So Tsuruga Kehi has once again survived and advanced (though it was just more advancing and less surviving this time around). Who will be their opponent in 2 days?
Urawa Gakuin has yet to put a complete game together, but has still limited their opposition to just 1 run. First it was execution issues at the plate against Tosa, then versus Yamagata Chuo it was just an offense in malaise until the 2nd half of the game.
About the only thing that has been close to solid has been their ace Ojima, and even he has his own issues. Yet time and time again he manages to find a way out of the jam he and his team is in. I'm not sure I understand how because when you depend on contact as much as he generally does, balls are going to sneak through and find the open gaps.
So despite a 4-0 and 11-1 victories, I am still skeptical on their overall prospects.
And while it may not be a top-level team giving them a challenge, Hokushou is probably the best competition out there they've faced.
Hokuhsou has taken care of business against fairly weaker competition and now find themselves with a chance to reach the Best 4.
But something continues to bother me really. Ace Oogushi has put up rather strong strikeout numbers albeit against the aforementioned weaker competition. However, Oogushi barely touches 130 on the gun (for you mph guys that's 80 mph). That's certainly not fast and eventually it should catch up to you. The problem is that he's going to be tested immediately against the Kanto champions.
The Hokushou offense has put up decent run production, but it has been thanks to one big inning in each case. Otherwise, the offense has been rather limited. Facing Ojima should give them a fighting chance since he's not perhaps a fireballer that you'd see from a Kanto champion - but it's still rather sketchy.
Does Hokushou have a better shot than in most years? Sure. But I don't like their chances against Urawa Gakuin despite my doubts about the team.
Hokushou (Hokkaido) - Hokkaido Champions
2B Igarashi Ryuutarou
3B Nishiya Keisuke (#15)
CF Yoshida Yuuto
C Obata Hiroki
SS Tomita Kaito
1B Domon Kanata
RF Takayama Daisuke
P Oogushi Kazuya
LF Sawada Takumi
Urawa Gakuin (Saitama) - Kanto Champions
SS Takemura Haruki
2B Nie Hayato
CF Yamane Yuuta
3B Takada Ryouta
1B Kigure Naito
RF Saitou Ryousuke
P Ojima Kazuya
C Nishikawa Genki
RF Watanabe Takeru (#16)
13:40 - First pitch!
Well, as the siren blares, Igarashi swings and grounds right to Kigure who steps to the bag and there's 1 down.
Nishiya after fouling a couple off, hits an infield popup. Takemura shifts to his left and makes the catch.
And Ojima makes a quick inning as Yoshida swings on the first pitch and grounds to Nie.
Good start for Oogushi as he gets ahead 0-2 on leadoff batter Takemura, who grounds back to him for out #1.
He turns around though and falls behind 3-0 to Nie and eventually walks him
Yamane with a grounder to the right side, but it hits Nie! He's out but Yamane is credited with a hit.
Takada crushes a pitch from Oogushi. And just like I thought, Urawa Gakuin takes advantage of Oogushi and immediately takes a 2-0 lead.
Kigure with a hard hit, but right to Yoshida for the 3rd out. But already Urawa Gakuin has taken the battle to Hokushou.
I'm still a bit puzzled as to how Ojima continues to stifle his opposition despite not throwing hard.
About the only thing I can reason is that his control in general is so good that when the opposition puts the ball in play, it's almost never hard hit, and generally results in easy fielding plays.
Case in point here in the 2nd, after Obata flies out to right, Tomita goes after a pitch down in the zone and golfs it up to left, while Domon does get around on an inside pitch, but can't put enough oomph on it and flies out to center.
Nishikawa with a grounder to the left side where Tomita almost looks like he ole's the ball as it goes into left. Sawada actually oles on the ball himself and Nishikawa takes off for 2nd! Throw from Yoshida was not nearly in time.
And I doubt Oogushi's plans were to create a DP opportunity by walking Ojima, but after getting ahead 1-2, that's exactly what he did.
Hattori tries the safety bunt, but pushes it foul. He shows it again, but this time pulls it back.
Now Mori-kantoku goes for the hit-and-run! Hattori grounds to 2nd, but it works as Igarashi's only play is to 1st, advancing the runners.
And it's back to the top of the lineup and Takemura, but Oogushi gets him to first pitch swing and ground to short to end the threat.
Hokushou's batters continue to be baffled by Ojima. Sawada catches the ball on the inside part of the bat and pops out to Nie. For Oogushi, despite being ahead 3-0 the count runs full and then he does a half-hearted swing and grounds to Kigure.
