Our post-lunch game features a team that is a regular to Koushien - but has done little in recent years, versus a squad that hasn't been to Natsu Koushien in 52 years!
We almost had a completely new champion in Nara. Only Kooriyama (3 times) has been able to break the duopoly that Tenri and Chiben Gakuen held in Nara since 1971.
And yet this year Tenri in the semifinals trailed Kashihara Gakuin 6-4 before rallying to win 7-6. Chiben Gakuen did lose in the semifinals to Unebi 4-3 after they took back the run Chiben scored in their half of the lucky 7.
With one side out of the way, Tenri was free to claim the Nara title, which it did for the 26th time in school history.
However, you can throw Tenri's 0.359 team batting average out the window. With 2 teams dominating the prefecture, statistics like that can only be taken with a grain of salt - if that.
What you can say is that the whole of the Tenri pitching corps giving up back-to-back 6 run games is disconcerting. Given, ace Nakatani was responsible for just 4 of those runs, but that was in limited use. That means that the relief corps cannot be relied upon and Nakatani is a bit on shaky ground as well. The Tenri offense - whatever it may be, will need to put runs on the board as they cannot survive a low scoring game.
While Miyazaki Kougyou had gone to senbatsu 2 years ago, their last appearance at Natsu Koushien was 52 years ago when they were known as Ooyodo. Yet, it was Iwakiri-kantoku's goal when he assumed the job in 2004 to get Miyazaki Kougyou to Koushien in 10 years. He's taken them to senbatsu in just 6, and here to Natsu Koushien in 8 - well ahead of schedule.
This victory was not cheap in any way. They defeated Miyazaki Nichidai, then Nobeoka Gakuen and then fought back after St. Ursula came from behind to take the lead, scoring 2 runs late for the title.
The team was not a very high scoring bunch, averaging a shade under 5 runs a game while holding a flat 0.300 batting average. Of the players to watch out for is probably RF Doumen.
On the mound, it's ace Nagatomo for the most part with Iwakiri-kantoku willing to go to #10 Seki if necessary. Neither will strike out nor walk many batters, so it'll be up to the defense to keep the team in the game.
The game should be close as Iwakiri-kantoku has done quite a lot in his tenure at Miyazaki Kougyou and are probably not the pushovers many people think they might be. They'll stand more than a fighting chance in their opening round game.
Miyazaki Kougyou (Miyazaki)
CF Shimizu (#15)
LF Kurogi Yuusuke (#8)
13:06 - First Pitch!
Ukita leads of the game with a solid base hit to right. After Shimizu goes down swinging, Iwakiri-kantoku sends Ukita to 2nd. But Funabiki makes a great throw and they get the out!
Nakatani replaces the runner though as he plunks Kurogi. Not a problem though as Ibii grounds out to short to end the inning.
Nagatomo's first inning goes fairly smoothly as Tenri's batter appear to be a bit on edge to start. Higashihara strikes out badly between two groundouts and Tenri's 1st is over quickly.
Both teams going at a quick pace as Miyazaki's batters are swinging early too. Nakatani takes just 6 pitches to retire the side.
I barely have time to note that Nagatomo throws in the mid 130's with a slider (120s) and curve (110s) it appears.
He games two quick groundouts, and Yoshimura after working the count full is fooled on yet another change to end the inning.
One down, Yamaguchi hits a ball to shallow center. Watase, Yoshimura, Higashihara all converge, but it just falls in between the for a base hit!
Iwakiri-kantoku tries for the hit-and-run, but the bal bounces right to Watase who goes to 1st for the 2nd out.
Shimizu first pitch singles to left. And they're sending Yamaguchi???!!!!!!!!
Hayata throws him out by a very wide margin.
I'm getting a feeling that the teams want to go somewhere quickly. Kimura grounds to 3rd, Nakatani harmlessly flies out to right, and Funabiki goes down swinging. We're averaging 10 minutes an inning right now!
Kurogi gives the ball a ride to center. Higashihara runs back, then starts backpedaling and makes a dangerous catch. Run to the the spot, turn around then go if you have to. All this backpedaling stuff will get you into trouble and quickly.
Ibii meanwhile is early on a ball and grounds out to 2nd.
Nothing different with Nakatani. Still throws in the low-mid 130's with a slider, curve and changeup.
Doumen swings at an outside fastball and grounds out to 1st.
Higashihara connects on a hanging slider and drives it over Kurogi's head and to the wall for a double!
Watase with a single through the right side! Highashihara rounds 3rd, stops, but then sees Doumen kick the ball forwards! He restarts home only to have Doumen make a great throw home to nail him!
Furuta on a hit-and-run, hits it back up the middle. Nomura has no play at 2nd, and makes a great jumping throw to 1st for the out. A great chance for Tenri evaporated just like that.
Oota swings on a 2-0 pitch and flies out to left. Nomura works the count full but does the same.
And Nagatomo hits one to Inabetsu, who takes it to the bag for the 3rd out.
We are literally going at ludicrous speed here in the 3rd game of this set.
Inabetsu first pitch hits a single to left. Yoshimura moves the runner over, and then Nagatomo hits Kimura! Tenri with a good chance here to get a run in.
Nagatomo though gets Nakatani to fly out to right. Inabetsu advances on the play as Iwakiri-kantoku calls for time.
