Well, one half of the Senbatsu kesshou (決勝) has advanced to the final. Now it's time for the other half to try and punch their ticket.
Their path looks a lot like last years. A lot of good pitching with enough offense to win - though their quarterfinal against Toukou Gakuen was probably the highest-stress game that the pitching staff had to face.
And that's why Jyouma is starting today, so that Kanazawa can rest for the final. Jyouma's done a good job the first couple of games at Koushien, so he should at least give Kanazawa some innings off.
But they'll be facing an nontraditional team in Toukaidai Koufu.
At first it was easy to see where they deviated from most teams - a frenetic pace that lent itself to making opponents create errors/opportunities. Yet against Sakushin Gakuin they didn't do that. Instead, they just played a different style of baseball which included a hit-and-run with a runner on 3rd base.
So I think what Toukaidai Koufu tries to do is to make the opponent off-balance in some way, whether it be through tempo, base-running, etc. I wonder what will be the strategy they implement this time around.
The offense for Toukaidai was on right off the bat, hitting hard liners around the field putting Sakushin Gakuin on their heels early. Unlike Sakushin Gakuin though, Kousei Gakuin does have a little more offensive firepower (though certainly nothing like Osaka Touin), and thus can put up more of a fight. Still, the scales should tilt in their favor in any high-scoring affair.
So, who will join Osaka Touin in the finals?
Kousei Gakuin (Aomori)
LF Sekiguchi (#18)
P Jyouma (#4)
2B Kishigawa (#14)
Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi)
CF Saitou Keisuke
RF Tanaka (#15)
P Honda (#10)
11:29 - First Pitch!
Ameku with a drive to center-right-center! Keisuke running back to the fence, not in time! He plays if off the bounce as Ameku is in with a leadoff double!
Sekiguchi lays down the bunt, Honda looks to 3rd, but goes to 1st for the out.
Now a sac fly can score the run.
Even better! Tamura hits a hard liner to left and with the outfield playing back near the wall, it falls easily! 1-0 Kousei!
Houjyou swings on a high pitch and sends it to deep center! Keisuke running back, running back! Jumps at the padding!!
Houjyou at 1st looking out in center in disbelief! Even he can't believe he hit that one out! He starts jogging as his shocking HR makes it 3-0!!
I mean, I can see what he's thinking. That ball was like almost at his shoulders it was that high. How he managed to hit it out he doesn't know.
Honda comes back to strike out Oosugi and get Jyouma to fly to left. But once again the big bats out early for Kousei!
Jyouma doing what he normally does - get contact.
Watanabe softly lines out to Houjyou. Keisuke grounds also to Houjyou.
Yamamoto with a harder hit to the right side. Kishigawa makes the stop heading towards 2nd. But his throw to 1st pulls Takeda off the bag for a base hit.
Tamura with the snap throw to 1st and they nail Yamamoto to end the inning.
Takeda hits a hard liner on the first pitch, but it's right to Yamamoto.
Kimura swings early and also flies out to Yamamoto.
Kishigawa works the count a little to 2-2, but... flies out to Yamamoto.
So it's a good 1-2-3 inning for Honda's confidence. But Takeda's liner should be a notice that they're seeing the ball decently early.
Ishii up again, swings on the first pitch and grounds to Houjyou.
Aihara turns on an outside pitch from Jyouma and sends it past Oosugi down the 3rd base line! Sekiguchi retrieves it, but Aihara is in with a double!
That's the first extra base hit for a batter against Kousei Gakuin!
AHHH!!!!! Jyouma picks off Aihara at 2nd! That's the 2nd pickoff by Kousei this game!
Sanshin! Tanaka swings and misses on an ouside fastball and the side is retired! There are a lot of mental errors being made on the Toukaidai side instead so far!
Back to the top of the order and Ameku. He flies out to left.
Sekiguchi does not continue the trend of flying to left. Instead he foul tips into Ishii's glove for a K.
Tamura with a grounder to short, and it's a quick inning for Honda. He seems to have settled down since the 1st.
