Our first quarterfinal matchup is a gut check for one team, and an great opportunity for the other team to do what has only been done one other time in school history.
Tsuruga Kehi has reached the quarterfinals in rather convincing fashion, showing displays of offense against Kyoto Shouei and the flashes of brilliance by ace Kishimoto. While a 3-0 win over first-timers Moriokadai Fuzoku in their prior game doesn't look too stellar, it was perhaps a good break and at the same time a check to keep them in line for the stretch run.
Going back to Kishimoto, he has pitched rather superbly in his 3 games so far. Now, the extra game may prove to be an issue going forward in terms of his stamina, but we haven't seen it yet. So for as long as he continues to throw good innings out there, Tsuruga Kehi has a shot.
As for their opponents, Seikou Gakuin has reached the Best 8 defeating a very game Naruto squad. While it was just their 2nd game at Koushien, it's perhaps further than most were expecting them to go. But the game was not easy, and if not for the efforts of Sonobe, they could have easily been going home 3 days ago instead of playing for a spot in the semifinals.
They've reached this position before, in the 2008 and 2010 Natsu Koushien tournaments. In both cases, they've been turned away - rather rudely in fact, giving up double digit runs to Yokohama and Kounan.
So this game is key for the team that has dominated Fukushima-ken for so long. Do they have the talent and effort to finally get over the hill and reach the semifinals and beyond?
Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui) - Hokushinetsu Runner-up
CF Mine Kentarou
3B Yonemitsu Issei
1B Yamada Seiya
C Kita Ryouta
SS Asai Hiroya
LF Miyazaki Hiroya (#13)
RF Iwata Shinya
2B Yamane Takaki
P Kishimoto Jyunki
Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima) - Tohoku Runner-up
LF Yaoita Hyuuma
SS Ishigaki Mitsuhiro (#16)
1B Sonobe Satoshi
RF Satou Shouhei
2B Ishino Yuuta
3B Nishimura Daiki (#6)
CF Isagi Jyun (#18)
C Hirose Kazumi
P Ishii Naru
11:01 - First pitch!
Ishii working quickly makes short work of Mine, getting him to chase a changeup away. Issei gets jammed and rolls one to Sonobe.
And before you can get settled into your seat, Yamada is frozen on a slider inside and Ishii fires 2 K's right out of the gate! About as good of a start as you would want from Seikou Gakuin
Yaoita takes a couple of pitches before going after a high fastball and grounding to Asai.
Ishigaki on the other hand takes the first ball and serves it back into center for a base hit, bringing up last game's hero Sonobe.
He's quickly behind 0-2 as Kishimoto gets a generous call on the outside corner.
And as a result, he goes after the next pitch and hits a harmless fly to right.
Cleanup batter Satou steps in but he too falls behind 0-2. After fouling off a couple of pitches, he eventually chases a cutter outside for the 3rd out. Not a bad start from Kishimoto and the velocity still seems to be there.
Kita gets hit by Ishii, and while he didn't really move out of the way, he's awarded 1st base. Azuma-kantoku asking #5 batter Asai to bunt, and after fouling one off, successfully lays one down.
Ishii not backing down, goes after bench starter Miyazaki and gets him to chase a buried changeup for the 2nd out.
Iwata though goes down and loops one into center! Isagi charging in, Kita being waved home! Throw from Isagi is offline and Tsuruga Kehi strikes first in the opening quarterfinal. It's 1-0!
Now Azuma-kantoku sends Iwata to 2nd! Throw from Hirose is high and he's in safely!
Ishii jams Yamane inducing a grounder to 2nd to end the inning, but a hit batter comes back to get Ishii here in the 2nd as Tsuruga Kehi takes the early lead.
Not sure what it is about the high ball that batters like recently, but Ishino swings at one and flies out to center.
Nishimura gets a hold of a Kishimoto slider and sends it over a chasing Miyazaki for a one out double! Seikou threatening to get the run back immediately!
Line from Isagi! But it's right at Yamane! And Nishimura took off before the ball cleared the infield and he's doubled off of 2nd! What an untimely baserunning mistake for Seikou!
And there's a reason Kishimoto is at the bottom of the lineup as he's completely fooled on a change way outside. 1 down.
Back to the top of the order and Mine. He grounds to Ishigaki and there's quickly 2 down.
Issei refuses to let Ishii have an easy inning and lines one down the right field line for a double.
Ishii though gets ahead of Yamada 0-2.
