Day 1 was filled with games that I had kind of expected - nothing spectacular (especially on the mound), and somewhat competitive. With so few very experienced teams in the field, there will be a lot of unknown matchups. If I had actually handicapped the first 3 games so far, I'd be 2-1 (correct on Sendai Ikuei and Iidzuka and wrong on Tokoha Tachibana).
Starting off Day 2 may be a bit more of a lopsided matchup as Best 4 finalist Sakushin Gakuin will face Nagano representative Saku Chousei.
Now, Sakushin Gakuin isn't like other national powerhouses in that they can't reload as quickly as say Nichidai-san. However, they were able to turn around and not only reach senbatsu the following year, but Natsu Koushien as well. This is in part thanks to a weaker prefecture than others, as well as only facing one notable team in Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku. The offense recorded a remarkable 0.398 batting average spread across a good part of the team. Perhaps one person to key on will be leadoff batter Ishii.
Interestingly, Sakushin did not primarily use their ace number Ootani. Instead, they went to #10 Tsutsui and #18 Mizunuma. I don't know if Ootani is injured, but it seems rather curious.
Saku Chousei was no slouch in their prefecturals either as they were not challenged at all on their way to the Nagano title posting an equally impressive 0.383 batting average while defeating such teams as Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri, Maruko Shigakukan and Matsumoto Dai-ichi. The key will be the top of the order and batters Minamisawa and Morii.
On the mound, Fujiwara-kantoku used ace Gomi when it really mattered, though he wasn't afraid to use his bullpen for the early round games. #10 Shiogawa was trusted the most in later games, while #11 Hosoya was used in earlier rounds.
Taking results and prefectural strength into consideration, this should give Sakushin Gakuin an advantage in the match-up. However, the fact that the ace isn't available for some reason is cause for concern. The only other time I remember that being the case, the ace was either injured or wasn't very good...
Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi)
1B Yamashita (#13)
P Tsutsui (#10)
Saku Chousei (Nagano)
LF Ogawa (#17)
09:01 - First Pitch!
Trying to catch up on the game so far, Shinohara does get a 2-out single for Sakushin but is quickly left on base when cleanup batter Takayama grounds to short.
Tsutsui gets Kamishima swinging to lead off the inning, but the ball gets away from Takayama and Kamishima reaches safely! He's bunted to 2nd and moves to 3rd on a grounder to 1st.
And for Saku Chousei, their cleanup batter delivers! Terao gets around on one and singles to left, scoring Kamishima! Saku Chousei leads 1-0!
Itagaki with a drive to right! Shinohara sprinting back, but it's over his leaping attempt! The throw home is weak and now Saku Chousei quickly gets ahead 2-0!!
Ogawa delivers the 3rd straight solid hit as he lines one down the left field line! That's for another double and it's now 3-0!
Yanagizawa lines out to right to end the inning, but like the first two games yesterday, a team gets out to a quick lead! Can Sakushin come back when the others failed?
Nothing so far, as once again Sakushin gets a 2-out single - this time from Takashima. But again, the next batter is retired and the story continues.
After retiring the first 2 batters easily, Tsutsui struggles with the top of the lineup, yielding back-to-back hits to left.
Fortuntely, Tsutsui gets a dribbler back to him from Morii to end the inning without any damage.
According to the announcers, Gomi carries a splitter, slider, curve and slow curve to match his mid 130's fastball.
After getting ahead of ace Tsutsui 1-2, he winds up walking him. But top of the order and Ishii watches a curve fall over the plate for strike 3.
Two down and Shinohara delivers a base hit that trickles into right! Tsutsui tries to press for 3rd, but Morii makes a good throw and easily nails him for the 3rd out.
Grounder to 3rd by Terao is bobbled by Takashima and then he loops the throw to 1st which gets by Yamashita allowing Ogawa to get to 2nd. After a fly moves him to 3rd, Ogawa delivers a single to center to give Saku Chousei a 4-0 lead!
Now they press as Ogawa steals 2nd! Takayama's throw is short and goes into center! The game appears to be quickly getting away from Sakushin Gakuin in the early going.
But Ogawa goes on contact and Yanagizawa's ball to short means that Ogawa is thrown out at home. They try to regain momentum by stealing 2nd again, but Shishido grounds to 1st to end the inning.
Takayama is trying to get the Sakushin offense going as he takes one the other way down the right field line for a double.
And now Takayama makes a running mistake going on contact! Yamashita grounds back to Kamishima who starts the rundown! But in a lucky break, Terao's throw back to 2nd is low and it gets by Yanagizawa!
Fuse with a slicer to right center! Minamizawa trying to run it down, can't make the catch! The runners had to hold up and they can only advance one base! But it's now manrui now for Takashima as time is called.
Takashima hits a soft grounder to 2nd, but Yanagizawa for some reason can't field it cleanly! They're only able to get Fuse at 2nd as Sakushin gets on the board at 4-1.
Yamanashi with a liner into the right center field gap splits the outfielders! The ball goes all the way to the wall as Yamanashi 2-RBI triple pulls Sakuishin within 1 at 4-3!!
And it looks like they'll go to the bullpen as #3 Wakui hits for Tsutsui. Unfortunately the gamble doesn't pay off as he bunts one back to Gomi.
Ishii fouls out to end the inning, but an offensive outburst puts Sakushin within striking distance!
As expected, #18 Mizunuma comes in to pitch.
