And we are underway!
The opening game should be a great one - if not loud, between the Hokushinetsu runner-up Tsuruga Kehi and the Kyushu champions Okinawa Shougaku.
Despite the amount of data provided by both teams going deep, it is still hard to size up these teams.
It was a clean sweep for Fukui this past fall, Tsuruga Kehi and champion Harue Kougyou (who plays later today) received both bids from the Hokushinetsu region.
The Hokushinetsu region was rather weak in general, and it showed once Tsuruga Kehi exited the prefecturals. All their games in the super-regionals were one-run affairs, and two went into enchousen (that's extra innings). Their offensive output also declined putting up just 13 hits in their final 3 games.
A lot of the offense lies at the top of the order. CF Mine and 3B Yonemitsu both set the table by getting on base, and #3 batter 1B Yamada sends them in. After that though it will be spotty at best to generate runs. They did sport a 0.155 ISO though, but again against weaker competition, it is hard to draw any conclusions from it.
This puts a lot of pressure on ace Kishimoto Jyunki, who looks like he throws slightly above 3/4 slot. He has maxed out at 145 kph, but probably throws more in the upper 130s and throws a sinker in addition to the standard curve and slider. The stats show that even in the super-regionals his K rate was still rather good (he averaged slightly over 1 K/IP overall, and just under 1 in the super-regionals). Jyunki also doesn't walk a ton of batters, leading to a 3+ K/BB ratio.
On the other side lies Okinawa Shougaku. But if they're to repeat their feat of 5 years ago, their aces are going to have to be pitcher perfect (yes bad pun intended).
Okishou has implemented a dual pitcher system, with southpaw ace Higa Kenichirou taking about 55% of the innings and #10 Ura Atsushi takes up the remainder. Side note, Ura actually has a twitter account!
Anyways, this tandem will not blow the opposition away (5.3 K/9). What they do though is prevent runners from getting on base. Both allow less than 1 runner per inning.
The offense will help them out. While sporting a lower BA than Tsuruga Kehi, the offense was effective in the super-regionals, putting pressure via the bat and the walk. 3 of their 5 super-regional games they drew at least 6 walks.
But the team cannot necessarily get the "big hit". With an ISO less than 0.100, the best they can generally do is base-hit a team to death. So long as they can get timely hits and the pitching holds, they may be able to make the big run in the tournament.
But the opening ceremonies are over, it's a bright sunny day, it's time for 高校野球!
Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa) - Kyushu Champion
CF Chinen Yuuya
2B Taira Yuuki
LF Nishihira Daiki (#12)
SS Moromizato Takumi
1B Shibahiki Yuuma
RF Naka Jyouji
3B Kubo Shuuto (#13)
P Higa Kenichirou
C Gushiken Hideki
Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui) - Hokushinetsu Runner-up
CF Mine Kentarou
3B Yonemitsu Issei
1B Yamada Seiya
C Kita Ryouta
SS Asai Hiroya
LF Miyazaki Hiroya (#13)
RF Iwata Shinya
2B Yamane Takaki
P Kishimoto Jyunki
10:42 - First Pitch!
And Chinen grounds the first pitch past Yamada. Yamane is there to back up and tosses to Kishimoto for the first out.
Taira tries a safety bunt on the next pitch, but Issei is there quickly to gun him down.
Nishihira takes more than one pitch, so it's not such a quick inning.
After a few balls out of the radar gun, Kishimoto appears to pitch in the mid 130s with a slider in the upper 120s.
Nishihira though after getting ahead 2-0 quickly swings away and goes down 3 pitches later. Not a bad start for Kishimoto.
Higa doesn't particularly fast at all. His fastball is only in the low-mid 120s, and he just threw a curve in the 100s.
Mine pulls one down the 3B line, and past a diving Kubo into left for a leadoff single!
Issei lays down the bunt, Gushiken with the ball, but doesn't throw it! It looks like there was blown coverage of the bases and everyone's safe!
Immediately Higa-kantoku calls for time, as this is a perfect situation for their main hitter Yamada!
Higa looks to have a slider now in the 110s and just hit 128 on a fastball. Yamada though is patient and isn't chasing balls.
But he gets ahead of a pitch and it's a grounder to short! Moromizato flips to Taira who goes to first.
And the throw is high! It goes into the camera well and Mine scores to make it 1-0 Tsuruga Kehi!
Kita up now, swings away at some pitches outside the zone to fall behind 1-2.
