Urawa Gakuin reaches the Haru Koushien for the 3rd straight year, winning the Kanto super-regional for the 3rd straight year.
But a glance at Urawa's roster and stats and I'm left with a very whelming impression. They did not face strong Koushien competition, and when they did were involved in low scoring affairs:
- 3-2 over Hanasaki Tokuharu
- 4-3 over Kochi
So the bulk of the responsibility will fall on southpaw ace Ojima Kazuya. I don't have a lot of info on him, even during his stint at Natsu Koushien last year. His numbers are fairly average for an ace pitcher and there's not much behind him that's effective - though Mori-kantoku has called on Wakumoto in key situations.
Offensively, captain Takada is the lynchpin of the offense. As a whole, the team makes contact more often then not, as evidenced by the fact that in only 2 games during the fall did they strike out 5 or more times. The above average contact in this case leads to a 0.320 BA.
Tosa finally reaches Koushien after being nominated for the 21st century bid over the last 3 years. But there is very little data to go on as Tosa's fall lasted all but 6 games - 5 for the prefecturals, and 1 in the super-regionals. Of those, only two are notable... and they happen to be Tosa's 2 losses. In those games, they were outhit 12-22 and outscored 2-9.
Ace Takuma Kenshou heads the ship for Tosa, but like many other pitchers is an average pitcher. He barely reaches 130, strikes out 6.8 batters per 9, and a WHIP of 1.39.
Offensively the team has their fair share of extra base hits, but it's spotty at best. Their 3-4 batters of Oda and Minami probably are the best chances to drive in runs.
Tosa (Kochi) - 21st Century Team
CF Morishita Takahiro
SS Tomita Yuuji
LF Oda Masashi
C Minami Takeshi
RF Kubota Shuu
1B Kouno Aoha
P Takuma Kenshou
3B Takamura Kouki
2B Hiroi Taisei
Urawa Gakuin (Saitama) - Kanto Champions
SS Takemura Haruki
2B Nie Hayato
CF Yamane Yuuta
3B Takada Ryouta
1B Kigure Naito
RF Saitou Ryousuke
C Nishikawa Genki
P Ojima Kazuya
LF Maeda Yuusaku (#17)
14:12 - First Pitch!
Ojima, like most of the pitchers out here do not go higher than the low-mid 130s. Not afraid to go inside though.
Morishita pops out to Takada to start, then jams Tomita into a comebacker for the 2nd out.
Outside of the normal range of pitches, Ojima has a screwball as well.
Oda prevents the clean inning by working the count full and earning a walk.
I like Ojima, he's wiling to pound the batters inside - something you don't see that often. He gets ahead of cleanup batter Minami, but he fights off several pitches to work the count full. Oda will be taking off with 2 out.
Minami gets around on an inside pitch and hits a liner to left. But Maeda is there to make the catch and retire the side.
Takamura gets ahead of a curve and hits a comebacker to Takuma for the first out.
Once again, Takuma is an average pitcher. Fastball in the low 130s and already we've seen the slow curve in the 100s.
Nie also ahead of a curve, grounds to 1st.
Yamane takes a fastball and lines it to left for a base hit.
Takuma's curveball isn't consistent as occasionally he lets it go too early and it goes high.
Some of his curvevalls to Takada seems to hit the zone, but the home plate umpire won't have any of it.
Takada though swings under a fastball and pops it up! Kouno under it for the 3rd out, and it's not a bad start for the team from Kochi.
After getting a steady diet of pitches inside, Ojima freezes Kubota on a slider over the plate.
Kouno doesn't quite get the same treatment, but the result is the same as he chases a slider in the dirt.
Finally, Takuma swings on the first pitch and it's a routine grounder to Nie for an 8 pitch inning.
Urawa Gakuin's hitters are attacking pitches here in the 2nd. Kigure swings on a 1-0 letter-high fastball and flies out to left. Saitou goes on the first pitch and singles back up the middle.
Nishikawa does the same, but fouls it off..
Takuma tries to go inside, but leaves it too close to the middle and Nishikawa lines it to right for a single. Saitou takes 3rd on the play and Tosa is quickly in a pinch!
With Takuma struggling with his off-speed offerings, I'm not surprised the batters are looking for the fastball.
Takuma leaves another fastball too fat on the plate and Ojima takes it to center! Morishita has it, and Saitou takes off for home! The throw is short and is cut off, so Urawa Gakuin takes the 1-0 lead!
Maeda with a grounder to short, but Tomita can't get a hold of the ball! Takuma points to 2nd, but it's too late and everyone's safe!
Takuma gets out of the inning as Takemura hits a sharp liner, but Morishita goes back a couple of steps to make the catch.
Takamura works a long AB, looks to have a base hit with a grounder to the right side, but Nie makes a great diving stop! Toss to first and there's one down! I think the Tosa oen-dan thought he had a hit because the band is playing as such.
