Day 7 will signify the end of all teams playing their opening game and the start of seeing how teams deal with opposition they might have had a chance to scout a bit.
Not yet though as there are 5 school still left to take the hallowed grounds of Koushien.
First up will be Meitoku Gijyuku from Kochi and Sakata Minami.
Meitoku Gijyuku was one of those team that almost didn't make it to Koushien. In their opening game against Sukumo, they actually trailed 3-2 going into the bottom of the 9th before scoring 2 runs to walk off with the win. And then in the finals against Kochi, it took 12 innings for them to walk off 2-1.
This is their 3rd straight appearance, and they'll be trying to improve upon winning their first game before bowing out. It'll be tough though, looking at their team composition.
First of all, the offense hit a paltry 0.299 (0.250 if you look at their semifinals and finals). And while both ace Fuku and reliever Fukunaga are used, both have to limit their mistakes in the zone to be successful. I was only able to find information on Fukunaga, and he's a sidearmer who throws in the low 140s with a slider and sinker.
Interesting note, Meitoku's starting LF is a Korean by the name of Ho Kyun Son.
Sakata Minami comes in after a brief 3 years off. They too had bookend games that challenged them, starting with a 2-0 win over Yamagata Gakuin, and finishing it off with a 6-5 win over Nichidai Yamagata.
The team batted 0.394 during the prefecturals (0.403 in their last 2 games). The man to watch will be cleanup batter and backstop Shimotsuma. On the mound Aida will handle most of the duties, with Abiko-kantoku not afraid to use #10 Itagaki.
The problem in analyzing the matchup is that Meitoku Gijyuku has managed to win a game at Koushien despite having a slightly lower team batting average. Conversely, teams from Yamagata have done poorly with good batting averages (though not as good as Sakata Minami this year).
I still think though that Meitoku has the advantage, but it's more of telling Sakata Minami to prove to me their prefecture has gotten stronger.
Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
3B Itsuzaki (#11)
RF Kishi (#12)
Sakata Minami (Yamagata)
1B Abe Hiroyuki
RF Miura (#18)
LF Saitou Shou (#16)
SS Togashi Kazuhide
8:00 - First Pitch!
Itsuzaki leads off the inning with a walk. Gouda goes for the bunt, but it goes back to Aita. He goes to 2nd, but the throw is way high! Itsuzaki advances to 3rd!
Aita already in a pinch here in the 1st.
But Iyota is given the green light on a 2-0 pitch and swings away! He pops it up! Togashi under it, makes the catch for the first out!
Cleanup batter Nishioka up now and even a sac fly can get the run in.
But Aita gets him to bite on a forkball down in the zone for the 2nd out! Aita's almost out of the pinch!
Kishi though proves stubborn, and after taking some really close pitches earns the walk for a manrui situation for Suguhara.
Grounder to 1st! Abe can't field it and it's into right! Itsuzaki scores! Gouda rounds 3rd and he scores! 2-0 quickly for Meitoku!
Son grounds to short to end the inning, but as expected Sakata Minami is behind early.
AH! Fuku almost has 3 straight groundouts in the inning, but he throws the ball away! Hiroyuki goes for 2nd, but Iyota is backing up the play! He throws to 2nd and they easily have Hiroyuki out to end the inning.
Fuku looking to pile on early with a single to center. Imazato bunts him along.
Back to the top of the order and Itzuzaki, but he can only ground to 1st advancing the runner.
Gouda gets hit hard in the shoulder by a pitch from Aita. Runners at the corners now for Iyota.
He gets the green light on 3-1 though instead of taking, and grounds out to 2nd to end the inning.
Fuku getting his groundballs. Shimotsuma with a weak grounder back to him. Aita grounds to 2nd.
And just for some variety, Miura swings away at a high fast ball and goes down for the 3rd out.
Aita appears to have a fastball in the upper 130s-low 140s, a cutter in the low 130's, a slider in the high 110s and a curve & fork in the low 110s.
Nishioka swings on a form inside for Aita's 2nd K.
Kishi grounds out to short on the first pitch and Suguhara watches strike 3 on the outside half.
