Wrapping up today's schedule is a cross-country battle between Minami Hokkaido representative Sapporo Dai-ichi and Nagasaki's Sasebo Jitsugyou.
Sapporo Dai-ichi really earned their 3rd Natsu Koushien appearance as they had to defeat both Hokushou and Hokkai in back-to-back games and then came from behind to deny Sapporo Nichidai their first ever appearance.
Looking at their last 3 games against the aforemetioned teams, Sapporo Dai-ichi was very consistent. They batted 0.332 as a team overall, 0.333 versus in those 3 games. Top of the order batters Saitou and Takaishi are the table setters for the team.
On the other side of the ball, Kikuchi-kantoku rode ace Chiku for as long as he could, then went to his relievers #11 Yokouchi and #10 Kikuta when Tomohisa failed (it so happened to be the championship game!). Up until the final, they had yielded just 3 runs. None of the pitchers appear to be K masters (when compared to say Hokkai or Hokushou's successful runs).
Opposing them in the 1st base dugout is Sasebo Jitsugyou making their 4th appearance. Outside of their 1st game, the team appears to be a version of last year's Touyoudai Himeji - lots of low scoring affairs. This despite hitting 0.325 if you remove the 12-0 1st round win, as well as facing a Nagasaki Shougyou team that may have been implementing a platoon matchup with a left and a righty pitcher.
Shimizu-kantoku has used the pitcher timeshare to the maximum here, using #1 Kimura and #11 Kinoshita in roughly equal amounts in the final couple of games, much like Saga Kita. Wonder if this will continue at Koushien.
Sadly, because of the poor performance of Hokkaido teams since Komadai Tomakomai, the advantage probably lies with Sajitsu.
Sapporo Dai-ichi (Minami Hokkaido)
Sasebo Jitsugyou (Nagasaki)
3B Yamaguchi Akira
LF Sakai (#17)
SS Yamaguchi Makoto
15:39 - First Pitch
Saitou start the game with a liner down the left field side! Saitou stumbles around 1st, but then Sakai's throw misses the cutoff man and allows Saitou to take 2nd! Takaishi bunts him along to 3rd.
Yamada tries to drive the run in, but is frozen on a slightly delayed strike 3 call on a fastball on the outside corner.
Cleanup batter Murata draws a full count walk to keep the inning going, but Takahashi grounds out to 3rd to end the inning.
Nagatani goes down swinging on a slider way down and away.
Ura then draws a walk, which Shimizu-kantoku electing to have Akira bunt him over for a one-timer from Matsuyama.
First pitch Matsuyama swings out of his shoes... but misses. He eventually flies out to left to end the inning.
Chikuzawa first pitch hits a liner to center, Satou pushes him further 90 feet.
Kimura for Sajitsu has a fastball in the high 120s, with a cutter, slider and change and curveball.
Chiku can't connect on one such cutter and goes down for the 2nd out.
And Kikuchi-kantoku tries to set the game in motion by sending Chikuzawa, but he's easily thrown out to end the inning.
For Chiku, he has a fastball in the mid 130s and at least a slider in the mid 120s.
But he walks his 2nd batter this game in Tateishi. Kimura lays down the bunt, but Murata tries to get the force at 2nd, but the throw is wide and late!
Sakai now looking to lay down the bunt. Misses on his first attempt and now swings away to fall behind 1-2.
But Chiku throws 3 balls not even close and without the benefit of a hit, it's manrui for Sajitsu and #8 batter Sasahara. Kikuchi-kantoku calls for time.
Sasahara a bit eager, swinging on a slider up and in, then on a slider down and away. Then he manages to hold off on a borderline fastball and a fastball low as well.
Chiku finally retires him when he fouls out to 1st. Makoto now up with still only one down.
Shimizu-kantoku calls for the squeeze, but Makoto misses! Once again, Tateishi is left in the lurch and is run down while the runners advance.
And Chiku gets out of the pinch as Makoto grounds to short! Manrui with no down and Sajitsu fails to score!
It's a quick inning for Sapporo Dai-ichi as Kaze is caught looking on a fastball, Saitou grounds to 3rd, and Takaishi hits a weak comebacker to Kimura.
Just like that Sajitsu is back on the sticks.
Nagatani starts it off with a single past a diving Saitou into left. Ura sacrifices him over, though he does make it close at 1st.
Akira then draws a walk and Sasebo is starting to threaten again.
Matsuyama reaches down and slices a ball away to left center! Kaze and Chikazawa charging in, Kaze dives, but it's just out of his reach! Chikazawa gets the ball in, but Nagatani scores to give Sajitsu a 1-0 lead on Matsuyama's double!
Tateishi swings at the first pitch and hits a fly down the right field line. Satou is there for the catch as the runners tags up! The throw is offline and it's now 2-0 Sajitsu!
Kimura goes down swinging on a slider away, but Sajitsu strikes first!
