Our final quarterfinal is an all western matchup (well, west of Koushien at least). These are the last 2 teams in that direction left here.
Kurashiki Shougyou has advanced mostly in part due to a rather weak schedule. First was a comeback win against Matsusaka that included balls inexplicably dropping into play when it seems like they should have been caught. Then they faced arguably the weakest offense at Koushien in Akita Shougyou (not by runs scored during per se, but by thinking about how an offense would do against the same average level team's pitching/defense).
And those two wins have put them here in the Best 8.
Their offense has scored runs for them, but again given the competition, it is not a good indicator of how the team will be going forward.
What luck for them too, as they are facing another offensively challenged team in Meitoku Gijyuku. They haven't set the world on fire in their two games against again, not so good prefectures in Yamagata and Niigata.
They do take walks though, and at least have that in their favor. The Fuku/Fukunaga pair continue a trend of low strikeout/low walk pitchers who live on the edge.
Meitoku Gijyuku profiles as a stronger opponent against Kurashiki Shougyou, but to what extent I'm not sure. I see this game as a 50-50 for either side (yeah, it's a copout, but I really don't know).
Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
3B Itsuzaki (#11)
2B Iyota (#5)
RF Kishi (#12)
Kurashiki Shougyou (Okayama)
LF Kataoka Hiroyuki (#17)
11:40 - First Pitch!
One down for Meitoku, Gouda singles through the left side.
And no bunt, he takes off for 2nd and reaches safely!
But the sinker appears again as Iyota swings and misses for the 2nd out!
Nishi having trouble with location and they walk cleanup batter Kishi (he's a 1st year btw!). Michishita goes out to talk to Nishi as Son steps to the plate.
But Son goes down on a sinker and the side is retired with no harm done.
Fujii with a grounder to 1st. Imazato with a great stop, but a bad throw as it goes way high and into the stands. He's awarded 2nd.
Bunt by Harukawa, Fuku quickly turns and throws to 3rd! It's a great throw right at the legs of Fujii as Iyota makes the tag for the out!
And then Sakata grounds into the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Sugiwara is hit by Nishi to start the inning. Nishioka not bunting, singles through to right!
2 runners on with no down as Morimitsu-kantoku calls time. Afterwards, Fuku lays down the bunt and advances the runners for Imazato.
But the sinker shows it's face once again! Imazato swings and misses for the 2nd out!
That makes it up to Itsuzaki. As Mabuchi-kantoku relays a message to him.
Nishi gets out of the pinch! Itsuzaki pops it up to right! Harukawa is there for the catch and the side is retired!
Ball back up the middle, takes an irregular high bound, but Imazato has it! Throw to 1st is high again, but this time Nishioka has it and tags Michishita for the out.
Okada gets Kurashou's first hit as he hits a solid single through the left side. And now they're going for the one-timer as Shimizu bunts him to 2nd.
But Katayama swings and misses on a forkball to end the inning.
Meitoku still can't figure out the sinker. Gouda goes down swinging on one, Iyota rolls a ball to 2nd.
And Kishi throws in another strikeout for free as he swings and misses on another sinker.
Fuku crusing along, getting a groundout from Hiroyuki and Nishi to strike out swinging.
Fujii with a blast to left! Son running back to the foul pole... still running! Pulls up!
Fujii breaks the deadlock in a big way! 1-0 Kurashou!
Harukaw grounds out to 1st, but now Nishi is pitching with the lead!
Son with a drive to center!! Sakata running back! He's at the fence!!
Son emphatically returns fire for Meitoku Gijyuku with a homerun to center! We're all tied at 1-1!!
Now Suguwara with a base hit through the left side. Is Nishi becoming hittable?
Well, they're making contact. Nishioka hits a towering fly to shallow center that Katayama has for the 1st out. So Mabuchi-kantoku has Fuku bunt Sugawara ahead for Imazato.
But Nishi freezes Imazato on a sinker in the zone for strike 3 and the side is retired! But Son comes back to tie the game for his team!
Fuku almost gets a 1-2-3 inning as he gets 2 quick ground outs beofre he walks Okada. But they try to press the initiative and instead Okada is thrown out at 2nd to end the inning.
Itsuzaki battles Nishi to an 11-pitch AB only to strikeout swinging on another sinker.
Gouda is able to make contact, but ground to short. Iyota fares no better, rolling one to short as well for the 3rd out.
One down, Katayama hits a single to center. They elect not to have Hiroyuki bunt, and he pops out to Iyota.
Nishi goes down swinging on the slider and we hit the break.
Each pitcher has basically shut down the other's offenses outside of the HR's they gave up. Fuku get bad contact, Nishi uses the slider for the K.
Kishi stars off the inning pulling a ball through the gap for a base hit.
Son standing in, immediately shows and lays down the bunt.
Sugihara with a ball to right. Harukawa charging in, charging in, just misses making the catch by inches! Kishi advances to 3rd and there's a situation brewing for Meitoku as Morimitsu-kantoku calls for time.
