagasaka ruins Naoto's clean inning by drawing a walk.
Uchida with a shot at Matsumoto! He's able to get a glove on it to keep it in front of him, and he goes to 2nd for the 3rd out.
Kawano with a drive to right! Kanbe chases it to the wall, but Kawano's in with a 2-out triple!
But Shimada goes down swinging for the 3rd out.
Two down for Kendai, and they again work a walk. This time it's Ryuutarou.
Kobayashi goes for 2nd on the 3-1 pitch, and while the ball gets there before him, Kawano can't make the grab and tag. And on the next pitch, Akiyama walks bringing up last batter Namai.
But he swings on the first pitch and hits a routine fly to center for the 3rd out.
Inaoka chases a change in the dirt for Namai's 4th K. Sugimoto follows that with a hard hit ball to short. It pops out of his glove temporarily, but he quickly grabs it and fires to 1st for the out.
Namai has a fastball in the low 130s, a slider in the 120s, curve in the 110s and apparently a palmball in the 90s.
Yamato with a hard ball to the right side. Nakayama makes a great sliding stop, but he hurries his throw to 1st and it gets by Oosawa. Yamato continues on to 2nd on the error.
Matsumoto with a grounder to the left side. Akiyama ranging over, but it's just out of his reach! Yamato rounding 3rd, being waved home! Ryuutarou firing home, and it's right there to Nagasaka who applies the tag for the out!
Takeuchi with a drive to right center! Yamato playing in tries to cut it off, but has to chase it back! Takuechi showing some gap power with a leadoff triple!
Nakayama reaching out and poking a ball to right! Takeuchi scores to make it 3-0 Kendai!
#1 Goutouda now warming up in the bullpen.
Nakayama taking off for 2nd! Throw from Kusaka, and Nakayama slides in just before the tag! (I think)
AH! Now the pickoff throw from Naoto is low and goes into center! Nakayama takes 3rd!
Nagasaka drives the next pitch to left! That's easily over Inaoka's head to the wall! Nakayama scores on Nagasaka's triple to make it 4-0.
Moriwaki-kantoku calls time.
Uchida with a grounder to 3rd. Matsumoto up with it, notices Nagasaka off the bag and runs him down for the first out.
Oosawa hits into the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning, but Kendai doubles their lead over Naruto.
One down and #11 Mizushi comes to PH for Naoto. His day is done. And Mizushi first pitch singles to right!
Ise though chases a ball low and lifts it to right for the 2nd out.
Kawano goes down and pulls a ball down the left field side! Kobayashi has to chase it to the wall and Mizushi scores from 1st! Naruto is on the board at 4-1!
Shimada flies out to center for the 3rd out, but Naruto gets a run back before the break! Is another comeback in the works?
As expected, ace Goutouda comes out to start the 6th.
Kanbe again steps back, perhaps anticipating taking one the other way, but instead he takes strike 3!
Kobayashi too watches a change down the middle for strike 3.
Akiyama makes contact, but pops out to 3rd to end the inning. Goutouda gets Naruto their 1st 1-2-3 inning this game!
2 down and Yamato lines one down the left field line for a double! But Matsumoto can't get around on a fastball inside and goes down to end the inning.
#16 Takasugi hitting for Namai, meaning that his day is done. And Takasugi singles back up the middle! He's replaced by #15 Moriyama.
Takeuchi reaches down and hits one into the gap in left center! Again the outfield is in and has to chase it back! Moriyama scores easiliy on Takeuchi's second triple of the game! 5-1 Kendai!
Nakayama with a bunt, but Goutouda with it goes home with it! But he doesn't close the gap to Takeuchi and that allows him to get back to 3rd safely!
Nakayama going for 2nd again! Nagasaka tries the bunt, but misses, as the ball is wide. However, Kusaka has no throw to 2nd.
And Nagasaka hits a drive to left! Inaoka back to the wall??!
That certainly didn't look like he got all of that one, but that somehow carries out to left! Nagasaka with a 3-run HR to make it 8-1!
Uchida keeps the hit parade going with a single through the right side. After a sac bunt, Kanbe singles through to left.
And while he doesn't get a hit, he hits a sac fly to left. Both runners advance and Kendai leads 9-1.
Akiyama singles through to right, and that brings up PR Moriyama. Except he's not. Aoyagi-kantoku calls for his 2nd PH this inning as #12 Momoi comes in to hit. First pitch though he grounds out to 3rd to end the inning.
#11 Kuramoto comes in to pitch with the game seemingly in hand. Kusaka welcomes him with a leadoff double down the right field line. Goutouda flies out to right and Kusaka advances to 3rd.
Ise with a hard grounder to 3rd and Uchida makes a great pick! Kusaka has to hold as Uchida throws to 1st for the out.
Up 1-2 to Kawano, Kuramoto hits him in the calf. Runners now at the corners.
But Shimada gets under one. Oosawa with the catch and Naruto's lucky 7 comes and goes with no runs.
#4 Nakano comes in for Ise and takes over at 2B. Sugimoto moves to his position of 1B.
Nakayama gets his 2nd hit a light single to left. That brings up Nagasaka who needs a double for the cycle.
Nakayama meanwhile tries for his 3rd stolen base, but is thrown out by Kusaka.
Nagasaka follows that by hitting a fly to shallow center! Shimada charges in, dives.. and makes the catch! Shimada prevents the cycle with a great catch!
#14 Kouno comes in for Kuramoto and takes over in RF. Kanbe moves from right to the mound.
Inaoka strikes out for his third time here in the 8th. Sugimoto quickly flies out to right.
Kanbe though can't get a clean inning as he walks Yamato. But he does strike out Matsumoto to end the inning.
Uchida with a ball to 3rd. Matsumoto leaps, but can't close the glove on the ball. He gets it, but his throw to 1st is just a step behind a diving Uchida.
Goutouda retires the next three batters, and they'll be up for their last at bats.
#17 Tsukagoshi comes in for Nakayama and takes over at 2B. #18 Shimoda comes in for Kobayashi and heads to the mound. Kanbe returns to RF and Kouno goes to LF.
#2 Marumiya comes in to hit for Kusaka and singles to the left side. He's replaced by #17 Hayashi.
Goutouda turns on a ball and singles also though the left side.
#18 Kishi comes in to hit for Nakano, and goes down swinging.
Kawano with a hard hit ball to 3rd. But Uchida's been a vacuum all day and starts the game-ending 5-4-3 double play.
Hey, Naruto fought hard their first 2 games to advance to the Best 8, but their luck runs out at the hands of the upstart Kendai squad. Interestingly enough, of the 13 times they've been to Koushien (Haru + Natsu), only 5 times have they lost in the first game, and once did not advance past the 2nd round. So the fact they made the Best 8 is testament to their abilities once they do reach Koushien.
(And Naruto's players, knowing that they may not be here again, grab their memento of Koushien dirt.)
This time around, it wasn't speed, but power that Kendai showed, with 5 extra base hits (though that may have been a byproduct of a drawn in outfield). Still though, they showcased their speed, running circles around their opponents yet again.
The question will be whether they can get on base against Fujinami to be able to put pressure on Osaka Touin. For now, they'll rest up tomorrow for their impending clash.