The half inning are going by quickly it's hard to keep up.
But right now, no one's hitting Fuku hard at all. Shou hits a liner, but it's right at Fuku who makes the catch.
Ishidzuka can't check his swing on a slider and is rung up. And then Kazuhide hits an easy grounder to 2nd to finish off the inning.
Aita settling down after the rocky 1st.
Son with a hard hit, but it's right at Ishidzuka who makes the nice catch.
Two down and Imazato takes the ball back up the middle past Kazuhide into center.
Itzuzaki tries to test Ishidzuka with a hard groundball, but he backhands it and makes the strong throw from the baseline for the 3rd out.
For Fuku, he throws a fastball in the middle 130s, and a slider and fork in the mid 120s.
Man, I knew Yamagata's teams weren't strong but this is ridiculous. Fuku gets 3 more groundball outs, none of them hit hard at all.
Fuku's faced the minimum batters, though doesn't have the perfect game due to the error at 1st in the 1st inning.
Gouda hits a blooper down the right field line. Hiroyuki, Takahashi and Miura all converge on it, but it falls in!
Iyota trying to bunt, but Aita's giving him nothing to bunt. He's also fallen behind 3-0 before throwing a strike that Iyota certainly took.
He takes another pitch and earns the walk! Mabuchi-kantoku sends instructions out to Nishioka who's K'd twice.
He's not bunting, so I bet it was to not start his AB until he got a strike. He got one, then swung at the next 2 pitches and goes down swinging for his 3rd time.
Kishi up, also hitless on the day (though he has a walk), and falls behind 0-2. He's way early on some off-speed pitches, and then grounds into the 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Aita's keeping his team in the game at least, though not without some difficulty.
Shimotsuma hit on an inside fastball. Aita immediately showing bunt and is able to advance the runner.
Uh oh. Now Fuku hits Miura as well, putting runners on 1st and 2nd with no out. That gets Mabuchi-kantoku to call time.
Shou up to try and get the first run for Sakata Minami, but falls behind 0-2, fouls off an outside fastball. Fuku tries to hit the outside corner, but misses.
Slider down in the zone, and Shou swings and misses for the 2nd out.
Up to Ishidzuka to get the timely hit.
But like most of the batters before, he grounds to 3rd. Iyota throws to 1st, and we hit the break with Meitoku Gijyuku holding on to the 2-0 lead.
Son gets his first hit with a one-out blooper to center. Mabuchi-kantoku will go for the one-timer as Fuku bunts him to 2nd.
But Imazato grounds out to short and the side is retired.
Kazuhide continues the trend of being unable to hit off of Fuku, hitting a grounder to 2nd.
Takahashi with a ball to the right side! Iyota ranging to his left, dives, and it's through! Sakata Minami has their 1st hit here in the 7th!
Abiko-kantoku will go for the one-timer, having Morishita bunt the runner along.
But Hiroyuki goes down swinging to end the inning. Sakata Minami has their first hit, but nothing else.
Aita still trying to give his team a chance. Top of the order and Itsuzuka pops out to Takahashi. Gouda goes down looking on a outside fastball.
Iyota stops the 1-2-3 inning with a grounder past a diving Shou.
But cleanup batter Nishioka is up and he's K'd 3 times on the day. I don't think he wants the golden sombrero, though I wonder if he knows that that is.
Iyota meanwhile goes for 2nd! Shimotsuma with the throw, but Iyota somehow slides under the tag and is safe!
Nishioka down 1-2, holds on a check swing. Then holds off on a borderline pitch and the count runs full.
Sadly, he chases a fork in the dirt, and earns his 4th K.
Once again, back to the ground balls as Shimotsuma grounds to short.
Aita finally hits a fly ball.
Um... that's hard hit. Son running back to the wall. Running back!
So ace Aita gets Sakata Minami's first fly ball, and it leaves the park! Not only are they on the board, but they're within a good base hit-bunt-base hit away from a tie game! It's 2-1!
But Fuku goes back to his ground balls, getting Miura and Shou to end the inning.
It's one hit and one run, but they're going to need just a little more. And less routine ground balls.
