Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day 2, Game 3 - Imabari Nishi (Ehime) vs. Toukou Gakuen (Kanagawa)

Our matinee game puts a team who has a lot of recent experience at Koushien versus one who has finally returned after several years off.

For Toukou Gakuen, they had a stretch of games where it looked like they may not advance.  They barely got by Yokohama, then almost had a letdown against Hiratsuka Gakuen before putting away Touin Gakuen for the Kanagawa title.

Despite the tough competition, they batted 0.361 as a team.  But the hits were spread out between the batters and so it's hard to say who to key on.  On the mound, Noro-kantoku depends on ace Matsui to carry the team - and why not when he averages just about 13.5 K/9!!

As for Imabari Nishi, as a no-seed they were challenged all tournament but defeated both Saijyou and Saibi en route to the Ehime title.  In addition, the team batted a paltry 0.249, pretty much poor on any standard.  That means that Oono-kantoku will have to depend on ace Itou, though he did turn to Nakauchi in the final against Kawanoe.

To be honest, this doesn't look good for Imabari Nishi.

Imabari Nishi (Ehime)
2B Ikeuchi
RF Nakanishi
LF Kasazaki
3B Suehiro
SS Nakauchi
1B Tofuku
C Sogabe
P Itou Yuusaku
CF Watanabe Kenta

Toukou Gakuen (Kanagawa)
2B Suzuki Takumu
C Ukawa
RF Mizukai (#8)
LF Uekusa (#9)
CF Sakamoto (#15)
1B Tanaka
P Matsui
SS Take
3B Nakano


13:42 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Matsui not wasting any time, striking out Ikeuchi looking on 3 straight.

Nakanishi works the count full, but he too is frozen by a slider for Matsui's 2nd K in as many batters.

Kasazaki on the other hand, earns the first walk from Matsui, then advances on a passed ball from Ukawa.

However, Matsui rings up Suehiro on a 2-2 fastball and we have our first real ace on the mound.

Bottom 1st
After retiring the first 2 batters, Itou plunks Mikukai.  Then Sogabe can't block a wild pitch and Mizukai advances to 2nd.

And another hit batter on a full count has Oono Yasuya-kantoku calling for time.

That brings up 1st year Sakamoto.

Eh??? Another dead ball and it's manrui for Toukou Gakuen!

Can Tanaka capitalize?

Well, first of all he at least takes the first pitch for a strike, but swings at the 2nd and lines out to left to get Itou out of the 1st inning jam!

Top 2nd
Oh wow.  4th K for Matsui as he gets Nakauchi on a change.

Oh, not fair.  Another change freezes Toufuku and that's 5 K's! And Sogabe goes down on 3 straight...

That's 6 K's in 6 possible outs!!!

Bottom 2nd
Hah, Toukou's oen-dan playing Keio Chance!

And after a struggle in the 1st, Itou retires the side in order, racking up 2 K's of his own - though certainly not as easy.

Top 3rd
Itou, leading off the inning, fights hard against Matsui, working the count full, but too strikes out swinging on a high fastball.

But then Matsui walks Kenta on 4 straight.  All 9 batters have either walked or struck out.

Ikeuchi finally puts the ball into play with a ball to shallow center.  Mizukai charges in, but can't make the sliding grab!  But Kenta had to wait to the see what the ball did, and is forced out at 2nd.

Then Matsui catches Ikeuchi off 1st and he's run down 1-3-6 to end the inning.  Still, it is impressive the run Matsui had to start the game.

Bottom 3rd
Takumu draws a 4-pitch walk to start the inning.

Now that the amazing start for Matsui is done, let's take a look at the aces, starting with Itou.  He's your normal lefty who throws a fastball in the upper 120s-lower 130's with a slider in the low-mid 110's and maybe a change in the 100's.

The Toukou batters can't figure it out quite yet as Mizukai grounds to 2nd - though he does advance the runner.

