Ryuukokudai Heian had made it to Koushien primarily on their ability to play the low-scoring game. This year was no exception as they had a stretch of 3 key games that got them what amounted to an automatic bid. First was a 2-1 victory over Kyoto Subaru in the prefectural 3rd place game to make it to the super-regionals, then another 2-1 win over Chiben Wakayama and a 2-0 win over Yamato Kouryou to make it to the semifinals.
Heian has to generally play a defensive game because the offense just doesn't have the power to. With just an ISO of 0.067, you are going to have to dink and dunk your way into runs - hence the low scoring.
Opposing them is Waseda Jitsugyou, who hasn't been to Koushien since 2010. The thing is, when they do get here, they generally stay there for a while having advanced through 2 rounds in each of their last 4 calendar appearances.
But the team is an enigma. They'll struggle against Hachiouji and Toritsu Sougu Kouka, but then rout Souka in the semifinal, then lose to Yasuda Gakuen in the final.
The main pitcher of the staff is not ace Niyama Youhei, but 2nd year Nishiyama Ryou - despite worse peripherals:
- Niyama - 0.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 6.55 K/9, 8:3 K/BB Ratio
- Nishiyama - 2.29 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 4.58 K/9, 20:23 K/BB Ratio
It's that type on inconsistency that will probably deny them a chance for the title. But they seem to get a benefit for being Waseda. Yet another unknown to consider as these teams square off.
Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto) - Kinki 3/4 seed
CF Yoshida Dai (#17)
RF Makino Yuuto
1B Kawai Taisei
LF Arita Hiroyuki
SS Ishikawa Takuya
3B Shimada Yuuto
2B Fujii Atsuki (#14)
C Yokoyama Hiroya
P Fukuoka Takuya
Waseda Jitsugyou (Tokyo) - Tokyo/Kanto Floating Bid
2B Yamaoka Hitomi
SS Nishioka Hisayoshi
RF Kaneshiro Kento (#17)
1B Kumata Mitsumi
LF Suzuki Kai
CF Yoshimi Kentarou
3B Orihara Aoi
C Toshimitsu Kensaka
P Niyama Youhei
11:40 - First Pitch!
After a quick out by Yoshida on the opening siren, Makino hits a line drive to left! Suzuki sprinting back leaps, and it's off his glove! Makino is on at 2nd!
Kawai quicly follows that with a grounder past Orihara into left! Makino is being sent home!! Throw from Suzuki is cutoff! Heian has a 1-0 lead!
And Harada-kantoku sends Kawai on the 2-2 pitch! Throw from Toshimitsu is not in time! Heian is putting a lot of early pressure on Soujitsu!
Arita earns a walk! Runners on 1st and 2nd now for Ishikawa and Niyama is in a big pinch!
He gets one the two outs he needs as Ishikawa pops it up! Toshimitsu by the 1st base dugout makes the catch!
Shimada steps in now to try and get the timely hit.
Full count, and Shimada gives it a ride to center! But a backpedaling Yoshimi makes the catch to end the inning! A lot of trouble, but just 1 run is the total damage done.
Ah, the familiar Konpeki no Sora...
But it's a rather uneventful inning for Soujitsu to start. Two quick groundouts and a flyball to left give Fukuoka a 1-2-3 inning to ease himself into the game.
Well, that was a quick inning. I finished taking a phone call and Niyama records 3 outs from the bottom of the order. All groundouts, all not hard, and two back to Niyama.
Well, since I was unable to find data on these pitchers, I'll give what breakdown I can from watching them.
Fukuoka, southpaw, throws as hard as most other pitchers we've seen. If you don't know what that is, low 130s, slider in the high 110-low 120s, curve in the 110s.
Fukuoka allows his first runner as he walks Orihara. Control not necessarily accurate, but misses in the right places (down, away).
He comes right back though and puts Suzuki away on a slider inside that he just can't catch up to.
And for one more, he puts a fastball down and away that Yoshimi whiffs on. Not a bad start from Fukuoka.
Back to the top of the lineup and Yoshino. He's retired via popup to Yamaoka.
As for Niyama - southpaw, low 130s, curve in high 100s, and I think something like a cutter in the low-mid 120s. That's something slightly different.
But his control isn't quite all there. He falls behind Makino on 2 curveballs and winds up walking him.
