Day 4 begins, and we're about halfway done with the 2nd round games.
Starting our morning off are the Meiji Jingu champions playing against yet another first-timer who finally has reached Koushien after several attempts.
It's actually been 6 years since Sendai Ikuei has been to Haru Koushien. During that time, they've been to Natsu Koushien 4 times, and finished just short of the Best 8 the last 3.
This fall, they went an incredible 15-0 including wins over Tohoku, Aomori Yamada, Sakata Minami, Seikou Gakuin, Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou, Hokushou and finally Kanzei.
It's rather impressive really. The offense did not take a significant hit as the rounds progressed. In fact, they got double digit hits in 10 of their 15 games, and 5 times against the aforementioned opponents. A 0.340/0.398/0.469 slash line is nothing to shake a finger at.
Hasegawa Hiro has to be the centerpiece of the offense, batting 0.467 with a 0.733 SLG and 22 RBIs. If he doesn't get the runners in, there's always Uebayashi Seiji, who hit 0.375 with 3 HRs.
Even the bench participated. Sasaki Tomoki played in 13 games and hit 0.571 with a HR.
The pitching was just as stellar. In that 15 game stretch they gave up 4 or more runs just twice. Twice! And the main tandem of Suzuki Takato and Baba Kouske dominated the opposition. Suzuki with a 1.14 ERA, 7.97 K/9, and an almost 5:1 K/BB ratio. Baba was slightly worse at 1.19 ERA, 7.91 K/9 and a 1.83 K/BB ratio.
The odd thing is that neither pitcher is overpowering, and neither are really on the draft charts. Suzuki maxes in the mid 130's with a slider, curve and fork. Baba is even slower in the 120s with a slider and slow curve.
I will be interested to see how this pitching tandem fares.
So it really sounds like it'll be a tough task for Souseikan who got to the Kyushu super-regional semifinals. They did face Seihou during the Nagasaki prefecturals, but had a relatively easy road after losing to Isahaya in the prefectural final. In fact, they didn't face a recognized opponent until perhaps Kurume Shougyou in the super-regional quarterfinals, and then a mercy-rule loss to Okinawa Shougaku.
From the scores, it looks like there will be a lot of pressure placed on the pitching staff for Souseikan. The offense generally struggled to score runs, posting more than 3 runs in just 3 of their 9 games. The team as a whole batted just 0.241 with only cleanup batter Sakai Riku hitting over 0.300.
And so the task will fall on Oono Takuma to try and keep the fall champions offense at bay. He can hit 140 on the gun and throws a fork in addition to the usual slider and curve.
Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi) - Tohoku Champions (Meiji Jingu Champions)
SS Kumagai Takahiro
2B Kikuna Yuuka
LF Hasegawa Hiro
CF Uebayashi Seiji
1B Mizuma Toshiki
C Kobayashi Ryou
3B Katou Naoya
RF Satou Seiya
P Suzuki Takato
Souseikan (Nagasaki) - Kyushu 3/4 seed
SS Kinoshita Atsunori
RF Hayashi Kento
CF Maeda Masatoshi
C Sakai Riku
1B Eguchi Yuuya
3B Kojima Masanao
2B Inokuchi Taiga
LF Noguchi Shouma
P Oono Takuma
09:02 - First pitch!
Oono hitting his spots early, but gets no help early from his defense. Grounder to 1st is plain missed by Eguchi and trickles into right. Runner on early for Sendai Ikuei.
Sasaki-kantoku asks Kikuna to bunt, but after a couple of pitches, takes it off. Swings and misses on a low fastball to fall behind, but works the count full after fouling off a couple.
Sasaki-kantoku switches to a hit-and-run, but once again Kikuna fouls it off. Tries it again, and this time Kikuna lines it to right for a hit. Runners now at the corners for Hasegawa.
He grounds to 2nd, and Inokuchi takes the longer spin and throw to 2nd. That costs him as Hasegawa beats the throw. Double play averted, Kumagai scores and it's 1-0 Sendai Ikuei.
Kinoshita makes a great catch by the camera well on a foul fly from cleanup batter Uebayashi for the 2nd out.
