Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Looking ahead to the summer...

With Osaka Touin's win of Senbatsu, it would make them the favorites for Natsu Koushien.  Indeed, they were without cleanup hitter Tabata after the 1st game, still put up huge offensive numbers and Fujinami did a more than adequate job on the mound.

However, next time around it'll be in the summer where it's much warmer, more games will be played, and Fujinami's stamina will be tested.  Sawada appeared to be a servicable reliever, but I bet he'll have to be called upon more if they are to win it all.

Kousei Gakuin has played bridesmaid the last two tournaments.  They can win the games they're supposed to, but when push comes to shove, they falter against the bigger names of Nichidai-san and Osaka Touin.  This summer may be their best chance to win it all as I'm sure they're not satisfied with finishing 2nd twice.

Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi showed off their speed early and often, putting defenses back on their heels.  However, against Osaka Touin they completely shut down their running efforts.  Whether they were spooked by being thrown out or if was another reason, running is their game.  If you're going to go down, go down doing what you do best.  If they can stick to that, I think they can make another deep run.

Aikoudai Meiden, who appeared to be one of the stronger teams in the nation, has only lost two games in major tournament play - and both to Kousei Gakuin.  This time around, it was on a gamble dive by the CF that resulted in an inside-the-park 3-run HR.  The team feels solid as a whole, but suffering 2 losses to Kousei Gakuin means that they're not quite at the top of the list.  That or they just need to avoid them this time in the summer.

Outside of these 3, none of the others really made a strong case to be considered a title contender in the summer.

So what we're left with is to look at spring tournaments and perhaps identify teams that may be on the come for the summer.  Note though that the spring tournaments do not qualify teams for anything that I know of and are just to get the teams more experience.

Only Kyushu is actually in super-regional play at this time.  However, none of Kyushu's representatives made it out of the 2nd round at Senbatsu, and it appears from looking at the bracket that the champion this year may not come from this region.

Kamimura Gakuen is in the Best 4, but an opening round comeback to defeat Kurume Shougyou 3-2 highlights the weaknesses in Kyushu.  In fact, their opponent in the semis - Okinawa Shougaku may prove to be a better candidate.

Shikoku has their 8 representatives for the super-regionals, and not surprisingly Naruto is back in the field, as well as mainstays Meitoku Gijyuku and Kochi.  Ehime and Kagawa have 2nd tier teams representing them, so there's not much to see here.  And in fact, despite their run a couple of decades ago, Shikoku has not performed as well in recent years.

All other regions are still in prefectural play, though some prefectures are further along.

In Tokyo, Kanto Dai-ichi was eliminated in the first game, so no continued dominance.  Instead, the best 4 in the spring includes Teikyou, Nichidai Tsurugaoka, Toua Gakuen and Toukaidai Takanawadai.  Teikyou of course has bashed their way through the field.

And in Gifu, they too are in the Best 4.  As expected, Kenritsu and Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou are both present, along with Oogaki Nishi and Gifu Jyouhoku.

That's it for now.  As the fall tournaments continue, I'll try and identify other teams that we might see in the summer.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Day 12 - Championship Game - Kousei Gakuin (Aomori) vs. Osaka Touin (Osaka)

Sorry for not posting that the game had been cancelled due to rain, but the tournament has pushed into month-end at work and I had my bowling league at the same time, so once it was cancelled, I ended up just falling asleep.

But we’re finally here, 15 days and a couple of extra hours thanks to the spring rains.  The championship game.

And once again, we have a David vs. Goliath matchup.  Though perhaps this time, David stands more of a chance.

That team is Kousei Gakuin out of Aomori.  Perhaps written off during last year’s Natsu Koushien they made the finals, but were easily handled by the outright champions, Nichidai-san.

But even with the loss of most of their starting 9, they reloaded and not only won the Aomori prefecturals, the Meiji Jingu Taikai, but have won 4 more to get to the championship once again.

This time around, they have the help of not one, but two aces.  First, there’s ace number Kanazawa Yuuki.  He’s pitched in 2 games so far - against Oumi, and in relief to finish off Aikoudai Meiden.  His line so far:

12.1 IP, 0 ER, 10 H, 6 K, 4 BB

But as impressive has been 2B, and spot starter Jyouma Ryuuhei.  He’s started 3 games and finished 2, including two against super-regional champions.  His stats are just as impressive:

27.1 IP, 2 ER, 22 H, 11 K, 3 BB

And so these two make up the tandem that as help the team in their undefeated run.

Offensively, it’s all about their 3-4 hitters, Tamura Tatsuhiro and Houjyou Fumiya.  They have accounted for most of the Kousei offense:

Tamura – 6-14, 2 2B, HR, 7 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB = 0.429/0.500/0.786
Houjyou – 7-16, 2 2B, 2 3B, 6 R, 9 RBI, 3 K, HBP = 0.438/0.471/0.813

But you can’t score without some help, so while Tamura and Houjyou need to have good games, the rest of the lineup must perform as well.

Opposing them is the goliath, Osaka Touin.  Now, they may be playing for their first title, but the thought of facing them can intimidate most opponents.

Osaka Touin’s calling card is offense.  Always has been.  And despite losing starting 1B Tabata due to an injury after being hit in the first game, they turned to Koike in the cleanup spot.  And while he hasn’t embarrassed, it seems like they’ve tried to keep people out of the “cleanup” spot by sticking Koike in there.  Meanwhile, Nishitani-kantoku has moved people around trying to find people’s best spots.

One person who hasn’t needed to find their stride is 2nd year Kasamatsu Yuuya.  In the 4 games, he’s 7-14, with a double and 2 HR’s for 7 RBIs.

Joining him is C Mori Tomoya, who was moved to the #3 spot and rightly so.  He’s 8-15 with a double and a HR.

But the difference has been their towering ace, Fujinami.  With the exception of the quarterfinal game, he has started every game.  In every start he has given up just  1 run or less.  And the numbers seem consistent.

vs. Hanamaki Higashi - 7 H, 12 K, 2 BB
vs. Kyushu Gakuin - 6 H, 8 K, 3 BB
vs. Urawa Gakuin - 7 H, 6 K, 0 BB
 vs. Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi - 7 H, 9 K, 4 BB

The one thing that has changed has been the walks.  Is it the fatigue?  Have the batters been patient?
More importantly, will he start?  Or will they go to Sawada like against Urawa Gakuin?
This should be a great game!  Let’s go!

Kousei Gakuin (Aomori)
RF  Ameku Shouto
LF  Murase Daijyu
C  Tamura Tatsuhiro
SS  Houjyou Fumiya
1B  Takeda Toshiki
3B  Oosugi Akinobu
P  Jyouma Ryuuhei
CF  Kimura Takumi
2B  Kishigawa Kenta (#14)

Osaka Touin (Osaka)
C  Mori Tomoya
2B  Oonishi Tomoya
RF  Mizumoto Gen
1B  Koike Yuuya (#5)
LF  Yasui Kouki
3B  Kasamatsu Yuuya (#15)
CF  Hakusui Kenta
SS  Mizutani Yukiya (#14)
P  Fujinami Shintarou


12:30 - First pitch!

Top 1st
Fujinami falling behind Ameku early, and Ameku hits a fly to shallow center!  Hakusui coming in calls off Oonishi, but can't get there!  It's in for a base hit!

Murase going for the bunt, but Fujinami goes to 2nd!  Ameku slides in, safe!  All safe!

And now Fujinami is in an early pinch.

His control seems to be lacking a bit as he falls behind Tamura as well.  But Tamura hits a ball to short!  Mizutani starts the 6-4-3 double play and there's 2 down!

And perhaps in a hat tip to Houjyou, Fujinami unintentionally intentionally walks him to get to Takeda.  It works as he grounds to 3rd to end the inning.

Bottom 1st
Jyouma will start the game.  He's fared well so far, but what about now?

One down, and Oonishi hits a hard ball back to Jyouma.  He stops it with the glove, and calmly throws the ball to 1st.

But then Mizumoto ruins the good inning with a hard single to right.

Jyouma being careful with Koike and falls behind 3-1.

Oh dear...

Koike hits a ball to left!  Murase running back to the wall!  Still running!!


Koike, whose bat has been fairly quiet this senbatsu, comes out in a big way as he hits a HR in the championship game!  Osaka Touin leads 2-0!

Yasui quickly hits one back to Jyouma to end the inning, but Osaka Touin's offense starts off in a big way against Jyouma and Kousei!

Top 2nd
Oosugi looks to get the Kousei reply going with a single back up the middle.  But Jyouma, not bunting, strikes out.

Kimura goes down on the forkball for the 2nd K.

But Kishigawa, with a roller up the middle, finds its way between Oonishi and Mizutani for a base hit!