The ground balls continue as both Akiya and Honda hit grounders over to Kishigawa. He's playing a bit back and can easily reach both balls.
Shinkai goes twirling on an outside slider and the side is retired. 9 up, 9 down (kinda).
2-1 and Houjyou gives a ball another run. Very far, but very foul.
Houjyou with a blast to center! Keisuke running back! Running back!!!!
Houjyou with another homerun to center!!!!! WOW!
Oosugi trying to jump on a probably shaken Honda swings on the first pitch and pops out to Watanabe.
Jyouma grounds to 3rd for the 2nd out as #11 Kinoshita warms up in the bullpen.
Takeda doesn't let Honda get out the inning that quickly afterwards sending a single back past Shinkai into center.
Kimura though flies out to center to end the inning, but not before Houjyou hits his 2nd HR on the day!
Watanabe can only head to the dugout after being rungup on a strike at the knees(? I thought it was low).
Keisuke swings early and flies out to shallow left. Cameras focus to the bullpen where ace Kanbara is throwing.
And Yamamoto with a bounder to 2nd. Kishimoto up with it and makes the easy throw to 1st to retire the side.
#11 Kinoshita, not Kanbara takes over for Honda on the mound. He has not taken the mound at all, not even in the prefecturals.
And he starts by freezing Kishigawa on an inside 133kph fastball.
Ameku goes down swinging on a curve down and in for the 2nd out!
But Sekiguchi ruins the party with a seeing eye single up the middle! He subsequently tries to steal 2nd and is thrown out and ends the inning.
Ishii with a leadoff runner for Toukaidai as he singles through the left side.
Hit-and-run! Aihara can't check his swing and is rung up! Throw to 2nd by Tamura as Ishii scurries back! Throw to 1st is wide and he gets back safely.
Hit-and-run again! This time Tanaka singles past Takeda into right! Ishii advances to 3rd!
Comebacker to Jyouma! Goes to 2nd for one! Throw is a bit wide, but Houjyou makes it to the bag, throw to first... SAFE!!!!
The diving Akiya beats out the throw and that lets Ishii score to make it 4-1!
I don't know about Akiya being safe, and the replay seems to confirm my suspicions, though I'm not sure.
Kinoshita with another hit-and-run! This time though he grounds to short for the 3rd out. But a slight execution miss by Jyouma gives Toukaidai Koufu a run right before the break!
Tamura reaches out the bat and lines a ball back up the middle for a base hit.
And that brings up Houjyou. They can't be pitching to him, can they?
Well they are!
The announcers are talking about the only 3 HR game done by Kiyohara back in 1985 for PL Gakuen, But his weren't consecutve.
Grounder to short. Watanabe to, THROWS IT AWAY!!!!
He tries to go to 2nd, but misses completely as it goes towards the fence on the 1st base side! Tamura scores all the way from first on the 3 base error and it's now 5-1!
Muranaka-kantoku calls for time to get his team to regroup.
But Kinoshita may still be rattled as he walks Oosugi, then hits Jyouma to load the bases!
Manrui for Takeda! And no out!!
Takeda gets frozen on a curve on the outside corner for the 1st out!
Kimura is able to lift a ball to center and it's deep enough to score Houjyou to make it 6-1.
Kishigawa up, and I think Kousei would be better of just ticking off the outs. He grounds out to 3rd to end the inning
Shinkai swinging early in the count, pops up to Takeda.
Watanabe with his first hit, a grounder back up the middle.
Keisuke with a liner to the left side, Houjyou clims the ladder and makes the great catch!
Muranaka-kantoku continues to press as he issues another hit-and-run order. Yamamoto hits a soft liner back up the middle for a base hit and there's runners at the corners.
Ishii now with a grounder back up the middle! Jyouma can't kick save it and that scores Watanabe to make it 6-2! They haven't given up yet!
But Aihara pops it up! Houjyou running it, but it's Sekiguchi running in, running, in!! Dives... and makes the catch! Kousei almost has a misplay in the outfield but Sekiguchi bails them out!