Hiroi steps in, but goes back to the dugout on 3 straight pitches. And Morishita is jammed and grounds out to 3rd.
Nie showing bunt, but takes it back 3 times for 3 balls. Another one, and Nie is on base with 4 straight pitches.
Yamane behind 0-2 tries the three bunt, but pops it up and Minami is there up the 1st base line for the catch.
But Takuma's control goes cold again and he walks Takada on 4 straight.
Kigure with a drive to deep left, Oda running to the fence... makes the catch as his body hits the wall! 2 out!
And Takuma gets Saitou ahead of a curve and he flies out to left to retire the side!
After a pop out by Tomita, Oda hits a slow roller to short. Takeumura charges in, but loses the grip on the ball! Oda's safe at first, and the official scorer gives them a hit! (Not sure about that...)
Minami up and he's not afraid to take a walk, and does so on 4 straight! Runners on 1st and 2nd for Tosa as Mori-kantoku calls for time.
Kubota steps in looking to tie the game.
Wild pitch from Ojima! Runners advance and now a base hit could give Tosa the lead!
And I just noticed that Kubota wears glasses!
Was there a hit-and-run with runners on 2nd and 3rd?? Because when Kubota swings and misses, Oda is caught off 3rd! He's chased back as Minami reaches 3rd! Minami evacuates 3rd but is run down himself.
What the heck was that? Was there supposed to be a squeeze?
Either way there's 2 outs. Wait, make that 3 as Kubota strikes out swinging to end the inning. Great opportunity by Tosa wasted.
Takuma makes a bid for his first clean inning as Nishikawa quickly grounds out to short, and Ojima goes down swinging.
But then he hits Maeda on a curveball, and the 1-2-3 inning is gone. Moreover, the lineup turns over.
Takamura hits a grounder up the middle. Hiroi runs over and looks to be there, but it scoots past him into center! Maeda takes the opportunity and heads to 3rd!
Uh oh, after Takuma gets ahead of Nie 1-2, he hits him! Manrui for Uragaku!
But he bails himself out! Yamane drives a ball to center, but Morishita is there to make the catch and the deficit remains at 1!
One down for Tosa and Takuma bloops one into center for a base hit!
Nishiuchi-kantoku doesn't call for the bunt, but Takamura makes a swinging bunt on a hit-and-run, advancing Takuma to 2nd.
Two outs for Hiroi, and he hits a har ball to the right side.
Nie with another great diving stop! Goes to first and he saves a run! Bad luck for Tosa, great play from Nie!
Takuma's day is done on the mound as #10 Takahashi relieves him on the mound.
The control issues persist though as he walks Takada on 4 straight.
Kigure tries to bunt, but pops it up and Minami is there up the first base line again to make the catch!
And then Saitou grounds into the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning! We head to the break with Urawa Gakuin holding a 1-0 lead, though thankfully for Tosa it could have been much worse.
Unfortunately for Tosa, a pitcher that can go to both sides of the plate makes it much harder to hit.
Morishita and Oda both hit groundouts, while Tomita in between strikes out looking on a curve right over the plate...
Meanwhile Takahashi is very effective on the mound. A sidearmer, he throws in the mid-upper 130s. Nishikawa swings on the first pitch and fouls out to Kouno.
Of course I say he's effective, then he walks Ojima on 4 straight. And then gives up a single past a diving Hiroi into center...
Takemura with a grounder to 2nd. Hiroi goes to 2nd for one, and Tomita's throw to 1st short hops Takahashi and it he loses sight of it! Ojima breaks for home and the throw is late! 2-0 on the error from Tomita!
In reality the throw wasn't necessary as he wasn't going to get him. He should have ate it.
Nishiuchi-kantoku calls time, but it doesn't help. Ahead 1-2, Takahashi hits Nie. That's Nie's 2nd HBP.
And Mori goes for the kill! He double steals and both reach safely!
Once again, the damage is limited as Yamane grounds out to short! But an errant, unnessary throw by the Tosa defence costs them another run!
Minami leads off the inning with a base hit to left center! Will Tosa play for one run?
Yes, Kubota shows bunt. He hits it fairly hard to 1st, and while Kigure briefly thinks about going to 2nd, he takes the easier out at 1st.
The large Tosa oen-dan is trying to will the team into a run, but Kouno can only sacrifice himself with a grounder to 2nd. That puts Minami 90 feet away for new P Takahashi.
But Takahashi can't hold off on a slider in the dirt and once again they're turned away.
Takahashi's control issues are about as bad as Takuma as he hits Takada to start the inning. And then another pitch inside hits Kigure and there's quickly runners on 1st and 2nd.
Man, Uragaku cannot bunt to save their lives. Saitou pops up another bunt and Minami catches it up the 3rd base line for the 1st out.
