Interestingly, the organizers have shuffled games on days 5-7 such that even though teams have played their 2nd game already, here we have Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou and Hanasaki Tokuharu playing their first game. It probably has something to do with trying to even out the days of rest all the teams get.
Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou went relatively unchallenged through the prefecturals/super-regionals save for a 4-3 win in 11 against their bretheren Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou, and a 2-1 win against Tokoha Kikugawa. But in their first round matchup at Meiji Jingu, they would be soundly defeated by eventual champions Sendai Ikuei 6-2.
Apparently, Fujita-kantoku was the catcher the last time Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou went to Haru Koushien. 18 years later his eldest son, ace Fuijita Ryouhei has led his team back to Haru Koushien!
Ryouhei has started and finished all games except for the 2nd round of the prefectural taikai. There they used a triumvirate of pitchers who never saw any action after that. I can't find any other info on Fujita though, and the peripherals aren't really much different than other aces to find fault with or stand out.
Offensively, the team did post a 0.135 ISO in addition to a 0.336 batting average. The hit production for the most part though decreased as they faced Koushien-level schools though, so it might be a problem. The main drives is cleanup batter Takenaka Hiroki who has more triples (4) than doubles (3).
Opposing them are the Kanto runner-ups Hanasaki Tokuharu who unfortunately had to face eventual super-regional champions Urawa Gakuin twice. And defeating a team twice in the same season is never an easy proposition. In the super-regionals, they defeated a Yokohama Hayato squad known for playing up to their opponents, routed my favorite team Narashino 12-0 and held on to defeat Jyousou Gakuin 6-4 before blowing a lead late and losing in 10 to Urawa Gakuin.
Hanasaki Tokuharu primarily uses a tandem of ace Sekiguchi and reliever Kogure. Sekiguchi averages over a K/IP, but has a K:BB ratio of 18:24 in 33.2 IP., Kogure has a 6 K/9 rate, but has a K:BB ratio of 20:3.
Offensively, their cleanup batter Wakatsuki Kenya is one of their main drivers, the other surprisingly is Mori Daiki who is usually in the bottom part of the order. The team is not afraid to take walks, though that is always predicated on how their opponents pitch more than anything else.
Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu) - Tokai Champions
LF Kawamura Renji
RF Niwa Kensuke (#16)
3B Azuma Taito (#4)
1B Takenaka Hiroki
C Kouyama Takurou
P Fujita Ryouji
CF Aoki Shouya
SS Noda Gento
2B Okimoto Takuya (#14)
Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama) - Kanto Runner-up
2B Yamamoto Ryuusei
3B Matsumoto Jyunpei
SS Kusumoto Taishi
C Wakatsuki Kenya
LF Furukawa Sumiya
1B Mori Daiki
CF Nozawa Takumi
P Sekiguchi Akihiro
RF Tada Tomoya
13:45 - First pitch
Sekimoto is one of the few pitchers that can hit 140+ on the gun. Kawamura grounds to short for the first out.
Niwa fails to get around on a fastball inside and goes down swinging.
Meanwhile Azuma takes a ball away and pulls it back up the middle past a diving Yamamoto!
But Takenaka swings on a change down and away and it's a good start for Sekiguchi
Fujita seems to be more in the mold of most aces, in the 130s with a change in addition to the normal fare.
Ryuusei goes down swinging on a slider away for the first out. But they get a baserunner when Fujita hits Matsumoto. Iwai-kantoku elects to bunt him over for a one-shot.
Wakatsuki flies to right though and that ends the inning.
Sekiguchi issues his first walk to Kouyama to start the inning. Fujita lays down the bunt, and Sekiguchi looks at 2nd before he picks up the ball, and doesn't pick up the ball! He misses again and everyone's safe!
So Aoki lays down another bunt and there's 2 runners in scoring position!
Noda delivers! He goes down on a slider and shoots it through to center! Kouyama scores, throw from Nozawa not in time! Noda winds up at 2nd on the throw and Kengifushou has the 2-0 lead!
