Our elevenses (≈brunch time) matchup today features Kita-Ootsu, who almost reached the Best 8 two years ago, versus Takigawa Dai-ni whose last appearance before the turn of the century resulted in a quarterfinal appearance.
Hyogo baseball is back on the upswing. After years of first game eliminations, the representatives from Hyogo have appeared in the Best 8 3 out the last 4 years and 4 of the last 6.
Given though, it was done solely between Touyoudai Himeji and Houtoku Gakuen, but it still is rather impressive.
This year though, Takigawa Dai-ni takes advantage of the elimination of both prefectural stalwarts to earn just their 3rd ever appearance. The road wasn't a total piece of cake as they had to play Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (won 5-1), the aforementioned Houtoku Gakuen (2-1), and Kakogawa Kita in the finals (6-2).
A 0.298 batting average doesn't inspire too much confidence in the team's offense, but if there's one player that the opposition will probably have to worry about, it's #3 batter Fujikawa. He makes consistent contact on the ball, and isn't afraid to take a walk.
On the mound, Shibutani-kantoku depended on ace Satou to carry them the last couple of games. #10 Ushio and #11 Tanaka Kenta were used, but sparingly. Satou though won't strike out a lot of batters, so the defense will be pressed into action early and often.
Meanwhile, Kita-Ootsu makes their 3rd ever Natsu appearance after beating Oumi, Yachiman Shougyou, and Yasu in consecutive games for the title.
What's concerning is that as soon as they started facing tougher competition, their offensive production dropped. So that team batting average of 0.331 in prefecture is probably inflated. It also means that Miyazaki-kantoku will have to turn to ace Sakurai along with relievers Norimoto and Takemoto to give them a chance.
All this probably means that we're looking at a low scoring game with Takigawa Dai-ni getting the advantage thanks to a stronger prefecture.
Takigawa Dai-ni (Hyogo)
P Norimoto (#10)
10:35 - First Pitch!
Matsuo leads off the game with a walk. Shibutani-kantoku sends Matsuo and Kitagata drops the ball! Now at 2nd, Mori's bunt moves him 90 feet away.
Fujikawa is able to lay down the bunt on a curve and Norimoto has no play at home! He goes to 1st as Matsuo scores to make it 1-0 Takigawa! They get a run without the benefit of a hit!
Baba does get the first hit of the game a hot shot past Yamada into left. He's stranded as Sawada strikes out looking, but Takaigawa Dai-ni has drawn first blood!
Momohara works the count full, but flies out to center.
The announcers for the game state that Satou carries a slider, curve, changeup, splitter and 2-seam fastball.
Morii checks in with a base hit as his grounder scoots by Matsuo into center. He takes off for 2nd as Higashi strikes out. The throw from Oosugi is in time, but low and Mori can't field it.
Houjyou gets around on an inside pitch and drives it to the right center field gap! Morii comes around to score and just as quickly Kita-Ootsu finds the douten run!
But Houjyou presses his luck as he tries to take 3rd on a wild pitch. But it's not as far away which allows Oosugi to gun him down at 3rd. Still he drives in the douten run and we're back to square 1.
Norimoto against the bottom half of the lineup, is faring better as he just needs 8 pitches to retire the side in order. Much better than his first inning.
Matsukawa leads off with a single to right. A bunt and groundout advance him all the way to 3rd, but Norimoto fails to drive him in, instead grounding back to Satou.
Norimoto continues to work efficiently as he retires the side in order yet again. Takigawa's batters continue to have trouble making contact on Norimoto's offerings.
Satou retires the first two batters before Morii hits a soft liner to left. Fujikawa comes in and Satou goes for 2! Fujikawa hurries up, but the throw is way late! Nice hustle by Morii.
And now Higashi with a ball to deep right center! That falls in front of the wall as Morii scores.
AH! Matsuo's throw is wild and Higashi runs home on the error making it now a 3-1 lead!
Houjyou grounds out, but it's clear Kita-Ootsu has the advantage.
Baba collects his 2nd hit of the day on a one-out single to left! However he's left stranded as Sawada pops out and while Oshibe finally makes good contact, he lines out to right.
Matsukawa collects his 2nd hit as welll on a grounder to right. He's bunted along to 2nd.
Yamada with a base hit to right! Matsukawa thinks about home but scurries back just in time. Miyazaki-kantoku sends Yamada but it's a delayed double steal! Except Oosugi isn't fooled! He catches Matsukawa heading home and runs him down.
Takeue's throw back home goes over everyone! Matsukawa scores on the error and it's 4-1!
Miyazaki-kantoku has Norimoto try for the free bunt, but fouls out! Satou retires Kitagawa to limit the damage, but they're now down 3.
One out again for Takigawa and Takeue singles to right. Shibutani-kantoku elects to have last batter Satou bunt the runner along for a one-timer.
But Matsuo grounds to short. Momohara though doesn't field it cleanly! His throw is late and everyone's safe!
Now it's Norimoto with a wild pitch! Takeue comes in to score and it's a 4-2 ballgame!
Norimoto seems a bit rattle as he struggles with his control and walks Mori to put runners at 1st and 2nd.
Fujikawa up next and he bloops one to center! Yamazaki and Momohara converge, and collide! The ball pops out of Yamazaki's glove and Matsuo comes in to score! It's 4-3!!
