So, after 2 relatively close games, the crowd may be expecting one more to round out the day.
5 years ago, Saga Kita shocked the world (well, Japan anyways) by going all the way - playing one extra game no less, and hitting a gyakuten manrui home run to defeat Kouryou for the title. Now they find themselves back at Koushien perhaps looking to recreate the magic they had before.
Unlike 2007, Saga Kita is dependent on one pitcher, ace Sueyoshi to carry the day. While he threw 2 shutouts early, he did start yielding runs in later rounds. Whether that will affect how he does here with stiffer compeition or in early rounds is hard to say. Offensively, they were fairly consistent, hitting a respectable 0.316, and got a little stronger as the tournament progressed.
Sendai Ikuei need to survive a 2-1 battle with Tohoku to earn their bid back to Koushien. While Watanabe is the ace, Sasaki-kantoku did lean up on #10 Suzuki in the quarters and semis to keep Watanabe fresh. The team showed great offensive output against weaker compeition, so the 0.342 average may be inflated. The 9-for-33 performance may be closer to expected if not a little understated.
It should be a great matchup to round up the opening day...
Saga Kita (Saga)
Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi)
SS Takahashi Ryuunosuke
15:31 - First Pitch
Baba gets the leadof walk to start the game, with Tsukahara free bunting to move him along. However, Watanabe shuts it down, getting a flyout to left, and a flail from Sanematsu to end the inning.
Oh, so Suetsugu is a sidearmer, but he's fairly upright in his delivery.
And before I can finish writing the lineup, 4 pitches is all it takes for Suetsugu to get a 1-2-3 inning!
This game is going at ludicrous speed!! Watanabe is working fast, striking out Furukawa swinging, catching Yamada looking on 3 straight and Fujita fouls one off before lining out to short to end the inning!
Uebayashi with the first hit, a ball past a diving Fujita into right! Uebayashi presses for 2nd, and just beats the throw! Scoring chance immediately for Sendai Ikuei!
Hayasaka up, but Sasaki-kantoku is not asking for the bunt. Count level at 2-2, he's fouling off all the pitches away. He should look to take one the other way to advance the runner, but instead he takes one and pulls it instead! It works out as a diving Tsukahara can't make the diving grab! Pinch early here for Suetsugu!
And now Sasaki-kantoku sends Hayasaka! The throw from Yamada is high and Sendai Ikuei has 2 runners in scoring position!
Watanabe with a chopper back up the middle! Tsukahara can't make the diving stop and Uebayashi scores to make it 1-0!
Runners at the corners and now Inazawa hits a hot grounder through to right! That plates yet another and it's 2-0 Sendai Ikuei! Momozaki-kantoku calls for time.
It seems to work as Itou immediately grounds into the 4-6-3 double play.
Tanaka hits a hard liner, but it's right at Tsukahara for the 3rd out. No futher damage, but there were some hard hit balls there against Suetsugu.
So now that the game has slowed down a bit, Sendai Ikuei ace Watanabe appears to have a cutter, slider, fork and curveball to go along with his fastball which sits in the mid 130's.
And after ringing up Suetsugu for his 4th K, Uchikawa sneaks one under the glove of a diving Ryuunosuke for Saga Kita's first base hit.
Baba hits a hard ball to 1st, and while Itou can't field it cleanly, he does make the putout at 1st for the 2nd out.
Watanabe ends the inning by getting Tsukahara to swing at a ball in the dirt. He's not that accurate and does miss in the wrong places at times, but the fast tempo certainly seems to be helping him.
Ryuunousuke lays down a safety bunt that starts foul but spins fair down the 3rd base line??!! Now that's something new!
But perhaps in a sort of baseball justice, Sasaki-kantoku starts the hit-and-run only to have Kashiwagi hit it hard right to Fujita who turns the pretty 4-6-3 double play!!
Suetsugu jams Hoshi who hits a short fly to Tsukahara to end the inning and there's no damage done.
Motomura smokes one through the infield into center for a leadoff single! And cleanup batter Sanematsu is showing bunt? Yes, he attempts one, but pushes it foul.
But it's a feint! Ahead 2-1, he swings away and lines one to center! Motomura, running on the play makes it to 3rd easily! Sasaki-kantoku quickly calls for time.
Now Furukawa shows bunt as Sanematsu takes off! Furukawa does not bunt and Sanematsu takes 2nd!
Watanabe is not deterred though, as he goes after Furukawa and gets him looking on a fastball down the middle!
Yamada does go for the squeeze! Watanabe charging in makes the glove toss to Tanaka, and he blocks the plate beautifully for the 2nd out! However, he still isn't out of the woods yet as Fujita steps in.
And Fujita takes a ball the other way into left to plate Sanematsu and get one of the runs back! It's 2-1!
Suetsugu goes down swinging for the 2nd time, but Saga Kita pulls within one here in the 4th!
Uebayashi reaches out and pokes a ball to right for his 2nd hit. Hayasaka bunts him along.
As for Suetsugu, his max seems to be in the low 130's with some form of changeup, but I can't tell which.
Watanabe gets around on a ball inside and drives it to right center! Uchikawa gives chase, but it lands in front of the wall! Uebayashi easily scores on the RBI triple and Watanabe gets his run back! 3-1!
Inazawa with a hot shot to 3rd! Furukawa makes a spectacular diving stop, checks the runner and makes the putout at 1st! 2 down!
Itou swings again at the first pitch and he grounds out to short to end the inning, but not before the lead is stretched back up to 2!
