I say that because 2 of the 21st century teams wound up drawing each other, which is unfortunate in that it'd be nice to see as many advance. It's fortunate in that one of the teams will advance. And then it's unfortunate again because the winner will run into Osaka Touin.
Engaru is happy they're in, but probably wishes it was one year before. Last year they were on the cusp of reaching Natsu Koushien, but coughed up the lead. The team lost their ace, but still managed to reach the Hokkaido semi-final, losing to Hokushou.
Engaru never really did find their ace pitcher in the fall either. Maeda Tomoki has become the ace number, but CF Komono Takaki and RP Ooshiro Yuuki have been called into service too. None of them have really separated themselves from the pack nor shown to be a power pitcher:
- Maeda - 4.79 K/9, 1.50 WHIP
- Kamono - 8.18 K/9, 1.27 WHIP
- Ooshiro - 8.38 K/9, 1.14 WHIP
Offensively, Satou-kantoku liberally uses his bench - probably as a result of shifting defenders when Kamono is on the mound. The team is primarily a station-to-station club, and their bench players Aoki Ryuutarou (who has been promoted) and Endou Kazuki more than hold their own, while providing speed on the bases.
For Iwaki Kaisei, this is a first for me as well as them. Their submitted roster only has 16 members. And for the first time I can remember, we have a team that doesn't have a full bench (Risshoudai Shounan did play short, but that was due to illness).
The only game of note for Iwaki Kaisei was their mercy rule loss to Seikou Gakuin where they managed a paltry 2 hits. In fact, the offense was rather paltry as they batted a mere 0.258 as a team and just 2 starters with an average over 0.300.
On the mound, ace Suzuki Yuuta does give the team some hope as he strikes out 6.8 batters per 9. But there is little to assust behind him, as while 1B Ookawara does K more than a batter per inning, he also gave up almost a run per inning too. Suffice it to say it will be tough sledding for Iwaki Kaisei even in this matchup...
Iwaki Kaisei (Fukushima) - 21st Century Team
SS Komatsu Kouta
CF Hisa Akira
3B Ookawara Yuuma
1B Abe Masahi
P Suzuki Yuuta
RF Unuma Jyunya (#12)
2B Sakamoto Keishin
C Sakuyama Ayumu
LF Hasegawa Takuya
Engaru (Hokkaido) - 21st Century Team
CF Kamono Takaki (#10)
2B Endou Kazuki (#14)
LF Araya Ibuki
3B Yanagibashi Kouki
P Maeda Tomoki
1B Kudou Yoshiki
RF Kurokawa Jin
SS Sugai Kento (#4)
C Yamashita Rio (#12)
08:30 - First pitch!
(1st inning will get caught up with)
As quickly as the siren dies we have two outs. Komatsu and Hisa swing on the very first pitch and ground out to SS and 2B respectively.
Ookawara takes a ball deep, P/CF Kamono backpedals, jumps... and just makes the catch for the 3rd out.
Suzuki goes out of the blocks quickly, striking out Kamono looking and Endou swinging.
A 1-2-3 inning isn't in the cards though as he hits Araya. Furthermore, he's called for a balk allowing Araya to advance into scoring position!
But cleanup batter Yanagibashi can't drive him in, instead grounding to Ookawara to end the inning.
The game is going rather quickly as both pitcher's pace is fairly quick.
Abe becomes Maeda's first K victim swinging at a ball in the dirt. Suzuki becomes the 2nd on a forkball.
Maeda seems to throw in the mid 130s with a slider in the 120s, a forkball in the 110s and a potential curve.
Unuma makes good contact on one such forkball, but hits an easy fly to center where Kamono secures it for the 3rd out.
Suzuki works at a much faster pace as he gets a grounder to 2nd from Maeda and after working the count full walks Kudou.
And the inning quickly ends as Kurokawa grounds to Suzuki. He goes to 2nd for one, and the toss from Komatsu just beats out Kurokawa for the double play!
Sakamoto gets the first hit in the game as he bloops one over Sugai into left! Sakuyama gets ahead 3-0 as Maeda's control issues persist. But then he tries to bunt, fails twice, but on a full count lays it down.
Things get hairier for Maeda as he throws a wild pitch allowing Sakamoto to get to 3rd.
Hasegawa with a shot down the 3rd base line. Yanagibashi with a great diving stop! Looks Sakamoto back to 3rd and throws to 1st. Kudou makes the pick and there's 2 down!
Komatsu with a grounder to the left side, Yanagibashi with another great pick and throw for the 3rd out! Maeda gets out of the pinch!
Suzuki's delivery is rather weird. After looking like he'll go overhand, it's a 3/4 to sidearm delivery. He doesn't generate much power, generally sitting in the 120s with a curve in the high 90s.
Engaru's batters can't seem to figure it out. Sugai hits a high chopper to 3rd. Ookawara waits for it and makes the solid throw to 1st.
Yamashita gets under one and pops out to Ookawara in foul territory.
And Kamono with an excuse me check swing hits one right to Abe for the easy out to retire the side.
The game continues to speed by. Maeda is throwing strikes again and Iwaki's batters are swinging away.
Hisa hits a weak grounder to 1st, Ookawara hits a hard liner, but right at Kurokawa, and Abe flies out to left. 7 pitches and the side is retired.
Engaru's batters still struggle. Endou flies out to shallow left, though Hasegawa makes a last second correction to his left.
