Urawa Gakuin, for as many Koushien tournaments they've been to, this is their first championship game. Their first appearance, the Natsu Koushien in 1968, they reached the semifinals. The Haru Koushien in 1992 they also reached the semifinals before losing.
They had a renaissance last year having won 2 games before bowing out. And now this year they are back in the championship game.
After seeing the competition they faced, I thought that their offense wasn't for real. But while Kishimoto for Tsuruga Kehi was fatigued in the game, they roughed him up for 11 hits (including a HR) and 5 runs.
Meanwhile ace Ojima has continued to not be pressured at all. Tsuruga Kehi's strategy of attacking Ojima basically failed. He doesn't throw particularly hard, and perhaps people think that he should be hittable. But I think the best way to deal with him is to back him into a corner. By swinging early, Ojima can dictate the action and the pitches his opponents are swinging at.
Saibi has had a very short Koushien history. But it's a very successful one:
- 2004 Haru Koushien - Champions
- 2004 Natsu Koushien - Runner-up
- 2005 Natsu Koushien - 2nd Round
- 2008 Natsu Koushien - 1st Round Loss
But Saibi has basically played close games throughout the fall taikai and the Haru Koushien. Outside of the first 2 games in the Ehime taikai, 6 of their 8 games were decided by 1 run. In fact, their largest margin of victory was 3 against Seiseikou and a battered Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou.
Unfortunately for Saibi, they will be without their leadoff batter Ueda as he injured his middle finger on his throwing/batting hand in the semifinals. Yamashita takes over in the leadoff spot, with Oota moving up to #2 and Goutouji coming in as a starting member. It's a shame almost that Yamashita is in the leadoff spot considering how he's hitting. The bottom of the lineup needs to get on base ahead of him to really take advantage of his hitting.
But really, it's been Anraku who has been the one carrying the team. Starting with his 232 pitch enchousen performance against Kouryou, he has basically put the team on his back to reach the final. His pitch location has gotten worse in his last game, and he predominantly threw off-speed pitches early on. This will be his 3rd game in 3 days, and the most important of them all.
Saibi (Ehime) - Shikoku 3 seed
CF Yamashita Takuma (#9)
RF Oota Yuuya (#5)
SS Usagawa Riku
P Anraku Tomohiro
3B Morita Shouhei (#15)
1B Fujiwara Kouki
LF Goutouji Shin
C Kaneko Kouhei
2B Machida Takahiro
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
12:32 - First pitch!
Yamashita already making an impact! He swings on the first pitch and grounds one past Ojima into center!
Oota pops up his bunt! Ojima goes to field it, but drops it! But Yamashita had to hold due to the possible catch and is easily thrown out at 2nd.
Usagawa tries to work the count, but falls behind 0-2. He hits a towering popup that Hattori finally calls of Takemura and Yamane for.
That brings up cleanup batter (and ace!) Anraku. He's certainly working the count versus Ojima, then goes and wastes the advantage on a shoulder high fastball. 2-2 count.
And then misses on a fastball on the outer half for strike 3! Nice start for Ojima! And I think Saibi is taking pitches when they can.
Anraku willing to throw more fastballs here, but the speed is still a bit slow in the mid-130s.
Takemura grounds out to 2nd for the first out.
Anraku's control still doesn't look good, and he's throwing slower to start.
Nie with a grounder up the middle! Machida ranging over, makes the sliding pick, throws as he's going down to the ground and it gets to 1st in time! Nice play and a strong arm from Machida!
And Yamane grounds to short. Usagawa with the routine play and we're scoreless after 1.
Morita with a ball to right center gives Uragaku another leadoff runner!
Fujiwara trying to bunt him along, fouls off his first attempt. Lays down the push bunt to move him along for new starting member Goutouji.
Goutouji tries for a base hit through the left side, but Takemura makes a great sliding stop! Throw to first is up the line, but Kigure makes the tag for the out!