Grounder to 1st by Murase, OFF Koike!!!  Oonishi has to go back to get it, but by that time it's too late!  Manrui Kousei and they have a chance to answer back quickly!

Murase though, falls behind 1-2, and when you're behind Fujinami, he can throw junk at you.

And indeed he does as he swings on a slider outside to end the inning!

Bottom 2nd
One down and Hakusui hits a drive to center left that goes over the head of Kimura for a double!

And now Houjyou returns the favor as he boots a grounder by Mizutani! Now runners at the corners with just one down for Fujinami!  Will they be as lucky as Touin was last half inning?

Jyouma gets one of those outs as he can't check his swing.

But that brings up Mori...

And Jyouma hits Mori!!  Manrui with 2 down for Oonishi!!

Jyouma risks falling behind 3-1, but Oonishi can't check his swing so it goes to 2-2!  And a change on the corner doesn't get the call!  Full count and nowhere to go!


Jyouma gets Oonishi to bite on a fastball on the ouside for the 3rd out!

Top 3rd
Tamura starts the inning off with a ball to center!  Hakusui running it down at the wall, but not before Tamura's in with a double!

Houjyou with a ball down the left field side!  Yasui runs that back to the wall and Tamura scores to cut the deficit in half!  It's 2-1!

Takeda trying to bunt, but can't and goes down 1-2.  Instead he hits a blooper to center!  Hakusui's not going to get there!  He throws it back to the infield, conceding the run!  Douten Kousei!!  It's 2-2!!

Now Oosugi lays down the sac bunt and now the gyakuten run is 90 feet away.

But Jyouma hits a grounder to 3rd.  Kasamatsu pick up, NO HE DOESN'T!

He bobbles the ball!  He has no play and everyone's safe!  2nd error by the Touin defense already!

Nishitani-kantoku figures it's a good time to call time.

And it is as Kimura hits a weak grounder to 2nd!  Oonishi starts the inning ending 4-6-3 double play!

But 3 straight hits from the middle of Kousei's order ties the game right back up!

Bottom 3rd
One down and Koike has Jyouma number, hitting a sharp single to right.

No bunt from Yasui.  Instead, it's a hit-and-run!  Yasui with a ball deep to right-center!  Ameku has to chase it back all the way to the wall!  Koike getting the green light around 3rd and Yasui with the RBI triple gives Touin back the lead at 3-2!!

And now Jyouma brushes Kasamatsu's jersey!  Runners at the corners for Touin!  Nakai-kantoku can't let Jyouma can't stay much longer on the mound if this keeps up.

It's another hit-and-run!  And Hakusui singles through the right side!  Yasui scores easily giving Touin back the 2-run lead at 4-2!!

And that's it for Jyouma.  Kanazawa comes in for Kishigawa as Jyouma shifts back to 2nd.

But there's still work to do.  Runners at the corners with just one down.

Mizutani does his job.  He hits a deep fly to center.  And while Kimura's throw reaches home on the fly, it's late and Touin gets the lead back with interest at 5-2.

Fujinami pops out to left to end the inning, but Kousei's going to have to play a shootout with Osaka Touin, and that's not the game they wanted to play.

Top 4th
Kanazawa first pitch grounds out to 1st.  Ameku, expecting a fastball, is way ahead of a change and strikes out.  Murase harmlessly flies out to center to end the inning.  This game went from difficult, to possible, to very difficult, very quickly for them.

Bottom 4th
Kanazawa too gets his 1-2-3 inning, retiring the top of the Touin order and keeping his team in it.

Top 5th
Tamura starts the inning off with a chopper up the middle that just sneaks by Mizutani to center.

Houjyou with a blast to left center!  Yasui and Hakusui running back to the wall, still running back!!!

It's off the top of the padding!  Tamura rounding the bases is sent home!  Houjyou's 2nd double nets another RBI and it's 5-3!

Takeda with the drag bunt up the 1st base side!  Koike goes to field, but when he tosses to 1st, Oonishi is backing up instead of at the bag!!  All safe!!  What happened there??

Oosugi up looking to add on another run.  He hits a hard drive to right!  But Mizumoto is there for the catch!  Houjyou halfway can't tag up!  Why wasn't he getting ready to tag up??!

Jyouma up.  Just need a sac fly here.

Instead it's grounder to 3rd!  Kasamatsu with the ball, goes home!  Houjyou knowing he's out, tries to deke Mori!  Mori reaching behind his back, does he have him??


Mori's tag just gets Houjyou leg right before he tags home!  Bad break for Kousei!

Kimura trying to keep the inning going...  falls behind to Fujinami, but then works the count full!  And he draws the walk!  Manrui for Kousei as Kanazawa steps in!  Can he get the runs home?

No!  Kanazawa leaves the bases loaded as he grounds back to Fujinami!  He goes to 1st for the out!  From all that they just get the one run!

Bottom 5th
Still though, Kanazawa is doing a great job in relief.  Koike, Yasui and Kasamatsu can't get a ball past the infield as they all are retired in order.

So we head to the break with Osaka Touin taking advantage of spot starter Jyouma with all 5 runs off of him.  However, they have had no luck against ace Kanazawa.  Meanwhile, Kousei has had multiple scoring chances, some of which have been aided by Osaka Touin.  Yet they have only managed just the 3 runs.  Whether their inability to take full advantage of those opportunities will come back to bite them is yet to be seen.

Top 6th
Post-break, it almost seems like a hindrance that the top of the order is up.  Ameku and Murase are retired putting 2 outs before Tamura steps in.

And he grounds out to 3rd to end the inning.

Bottom 6th
One down and Mizutani gets Touin's first hit off of Kanazawa, with an opposite field double.

Fujinami though flies out to center.  And despite a timeout conference from Nishitani-kantoku to talk to Mori, he flies out to right.

Top 7th
Houjyou leading off the inning, and Fujinami certainly not giving him anything to hit, especially with no one in front of him.

And on a full count he swings and grounds out to short.

Takeda goes down looking on a slider over the plate.

But Oosugi finally bumps the lineup a spot with a base hit up the middle.  One more next inning and that puts Tamura and Houjyou at the top of the order starting the 9th.

Bottom 7th
Of course, for that to matter, Kanazawa has to hold Osaka Touin at love.

Oonishi with a scorcher to Oosugi, and a high hop eats him up!  Leadoff man on for Touin!

And now he takes off for 2nd!  Tamura's throw is a bit high and he's in safely!

Kanazawa with a wild pitch and Oonishi heads to 3rd.  Now a sac fly can score a run.  Mizumoto does just that with a ball to deep right center!  Ameku catches it and Oonishi tags up to make it a 6-3 ball game!

Koike with another ball to the same place!  This one is all the way to the wall for a double!  Could this be when things finally break down?

Yasui with a hard ball to short.  Houjyou is able to field the tricky hop and makes the play at 1st.

Kasamtaust with a ball to the left side!  Houjyou with the running grab, throws on the run... and makes it to 1st for the out!  Great play by Houjyou to get out of the inning!

But Osaka Touin makes the deficit 3 runs once again with just 2 innings left to go...

Top 8th
Kimura with a ball back up the middle.  Oonishi makes a grab and running throw himself, but it's wide!  Kimura with the leadoff hit!

Kanazawa up and he's not bunting.  Down 3 you need all the outs you need.

But he swings 2-0!  It's a comebacker to Fujinami and he starts the 1-6-3 double play!  Why are you swinging there??

And Ameku hits a grounder to 1st and that's the inning.  Time looks to have run out on Kousei in their 2nd finals.

Bottom 8th
Hakusui with a hard ball to the left side.  Houjyou with another great stop, but his throw is off line!  Wow, what an effort by Houjyou!

Mizutani with the bunt, but Mori out of nowhere with a BB to 2nd!  He guns down the lead runner and almost get the 2-6-3 double play!

But Mori's arm gets the best of him!  He tries to snap throw to 1st, but it's high and off Takeda's glove into right!  Hakusui advances to 2nd.

Fujinami with a soft liner!  Jyouma leaps, but it's just out of his reach!  Hakusui advances and now there's runners at the corners with just 1 down!

And Mori hits a fly to left!  Murase trying to get a good jump on the ball, winds up in front of it a little.  His throw is hampered allowing Mizutani to score, making it 7-3.

Oonishi with a comebacker!  Kanazawa can't get his glove on it and it's through for a base hit!  Runners on 1st and 2nd as Nakai-kantoku calls time.

Mizumoto with a ball through the right side!  Fujinami has to hold up at 3rd as Ameku fires it in.

But now it's manrui for Koike of all people, who's a triple from the cycle.  Nishitani-kantoku calls time so they can talk to Koike.

