Yokohama looks like the team they were supposed to be last summer. A team with a very good offense, and more than passable pitching, Yokohama blanked Kochi 4-0 then Yanagi scattered 11 hits in a 7-1 victory over Seikou Gakuin. Nothing from last year that would seem to undermine their run.
Kanto Dai-ichi has had to survive two close games. First of all a 1-0 victory of Beppu Aoyama (though it seemed a little more bigger than that), then a 2-1 nailbiting win over Chiben Gakuen.
The biggest question mark with Kanto Dai-ichi lies with their ace Nakamura. He clearly showed signs of fatigue as a lot of his pitches were high and wide. And being on the last day of the 1st round, it'll only get harder for them as for them to win the title he'll have to had pitched on the 6th, 8th, 10th, 11th and 12th days of the tournament. Not an envious position to be in. And with Kanto's offense being the way it's been, they're going to have to find a way for the pitching to hold else they exit, and exit with a thud.
Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo)3B Isobe Yuuta (#9)
RF Kishi Naoya (#16)
2B Kiuchi Jyunshou
CF Akiyama Shouta
LF Itou Hiroki
SS Yoshie Masakazu (#5)
1B Anzai Kouyou
C Matsutani Tsubasa
P Nakamura Yuuta
Yokohama (Kanagawa)LF Shishikura Kazuma
3B Takahashi Ryouken (#6)
RF Tahara Keigo (#11)
1B Yamauchi Tatsuya
2B Higuchi Ryuunosuke
CF Haizaki Ryou
SS Aoki Rikito (#16)
C Ozeki Ikki
P Yanagi Yuuya
13:38 - First Pitch!
Kanto's batters taking pitches trying to find any advantage to getting on base. While it is to no avail, Isobe goes to 2-2 before grounding out, and both Kishi and Kiuchi go the full count before striking out swinging and looking respectively.
Nakamura's first pitch runs in and hits Shishikura on the hands. Not a good start. Takahashi bunts him over into scoring position.
Nakamura's going after Tahara to try and get ahead of the pinch, goes up 0-2 on him. And Tahara goes down swinging on a change! 2 down!
Yamauchi swinging on the first pitch and grounds out to 2nd! Kiuchi there to throw to 1st and make the play! 3 outs!
Akiyama starts off the inning with a ball back up the middle! Man on for Kanto. Itou bunting, has to get out of the way. Count 1-1, bunts it foul! Will he free bunt? He shows it. And puts it down!
Yonezawa-kantoku looking to Yoshie for the one-timer. Outfield playing in.
And Yoshie pops it up! Shishikura there to make the catch for the 2nd out. Anzai grounds out to Takahashi, and the inning is over.
Higuchi with a ball back up the middle, but Kiuchi makes a great diving stop! Throw to 1st is wide, but Anzai makes a great pick for the out!
Haizaki fouls out for the 2nd out.
And the NHK announcers are talking about how many off-speed pitches Nakamura is throwing. I wonder if it has to do anything with the fact that his fastball may be a bit slower last game and Yonezawa-kantoku is asking him to throw off-speed stuff to Yokohama.
Aoki swings at another one and pops it up to 1st. Anzai makes the catch to retire the side.
Meanwhile, the Kanto offense are trying to deal with Yanagi's fastball. Matsutani is frozen on one on the outside corner, Nakamura goes down on 3 straight, and while Isobe avoids 3 straight K's, he grounds back to Yanagi for the 3rd out.
Ozeki with a chopper to the left side, but Isobe does an ole on the ball missing it with his stab! Yoshie can't field it and it's a leadoff base hit! Yanagi bunts him over.
Shishikura chases one outside and softly hits one to 2nd. Kiuchi makes the putout and there's 2 down.
Takahashi pops it up! Matsutani off with his mask goes towards the back screen, leans back at the last minute and makes the catch! Nakamura looking a lot better than I was expecting.