One down for Sapporo and Yamada fists a ball over Akira's head for a base hit! Takahashi follows that up with a grounder past a diving Akira and Sapporo has a scoring situation developing!
Chikuzawa with yet another single to left and it's now manrui for Sapporo as Shimizu-kantoku calls for time with Satou stepping into the box.
Satou, on the 1-1 pitch dives on a pitch down and away and somehow manages to bunt the ball in play! Ura gets the ball, tries to reach back, but can't reach Murata who scores! Ura though has the presence of mind to get up and throw to 1st as Satou had to get up and run. He gets the job done though and the deficit is cut in half at 2-1!
Chiku up for Sapporo and he draws a walk. Manrui once again for Sapporo Dai-ichi. However, Kaze swings on the first pitch and grounds out to short.
Sakai works the count full against Chiku, but goes down swinging. Sasahara goes full as well, then bloops one to left.
Shimizu-kantoku has Makoto try to bunt, but he can't. Even when he three bunts (it's three, not free as I found out), he fouls out.
Nagatani flies out to left and the inning is over.
Saitou leads off the inning with a single to left. Takaishi bunts him over to 2nd.
Yamada swings on the first pitch and singles through to right! Saitou rounds 3rd, as Tateishi throws home! Ura with the swipe tag... SAFE!! Saitou just outruns the tag and is safe! We're all tied up at 2-2!!
Now Kikuchi-kantoku is asking cleanup batter Murata to bunt, but like Makoto last half inning he can't and fouls out!
2 down for Takahashi, and he's down on strikes!
But wait a minute, the count was 1-1! How can that be a strikeout? Sapporo's players talk to the plate umpire and after much discussion, and looking at the scoreboard, they finally determine that it was in fact 1-2, and not a strikeout. Sajitsu's players are wondering what's going on and talk to the plate umpire.
The right call was made, and one pitch later Takaashi goes down swinging anyways.
One down for Sajitsu and he hits a ball back up the middle. Takahashi runs it down, but has no play.
Matsuyama hits a shallow liner, but Satou charges in and makes the running catch!
Shimizu-kantoku then tries to send Akira, but he's thrown out to end the inning. We head to the break with Sapporo Dai-ichi having clawed their way back level.
Chikuzawa first pitch singles to center AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!
Nagatani whiffs on the bounds and has to go back to retrieve it! Chikuzawa advances to 2nd! Satou sacrifices him to 3rd and Sapporo Dai-ichi threatens to take the lead!
Chiku up and he shows bunt! But he doesn't offer at the pitch.
He does though when the count is 2-2 and he fouls out! 2 down!
And Kimura is bailed out as he gets Kaze to groundout to short to end the inning!
Tateishi works another count full, but chases a slider away for the first out. Chiku though then turns around and walks Kimura on 4 straight.
He throws 2 more to Sakai before he chases a slider down in the zone. Eventually Sakai works his 3rd full count in as many AB's and draws a walk. He's walked, struckout and walked on those 3 full counts.
That gets Kikuchi-kantoku to call time.
After the conference, Chiku immediately gets ahad of Sasahara 0-2.
But Sasahara hits a single to right! Kimura being waved around as Satou's throw is short, rolls on the ground and is late at home! Sajitsu retakes the 3-2 lead! Murata though catches Sasahara off 1st and he snap throws to 1st! He's caught in a rundown and 2-3-6 for the 2nd out! Sakai stays at 3rd.
Chiku meanwhile still can't find the strike zone and he walks Masato of all batters.
#11 Yokouchi begins to warm up in the bullpen as leadoff batter Nagatani steps in.
Masato takes off for 2nd on the 2-0 pitch. Murata's throw to 2nd is cutoff by Takaishi as he snap throws to 3rd.
Nagatani gets ahead 3-0, but a called strike and an unforunate pitch that hits the bat on what would have been ball 4 fills up the count. He then chases a ball way outside the zone and the inning is over. But Sajitsu retakes the lead!
Saitou with a fly ball to left. Sakai running back to the wall, still running... STILL RUNNING!!!!!
Wow, are you kidding me???!!
Saitou gets that run right back with a homerun that too is at least 10 rows back! We're tied again at 3-3!!!!!
Takaishi with a grounder to the right side! Sasahara can't get it, but Matsuyama backing up the play does. But Kimura can't find the bag on the toss and Takaishi is safe! Yamada immediately lays down the bunt to put the gyakuten runner in scoring position.
Murata first pitch swings and hits a fly to right. Tateishi makes the catch and fires it in as Takaishi tags up! The throw in is good, but the relay throw is tossed over and that allows him to slide in safely! Now a base hit will give Sapporo Dai-ichi the lead!
But no! Takahashi goes down swinging to end the Lucky 7 for Sapporo, and it was a success as they have at least leveled the score!
