So first off to Shikoku and Naruto. No, not the anime, stop asking me. Tokushima's prefecturals are so small, that Naruto just needed 4 games to win their 7th title.
This brings them back to Koushien for the summer. In Senbatsu, after a close win against Sumoto, they upset Sakushin Gakuin before losing to Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi. This time around they're looking for a little more.
Naruto batted a very nice 0.411 during the 4-game stretch, though that drops to 0.353 when looking at the games against Naruto Uzushio (fka Naruto Kougyou) and former powerhouse (but trying to make a comeback) Ikeda. 1B Sugimoto was money in both of those games (6-6, 3 RBIs), so he'll be one to watch.
From the spring, Goutouda had a fastball in the low-mid 130s, slider in the high 110s-low 120s, and a slow curve in the high 90s-low 100s.
Opposing Naruto will be Seiseiko, who hasn't been at Koushien in 18 years. They only had to get through Kyushu Gakuin, whom 2 years ago had reached the Best 8.
That game, plus a 3-0 win over Kumamoto Kokufu were the only 2 times Seiseiko were challenged. The scary part is that they averaged over 6 runs a game while hitting a meager 0.248 (and 0.203) in their last 2 games. Afforded the opportunity, they will take a walk when presented with one, but when they played Kyushu Gakuin they walked just once.
So... hello ace Ootake. He seems to get his fair share of strikeouts, so he's doesn't appear to be a soft-tosser. He also limits his walks too, so he won't defeat himself.
It doesn't look good for Seiseiko as the poor offense is generally hard to overcome, but it can be done (hello Ryuukokudai Heian).
LF Nakamura Kenrou
2B Andou (#12)
1B Nakamura Kenta
10:40 - First Pitch!
Good start for Ootake ashe gets Kawano chasing a ball away for out #1. Shimada does the same, and rolls a grounder back to Ootake.
And Inaoka does the same! 2nd year Ootake with a good 1-2-3 inning to set the tone for Seiseiko!
Huh, didn't notice how 5 of the 9 starting members for Naruto were 2nd years until the announce said so.
Matsunaga with a bloop base hit down the left field line for a base hit! Nishi lays down the bunt, and Nishiguchi goes to 2nd, but Matsunaga is safe! Big chance for Seiseiko early!
But Kusaka catches Matsunaga off 2nd on the 0-1 pitch! He's run down for the 1st out! Nishi advances to 2nd. Kengo advances him to 3rd on a ground ball to the right side.
Wild pitch! Goutouda throws a wild pitch and Nishi heads for home! But the ball doesn't go far away and Kusaka tosses to Goutouda... OUT! 2 baserunning out and what was a promising inning for Seiseiko goes begging!
Ootake with his 2nd K, getting Sugimoto to swing on a fastball on the outside half. Then Nishi makes a great play in the gap and Andou makes a great stretch on the high throw for the 2nd out.
Matsumoto pops out in foul territory to end the inning.
Yamashita goes down swinging on a slider for the first out.
Nishiguchi gets hit by a Goutouda pitch and now Nakayama bunts the runner along for hopefully a one-timer from Ootake.
But Ootake is frozen on a fastball on the outside corner and the side is retired.
So, Ootake looks to have a fastball in the low 130's, maybe a cutter in the high 120s, and a change in the high 110s.
Kusaka fouls off several pitches in various places in the zone, but grounds to short. Ootake gets yet another K as Goutouda can't hit a fastball on the outside half.
Nakano gets Naruto's first hit, a single through the right side. But that is short lived as Kawano flies out to right.
Kenta, with a golf shot and slices it to shallow left for a base hit! Andou bunts him along to 2nd.
Now Kenta is picked off 2nd by Kusaka! He sprints for 3rd and the throw is offline! He's safe at 3rd!
Grounder to 3rd! Matsumoto with it, looks home, but has no play! Throw to 1st, not in time!! Speed can be a 2-edged sword and it works in their favor here! Seiseiko takes a 1-0 lead!
Nishi tries to bunt the runner along, but falls behind 0-2 and can't check his swing for the 2nd out.
So Matsunaga takes matters into his own hands and steals 2nd himself!
However, he's left stranded as Kengo flies out to right. Still, it's Seiseiko who's on the board!
Wow, Ootake is doing a great job against Naruto. Shimada hits a infield foul pop to Nakamura. Inaoka chases a slider for Ootake's 4th K, and Sugimoto hits a harmless fly to left for another 1-2-3 inning!
One down and Nishiguchi hits a blast to right! Yamato doesn't really move from his spot!!
Nishiguchi gets around on the ball and pulls it all the way for a solo HR! Seiseiko now leads 2-0!!
Nakayama puts his bat out on the ball and guides it over third and in for a base hit! Ikeda-kantoku has Ootake bunt for a one-timer from Kenta.
He falls behind 1-2 but is making an AB out of it, fouling off balls that are way inside.
Kenta grounds out to 2nd to end the inning, but yet another HR to right doubles Seiseiko's lead!!
Yamato with a grounder to 1st, and Kenta boots it! It goes back towards home as Yamato passes it to 1st! Matsumoto bunts him along to 2nd.
Kusaka with a blast to left! Yamashita chasing it back to the foul pole, still running!
It's off the fence! Yamashita throws the ball in, but the error costs Seiseiko as Yamato score to make it 2-1!
