It's crunch time now for these schools as the schedule shrink considerably and teams start playing with less rest. In this battle of champions, Sendai Ikuei is fortunate to get an extra day of rest, while Kochi gets just 1 full day.
Kochi has reached the quarterfinals riding their pitching tandem of Sakai and Sakamoto. The upset over Kanzei was not a fluke striking out 13 of the 27 possible outs against Tokoha Kikugawa while the middle of the order helped lift the team to victory.
The offense isn't going to overpower you though, especially at the bottom of the lineup, and that can become an issue if they need to score runs in a quick manner.
Sendai Ikuei, after an easy win over Souseikan struggled to rally against Waseda Jitsugyou for the victory. Up until the final 2 innings they had just managed 3 hits and a walk against Soujitsu ace Niyama. That is a surprise considering they won the fall tournament, and it puts into question their chances going forward - especially now considering what Kochi has done so far.
I still like Sendai Ikuei in this matchup, but I am certainly not as confident in their prospects as I was before Koushien started.
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)
Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi) - Tohoku Champions (Meiji Jingu Champions)
SS Kumagai Takahiro
2B Kikuna Yuuka
LF Hasegawa Hiro
CF Uebayashi Seiji
1B Mizuma Toshiki
C Kobayashi Ryou
3B Katou Naoya
RF Satou Seiya
P Suzuki Takato
11:01 - First pitch!
Suzuki looking good to start, locating his pitches in the zone with some fair amount of accuracy. So while he goes full on Yoshito, he puts one in the bottom of the zone for a K.
Doi quickly grounds to 3rd, with a nice pick from Katou.
But before Suzuki can get his 1-2-3 inning, Ren puts one into the gap on the left side. Kumagai makes a great effort to not only run it down, but make a quick throw. Despite it being down the 1st base line and Ren being safe, it was still a nice try.
Shimada-kantoku decides to push the action with Ren, having him take off for 2nd on an 0-2 count to Ichikawa. Kobayashi tries to fire to 2nd, but the throw is a bit wide and Kumagai's attempt to swipe tag back towards 2nd winds up missing.
No matter though as Suzuki gets Ichikawa to chase an offspeed pitch down in the zone to end the inning.
Whoa, Sakai's control does not look good early. One ball goes inside and almost hits Kumagai, and the next one makes Kumagai duck as the ball flies over his head.
Kumagai though gets the green light at 3-1 and grounds out to Doi.
Kikuna goes after the first pitch and it looks to just get over the infield. Doi scampers back and towards the left field line and indeed it falls just out of his reach for a base hit.
Hasegawa taking a patient approach to Sakai to start, and while he makes good contact, he lines out to right to Sugimoto for the 2nd out.
It looks like despite Sakai's early control issues, Sasaki-kantoku is having their batters go after the first strike, which I wonder about considering that if his control is off Sakai could be walking batters.
And in fact, Uebayashi does indeed draw a walk.
I think they heard me as Mizuma takes 2 straight balls to start his AB. But again swings on the first ball near the zone and fouls it off.
Well, I thought they heard me anyways. Mizuma swings on the next pitch and it's a comebacker to Sakai. But it deflects off his glove and goes towards Doi who was backing up. He throws to 1st and the inning is over.
Suzuki continues to look good on the mound starting this game. After a routine fly to left by Matagawa, Ueta swings and misses on a change inside, and Sugimoto becomes Suzuki's 3rd K chasing a ball down and away.
Meanwhile, the Ikuei batters continue to swing away at balls near the zone. As a result, Sakai records 2 quick outs as Kobayashi flies out to left, and Katou fouls out to Maeda near the back netting.
This despite Sakai still having some issues - as evidenced by Satou being hit.
Still, last batter ace Suzuki swings away, falls behind 0-2 then gets frozen for the 3rd out. Outside of the HBP, I think Ikuei is making it easy for Sakai to get back on track.
Kochi's bottom of the lineup, battery mates Maeda and Sakai on the other hand take a couple. Given, both are still retired - Maeda on a comebacker to Suzuki and Sakai on a grounder to 1st, but they still don't let Suzuki make it a total cake walk.
And apparently Suzuki doesn't like them himself as he inexplicably walks leadoff batter Yoshito on 4 straight.
Doi feigns the running safety bunt twice, and all it gets him is a 1-1 count.
But Shimada-kantoku undaunted sends Yoshito to 2nd again on a 2-strike count and Kobayashi's throw gets there, but takes a hop that Kumagai has to field such that Yoshito slides in! So both of the Wada twins now have a SB in the game!
It's all for naught though as Doi chases another ball in the dirt for Suzuki's 4th K.
I do not like the way that Sendai Ikuei is approaching the game. It reminds me of Seiritsu Gakuen last summer where it felt like they wanted to get the game over with as soon as possible so they could make their train ride home. Their batters are swinging at anything close and are not getting any results other than a quick inning for a struggling Sakai.