Looks like he left one over though as Yamada drives it to center.
Isagi chasing it back, still chasing it back. At the wall??!
Yamada not only gets a hold of one, but sends it just over the wall for a 2-run homerun! What seemed like an innocuous inning has now become a 3-0 lead!
Kita with a hard liner of his own, but Isagi is near enough to run it down for the 3rd out. A 2-out 2-run HR by Yamada extends Tsuruga's lead and you have to start being concerned if you're in the Seikou Gakuin camp.
Things continue to look bad for Seikou Gakuin, Neither Hirose nor Ishii can get on base, and despite Yaoita getting on base with a comebacker behind Kishimoto, and his subsequent steal of 2nd Kishimoto neatly gets out of the inning with a groundout from Ishigaki.
Ishii meanwhile is not so fortunate. He hits his 2nd batter to lead off an inning, prompting Saitou-kantoku to call time.
Miyazaki not bunting, but advances the runner anyways with a comebacker to Ishii.
Iwata with his 2nd base hit on a grounder to right! Asai is held up at 3rd.
Azuma-kantoku with the hit and run! Yamane with the grounder to 1st, Sonobe has to wait to toss it to Ishino covering 1st for the 2nd out.
Oh! Kishimioto must have heard me the last AB! He rips the first pitch past Ishigaki into left! One run will score, two runs will score as Kishimoto adds on to his lead with a timely 2-out base hit! Tsuruga Kehi now leads 5-0!!
Mine grounds out to 3rd, but Tsuruga Kehi continues to pull away from Seikou.
Defensive change for Tsuruga Kehi as #7 Kobayashi comes in for Miyazaki and takes over in LF.
And Kishimoto continues to set down the Seikou batters with relative ease! Sonobe and Satou both hit pop flies, and you know things are going well for you when a comebacker from Ishino deflects off of Kishimoto's foot right to Issei who fires to 1st for the 3rd out.
It's actually a very quick inning for Ishii as Issei flies out to left, Yamada gets under a curve and flies out to center.
With two down Kita takes the first pitch through the right side for a base hit, but is immediately left stranded as Asai takes the next pitch and grounds to 3rd.
Things are not looking good for Seikou as Nishimura chases a ball outside and grounds to short. Isagi looks at a cutter on the outside corner and goes down for Kishimoto's 2nd K.
Hirose tries to start something with a base hit back up the middle, but Ishii can't keep the inning going. He grounds to short where Asai flips it to 2nd and just gets Hirose for the 3rd out.
So we head to the break with Tsuruga Kehi building a 5-0 lead. It does look like Seikou Gakuin is once again outmatched and barring a major comeback will fall once again in the Best 8.
Tsuruga Kehi once again on the attack as new LF Kobayashi laces one into left center for a leadoff double! Iwata with the push bunt moves him to 3rd.
Yamane with a grounder to the right side, Sonobe dives but can't get it, but Ishino dives and does stop it! Kobayashi does not take off for home and Ishino tosses to Sonobe who's scrambling to 1st. But it's not in time! Eveyrone's safe!!
Kishimoto with a rip down the 3rd base line.. FAIR! It's fair past a diving Nishimura! Kobayashi scores as Kishimoto drives in yet another run, this time on a double! It's 6-0!
And oddly, Saitou-kantoku pulls starter Hirose from the game and puts in #12 Hiruta.
Mine's struggles at the plate today continue as he can't even drive in a run. He flies out to shallow right for the 2nd out.
Isse grounds to 2nd to end the inning, but the game looks well in hand now for Tsuruga Kehi.
And whether it's Kishimoto finding his groove or Seikou or the team starting to fold, Kishimoto retires the top of the order in order without much fanfare.
Yamada just crushed one to left center so hard, it was by far one of the - if not the, furthest HR so far. It's now 7-0.
Kita with a drive down the left field line... for a HR??!!
Yamada and Kita go back to back and make it a 8-0 game.
And that proves to be the death knell for Ishii. Saitou-kantoku ends his day by sending in #10 Sakuma.
Sakuma off to a good start inducing a first pitch groundout by Asai to short.
But after going 0-2 to Kobayashi, he can't get him to bite on any of his offpseed offering and winds up walking him. And Azuma-kantoku continues to apply pressure! He sends Kobayashi to 2nd, and the throw from Hiruta is not in time!
And then Hiruta lets a ball go through the wickets and allows Kobayashi to advance to 3rd. Things seem to get even worse as Sakuma hits Iwata. Saitou-kantoku calls time.