It's Kanazawa who puts himself into a pinch falling behind 3-0 before getting a generous call.  Koike hits a pop fly to Ameku in foul territory to end the inning, but one more run almost guarantees Osaka Touin their first senbatsu title.

Top 9th
Murase with a high chopper up the middle, but not high enough as Fujinami reaches up and makes the grab and throw for the 1st out.

With a 4 run lead now, Fujinami do whatever he wants with Tamura and Houjyou as they can't tie the game by themselves.

Tamura does get the bat on the ball, and singles to center.

Houjyou though can't check his swing, and there's 2 outs.  Nakatani-kantoku call time one more time, perhaps to settle down the team for the last out.

A wild pitch to Takeda sends Tamura to 2nd, but that run doesn't matter.

And Takeda pops it up!  Yasui coming in... makes the catch!

And Osaka Touin wins their first senbatsu as they defeat Kousei Gakuin 7-3!

Once again, it's the offense that comes through for Osaka Touin as they jumped on starter Jyouma right offg the bat with a 2-run HR by Koike.  And meanwhile Fujinami was not on top of his game, yet he and the defense did just enough to hold Kousei Gakuin off despite the errors and the multiple pinch situations.  It wasn't perfect today, but it was enough.

For Kousei Gakuin, while I'm sure they're happy to have made the finals again, losing twice probably leaves a bad taste in their mouths.  While they will be tabbed to advanced out of Aomori back to Koushien, it'll probably be a grueling next couple of months as they work to try and return to the finals for the 3rd straight time and this time perhaps, win it all.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Day 11 - Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo) vs. Kousei Gakuin (Aomori)

So Osaka Touin is in the finals.  Who will they face?

Kousei Gakuin has been the favorite to win since the fall when they won the Meiji Jingu tournament.  They hadn't lost a step after losing their seniors who led the run to the championship game last summer.  After a bit of a slow start against Hokkaido champion Hokushou, they handled Oumi with ease, and then put no question who was the better team in the rematch against Aikoudai Meiden, winning 5-2 in much the same way as the fall.  They are poised to win it all.

Standing in their way is a Kanto Dai-ichi squad that has clawed their way through all 3 stages.  First, against a game Beppu Aoyama squad they eked out a 1-0 win.  Then they held off Kinki champions Chiben Gakuen despite what seemed like a tired Nakamura.

And yet they threw him out there again against a strong Yokohama squad, and with the help of a crucial call in the 5th that took back a run, looked strong in a 4-2 win!

But the burden is squarely on Nakamura to stand and deliver the next two days.  If he can't Kanto doesn't have a chance.

Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo)
3B  Isobe Yuuta (#9)
RF  Kishi Naoya (#16)
2B  Kiuchi Jyunshou
CF  Akiyama Shouta
LF  Itou Hiroki
SS  Yoshie Masakazu (#5)
1B  Anzai Kouyou
C  Matsutani Tsubasa
P  Daigo Shunpei (#10)

Kousei Gakuin (Aomori)
RF  Ameku Shouto
LF  Murase Daijyu
C  Tamura Tatsuhiro
SS  Houjyou Fumiya
1B  Takeda Toshiki
3B  Oosugi Akinobu
P  Jyouma Ryuuhei
CF  Kimura Takumi
2B  Kishigawa Kenta


13:20 - First pitch!

Top 1st
Isobe gets Kanto's offense going with a base hit in front of Ameku.  Afer a sac bunt, Kiuchi gets ahead 3-0 but Jyouma manages to fill up the count.  But he loses him a ball low!  Runners on 1st and 2nd now as Kanazawa warms up in the bullpen!

But cleanup batter Akiyama swings on the first pitch and hits one to 2nd!  Kishigawa starts the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning!

Bottom 1st
Well, as you can see, Yonezawa-kantoku is rolling with reliever Daigo to start the game.  Can he give his team effective innings, or will it backfire?

So far so good.  Ameku hits one to Anzai for the 1st out, Murase grounds one back to Daigo.

And Tamura grounds out to short for the 3rd out!  Daigo gets the first inning under his belt with no hiccups!

Top 2nd
Hm.  As Kanto takes their AB's, #11 Uehara is warming up in the bullpen.  Looks like Nakamura may be a last chance option for Kanto.

After a quick groundout by Itou, Yoshie and Anzai go deep in counts against Jyouma, but he retires them both for a 1-2-3 inning.  Despite perhaps not being a natural starter, he's been doing a great job on the mound.

Bottom 2nd
Oh?  Daigo records his first K in Houjyou.  I say that because Daigo's fastball touches 130.  He has possible 3 change pitches, one sitting each in the 110s, 100s and 90s.

Takeda with a dying liner to left, but Itou makes a shoestring catch!

And Oosugi with a weak grounder to 2nd means he has another 1-2-3 inning!

Top 3rd
One down and Daigo hits a low liner past Houjyou!  Isobe follows that up with a ball past Oosugi into left as well!  Chance for Kanto!

Kishi after falling behind 0-2, takes some really close pitches and fills up the count!

Slicer to left!  Murase charging in, but it falls in!  Manrui for Kanto for #3 batter Kiuchi!

Jyouma once again gets ahead 0-2 on Kiuchi.  Kiuchi fouls one off.  Waste pitch, 1-2.  Slider up and in, 2-2.  Ball inside, fought off by Kiuchi.  High slider, popped up!  Kishigawa and Takeda converging in foul territory, both dive.. neither has it!  Will that cost them?

NO!  Kiuchi is caught looking for strike 3!  2 down!

Akiyama swings on the first pitch again!  And he bails out Jyouma by flying to left!  Big chance for Kanto goes begging!

Bottom 3rd
Jyouma goes full on Daigo before delivering Kousei's first hit, a liner to left.

Kimura lays down the bunt, but Daigo quickly picks it up!  Yoshie saves the high throw and they get the lead runner.  Nakai-kantoku has Kishigawa bunt as well, and this time they advance the runner for top batter Ameku.

But Ameku grounds out to 2nd and the inning is over.  I'm surprised a bit that Daigo is doing this good of a job against the tournament favorites.

Top 4th
Itou grounds out to short for his 2nd time today.

Yoshie with a drive to center!  Kimura running back, turning right, then back left!  He's turned around as the ball falls in front of the wall!  Yoshie in with a double!

Jyouma gets ahead of Anzai 0-2, and doesn't get a call on a ball at the knees.  Anzai hits a chopper to short.  Houjyou makes a great pick and throw for the out, but Yoshie advances to 3rd.

But #8 batter Matsutani is up, and he's had struggles at the plate.  They continue as he flies out to right toend the inning.

Bottom 4th
Daigo falls behind Murase 3-0, gets one back, and almost gets the out when Murase hits a foul fly.  Anzai doesn't sell out at the fence and it falls in.

Instead he hits a liner right at Isobe, who puts the glove in front of his face and makes the catch.

He falls behind Tamura 3-1 and..

Oh my....

He blasts one to left!  Itou running back!  Looking up!!


That ball is easily 10 rows up in left as Kousei finally gets to Daigo!  They open the scoring at 1-0!

And no Houjyou with a first pitch liner to left center for a base hit!  And after Takeda hits a hard foul ball, Nakamura heads to the bullpen.

And Houjyou with a big lead takes off when the ball goes in the dirt!  Matsutani can't get anything on the throw and he's in safely!  Takeda walks on the next pitch prompting Yonezawa-kantoku to call time, perhaps to buy Nakamura time to warm up.

Daigo meanwhile gets ahead of Oosugi 0-2.  Oosugi though takes on the other way!  Itou up with it, but his throw home is cut off!  Houjyou scores to make it 2-0!

Daigo still on the mound as Jyouma steps in.  Can he perhaps deliver a crippling blow early?  Not sure Daigo's going to let him as he falls behind 3-1.  But Jyouma takes one over the plate to fill up the count.

He pops him up!  Kimura in center makes the catch for the 2nd out!

And now Nakamura is being recalled to the dugout!  But the crisis isn't over just yet as Kimura steps in.

But he hits a grounder to 1st.  Anzai makes the out to retire the side, but Kousei gets to the relief starter!

Top 5th
Daigo with a swinging bunt!  Oosugi charging in, but can't field the ball!  Daigo gets his 2nd hit of the day!

Isobe 2-2 on the day, bunting??!  He hits it too hard and Jyouma goes to 2nd for the force!  Why was Isobe not swinging away there??

And now they send Isobe, but Tamura with a great throw to 2nd and they have Isobe for the 2nd out!

Kishi battles with Jyouma, but on the 10th pitch of the AB he's frozen for the K!

