But we’re finally here, 15 days and a couple of extra hours thanks to the spring rains. The championship game.
And once again, we have a David vs. Goliath matchup. Though perhaps this time, David stands more of a chance.
That team is Kousei Gakuin out of Aomori. Perhaps written off during last year’s Natsu Koushien they made the finals, but were easily handled by the outright champions, Nichidai-san.
But even with the loss of most of their starting 9, they reloaded and not only won the Aomori prefecturals, the Meiji Jingu Taikai, but have won 4 more to get to the championship once again.
This time around, they have the help of not one, but two aces. First, there’s ace number Kanazawa Yuuki. He’s pitched in 2 games so far - against Oumi, and in relief to finish off Aikoudai Meiden. His line so far:
12.1 IP, 0 ER, 10 H, 6 K, 4 BB
But as impressive has been 2B, and spot starter Jyouma Ryuuhei. He’s started 3 games and finished 2, including two against super-regional champions. His stats are just as impressive:
27.1 IP, 2 ER, 22 H, 11 K, 3 BB
And so these two make up the tandem that as help the team in their undefeated run.
Offensively, it’s all about their 3-4 hitters, Tamura Tatsuhiro and Houjyou Fumiya. They have accounted for most of the Kousei offense:
Tamura – 6-14, 2 2B, HR, 7 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB = 0.429/0.500/0.786
Houjyou – 7-16, 2 2B, 2 3B, 6 R, 9 RBI, 3 K, HBP = 0.438/0.471/0.813
But you can’t score without some help, so while Tamura and Houjyou need to have good games, the rest of the lineup must perform as well.
Opposing them is the goliath, Osaka Touin. Now, they may be playing for their first title, but the thought of facing them can intimidate most opponents.
Osaka Touin’s calling card is offense. Always has been. And despite losing starting 1B Tabata due to an injury after being hit in the first game, they turned to Koike in the cleanup spot. And while he hasn’t embarrassed, it seems like they’ve tried to keep people out of the “cleanup” spot by sticking Koike in there. Meanwhile, Nishitani-kantoku has moved people around trying to find people’s best spots.
One person who hasn’t needed to find their stride is 2nd year Kasamatsu Yuuya. In the 4 games, he’s 7-14, with a double and 2 HR’s for 7 RBIs.
Joining him is C Mori Tomoya, who was moved to the #3 spot and rightly so. He’s 8-15 with a double and a HR.
But the difference has been their towering ace, Fujinami. With the exception of the quarterfinal game, he has started every game. In every start he has given up just 1 run or less. And the numbers seem consistent.
vs. Hanamaki Higashi - 7 H, 12 K, 2 BB
vs. Kyushu Gakuin - 6 H, 8 K, 3 BB
vs. Urawa Gakuin - 7 H, 6 K, 0 BB
vs. Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi - 7 H, 9 K, 4 BB
The one thing that has changed has been the walks. Is it the fatigue? Have the batters been patient?
More importantly, will he start? Or will they go to Sawada like against Urawa Gakuin?
This should be a great game! Let’s go!
Kousei Gakuin (Aomori)RF Ameku Shouto
LF Murase Daijyu
C Tamura Tatsuhiro
SS Houjyou Fumiya
1B Takeda Toshiki
3B Oosugi Akinobu
P Jyouma Ryuuhei
CF Kimura Takumi
2B Kishigawa Kenta (#14)
Osaka Touin (Osaka)C Mori Tomoya
2B Oonishi Tomoya
RF Mizumoto Gen
1B Koike Yuuya (#5)
LF Yasui Kouki
3B Kasamatsu Yuuya (#15)
CF Hakusui Kenta
SS Mizutani Yukiya (#14)
P Fujinami Shintarou
12:30 - First pitch!
Fujinami falling behind Ameku early, and Ameku hits a fly to shallow center! Hakusui coming in calls off Oonishi, but can't get there! It's in for a base hit!
Murase going for the bunt, but Fujinami goes to 2nd! Ameku slides in, safe! All safe!
And now Fujinami is in an early pinch.
His control seems to be lacking a bit as he falls behind Tamura as well. But Tamura hits a ball to short! Mizutani starts the 6-4-3 double play and there's 2 down!
And perhaps in a hat tip to Houjyou, Fujinami unintentionally intentionally walks him to get to Takeda. It works as he grounds to 3rd to end the inning.
Jyouma will start the game. He's fared well so far, but what about now?
One down, and Oonishi hits a hard ball back to Jyouma. He stops it with the glove, and calmly throws the ball to 1st.
But then Mizumoto ruins the good inning with a hard single to right.
Jyouma being careful with Koike and falls behind 3-1.
Koike hits a ball to left! Murase running back to the wall! Still running!!
Koike, whose bat has been fairly quiet this senbatsu, comes out in a big way as he hits a HR in the championship game! Osaka Touin leads 2-0!
Yasui quickly hits one back to Jyouma to end the inning, but Osaka Touin's offense starts off in a big way against Jyouma and Kousei!