But he shoots one behind Higa into center! Yamada waiting for the ball to get through holds up at 3rd. Okishou in an early pinch as Asai steps in.
Higa, perhaps slowing the pace down, tosses a couple to 1st.
And the 3rd toss gets away from Shibahiki! Yamada dashes for home and scores! It's now 2-0 on 2 errors from the Okishou defense!
Higa goes away on the 2-2 pitch and Asai does the right thing and lines it down the right field line! He's in with a double and there's runners on 2nd and 3rd for Miyazaki!
Finally Higa gets ahead of Miyazaki 0-2 before wasting a pitch way outside.
Miyazaki grounds to short and Moromizato catches Kita off 3rd. He's run down as Asai advances to 3rd.
Still, Okishou in a pinch as Iwata comes up. Swings on the a first pitch fastball letter high and singles through the opposite side into left! Asai scores to make it 3-0!
Yamane with a short liner down the left field line! Nishihira charges, but can't reach it and it scoots by him to the fence! Miyazaki scores! Iwata scores from 1st to make it 5-0 Tsuruga Kehi! This is a complete disaster for the Kyushu champions!
#10 Ura is warming up in the bullpen, he may be called into service early here.
Mercifully, Kishimoto is up and he grounds out to 3rd to end the inning. But 9 batters come to the plate and put Okishou 5 runs in the hole!
Cleanup batter Moromizato up and Kishimoto tops out at 138 (though it's high).
Kishimoto goes 141, but leaves it up! Moromizato hits it deep to right-center and it falls in for a leadoff double! Here's a chance for Shibahiki to help cut the deficit a bit.
Kishimoto hits 143, but again it's high.
Now Kishimoto falls behind 3-0 to Shibahiki before rifling a fastball for a strike. He takes a little off of it and Shibahiki foul tips it to fill up the count. He eventually wins the battle, getting him to foul out to Yamada.
But Naka takes a first pitch slow curve from Kishimoto and singles to left! Runners at the corners for Kubo!
I'm trying to figure out his pitches, because I think he has a slider in the 120s, a splitter in the 110s and a slow curve in the 100s, but I'm not sure.
Meanwhile, Kishimoto is overthrowing again and falls behind Kubo 3-1.
And what looks like a fastball at 133 is fouled off. But it can't be a straight fastball as he can hit 140.
Ooooo.... Kubo holds up but is called out on a fastball that looked outside... 2 outs.
It's up to Higa, who isn't a good hitter at all. And he quickly falls behind 0-2.
And Higa swings and misses on a fastball down the middle and after getting into a pinch Kishimoto avoids taking any damage as Kehi maintains their 5-0 lead.
Back to the top of the order and Mine. And Higa continues to not fool anyone...
Mine blasts one to right center! Chinen races back to the wall, looks to be there, but is squeamish with the wall and the ball goes off the end of his glove! Mine racing around the bases reaches 3rd easily!
Things go from bad to worse as Issei promptly flies out to right, scoring Mine to make it 6-0.
Looks like that'll be it for Higa. Higa-kantoku pulls him and brings in Ura ifor relief. It'll be a long duty this time around and with his team down by a wide margin.
Ura's first pitch is a fastball at 127 followed by one at 133.
Yamada then takes another letter high pitch the opposite way. Naka running back, gets turned around, makes a last second jump and somehow manages to make the catch for the 2nd out.
According to the announcers he has a slider and a splitter.
Kita gets ahead of one of the splitters and flies out to end the inning.
Bottom of the lineup and Gushiken hits a comebacker to Kishimoto for the 1st out.
Chinen with a routine grounder to Yamane for the 2nd out.
And Tairi is jammed and grounds to 2nd for the 3rd out. A 1-2-3 inning once again as the lineup turns over.
Ura hangs a fastball to Asai who sharply lines it to left. Miayzaki then goes on the first pitch and shoots that past Moromizato into center.
Azuma-kantoku not letting up as Iwata squares to bunt. And while Ura gets to it quickly, there is no one covering 3rd so Ura goes to 1st for the out.
That brings up Yamane, who probably needs to get a hit.
Instead he squeezes! Ura quickly retrieves it, tosses it to Gushiken who has Asai dead to rights. He's run down and there's two outs with runners at the corners for Kishimoto.
Kishimoto tries to be of use at the plate, and fouls off a 2-2 pitch.
And Ura goes for a slider! He leaves it up and Kishimoto singles past a diving Tairi into center! Miyazaki scores to make it 7-0.