Kaneko with a grounder to short! Takemura dives, but this time the ball trickles past him into left! Morita heads home without stopping and the throw is late! Kaneko coming through with a base hit to give Saibi the first strike! 1-0!!
Machida working the count on Ojima, runs it full.
Single to right! Kaneko on a dead run heads for 3rd and slides in safely!
With Yamashita coming up, Mori-kantoku calls time.
And Yamashita isn't swinging away, in fact he gets ahead 3-1! Will they just walk him and deal with Oota?
No, they go inside and get him to groundout to 2nd for the 3rd out. But Kaneko gives them the early lead!
Anraku gets the ball he wants against cleanup batter Takada, but he's sluggish chasing the short blooper and it falls in behind him for a base hit!
Kigure bunts him along, but Saitou can't advance him at all as he flies out to right.
Nishiyama turns on one and lines it through to left! Takada has to hold at 3rd. There was a mistake by Anraku.
But Anraku gets Ojima to chase a ball outside and pops it up! Usagawa turns his head away it seems as he makes the catch for the 3rd out!
Oota not getting memo about working count, swings on first pitch and flies to shallow left.
Usagawa tries, but winds up getting behind 0-2 before chasing a ball away for Ojima's 2nd K.
Anraku is almost put in the same position, but guides a ball into center for a 2-out hit.
Morita up 2-1, can't check his swing, starts playing defensive. Grounds to 1st to end inning, but they are playing it right in my opinion.
Uragaku trying to work Anraku as well, but he continues to miss in the right places if he does. As a result they are having trouble dealing with him.
Hattori chases a fastball away for the first out, Takemura behind 0-2 grounds to 1st, and on a full count Nie grounds to 2nd.
Fujiwara attacks Ojima and lines a ball down the left field line! That goes to the wall for a leadoff double!
But Goutouji can't bunt him along! He's forced to swing away and can't get around a fastball going down for the 1st out.
That brings up Kaneko who had the timely RBI single earlier.
But this time up 2-2, he handcuffs him on a ball inside and rings him up for his 4th K!
That leaves it up to last batter Machida to drive him in. But he swings away early and grounds to Takemura for the 3rd out.
Ojima is certainly hittable, and it looks like most Saibi batters have a plan at the plate.
I have a feeling the tables have turned. With Anraku not hitting his locations, I think Urawa is attacking earlier in the count. What they don't understand is that he's not leaving them in hittable areas.
So in the span of 7 pitches, Anraku retires the 3-4-5 batters without a ball leaving the infield!
One down and Ojima issues his first walk to Oota. Jyoukou-kantoku will play for the one timer as Usagawa bunts him along.
But Anraku swings and misses on a fastball away and Ojima holds the line!
Anraku with a slow curve and Saitou grounds it past Fujiwara for a base hit!
Mori-kantoku electing to have Nishikawa hit.
And Nishikawa has Anraku's number!! He hits one to deep center, and Yamashita leaps, but it's just out of his reach! It one-bounds to the wall and he's in with a double!
Runners on 2nd and 3rd as Jyoukou-kantoku calls time.
Anraku going after Ojima, gets ahead 0-2, but Ojima fouls a couple off. Another away, another foul.
Grounder to the left side! Usagawa dives, but can't get to it! Saitou comes in to score and Nishikawa advances to 3rd! Ojima helps his own cause with a douten single! It's 1-1!
Hattori up to give Uragaku the lead.
Mori-kantoku puts on the squeeze, but the ball is above Hattori's head! Kaneko holds the ball until Anraku points to 3rd! Throw from Kaneko and they have Nishikawa picked off! What a break for Saibi!
And Hattori grounds back to Anraku. He goes to 1st for the 2nd out.
Takemura with a grounder to 1st, but Fujiwara can't get a hold of the ball! By the time he does it's too late! The inning continues dangerously for Saibi as Nie comes to bat!
Takemura takes off on the first pitch, but there's no throw from Kaneko.
