Well, I've missed quite a bit, and it looks like things have gone, well... not as expected.
Take semifinal #1. I'm sure that if you had to compare Harue Kougyou vs. Tsuruga Kehi you probably had to favor Tsuruga Kehi just because of their experience.
Harue Kougyou and Tsuruga Kehi got the short end of the sticks. Both had to start from the furthest depths of the bracket. Harue Kougyou drew Tokoha Kikugawa and lost 9-5. Tsuruga Kehi meanwhile has defeated 2 champions, and the Tohoku 2 and 3 seeds and has reached the semifinals.
What has shocked me has been the way they've done it. In the fall taikais their offense was nearly non-existant. Yet with exception of the Moriokadai Fuzoku game (where they probably on my suggestion took a "game off", they have done nothing but show offense. With 2, 4, 2 and 5 extra base hits in their 4 games, they've shown they can hit the ball.
And yet, it's not like they've totally shutdown their opponent's offenses. More often than not, they give up about as many hits as they get. The difference is that their ace Kishimoto Jyunki has just limited the impact of those hits.
The problem for Azuma-kantoku is that in their last game against Seikou Gakuin, he tried to give his ace rest after giving him an 11-0 lead. But out of the 15 batters his relief corps faced, 8 reached base via a hit or walk. In fact Kishimoto had to come back in to clean it up.
So chances are that means that unless there is another blowout, it will be Kishimoto all the way. Thankfully he has one day off before this start.
Their opponent is one of the two last champions that are left.
Urawa Gakuin won the relatively weak Kanto super-regional. And so far, they haven't been challenged really this Koushien. After taking it relatively easy on Tosa with a 4-0 win, they've blown out Yamagata Chuo and Hokushou.
Sure, give credit for Urawa Gakuin for doing everything they've needed to do to reach this point, but this will certainly be the biggest challenge ace Ojima will be facing. If his line against Hokushou is any indication (1 H and 1 BB, but 1 K), he will be really hard-pressed to locate his pitches until the last out is recorded...
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
Urawa Gakuin (Saitama) - Kanto Champions
SS Takemura Haruki
2B Nie Hayato
CF Yamane Yuuta
3B Takada Ryouta
1B Kigure Naito
RF Saitou Ryousuke
C Nishikawa Genki
P Ojima Kazuya
LF Hattori Masamitsu
11:00 - First Pitch!
Two quick outs from Ojima to start the game. But Yamada singles to right to break up the fast start.
Kita up, works the count full.
Lines one down the left field line! Hattori has to field it at the wall! Yamada rounding 3rd, he scores! Tsuruga Kehi with yet another extra base hit to get a 1-0 lead!
Asai grounds to 1st to end the inning, but already Tsuruga Kehi is flexing their offensive muscle!
Kishimoto not as off to a great start as he beans Nie with one down. But after another popup to Takaki by Yuuta, there's 2 down.
Takada does down and drives a slider to left center. Mine running back, running back... running back to the wall! He leaps!!!
Wow! Urawa Gakuin flexing their power with a ball that did not look like it was going to clear the wall, but just did! Takada fires right back at Tsuruga Kehi giving Urawa Gakuin the 2-1 lead!!
Kigure with a drive to left! Miyazaki running back to the wall has to play it off the wall! He's in with a double!!
Saitou flies out to left to end the inning, but this is a surprise!
Unlike the first inning, Ojima is handling the bottom of the lineup. Iwata gives him a tough time in the middle, but he gets Miyazaki and Takaki on 2-pitch outs.
Defensive change for Tsuruga Kehi! #17 Kakutani comes in for Miyazaki to play LF. Wonder what that is about.
Kishimoto not looking as sharp it seems. Nishikawa goes full on Kishimoto and flies out to right after Iwata calls off Takaki.
Then after a quick groundout by Kishimoto, Hattori just bloops one over a leaping Asai for a base hit!
And now Mori-kantoku is pushing the action! 2-2 pitch to Takemura and Hattori takes off! Throw to 2nd is late and now Urawa has a runner in scoring position!
