As many of you know, Kanzei has become my favorite team ever since seeing Dass Romash blow 2 leads in the final innings, and the infamous inside the park homerun against Waseda Jtsugyou.
Since then, they've not had much success until I went back in 2011 when they got all the way to the semifinals, only to lose to eventual champs Nichidai-san (*shakes fist*).
Anyways, it's been about a year since then and Kanzei has reloaded. After blowing through the prefecturals, they annihilated teams such a s Jyosuikan, Kurashiki Shougyou (for a second time) and Kouryou to win the Chuugoku super-regional. After that, they beat Yasuda Gakuen and Harue Kougyou before losing in the finals to Sendai Ikuei.
Make no mistake about it though, Kanzei will try to beat you through offense. While they averaged 3 runs given up per game (and that includes 12 in the final against Sendai Ikuei), ace Koyama Yuuto does not have the gaudy numbers one might associate with that. One again, he only hits the low-mid 130s with a two-seamer, slider and screwball. He carries a 6.59 K/9, 1.30 WHIP, and a 2.77 K/BB rate.
So the offense, which batted 0.378(!) will be tasked to deliver for the team. Only one player, 3B Katada Takumi, had an average under 0.300. It'll be up to table setters Aizawa Ryousuke and Ogou Yuuya to get on base ahead of the heart of the order. Doesn't seem too hard, they both batted over 0.400 and both almost had an OBP of 0.500!
Because we have a track record of how most pitchers fare in Koyama, it'll be the offense we'll key on to see if they're the real deal.
And they'll get an early challenge in Shikoku champions Kochi.
Now, admittedly, Shikoku 高校野球 is not as strong as in years past. Kochi though is one of the stronger teams in the region. Sadly, in 9 haru-natsu appearances, they have gone past the first game just twice.
At least the competition during the fall had quite a few "brand names" as it were. Tosa, Kochi Shougyou, Marugame, Tokushima Shougyou, Naruto, before narrowly losing to Urawa Gakuin at the Meiji Jingu taikai.
But seeing how Tosa played, as well as Naruto and Uragaku's performance earlier, the underlying evidence cancels out the numbers posted last fall. Ace Sakamoto Yuuta's line of 6.64 K/9, and a WHIP slightly above 1.50 become even more troubling in that light. Again in the low 130s, he has a changeup in addition to the standard repertoire (herein known as a slider and curve). There may be more hope in 2nd year Sakai Yuuya who throws in the upper 130s with a curve and forkball. Shimada-kantoku may be better off giving the ball to him instead if they want a chance in this game.
Offensively, the team batted 0.389, but again it might have to be taken with a grain of salt. They did average 2.5 doubles per game, and had 3.5 SB per game, so perhaps they have speed. And speed travels no matter what - so long as you can get on base. And with 25 walks in their final 3 games (Tokushima Shougyou, Naruto, Urawa Gakuin), it's certain they know this too. Expect the Wada duo of leadoff batter Yoshito and cleanup batter Ren to supply a lot of the SB.
So expect Kochi to challenge early, and if successful often, against the Kanzei battery.
Kanzei should have the advantage, but if Kochi can run they can make a game out of it.
Kochi (Kochi) - Shikoku Champions
SS Doi Kouyou
2B Wada Yoshito
3B Wada Ren
1B Ichikawa Gou
LF Matagawa Ryouyuu
CF Ueda Shunya
RF Sugimoto Daiki
C Maeda Ryuusei (#12)
P Sakai Yuuya (#10)
Kanzei (Okayama) - Chuugoku Champions
CF Aizawa Ryousuke
2B Ogou Yuuya
P Koyama Yuuto
1B Doi Shinji
C Uno Yuusuke
RF Tobe Daiji
SS Tanaka Kanata (OT: I just noticed the romaji is palindromic!)
3B Irumi Kei (#10)
LF Uraki Naohiro
14:15 - First pitch!
Well, that's 2 games now my research turns out to be wrong. Koyama actually can hit the upper 130s, which compared to other aces, it's actually good.
And he uses the slightly faster fastball to blow by Doi for the opening out.
Yoshito turns out to be a tougher cookie as he fouls off several pitches before grounding out to short.
And Ren swings on the first pitch and drives it to deep center. But Aizawa is there to camp under it for the 3rd out. But duly noted, he does have power.
Well, while I know Shimada-kantoku doesn't follow me, he does start Sakai in the game.
But... well, this is wrong too. Sakai doesn't throw any harder than the average ace. What gives?
Plus, he has control issues! He walks Ogou with one down, and after a groundout he uncorks a wild pitch that allows him to advance 90 more feet to 3rd!
Then he walks Doi, who then steals 2nd, and then walks Uno! Manrui for Kanzei all via the walk!
Oh, and I guess Sakai does hit the upper 130s after all reaching 137 on the gun against Uno.
But Tobe inexplicably swings on a eye-high fastball for strike 3! Didn't he get a peek that Maeda was standing up?
Well, anyways, Sakai's wildness in the first does not come back to bite him, and the score remains level at 0.