Ace Kanbara enter the game here in the 7th. Ameku first up hits a hot shot to 3rd, but Aihara fields it and makes the play at 1st.
Sekiguchi tries to poke one to left, but hits it just a bit too hard to Yamamoto.
Tamura has his 3rd hit of the day, a single past a diving Watanabe to center.
That brings up Houjyou again, who apparently could set some records with another HR, one of which is HR's in a Natsu Koushien (5, also by Kiyohara in 1985).
But he goes down swinging on a slider and the side is retired.
Time for the Toukaidai bats to start heating up if they want to make a comeback.
Instead it's the opposite. 5 pitches and Jyouma has retired the side.
Kousei, much like Osaka Touin quite content to tick off the outs.
Oosugi with a routine grounder to short. Jyouma hits a hard liner, but also to short. And Takeda goes down swinging for the 2nd AB for a 1-2-3 inning.
Shinkai way ahead of a pitch, rolls one to 3rd. Watanabe works the count full, but hits a chopper to 3rd that Oosugi fields for the 2nd out.
And Keisuke grounds to 2nd to retire the side.
Kimura goes down looking on a slider. Kishigawa gets his first hit of Koushien when he singles past a diving Aihara into left. Ameku follows that up with a grounder to right and just like that 2 runners are on for Sekiguchi.
Sekiguchi tries to lay down the bunt, but Kanbara fields it quickly and goes to 3rd for the easy out.
Tamura demolishes a pitch from Kanbara, and there's no doubt about that one. Yamamoto can only turn around a couple of times before it flies out to left. 3-run HR from Tamura makes it 9-2.
And now Kanbara hits Houjyou. I'd like to believe that wasn't intentional.
Oosugi then decides to line a ball to center. Houjyou presses to 3rd, makes it safely and Oosugi goes to 2nd and is safe! Guess they figure if that was intentional, they'll just score more?
But Jyouma reaches out and rolls one to 2nd to end the inning.
Yamamoto leads off the 9th with a full extention swing and base hit to right.
Ishii with a more traditional inside out swing, singles to right.
Aihara with a slow chopper to the right side. Jyouma gets there, but the safe play is to 1st and he takes it.
Tanaka grounds to 3rd. Oosugi again takes the easy play and gives up the run for the out. 9-3.
Akiya with a ball back up the midle. Houjyou with the great stop, spins, throws, and gets Akiya to end the game!
Kousei Gakuin comes out with the bats again and secures a rematch with Osaka Touin!
(The person broadcasting the game starts singing the Sakushin Gakuin song over the Kousei Gakuin one after they win. I didn't Japanese could be that disrespectful, but I guess I was wrong. And I think he's a Sanko fan too, which may explain his "dislike" of Kousei. I really hope Kousei Gakuin beats Osaka Touin tomorrow so he can shut his yap. Or sing the Sakushin song again in vain as Kousei stands proudly.)
Toukaidai Koufu was not their normal selves in the game. Mental errors on the basepaths and the offensive output from Kousei were just too much. It certainly hurts more, on the loss since they certainly could have played better, but they shouldn't be disappointed with their Koushien this year. It was a great run to the finals, and I had a great time watching them play.
So as expected, we have our final. Though once again, I'm surprised by the offensive output by Kousei Gakuin. They're going to need some of that tomorrow if they're going to defeat Osaka Touin.
Jyouma was his normal self in the game, lots of contact, lots of groundball outs. More importantly, he rested Kanazawa for tomorrow's rematch.
Expect a full house tomorrow, and I'll be waving the Kousei Gakuin flag in defiance of the broadcaster (not that I wasn't going to root for Kousei Gakuin despite the odds anyways).
Jyouma Ryuuhei (Kousei Gakuin) - CG, 3 ER, 9 H, 4 K
Houjyou Fumiya (Kousei Gakuin) - 2-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, HBP, K
Tamura Tatsuhiro (Kousei Gakuin) - 4-5, HR, 3 R, 4 RBI
Yamamoto Shun (Toukaidai Koufu) - 3-4, R
Ishii Shinjirou (Toukaidai Koufu) - 3-4, R, RBI