But Kishimoto finally gets Takemura to groundout to short to end the inning. He isn't looking as sharp this time around.
Tsuruga Kehi is attacking Ojima early. Kishimoto grounds out to 3rd, while Mine gets hit.
Issei hits a chopper up the 1st base line, basically advancing Mine.
And while Ojima makes a mistake leaving one over the plate, Yamada can only ground it to 2nd for the final out.
It doesn't look like either pitcher is on their game right now.
After a first pitch out to Nie, Yuuta runs the count full on Kishimoto - who is missing locations by a good margin, before grounding to 3rd.
Takada, who hit the HR earlier, got hit by a Kishimoto offering trying to be inside.
But Mori-kantoku tries to push the offense again by having him steal on the first pitch, only to be thrown out by a country mile.
Again, Tsuruga Kehi attacking Ojima knowing he'll be in the zone with hittable pitches.
But they're not making great contact. Curious.
Kita grounds out to 3rd, Asai fouls out to Kigure.
But new LF Kakutani with a hard grounder to 3rd! Takada dives, but the ball isn't that far away and is actually behind his glove! Takemura backs up the play, but Kakutani is easily safe.
Hit-and-run!! Iwata lines one over a ducking Ojima into center! Kakutani sprinting for 3rd, reaches without any issue! Runners at the corners with 2 out!
But Takaki's hard hit to 2nd is smothered by Nie! He goes to 1st and the inning is over!
Kishimoto beginning to look like his normal self, getting ahead of Kigure 1-2 before getting him to not hold up his swing on a slider away.
Of course I say that and he leaves a pitch high on Nishikawa who lines it down the right field line for a double. Runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out!!
1-0 pitch to Ojima, Kita fires to 3rd! Saitou is caught off the bag and is called out!!! What a mistake by the Urawa Gakuin baserunners! Now instead of 2nd/3rd with 1 out, it's 2nd with 2 out! Kita was all setup for that too. Pitch outside, but on the glove side so he could quickly fire it over. That was planned all the way as Kita saw something.
And it is a big mistake as Ojima grounds to short to end the inning!
One down, back to the top of the order and Mine. He gets on base again, but this time drawing a walk instead of getting hit.
And the first pitch gets away from Nishikawa! Mine heads to 2nd on the passed ball!
But Issei with a grounder to short! Takemura with a great running stop, throws across his body to 1st... makes the play! Wonderful play from Urawa's SS!
And Yamane swings on the first ball and pops it up! Yuuta under it and makes the catch for the 3rd out!
Hattori with a short blooper up the middle. Takaki charging in, but by the time he gets the ball, Hattori's almost at 1st and there's no play!
Kishimoto struggling with control again, going 3-0 on Takemura before getting a generous inside call and a regular strike to fill up the count.
But Takemura just scorches one back up the middle! Takaki has no chance at it as it goes to center! Hattori running reaches 3rd with no problem!
Nie trying for a sac fly, swings and gets a pop fly! Asai goes back towards the outfield grass and makes the catch for the 1st out!
Yuuta tries to hit a sac fly to right on a 1-1 pitch, but winds up fouling it off. The Tsuruga Kehi battery tries the outside strike, but gets no bites from either Yuuta or the umpire.
And they try it again a bit more inside, but this time Yuuta does bite! Same swing, and he bloops one into left! Hattori with a big smile as he runs home giving Urawa Gakuin the 3-1 lead!!
Kishimoto is finally able to retire Takada for the first time inducing a grounder to short. But it's slow enough that Asai's only play is to 1st, advancing the runners.
Kishimoto leaves one over again!!! Kigure takes down the left field line once again to the wall! It's an easy double and a 5-1 lead for Urawa Gakuin!!!
Uragaku's oen-dan playing Yankee Doodle Dandy as Saitou steps in.
Kishimoto gets him to pop out to Takada to end the inning, but Kishimoto does not look good at all in this game. Worse yet, Azuma-kantoku knows he has no realistic options in the bullpen. If he goes there he admits defeat.
As for Ojima he's giving up contact, but none of it has hurt him. And for the most part, the balls hit are not hit hard. Tsuruga Kehi's batters are helping him out too by swinging away early and not letting Ojima go deep into counts.