Nishioka up, swings away at the first pitch. But he's hit by Nishi! Manrui now for Meitoku Gijyuku ace ace Fuku steps in. Having sacrificed twice, what will he do now?
He swings away on the first pitch and fouls it off!
Now he hits a ball to the left side! Fujii can't field it and it's into left! Kishi scores and it's 2-1 Meitoku!
Mabuchi-kantoku calls for the squeeze, but Nishi buries it! Imazato can't hit it and Michishita fields it and tags Sugawara for the out! 2 down!
SANSHIN! Imazato goes down for the 3rd time, this time looking on a fastball on the outside corner.
But Meitoku Gijyuku takes the lead right after the break!
Being careful with Fujii, Fuku gives him a walk. Harukawa not bunting, becomes a victim of the slider.
Sakata hits a ball to 3rd. It's slow enough Itsuzaki's only play is to 1st for the 2nd out.
And Fuku gets the better of Michishita as he pops up to right to retire the side!
One down Gouda singles to left. No bunt, but Iyota still advances the runner despite grounding to short. But Kishi can only manage a grounder to 3rd to end the inning.
Okada is called going around by the home plate umpire as the ball gets away from Sugiwara, but no one notices. Eventually everyone does, and Okada is thrown out at 1st.
Shimizu cannot do much better grounding out to 2nd.
Katayama down on an inside fastball and the side is retired!
Nishi with 119 pitches on the day, the 120th to Son is singled back up the middle for a leadoff single. Sugahara bunts him along for Nishioka.
He hits it to short! He looks to 3rd and makes a gesture then throws to 1st for the out. Wonder if he was saying that Fujii was to cover 3rd to throw him out.
Fuku with a ball to right, that falls in! Son scors to make it a 3-1 ball game!
Imazato with the safety bunt! Fujii charges in, but the throw is late and everyone's safe!
So back to the top of the order and Itsuzaki, who is hitless for far this Koushien.
He gives it a ride to right, but Harukawa is there for the catch. But Fuku with his 2nd timely hit this game extends his lead on the mound!
Now the tables are turning as now Kurashou's batters can't hit against Fuku!
Hiroyuki goes down swinging. #7 Fukumori hits for Nishi and he grounds to 1st.
Fujii finally gets their first hit since the 5th with a single to left.
Harukawa with a single through the right side and the douten runner is on base! Mabuchi-kantoku calls for time.
Sakata stepping as the gyakuten runner.
Grounder up the middle. Imazato blocks it, and it leaks away from him! He grabs it and tags the base with the glove for the out! Side retired!
#13 Oonaka comes in for PH Fukumori to take the hill.
Gouda welcomes him with a single through the right side. Iyota bunts him into scoring position as an insurance run never hurts.
Kishi lines one at Gouda who has to duck to avoid being hit before heading to 3rd.
Son with a hard hit to 3rd. Fujii is able to field it, and seeing no play at home quickly fires to 2nd where they get Kishi. But it's now 4-1.
Sugiwara goes down swinging to end the inning, but they have one more run to make up now...
Michishita leads off the inning. He pops it up though, and while Iyota fights off the sun, he makes the catch.
Okada laces one at Itsuzaki and it bounces off of him and into foul territory! He's on for Shimizu.
Shimizu with another hit at Itsuzaki! It deflects off his glove and into left! 2 on for Kurashiki as the douten run comes to the plate in Katayama!
Mabuchi-kantoku calls for time.
They go to the well one too many times! Grounder to 3rd this time Itsuzaki does have! He tags 3rd for one, throw to 1st... double play!! Meitoku Gijyuku holds off a potential late rally from Kurashiki Shougyou for the win!
Meitoku Gijyuku advances to the semifinals on the back of a great pitching performance by ace Fuku! Offensively, they were able to reply to Kurashou's opening HR with one of their own and then started to pull away in the latter half of the game. They were able to do just enough today to advance to the semifinals, and a date with Osaka Touin. No time to rest boys, you've got a game tomorrow!
For Kurashiki Shougyou, it's the 2nd consecutive year now a team from Okayama has made it to the Best 8 only to fall. Last year it was Kanzei againt Nichidai-san, this year it's Kurashiki Shougyou against Meitoku Gijyuku. Nishi's understandibly crying over the loss, but he's proven to be a good pitcher in a Koushien that had a lot of the same types of pitchers. He didn't reach the ultimate goal, but he helped carry this team a long ways. And he should be proud of that.
Fuku Takeyuki (Meitoku Gijyuku) - CG, ER, 8 H, 7 K, 2 BB
Fuku Takeyuki (Meitoku Gijyuku) - 2-2, 2 RBI
Son Ho Kyun (Meitoku Gijyuku) - 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, K
Gouda Satoru (Meitoku Gijyuku) - 3-5, R, SB
Fujii Shouri (Kurashiki Shougyou) - 3-3, HR, R, RBI, BB
Okada Seiji (Kurashiki Shougyou) - 2-3, BB, K