Fujita-kantoku has Okimoto bunt to cycle the lineup back to the top and he lays one down.
Kawamura takes one back up the middle and that easily picks up Noda to make it 3-0!
Sekiguchi experiencing control isssues runs the count to 3-1, but Niwa's bunt attempt is popped up and caught by a diving Wakatsuki for the 3rd out. But a lot of balls in the zone and an error by the ace lead to an early deficit!
Furukawa turns on a fastball and drills it to right center! Aoki runs it down, but not before Furukawa is in with a leadoff triple! Hanasaki Tokuharu poised to get the run back.
But Mori grounds to 3rd and can't get him in!
Nozawa gets the job done with a slow grounder to short. Hanasaki gets one of the runs back and it's now 3-1.
Sekiguchi chases 2 sliders in the dirt to go down swinging to end the inning, but they're slowing chipping away at the deficit.
Azuma with his 2nd hit as he turns on an inside curve and singles to right. Takenaka bunts him along to 2nd.
Koyama with a ball the other way into right! Tada charging in, can't grab the ball! He doubles back allowing Azuma to score! It's 4-1 Kengifushou!
Fujita tries to bunt the runner over, but hits it right to Sekiguchi who starts the 1-6-3 double play to end the inning
Tada gets Hanasaki's 2nd leadoff runner as he singles past Noda into left. Ryuusei bunts him along.
Fujita gets Matsumoto to chase a change low for the 2nd out.
Rack one more up for Fujita as he freezes Kusumoto on an outside fastball for the 3rd out!
Kengifushou continues to hit off of Sekiguchi. Noda gets his 2nd hit, a one-out single through the right side.
And another base hit for Kawamura! He singles to left and that scores Noda to make it 5-1!
Niwa can't join the hit parade as he swings on a slider in the dirt to end the inning. But it's clear that Sekiguchi is just getting too much of the plate and the Kengifushou batters are just teeing off.
Wakatsuki with a drive to left-center! Kawamura running back to the fence, turns around!
Wakatsuki does deliver with a solo HR to left! He gets a run back to make it 5-2, but there's still a long way to go.
And while Nozawa works a 2-out walk, he stranded when Sekiguchi grounds out back to Fujita.
Sekiguchi not doing himself any favors as he hits Azuma to start the inning.
Fujita-kantoku elects not to bunt with Takenaka or Kouyama, and both flyout to center.
Fujita can't check his swing on a fork in the dirt and that ends the inning. It's not a 1-2-3 inning, but it's a 0 on the board.
The rain seems to be coming down as people prepare their ponchos and umbrellas. Not serious though, seems like it's light if at all.
Outside of the middle of the lineup, very few have had success against Fujita.
Tada and Ryuusei both can't get the ball out of the infield, and while Matsumoto gets another 2-out walk, Kusumoto grounds to 1st and we hit the break.
Once again the pace is very fast. Sekiguchi's pitching has improved a bit here in the past inning, but missing in the wrong places have led to most of Kengifushou's runs. Wakatsuki and Furukawa seem to have some level of success, but the rest of the lineup will need to produce.
Rain is coming down a bit harder, but still not enough to get people to evacuate for cover.
Well, Sekiguchi has settle d down the last couple of innings. Outside of Aoki where he ran the count full before striking him out, he retires the other two batters with ease to hold the 3-run deficit.
Wakatsuki with a ball to shallow center. Aoki charging in, the ball goes in and pops out of his glove! It goes behind him and Wakatsuki reaches 2nd on the error!
Furukawa rightly swinging away, but Fujita induces a flyout to left.
Mori with a liner to right! It's in for a AH!!!
The ball bounces and skips by Niwa and goes all the way to the wall! Wakatsuki scores! Mori rounding 3rd, is held up! Hanasaki Tokuharu gets two breaks and get back a run! It's 5-3!
And Fujita-kantoku almost expectedly pulls Niwa and puts regular #9 Hayashi in left.