Well, Koyama's control seems to be not quite all there despite the extra speed.
He falls behind Ichikawa 2-1 before getting a groundout to 3rd. Matagawa runs the count full, but goes down swinging.
As for Ueda with a foul ball down the right field line, Tobe on a dead run dives and makes the catch fot he 3rd out!
Sakai gets himself into trouble in the 2nd.
Kanata lines a single over Yoshito into right. Then he walks Irumi and there's runner on 1st and 2nd with no out!
But Uraki on a bunt attempt pops it up! A charging Ichikawa catches it for the first out!
Aizaawa behind 1-2, lets a fastball on the outside corner go by and turns around to head to the dugout before he's called out.
And Ogou is jammed and flies out to Matagawa to end the inning! Sakai performes yet another disappearing trick!
After some confusing regarding the count, Koyama gets Sugimoto to swing on a full count fastball away for the first out.
And while he went away on Sugimoto, he pounds Maeda inside who goes down swinging on a slider.
Oddly enough, it's Sakai who gets Kochi's first hit! He pulls a fastball away, and it lands at the base of the fence in left center for a double!
Really, Doi has Poker Face as his oen-dan song?
As punishment he takes a sinker over the plate for strike 3 to end the inning.
One down for Doi, and he drives a ball into the left-center field gap and just out of the reach of Ueda for a double.
Uno quickly grounds out to 1st and there's 2 outs.
That brings up Tobe, who had an awful end to his last AB.
Behind 2-0, Sakai blasts a letter high 139 fastball inside, then a 138 outside, both swung and missed. That prompts Eura-kantoku to call him over for a quick talk. Not with him of course since managers don't exit the dugout unless really needed.
Well, at least he made contact. But he lifts a can of corn to center that Ueda secures for the 3rd out.
Yoshito quickly records the first out on a routine grounder to 2nd.
The MBS announcers are making a big deal of Ren's 0.676 fall BA, but Koyama apparently didn't get the memo because he goes after him inside and induces a popup to Dai in foul territory.
Ichikawa grounds out to 2nd, and it's another uneventful inning.
Kanata ahead 2-0 gets around on an inside fastball and drives it down the left field line for a leadoff double. This is another inning where Kanzei has a runner in scoring position with less than 2 outs.
And again, failure to execute is an option! Irumi pops up his bunt, Maeda sprints behind him and makes a great diving catch for the first out!
Uraki up, and Eura-kantoku perhaps has given up on bunting.
The Kochi battery tries to sell strike 3 on the 1-2 pitch but it goes begging. Eventually he works a walk and now there's runners on 1st and 2nd.
Back to the top of the order and Aizawa, Sakai gets two quick strikes. They plead for the third on a curveball, but again the home plate umpire doesn't buy it. Instead he grounds out to short, but advances the runners.
2 down and is Sakai able to pull the rabbit out of the hat for the 4th time?
Ogou pops it up behind home plate! Maeds secures it and Kanzei is held off the board again!
You know what they say about letting you opposition hang around. These missed opportunites will cost Kanzei if they keep this up.
After two quick infield outs, Sugimoto takes a nice easy swing and slices it down the left field line for a single.
And with Maeda up, Shimada-kantoku sends Sugimoto! Throw from Uno not in time!
Things are starting to get a bit hairy for Koyama as he runs the count on Maeda full.
But he jams him into a foul fly down the right field line. Doi is there for the catch and the side is retired. It does look like Kochi is making inroads against Koyama though.
One down, Doi bloops one over his namesake on Kochi for a base hit. Eura-kantoku decides to play for the run and has Uno bunt the runner over.
But once again Kanzei trips on itself (even though this wasn't a big chance). Tobe doesn't strike out like the 1st, but all he can do is groundout to Ichikawa at 1st to end the inning.
The game offensively has been dominated by Kanzei, but the inability of the team to get the timely hit means that we are actually scoreless through 5! We're in a 4-inning game now, and momentum may be turning to Kochi!
Sakai has done his job. Shimada-kantoku probably doesn't want more years taken off his lifespan and pinch-hits #18 Takeuchi in his spot.
Realistically, having given up no runs given the circumstances is probably the best thing for Kochi.
Takeuchi meanwhile in his only AB today goes down swinging.
Doi meanwhile pops out Uno for the 2nd out, and Yoshito pops out to Kanata. It's another scoreless inning, and perhaps Koyama has reclaimed some of the momemtum.
However, ace Sakamoto Yuuta is taking the mound to finish the game. Kanzei will probably not have the same opportunities afforded before.
And indeed Kanata rolls a grounder to short, but Doi can't field the ball cleanly and Kanata gets on base!
Eura-kanoku asks Irumi to bunt again, but he can't lay it down and he goes to 2 strikes. Camera goes to Eura-kantoku who must be really exasperated by now.
But the baseball gods must be giving Kanzei free passes because a pickoff throw to 1st gets by Ichikawa and allows Kanata to go to 2nd!
Yet Kanzei continues to execute poorly. Irumi pushes the bat and totally misses and strikes out!
