The stands are filled to the top today, not just because it's vacation, but because the upcoming team will be taking the field here in the 2nd game.
Osaka Touin as expected had no trouble in their first game, defeating Kisaradzu Sougou in dominating fashion as Tabata finally took the field for the first time (he missed playing in Senbatsu due to an injury) and hit a HR, as well as Kasamatsu in an 8-2 victory. The offense looks to be in good form.
What probably was surprising was that Nakatani-kantoku left Fujinami in for all 9 innings. This even though they had held a 7-2 lead after 6 innings and it was the early afternoon game. Fujinami''s stamina is his biggest issue, and I can't imagine being out there entire game helps.
The team tasked with trying to defeat the senbatsu chanpions is Seiseiko out of Kumamoto. They drew one of the Best 4 from the spring - Naruto, and held them to just 1 run on 3 hits!
That was thanks in part to ace Ootake, who struck out 9 and got 11 groundball outs. He'll need to have his best game today to try and curb Osaka Touin's offense.
Speaking of offense, Seiseiko's offense is partially based on speed - though they were picked off a couple of times on the bases. They don't necessarily steal bases, but they use it to force defenses into making different plays.
It can work against weak teams, and even to some extent against average/above average teams. But against the Senbatsu champions? I'm not so sure about that..
LF Nakamura Kenrou
2B Nakamura Kenta (#3)
1B Andou (#12)
Osaka Touin (Osaka)
SS Mizutani (#14)
P Sawada (#10)
10:45 - First Pitch!
Not anything against Seiseiko, but starting Sawada is the right decision. Anytime you can rest your ace, take it.
One down Nishi singles through to right.
Ikeda-kantoku tries for the hit-and-run, but Kengo fouls it off.
So Nishi tries for the straight steal, but is thrown out easily.
And Kenrou grounds right to Tabata at 1st to end the inning.
Mori insides out a pitch and singles to left.
Oonishi with a nubber up the 3rd base line. Ootake fields and throws wide to 1st. Kenta is there for the catch, and has a pretty hard collision with Oonishi - but holds on for the out.
Mizumoto with a single past Kenta into right! Mori scores easily and as expected, Osaka Touin leads 1-0.
Yasui flies out to center for the 2nd out.
Ootake trying to paint the corners or get Kasamatsu to chase, but he doesn't. Manrui for Osaka Touin. But Hakusui grounds to 1st to end the inning.
Yamashita gets hit to start the inning. Douten runner is on for Seiseiko.
Nishiguchi tries put something on his swing, but he's under it and flies out to left.
Sawada with another pitcher way inside, Nakagawa tries to jump, but it's off his right knee for a dead ball.
And I mean that was flush on the knee as it ricochet off towards the Seiseiko bench. So Kenrou goes to run for him.
Ootake up with one down, and he's showing bunt?
He lays it down, Sawada chases after it but can't catch up to it. Kasamatsu charges in late, makes the throw, just beats Ootake!
So Seiseiko is looking for the one timer from Nakamura.
Doesn't need it! Sawada throws behind Nakamura! Yamashita comes in to score and we're tied at 1-1!
And now Sawada walks Nakamura on 4 straight! Runners at the corners with 2 down though and Seiseiko needs a hit.
And Andou can't pull the trigger on a strike at the knees and he's out #3! But a wild pitch from Sawada at least gives Seiseiko something to work with!
Mizutani swings on an outside pitch and hits a comebacker to Ootake for the first out.
Ootake keeping the pitches low, bu falls behind 3-1 before filling up the count.
Sawada though puts it past Ootake's glove into center for a base hit.
Mori swings on the first pitch and fouls out to Nakagawa, who's OK after being hit in the knee.
And Ootake gets Oonishi to chase an outisde fastball for the 3rd out. A good recovery inning after the 1st.
Top of the order for Seiseiko.
Matsunaga can't get the bat on an ouside fastball and goes down swinging.
Nishi feign bunt twice and takes 2 strikes. Has to defend now, fouling one off. He makes contact, but grounds out to 2nd.
Kenrou too rolls one to 2nd, and the side is retired.
Mizumoto first pitch singles back up the middle.
Cleanup batter Tabata, bunting?? He lays it down and Nishiguchi throws him out, but it's making me wonder how seriously they're taking this game.
They may be using this as practice since they can figure they can pull away at any time. It might be true, but I figure you'd do it after you got ahead, not before. Or I suppose they could just be sizing up Ootake's pitches for later.
Anyways, Yasui up and Ootake strikes him out swinging on an inside fastball.
But with 2 down, he hits Kasamatsu.
After a way inside pitch to Hakusui, Nishiguchi goes out to talk to him.
Hakusui swings at a slider close to the other batting box and the side is retired.
Yamashita with a hot shot to 3rd, but Kasamatsu has it for the 1st out.
Nishiguchi gets a man on for Seiseiko with a single to right.
Nakagawa tries to chop bunt one while running, but it goes foul. He lays down a traditional one and advances Nishiguchi for Ootake.
He'll need a base hit or error to score him though.