Nozawa with a chance to close the gap further pops it up! Azuma makes the catch for the 2nd out!
And Sekiguchi can't bring him in! He pops it up as well and Takenaka secures it to limit the damage!
Lucky 7 for Kengifushou, but it's lucky for Sekiguchi has he gets 2 quick groundouts to Yamamoto.
But Azuma gets his 3rd hit on a base hit to left, and then Sekiguchi hits Takenaka on a 55' changeup.
That gets Iwai-kantoku to call for time.
Kouyama with a grounder back up the middle. Yamamoto charges over, flat misses it! Goes into center and Azuma scores to bring the margin back to 3 at 6-3!
Fujita grounds to 1st, but mistakes by the Hanasaki defense continue to trip up the team.
Tada with his 2nd hit! He lines one to left to start the inning!
Iwai-kantoku not bunting at this point, Ryuusei grounds to short but does advance the runner. Matsumoto does the same on a grounder to 1st, so a run is 90 feet away.
But he'll be left there as Kusumoto swings on the first pitch and flies out to left to end the inning.
Sekiguchi issues his 2nd walk to Aoki and Kengifushou has another leadoff runner. Noda bunts him over for Okimoto.
He hits a grounder up the middle. Yamamoto ranges to his right, and it's off his glove! Nozawa backs him hip, but Aoki scores to make it a 7-3 game.
And now a wild pitch sends Okimoto to 2nd! Things are going from bad to worse!
2 down for Hayashi and he singles to right! Okimoto coming around to score! Throw in from Hayashi not in time! Wakatsuki fires to 2nd and gets Hayashi trying to advance. Inning over, but it's 8-3 and the life has seemed to leave Hanasaki Tokuharu.
Yeah, it seems to be the case. Fujita retires the 3-4-5 batters in just 7 pitches.
#10 Kogure comes in to finish the game for Sekiguchi.
After some nerves perhaps, Kogure gets Azuma to ground to 1st. But on what should be a routine play to short, Kusumoto slides over only to have the ball go 5-hole on him and into left....
Oy. And now a wild pitch sends him to 2nd...
But Kogure freezes Kouyama on a slider for the 2nd out.
And Kogure gets a 2nd K in his inning of work as Fujita chases a slider in the dirt for the 3rd out.
It's all but a formality now. Just 3 outs to go, and Fujita has thrown a cool 99 pitches.
Iwai-kantoku empties the bench.
#15 Suzuki in for Nozawa first pitch grounds to short. #12 Nedachi in for Kogure, works the count full, then hits a comebacker to Fujita for the 2nd out.
Tada will bat seeing as though he's 2-3, I guess so.
But Tada grounds to 1st, and that's the game. Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou advances with a sound 8-3 win over Hanasaki Tokuharu.
Not much to say here, Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou was pretty much solid throughout while Hanasaki Tokuharu struggled with defense the entire game. Nevertheless, Hanasaki Tokuharu was still working their way back before they would trip over themselves again.
It'll certainly be a learning lesson for the Kanto runner-ups. I'll expect their defense to improve before the summer. Meanwhile, Kengifushou will need a similar performance from the offense as they will in all likelihood face Osaka Touin in the next round.
Fujita Ryouji (Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou) - W, CG, 2 ER, 5 H, 4 K, 2 BB, HBP
Azuma Taito (Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou) - 3-4, 2B, 2 R, HBP
Noda Gento (Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou) - 2-4, 2 R, 2 RBI
Kawamura Renji (Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou) - 2-5, 2 RBI
Sekiguchi Akihiro (Hanasaki Tokuharu) - L, 8 IP, 2 ER, 9 H, 5 K, 2 BB, 2 HBP
Wakatsuki Kenya (Hanasaki Tokuharu) - 1-4, HR, 2 R, RBI
Tada Tomoya (Hanasaki Tokuharu) - 2-4
Furukawa Sumiya (Hanasaki Tokuharu) - 1-4, 3B