Okamoto fouls 2 consecutive balls off himself, which has to hurt, then takes a ball inside to fill up the count. And the grittiness pays off as he lines one over a leaping Takemura into left.
Back to the top of the order and Igarashi, but Kawakami-kantoku tries to press the initiative by sending Okamoto! Throw from Nishikawa is on line and Okamoto has no shot. Inning over, but finally someone was make good contact on an Ojima offering.
Well, Oogushi is back it seems. He makes Nie look awfully bad reaching out and chasing a slider away for the 1st out.
Yamane makes contact, but it's a ball right back to Oogushi who has the flip to 1st for the easy out.
And Takada has several good hacks on Oogushi's pitches, but they go all foul.
On the 9th pitch of the AB, he hits a ball back up the middle, but Igarashi makes a nice smothering grab and flip to 1st for the 3rd out.
Igarashi back up to start the 4th tries to bunt his way aboard, but pops it foul. He manages to get ahead 3-1, but Ojima runs it full and a pitch up and in gives Hokushou a leadoff runner! Nishiya with the bunt up the 1st base line puts the runner in scoring position.
Yoshida rips one but foul down the 3rd base line.
But Yoshida chases a change low for the 2nd out. 2 down with cleanup batter Obata up.
Ojima though gets him to ground to 3rd! Takada with the ball and goes to 1st for the 3rd out!
That ball looked good for Obata, but again, not good contact for the Hokushou batters.
Kigure gets frozen on a slider inside for Oogushi's 2nd K.
It's a quick inning thereafter as Kigure grounds to Igarashi and Nishikawa hits a routine grounder to Tomita to retire the side.
Ojima doing his best Oogushi impression, throwing just as slow and getting just as good results.
In fact, he retires the side in just 8 pitches without a ball leaving the infield none of them being hit hard. All contact was made on pitches inside on the batters.
Ojima with a grounder past a diving Tomita into left and Uragaku has their first leadoff batter on base. Hattori immediately showing bunt.
But Oogushi can't find the strike zone! He falls behind 3-0 and walks him on 4 straight! Now there's runners on 1st and 2nd with no out! Worse yet, the lineup turns back over to Takemura!
Mori-kantoku actually has him bunt the runners over to set the table for Nie.
And now he calls for the safety squeeze, but Nie fouls it off!
What's this? After a pitch outside, Ojima is caught in between?! Missed sign perhaps as he's run down for the 2nd out! Hattori does advance to 3rd, but that's a pretty bad mixup for Uragaku!
Nie still trying to get the run home, checks his swing at 2-2 to fill up the count.
Nie goes down and drives one to right center! It splits the outfield and goes all the way to the wall! Hattori scores on the 2-out triple by Nie to make it a 3-0 game!
Wow, outfield was in and CF Yoshida was shaded to left, which was disastrous for that particular hit.
Oogushi not out of the woods yet falls behind 3-1 to Yamane.
Grounder to short, AHH!!!!
Tomita completely flubs on the ball and it trickles behind him! That means that Yamane reaches safely and it's a 4-0 ball game!
Takada flies out to right to end the inning, but a well placed hit to defeat the shift and an error cost Hokushou 2 more runs right before the break. While it's only 4 runs with 4 innings to go, it doesn't look good at all for the champions for Hokkaido.
With Hokushou up to bat, #13 Yamada is warming up in the bullpen. Will Oogushi not be able to finish the game?
Hokushou meanwhile is either pressing or completely lost. Oogushi first pitch swings and grounds to 2nd. Okamoto, who has the only hit so far gets under a slider and pops out to Hattori. And Igarashi is jammed and softly lines out to Hattori to end the inning.
Oogushi continues to struggle finding the zone. And after a couple of foul balls, he loses Kigure on a full count ball.
And now Obata lets a low ball deflect off his glove and towards the backstop! Kigure advances to 2nd. And now a sac bunt by Saitou advances him to 3rd.
Mori-kantoku puts on the squeeze, but the pitch is outside and a diving Nishikawa can't make contact! Kigure is run down for the 2nd out and it looks like Oogushi will get out of the inning unscathed!
Nishikawa grounds to short and Tomita this time secures it for the 3rd out.
Hokushou swinging away at anything in the zone it seems. It's another 1-2-3 inning for Hokushou as this time Ojima takes just 6 pitches to retire the side.
