Our semifinals almost seem to be "regional" battles. This first one being a meeting of the "West", while the second one can be a battle of the "East".
Meitoku Gijyuku is running into the same problems Tenri did in their game against Osaka Touin - 0 days of rest and an ace who went the full 9 innings. As we've seen with Toukou Gakuen ace Matsui, it's generally just too hard to ask your ace to go back to back 9 innings but more importantly be effective. It can be done, but the cases are fewer and far between. Even Fujinami during the spring was susceptible.
Meitoku Gijyuku at least can turn to #10 Fukunaga to help out. But both P's profile somewhat like Tenri as low-K pitchers. And against a high-powered offense, it requires precision and some luck to be successful.
They'll have to be because their offense will just not be able to keep up with Osaka Touin in a head-to-head battle. So to have the highest chance of success, they will need to keep the score as low as possible. Anything over say 4 runs for Osaka Touin, and I think their task becomes near impossible.
Osaka Touin is starting Fujinami for this game. I wonder if he's really going to pitch a full game or save him by sending in Sawada at some point.
For the outright favorites, I don't think anything else changes. Continue to stick to the game plan and let the offense do their thing. Pitching wins titles, but offense gives the pitching breathing room.
Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
3B Itsuzaki (#11)
2B Iyota (#5)
RF Kishi (#12)
P Fukunaga (#10)
Osaka Touin (Osaka)
2B Oonishi (Tomoya)
9:01 - First Pitch!
An expected start from Fujinami. Itsuzaki goes 9 pitches but strikes out looking. Gouda and Iyota both ground out to end the inning. They make Fujinami throw 17 pitches though, so perhaps they're looking to tire him out. Which is just about one of the few things you can do.
Fukunaga being careful with Mori to lead off as he does have power. He winds up walking him.
Oonishi puts down the bunt leaving the rest to the cleanup batters.
Mizumoto with a hard single to right! Kishi gets the ball in quickly and Mori has to hold at 3rd.
Tabata though hits a fly to center. Gouda backing up secures it, but Mori scores easily giving Osaka Touin the sensei run! 1-0!
Mizumoto tries to steal 2nd, during Yasui's AB, but is thrown out to end the inning. Again, Osaka Touin has taken the lead early.
One down, Son with a hard grounder up the middle. Mega stops the ball, but can't field it to make the throw. E6 and douten runner on.
Hit-and-run! But Sugiwara fouls it off!
Again! But now Sugiwara hits a fly to right! Mizumoto makes the catch, and Son is dead to rights at 1st, but the throw is offline!!
That brings up Nishioka and more pitches for Fujinami. In fact, he throws 4 straight balls to Nishioka to bring up pitcher Fukunaga - no doubt to get an easier out.
And he does strike out Fukunaga to end the inning. That's another 17 pitches for Fujinami.
Well, another leadoff runner on for Osaka Touin. Yasui singles to left. Kasamatsu with an excellent bunt moves him to 2nd.
Hakusui works the count full, but flies out to Son in left center.
And Fujinami twirls around on a slider for the 3rd out. A needed 0 spot for Fukunaga and Meitoku Gijyuku.
It's another quiet inning for Meitoku. Imazato tries the safety bunt to no avail, Itsuzaki grounds to 2nd, and Gouda grounds to 3rd for a 1-2-3 inning.
One down, Mori hits a short at 1st. Nishioka blocks it and goes to the bag for the out.
Fukunaga is trying to live on the edges of the strike zone using his natural movement on his side arm action to get the ball to hit the corners. He's also keeping the ball low for the most part.
Oonishi swings on a two-seamer away and Fukunaga gets his first 1-2-3 inning!
One down and Kishi gets a walk, but Son is swinging away and ends up popping out to Oonishi for the 2nd out.
Sugiwara goes down swinging on a forkball, and the inning is over.
Fukunaga looked to have a quick 1-2-3 inning as he retired both Mizumoto and Tabata on 1 pitch each. But then he walks Yasui to continue the inning.
It's not for much longer as Kasamatsu grounds to short to end the inning. He's been effective in keeping the ball down and getting grounders to keep his team in the game.
Boy it looks bad for Meitoku. Nishioka swings and misses on a slider for the first out. Then Fukunaga watches a 151 kph fastball down the middle for another K.