Kita swinging for the fences pulls one foul. I don't think he's getting that pitch again...
Kita does make contact, and it is hard, but it's right to Yuuta in center.
Asai swings on the first pitch and pops out to Takemura.
Kakutani is the first one to work the count in a bit and while he goes 3-1, he grounds out to Takemura to end the inning. Tsuruga Kehi is in all likelihood helping Uragaku out by swinging away early.
For the most part that's what Uragaku has done in the last 2 innings.
Nishikawa with his 2nd base hit, a shot past Yamada into right. Ojima showing bunt, lays it down.
Hattori with a grounder to 3rd. Yonemitsu stumbles, but makes the pick! Throws to 1st a bit off balance, but Yamada makes a great catch to secure the ball for the 2nd out!
Back to the top of the order and Takemura.
Liner to right side! Yamane dives to his right and makes a great catch!! He had almost no time and yet he's still able to quick dive to save another run!
Tsuruga Kehi still attacking early in the count. Iwata grounding to 2nd on a 1-1 pitch.
Yamane able to turn on a inside 2-1 offering from Ojima, but he flies out to right.
And Kishimoto this time works the count, but strikes out swinging to end the inning! They're down to their final 6 outs!
The MBS feed totally conks out on everyone.
In the meantime, I can see from the Asahi site as Nie grounds out to 2nd after a long AB, Yuuta floes out to left and Takada goes down swinging on 3 straight. Still, Kishimoto's being worked.
That isn't the case with Ojima who again works quickly. Mine backed into a corner for one of the few times strikes out swinging. Issei goes after a 1-1 pitch and flies out to center.
Yamada also attacks an early pitch, takes the 2-0 ball into left for a double.
But he's left stranded there after Kita grounds to short to end the inning! They're down to their last 3 outs!
After a liner to 3rd by Kigure that Issei snags, Azuma sends in #16 Watanabe to hit for Saitou. He promptly takes one the other way for a base hit.
And after a pitch to Nishikawa, Mori-kantoku sends in #15 Kubo to run for Watanabe.
Ojima with a blooper to left, Asai going back again and yet again it falls behind him for a base hit! Now runners at 1st and 2nd for Hattori, but he flies out to right-center to end the inning.
It's already the 9th inning and Tsuruga Kehi needs 4 runs before they record 3 outs!
Asai grounds out to short and there's already one out!
Kakutani gets hit and they have a runner, but it's just 1 and they need 3 more in. #14 Yonemitsu Nagi comes in to run.
Iwata with a comebacker to Ojima! Goes to 2nd, and is taken out by Nagi preventing the double play!
But what's this! The umpires call an aggressive slide and call the runner out at 1st! Game set!
It's not the way Tsuruga Kehi would want to end a game, but unfortunately it caps off their loss to Urawa Gakuin!
Tsuruga Kehi got their first attack in right away, but was unable to do anything thereafter. They tried to solely use their bats to put pressure on Ojima, and as a result played his game. He was not under much stress for the majority of the game and cruised to the 5-1 win!
So Urawa Gakuin has reached their 1st ever Haru Koushien final. Will they bring the title home to Saitama?
As for Tsuruga Kehi, Kishimoto probably under a day's rest and under the pressure to perform with no backup behind him probably spelled the death knell for his team. Great run from the Hokushinetsu representative, but they'll have to work on their pitching depth come the summer.
Ojima Kazuya (Urawa Gakuin) - W, CG, ER, 5 H, 3 K, BB, 2 HBP
Takada Ryouta (Urawa Gakuin) - 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, HBP, K
Kigure Naito (Urawa Gakuin) - 2-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI, K
Hattori Masamitsu (Urawa Gakuin) - 2-4, R, SB
Kishimoto Jyunki (Tsuruga Kehi) - L, CG, 5 ER, 11 H, 2 K, 0 BB, 2 HBP
Yamada Takaki (Tsuruga Kehi) - 2-4, R, 2B
Kita Ryouta (Tsuruga Kehi) - 1-4, 2B, RBI