Oosugi looks to get the Kousei reply going with a single back up the middle. But Jyouma, not bunting, strikes out.
Kimura goes down on the forkball for the 2nd K.
But Kishigawa, with a roller up the middle, finds its way between Oonishi and Mizutani for a base hit!
Grounder to 1st by Murase, OFF Koike!!! Oonishi has to go back to get it, but by that time it's too late! Manrui Kousei and they have a chance to answer back quickly!
Murase though, falls behind 1-2, and when you're behind Fujinami, he can throw junk at you.
And indeed he does as he swings on a slider outside to end the inning!
One down and Hakusui hits a drive to center left that goes over the head of Kimura for a double!
And now Houjyou returns the favor as he boots a grounder by Mizutani! Now runners at the corners with just one down for Fujinami! Will they be as lucky as Touin was last half inning?
Jyouma gets one of those outs as he can't check his swing.
But that brings up Mori...
And Jyouma hits Mori!! Manrui with 2 down for Oonishi!!
Jyouma risks falling behind 3-1, but Oonishi can't check his swing so it goes to 2-2! And a change on the corner doesn't get the call! Full count and nowhere to go!
Jyouma gets Oonishi to bite on a fastball on the ouside for the 3rd out!
Tamura starts the inning off with a ball to center! Hakusui running it down at the wall, but not before Tamura's in with a double!
Houjyou with a ball down the left field side! Yasui runs that back to the wall and Tamura scores to cut the deficit in half! It's 2-1!
Takeda trying to bunt, but can't and goes down 1-2. Instead he hits a blooper to center! Hakusui's not going to get there! He throws it back to the infield, conceding the run! Douten Kousei!! It's 2-2!!
Now Oosugi lays down the sac bunt and now the gyakuten run is 90 feet away.
But Jyouma hits a grounder to 3rd. Kasamatsu pick up, NO HE DOESN'T!
He bobbles the ball! He has no play and everyone's safe! 2nd error by the Touin defense already!
Nishitani-kantoku figures it's a good time to call time.
And it is as Kimura hits a weak grounder to 2nd! Oonishi starts the inning ending 4-6-3 double play!
But 3 straight hits from the middle of Kousei's order ties the game right back up!
One down and Koike has Jyouma number, hitting a sharp single to right.
No bunt from Yasui. Instead, it's a hit-and-run! Yasui with a ball deep to right-center! Ameku has to chase it back all the way to the wall! Koike getting the green light around 3rd and Yasui with the RBI triple gives Touin back the lead at 3-2!!
And now Jyouma brushes Kasamatsu's jersey! Runners at the corners for Touin! Nakai-kantoku can't let Jyouma can't stay much longer on the mound if this keeps up.
It's another hit-and-run! And Hakusui singles through the right side! Yasui scores easily giving Touin back the 2-run lead at 4-2!!
And that's it for Jyouma. Kanazawa comes in for Kishigawa as Jyouma shifts back to 2nd.
But there's still work to do. Runners at the corners with just one down.
Mizutani does his job. He hits a deep fly to center. And while Kimura's throw reaches home on the fly, it's late and Touin gets the lead back with interest at 5-2.
Fujinami pops out to left to end the inning, but Kousei's going to have to play a shootout with Osaka Touin, and that's not the game they wanted to play.
Kanazawa first pitch grounds out to 1st. Ameku, expecting a fastball, is way ahead of a change and strikes out. Murase harmlessly flies out to center to end the inning. This game went from difficult, to possible, to very difficult, very quickly for them.
Kanazawa too gets his 1-2-3 inning, retiring the top of the Touin order and keeping his team in it.
Tamura starts the inning off with a chopper up the middle that just sneaks by Mizutani to center.
Houjyou with a blast to left center! Yasui and Hakusui running back to the wall, still running back!!!
It's off the top of the padding! Tamura rounding the bases is sent home! Houjyou's 2nd double nets another RBI and it's 5-3!
Takeda with the drag bunt up the 1st base side! Koike goes to field, but when he tosses to 1st, Oonishi is backing up instead of at the bag!! All safe!! What happened there??
Oosugi up looking to add on another run. He hits a hard drive to right! But Mizumoto is there for the catch! Houjyou halfway can't tag up! Why wasn't he getting ready to tag up??!
Jyouma up. Just need a sac fly here.
Instead it's grounder to 3rd! Kasamatsu with the ball, goes home! Houjyou knowing he's out, tries to deke Mori! Mori reaching behind his back, does he have him??
Mori's tag just gets Houjyou leg right before he tags home! Bad break for Kousei!
Kimura trying to keep the inning going... falls behind to Fujinami, but then works the count full! And he draws the walk! Manrui for Kousei as Kanazawa steps in! Can he get the runs home?
No! Kanazawa leaves the bases loaded as he grounds back to Fujinami! He goes to 1st for the out! From all that they just get the one run!
Still though, Kanazawa is doing a great job in relief. Koike, Yasui and Kasamatsu can't get a ball past the infield as they all are retired in order.
