Starting our last day of 3rd round action is Tokoha Kikugawa, who's finally back after a long hiatus, versus Kochi who is riding high after an upset of the Chuugoku champions.
Tokoha Kikugawa has not done all that poorly, outslugging Harue Kougyou in their opening game, then took advantage of a fading Inui to come from behind to defeat hometown team Houtoku Gakuen.
With the key for Tokoha Kikugawa being their offense (as their pitching is weaker than most depending solely on weak contact), the last game against Houtoku Gakuen isn't all that encouraging. 4 runs, but only on 4 hits.
Now, they will be facing Kochi, whose starter - 2nd year Sakai, has had command issues as seen in their game against Kanzei. But he time and again was able to get out of the jams he was put in. Tokoha Kikugawa is probably not the offensive power that Kanzei was, so Sakai may have a better outing this time around if Tokoha can't get their offense started once again.
As for Kochi's offense, it warmed up as the game progressed against Kanzei, eventually culminating in 5 runs. They were helped by walks and dead balls though, so it may not translate at all this time around since Tokoha's pitchers are so around the plate.
This has all the makings of a low-scoring game given the offensive strength and relative pitching style of both teams.
Tokoha Kikugawa (Shizuoka) - Tokai 3 seed
CF Toji Keisuke
LF Maekawa Naoya
SS Endou Kouhei
C Matsuki Daisuke
3B Oonishi Yuuki
RF Kikuchi Shuntarou (#16)
1B Kuwahara Tatsuki
P Watanabe Naoki (#10)
2B Imasaka Ryousuke
Kochi (Kochi) - Shikoku Champions
2B Wada Yoshito
SS Doi Kouyou
3B Wada Ren
1B Ichikawa Gou
LF Matagawa Ryouyuu
CF Ueta Shunya
RF Sugimoto Daiki
C Maeda Ryuusei (#12)
P Sakai Yuuya (#10)
09:01 - First pitch!
Toji with a ball off the end of the bat. Yoshito and Ueta converge on it in center, but it falls in for a base hit!
Morishita-kantoku not bunting as usual with Maekawa.
Instead Morishita-kantoku sends Toji to 2nd! Throw from Maeda not in time!
Count runs full on Maekawa. Grounder to 3rd, Ren with it! Looks Toji back and makes the play at 1st.
Endou swings on a shoulder high pitch and sends it to right. Sugimoto coming in, has it go off his glove trying to make a shoestring catch! Everyone's safe as Toji moves to 3rd!
Sakai not looking particularly sharp in the early goings, going deep and behind in counts.
Now Morishita-kantoku sends Endou to 2nd! Throw again not in time! Base hit could score 2 now!
Matsuki though settles for a sac fly as he hits one to left center. Ueta with the catch, but Toji tags up and comes in to score to make it 1-0 Tokoha Kikugawa!
What's this? Endou tries to sneak into 3rd after the throw home, but Kochi has none of it! They go to 3rd and get him for the 3rd out!
Sneaky, but thoughtful. Still, Tokoha Kikugawa has the early lead!
Yoshito working the count full flies out to right.
Doi pops it back in foul territory, Matsuki tries to chase it down, but slips and can't make the catch. Another foul ball and this time Kawahara goes near the camera well, but again can't make the catch. He almost bloops one into left, but Maekawa runs it down.
Ren is hit on the head with a curveball. It's a glancing blow, but the home plate umpire calls for an injury runner. Doi comes out to run for him.
Ichikawa with a grounder past a diving Oonishi for a base hit! Kochi threatening with 2 outs!
Matagawa with a ball to left! Maekawa sprinting back and to his left, makes the running catch to save 2 runs!
Oonishi with a liner, but right at Yoshito for the out.
Kikuchi with a swinging bunt up the 3rd base line. Maeda fields it as it turns toward foul territory, and then falls down when he tries to spin around to make the throw! Infield hit for Kikuchi!
After two more balls to Kuwahara, Maeda goes out to talk to him.