Bottom 5th
Kishigawa showing some power with a ball down the left field line!  That goes all the way to the wall for a double!  Ameku trying for a safety bunt still moves him to 3rd.

Murase with a ball to left!  Itou camping under it, makes the catch, throws for home, but the relay is no good!  Kishigawa scores to make it 3-0!

Cameras go to Yonezawa-kantoku who is telling Itou to move back for Tamura.

Tamura blasts one to left!  Really?  Is he really??  Itou running back and to his right, turns himself around going left, and makes the sliding catch at the wall for the 3rd out!  Whoa that was a close one! Looks like the kantoku was right after all!

But Kousei adds on a run and as we hit the break Kanto finds themselves down 3-0!

Top 6th
Kiuchi leads off the inning with a single down the right field line.  Cleanup batter Akiyama tries to bunt, but falls behind 1-2.  Akiyama with a ball up the middle.  Houjyou in front of it, but can't field it cleanly!  He barely gets the toss to Kishigawa for the out.

Itou lines out to right for the 2nd out.

Akiyama takes off for 2nd!  Throw from Matsutani is wide and goes into center and Akiyama eases into 3rd!  Chance to narrow the margin for Kanto!

But Yoshie hits a grounder to 2nd!  Kishigawa's throw beats out a diving Yoshie for the 3rd out!

Bottom 6th
Nakamura takes the hill now for Kanto.  But is it too late?

Well, at least he holds down the Kousei offense.  The 4-5-6 batters come and go as Kanto takes the sticks again.

Top 7th
Bottom third of the order up for Kanto.  Anzai quickly grounds out to 2nd. Matsutani hits a foul fly to Houjyou.

Nakamura with a grounder to short, but it's off Houjyou's glove and goes to left!  Still some life in the Lucky  7 for Kanto!

Isobe though, grounds to short.  Houjyou goes to 2nd for the 3rd out.

Bottom 7th
On 0 days rest and in relief, Nakamura looks good!  Jyouma with a grounder to short.  He freezes Kimura on a fastball inside, and gets Kishigawa to swing on a fastball on the outside corner for the 3rd out!

Top 8th
Time quickly running out on Kanto.  Kishi with a high chopper up the 3rd base line.  Oosugi with it, but the throw is high!  Leadoff man on from the error!

Kiuchi rightly hitting as they need 3 runs.  But Jyouma pops him up!  Houjyou in shallow left makes the catch!

Akiyama with a grounder up the middle.  Houjyou there, but doesn't have it!  It goes through!  Kishi booking it for 3rd!  Throw from Kimura, not in time!  Akiyama going for 2nd, throw from Oosugi, not in time!!

Runners on 2nd and 3rd now with just one down!

Chance for Kanto as Itou steps in!

He hits a fly to right!  Ameku ready for the throw home!  He throws it as Kishi charges for home!  It's a liner right to Tamura...

And they get him a the plate!  Kishi is gunned down at home for the 3rd out!  Great defensive play by Ameku denies Kanto a run!

Bottom 8th
Ameku with a blast to center!  Akiyama running back to the wall, slides, but it bounces off the base of the wall!  He's in with a double!

Murase trying to bunt him over instead free bunts and fouls off to Matsutani.

Tamura with a base hit through the left side puts runners at the corners for cleanup batter Houjyou!


Houjyou launches one to left!  Itou climbing on the fence!   FOUL!!!! Nakamura breathes a sight of relief.

But not for long!  Houjyou shoots one up the middle, and its through to center!  Ameku scores, Tamura being waved around!  Akiyama throwing home...  Cut off!  Nakamura cuts the ball off and tries to get Houjyou at 2nd!  Safe!!  Houjyou's timely hit gives Kousei a commanding 5-0 lead!

Takeda goes down on a failed check swing for the 2nd out.


Oosugi with a booming hit to right center!  Akiyama running to the wall, and it's off the base!  RBI triple for Oosugi makes it 6-0.

Jyouma grounds to short to end the inning, but Kousei appears to be on cruise control finally to a matchup against Osaka Touin.

Top 9th
#17 Sekiguchi takes over for Murase in LF.

Yoshie not giving up, ripping one into the right-center field gap for a standup triple!

Anzai follows that up lining one through the infield past Kishigawa into center!  Yoshie scores to make it 6-1!

#6 Kishida comes to run for Anzai and #13 Hino hits for Matsutani.

Matsutani with a single to left!  Runners on 1st and 2nd, no out!

What will Yonezawa-kantoku do?  Will he leave Nakamura in to hit?  He will!  He won't gamble!

Nakamura falls behind 1-2, and holds off a borderline pitch.  But he eventually goes down swinging for the first out.

Isobe to try and continue the momentum...

But he hits a grounds to 2nd!  Kishigawa goes to 2nd for one, Houjyou's throw to 1st, in time!  Kousei Gakuin wins!

Jyouma in a complete game effort gives up just the one run in the 9th as they advance to their 2nd finals!

And as I continue writing, the Kanto players are collecting the dirt from the grounds.

Kousei Gakuin has looked strong in all their games so far and ace Kanazawa will be rested for the championship game thanks to Jyouma.  The offense continues to look strong as well, and it should make for a great game.

For Kanto Dai-ichi, Yonezawa-kantoku perhaps realized that they couldn't start Nakamura on 0 days rest.  But Daigo couldn't prevent Kousei from getting on the board and playing from behind is not the place where they wanted to be.

But they played very well throughout the tournament, perhaps surprising some despite being the Tokyo champions.  It'll be a hard road to navigate in the summer though.  But they'll have time to work on the pitching before then.

Day 11 - Semifinal #1 - Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma) vs. Osaka Touin (Osaka)

We're now in the final stages of the 84th Haru Koushien.  Today are the semifinals, or jyunkesshou (準決勝).

First up is an old-timer to the dance, and what may be an up-and-coming team.

Osaka Touin is no newcomer to this parade.  Though founded in 1983, they have been to 10 haru & natsu Koushien tournaments, won 2 natsu Koushiens and have made it to the quarterfinals in 3 senbatsu tournaments.  This is however, the furthest they've gone at senbatsu.

This is in part thanks to ace Fujinami.  One of the two towers of Koushien this year, he eliminated his counterpart in the first round, then proceeded to beat the Kyushu runner-ups, Kyushu Gakuin.  He was given a half-game break as reliever Sawada took the hill, and they still managed to defeat the Kanto champions Urawa Gauin 3-1.

Osaka Touin has largely done this on the back of late inning offense.  All of their 17 runs have been scored in after the 5th inning break.  To me, that is unheard of.  It either speaks to the Osaka Touin offense to adjust, of the opposing pitching tiring, or a combination of both.  How long they can continue this is anybody's guess as they survived Urawa Gakuin 3-2.

Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi was officially named so in 2001 and became a co-ed school (it was an all-girls school).  In that short time, they have build a team that has become a surprise in the kokoyakyu world.  This team has advanced as a result of their baserunning.  For good or for bad, they have been as aggressive on the bases as any team I've seen.  It started in their first game against Tenri and hasn't stopped since for 16 total stolen bases.  The only difference was in the last game against Naruto in the quarterfinals.  There they may have taken advantage of poor defensive placement to rack up multiple extra base hits.

They've used this strategy to defeat Kinki runner-up Tenri, Kyushu champion Kamimura Gakuen and Shikoku winner Naruto.

The biggest question for Kendai will be whether they can get on base to implement their baserunning strategy.  Power needs no prerequisite other than putting the bat on the ball.  This could be a close game, or one rather lopsided.  Should be interesting!

Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma)
CF  Takeuchi Tsukasa
2B  Nakayama Keita
C  Nagasaka Kenya
3B  Uchida Ryouta
1B  Oosawa Yoshiyuki
RF  Kanbe Kazuki
LF  Kobayashi Ryuutarou
SS  Akiyama Kousuke
P  Miki Keita

Osaka Touin (Osaka)
2B  Oonishi Tomoya
RF  Mizumoto Gen
C  Mori Tomoya
1B  Koike Yuuya (#5)
3B  Kasamatsu Yuuya (#15)
LF  Yasui Kouki
CF  Hakusui Kenta
P  Fujinami Shintarou
SS  Mizutani Yukiya (#14)


11:02 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Oddly, the top batters for Kendai aren't waiting for pitches.  They're going after Fujinami!

Takeuchi grounds out to 2nd on a 1-0 pitch, Nakayama swings and misses on a 150 fastball on a 1-2 count for two quick outs.

Nagasaka continues the aggressive play, taking the first pitch to left for a single.

And Uchida does the same, but grounds out to 2nd.  An interesting strategy.

Bottom 1st
And it's the opposite for Osaka Touin.  They're taking pitches against Miki and Oonishi leads off with a walk!