Gotouda can't advance the runner as he hits a comebacker to Ootake. 2 down and it's up to last batter Nakano.
But Ootake rings up Nakano on a fastball again on the outer half! Naruto gets the HR back, but stil trail by 1!
Andou reaches when a chopper up the middle is deflected by Goutouda back to the left and is slowed down. By the time Kawano gets to it, its too late!
Matsunaga bunts him along to 2nd. Nishi lays down a bunt! Kusaka there, looks to 3rd, but Matsumoto was charging in! Throw to 1st, not in time!
Man, these guys are fast.
Hit-and-run! Kengo swings away, but lines out to short! Kawano tags Nishi and the side is retired!
But Seiseiko leads 2-1 on the back of speed and a HR.
You know what though? Seiseiko reminds me a little of Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi, the same team that defeated Naruto in the spring!
Hm... there's a delay as CF Yamashita appears to need medical treatment for something. He wasn't involved in any plays, so I wonder what's wrong.
As the announcers make small talk, I only notice now that the stands are full, no doubt for Osaka Touin.
After a bit of a delay, he exits and returns to center.
Ootake with his 6 K and Kawano can't catch to the 130 kph fastball.
Shimada quickly flies out to right for the 2nd out.
Inaoka with a ball back up the middle. Nishi makes a good stop and throw to 1st for the 3rd out!
Yamashita up to start the inning and he looks fine, except for the now 0-3 day as he pops to 2nd.
Nishiguchi with a grounder to short. Kawano throw to 1st is low and Sugimoto can't get it! Nakayama bunts him over for Ootake.
Ootake a comebacker to Goutouda and deflects off his glove! He gets it as it rolls to 3rd and makes the play at 1st for the 3rd out!
Two quick outs for Ootake, then he freezes Matumoto on a change right over the plate! That's 7 K's in 7 innings!
Kenta with a base hit past a diving Nakano into rigth! Andou to bunt the runner along, but falls behind 0-2! He three bunts and lays it down! Runner in scoring position as the lineup turns over to Matsunaga!
Matsunaga tries the safety bunt but it goes foul! Shows it again but lays off for a ball. Count goes to 3-1 and he swings away! Fouls it off though and it runs full.
Matsunaga with a full swing short slicer to the left side! Matsumoto charges in, throws to 1st, but it's not in time!! Runners at the corners with one down!
Kusaka with a snap throw to 3rd, and they almost had Kenta!
Nishi swinging away! Down the left field line... foul!
Nishi with a liner! Kawano jumps and makes the catch! Throws to 1st again and they double off the runner again! 3 outs!
Wait a minute. The score is 3-1! How is that possible??!!
The home plate umpire explains it:
The short liner was caught for the 2nd out. But before the 3rd out was recorded at 1st, Kenta scored from 3rd!! And with Naruto going into the dugout, they lost any chance of an appeal!
You see, it was more of a toss to 1st and a casual tag of the bag. So it's completely possible that Kenta could have scored on the play!
So Naruto enters the 8th down 2!
Kusaka works on getting the runs back with a single past Kenta into right. Goutouda bunts him over. But Ootake's been working that outside corner all game! Nakano strikes out swinging for the 2nd out!
And Kawano looks at strike 3! Ball gets away from Nishiguchi, but he makes the throw to 1st for the 3rd out! What masterful pitching by Ootake!
Whoa, now I saw why the umpire mentioned something about an appeal. Kenta never tagged up, but the home plate umpire counted the run! And so because he counted the run, Naruto would have to appeal that Kenta left early. Except that they left the field and thus lost their right to appeal!
It's a routine 1-2-3 inning for Goutouda as Kengo strikes out swinging, Yamashita check swing hits the ball and grounds back to Gououda, and Nishiguchi fouls out to Sugimoto.
Last ups for Naruto.
#11 Ise up, hits a liner down the left field line, caught by Matsumoto for the 1st out!
Inaoka with a slow grounder to 1st. Kenta there and tags the bag for the 2nd out!
Sugimoto the last chance, and he hits a grounder that sneaks past the glove of Nishi into left!
Yamato with a grounder to short. Nishi throws to 1st... and the game is over! Seiseiko defeats Naruto 3-1!
Now, to be fair, perhaps Naruto would have played the last couple of innings differently had they been down 1 instead of 2. But at the same time Ootake had just given up 3 hits on the day. But anything could have happened, so how much did that insurance run deflate Naruto?
So Naruto, a team that probably had great ambitions, was defeated by a team is a partial copy of Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi. It's painful in a way that they didn't conrol part of the game, and I really do feel for them. But at the same time, Ootake as mentioned before was completely masterful with 9 K's, no walks and just 3 hits. So credit must be given to Ootake and Seiseiko, who played a game that wreaked havoc all over the place. If they do face Osaka Touin (and they probably will), they need to learn from Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi and continue that strategy into that game.
Ootake Koutarou (Seiseiko) - CG, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 H, 9 K, 0 BB
Nishiguchi Takahiro (Seiseiko) - 1-3, HR, R, RBI, HBP
Nakamura Kenta (Seiseiko) - 2-3, 2R
Goutouda Shuusaku (Naruto) - 8 IP, 3 R, 2 ER (?), 8 H, 4 K, BB
Kusaka Daiki (Naruto) - 2-3, 2B, RBI