Kawai up and Harada-kantoku calls for a hit-and-run on a 2-2 count but he fouls it off. Just holds off on a fastball outside to fill it up.
And Kawai win the battle! He singles to right and Niyama is in trouble again!
1-1 to Arita, and a curveball goes over the plate for a ball? I know Toshimitsu was setup outside, but it sure looked like he got the plate. Niyama does manage to fill up the count.
Arita with a comebacker to Niyama! Throw to 2nd for one, and Kawai correctly takes out Nishioka to prevent the double play.
2 down for Ishikawa, but Niyama gets him to ground to short! Nishoka goes the short way and the side is retired!
Fukuoka's control continues to be on/off, and it was off against the bottom of the lineup. He goes 2-2 against Toshimitsu, and gets a flyout to right. He goes full to Niyama, but gets a groundout to short that included a nice charge and throw by Ishikawa. And Yamaoka swings early and hits a comebacker that Fukuoka stops with his glove and makes the play to 1st.
Shimaada with a foul fly down the left side. Suzuki runs to the fence, leaps up, and makes the catch at the fence for the first out!
But Niyama has problems with Fujii falling behind 3-0. Painted into a corner a 3-1 fastball is taken by Fujii and sent back into shallow center for a base hit.
Yokoyama with a grounder back to Niyama! Throw to 2nd is high, but the umpire says he stayed on the bag for the out!
And against Fukuoka he falls behind 3-0 again, then comes back with two fastballs on the outside corner. This time around Niyama gets the best of his opponent as Fukuoka grounds to 3rd to end the inning.
Guessed I missed one pitch for Fukuoka, he has a changeup too.
Yoshioka chases a curve and grounds to 3rd.
Newly promoted member Kaneshiro makes a battle of his AB running the count full, but on the 9th pitch goes down on a fastball down and away.
And against Kumata, a slider gets the outside corner call and once again Waseda is retired in order!
0-1, Yoshida rips a ball down the left field line just foul.
Swinging bunt in front of the plate! Toshimitsu takes the lead on the ball, but he misses the ball! Leadoff man on on the error! Makino bunts him along for Kawai.
And Kawai delivers again! Niyama leaves a ball mean to be outside in the zone and Kawai takes it the other way over Suzuki's head! That's a stand-up double and he has his 2nd RBI today! 2-0 Heian!
But as good as Kawai is with the bat, not so good on the basepaths. On a grounder to short by Arita, he takes off for 3rd, and is promptly thrown out. Ishikawa does the same and the inning is over. Kawai though delivers his 2nd timely hit of the game,
My connection goes on the fritz, but nothing of note really happens. After two quick groundouts, Fukuoka does allow his 2nd runner as he walks Yoshimi.
But then on a ball back up the middle by Toshimitsu, Ishikawa makes a great pick off the ground and a toss across his body for the out.
Heading into the break, Niyama's control issues have gotten the best of him. Also perhaps he should stay away from Kawai.
The game seems to be settling into the normal doldrums where more often than not batters are retired in order.
That is the case here in the 6th as Niyama gets groundouts from Shimada and Fujii, and a strikeout swinging from Yokoyama.
Niyama's day is done as #16 Miki comes in to hit for him.
And well, he goes down swinging on 3 straight, the finisher a fastball away.
Fukuoka is throwing most pitches for strikes, and perhaps getting the benefit of a wide strike zone as Yamaoka is called out looking on a ball that Yokoyama catches at the edge of the right-handed batters box.
And the wider strike zone means the Soujitsu batters have to chase. Yoshioka does just that on a fastball outside and Fukuoka strikes out the side!
Deensive replacement for Soujitsu, #9 Oka comes in to replace Suzuki in LF.
#14 Tachikawa comes in and takes over in relief. A southpaw as well, he throws more of a 3/4 delivery but doesn't throw any harder.
Fukuoka chops one that is just deflects off of Tachikawa's glove, but he comes back to field it and throws Fukuoka out.
Yoshida quickly grounds out to 2nd, and Makino almost gets a base hit, but a sprint in from Yoshimi gets him there for a shoestring catch.
Fukuoka hasn't allowed a hit so far, but has walked his 3rd batter as Kaneshiro head to 1st on 4 straight.