No bunt from Mizumoto, but hit ball back up the middle is taken by Nakayama , who touches 2nd for one and throws to 1st for the double play!  Mori pops out to Uchida to end the inning.

Top 2nd
Kendai continues to swing away.  One down, Kanbe single to right center.

And Aoyagi sends Kanbe!  But Mori's throw is in time for the out!  From the replays, Kanbe may not have gotten a great jump on the pitch.

The bottom of the order seems to be more patient as Kobayashi draws a walk.  But on what may have been a hit-and-run, Akiyama pops out to 3rd.

Bottom 2nd
Koike with a grounder past a diving Uchida for a leadoff single!  Kasamatsu trying the bunt, but fouls off the first attempt.  He successfully lays it down the second time.

Yasui with a grounder to short, Akiyama holds for a second, and his throw is late!  All safe!

Hakusui swinging on the first pitch, hits a ball to the right side, and that's through!  Kanbe up with the ball, and his throw home is late!  Yasui takes the extra base to 3rd as Hakusui plates Osaka Touin's first run in the first 5 innings of any game!  1-0 Osaka Touin!

Fujinami up, and Nishitani-kantoku has him bunting!  He fouls one off, and then fouls off another!  So the squeeze isn't an option anymore, is it?

Nope.  He swings and misses for the 2nd out.

Mizutani flies out to right and the inning is over.  But if Osaka Touin is able to score their first run here this early in a game, I'm afraid to think what it might mean for Kendai going forward.

Top 3rd
Miki gives a good AB against Fujitani, fouling off a couple of pitches before softly grounding out to 1st.

Back to the top of the order and the strategy hasn't changed.  They're still going after Fujinami.  Takeuchi gets under one for Kobayashi in left.

Nakayama does gets a base hit lining one to right.  He should be going if they're going for it.  But he doesn't and Nagasaka grounds out to a fielder's choice at 3rd to end the inning.

Bottom 3rd
For ace Miki, this may be the important test of the game.  The 2nd time through the order.

And Oonishi starts it off with a single through the right side on a letter high fastball.  Mizumoto appears at least to be bunting, and indeed he lays it down up the 1st base line to advance Oonishi.

But Miki gets out of the inning getting both Mori and Koike to hit harmless flies to left.  Seems like he's doing ok, but we'll have to see in the later innings.

Top 4th
Uchida makes some good contact on foul balls, but succumbs to the forkball.  Oosawa goes up 3-1 but gets under one and flies out to left.

Kanbe arches his back as he just misses getting plunked by a fastball.  Then after working the count full, he sticks the bat out and the contact is good enough to get over Oonishi for a single!  Go figure.

Kobayashi then attacks the first pitch and singles through to right!  Now they need a one-timer from Akiyama.  But while he swings at the first pitch too, he flies out to center for the out to retire the side.

Bottom 4th
Kasamatsu becomes just Miki's 2nd K as he misses on a slider.  Yasui can't check his swing on one too, and the 3rd base ump rings him up.

Hakusui avoids being the 3rd straight K victim, but he flies out to left.

Top 5th
Miki goes down swinging for the first out.  Takeuchi after falling behind 1-2, works the count full, then thinks he has ball 4, but the plate umpire rings him up!  That fastball looked rather low there, and Takeuchi thought so too, but not to the one person that really matters.

And Nakayama chases a fastball away for Fujinami's 6th K as he strikes out the side!

Bottom 5th
Fujinami gets caught looking on a slider at the corner for the first out.  But Mizutani singles through to left putting a man on.

Oonishi with a ball to the gap in right center!  Takeuchi running it down, picks turns and throws back in!  Mizutani is being waved around 3rd!  Nakayama throws home and...

Nagasaka makes the catch and swipe...  OUT!  Takeuchi makes a great quick throw in, and Nakayama with a great relay home to prevent Osaka Touin from extending the lead!

And Mizumoto hits a fly to right!  Kanbe there for the catch and Kendai is out of the inning!  Some great defense keeps the deficit at 1 as we head into the break!

Top 6th
Perhaps a reason why Kendai has been aggressive is that because they figured Fujinami wouldn't be issuing walks so they'd have to hit to get on base.  But I'm not sure that doesn't mean you can still be patient.

One down for Kendai and Uchida earns a walk.  But that is erased when Oosawa swings on a 2-0 pitch and grounds into the 4-6-3 double play.

Bottom 6th
Mori with a ball to the left side.  Akiyama makes the diving stop, but can't make a clean grab!  Mori is in with a leadoff single!

Cleanup hitter Koike up and he's showing bunt.

They try for the bust-and-run!  But Koike pops it up!  Oosawa with the catch for the first out.

Kasamatsu up 3-1, but he hits a comebacker to Miki!  He goes to 2nd for one, but Nakayama can't get the ball out of his glove to throw to 1st.  2 down.

And so the inning continues as Yasui singles to right!  Will this be the beginning of the end for Kendai?

Sanshin!  Hakusui chases a slider out of the zone and they survive one inning.

Top 7th
Kanbe gets on base safely for the 3rd time with a leadoff walk!  Will Aoyagi-kantoku have Kobayashi bunt?

No!  He swings away on the 0-1 pitch and lines one to left!  Yasui charging in, dives... and makes the catch!  Kanbe has to scurry back to 1st on the great play!

Now Aoyagi-kantoku is having Akiyama bunt?!  He lays it down, but it'll be up to Miki to get the run home.

I suppose if you look at it from the standpoint that a base hit = a run, and an out - top of the order, you can't complain.  But you're also running out of... outs.

Miki gets ahead though 3-1.  I can't imagine him swinging on this one.

But he does and fouls it off.  Again perhaps thinking he's going to throw a strike, might as well see if I can get a hit.

Fujitani puts an end to that, getting Miki to swing on a ball outside for the 3rd out.

Bottom 7th
Fujinami getting one good rip in, but just scorching one foul down the left field line.  Instead, he strikes out for the 3rd time this game.

Interesting call by Nakatani-kantoku sending in #13 Takai to hit for Mizutani.  He though harmlessly grounds out to 2nd.

Oonishi gets on base safely again with a single past a diving Akiyama.  He's 3-3 now with a walk.

Mizumoto though flies out to right again to end the inning.  Both lucky 7's go quietly.

Top 8th
#6 Mega comes in defensively at SS.

Takeuchi hits one to left.  Yasui running back, running back????????!!!!!!!!


The umpire signals the home run as I, the announcers, and even his own teammates are in disbelief!  That ball didn't seem well struck, had no carry from the wind (it's currently dead to a slight breeze out to center), and yet it carried out by a large margin!

We're douten at 1-1!!!!!

Fujinami at least not still in shock as he retires the next 2 batters.  But Uchida gets his first hit on a base hit to center.

Oosawa grounds out to Mega to end the inning.  But!  A solo HR by top batter Takeuchi ties the game here in the 8th!

Bottom 8th
Mori with a blast to left center!  Kobayashi and Takeuchi running to the wall!!



Osaka Touin wastes no time in responding to Kendai's home run with one of their own!  Mori gives Osaka Touin back the lead at 2-1!!!

Miki retires Koike for the 1st out.  NOW KASAMATSU WITH A BLAST!!!  Kobayashi desperately scrambling back!!!  He stops!


Miki's face looks like one of resignation as Kasamatsu hits the 2nd HR this inning, giving Osaka Touin the 3-1 lead!

Aoyagi-kantoku callse time, but it doesn't help.  Miki hits Yasui to put a runner on.  After a foulout by Hakusui, Fujinami scorches one past a diving Uchida down the left field line for a double.

Runners on 2nd and 3rd now for Osaka Touin and it looks bad for Miki.

But Mega pops out to Uchida to end the inning.  However, Osaka Touin's power finally shows themselves with 2 big HR's in the 8th!

Top 9th
Last ups for Kendai as the 6-7-8 batters are due up (Kanbe, Kobayashi, Akiayama).

Kanbe has reaches base all 3 times so far, can he get on one more time?

He falls behind 2-2 and starts fighting off pitches.  2, then 3, then 4 pitches fouled off.  But Fujinami gets him to chase a slider for the 1st out!

Nishitani-kantoku calls for time as Kobayashi steps in.  He's 1-2 on the day with a walk.

Fujinami gets ahead 1-2.  Wastes a pitch away.  Checks his swing, 3rd base ump calls him safe.  And now he's fouling off a pitch. Ball low and he's on base!

The douten run now comes to the plate in Akiyama.  But I doubt he can hit a HR, so he just needs to continue the inning.  Meanwhile, #13 Saitou comes in to run for Kobayashi.