Ura's control is not much better as he throws over Mine's head. Still he manages to get the count to 2-2.
Now #18 Yoza is warming up in the bullpen...
But Ura gets Mine to chase a slider outside for the 3rd out. Tsuruga Kehi though puts up another run and extends the lead.
Kishimoto seems to have settled down after the first inning. He gets 2 quick outs as Nishihira pops out to Yamane, and Moromizato grounds to short.
Shibahiki is almost retired, but reaches out on a slider and pokes it to shallow center for a base hit.
Naka looks to have made solid contact with the ball, but Mine camps under the ball in front of the fence for the 3rd out.
Okishou finally retires the leadoff batter of an inning as Issei grounds to 3rd.
After a routine fly to left, Moromizato whiffs on a routine grounder allowing Kita to reach base.
That brings up Asai, who's 2-2 on the day.
Kita takes off for 2nd, but Gushiken makes a quick throw. Moromizato is there in front of the bag and makes the swipe tag for the 3rd out. Finally Okishou keeps Tsuruga Kehi off the board.
Kubo hacks on the first pitch and flies out to right.
Kishimoto isn't missing in the wrong places, though as I write that, he leaves a fastball up and new P Ura singles to right.
He then settles down and gets Gushiken to swing on a slider down and away for the 2nd out.
Chinen with a grounder through the right side for a base hit. Ura running on contact slides into 3rd safely, while Chinen advances to 2nd on the throw to 3rd form Iwata. A small chance here to cut into the large deficit.
But Taira is jammed! It's a grounder just fair down the 1st base line! Yamada races Taira to the bag and beats him for the 3rd out! Okishou is denied once again.
Asai leading off the inning collects his 3rd hit, hitting a first pitch single to center.
Miyazaki is not bunting, but chases a high slider away for the first out.
And now Asai takes an early jump from 1st! Ura has him picked off and he's run down for the 2nd out.
Ura gets another stressless inning as he induces a comebacker from Iwata to end the inning. But as we head to the break Tsuruga Kehi is in full control.
Defensive change as #7 Kobayashi Yuudai comes in for Miyazaki in LF.
It's looking really bad for the Okishou batters. Nishihira chases a slider way outside for the first out. Moromizato tries to get the offense started with a liner over Asai's head, but the Okishou batters seem overly succeptible to the outside sliders.
Shibahiki swings on two such pitches to fall behind 1-2.
Kishimoto uncorks a pitch that goes to the top of the net. Looks like he let go just a bit early to say the least.
Shibahiki takes advantage of the next pitch and singles past a diving Asai into left! Runners at the corners now.
But Naka is jammed on in aside fastball and pops it up! Issei is there in foul territory for the 2nd out!
It's up to Kubo now with 2 down. He's 0-2 on the day..
Make that 0-3. It's a one bounce comebacker to Kishimoto who makes the play at 1st to retire the side.
Defensive replacement for Okishou as well. #14 Sakiyama comes in for Nishihira in LF.
Yamane with a hot shot to the right side, but Shibahiki makes a great diving stop and tosses to Ura for the 1st out.
Perhaps Kishimoto isn't as useless at the plate. He hits a grounder past a diving Kubo into left.
Oh, and now he hits Mine to put runners at 1st and 2nd. Higa-kantoku calls for time.
Issei lays down a successful bunt to move the runners ahead for Yamada.
Ura though gets Yamada to ground to 3rd for the 3rd out. Tsuruga Kehi's run total stays at 7, but Okishou can't make any inroads.
Ura's day is done as #15 Uehara steps him to hit for him. He stands in fairly tall at 184 cm, but loops a foul fly to Issei for the first out.
Ouside of that, it's a 1-2-3 inning for Kishimoto and it's pretty much in hand for Tsuruga Kehi.
Late addition #18 Yoza comes in as the 3rd P for Okishou. He's a sidearmer, but no speed data until a high fastball at 124 to make it 2-2 to Kita. He does eventually get him to fly out to right.
From the announcers, he appears to have just a fastball and slow curve.
Asai takes a rising fastball shoulder high and lines it through the infield into left.
Looks like Yoza's fastball tops out in the low 130s while his slow curve is in the 100-110s.
Kobayashi with a hard grounder to 2nd, Taira looks to be there, but oles on the ball and it glances off his glove into right allowing Asai to advance to 3rd.
Higa-kantoku doesn't seem pleased as #5 Sunagawa comes in to replace him at 2nd immediately thereafter.