The control issues persist into the next AB as he runs the count full on Kumata.
And Kumata gets Soujitsu's first hit! He turns on a fastbal and shoots it by Kawai into left! Kaneshiro reaches 3rd on the play and now Fukuoka is in his first pinch! Harada-kantoku calls for time.
Orihara with a scorcher down the 3rd base line, gets by Shimada down the left field line! Kaneshiro scores on the double by Orihara and it's a 2-1 ballgame here in Soujitsu's Lucky 7!
Oka in for his first AB, but he grounds to 3rd. The runners have to hold as Shimada heads to 1st for the 1st out.
Yoshimi with a ball to 3rd! Kumata was going on contact and is hung out to dry! He's run down at 3rd, and Heian almost gets a double play as Shimada perceptly notes Orihara sliding into 3rd! Runners now at the corners with 2 down.
It'll be up to Toshimitsu to get the run in. But Fukuoka gets ahead 1-2.
Fukuoka gets the strikeout, but the pitch is wide and gets away from Yokoyama! He has to chase it down at the fence on the 3rd base side! Orihara scores and we're tied at 2-2 on the wild pitch!
Now it's Tachikawa, no - check that, #15 Matsumoto to try and get the run in.
But he's not just swinging away, no, he's taking pitches and takes a 4-pitch walk! Things are falling apart quickly for Fukuoka and Ryuukokudai Heian!
Worse yet, it's back to the top of the order and Yamaoka.
He hits a slow grounder to the right side. Yoshioka sprints to his left, dives, but it's a seeing-eye single to right! Makino throws the ball in, but way too late as 2 more runners score and what was a 2-run deficit has become a 2-run lead for Soujitsu! It's 4-2!!
Nishioka can't continue the inning as he grounds to Shimada to end the inning. But what seemed like an outing for the ages for Heian comes crashing down hard and now they'll have just 6 outs to mount a rally!
#11 Toya is the 3rd pitcher used by Soujitsu. Yet another southpaw. And pretty much looks the same as his predecessors.
Kawai with a slicing liner to the left side and Nishoka makes a great leaping catch for the first out.
Arita works another hard AB against Toya, but is called out on a failed check swing (man, it sure doesn't look like he went though).
And Ishikawa hits a slow grounder to the right side. Toya sprints over to pick it, then just takes it himself to the bag for the 3rd out! Heian is down to their final 3 outs!
Whatever happened in the 7th seems to be gone as Fukuoka retires both Kaneshiro and Kumata with grounders to 1st.
Orihara breaks that up though with a liner the other way into right center for a double.
Oka grounds out to short and that ends the inning.
But Heian is running out of time.
Shimada tries his best to get on base, fouling off several pitches, but grounds out to 3rd.
Fujii goes down swinging on an outside fastball.
It's all up to PH #15 Tsune to extend the game.
He gets ahead 3-0, but is backed into a corner at 3-2 and grounds to 3rd to end the game. Soujitsu with a comeback in their Lucky 7 wins the game 4-2!
What seemed like an all but sure win, and possible no-hitter by Fukuoka and Ryuukokudai Heian completely reversed itself in the span of 10 minutes. Perhaps it was the pressure of the no-hitter. Or perhaps defeating Soujitsu. Or maybe it was the inexperience of being mostly 2nd years. Whatever it was it cost them today a spot in the 3rd round. It'll be a hard loss to take, and a learning lesson for sure.
For Soujitsu, we see perhaps Izumi-kantoku's strategy. Basically if he has 3-4 arms that are about the same, he can switch and replace if one is not effective (since they're all average). Plus if none of them can hit, he basically plays an NL strategy.
But the offense outside of the 7th inning was non-existant. Unless their bats can pick themselves up going forward, that's certainly a problem in being a contender.
Niyama Youhei (Waseda Jitsugyou) - ND, 6 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, K, 2 BB
Orihara Aoi (Waseda Jitsugyou) - 2-3, 2 2B, R, RBI, BB
Yamaoka Hitomi (Waseda Jitsugyou) - 1-4, 2 RBI, K
Fukuoka Takuya (Ryuukokudai Heian) - L, CG, 4 ER, 4 H, 7 K, 4 BB
Kawai Taisei (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 3-4, 2B, RBI
Makino Yuuto (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 1-3, 2B, R, BB