Akiyama quickly falls behind 0-2, wastes a pitch, but then hits a grounder to 2nd!  Oonishi's only play is to 1st and there's 2 down!

Last chance as #13 Takasugi comes in to hit for Miki.  But he hits a grounder to short.  Mega with the ball, makes the throw to 1st and that's the game!

Osaka Touin advances to the championship game with a 3-1 win over Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi!  They find a way again to respond swiftly again after Kendai stuns the crowd with a HR.

But the real key was that despite getting 9 baserunners, they did not have a stolen base this game!  After perhaps Kanbe got thrown out, they were hesitant to send runners and pressure the defense.  Whether Kanbe's caught stealing was the cause or Aoyagi-kantoku's belief that they couldn't steal a base against the Touin battery, the removal of their running game I believe cost them.

Yes, they got the HR, but that's not their game.  And in the end Miki's two mistakes late was the difference.

So Osaka Touin got 12 hits in the game, but managed just 3 runs.  But, the offense probably put a lot of stressful pitches on Miki as they had runners in scoring position in 5 of the 9 innings which led to the difference later on.

And now they advance to the finals.  Fujinami with 142 pitches today, though most of them were not stressful at all.  Will he start the game tomorrow or will Sawada take the hill?  Nakatani-kantoku really only has that question to worry about as the offense will be fine.

Kendai Takasaki is eliminated, but their performance in the last year will have given everyone notice.  Yes, they're still learning to play on the big stage, but they're close.  They're darned close.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Day 10 - Quarterfinal #4 - Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo) vs. Yokohama (Kanagawa)

Finally, it's a battle of Tokyo Bay.  Kanto Dai-ichi faces off against Yokohama for the final semifinal spot.

Yokohama looks like the team they were supposed to be last summer.  A team with a very good offense, and more than passable pitching, Yokohama blanked Kochi 4-0 then Yanagi scattered 11 hits in a 7-1 victory over Seikou Gakuin.  Nothing from last year that would seem to undermine their run.

Kanto Dai-ichi has had to survive two close games.  First of all a 1-0 victory of Beppu Aoyama (though it seemed a little more bigger than that), then a 2-1 nailbiting win over Chiben Gakuen.

The biggest question mark with Kanto Dai-ichi lies with their ace Nakamura.  He clearly showed signs of fatigue as a lot of his pitches were high and wide.  And being on the last day of the 1st round, it'll only get harder for them as for them to win the title he'll have to had pitched on the 6th, 8th, 10th, 11th and 12th days of the tournament.  Not an envious position to be in.  And with Kanto's offense being the way it's been, they're going to have to find a way for the pitching to hold else they exit, and exit with a thud.

Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo)
3B  Isobe Yuuta (#9)
RF  Kishi Naoya (#16)
2B  Kiuchi Jyunshou
CF  Akiyama Shouta
LF  Itou Hiroki
SS  Yoshie Masakazu (#5)
1B  Anzai Kouyou
C  Matsutani Tsubasa
P  Nakamura Yuuta

Yokohama (Kanagawa)
LF  Shishikura Kazuma
3B  Takahashi Ryouken (#6)
RF  Tahara Keigo (#11)
1B  Yamauchi Tatsuya
2B  Higuchi Ryuunosuke
CF  Haizaki Ryou
SS  Aoki Rikito (#16)
C  Ozeki Ikki
P  Yanagi Yuuya

13:38 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Kanto's batters taking pitches trying to find any advantage to getting on base.  While it is to no avail, Isobe goes to 2-2 before grounding out, and both Kishi and Kiuchi go the full count before striking out swinging and looking respectively.

Bottom 1st
Nakamura's first pitch runs in and hits Shishikura on the hands.  Not a good start.  Takahashi bunts him over into scoring position.

Nakamura's going after Tahara to try and get ahead of the pinch, goes up 0-2 on him.  And Tahara goes down swinging on a change!  2 down!

Yamauchi swinging on the first pitch and grounds out to 2nd!  Kiuchi there to throw to 1st and make the play!  3 outs!

Top 2nd
Akiyama starts off the inning with a ball back up the middle!  Man on for Kanto.  Itou bunting, has to get out of the way.  Count 1-1, bunts it foul!  Will he free bunt?  He shows it.  And puts it down!

Yonezawa-kantoku looking to Yoshie for the one-timer.  Outfield playing in.

And Yoshie pops it up!  Shishikura there to make the catch for the 2nd out.  Anzai grounds out to Takahashi, and the inning is over.

Bottom 2nd
Higuchi with a ball back up the middle, but Kiuchi makes a great diving stop!  Throw to 1st is wide, but Anzai makes a great pick for the out!

Haizaki fouls out for the 2nd out.

And the NHK announcers are talking about how many off-speed pitches Nakamura is throwing.  I wonder if it has to do anything with the fact that his fastball may be a bit slower last game and Yonezawa-kantoku is asking him to throw off-speed stuff to Yokohama.

Aoki swings at another one and pops it up to 1st.  Anzai makes the catch to retire the side.

Top 3rd
Meanwhile, the Kanto offense are trying to deal with Yanagi's fastball.  Matsutani is frozen on one on the outside corner, Nakamura goes down on 3 straight, and while Isobe avoids 3 straight K's, he grounds back to Yanagi for the 3rd out.

Bottom 3rd
Ozeki with a chopper to the left side, but Isobe does an ole on the ball missing it with his stab!  Yoshie can't field it and it's a leadoff base hit!  Yanagi bunts him over.

Shishikura chases one outside and softly hits one to 2nd.  Kiuchi makes the putout and there's 2 down.

Takahashi pops it up!  Matsutani off with his mask goes towards the back screen, leans back at the last minute and makes the catch!  Nakamura looking a lot better than I was expecting.

Top 4th
Kishi trying for the safety bunt and misses.  Swings at one low and is behind 0-2.  But he comes back and works a walk!

And Kishi is caught off of 1st!  Yanagi easily throws him out, but the home plate umpire calls balk!  Kishi is awarded 2nd!  What a break for Kanto! Kiuchi then lays the bunt down, advancing him to 3rd.


Akiyama just rips into one from Yanagi!  Tahara doesn't even give chase!!!!!


Akiyama out of nowhere hits a homerun against Yanagi and Kanto Dai-ichi takes a 2-0 lead!!

Watanabe-kantoku calls for time...

Itou makes solid contact too, but flies out to right.  Yoshie can't hold his swing and goes down, but I'm still in shock as Akiyama with a rare HR to right gives his team the lead!

Bottom 4th
Nakamura having trouble on the mound.  His first two off-speed pitches are in the dirt, and the next two fastballs are high for a leadoff walk.

Yamauchi up and the outfield plays back.  He gets under one, and Akiyama calls off Itou to make the catch.

Higuchi gets under one too and hits it to center.  Akiyama going back.. going back??

Makes the catch in deep center.  Wow, that carried further than I thought it would.

Haizaki grounds out to 2nd, and the leadoff walk goes for naught.

Top 5th
Yanagi almost with a 1-2-3 inning, but Nakamura bloops one just fair down the right field line before Higuchi and Tahara can get there.

But that lasts for one pitch as Isobe lines out to right.

Bottom 5th
Nakamura not letting Yokohama make good contact, but continues to give them free passes as he issues one to Aoki to lead off the 5th.

Ozeki trying to lay down the bunt, but instead gets ahead 3-1!  And a pitch low puts 2 men on for Yanagi!  Yonezawa-kantoku calls for time...

Yanagi lays down the bunt and now Yokohama threatens to tie with a base hit!

Top of the order and Shishikura.  But Nakamura gets ahead 0-2.  Fastball high, 1-2.

Chopper up the 3rd base line!  Isobe charging in, looks up before making the pick and the ball deflects off his glove!  Everyone's safe and Yokohama is within 1 at 2-1!!

Still one down for Takahashi.


Takahashi lays down the bunt!  Isobe's only play is to 1st and Yokohama ties the game!  We're douten at 2-2!  But Shishikura tries for 3rd and is thrown out by Anzai!  Two down!

But what's this?  Matsutani appeals something at home, and the plate umpire calls Ozeki out!  Watanabe-kantoku is wondering what the heck is going on!

The plate umpire goes to the microphone, says the catcher appealed the runner not touching home, and Ozeki never touched home!

Watanabe-kantoku is furious!  He is yelling at the plate umpire!  I've never seen this before!

But the grounds crew comes out and that's the end of the inning.

Top 6th
One down and Kiuchi hits a single to left.  But Akiyama strikes out and Kiuchi is caught stealing 2nd to end the ining.

Bottom 6th
Tahara with a drive to right center!  Akiyama and Kishi running back to the fence.  Still running back!!

And Akiyama makes the catch right in front of the wall!  One down.