But Sendai Ikuei wants to make Eguchi pay for the error! Mizuma drills the first ball deep to center! Maeda playing in has no chance at it! It takes a hop to the wall, and it's an easy RBI double to make it 2-0!
Kobayashi now with a liner to left! Noguchi charges in, tries to make the sliding catch, but can't get there! The ball trickles behind him and Mizuma scores to make it 3-0!
Oono finally gets out of the inning as Katou can't check his swing on a full count slider out of the zone. But the offense is already up and running and before Souseikan can pick up a bat, they've spotted the fall champs 3 runs in part due to an unforced error.
Souseikan already starting with their version of the Keio fight song.
Hayashi up and trying a safety bunt, but fouls it off.
Suzuki doesn't look all that impressing to start. As mentioned, he doesn't throw hard, his off-speed pitches are mostly out of the zone, but I will give him credit for one thing - he will pitch inside.
Hayashi is definitely a chopper at the plate, showing bunt, then pulling back and hacking. It's the only way I could hit in the cages.
But the AB continues as Suzuki pitches inside, and Hayashi fouls them off.
And Hayashi wins! A 12 pitch AB results in a single to left!
Souseikan is patient, that's for sure. Kinoshita went 2-2, Hayashi went 12 pitches, and now Maeda has the count run to 2-2 as well as Suzuki gets the call on an inside fastball.
Maeda does the bust-and-run swing, but can't catch up to the high fastball and goes down. That brings up Sakai.
He gets ahead of the count to 2-0 before swinging away and grounding out to short. Kumagai can't field it cleanly, but has enough time to regroup and make the play to retire the side.
Still though, that's 25 pitches in the first inning. Only problem is that of all the teams they could have drawn to pull a strategy of attrition, Sendai Ikuei may have been the absolute worst to draw.
Things are going well for Sendai Ikuei early. Satou hits a dribbler to the left side that ends up in no man's land. The throw isn't in time and he's on safely!
Suzuki bunts him along and that flips the lineup back to the top and Kumagai. Hard grounder to short is picked by Kojima and he makes a solid throw for the 2nd out.
Oono isn't as accurate with his pitches either, and on a pitch inside hits Kikuna. At least he's pitching inside.
Oono gets too much of the plate and Hasegawa lines it to right for a basehit! Satou holds at 3rd and it's manrui for Uebayashi!
Uebayashi is dangerous, but Oono gets ahead 0-2.
But Uebayashi goes down, hits a ball that bounces off the dirt and pops into center for a base hit! That's images of Ichiro and when he did that in the NPB!
That hit though tells me that Uebayashi is thinking out there. Yes, he did get fooled, but he wasn't trying for the HR (though a swing earlier seemed like it). He knew that a base hit could get a couple, and that's what he did with a 2-RBI double. 5-0 Sendai Ikuei.
Mizuma lines out to right to end the inning, but it looks rather bad early.
Eguchi uncharacteristically (for the team anyways) swings early and grounds out to 1st. Kojima swings on a letter high fastball on a full count and pops out to Kumagai.
And Inokuchi's music is the Atlanta Braves chop song???!! That's a first.
Unfortunately, he goes down swinging to end the inning.
Kobayashi with a grounder to the right side, Inokuchi goes over and just misses out on the ball! But it didn't look like he was moving very fast and could have gotten better position IMO.
After a lineout to right, there is an execution error by the Souseikan defense. Grounder to 1st by Satou was fieled by Eguchi. Tagging 1st was fine, but he quickly throws to 2nd, thus allowing Kobayashi to double back. He should have started the run down.
Is it just me or do both teams have a lot of songs that come from the US this game?
No harm done for Souseikan.. Suzuki flies out to left, and Souseikan finally has a clean inning.
Noguchi with the buster swing goes low and loops a ball into shallow left-center for a leadoff hit!
Oono's oen-dan music the Erin song from Touhou!! I am very, very happy!!
Oono bunts the runner along, so I don't get to hear it for long.
Kinoshita with a buster swing bloops one to right center! Noguchi is being sent home! Throw from Uebayashi...
Somehow Noguchi beats the tag and Souseikan is on the board! It's 5-1! And Kinoshita advances to 2nd on the throw!