In fact, it takes him just 7 pitches to retire the top of Sendai Ikuei's order - and with no balls leaving the infield either.
Despite the Ikuei offense being rather non-existent, Suzuki is doing his best to buy his team time to get it together. Starts off the 4th by retiring Ren 6-3.
Ichikawa though takes a ball the other way for a base hit.
Matagawa gets around on a ball inside and flies to right. Satou ranging back, looks to have it...
But he makes a last second jump and the ball actually falls behind him!!
Despite appearing to get there in time Satou misjudges the ball and it falls in! Ichikawa thinking it would be caught had to hold up and only reaches 3rd on the double by Matagawa and Kochi is threatening here in the 4th! That's a pretty bad misplay by Satou.
Wild pitch from Suzuki gets away from Kobayashi! Ichikawa running in and is safe! It's another error by the Sendai Ikuei defense allowing Kochi to take the 1-0 lead!
Sasaki-kantoku calls for time to try and settle his team down.
Suzuki does that, though in a roundabout way, by falling behind 3-0 then working the count full on Ueta before getting him to whiff on a changeup for the 2nd out.
Against Sugimoto though he falls behind 3-0 again but loses him to a walk. And after Kobayashi can't cleanly field a ball in the dirt, Sugimoto alertly takes 2nd giving the chance for Kochi to break it open with a base hit.
Maeda with a ball up the 3rd base line, fair!! Katou can't field it cleanly! Throws to 1st... SAFE!!
Maeda just dives in just ahead of the throw and is safe! Matagawa scores to make it a 2-0 Kochi lead!!
Shimada-kantoku continuing to press Sendai Ikuei! Maeda is sent to 2nd and takes it without even an acknowledgement by the Ikuei battery!! I know about the delay steal of home that some teams use, but to not even to try and do anything about stealing 2nd is beyond me.
Sakai with a high bounder to 3rd. Katou fields and throws to 1st finally ending the inning, but not before Kochi takes a fairly large 2-0 lead!
Sendai Ikuei's Uebayashi is one of the few players in the order who is taking pitches and earns his 2nd walk. Perhaps Kochi's battery is also trying to avoid him?
Mizuma also taking some pitches and getting ahead of Sakai, but goes after a ball inside and pops it up! Maeda running over to the Sendai Ikuei dugout and makes the catch for the first out.
Kobayashi with a ball to the right side, Ichikawa playing in fields it, goes to 2nd for one, relay back by Doi and Sakai is there to cover for the 3-6-1 double play to end the inning!!
Sendai Ikuei a bit more patient, but perhaps not enough yet as a leadoff walk by Uebayashi goes for naught!
Hm, Suzuki seems to be struggling now as he throws at Yoshito's feet and puts him on to start the inning.
And when Doi attempts to bunt, Suzuki throws inside and hits him! Two runners on for Kochi with the always dangerous Ren up!
Suzuki still having control issues, falling behind Ren 3-1 before coming back to get him to swing and miss for the first out.
And then he gets Ichikawa to swing and miss on a change for the 2nd out!
But just when he looks to get out of the jam, he falls behind Matagawa 3-0 and eventually issues his 3rd free base of the inning to load the bases for Ueta!
Ueta hits a ball up the 3rd base line, Katou playing it behind the bag goes the long way to 1st but gets the 3rd out to get Suzuki out of his self-imposed pinch.
Katou's day is over at 3B with #13 Watanabe coming in to PH for him.
Once again though, Sendai Ikuei is swinging away early and often. Watanabe and Satou both swing on the 2nd pitch and fly out to Matagawa in left center.
Suzuki's day is done as well, and given last inning I don't blame Sasaki-kantoku at all. #16 Onodera comes in to hit.
Onodera actually takes a couple of pitches, and hits a comebacker back to Sakai. It glances off his glove but to Doi who goes to 1st for the 3rd out.
So as we hit the break it's the team from Shikoku who leads the game over a team that just seems to be swinging away on anything hittable.
Top 6thSo #15 Abe comes in for PH Watanabe and takes over at 3B. #10 Baba comes in for Onodera and takes the hill.
Baba is laboring a bit on the mound as well. Sugimoto and Maeda test him out, and run a long AB before being retired.
Sakai feebly waves at a ball down for the 3rd out, and Baba survives his 1st inning of relief.
Kumagai once again going early, hits a hard ball to Yoshito and while the throw is a bit wide, Ichikawa stretches for the first out.
Kikuna actually works the count and gets ahead 3-1 before fouling several pitches off. And several more...
And then he gives it a ride to right! Sugimoto going back, still going back, at the wall!
But he makes the catch as he softly collides with the padding for the 2nd out! Kikuna did not miss that ball by much.
Hasegawa up and he quickly hits a slow roller to the right side. Yoshito charges, but his throw to 1st is high and forces Ichikawa off the bag.
Uebayashi this time around hacks away! He give it a good rip, but Ueta is there for the catch to retire the side.