Yamauchi and Higuchi quickly fly out thereafter and it's a 1-2-3 inning for Nakamura!

Top 7th
One down, Yoshie lays down a bunt.  Takahashi lets it go as it's rolling foul, but it straightens out enough to catch the corner of the 3rd base bag!  Fair!

Takahashi can only give a wry smile as he gives the ball back to Yanagi.

But Anzai grounds into the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.  Kanto's lucky 7 ends quickly.

Bottom 7th
But will Yokohama be able to get the douten run after it was taken away?

Haizaki takes a full count pitch and hits it to right.  Kishi running back, looking up, running back...

It's over his head!  Haizaki rounding 2nd makes it into 3rd easily!  Douten runner 90 feet away!


Nakamura almost sails one to the backscreen!  Matsutani saves it!

Now a ball in the dirt and Matsutani blocks that one!  3-1 to Aoki.


Aoki makes contact, but it goes foul!  Matsutani dives, but can't make the catch!

Full count, what will both sides do?

High and inside!  Gyakuten runner on for Yokohama and still no down!

Ozeki lifts one to center!  Akiyama with the catch and the ball is cutoff but bobbled by Kiuchi.  He wouldn't have had a play anyways,  and Yokohama indeed gets the douten run!  2-2!!

Yanagi lays down his 3rd bunt, putting the gyakuten runner in scoring position for Shishikura!

Shishikura fouls out to left and the inning is over.  However, a leadoff triple leads to the douten run!

Top 8th
Kanto has been unable to do anything since the HR by Akiyama.  And it continues into the 8th.  Matsutani grounds out to 1st, and Nakamura flies out to left.  Isobe grounds out to 3rd and Nakamura will have to hold the line.

Bottom 8th
One down and Tahara collects his first single, a ball back up the middle that Yoshie dives and just misses!  #9 Nakase come in to run for him.

Yamauchi with a ball to shallow right center!  Akiyama charging in, dives... and makes the catch!  What a play by Akiyama!! 2 down!

And Higuchi with a ball to short!  Yoshie with the strong throw to 1st and Yokohama is retired!

Top 9th
2-3-4 batters due up for Kanto.

Kishi looks at strike 3 on the outside corner for the 1st out!

Kiuchi with a ball to center puts the go-ahead run on base!  Watanabe-kantoku calls time...

Akiyama showing bunt!  They're going for the one timer!  He takes strike 1.

Wait!  He swinging away!  He singles to center!  Runners on 1st and 2nd with just one down! Itou stepping in, but he's 0-2 on the day.

He quickly falls behind 0-2 and starts defensively fouling off pitches...  Gets one ball back.

And he drives one to left center!  That's through the outfielders!  Kiuchi scores!  Akyama being waved around and he scores!!  Itou with a 2-run triple and Kanto Dai-ichi takes a 4-2 lead!!

Watanabe-kantoku calls in #10 Souma.  He comes in for Nakase and takes the hill.  Yanagi goes to right.

Souma retires the next two batters to end the inning, but Kanto takes back the two runs it lost and are 3 outs away from a trip to the semifinals!

Bottom 9th
It'll be the 6-7-8 batters up for Yokohama to mount their rally.

First up is Haizaki who earlier had the triple.  He gets ahead 3-1.  More than anything Yokohama needs baserunners.  He takes the pitch and the count goes full.

And Nakamura pops him up!  Isobe under it for the first out!

Aoki, who had two walks on the day gives way to #13 Itou.  He drives one to left!  Itou running back, leaps backwards, and makes the catch!! WHAT???!!!!

Two down and the last chance in Ozeki.  He quickly falls behind 0-2...  Fastball up.  And another one up, 2-2...

He hits one to right... Kishi there... makes the catch!!  Shiaishuuryou!

Kanto Dai-ichi shocks Yokohama (and myself) and advances with a 4-2 victory!!

Hard to explain this one myself.  Yanagi looked the better pitcher most of the game, and yet it was two mistakes that cost him the game.  Meanwhile, Nakamura looked shaky at times as I expected, walked 4 and hit 1, and yet thanks to some amazing (at at times lucky) defense, plus a crucial call reversing a run, won the game!

Personally, the better team did not win the game, rather the better team today did.

And as I write this, there are several Yokohama players crying, and other looking out onto the field as if to say what did we do to deserve this?

Now, my personal feelings for Yokohama are neutral to a bit on the negative side.  I don't hate them, but they are a powerhouse and I do like the underdogs.  And in recent years I have been very critical of them.  But you get to a point where you start feeling bad for them, and today's game might have been that point for me.

I do love the underdogs, but you have to start feeling bad for teams that are good, but just can't get over the hump (see Tenri).  And despite what people may have said about Watanabe-kantoku and his work, I actually do hope that his team finds success.

Just not against my teams please.

So Yokohama will have to work hard during the spring and summer, and run the gauntlet that is the Yokohama qualifying to make it to Koushien.  I hope this time they do make it.

Kanto Dai-ichi's senbatsu will continue, but they'll have to face off on no days rest against Kousei Gakuin.  Not a promising proposition.

Day 10 - Quarterfinal #3 - Aikoudai Meiden (Aichi) vs. Kousei Gakuin (Aomori)

Our second half of quarterfinal action begins with a bang.  It's a rematch of the Meiji Jingu final as Tohoku champion Kousei Gakuin squares off with Tokai champion Aikoudai Meiden.

In that prior game, Aikoudai Meiden had built a 5-2 lead before Kousei tied it up in the 7th, and scored the go-ahead run in the 8th.  Furthermore, the game may have had a Yokohama moment as a strikeout in the dirt ended the game, but it was apparently possible for the batter to have run around the bases had he and the runners been aware of it.

So fast forward 4 months and the two teams square off again, though this time for a spot in the semifinals.

Kousei Gakuin dominated Hokushou in a 3-0 win in the first game, then blitzed Oumi 13-1.

Aikoudei Meiden has had equal success, shutting out Miyazaki Nishi 8-0, and then Riseisha 9-2.

So both teams have shown themselves to be true title contenders, and yet here they are again, fighting for a spot in the Best 4.

Aikoudai Meiden (Aichi)
2B  Kimura Toshiki
LF  Araki Yuuto
3B  Nakano Yoshiki
SS  Satou Daisuke
RF  Matsuoka Daisuke
1B  Torii Tatsunori
C  Nakamura Yuutarou
P  Hamada Tatsurou
CF  Matsubara Fumiya

Kousei Gakuin (Aomori)
RF  Ameku Shouto
LF  Murase Daijyu
C  Tamura Tatsuhiro
SS  Houjyou Fumiya
1B  Takeda Toshiki
3B  Oosugi Akinobu
P  Jyouma Ryuuhei
CF  Kimura Takumi
2B  Kishigawa Kenta


11:00 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
One down and Araki gets plunked by starter Jyouma.  Nakano up, and he tries the safety bunt!  Jyouma can't field it and Kishigawa is out of position!  All safe!

Early trouble for Kousei early, but then Satou can't lay down the bunt, and he has to swing away!  Jyouma strikes him out for the 2nd out!


And Matsuoka also goes down swinging as Jyouma gets out of an early pinch!

Bottom 1st
Two quick outs for Hamada to start the game, but then Tamura blasts a ball to center!  Matsubara back, watches it take a bounce to the wall!  Tamura in with a double.

Houjyou up, and he hits a ball to left!  Araki running in, has it... loses it!!!

He can't hold onto the ball after he stretches down to get it!  Tamura, running on 2 outs, scores easily and Kousei strikes first!  1-0!

And Nakai-kantoku starts the running game, sending Houjyou to 2nd, with no challenge from Nakamura!  Adding to problems, after an 8 pitch AB, Hamada walks Takeda adding to his pitch count!

And while he goes full on Oosugi, he gets him to chase to end the inning.  But a stressful inning for ace Hamada as Kousei takes the early lead!

Top 2nd
A really quick inning for Jyouma after the 1st.  10 pitches to record a 1-2-3 inning, and 6 of those were for Nakamura!

Bottom 2nd
Kousei gets a leadoff runner as Jyouma is hit by Hamada.  But Takumi can't advance the runner and is caught looking on a fastball at the knees!

Nakai-kantoku then looks for the one-timer with a sac bunt from Kishigawa.

But Ameku strikes out looking as well on a fastball on the outside corner!

Top 3rd
Jyouma doing a great job of neutralizing the Meiden lineup first time through.

Matsubara's struggles continue after being demoted to the bottom of the lineup.  Heswings over a slider.  Toshiki and Araki groundout and it's a 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom 3rd
Murase with a grounder to short.  Takes an irregular hop, but Satou adjusts in time before it hits his face!  Tamura works the count full, but Hamada gets him to fly out to left.  Houjyou becomes Hamada's 4th K as he watches a fastball go by him for the 3rd out.