Chiku's control issues remain as Ura works a full count walk. How long will Kikuchi-kantoku leave him in the game??
And again, he throws 2 more balls before he finally records a strike. Then a slider seems to be sheepishly called a strike by the home plate umpire.
Shimizu-kantoku calls for the three bunt, but Akira fouls it off and strikes out!
Matsuyama up and he basically fists a ball inside over Takahashi and into center for a single! Runners on 1st and 2nd with just one down and Sajitsu threatens again!
Chiku gets ahead of Tateishi 0-2, but he's clearly laboring on the mound. Meanwhile, Tateishi is fouling off pitch after pitch, raising Chiku's pitch count even further.
Tateishi with a hot shot through the left side for a base hit! Ura holds up at 3rd as it's manrui for Sajitsu here in the 7th!
Kikuchi-kantoku calls time, but Chiku's already at 146 pitches through only 6.1 innings!
Kimura steps in as the first pitch is buried by Chiku. Kikuchi-kantoku must not want to go to his bullpen at all.
Kimura shows sqeeze, but takes it back for a called strike. Another pitch buried short. Now a fastball high and it's 3-1 to Kimura! There's no place to put him! You bet he's taking all the way.
BALL 4! OSHIDASHI! Sajitsu once again retakes the lead on the bases loaded walk at 4-3!
And only now does Kikuchi-kantoku send in #11 Yokouchi to relieve him. Sorry, but that just a case of being stubborn as opposed to doing the right thing at 146 pitches. 4 walks in the last 1.1 innings was a clear sign that he was laboring.
Yokouchi ahead 2-2, throws a borderline curve, but doesn't get the call. He comes back though and rifles a fastball in there for strike 3! 2 down!
AH!! Yokouchi hits Sasahara and that brings in a run making it 5-3.
Yokouchi finally ends the inning as Makoto grounds out to 2nd. But a self-created mess blows up on Sapporo Dai-ichi and they're back to being behind 2, now with just 2 innings to go.
Chikuzawa gets on for the 4th time, this time by letting a borderline pitch go by for ball 4.
Shimizu sends in #7 Tanaka in for Sakai as a defensive replacement before Satou steps in.
Satou not bunting here, even though he had the last 3 times, and flies out to left. That decision isn't as questionable as you are playing for 2 runs. But you can try for one run an inning still. There's no right or wrong there in my opinion.
However, results-based wise, the decision backfires as Yokouchi grounds into the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
One down for Sajitsu, and Ura has his groundball go between the wickets of Takahashi and into center.
Akira lays down the bunt, but when Yokouchi pulls up from fielding it, both Yamada and Takaishi charge in, which means no one is covering 1st. All safe!
Matsuyama with a base hit through the right side! Ura holds up at 3rd and it's manrui for Sajitsu once again!
Tateishi with a drive to center, but Chikazawa charging in makes the catch and the runners have to hold.
Kimura grounds out to 3rd, Saitou elects to go to 2nd and they barely get Matsuyama for the 3rd out. Yokouchi's done what he could...
Now can they find 2 runs before they record 3 outs?
#13 Nagayama replaces Sasahara at 1B
Kaze falls behind 0-2 and grounds to 3rd.
Saitou gets ahead 2-0 and drives a ball to deep center! Nagatani sprinting back to wall, makes the running catch! 2 down! Up to Takaishi to keep the game alive.
Grounder to 1st, takes a high hop and off of Nagayama into right! Still life for Sapporo Dai-ichi!
But Yamada hits a grounder to 2nd. Matsuyama throws to 1st, and that's the ballgame! Sasebo Jitsugyou despite numerous comebacks from Sapporo Dai-ichi put the game away late and will advance!
A well played game on both sides to finish out Day 4, but the final turning point may have been the oshidashi walk that would give Sajitsu the lead for good. Chiku had run the count to 3 balls to 6 of the prior 10 batters before the walk, and had given up 4 walks, 3 hits and struck out 3. He was certainly out of gas.
Unless you have no confidence in your relief corps, you needed to send in Yokouchi sooner. Even if it didn't work out, at least you made the right decision.
But so it goes, the team from Minami Hokkaido goes home after a hard fought, but 5-3 loss to Sasebo Jitsugyou.
As for Sajitsu, they'll prepare for a 2nd round matchup with Ube Koujyou. They were helped out by walks this time around, but it'll certainly be different next time around.
Matsuyama Kazuhiro (Sasebo Jitsugyou) - 3-5, 2B, R, RBI
Sasahara Takumi (Sasebo Jitsugyou) - 2-3, RBI, HBP
Yamaguchi Akira (Sasebo Jitsugyou) - 2-3, R, BB, K
Saitou Hiromu (Sapporo Dai-ichi) - 3-5, HR, 2 R, RBI
Chikazawa Masaki (Sapporo Dai-ichi) - 3-3, BB