It appears that Mizunuma can throw in the low-mid 130's with a slider about 6-7 kph slower, a curve and a slow curve.
And he immediately shuts down the Saku Chousei offense, retiring the side quickly in order, putting his team back on the sticks to find the douten run.
One down, Shinohara collects his 3rd hit of the game, lacing a ball to right.
However, he's quickly wiped out as Takayama grounds into the inning ending 4-6-3 double play.
Takashima having issues with throwing the ball as he puts one high to 1st. Yamashita snags it and makes the swipe tag on Morii for the first out.
Mizunuma is looking really good on the mound, hitting the spots called for as Terao is finall retired on a shuuto just on the outside corner.
A slow roller to short would have ended the inning, but Ishii whiffs on the ball and the inning continues.
Now another grounder should end the inning, but Takashima's throw is right into the ground and it goes past Yamashita. Now there's runners on 2nd and 3rd when Mizunuma should have been out of the inning.
Yanagizawa tests Yamanashi at 2nd, but he makes the play for the 3rd out. Sakushin Gakuin gets out of their own jam with no damage and as they head to the break they trail by 1... though it could have been much, much worse...
And if they want to make a comeback, the defense will have to shape up quite a bit.
It can't be the infield that's causing the errors as Kamishima can't field a routine grounder by Yamashita!
And instead of a bunt, they're going for the hit-and-run as the pitch is fouled off by Fuse.
Now they try the bunt, but it hits Fuse for the 2nd strike. He has to swing away and hits a hard ball to Yanagizawa. He blocks the ball and gets the lead runner.
Looks like Kobari-kantoku has had enough of Takashima at 3rd and puts in #16 Yoshida Koudai to hit for him.
And he hits a high ball to right. Morii is running back, still running back. Pulls up!
Yoshida with the daida gyakuten 2-run HR and the Kobari-kantoku's move pays off! Sakushin Gakuin takes their first lead here right after the break 6-5! They're the first team to actually take the lead after falling behind!!
Gomi retires the next two batters, but the damage is done. He has relinquished the lead here in the 6th.
#14 Asano comes in for PH Yoshida and takes over at 3rd.
One down and #13 Terunuma comes in to hit for Gomi so his day is done.
And now Teranuma drives one to deep right center! Fuse runs back to the wall as the ball bounces off the padding! He's in with a double!
However on two straight pitches Mizunuma retires Kamishima and Minamizawa to end the threat.
#10 Shiokawa is in to relieve Gomi and promptly walks Ishii on 4 straight. No bunting for Kobari-kantoku and Tsuruta singles through the right side. That puts runners at 1st and 2nd for Shinohara who already has 3 hits on the day. This with Shiokawa in, who seems to be struggling a bit here to start.
Shinohara crushes a ball to right! Morii runs back, but quickly gives up as the ball leaves the yard! He collects his 4th hit with a bang! His 3-run HR gives Sakushin Gakuin a 8-4 lead!
Now Takayama drives one to right center! That's all the way to the wall and Takayama makes 3rd easily!
#11 Hosoya is warming up as Yamashita drives one to center! Minamizawa gets under it, but it's deep enough to score Takayama to make it 9-4!
Shiokawa manages to retire the next two batters, but the gamble by Fujiwara-kantoku does not pay off as Sakushin jumps all over the reliever to make it a 5-run ballgame.
What's this??!! Morii swings on a Mizunuma slow curve and drives it to left! Tsuruta at the wall...
Now it's Mizunuma's turn to give one up as Morii connects for a solo HR to make it 9-5!
Terao then attacks the first pitch and lines it to right for another hit! Is Mizunuma tiring already?? Not yet it seems as he jams Itagaki induing a fly to center.
Ogawa hits a foul fly and new 3B Asano makes a nice catch at the bullpen for the 2nd out. And a groundout by Yanagizawa ends the Lucky 7 for Saku Chousei, leaving them still trailing by 4.
#7 Oohara comes in to play LF for Ogawa.
Shiokawa has settled down nicely, and strikes out the side, but I bet Fujiwara-kantoku is wondering where that was in the 7th...
After a K to Shishido, #16 Yokoyama hits for Shiokawa meaning that Hosoya will pitch the 9th. But Yokoyama strikes out too.
Kamishima with a hot liner back to Mizunuma and he knocks it up in the air. He calmly fields it and makes the 3rd out.
#11 Hosoya does come in the game to pitch the 9th.
One down, and Hosoya hits Shinohara who was 4-4 on the day. But the inning ends when Takayama grounds into his 2nd DP of the day.
No harm though as Sakushin Gakuin is 3 outs away from advancing.
Minamizawa with a chopper to 3rd, but Asano in there this time makes the play. Morii quickly swings and pops out to Takayama.
Terao swings on the first pitch and grounds out to short to end the game! Sakushin Gakuin is the first team this tournament to come back from behind to win the game! Thanks to some timely hitting and rare HR's to right field, they take the lead and pull away for a 9-5 win.
It was definitely scary for last year's best 4 team, but they managed to pull it off here on day 2. The defense, especially on the left side is suspect, and will need to be shored up before next game if they want to increase their chances of advancing further.
As for Saku Chousei, they were able to get out to an early lead, but the pitching couldn't hold it for the rest of the game, and the pitching depth just wasn't there to match Sakushin Gakuin. As a result their summer ends early here on day 2.