Kishi trying for the safety bunt and misses. Swings at one low and is behind 0-2. But he comes back and works a walk!
And Kishi is caught off of 1st! Yanagi easily throws him out, but the home plate umpire calls balk! Kishi is awarded 2nd! What a break for Kanto! Kiuchi then lays the bunt down, advancing him to 3rd.
Akiyama just rips into one from Yanagi! Tahara doesn't even give chase!!!!!
Akiyama out of nowhere hits a homerun against Yanagi and Kanto Dai-ichi takes a 2-0 lead!!
Watanabe-kantoku calls for time...
Itou makes solid contact too, but flies out to right. Yoshie can't hold his swing and goes down, but I'm still in shock as Akiyama with a rare HR to right gives his team the lead!
Nakamura having trouble on the mound. His first two off-speed pitches are in the dirt, and the next two fastballs are high for a leadoff walk.
Yamauchi up and the outfield plays back. He gets under one, and Akiyama calls off Itou to make the catch.
Higuchi gets under one too and hits it to center. Akiyama going back.. going back??
Makes the catch in deep center. Wow, that carried further than I thought it would.
Haizaki grounds out to 2nd, and the leadoff walk goes for naught.
Yanagi almost with a 1-2-3 inning, but Nakamura bloops one just fair down the right field line before Higuchi and Tahara can get there.
But that lasts for one pitch as Isobe lines out to right.
Nakamura not letting Yokohama make good contact, but continues to give them free passes as he issues one to Aoki to lead off the 5th.
Ozeki trying to lay down the bunt, but instead gets ahead 3-1! And a pitch low puts 2 men on for Yanagi! Yonezawa-kantoku calls for time...
Yanagi lays down the bunt and now Yokohama threatens to tie with a base hit!
Top of the order and Shishikura. But Nakamura gets ahead 0-2. Fastball high, 1-2.
Chopper up the 3rd base line! Isobe charging in, looks up before making the pick and the ball deflects off his glove! Everyone's safe and Yokohama is within 1 at 2-1!!
Still one down for Takahashi.
Takahashi lays down the bunt! Isobe's only play is to 1st and Yokohama ties the game! We're douten at 2-2! But Shishikura tries for 3rd and is thrown out by Anzai! Two down!
But what's this? Matsutani appeals something at home, and the plate umpire calls Ozeki out! Watanabe-kantoku is wondering what the heck is going on!
The plate umpire goes to the microphone, says the catcher appealed the runner not touching home, and Ozeki never touched home!
Watanabe-kantoku is furious! He is yelling at the plate umpire! I've never seen this before!
But the grounds crew comes out and that's the end of the inning.
One down and Kiuchi hits a single to left. But Akiyama strikes out and Kiuchi is caught stealing 2nd to end the ining.
Tahara with a drive to right center! Akiyama and Kishi running back to the fence. Still running back!!
And Akiyama makes the catch right in front of the wall! One down.
Yamauchi and Higuchi quickly fly out thereafter and it's a 1-2-3 inning for Nakamura!
One down, Yoshie lays down a bunt. Takahashi lets it go as it's rolling foul, but it straightens out enough to catch the corner of the 3rd base bag! Fair!
Takahashi can only give a wry smile as he gives the ball back to Yanagi.
But Anzai grounds into the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Kanto's lucky 7 ends quickly.
But will Yokohama be able to get the douten run after it was taken away?
Haizaki takes a full count pitch and hits it to right. Kishi running back, looking up, running back...
It's over his head! Haizaki rounding 2nd makes it into 3rd easily! Douten runner 90 feet away!
Nakamura almost sails one to the backscreen! Matsutani saves it!
Now a ball in the dirt and Matsutani blocks that one! 3-1 to Aoki.
Aoki makes contact, but it goes foul! Matsutani dives, but can't make the catch!
Full count, what will both sides do?
High and inside! Gyakuten runner on for Yokohama and still no down!