But Imazato gives hope! He hits one back up the middle past a diving Mega into center! 1st base hit for Meitoku!
Itsuzaki though grounds to 2nd and the inning is over. But there is progress!
Mega proves to be a bit troublesome for the 3rd out, but Fukunaga puts up another 0 for his team! We head to the break with Osaka Touin making the opening run in the 1st stick!
Fujinami continues to frustrate the Meitoku batters post-break.
Gouda flies to shallow right center where Hakusui is there to make the sliding catch. Iyota walks away in frustration as he strikes on 3 straight pitches. And Kishi hits a routine grounder to short and that's the inning.
One down and Oonishi finally has Osaka Touin's first hit since the 1st inning as he singles to right! No bunt for an insurance run by Nishitani-kantoku and Mizumoto puts a bit of an uppercut on the ball and flies to left.
Fukunaga looks to get out of the inning, but then he hits Tabata!
Runners on 1st and 2nd for Yasui, and it looks like Fukunaga is leaving the ball up a little. Count goes full as Yasui fouls a couple off...
Drive to right center! There's no chance for the outfielders as it lands at the wall! Both runers come in to score on the double by Yasui! 3-0 Osaka Touin!
And a batter too late, Kishi comes in from right field to take the hill. #9 Oonishi Teruyuki comes in for Fukunaga and goes to right.
Kasamatsu with a ball through the left side! Yasui is waved around and scores on the play, and Kasamatsu takes 2nd on the throw! 4-0!
Hakusui flies out to center, but the Meitoku pitching has finally cracked and Osaka Touin broke through for what has to feel like a commanding 4-run lead!
Meitoku continues to be able to do nothing against Fujinami. Son with a routine grounder to 3rd. Sugiwara hits a soft chopper back to Fujinami, and Nishioka chases a slider. A spot in the finals really looks imminent now for Osaka Touin.
Osaka Touin is fine to just play out the last 3 innings. They're swinging away early in the count, as Kishi has a 9 pitch inning.
Oonishi quickly grounds out to short.
Imazato actually having a quality AB, fouling off some good pitches, but in the end, flies out to deep right.
#13 Takahashi in for Itsuzaki, but he grounds to 2nd.
#4 Matsumura comes in for PH Takahashi and takes over at 3B.
Tomoya goes down swinging on a forkball on the first out. Mizumoto can't check his swing and becomes the 2nd K.
And perhaps to get it over with, Mizumoto just kinda makes a swinging motion on a slider to strike out and end the inning.
Well, just 3 more batters to go for Fujinami and a spot in the finals.
Just for fun, Fujinami throws a 152 kph fastball to Gouda. He hits a ball to the right side as Tomoya makes a great sliding stop and throw for the out.
Ow. Fujinami extends the game by hitting Iyota.
Kishi chases yet another slider for the 2nd out.
Last chance in Son. Liner! Down the first base line fair! Iyota stops at 3rd!
But still, the douten run isn't in sight as Sugiwara steps in.
High chopper! Fujinami moves to his left and fields it! Throw to first, game set!
So Fujinami and Osaka Touin does it! They're in the finals with a chance for the Spring-Summer Consecutive Titles (春夏連続優勝)!
With perhaps a blemish in the 9th inning, Fujinami pitch a masterful game allowing just 5 runners in all. His pitch count was relatively low which should help his staming in the finals. As for the offense, they just bided their time until the Meitoku pitching presented an opportunity and pounced. And that was all they needed for the win.
For Meitoku Gijyuku, the loss certainly hurts. The cameras focus on Gouda and Fukunaga who are the most visably distraught of the team. But they honestly played a great tournament, and just had the bad luck of the draw to have to play back-to-back games with the Senbatsu champions on the back end. A Best 4 finish is certainly nothing to be fully disappointed about, yet I'm sure as they get their "ありがとう！" from the stands, they'll still wonder what might have been.
Fujinami Shintarou (Osaka Touin) - CG, 0 ER, 2 H, 8 K, 2 BB, HBP
Yasui Kouki (Osaka Touin) - 2-2, 2B, R, 2 RBI
Son Ho Kyun (Meitoku Gijyuku) - 1-4, 2B
Imazato Seima (Meitoku Gijyuku) - 1-2