Amazingly, Uekusa delivers Toukou's (and the game's!!) first hit as he lines one back up the middle, scoring Takumu to make it 1-0 Toukou!

The announcers say that Itou has a curve and forkball as well, but all slow.

Seems to work since Sakamoto waves and misses on a curve for the 3rd out.  But in a bizarre game, we finally get our first hit and first run.

Top 4th
After falling behind Nakanishi 3-1, he comes back on a fastball outside to record his 8th K.

Matsui is achieving all this with a fastball in the mid-upper 140's, a slider in the 120s and curveball in the 110s

Kasazaki avoids being K #9 by grounding out to 2nd.  At least he's making contact.

But Suehiro goes down swinging for the 2nd time on a curveball and that's 9 K's already...

Bottom 4th
Tanaka with a ball back up the middle, deflected off of Itou and to Ikeuchi, but he can't find the ball and Tanaka reaches safely.  He advanced on two consecutive outs to 3rd leaving it to #9 batter Nakano to drive him in.

He won't get a chance to though as Itou walks him on 4 straight, flipping the lineup back to Takumu.  Oono-kantoku calls for time.

Both pitchers are having trouble with control either missing the zone or perhaps getting squeezed by the umpire.

Takumu hits a blooper to center!  Ikeuchi running out while Kenta and Nakanishi are charging in, but Ikeuchi overruns the ball and it falls in!  Tanaka scores on the play and Toukou leads 2-0!

Oono-kantoku goes for a pitching change (and fielding changes).
  • Nakauchi goes from SS to P
  • Itou goes from P to RF
  • Nakanishi goes from RF to CF
  • Takahashi Kenta leaves and is replaced by #14 Hiigaki and goes to 2B
  • Ikeuchi goes from 2B to SS
Got that?

Anyways, Ukawa hits a comebacker to new P Nakauchi to retire the side.

Top 5th
Imabari's bad offense is magnified against Matsui.  He strikes out both Nakauchi and Toufuku for the 2nd time, while Sogabe avoids the same fate, but only by grounding out to 2nd.

Bottom 5th
Mizukai hits a slicing fly ball that's running away from new 2B Hiigaki, but he makes a great sliding grab.

Nakauchi appers to have a fastball in the upper 130s and a slider in the 120s.  Uekusa grounds out to short, and Sakamoto would have ground out to 3rd if not for Suehiro missing on the pickup.

Tanaka hits what proabably could be called the 2nd well hit ball of the game, sending one back up the middle for a single.

Matsui with a well hit ball to right.  Itou chasing the ball back towards the wall.  Still going!!!


Matsui with yet another home run to right!  That's more today than I've seen in the entirety of previous tournaments!!

Nevertheless Matsui's 3-run HR makes it a 5-0 ballgame!

And now Take is hit on a change from Nakauchi.  The game has gotten away from Imabari Nishi in a heartbeat here in the bottom of the 5th.

Nakano goes down swinging to mercifully end the inning, but not before Toukou Gakuen takes a commanding 5-0 lead.

Up until the bottom of the 5th we had seen one pitcher with no hits and 11 K's, and the other with just 3 hits and 2 runs given up, yet was relieved.  Now the leading pitcher delivers a 3-run homerun to RF - which is notorious for being hard to do.

It's been a rather weird game...

Top 6th
Itou, leading off the 6th, is doing what he did in his 1st AB, working the count and fouling off pitches.  This time he's rewarded with a walk.

After 2 straight balls, Ukawa goes out to talk with Matsui.  If there's one thing that can certainly short-circut Matsui, it's his apparent lack of control.

And now the no-hitter is gone!  New 2B Hiigaki lines a ball back up past Takumu into center!

Ikeuchi with a grounder to short, Take tries to start the 6-4-3 double play, but Ikeuchi beats out the throw.

Nakanishi though still can't figure out Matsui as he goes down swinging on a slider for his 3rd K of the game (and Matsui's 12th).