Kikuchi takes off for 2nd! Throw this time is closer, and he's called out!
Oooo~ I don't know about that call. And on replay, it looks like he gets in before Doi applies the tag. Bad break for Tokoha.
And Kuwahara goes down looking on a fastball on the outside corner. Sakai has his 1-2-3 inning, kinda...
Ueta starts off the inning with a fly to left.
Sugimoto with a ball to the right side, Imasaka over to field it, but it's off his glove and into right. E$ and Kochi has the douten runner on.
Maeda with a ball to the right side as well. Imasaka does field it cleanly this time, spins for 2nd, thinks twice and goes to 1st for the out.
And Sakai hits a routine grounder to 3rd. Oonishi goes to 1st and the side is retired.
Sakai's pitch location looks a better to start the 3rd as he gets a fastball by Watanabe for the 1st out.
He's still missing high, but Tokoha's batter are chasing after it.
Imasaka skies one towards 3rd, Ren makes the catch for the 2nd out.
Toji also gets under one, but hits it deep to center. Ueta though has plenty of time to get under it near the fence for the catch.
Yoshito puts up another fight at the plate, and this time earns a walk on the full count.
Watanabe doesn't look that bad on the mound. He's not accurate either, but not really missing badly either so far.
Doi with the push bunt up the 1st base line is retired 3-4, but advances Yoshito into scoring position. But Ren grounds to 3rd! Oonishi with the ball, looks Yoshito back and throws to 1st. It's up the line, but Kuwahara makes the tag for the 2nd out.
Ichikawa pops it up on his 1st pitch and Imasaka makes the catch for the 3rd out.
Maekawa with a high swing somehow manages to line one into right for a leadoff hit. Endou not bunting flies out to right.
And he takes off for 2nd! Pitch from Sakai is in the dirt and Maeda has no chance!
Matsuki moves the runner along 90 feet with a groundout to 1st.
Sakai still having trouble with his control. On a waste pitch high, he actually misses down and away, and Maeda has to quickly reach down and stab at it to prevent a wild pitch. And then on a pitch that is supposed to be a little away, he misses by a wide margin.
No matter though as he gets Oonishi to swing and miss on a fastball to end the inning!
Matagawa working the count full, gets around on a ball inside and lines it into center for a leadoff hit! Ueta showing bunt, but winds up swinging away, grounds to 3rd! Oonishi goes to 2nd, but Matagawa is called safe as the throw takes Endou off the bag!
Sugimoto with the bunt to the left side. Watanabe quickly fields, spins, fires to 3rd for the out! Oonishi then fires to 1st... where they get Sugimoto for the 1-5-3 double play!!
Maeda grounds to 2nd for the 3rd out and a situation for Tokoha Kikugawa is deftly avoided!
Kikuchi with a blooper to right, Yoshito backing up, leaps and makes the catch for the first out!
Tokoha Kikugawa likes the high pitches as Kuwahara chases ball high for another K for Sakai.
#9 Sakakibara comes in to hit for Watanabe - his day is done. That means Hotta is coming in next half inning. Not sure I like the prospect of that...
Sakakibara does keep the inning going with a walk, Imasaka with a grounder up the 1st base line and it gets by Ichikawa!! Sakakibara winds up at 3rd on the base hit and it's another chance for Tokoha as Shimada-kantoku calls time.
But Toji chases after the first pitch and flies out to left! The opportunity is lost as soon as they get it!
Ace Hotta does come in for PH Sakakibara and takes the hill. He'll be tasked to go the distance now.
#17 Okuda comes in to hit for Sakai which means Sakai's day is done and Sakamoto will be coming in after the break. Okuda meanwhile pops out to 3rd.
Yoshito collects his first hit of the day with a lazy single to right.
Uh oh. Hotta misses inside on a full count pitch to Doi and Kochi is threatening with one out! And not only that, it brings up Ren!
Hotta and Matsuki are trying to be careful with Ren without walking the bases loaded. And gets what looks like a curve in to make it 2-2.