Yamane records an RBI as he grounds to short. Ishigaki goes to 2nd for 1, but that's all they can get as Kobayashi scores to make it 9-0.
Sakuma finally ends the inning when he catches Kishimoto looking, but at this stage it really doesn't look like it matters.
Mass changes for Tsuruga Kehi. With the game in hand, Azuma-kantoku hands the ball off from Kishimoto to #18 Misome. Misome comes into Kobayashi's spot in the lineup (strange since Kobayashi had done well in his stint). Kishimoto stays in the game and goes to 1B. Yamada moves from 1B to C (?!) and finally Yamada moves from C to LF(??!).
Quite the arrangement if you ask me.
And it really doesn't seem to matter. Satou goes down swinging, then Ishino can't pull the trigger on a fastball outside.
Nishimura breaks it up with a single to left, and Saitou-kantoku sends in #15 Kaga to hit for Isagi hoping to prevent the shutout.
He pops out to Asai though in shallow left and Seikou is still left holding the donut.
#8 Sakatani comes in for PH Kaga and takes over in CF.
Sakuma does issue another walk, this time with one down to Issei. This ahead of the Yamada-Kita pair that went back-to-back just an inning before.
But Yamada flies out routinely to Satou, and while Issei tallies another SB on the Seikou battery, Kita pops out to a meandering Ishino who winds up in center field.
1st AB for Hiruta and he grounds out to Kishimoto at 1st.
Sakuma goes after a high fastball and singles through to right. Misome leaves one up in the zone and Yaoita takes it to right center for a double. Seikou with a great chance to avoid the shutout.
Ishigaki with a grounder to 3rd. Sakuma running con contact gets caught in between. Issei starts and finishes the rundown for the 2nd out. Both runners advance on the play.
Sonobe up, and Misome leaves one up again! Sonobe scorches it past a diving Asai into left-center. Both runners score on the double and Seikou Gakuin avoids the shutout! It's 9-2!
That prompts a pitching change from Azuma-kantoku. #10 Makishita comes in for Misome and takes the hill.
Satou with a grounder up the 3rd base line. Issei slides to cover it, but it 5-holes him and continues down the line! Kita gets it in, but not before Sonobe scores to make it a 9-3 game.
Things are geting worse for the Tsuruga Kehi relievers as not only does Makishita start losing Ishino after getting ahead, he winds up hitting him to put him on base.
Azuma-kantoku appears to have a shorter leash on Makishita as he pulls him immediately after that HBP and puts in #11 Tamamura.
Tamamura gets the job done though, as he gets the dangerous Nishimura to ground to 2nd to end the inning.
It's a neat 1-2-3 inning for Sakuma as he needs just 8 pitches to retire the side.
But barring a major comeback there are the last ups for Seikou Gakuin.
Tamamura hits 146 on the gun, but also hits new CF Sakatani to start the inning. But he comes right back and gets Hiruta on a failed check swing for the 1st out.
#5 Ihara comes in to hit for Sakuma, and Tamamura's inconsistency on the mound costs him as he walks him.
Azuma-kantoku has seen enough. He sends Kishimoto back to the hill and puts in #16 Nakanishi in Tamamura's spot.
And with Kishimoto in the game, he closes out the final 2 batters to end the game and sends Tsuruga Kehi into the semifinals for just the 2nd time in school history! And they did it by basically putting pressure on early and often, building an insurmountable lead.
Meanwhile for Seikou Gakuin, they once again get stymied at the Best 8. Their pitching was no match for the Tsuruga Kehi offence and they displayed that early and often. Their offense only managed to string hits (and subsequently runs) together after Kishimoto was relieved of his duties. Azuma-kantoku has a short leash with his pitchers, and I'm beginning to think it's a trust issue.
So it'll look like Tsuruga Kehi will need to depend even more now on ace Kishimoto to bring them to their 1st ever finals!
Kishimoto Jyunki (Tsuruga Kehi) - W, 6.2 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 3 K, 0 BB
Kishimoto Jyunki (Tsuruga Kehi) - 2-4, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 K
Yamada Seiya (Tsuruga Kehi) - 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, K
Kita Ryouta (Tsuruga Kehi) - 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, HBP
Sonobe Satoshi (Seikou Gakuin) - 1-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI
Nishimura Daiki (Seikou Gakuin) - 2-4, 2B
Yaoita Hyuuma (Seikou Gakuin) - 2-5, 2B, R, SB