But he swings on a inside slider and rolls a grounder to 1st.
Huh. Mizutani swings over a fastball for the first out.
Sawada with a ball to to the opposite field. Kenrou running back towards the foul pole? Still running! Looks up!!
Wow, on a rather innocuous swing, Sawada is able to hit it over the fence in left for a HR! That's some power he hast there. 2-1 Osaka Touin!
Mori up, and he drives a ball to deep right! Matsunaga running back to the fence, but he's giving up!
That's back-to-back HR's for Osaka Touin now! They're not playing around anymore (if they ever were). 3-1 now in favor of the Senbatsu champs!
Oonishi can't check his swing and goes down for the 2nd out.
Mizumoto after fouling off 4 pitches, singles past a diving Kenta for his 3rd hit of the day.
Tabata pulls one through the gap for another hit.
Yasui takes an inside pitch the other way over Nakagawa for another hit. Mizumoto scores to make it 4-1!
Kasamatsu hits a weak grounder back to Ootake who finally tosses to 1st to end the inning.
But Osaka Touin flexes it's offense and take the lead once again.
Nishimura singles past Tabata into right for a leadoff single. Andou bunts him along.
Matsunaga twice tries the bunt and run, but fouls it off both times.
Forced to swing away, he lines up the fastball and lines it to center! Hakusui comes in, slides, but can't get to it! Nakamura scores to make it 4-2!!
Nishi showing bunt again looking to try for a one-timer.
But he takes strike 2 and will he three bunt? He's showing it at the plate at least.
He swings away, but grounds into the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Seiseiko at least gets one back.
Ootake finally gets a 1-2-3 inning with 3 groundouts from the bottom of the order. We hit the break with Osaka Touin leading Seiseiko 4-2 behind back-to-back HR's by the Osaka Touin battery.
It's a quick inning for Sawada as he retires the heart of the order in 10 pitches. Flyout by Kenrou, a slow roller to 2nd by Yamashita, and a strikeout looking by Nishiguchi.
Two quck groundouts to 2nd and Ootake looked to have a quick inning, but Mizumoto hits a ball to deep center. Yamashita running back, leaps, but it's off his glove as he runs into the wall! Mizumoto rounding 2nd, reaches 3rd easily.
Tabata with a blast to center! He's raising his fist! Yamashita running back again! Looks up!
Tabata enjoying his time at Koushien this time around, takes the first pitch from Ootake and drives it out to dead center! 6-2 Osaka Touin!
Ootake finally gets that 3rd groundout to 2nd, but 2 batters too late.
Nakagawa with a hit to the left side, but Kasamatsu whiffs on the play! It deflects to left and Seiseiko has their leadoff runner.
Ootake showing bunt despite being down 4.
But Kasamatsu crashing in on the bunt, starts the 5-4-3 double play.
Nakamura lines out to 2nd and the lucky 7 ends for Seiseiko.
It's a quick inning for Osaka Touin as well. Two groundouts sandwich a K, and I think they're ready to finish this game ASAP and get out of the heat.
#6 Mega in the game now at SS, replacing PH Konda who hit in the 7th.
Andou goes down swinging on a slider, Matsunaga gets frozen on a slider, and Nishi pops out to left.
One down, and leadoff batter Mori drives one to the left center field wall for a double.
After a groundout by Oonishi, Ootake hits Mizumoto after getting up 0-2, so the inning continues.
Tabata lifts one to center, Yamashita up to retrieve it, and the side is retired.
Last AB's now for Seiseiko.
Kenrou lines out to Mega for the first out.
Yamashita checks in with his first hit, a seeing-eye single back up the middle. Nishiguchi follows that up with a single through to right!
Two on with one down for Nakagawa. And he's hit for the 2nd time! Manrui for Seiseiko!
#10 Ejima comes in to hit for Ootake. Swings on the first pitch, but lines out to center! 2 down!
Last chance in Nakamura respresenting the douten run.
But he flies out to left and the game ends there.
The result was expected, the score perhaps too. But Seiseiko for a little while stood toe-to-toe with arguably the best team in the country. And despite being down 4, they at least fought to the end as well. I'm sure their large oen-dan section is proud of their efforts despite the loss. Great job to the boys from Seiseiko.
It seems fitting that the first 2 teams to punch their tickets are the runner-up and champion of this year's senbatsu. It's like a message to the other teams that they're not going anywhere. Osaka Touin for their part was able to rest their ace, and hopefully have him at full strength for the stretch run.
Sawada Keisuke (Osaka Touin) - CG, 2 ER, 6 H, 5 K, BB, 3 HBP
Sawada Keisuke (Osaka Touin) -2-4, HR, R, RBI
Mori Tomoya (Osaka Touin) -3-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI
Mizumoto Gen (Osaka Touin) - 4-4, 3B, 3 R, RBI, HBP
Tabata Yoshiki (Osaka Touin) -3-4, HR, R, 2 RBI
Nishiguchi Takahiro (Seiseiko) - 2-4, K
Matsunaga Kunpei (Seiseiko) - 1-4, RBI, 2 K