Fastball inside, goes behind Ren to fill up the count!
And Hotta can't get the call on a curve down in the zone and it's manrui for Kochi with cleanup batter Ichikawa up!
Ichikawa can't hold up on a buried ball and falls behind 0-1. To which Shimada-kantoku calls time and sends a message to Ichikawa.
Ichikawa with a blast to left center!! Toji running back to the fence, makes the catch! Yoshito easily tags up and we're tied at 1-1 with Kochi still threatening now with runners at the corners!
And Shimada-kantoku sends Ren to 2nd! The Tokoha battery isn't ready and there's no throw!
Now Hotta goes full on Matagawa! And Hotta walks him! It's manrui again for Kochi with Ueta stepping in!
Hotta having control issues all over the place as Matsuki has to leap to catch a pitch. He's high again on a curve, and another curve and he's behind 3-1!
#11 Hodzumi is warming up, but this initial pitching change seems to be rather blunderous!
Ueta swings away, liner right to Endou for the 3rd out!
Hotta and Tokoha Kikugawa get out of the jam, but as we head into the break, the pitching situation for Tokoha is as feared. It's only 1 IP, but already he has an ER, H, and 3 BB's. It's not lost for them, but I think they've made it that much harder on themselves.
Kochi also has a pitching change with Okuda PH for Sakai. Okuda stays in the game at LF, Matagawa moves to RF, and ace Sakamoto Yuuta comes in at Sugimoto's spot in the lineup and takes over on the hill.
After retiring Maekawa 4-3, Sakamoto has some trouble locating his pitches and walks Endou.
He's still having some problems, but gets Matsuki to chase a sinker down and in for the 2nd out.
Endou takes off on the first pitch, and it's a curve in the dirt that Maeda has no chance to throw him out on!
Sakamoto looking just as bad on the mound, falling behind Oonishi 3-0. Gets a fastball in the bottom of the zone for strike 1. Pumps in another on the outer half to fill up the count. Oonishi just fouls off the next pitch.
And Sakamoto now walks Oonishi! That brings up Kikuchi. Sakamoto this time gets ahead 0-2, and gets him to chase a forkball for the 3rd out!
The pressure is mounting on the two aces now in the game. Both have come out to very shaky starts and need to settle down quickly or it could be game set soon enough.
New P Sakamoto up, and he flies out to left. Already there seems to be a difference on the mound as Hotta is firing strikes to the batters. He's ahead 0-2 to Maeda and he takes a defensive foul.
Maeda puts a charge into one! Maekawa, playing in, running back in left... makes the running catch for the 2nd out!
Okuda in for his 2nd AB, does no better grounding out to short to end the inning.
Hotta on the other hand, looks miles better in his 2nd inning of work. I'm still skeptical given the numbers, but we'll see.
Kuwahara leads off Tokoha's lucky 7 with a single to right! Not a bad location by Sakamoto, Kuwahara just took it the other way like he was supposed to on an outside pitch.
As expected, Hotta squares up to bunt, but fouls off his first attempt. He fouls off his 2nd attempt and Morishita-kantoku is backed into a corner.
And Hotta tries the three bunt, but can't pull it back in time and is called out!
One down for Tokoha as Imasaka steps in. Sakamoto can't find the zone again and falls behind 3-1. Just gets one in the inside corner to fill up the count.
Hit-and-run! But Imasaka fouls it off. Looks like Morishita-kantoku is being aggressive here.
And another one! Again, Imasaka fouls it off.
And one more time! Imasaka misses this time, but Maeda's throw to 2nd is late.
Lineup flips up back to Toji with a runner in scoring position.
Sakamoto gets Toji on 3 straight finishing him off on a slider away!
Yoshito with a pop up behind home plate. Matsuki up against the fence leans to his right and makes the catch for the first out.
Doi goes after the first pitch and flies out to center, and Ren on the very next pitch grounds to short! A quick Lucky 7 for Kochi.
Both pitchers seem to have settled down for the most part, but it's a tenuous 1-1 game.