After getting Ojima to reach on a pitch and pop out to Nishiya, he winds up walking Hattori for the 2nd time this game.
Uh oh. Back to Takemura, and Oogushi falls behind him 3-0... and walks him on 3 straight.
#13 Yamada continues to warm up in the bullpen as Kawakami-kantoku calls time.
Things continue to look worse for Oogushi as he continues to miss the zone. He falls behind Nie 2-0 before firing his first strike. But Uragaku isn't chasing and the balls aren't finding the strike zone.
And despite throwing a strike in this AB, he walks Nie as well to load the bases!
It's manrui, and at the worst possible time as Yamane steps in.
Oogushi finally gets a first pitch strike on the outside corner.
Oh dear... Yamane goes down and drives one to left! Sawada running back, but that is easily over his head! It bounces once before hitting the wall! It's a bases clearing double by Yamane to make it a 7-0 ballgame, effectively making Hokushou DOA.
Oogushi looks done, he continually misses low to Takada and walks him. That's the 4th one just this inning. Yet Kawakami-kantoku leaves him in.
And Kigure with a base hit to left. Oh...
Sawada whiffs on the ball and it 5-holes hiim all the way to the wall. Yoshida chases it down at the wall but by that time both runners have scored. And Kigure is waved in! Throw comes in and Kigure slides in ahead of the tag to make it 10-0.
That will put an end to Oogushi's day. Yamada comes in from the bullpen to take over. Also, Sawada is pulled and replaced by #17 Gotou.
Well, this is odd. After taking strike 1, #17 Maeda comes in to hit for Saitou.
Yamada seems to have trouble settling in, running the count full to Maeda. But he finally gets him to foul out to Domon near their dugout.
Nishikawa flies out to Yoshida to end the inning, and it's all elementary from here on out
Now we see why Mori-kantoku made the late PH change. #10 Yamaguchi comes in for PH Maeda and takes the hill. Ojima goes to RF.
Yamaguchi can pitch a touch faster than Ojima - upper 130's, with a slider in the 120s and curve in the 100s.
Tomita chases a slider down and away for the first out. Domon first pitch flies out to center, and Yamaguchi climbs the ladder on Gotou for a quick inning.
Ojima is retired for the 2nd straight AB as Yamaguchi handcuffs him for the first out.
Yamada doesn't look all that bad - all things considered.
I say that and Hattori hits a ball to left. New LF Gotou charges in, and plays it on a dangerous hop.
Oh, and then Takemura gets his first hit, a slicing single back up the middle. Perhaps I jinxed him?
Now Mori-kantoku pulls Nie back in and sends in #13 Itou to hit.
Yamada fights back to freeze Itou on a curve for the 2nd out. Still, that brings up Yamane...
And he singles to center. Looks like Mori-kantoku is pulling back a little as Hattori is not sent home.
Well, despite loading the bases Yamada records all 3 outs via the K as Takada is frozen on a slider inside for the 3rd out. Now if he could just avoid those base hits...
#14 Kawai comes in for PH Itou and comes in to play 2B.
#11 Murakami comes in to hit for reliever Yamada to start the inning. He makes contact, but grounds out to Takemura.
Okamoto first pitch fouls out to Takada and Igarashi first pitch grounds to Kigure to end the game. Urawa Gakuin advances to the semifinals for the first time since 1992!
And without really noticing it, Urawa Gakuin not only pitches a shutout, but Ojima and Yamaguchi 1-hit Hokushou! It really puts into context how outmatched Hokushou was this game.
Not to diminish their accomplishments though, they did reach the quarterfinals and that does count for something. But Oogushi was a bit of a glass ace in the sense that his foundation seemed more fragile than others. He did well all things considered, but Urawa Gakuin was just too much.
I guess I should start believing in Uragaku, but I still have my doubts on Ojima. He's proven me wrong so far though, and probably will if I continue to doubt him.
Ojima Kazuya (Urawa Gakuin) - W, 7 IP, 0 ER, H, K, BB
Yamane Yuuta (Urawa Gakuin) - 3-5, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI
Takada Ryouta (Urawa Gakuin) - 1-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, K
Nie Hayato (Urawa Gakuin) - 1-2, 3B, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB, K
Hattori Masamitsu (Urawa Gakuin) - 1-2, 2 R, 2 BB
Yamada Hiromu (Hokushou) - 1.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 3 K
Okamoto Hyuuga (Hokushou) - 1-3