Last batter Funabiki up. On the 2-1 pitch Kimura takes off and there's no throw!
But Nagatomo gets Funabiki to swing and miss on a 3-2 curve to end the inning! We hit the break averaging 10 minutes per inning and both sides free swinging away!
Miyazaki oen-dan playing Keio Chance. Anything to get the offense going. Yamaguchi though grounds out to 2nd.
Ukita gets his 2nd hit reaching down and poking the ball to center.
Shimizu though first pitch swings and pops out to 2nd.
Kurogi with a first pitch single to right! Ukita advances to 3rd on the play and now it's Nakatani in a pinch!
Ibii breaks the deadlock! He hits a grounder through the left side! Ukita scores and Miyazaki Kougyou has the 1-0 lead!
Doumen grounds out to 2nd, but not before Miyazaki Kougyou strings 3 hits together to score the first run of the game!
Hayata bloops one to center to get Tenri's counterattack running.
Higashihara pulls back and swings away! But it's right at AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The ball goes right under Ukita's legs and into center! Hayata advances to 3rd on the error!
1-1 and they go for the hit-and-run again! The pitch is wide and ther's no throw to 2nd.
Watase with a weak chopper to ther right side. Miyazaki Kougyou, expecting a squeeze (because Tenri always did it at Koushien), was playing in. Oota has to go field the ball, but can't cleanly pick it! He has to go to 1st, tosses it... AND NO ONE GOES FOR THE BALL!!
Nagatomo makes a late stab, but the ball is way past by that point! Hayata already in as Higashihara breaks and scores on the error! Tenri mysteriously leads 2-1!!
Now they go for the bunt with no down as Watase heads to 3rd.
Inabetsu trying to keep the momentum going works the count full... but Nagatomo strikes him out looking on a borderline strike down in the zone!
Yoshimura grounds out to short to end the inning, but Tenri somehow has taken the lead here in the 6th!
Hm. Hashimoto-kantoku decides now to pull Nakatani and put in #11 Yamamoto. I really hope this isn't over-managing again (this after they finally decided not to do a squeeze bunt).
Well, to start he's not looking good at all bouncing balls way in front as well as not getting some calls (but it's really hard to tell with the camera angle). He walks Oota to start the inning. Iwakiri-kantoku replaces him with #11 Shiota.
Nomura then hits a hard single to right and the decision to relieve Nakatani may backfire!
With no down, Nagatomo goes for the sac bunt, but Yamamoto fields and fires to 3rd getting Shiota on the force!
Yamaguchi still with a chance to drive in a run, but he grounds to short! Yoshimura calmly starts the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning!
#13 Ishiyama comes in for PR Shiota and takes over at 1B.
Kimura with a slicer down the right field line as he runs through 1st and is in with a double! Looking for the insurance run, Hashimoto-kantoku has Yamamoto bunt.
Funabiki up and SQUEEZE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hashimoto-kantoku surprises me and the Miyazaki defense by calling for the squeeze bunt this time!
AND IT WORKS!!!!!
Ishiyama's only play is to 1st and Tenri plates the insurance run! It's 3-1!!
Hayata strikes out to end the inning, but finally by not being predicatble, the predictable works!
Miyazkai Kougyou running out of time. Ukita grounds out to start the inning. #7 Kuroki comes in to hit for Shimizu, but strikes out.
2 quick outs for Yamamoto here in the 8th.
Kuroki hits a grounder to the gap on the left side. Yoshimura runs it down, but his throw short hops 1st! And so the inning continues.
But Yamamoto's control issues resurface! He walks Ibii, and then plunks Doumen! It's manrui for Miyazaki!
The moment though gets to Ishiyama as he swings on the first pitch and grounds out to 2nd to end the inning!
PH Kuroki goes into left, while Kurogi moves to his numbered position in center.
Higashihara works a 4-pitch walk, but when he tries to take 2nd is gunned down by Ibii.
Watase and Furuta go down quickly and now it's hold on time for Tenri!
Nomura goes down swinging on three straight. #10, their captain Seki, comes in to hit for Nagatomo, but flies out to right, 2 down.
Last chance for Miyazaki as #16 Ikeda hits for Yamaguchi.
Yamamoto gets him to swing on a high fastball and Tenri wins the ballgame!
Well, color me surprised. Tenri didn't get in it's own way in this game, and they even did things people weren't expecting! Was it a great peformance, heavens no. But the small things like not squeezing when the other team expects you to, then doing it later when they're not expecing it. Perhaps the lifting of Nakatani knowing his limits. Either way, Tenri moves on. They're still not favorites, but they seem to be learning.
For Miyazaki Kougyou, you can't be sad with their efforts, for the most part it was a well played game, just that some things didn't fall their way. If nothing else they should be proud to have sent their school to Natsu Koushien after many years off. If Iwakiri-kantoku stays I wouldn't be surprised to see the school challenge for the title in the future.
Nakatani Keita (Tenri) - W, 6 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 2 K, HBP
Kimura Hide (Tenri) - 1-2, 2B, R, HBP
Nagatomo Yuuki (Miyazaki Kougyou) - L, CG, 3 R, 1 ER, 6 H, 6 K, 2 BB
Ukita (Miyazaki Kougyou) - 2-4, R