Hayashi tries the safety bunt! Katou fires to 1st, but while Mizuma loses the handle, the 1st base umpire determines that he made the initial catch and the loss of the ball was on the transfer. 2 down.
Maeda with a hard grounder to 1st! Mizuma can't field it cleanly and it trickles to his right! He scrambles to get it, and Suzuki is nowhere to be found! He dashes to 1st, but the toss from Mizuma forces him to jump! Maeda slides and in beats the throw! Kinoshita comes in to score and it's 5-2! There's some scrappy and gutsy play from the Souseikan squad!
Suzuki finally gets out of the inning as he freezes Sakai on a outside fastball, but they've got a bit more fight than I thought!
Man, when Oono can hit his spots, it's right there.
Kumagai, already on his 3rd AB hits a hard liner, but right to Kojima. Kikuna and Hasegawa both hit routine flies and Oono has his first 1-2-3 inning!
Souseikan is attacking pitches earlier knowing that perhaps Sendai Ikuei realizes that they might be able to get ahead in the count.
But this inning it doesn't quite work. Eguchi was swinging early anyways, and once again grounds to 1st. Kojima gets ahead 3-1, but flies out to center.
And Inokuchi slaps one into left-center, but Uebayashi makes a great sliding catch to retire the side.
I don't think I've enjoyed a game like this for a while. From music to defense, it definitely has it all.
Uebayashi can't mimic the great hit from the 2nd, and chops one back to Oono who snipes it for the first out.
Mizuma with a grounder up the 3rd base line, Kinoshita charges in, makes the leaping throw and Eguchi stretches and picks the one bounder for the out! That's a doubly great play!
And Kobyashi flies out to left! It's a 6 pitch inning for Oono!
Noguchi gets jammed, but still manages to bloop one down the right field line!
You know what? Souseikan knows they aren't a power hitting squad, so they do the bust-and-run strategy knowing they will try to pepper you to death.
Oono up and I get to hear the oen-dan section more! I just wish I got to SEE it.
Oono however, cannot lay down the bunt and just plain whiffs for the out.
Kinoshita with a bunt-and-run, chops it to Suzuki and his only play is to 1st.
Hayashi with the safety bunt, but the Sendai Ikuei battery rightly waits for it as it rolls foul. He then sits and works the count, and earns a walk! Kobayashi goes out to talk with Suzuki.
The walk brings up Maeda.
And after falling behind 0-2, he gets totally fooled on a forkball in the dirt for the 3rd out.
Sendai Ikuei probably still has control of the game, but Souseikan makes it interesting with their style of play, and their oen-dan. I don't think this game is over yet (unlike Florida Gulf Coast apparently.)
Something that hasn't been mentioned in the last couple of innings is the fact that Oono has done a superb job of stifling the Sendai Ikuei offense. He is not afraid to pitch inside, even if he's not as accurate.
Katou chases a slider in the zone, Satou chases a slider down and at his feet, and while Suzuki hits a fastball on the outside part of the plate, he flies out to deep (and I warning track deep) center.
Sakai gets ahead 3-0 on Suzuki but Suzuki rifles in a couple to fill up the count. #10 Baba is sent by Sasaki-kantoku to the bullpen.
Sakai with a liner to left. Hasegawa charges in late and the dying liner goes off his glove! Sakai sprints for and reaches 2nd!
Sasaki-kantoku calls for time as Eguchi steps in.
And his early hacking pays off this time! Suzuki gets too much of the plate on a pitch outside and it's a no doubt liner to center for a base hit! It's too hard for Sakai to score though, so there's runner at the corners!
Kojima can't quite deliver the timely hit as he hits a grounder up the 3rd base line. But he at least advances Eguchi into scoring position!
Inokuchi with a grounder to short. Kumagai looks for Eguchi, but goes to 1st for the 2nd out.
And Suzuki gets out of the jam! Noguchi grounds to short. Kumagai with the throw and a great scoring opportunity unfortunately goes begging!
Kumagai's oen-dan music is great too, I know I've heard it somehwere, but man, so many unique songs. He by the way grounds out to short.
Kikuna quickly grounds to 2nd and there's down.
Hasegawa finally breaks the streak of 14 straight retired batters with a blast to right center. That lands at the base of the wall for a double, and more importantly bringing up Uebayashi.