Meanwhile #16 Nakanishi comes in to hit for Iwata. Its' a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play though as Nakanishi chases a rising fastball and Kobayashi is easily thrown out at 2nd.
Nakanishi stays in to play RF.
Sunagawa immediately pays dividends as he chops one past a diving Yamada into right. Sakiyama follows that up with a grounder to the right side. Yamane runs it down and makes a diving stop, but has no play.
And now Moromizato takes the first pitch and singles to center! Manrui for Okishou with no out here in the 8th!
The right man is up as Shibahiki is 2-3 on the day.
But he pops it up! He gets under a fastball and Asai jogs it down in shallow left for the 1st out!
It's up to Naka to drive in the runs, but he watches a fastball on the outside corner and chases one to fall behind 0-2. Which is then followed by a waste pitch in the right-hand batters box.
Naka then has an excuse me swing that goes to Yamane! He gets the runner at 2nd as Sunagawa scores to make it 7-1. Tsuruga Kehi is happy to trade a run for an out at this point.
For Okishou to have a chance Kubo needs to dive in another run here. Instead he chases a slider in the left-handed batters' box to end the inning.
Interestingly we have our first actual walk of the game as Yoza walks Yamane. Issei's younger brother, Nagi (#14) comes in to run for Yamane.
And it looks like Azuma-kantoku will have Kishimoto practice bunting here in the 8th. The form isn't great as he fouls one off on the ground, then pokes it up and out of play. He has to swing away and flies out to center for the 1st out.
Mine gets hits for a 2nd time in the back, this after Yoza gets the count to 2-2.
Issei quickly jumps on the opportunity hitting a single past a diving Sunagawa. Nagi scores to make it 8-1.
Yoza lets another ball fly wide and hits Yamada to load the bases. #11 Yoshiyama, the last stated pitcher on the roster, warms up in the bullpen.
Kita stands in and Yoza may be losing form here in the 8th. He does though gets Kita to chase a tailing fastball for strike 2 and gets a failed check swing there after for the 2nd out.
Asai first pitch swings and hits a comebacker that goes off Yoza's leg! It deflects to the left side where Moromizato tries to reverse course, but it slides by for a base hit! Mine and Issei score to make it 10-1.
That unlucky hit is the end of Yoza's day as Yoshiyama comes in to hopefully get the last out.
First pitch to Kobayashi is an outside fastball at 123. Then a curve at 102. Looks like he tops out in the high 120s as he lets a curve go too early for ball 3.
And an odd looking curve is hit by Kobayashi through the left side, plating Yamada to make it 11-1.
Nakanishi lines out to center, and Tsuruga Kehi is 3 outs away from a matchup with Kyoto Shouei.
#15 Nakamoto comes in for Nagi and takes over at 2B.
Higa-kantoku is emptying his bench as #16 Akamine hits for Yoza. He's not just hacking away though as he works the count full. He hits a routine grounder to 3rd, but Issei throws it high allowing Akamine to reach 2nd.
Gushiken grounds to 2nd as Akamine is allowed to reach 3rd.
Azuma-kantokuthen makes some wholesale changes to get more work in. #18 Misome comes in for Yamada and takes the hill moving Kishimoto to 1st. Also, #17 Kakutani comes in to play RF.
Chinen grounds out to 2nd as Tsuruga Kehi allows the run to score, making it 11-2.
From the few pitches I see, Misome is an overhander with a fastball in the high 130s hitting 140.
Sunagawa goes down swining to end the game and Tsuruga Kehi advances to the 2nd round. It's a rout, but not necessarily a convincing victory as Kishmoto struggled in the 1st inning as well while the offense took the middle innings off before scoring against the relief corps. Another champion lies in wait now in 4 days with the Kinki champion Kyoto Shouei.
As for Okinawa Shougaku, they aren't sad about the loss, but they'll look back at what
might have been had the 1st inning not gone all awry. It was a deficit
that they couldn't get out of.
Kishimoto Jyunki (Tsuruga Kehi) - 8.1 IP, ER, 10 H, 6 K, 0 BB
Asai Hiroya (Tsuruga Kehi) - 5-5, 2B, R, 2 RBI
Kobayashi Yuudai (Tsuruga Kehi) - 2-2, RBI
Moromizato Takumi (Okinawa Shougaku) - 3-4, 2B
Shibahiki Yuuma (Okinawa Shougaku) - 2-4