So we head to the break with Osaka Touin taking advantage of spot starter Jyouma with all 5 runs off of him. However, they have had no luck against ace Kanazawa. Meanwhile, Kousei has had multiple scoring chances, some of which have been aided by Osaka Touin. Yet they have only managed just the 3 runs. Whether their inability to take full advantage of those opportunities will come back to bite them is yet to be seen.
Post-break, it almost seems like a hindrance that the top of the order is up. Ameku and Murase are retired putting 2 outs before Tamura steps in.
And he grounds out to 3rd to end the inning.
One down and Mizutani gets Touin's first hit off of Kanazawa, with an opposite field double.
Fujinami though flies out to center. And despite a timeout conference from Nishitani-kantoku to talk to Mori, he flies out to right.
Houjyou leading off the inning, and Fujinami certainly not giving him anything to hit, especially with no one in front of him.
And on a full count he swings and grounds out to short.
Takeda goes down looking on a slider over the plate.
But Oosugi finally bumps the lineup a spot with a base hit up the middle. One more next inning and that puts Tamura and Houjyou at the top of the order starting the 9th.
Of course, for that to matter, Kanazawa has to hold Osaka Touin at love.
Oonishi with a scorcher to Oosugi, and a high hop eats him up! Leadoff man on for Touin!
And now he takes off for 2nd! Tamura's throw is a bit high and he's in safely!
Kanazawa with a wild pitch and Oonishi heads to 3rd. Now a sac fly can score a run. Mizumoto does just that with a ball to deep right center! Ameku catches it and Oonishi tags up to make it a 6-3 ball game!
Koike with another ball to the same place! This one is all the way to the wall for a double! Could this be when things finally break down?
Yasui with a hard ball to short. Houjyou is able to field the tricky hop and makes the play at 1st.
Kasamtaust with a ball to the left side! Houjyou with the running grab, throws on the run... and makes it to 1st for the out! Great play by Houjyou to get out of the inning!
But Osaka Touin makes the deficit 3 runs once again with just 2 innings left to go...
Kimura with a ball back up the middle. Oonishi makes a grab and running throw himself, but it's wide! Kimura with the leadoff hit!
Kanazawa up and he's not bunting. Down 3 you need all the outs you need.
But he swings 2-0! It's a comebacker to Fujinami and he starts the 1-6-3 double play! Why are you swinging there??
And Ameku hits a grounder to 1st and that's the inning. Time looks to have run out on Kousei in their 2nd finals.
Hakusui with a hard ball to the left side. Houjyou with another great stop, but his throw is off line! Wow, what an effort by Houjyou!
Mizutani with the bunt, but Mori out of nowhere with a BB to 2nd! He guns down the lead runner and almost get the 2-6-3 double play!
But Mori's arm gets the best of him! He tries to snap throw to 1st, but it's high and off Takeda's glove into right! Hakusui advances to 2nd.
Fujinami with a soft liner! Jyouma leaps, but it's just out of his reach! Hakusui advances and now there's runners at the corners with just 1 down!
And Mori hits a fly to left! Murase trying to get a good jump on the ball, winds up in front of it a little. His throw is hampered allowing Mizutani to score, making it 7-3.
Oonishi with a comebacker! Kanazawa can't get his glove on it and it's through for a base hit! Runners on 1st and 2nd as Nakai-kantoku calls time.
Mizumoto with a ball through the right side! Fujinami has to hold up at 3rd as Ameku fires it in.
But now it's manrui for Koike of all people, who's a triple from the cycle. Nishitani-kantoku calls time so they can talk to Koike.
It's Kanazawa who puts himself into a pinch falling behind 3-0 before getting a generous call. Koike hits a pop fly to Ameku in foul territory to end the inning, but one more run almost guarantees Osaka Touin their first senbatsu title.
Murase with a high chopper up the middle, but not high enough as Fujinami reaches up and makes the grab and throw for the 1st out.
With a 4 run lead now, Fujinami do whatever he wants with Tamura and Houjyou as they can't tie the game by themselves.
Tamura does get the bat on the ball, and singles to center.
Houjyou though can't check his swing, and there's 2 outs. Nakatani-kantoku call time one more time, perhaps to settle down the team for the last out.
A wild pitch to Takeda sends Tamura to 2nd, but that run doesn't matter.
And Takeda pops it up! Yasui coming in... makes the catch!
And Osaka Touin wins their first senbatsu as they defeat Kousei Gakuin 7-3!
Once again, it's the offense that comes through for Osaka Touin as they jumped on starter Jyouma right offg the bat with a 2-run HR by Koike. And meanwhile Fujinami was not on top of his game, yet he and the defense did just enough to hold Kousei Gakuin off despite the errors and the multiple pinch situations. It wasn't perfect today, but it was enough.
For Kousei Gakuin, while I'm sure they're happy to have made the finals again, losing twice probably leaves a bad taste in their mouths. While they will be tabbed to advanced out of Aomori back to Koushien, it'll probably be a grueling next couple of months as they work to try and return to the finals for the 3rd straight time and this time perhaps, win it all.