Ozeki lifts one to center! Akiyama with the catch and the ball is cutoff but bobbled by Kiuchi. He wouldn't have had a play anyways, and Yokohama indeed gets the douten run! 2-2!!
Yanagi lays down his 3rd bunt, putting the gyakuten runner in scoring position for Shishikura!
Shishikura fouls out to left and the inning is over. However, a leadoff triple leads to the douten run!
Kanto has been unable to do anything since the HR by Akiyama. And it continues into the 8th. Matsutani grounds out to 1st, and Nakamura flies out to left. Isobe grounds out to 3rd and Nakamura will have to hold the line.
One down and Tahara collects his first single, a ball back up the middle that Yoshie dives and just misses! #9 Nakase come in to run for him.
Yamauchi with a ball to shallow right center! Akiyama charging in, dives... and makes the catch! What a play by Akiyama!! 2 down!
And Higuchi with a ball to short! Yoshie with the strong throw to 1st and Yokohama is retired!
2-3-4 batters due up for Kanto.
Kishi looks at strike 3 on the outside corner for the 1st out!
Kiuchi with a ball to center puts the go-ahead run on base! Watanabe-kantoku calls time...
Akiyama showing bunt! They're going for the one timer! He takes strike 1.
Wait! He swinging away! He singles to center! Runners on 1st and 2nd with just one down! Itou stepping in, but he's 0-2 on the day.
He quickly falls behind 0-2 and starts defensively fouling off pitches... Gets one ball back.
And he drives one to left center! That's through the outfielders! Kiuchi scores! Akyama being waved around and he scores!! Itou with a 2-run triple and Kanto Dai-ichi takes a 4-2 lead!!
Watanabe-kantoku calls in #10 Souma. He comes in for Nakase and takes the hill. Yanagi goes to right.
Souma retires the next two batters to end the inning, but Kanto takes back the two runs it lost and are 3 outs away from a trip to the semifinals!
It'll be the 6-7-8 batters up for Yokohama to mount their rally.
First up is Haizaki who earlier had the triple. He gets ahead 3-1. More than anything Yokohama needs baserunners. He takes the pitch and the count goes full.
And Nakamura pops him up! Isobe under it for the first out!
Aoki, who had two walks on the day gives way to #13 Itou. He drives one to left! Itou running back, leaps backwards, and makes the catch!! WHAT???!!!!
Two down and the last chance in Ozeki. He quickly falls behind 0-2... Fastball up. And another one up, 2-2...
He hits one to right... Kishi there... makes the catch!! Shiaishuuryou!
Kanto Dai-ichi shocks Yokohama (and myself) and advances with a 4-2 victory!!
Hard to explain this one myself. Yanagi looked the better pitcher most of the game, and yet it was two mistakes that cost him the game. Meanwhile, Nakamura looked shaky at times as I expected, walked 4 and hit 1, and yet thanks to some amazing (at at times lucky) defense, plus a crucial call reversing a run, won the game!
Personally, the better team did not win the game, rather the better team today did.
And as I write this, there are several Yokohama players crying, and other looking out onto the field as if to say what did we do to deserve this?
Now, my personal feelings for Yokohama are neutral to a bit on the negative side. I don't hate them, but they are a powerhouse and I do like the underdogs. And in recent years I have been very critical of them. But you get to a point where you start feeling bad for them, and today's game might have been that point for me.
I do love the underdogs, but you have to start feeling bad for teams that are good, but just can't get over the hump (see Tenri). And despite what people may have said about Watanabe-kantoku and his work, I actually do hope that his team finds success.
Just not against my teams please.
So Yokohama will have to work hard during the spring and summer, and run the gauntlet that is the Yokohama qualifying to make it to Koushien. I hope this time they do make it.
Kanto Dai-ichi's senbatsu will continue, but they'll have to face off on no days rest against Kousei Gakuin. Not a promising proposition.