Araya with a short liner to right-center races past the fielders to the fence! Araya rounds 2nd and starts for 3rd after the cutoff throw is off line! He slides in safely at 3rd! Big chance for Engaru!
But as quick as I write that the threat is eliminated! Yanagibashi swings on the first pitch and grounds to short! Komatsu looks Araya back and throws to 1st!
Then Maeda hits a fly ball on his first pitch to right! Unuma backs up, backs up and makes the catch for the 3rd out!
I'm having a hard time analyzing the game because it's just going at breakneck speed. I'm almost a half-inning behind the actual action.
The reason why is that the batters are swinging away and the pitchers are working quickly. Maeda gets another easy 1-2-3 inning as he needs just 8 pitches to retire Suzuki, Unuma and Sakamoto.
Kudou, who earlier took a walk this time swings away on 3-1 and grounds to 2nd. Kurokawa swings on the first pitch and grounds to short.
And Sugai pops out to Sakamoto to end the inning. 41 minutes and we're already at the break!
We start the 2nd half of the game, and yet the batters still can't figure out the aces. Sakuyama fouls out to Kudou, Hasegawa falls behind 0-2 and grounds out to 3rd.
Back to the top of the lineup and Komatsu. He works the count to 3-1, but again can't find open space as he lines out right to Kurokawa to end the inning.
Neither pitcher is overpowering or hitting their spots consistently, and neither offense can take advantage either it seems.
Yamashita gets Engaru's 2nd hit, a liner to shallow center for a leadoff hit. Kamono is trying to bunt him along but a ball in the dirt gets by Sakuyama! Yamashita goes to 2nd and after Kamono's bunt Engaru has another scoring opportunity!
But Endou hits a comebacker to Suzuki! He sees Yamashita off the bag, makes the throw to 3rd, and they have him! 2 outs! Engaru has to start over again with Araya! Suzuki though falls behind Araya and winds up walking him! Suzuki is back in a pinch once again!
Yanagibashi hits a hanging fastball to center! Hisa runs back to the fence, leaps, but can't make the catch! Endou scores! Araya scores! The throw from Sakamoto gets away from everyone! Yanagibashi comes in to score and just like that it's 3-0 Engaru!
Iwaki Kaisei and Suzuki continues to reel from the inning as Maeda collects his first hit, a seeing-eye single up the middle.
But Suzuki settles down, throws a curve that just catches the inside part to strike out Kudou to end the inning. Engaru scores 3 though and the way the game is going, it doesn't look good.
Hisa tries to work the count to get on base, but is called out on a full count curve that just catches (?) the bottom of the zone.
Ookawara continues to attack Maeda's pitches and quickly grounds to short.
And while Abe makes contact, the ball goes right to Kamono for the 3rd out. We've just passed the hour mark and Iwaki Kaisei is down to their final 6 outs.
After that small quick burst by Engaru last inning, the team is back to middling at the plate. Kurokawa first pitch swings and grounds back to Suzuki. Sugai is fooled on a ball way outside. And Yamashita too is fooled hitting a weak grounder to Abe for the 3rd out.
Suzuki tries to start the rally himself, taking a pitch tailing away the other way for a base hit!
Wakabayashi-kantoku tries to pull strings, sending in #9 Akino to hit for Unuma.
But Unuma swings on the first pitch and hits one back to Maeda! He starts the 1-6-3 double play to wipe out the threat! Sakamoto grounds to 3rd and Iwaki Kaisei is down to the final innning!
Akino stays in to play RF.
After a quick fly by Kamono, #15 Ooyama comes in to hit for Endou. He hits a comebacker off Suzuki's glove and deflects to the left side. Komatsu doubles back to get it, but can't make a solid throw to 1st. Ooyama is replaced at 1st with the 3B coach Nishida.
But once again the inning quickly ends as Araya pops out to Sakuyama and Yanagibashi grounds to short.
Defensive changes for Engaru. #6 Koumoto comes in for PR Nishida and goes to SS. Sugai shifts back to his normal position at 2B, and #18 Matsushita comes in for Kudou at 1B.
One down and Hasegawa scorches a ball past a diving Matsushita into right. He collides with Matsushita and is awarded 2nd despite being thrown out.
And Iwaki Kaisei has a chance to score a run after Komatsu hits a slow grounder to short.
But Hisa swings on the first pitch and fouls out to Maruyama to end the game.
It's a quick game at 66 minutes, and Engaru probably expectedly emerges as the winner.
Admittedly it wasn't the most exciting game, and there probably wasn't a whole lot to take out of it. Engaru will advance to face Osaka Touin and that'll be a challenge - but they at least won their first game at Koushien.
As for Iwaki Kaisei, it was probably a great experience to play at Koushien, even as a 21st century nominee. It's probably they won't be back - especially with Seikou Gakuin around. But at least they can say that they got to play at the hallowed grounds of Koushien.
Maeda Tomoki (Engaru) - CG, W, 0 ER, 3 H, 2 K
Yanagibashi Kouki (Engaru) - 1-4, 3B, R, 2 RBI
Araya Ibuki (Engaru) - 1-2, 2B, R, BB, HBP
Suzuki Yuuta (Iwaki Kaisei) - CG, L, 3 ER, 5 H, 4 K, 2 BB, HBP
Hasegawa Takuya (Iwaki Kaisei) - 1-3, 2B