Uraki up to the plate and it's the same story. Grounds to 1st, advances the runner. 2 down, back to Aizawa at the top of the order.
And Sakamoto jams Aizawa! He flies out to left and once again Kochi slips out of the jam!
One down in Kochi's Lucky 7, and Ichikawa hits a ground ball past a diving Irumi into left!
And apparently Kochi's oen-dan likes US songs becacuse they're playing Born This Way.
Back to the action and Matagawa flies out to left.
Shimada-kantoku pushes the action and has Ichikawa run! He steals 2nd safely!
And now Ueda with a ball to center! That falls in! Aizawa double clutches on his throw and it's late! Ichikawa scores and Kochi has the lead! The ball goes off Ichikawa's back and Ueda takes 2nd! It's 1-0 Kochi!
Sugimoto grounds out to 2nd, but the inevitable has happened. Kochi has taken advantage of their luck and taken the lead!
Meanwhile Kanzei's missed opportunites are much more magnified now that (a) Kochi has taken the lead and (b) they're face Kochi's ace.
Sakamoto jumps on the fact that Kanzei is probably pressing due to this and takes full advantage.
Ogou and Koyama quickly are retired and Doi goes down swinging on a fastball away.
Maeda leads off the inning with a liner to left for a base hit! Sakamoto lays the bunt down, but Doi gambles and throws to 2nd instead! Kanata is there with the catch and they get the lead runner!
But on the very next pitch Koyama throws it in the dirt and that allows Yuuta to reach 2nd anyways!
And Doi's deep fly to right allows Yuuta to tag up and reach 3rd! One run seems impossible enough for Kanzei right now, 2 would be almost a dead loss.
Things are going from bad to worse ad Koyama hits Yoshito. Eura-kantoku calls time.
Ren singles through the left side! Yuuta scores and Kochi indeed gets their 2nd run! It's 2-0 and you can probably put a stake in Kanzei now!
With a 4-pitch walk to Ichikawa, Koyama may be gassed from trying to keep the line while his offense does nothing.
And that is true! Matagawa singles to right center! 2 runs score, and that's the dagger in Kanzei's coffin! 4-0!
Eura-kantoku finally gives in. Aizawa comes in from CF to pitch, Koyama goes to 1B, Doi goes to 3B, Irumi goes to LF, and Uraki goes to CF.
And the wheels have completely fallen off. Aizawa uncorks a wild pitch allowing Ichikawa to score making it 5-0.
The inning mercifully ends when Ueda flies out to left, but the game is effectively over.
Kanzei's batters are completely pressing as evidenced by Uno's first pitch swing on a ball head-high. All Sakamoto needs to do is get it close to the plate and I think Kanzei will chase.
Sakamoto beats around the bush a bit with Uno, but when the count runs full, he throws the slider in the outside half and Uno dutifully chases for the first out.
Tobe does the same after falling behind 1-2.
And Kanata gets jammed and grounds out to 2nd. This game is over.
Sugimoto walks to leadoff the inning. Maeda bunts him along to see if they pad the lead. But Yuuta can't make contact and whiffs on a slider in the dirt for the 2nd out.
Doi ground out to short to end the inning, but it's incosequential at this point.
Eura-kantoku decides to send in #16 Morikawa to hit for Irumi.
Proceeds to hit solo HR to make it not a shutout. 5-1.
After 2 expected groundouts, Ogou hits ameaningless ball off the top of the fence in right for a triple.
And in a fitting end, a wild pitch gets away from Maeda, Ogou thinks it's far enough, it isn't in the slightest, and Ogou is thrown out trying to get back to 3rd. Game set.
As a fan of Kanzei, this was as Jim Mora Sr. put it "a disgraceful performance". Kanzei had the following situations:
- 1st Inning - Bases loaded, 2 out.
- 2nd Inning - Runners on 1st and 2nd, no out
- 3rd Inning - Runner on 2nd, 1 out
- 4th Inning - Runners on 2nd, no out then runners at the corners 1 out
- 5th Inning - Runner on 2nd, 1 out
- 6th Inning - Runner on 2nd, no out
Kanzei pretty much deserved to lose that game. Period. Kochi was strong enough to get out of those situations time and time again, and finally pulled through in the 7th when Kanzei, and more importantly Koyama, was running out of gas from trying so hard on the mound to make up for his inept offense.
I'm taking my proverbial ball and going home for the night. Ugh.
Sakai Yuuya (Kochi) - ND, 5 IP, 0 ER(!), 4 H, 2 K, 5 BB
Matagawa Ryouyuu (Kochi) - 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI, K
Wada Ren (Kochi) - 1-4, R, RBI
Ichikawa Gou (Kochi) 1-3, 2 R, BB, SB
Koyama Yuuto (Kanzei) - L, 7.2 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 6 K, BB, HBP
Morikawa Seiya (Kanzei) - 1-1, HR, R, RBI
Doi Shinji (Kanzei) - 2-3, 2B, BB, K
Tanaka Kanata (Kanzei) - 2-4, 2B