Watanabe is back to his fast tempo as Uchikawa tries unsuccessfully to bunt his way on.
Back to the top of the order and Watanabe misses on a ball outside leaving it over the plate allowing Baba to take it the other way for a base hit.
2-2 count to Tsukahara and Momosaki-kantoku sends Baba! Tanaka double-clutches and Baba easily takes the base! But Tsukuhara can't drive him in, or even advance him as he grounds out to 3rd for the 2nd out.
And a comebacker from Motomura is blocked by Watanabe and he makes the play at 1st for the 3rd out!
Suetsugu gets his first clean 1-2-3 inning since the 1st inning and he keeps the deficit at 2 heading into the break.
Out of the break, Watanabe continues to pump strikes to the Saga Kita batters, daring them to hit it. They're obliging, but Watanabe is winning the battle as he gets yet another 1-2-3 inning.
One down for Sendai Ikuei and it must be Uebayashi's day as he dribbles one to the left side. Suetsugu can't field and it an Tsukahara's throw is late! Sasaki-kantoku will go for the one-timer as Hayasaka lays down his 2nd sac bunt.
And it appears they will not pitch to Watanabe and they will unintentionall intentionally walk him forcing Inazawa to try and drive the run home.
On the 1-2 pitch, Yamada frames outside asking for inside, but the ball is too inside and Yamada loses it! The runners advance on the passed ball!
But no harm done as Suetsugu gets Inazawa to ground to 2nd to end the inning.
Will the 7th be lucky for Saga Kita?
Not so far as Fujita grounds to 3rd. Watanabe gets ahead of Suetsugu quickly 0-2 and after a borderline pitch trying to get him to chase, Suetsugu rolls another ball to Inazawa for out #2.
Uchikawa breaks up the hitless streak with a comebacker up the middle for a single. More importantly, it turns over the lineup.
And now Baba drives the first pitch to left center! Hoshi keeps the ball in front of him, preventing Uchikawa from scoring on the play, but now the douten run is in scoring position!
But the troubles continue for Tsukahara at the plate! He hits a grounder right to 2nd where Kashiwagi scoops it up and makes the play at 1st to deny Saga Kita any runs!
After Itou quickly goes down on 3 pitches, Tanaka connects on another Suetsugu pitch and drives it to left center! Motomura runs back to the wall, but can't get there in time and it bounces off of the padding on the fly for a double! That gets a conference from Momosaki-kantoku.
Ryuunosuke gets his first solid base hit, a liner to left. Tanaka can't score on the shallow liner so there's runners at the corners for Kashiwagi.
Suetsugu doesn't help his cause any now as he walks Kashiwagi to load the bases for Hoshi.
He takes the first pitch and takes it back up the middle! It gets past a diving Tsukahara and into center! Tanaka scores to make it 4-1 and now the last person you want up if you're Suetsugu is up... Uebayashi.
And Uebayashi scoots it through a drawn in infield and into left, scoring Ryuunosuke to make it 5-1! Still manrui for Hayasaka, but outside of his hit in the 2nd, has not had success.
However, he does hit a fly to right. While Uchikawa is able to camp under it, it's deep enough to score another to make it 6-1. This with the other person you don't want up today - ace Watanabe.
But instead, they try for more and send Uebayashi to 2nd. But perhaps that was pushing it too much as Yamada throws him out to end the inning.
Motomura gets Saga Kita off to a great start as he drives one over Uebayashi's head and to the wall for a double. Sanematsu grounds to 2nd, and Sendai Ikuei will gladly trade 90 feet for the out.
Furukawa can't get any traction either as he waves at a fastball outside for his 3rd K today.
Yamada, on the other hand, finally does breakthrough with a single to left scoring Motomura to make it a 6-2 ballgame.
Fujita though hits a weak grounder to 2nd. Kashiwagi makes the play at 1st for the 3rd out. Saga Kita gets one back, but will need at least 4 more with just 3 outs to go.
Now that Watanabe is leading off an inning with nobody on, Suetsugu is more careful with him, and ends up walking him to lead off the inning. Inazawa tries to sac him along, but Furukawa makes a great throw to 2nd to cut down the lead runner.
Itou finally gets his first hit as he inside outs one to right field. That leaves just Kashiwagi without a base hit.
Once again, Sasaki-kantoku asks for and gets the bunt looking for another one-timer from Ryuunosuke.
And he drives one to center! Motomura sprints back, but the ball lands scattering the birds and making it an 8-2 ballgame.
That gives Kashiwagi a chance to give every starter a base hit, but he flies out to left to end the inning. Still, each person did reach safely in the game.
#15 Sonoda comes in to hit for Suetsugu, but grounds out to 2nd for the first out. Uchikawa grounds out to Watanabe for the 2nd out, and Watanabe closes the game with a groundout by Baba.
It was the 5-year anniversary of the miraculous run by the boys from Saga, but this time around they will be going home after just one game. They did hang in there for a good part of the game, but the 3-run 7th was their downfall.
As for Sendai Ikuei, the offense did come to play today, but what may slip up them going forward is Watanabe's pitching. The tempo certainly threw off the Saga Kita batters, but he missed his location with several pitches today in areas that against perhaps better opposition would get punished.
Watanabe Fumiya (Sendai Ikuei) - CG, 2 ER, 9 H, 8 K, BB
Watanabe Fumiya (Sendai Ikuei) - 2-2, 3B, RBI, 2 BB
Uebayashi Seichi (Sendai Ikuei) - 4-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI
Motomura Shouji (Saga Kita) - 2-4, 2B, R