It's a 1-2-3 inning, but none of his innings have been stress-free.

Top 4th
Nakano gets his 2nd base hit, a rope to right.

Bunt-and-run is on, but Nakano gets caught between 1st and 2nd!  Tamura throws for 2nd, instead of closing the gap and that allows Nakano to return to 1st!

Satou in effect bunts, as he hits a high chopper to 2nd.  Douten runner in scoring position.

Matsuoka hits a scorcher to 1st, but Takeda is there for the putout.  Nakano advances to 3rd.

Torii goes down on a slider and slices it to right center!  That's through the gap and to the wall!  Nakano scores as Torii has a stand-up triple!  1-1!

Eh??  Switch-hitting Nakamura bunts on the first pitch??  It's right to Jyouma who makes the play at 1st for the 3rd out.

Not sure about that call, but Meiden equalizes here in the 4th!

Bottom 4th
I don't know if Kousei's batters are seeing the ball well, because Takeda becomes Hamada's 6th K, and 5th looking as he watches a fastball hit the corner for the strikeout.

And Oosugi goes down swinging on a fastball outside!

Jyouma manages to make contact, but all he can do is hit a fly to left for the 3rd out.

Top 5th
One down, and Matsubara tries for a safety bunt.  And while he looked dead to rights, the ball is late getting to 1st and Matsubara dives in safely!  Not sure how that happened!

Hit-and-run!  Kurano-kantoku puts it on and Toshiki grounds it right where Houjyou was!  Matsubara stops at 2nd.

Araki up and... he's bunting??!

But he can't lay it down and he winds up looking at strike 3 inside!


Nakai-kantoku calls for a pitching change!  With the heart of the Meiden order up, he sends in Kanazawa for Kishigawa and Jyouma goes back to 2nd!

And a slight rain comes down at Koushien...

Nakano bunting?  Must be feigning it to get balls?  And now at 1-1, Kurano-kantoku sends out #13 Itou to give instructions to Nakano?

Nakano with a hard grounder to 3rd, but Oosugi is up with it and makes the play at 1st for the out!

Bottom 5th
Hamada finally gets his easy inning.  Takuma quickly flies to right for the first out, Kanazawa hits a routine grounder to 2nd, and Ameku - though he got the count full, strikes out swinging to end the inning.

We hit the break tied at 1 with the pitchers dominating the action.  As to be expected in this matchup.

Top 6th
Satou starts off the 2nd half with a grounder past a diving Oosugi!  Leadoff single for Satou as Matsuoka bunts him along.

Nakamura with a slow chopper up the 3rd base side!  Kanazawa there to field it, and AHHHHHH!!!!!

Kanazawa throws it away!!  It goes up the right field foul territory as Satou comes in to score!  Meiden takes the lead on the error, 2-1!!

And now Nakamura is caught off 1st!  Tamura throws to 1st, but Nakamura avoids the tag!!

But he pushes his luck and tries to steal 2nd, and is caught to end the inning.

Bottom 6th
Hamada looking stronger as the game has continued, getting two quick outs and then freezing Houjyou on 3 straight to end the inning!

Top 7th
Kanazawa settling down retiring the first two batters before Toshiki singles to left.

Araki puts a charge on the ball, but Houjyou picks it before it hits the dirt for the 3rd out.

Bottom 7th
Takeda with Kousei's first hit since the 1st!  He lines one into the gap in right-center!  He doesn't stop heading for 2nd and he's in easily!

Douten chance for Kousei as Oosugi looks to bunt.  He lays it down and Kousei is a sacrifice away from tying the game!

Jyouma does one better, hitting one through a drawn in infield to right as Takeda scores! Douten!!  2-2!!!

Kurano-kantoku calls for time.

Takumi with another single through the right side!  Runners on first and second for Kousei!!  Still 1 down!

Kanazawa bunting!  Nakamura makes the play at 1st, but a base hit could score 2 now!  The lineup turns over for Ameku.

The Meiden battery is being careful with Ameku, apparently unintentionally intentionally walking him.  That is until he swings at a 3-1 pitch outside and fouls it off?  Now what will they do?

They go after him!  He hits one up the middle!  Satou with it, throws to 1st... just in time to beat Ameku!

But Kousei comes back in the lucky 7th to tie the game at 2!

Top 8th
Nakano is badly fooled on a ball in the dirt and goes down for the 1st out.

And after a flyout to center, Matsuoka manages to draw a walk on the 7th pitch of the AB.  That gets Nakai-kantoku to call times as Torii steps in.

Kanazawa gets ahead of Torii 1-2.  Torii fighting, fouling one off.  And another.  At this point any hit or walk is crucial.

Ball down and away.  Hit-and-run, and Torii is about to foul it off.  Holds off on another ball down and away!

Down the first base line, foul!  10th pitch of the AB, wild pitch!  Torii walks, but Matsuoka can't advance past 2nd.

Now a base hit could score 1!

Bunt?!  Wild pitch!!  Nakamura just freezes there as Tamura fires to 3rd.. SAFE!!    Now runners at the corners for Meiden as Nakai-kantoku calls time once again.

Can Nakamura get a hit now?  And will he be showing bunt still?

He's still showing bunt?  Why??

And now Kurano-kantoku sends out Itou to talk to him again!  What's going on???!

Bunt again, and it's down for a ball.  2-1.  There's no way he'd be bunting.

But he shows it again and takes it for a strike?!

Nakamura finally swings away and hits one down the right field line!  But it hangs up enough that Ameku is there to run it down for the 3rd out!  Kanazawa out of the jam!

Bottom 8th
Murase with a ball down the right field line.. fair!!  Matsuoka runs it down, but Murase continues going all the way for a leadoff double!

Tamura, not bunting as he fouls one off!  Camera goes to the over field view and the outfield is playing slightly in.

Oh?  Nakai-kantoku sends in #17 Sekiguchi now to run for Murase!

Ball inside for strike 2.  But Takura hits a deep fly to center!  Matsubara goes back for the catch, but Sekiguchi is able to tag up to 3rd!

Now Houjyou with the opportunity to get the gyakuten runner home!

But it looks like Hamada and Nakamura aren't going to touch Houjyou as they fall behind 3-0.

Check that Hamada does throw a strike, and Houjyou lines it foul.  And they still go after him as he fouls off another one.  Guess it wasn't an intentional walk after all.

Houjyou now fighting at the plate as he fouls one off.  He goes for the squeeze and it hits him!  The Meiden battery is arguing for a strikeout, but the umpire calls a dead ball!

That puts runners at the corners for Takeda.  He fouls one off!  Nakamura running towards the back screen, leaps to try and beat the ball to the fence, but can't!

And after a pitchout, Takeda swings and fouls it off!  No squeeze here!  (I think...)

Another foul!  Hamada needs the K or a double play.  Gotta keep the ball on the ground.  Fastball outside, misses wide.


Hamada hits the outside corner with the fastball and Takeda is retired!  2 down! It'll be up to Oosugi, 0-2 so far today.

Houjyou takes off for 2nd, and gets no throw!  Hamada falls behind Oosugi 3-0.

He hits a ball to center!  Matsubara running over, makes a desperate dive...


The ball goes all the way to the wall!  Sekiguchi and Houjyou easily score.  And Oosugi is being waved around!  The throw in is not in time and Oosugi has an inside-the-park homerun!  Kousei leads 5-2!!!!

And now Jyouma walks.  Have they given up?

Takumi strikes out to end the inning, but Kousei seems to have taken an insurmountable lead here with just 3 outs to go!

Top 9th
Has Kousei once again struck late against Meiden?  It'll be 8-9-1 batters up for Meiden.

Hamada leading off, no hits on the day.  He hits a comebacker to Kanazawa and goes down for the 1st out!

#16 Matsui coming in to hits for Matsubara.  Can he somehow start something?

No!  He grounds out to short!  Houjyou makes the play for the 2nd out!

It's up to Toshiki to keep the game going for Meiden...

But he hits one to 2nd!  Jyouma opens and ends the game as he throws to Takeda to end the game!

Aomori's Kousei Gakuin has made the semifinals by defeating Meiden for a second time!  And the game almost was a complete copy of the Meiji Jingu final as Meiden held the lead early, Kousei tied the game in the 7th and took the lead in the 8th!

To defeat a team in such a manner twice, you have to give credit to Nakai-kantoku for going with what works instead of trying a new strategy.  As a result, his team moves one step closer to the championship.

Meiden finally made a good run this year, but falls short yet again.  Kurano-kantoku will have to find something more for their pitching staff if they are to compete for the title.