Nishikawa with a grounder to 3rd. Takamura goes to 2nd for 1, relay from Hiroi, just in time!
That looked like one of the slowest double plays I've seen, but it works! After 2 dead balls, Takahashi and Tosa escaped unscathed!
But they need 2 runs and quick. It's 8-9-1 for Tosa..
Takamura fights like heck, fouling off 4 pitches, but goes down swinging on a slider over the plate.
Hiroi shows bunt on the first pitch perhaps trying for a safety bunt, but doesn't go through with it. Ojima continues to throw strikes and he's behind 0-2. Now he's fighting off pitches at the plate...
And Hiroi's persistance pays off! He almost takes out Ojima on a grounder back up the middle, and he's on with a single!
Ojima has to get out of the way again as a line shot goes whizzing by him into center for a base hit!
Two solid base hits up the middle as Mori-kantoku concerned enough to call for time.
2 on, 1 out for Tomita. No bunting here probably.
Or.... maybe there is?! Tomita shows bunt as Hiroi scrambles back to 2nd.
With the bunt on, Ojima makes a toss back.
So no PH, instead bunting with a 0.190 Tomita?
He lays it down hard up the 3rd base line, and makes Takada do a quick throw to beat him.
It's up to Oda now to deliver with 2 down.. Cameras point to the outfield defense which is surprisingly in.
Oda pops it up! Takemura backs up, leaps and makes the catch! Once again Tosa can't get the key hit when they need it!
And you know what? It was on an inside pitch.
Once again, the Urawa Gakuin batters are patient as Ojima works a walk after running the count full.
#7 Hattori comes in to hit for Maeda, then gets hit in the head and is replaced on the basepaths with Saitou.
Takemura tries to bunt the runners over, but he can't and has to swings away. But he manages to work the count full, only to chase a fastball at his feet for the first out.
And now Mori-kantoku is having Nie bunt! Perhaps it's real-time practice for later?
But Nie can't lay one down either as he tries a safety bunt! Count runs to 2-2.
Nie bunts it back to Takahashi, and he passes up what looks like an out at 3rd with one at 1st. It seemed like he had enough time...
Takahashi is trying to end this himself getting ahead 0-2 on 2 very nice pitches.
But Takahashi leaves one up! Yamane hits one the other way and Hiroi dives and can't make the grab! It goes into center and both runners will come in to score! Uragaku can finally breathe a sigh of relief as they now lead 4-0.
And now a wild pitch moves the runners into scoring position.
Kigure with a chopper off a leaping Takahashi! Tomita adjusts, makes the throw and just beats out Kigure for the 3rd out. But the luck for Tosa finally runs out.
Hattori seems fine after the dead ball and goes to play LF.
Mianmi is trying his damnest to try and give his team a run. He blasts a fastball over the drawn in outfield and it takes a hop the fence for a leadoff double!
There's no point in bunting now. Swing away boys!
Oho! What's this! Ojima goes 3-0 to Kubota! He's better sit.
He does! And it's high! Runners on 1st and 2nd for Tosa with Kouna coming to bat! Mori-kantoku calls time.
#12 Ueno comes in to hit for Kouno. He didn't have a hit in 2 ABs during the fall. They're hoping he can get one now.
He fouls off two the opposite way and is behind 1-2.
Pitch inside, he makes an awkward swing to stay alive, but falls victim to the slider! One down as Takahashi steps in.
And again Ojima is pounding the batters in. He swings at one, but flies out to center. 2 down.
#17 Kitadai in to hit for Takamura, but he swings on the first pitch and pops it up. Takemura backpedals and makes the catch to end the game. Try as Tosa might, they could not get the runners home.
Tosa really played about as well of a game as you could have considering the pitching and everything. Their luck did run out in the 8th, but that was expected when you let so many runners on. Still for the majority of the game they had a chance to tie or take the lead.
But for as good of luck they had in stranding runners on base, their luck was inversely bad in trying to get their own runners home. And so, their senbatsu ends today. Not really disappointing in my opinion, it was a well played game.
For Urawa Gakuin, a win is a win, but the inability of the batters to bunt the runners along is rather troubling. I know I frown upon excessive bunting, but it still applies in certain situations. Heck I wish bunting was used a little more often in the majors. Chances are they'll need to lay down a bunt in a key moment, and I bet they'll get some work in on that during their time off.
Ojima Kazuya (Urawa Gakuin) - CG, W, SHO, 5 H, 8 K, 3 BB
Yamane Yuuta (Urawa Gakuin) - 2-5, 2 RBI, K
Takada Ryouta (Urawa Gakuin) - 0-1, 2 BB, 2 HBP (Only notable because of the BB/HBP)
Minami Takeshi (Tosa) - 2-3, 2B, BB
Hiroi Taisei (Tosa) - 1-3