Uebayashi's song is familiar too, but again I don't know where, but I like it.
Oono rightly is pitching carefully to Uebayashi with a base open. Though I guess even a ball in the dirt isn't safe.
And as they intentionally unintentionally walk him, Wasada-kantoku calls time.
Mizuma has unique music too!
Oono goes after Mizuma, and up 0-2, he grounds to 2nd! Inokuchi with the snag, goes the short way for the out and Oono puts up another 0!
They're even doing the sectional cheers for Oono just like for Takumi Koube! Souseikan jumps to #2 in my list of favorite oen-dans (next to Narashino, of course).
But sadly for Souseikan, it's a quick 1-2-3 inning, capped off by a check swing on a one bounder that goes back to Suzuki. Not as useful as Uebayashi's I'm afraid.
Well, the momentum that Souseikan had is apparently gone. Kobayashi just sent one up down the right field line almost to the upper walkway. WOW.
6-2 Sendai Ikuei.
#15 Abe hits for Katou, and can't check up on a ball outside. One down.
And now Oono hits Satou. Sakai goes out to settle Oono down, but I think perhaps the reality is setting in (I hope not, I'd like to see one more rally).
Suzuki with a pop up on a bunt, Sakai chases it in foul territoy, but it just goes off the end of the glove!
No harm done though as Suzuku flies out to right.
Kumagai first pitch blasts one to right center! That lands at the base of the wall for a RBI triple and perhaps at 7-2, that's the proverbial nail in the coffin.
#16 Onodera comes in to hit for Kikuna and goes down on 3 pitches to end the inning. But Sendai Ikuei has turned on the jets late to put Souseikan away.
Abe stays in to play 3B, while #14 Sakaki comes in for PH Onodera to play 2B.
Sakai with a hit the opposite way collects his 2nd hit of the day.
Eguchi swings away on the first pitch, and dives just in time to avoid the double play.
#16 Euchidani comes in to run for Eguchi.
But he's not on long as Kojima grounds to 3rd to end the inning.
Mass changes defensively for Souseikan. #14 Makishima comes in for Inokuchi. #15 Onoda comes in for PH Euchidani and takes over at 1B, and #18 Yanai replaces Maeda in CF.
Hasegawa gets a leadoff single, but a couple of fielder's choices mean they don't advance any further. Not that they need to up 7.
#10 Baba comes in to close out the game for Sendai Ikuei. He takes over in Abe's spot in the lineup as Suzuki moves to RF.
Wasada-kantoku admitting defeat empties the bench. #13 Hoashi comes in for Makishima and strikes out swinging.
#11 Hashiguchi hits for Noguchi and gets hit with the first pitch.
#17 Shiroshita comes in to hit for Oono, and they're still using the Erin music for him. It works.
He hits a scorcher that goes off Baba's heel and deflects up! Abe alertly charges over, picks the ball from the air and makes the throw to 1st for the out! That's bad luck for Souseikan.
#12 Okuda comes in to hit for Kinoshita, and it looks like #10 Hirowatari wil be the only man not to play as Okuda strikes out to end the game.
Well, Souseikan expectedly fell to Sendai Ikuei 7-2. But Souseikan played their game to the end. A lot of slashing and clawing and not losing sight of what type of team they were. Much like Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi a while back - but more entertaining. If not for a shaky first 2 inning where I think nerves came into play, I think they would have had a chance. I hope they make it back - though I know that means it puts them at odds with my Seihou...
For Sendai Ikuei, I think a lot of the offense is real. It's certainly not as good as the fall numbers speak of. But there were flashes that would make teams scared to face them. The pitching seems pretty average, but if they can split up the work, it might help for later rounds. For now, they can sit back and watch the next game to see who their next opponents will be.
Suzuki Takato (Sendai Ikuei) - W, 8 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 5 K, BB
Kobayashi Ryou (Sendai Ikuei) - 3-5, HR, R, 2 RBI
Hasegawa Hiro (Sendai Ikuei) - 3-5, 2B, R, RBI
Sakai Riku (Souseikan) - 2-4, 2B, K
Noguchi Shouma (Souseikan) - 2-3, R