But Kasazaki can't deliver the run-scoring hit, instead he becomes Matsui's baker's dozen.  Whoo boy.

Bottom 6th
Nakauchi looked to have a 1-2-3 inning ready, but Mizukai wrecks that notion with a groundball under the diving glove of Suehiro.

Mizukai then steals 2nd on a 1-2 curve as Uekusa works the count full and draws the walk.  1st year Sakamoto steps in still hitless on the day.

And he still hitless as he grounds out to short to end the inning.

Top 7th
Suehiro becomes the 2nd player to K 3 times so far as he chases a high fastball.

Nakauchi becomes the 3rd as he helplessly watches a slider cross the plate for Matsui's 15 K.

Toufuku has a carbon copy of Suehiro's AB, ending with waving at a high fastball... and that's 16 K's...

Bottom 7th
#10 Ishigaki Atsuyuki comes in to pitch with a curve, slider and knuckleball.  He enters in Toufuku's slot and takes the mound, Nakauchi goes to 1st, and #12 Ochi replaces Sogabe behind the plate.

Sadly, Ishigaki's first pitch hits Tanaka, though it probably was the knuckle.

Matsui hits a ball to short, but it's too slow to start the double play and so Ikeuchi goes to 1st.

Take then hits a ball back to Ishigaki and it's off his foot!  It takes a bounce over Ikeuchi and into center!  Tanaka scores to make it 6-0 as Take takes 2nd on the throw.

Nakano goes down swinging on the knuckleball and probably has the unfortunate honor of being the only player on Toukou's side to K 3 times.

Takumu flies out to center and outside of a bad luck play, Ishigaki would have had a scoreless inning.

Top 8th
Meanwhile, the K parade continues for Matsui.  New C Ochi goes down swinging, Itou goes down for his 2nd K, adn Hiigaki can't avoid the mark as he watches a slider for strike 3.

Matsui has racked up 19 K's in 8 innings, which ties the record for most K's in a 9-innning regulation game at Koushien!  (The record is 25, but was an enchousen game).

And he still has one inning to go!

Bottom 8th
Ukawa gets plunked by Ishigaki and is bunted over.  Might as well practice I guess.

Uekusa with a grounder through the right side, and Ukawa is waved home.  But Itou throws a strike home and guns down Ukawa for the 2nd out!

Sakamoto finally gets his first hit as he singles back up the middle.

Tanaka singles to left, Uekusa scores, they send Sakamoto (probably for practice) and he's thrown out easily 7-6-2 to end the inning.

Top 9th
The game is in hand, but the question is - will Matsui hit 20 K's and hold the 9-inning regulation record all alone?

Top of the order and captain Ikeuchi.  He falls behind 1-2...  ball outside.

He does it!  Matsui Yuuki hits 20 K's and holds the record for most K's at Natsu Koushien for a 9-inning game!

#17 Yoshimoto comes in to PH, and he goes down on 3 straight watching a slider for the 3rd strike.  21 K's!

Kasazaki denies another 1-2-3 K inning by hitting a single to right.

But Suehiro earns the golden sombrero (or what do they call it in Japan??!!) as he K's for the 4th time to end the game.

It was a complete and utter domination of Imabari Nishi by Matsui Yuuki of Toukou Gakuen.  About the only good thing you can say is that you were part of history - even if it was the wrong end.

But just think about it.  22 of the possible 27 outs were recorded via the K.  22!!


Even I can't fathom that.

Sure, his control could be his undoing - though at least when he missed, he missed big and in the right places.

For now though, he has his moment.  It will certainly be in all the news broadcasts and in the newspapers.  But enjoy it today, then focus on the next game tomorrow.

Imabari Nishi were certainly underdogs coming into this game, but I don't think they were expecting this.  I wasn't.  Hopefully this doesn't crush them but instead motivates them to work harder.

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