After a quick out by Yoshito, Baba continues Suzuki's control issues by hitting Doi. That's Doi's 2nd HBP this game.
Ren with a ball up the 3rd base line. And now Abe can't field the ball cleanly and his throw to 1st pulls Mizuma off the bag!
Once again Sasaki-kantoku has to call time.
Baba comes back and jams Ichikawa who flies out to center for the 2nd out.
And he finally gets out of the inning by getting Matagawa to chase a ball buried. He's keeping Kochi at bat, but the offense is quickly (and given their disposition at the dish - very quickly) running out.
Looks like Sakai's day is done as ace Yuuta comes in for a 3-inning save.
And it's one pitch, one out as Mizuma flies out to right.
Kobayashi gets Sendai Ikuei's 2nd hit of the game as he laces one to center! Perhaps that will get the offense started in their lucky 7!
Abe up for his first AB, swings at a 1-0 fastball and flies out to Sugimoto for the 2nd out.
Yuuta lets one get away in the dirt that Maeda has to chase down. Kobayashi advances into scoring position. Base hit here can pull the fall champs within 1.
And now Yuuta falls behind Satou 3-0! He comes right back throw and fires in 2 strikes to fill up the count.
Now Satou lines one into left for a base hit! Kobayashi is held up at 3rd as Matagawa fires the ball back in.
Shimada-kantoku calls for time as Baba comes up for his first AB. He's 1-2 so far here at Koushien.
But Yuuta ties him up on a ball inside and the side is retired! Sendai Ikuei's best chance is left begging and with only 6 outs to go!
Kochi is fine to play at Sendai Ikuei's pace now this late in the game. They go down 1-2-3 on just 10 pitches and retake the field.
Top of the order and Kumagai swings on the first pitch and flies out to center. Kikuna soon follows with one to left.
Hasegawa lets 3 balls go by as none of them are close. But after taking one down the middle, he hits a laser to right - but right to Sugimoto for the 3rd out.
After Baba retires the first 2 batters of the inning, he loses Doi on a 3-2 pitch way inside. That means that he'll have to face Ren one more time.
And now a timely steal of 2nd on a ball bounced to Kobayashi means that Doi is in scoring position hoping he can add yet another insurance run. Meanwhile, Ren keeps his AB alive.
But this time Ren chases that same fastball to Doi up and in to end the inning.
Baba's done his part, but can the offense show any sign of life this late?
Well, if any person could start the inning, Uebayashi is probably your best option.
And like most of his AB's he gets ahead 3-1 but gets the green light and whiffs on a ball inside for strike 2.
Uebayashi this time takes it upon himself to get on base and shoots one back up the middle for a leadoff single! Now can the people following him build on this?
Mizuma gets hit on a ball that gets away from Yuuta and while he's smarting a bit from that, there are runners on 1st and 2nd now with no out for Sendai Ikuei!!
We're getting deeper into the lineup though as Kobayashi steps in. If they're going to score, it'll be up to the bottom of the order...
Kobayashi goes after the 1-0 pitch and sends it to right. Sugimoto backing up, still backing up, still backing up... and makes the catch deep in right. Uebayshi advances to 3rd, but the douten run still remains at 1st base.
Interestingly it's only now that Shimada-kantoku calls time. Perhaps it's because now he can remind them that really the person to be worried about is Mizuma at 1st. Uebayashi's run doesn't matter in the sense that it would still leave Kochi with the lead.
But Abe hits a grounder to short! Doi flips to 2nd for one, relay from Yoshito is in time! Double play and Kochi has upset the Meiji Jingu Champions!! They advance to the semifinals for the first time in 38 years!
Kochi wouldn't have been able to do it without the pitching tandem of Sakai and Sakamoto. Sakai spun 6 innings of 2 hit ball before handing it over to the ace who while a bit shaky finished off the game.
But while Kochi should get their share of credit for the game, you cannot overlook the fact that Sendai Ikuei was just as culpable if not more for their loss here today. I couldn't get over the fact that they were just hacking away at the plate and basically in many ways assisting the Kochi pitchers by keeping their pitch counts low as well as perhaps not taking advantage of when the opposition was faltering on the mound.
And so the last representative of the Tohoku region is eliminated while a team from Shikoku moves on.
Sakai Yuuya (Kochi) - W, 6 IP, 2 H, K, 2 BB, HBP
Sakamoto Yuuta (Kochi) - SV, 3 IP, 3 H, K, HBP
Matagawa Ryouyuu (Kochi) - 1-3, 2B, R, BB
Maeda Ryuusei (Kochi) - 1-4, RBI, SB
Doi Kouyou (Kochi) - 0-2, K, BB, 2 HBP
Suzuki Takato (Sendai Ikuei) - L, 5 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 8 K, 3 BB, 2 HBP
Baba Kousuke (Sendai Ikuei) - 4 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 3 K, BB, HBP
Uebayashi Seiji (Sendai Ikuei) - 1-2, 2 BB
Kobayashi Ryou (Sendai Ikuei) - 1-4