Kishi with a solid drive to cener Morishita has to chase it down at the wall as it passes him by. Kishi in with a leadoff double... and moved to 3rd by Sugihara for Son.
Son not squeezing, and is behind 1-2.
Son reaches down and pokes it over the SS head into left! Kishi scores and Meitoku regains the 2-run margin! It's 3-1! That gets Abiko-kantoku to call a quick conference.
Mabuchi-kantoku will go for another one-timer as Fuku lays the sac bunt.
Imazato works the count well, but then gets badly fooled on a fork for the 3rd out. Still, Meitoku makes it difficult for Sakata Minami once again.
Ishidzuka with a chopper to 3rd. Itsuzaki makes a good grab on the short hop and goes to 1st for the out.
Kazuhide with a hard hit ball to shiort. Imazato dives, but it deflects off his glove and towards Itsuzaki for a base hit!
No bunting at this point as they are behind 2 with just 5 outs to play.
Instead, Abiko-kantoku sends Kazuhide. It's a pitchout but Sugihara can't get the ball out of his glove and Kazuhide's in safely without a throw!
Takahashi is finally able to get under one of Fuku's balls, but goes too far hitting a high fly for Gouda.
Morishita with a drive to right! Kishi running back, as one one-bounds into the wall! Kishi throws it in, but not before Kazuhide scores, making it a one-run game again at 3-2!
Hm. After a strike to Hiroyuki, Mabuchi-kantoku calls time to send a message to Fuku.
Hiroyuki with a liner to right, Iyota jumps and blocks the ball! He tries to field it and throw to 1st, but can't! Everyone's safe and there's runner at the corners for Shimotsuma!
But he's jammed and hits a soft fly to Iyota! He secures it for the 3rd out and Fuku holds onto the lead! He's certainly leaving balls up in the zone now as the Sakata Minami batters are finally able to hit the ball in the air, so things are getting dangerous, especially with the HR and the right-over 2B.
#7 Satou Keita in for Shou at LF.
Meitoku trying to get that insurance run back, but aren't finding their way on base. Itsuzaki flies out to center, Gouta can't quite get level on a high fastball and flies to right.
Iyota does get a walk, but that brings up Nishioka, who I bet really doesn't want to strike out 5 times today.
He finally puts the ball in play, but like Gouta, he can't quite swing level on a high fastball and though he hits it deep to center, it's easily handled by Morishita.
Aita's done what he could on the mound, now he's up at the plate to start the 9th as Fuku tries desparately to defend the lead.
A sigh of relief for Fuku has he gets Aita to ground out to 2nd.
Abiko-kantoku sends in #9 Saitou Kouichi for Miura. Behind 1-2, he works the count full.
Hard hit grounder to 3rd! Itsuzaki blocks it! Gathers it and throws to 1st! 2 down!
Keita up for his first AB, also behind 1-2 works the count full.
Keita ready to lay down the bat, is rung up by the home plate umpire and Meitoku Gijyuku holds on for the win! After dominating for 6 innings, Fuku started to waver, leaving more pitches up in the zone and allowing Sakata Minami to get back into the game. Still, he recorded 16 of the 27 outs via the groundball. That's impressive. If he can keep his stamina up as the rounds progress he'll keep his team in the games. But if he can't he's shown to be hittable. And Niigata Meikun does have the ability to hit you if you leave it up.
Sakata Minami on the other hand, didn't give up. Despite being no-hit for 5 innings, they didn't roll over like some other teams are prone to do. Instead they got their first base hit, then Aita solely puts his team on the board with the HR, and they continued fighting into the 9th. Unfortunately, their loss continues Yamagata-ken's futility at Koushien.
Fuku Takeyuki (Meitoku Gijyuku) - CG, 2 ER, 5 H, 5 K, 2 HBP
Sugihara Kengo (Meitoku Gijyuku) - 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI, K
Aita Ryuuichirou (Sakata Minami) - CG, 3 ER, 8 H, 7 K, 5 BB
Aita Ryuuiichirou (Sakata Minami) - 1-3, HR, R, RBI
Morishita Kaichi (Sakata Minami) - 1-3, 2B, RBI