And now Norikawa is called for a balk! He drops the ball which in the set position and the runners are awarded a base! Mori comes home and we're all tied at 4-4!!!
What the heck is happening here??!!
Baba with a base hit to left! They decide to send Fujikawa home on the shallow hit! Matsukawa fires home and easily gets Fujikawa for the 3rd out.
But a strange turn of events here in the top of the 5th leave the game all square at 4!
Emboldened by the 3-run inning, Satou retires the first 2 batters. But Higashi proves to be too stubborn as a laser past the infield into right center leads to a triple after Sawada takes a bad angle!
With 2 down, Satou walks Houjyou on 4 straight?? That brings up Matsukawa who's 2-2 on the day!
And despite that, they pitch to him! Satou falls behind 3-1, then gets a foul ball to fill up the count.
The gamble pays off as Matsukawa grounds to 2nd! Matsuo flips to 2nd and they get out of the pinch!
So we hit the break with Takigawa Dai-ni fortunate to have the game tied through 5. Can they build on the momentum? Or will Kita-Ootsu regain control of the game?
A bit shaky to start as a grounder to short is bobbled by Momohara, but he is still able to make the play at 1st.
Oshibe with a popup to left, Matsukawa charges in, slows up, and it falls in! Did he lose it in the sun? Misjudge it perhaps??
Either way the go-ahead runner is on and Shibatani-kantoku elects to go for the one-timer by bunting him over.
But Norimoto gets Takaue to pop it up! Yamazaki gets under it for the 3rd out.
Yamazaki, not bunting for the first time this game hits a ball to the left side. Mori runs it down but his throw doesn't have enough oomph to get there in time. Now it's Yamada's turn to bunt him over.
But the opportunity goes for naught as Norimoto quickly flies out to center, and Kitagawa fouls out to thend the inning.
Neither pitcher is looking rather impressive, rather the batters just aren't making contact. Norimoto is topping out in the low 130's with the splitter in the mid-high 120s, slider in the low 120's/high 110s and a possible curve in the 100s.
And yet Satou flies out and Matsuo offers on a pitch in the dirt.
Mori gives some life in the lucky 7 with a walk, then straight steals 2nd while Norimoto is in the set position!
But he gives it all back when Norimoto picks him off for the 3rd out!
Momohara finally collects his first hit as he takes one back up the middle. Morii successfully bunts him to 2nd. Higashi up and he can give his team the lead.
Instead, he pops it up! Matsuo comes in to the mound to make the catch for the 2nd out.
By the way, as for the side-throwing Satou he throws only up to the mid 120's, so you'd think they'd be able to get some solid hits off of him.
Instead Houjyou works the walk to put more pressure.
And a wild pitch has the runners taking off! But the ball isn't far away and Oosugi guns down Momohara at 3rd to end the inning!
Fujikawa with a deep fly to left! Matsukawa running backwards, still backpedaling, turns around, stumbles and the ball drops in! Fujikawa in with a double!
And the fielding issues for 1st-year Matsukawa continue...
Bunt from Baba catches the defense off-guard! Norimoto fields it, but Yamada is off the bag and his only play is to 1st. Now the go-ahead run is 90 feet away with Sawada showing bunt.
Count at 2-1 and he swings away! It's a ball to center! Morii is under it, but it's deep enough that Fujiisawa can tag up giving Takigawa Dai-ni the 5-4 lead here in the 8th!
Oosugi grounds out to short, but Takigawa has completed the comeback and now needs to hold for 6 outs.
Matsukawa up to start the inning, but he can't redeem himself grounding out to 2nd. Yamazaki follows that up with a high pop to Matsuo as well.
Yamada hits a weak grounder up the 1st base line and Baba applies the tag for the 3rd out!
Looking for an insurance run Takaue lines a high fastball to center for a base hit. Satou lays down a beautiful sac bunt down the 1st base line.
After losing leadoff Matsuo to a walk, Miyazaki-kantoku sends in ace Sakurai to relieve Norimoto.
Mori though doesn't care who's on the mound! He singles to right loading the bases!
Sakurai gets one of the 2 outs as Fujikawa pops out!
Baba with a ball to shallow right! Higashi charging in, dives... AND MAKES THE CATCH!!!!
Higashi saves the game with a great catch! Now can the offense deliver?
New P Sakurai goes down swinging on 3 straight.
#13 Kitai comes in to hit for Kitagawa, and he goes down swinging, 2 out! It's up to Momohara now, but he too falls behind 0-2!
Momohara reaches down and pokes one past Takaue into left! There's still life for Kita-Ootsu as Morii steps in, and Higashi is on deck!
But Morii hits a fly to center! Sawada gets under it... and makes the catch to end the game!
Kita-Ootsu was certainly the better team in the early going, but lapses in the 5th inning gave Takigawa the momentum it needed to make a comeback and eventually win the game.
It certainly wasn't clean on either end with errors made leading to runs, but Kita-Ootsu can't be too disappointed with their performance. Despite losing the lead, they have numerous chances to retake the lead, but couldn't capitalize.
Takigawa Dai-ni will need to regroup after this win as next up they'll get Urasoe Shougyou. And they'll get all they can handle.
Baba Shouhei (Takigawa Dai-ni) - 3-4
Fujikawa Kouki (Takigawa Dai-ni) - 2-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI
Higashi Akio? (Kita-Ootsu) - 2-4, 2 3B, R, RBI, K