Sakamoto ahead of Maekawa 1-2, but can't get him to case on two consecutive balls, but gets him looking on a pitch on the inside corner as Maekawa takes off for 1st!
Endou swings on the first pitch and it's a routine grounder to Ren.
Matsuki with a big wave on a forkball down in the zone and he K's for the 2nd time against Sakamoto.
That's 7 K's (!) for Sakamoto in just 3 innings of work!
Ichikawa with a liner back up the middle past Hotta for a base hit!
And a ball gets under Matsuki advancing Ichikawa to 2nd! Tokoha in trouble as Morishita-kantoku calls for time.
Hotta gets ahead of Matagawa 1-2 with some well placed balls. Tries to get him to chase away, no dice.
Hotta tries to climb the ladder, but Matagawa connects with it and hits a slow roller to the right side! Imasaka's only play is to 1st and the gyakuten run is 90 feet away!
Ueta steps in, 0-3 on the day. After a foul off, Shimada-kantoku sends him some advice.
Ueta turns on one! 3rd base umpire looking it down the left field line... FAIR!! Maekawa retrieves it at the wall, but Ichikawa scores to make it a 2-1 game! Ueta in at 2nd and Kochi threatens to extend the lead now!
Sakamoto goes down swinging for the 2nd out.
Maeda with a check swing ball to 1st... WHAT??!
Kuwahara just plain misses the ball and it goes into right??! Ueta running home, throw from Maekawa, not in time! Matsuki fires to 2nd and gets Maeda trying to take 2nd on the throw and the inning is over!
But a costly error by Matsuki gives Kochi a crucial insurance run! They now lead 3-1 with just 3 outs to go!!
Desperate times for Tokoha now as they need 2 runs instead of 1.
Oonishi trying to get one of those runs back with one of his swings. Gets ahead 2-1 but watches a fastball right down the middle for strike 2.
He lines a ball to left! Okuda charging in dives, misses it as he awkwardly tumbles over! Oonishi with a leadoff double and Tokoha is in business!
Kikuchi up next, 1-3 with a single back in the 2nd. But he aggressively goes after the first pitch and pops it up! Doi in shallow left secures the ball for the 1st out!
Kuwahara stepping in, perhaps trying to make up for the error he made last half inning.
Chases a sinker for strike 2...
He tries to poke down the left field line, but pulls it foul.
Kuwahara chases a sinker for the 2nd out! That's 8 K's for Sakamoto!
Down to their last out #17 Kaneko comes in to hit for Hotta. And he's quickly behind 1-2.
SANSHIN!! Sakamoto with his 9th K as Kaneko chases a slider down and away! Kochi advances to the Best 8 at Koushien since their Natsu Koushien appearance in 1979!!
Kochi hangs in there against Tokoha Kikugawa and comes through late for the victory! It certainly looked like that Tokoha had the upper hand early, but the pitching changes for both team seemed to turn the tide. For Kochi, going to ace Sakamoto helped shut down the opposition after a shaky first inning.
Alas, for Tokoha Kikugawa, going to Hotta early perhaps cost them the game. First it cost them the lead when he was shaky in his first inning, then it cost him late as Ichikawa and Hotta put some timely hits together to put Kochi ahead for good.
So Shikoku continues to make a strong showing here at Senbatsu while Tokoha will perhaps go back to the drawing board for the summer.
Sakamoto Yuuta (Kochi) - W, 4 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 9 K, 0 BB
Ichikawa Gou (Kochi) - 2-3, R, RBI
Ueta Shunya (Kochi) - 1-4, 2B, R, RBI
Watanabe Naoki (Tokoha Kikugawa) - ND, 4 IP, 2 H, BB, HBP
Endou Kouhei (Tokoha Kikugawa) - 1-3, BB, SB
Toji Keisuke (Tokoha Kikugawa) - 1-4, R, K
Oonishi Yuuki (Tokoha Kikugawa) - 1-3, 2B, BB, K