And now Anraku hits Nie! Manrui for Uragaku as Jyoukou-kantoku calls time...
Yamane attacks the first pitch and singles to center! Yamashita bobbles the ball, but 2 runs score on the play anyways on the hit! Urawa Gakuin now leads 3-1!
Takada driving the first pitch deep to left! All Goutouji can do is play it off the wall for yet another double! Both runners score and it's 5-1 Uragaku!
Kigure with a drive to left center! Again Goutouji can only chase it as it lands at the base of the wall for another double! 3 straight hard hit doubles and it's gone from 1-1 to 6-1!!
Saitou up for the 2nd time, continuing to pour it on! He singles to shallow right center and Kigure scores to make it 7-1!!
Nishikawa follows suit with another single to center and will Jyoukou-kantoku pull the plug?
It doesn't look like it as he leaves Anraku in, but he finally gets Ojima to pop out to Usagawa to end the inning.
But it looks like Anraku has just run out of gas and his team finds themselves with what seems like an insurmountable deficit as we hit the break!!
Morita driving a pitch into right center has a leadoff double!
But Fujiwara chases the first pitch and grounds to 3rd, unable to advance Morita.
A surprise as #8 Ueda comes in to hit, but he is just as unproductive, grounding to short on a 0-1 pitch.
Kaneko tries to find the right pitch, gets ahead 3-1 before Ojima puts one in on the outer half. He grounds to short as well and Saibi is in deep trouble if not already lost.
Oota is staying in the game at CF! Yamashita shifts to RF and Oota goes to LF!
After a K to Hattori, Takemura resumes the hit parade with a liner to right. Mori-kantoku will still play for another run as Nie bunts him along.
And now Anraku hits Yamane! Oy.
Mori-kantoku will not let up! He starts the double steal and Kaneko's throw is not in time!
And now he hits Takada.
#10 Yamaguchi warming up, but putting him in admits defeat and the inability to have Anraku fight through the rest of the game.
Kigure with a ball to center. It falls in front of Ueda who fires home as Yamane is waved in! Kaneko with the tag, but not in time! It's 9-1 Uragaku.
Saitou grounds to short to end the inning, but it's almost elementary now.
#11 Yamane comes in to hit for Machida, and takes a close pitch inside on a full count for a walk. He's replaced by #13 Nakagawa.
Yamashita follows that up with a single to right. 2 runners on with no out, but a long journey to go.
Case in point, Oota grounds into the 6-4-3 double play, and Usagawa flies out to left to end the inning as quickly as it got started.
Jyoukou-kantoku has waved the white flag. Anraku moves to 1st, #10 Yamaguchi comes in for Fujiwara and takes the hill, while #14 Hayashi Kanya comes in for PR Nakagawa to take over at 2B.
And while he gives up a walk to last batter Hattori, he retires the other batters without too much trouble.
It's really a formality now and the Saibi batters probably realize this too. They go down in order - Anraku grounding back to Ojima, Morita and Yamguchi going down on strikes.
Mass changes for Saibi.
Oota comes in from LF to the mound. #16 Tsunedzuka comes in for Yamaguchi and goes to LF. Meanwhile, #18 Hayashi Kento comes in for Anraku and goes to 3B shifting Morita goes to 1B. Anraku's day is officially done.
The extra runs Urawa Gakuin aren't necessary, but show respect to Saibi instead of easing up.
Nie singles to left, followed by a sharp grounder to right by Yamane. Takada walks to put the bases loaded.
Kigure grounds to short and Usagawa goes home to cut down the lead runner.,
But a hit batter to Saitou brings in a run to make it 10-1.
Nishikawa then splits the outfield with a ball to left center for a bases clearing double, 13-1.
Ojima records the 2nd out on a grounder to 3rd.
But Hattori walks, Takemura blasts one over the drawn in outfield to score two more, 15-1.
Nie up for his 2nd AB this inning scorches one past Morita into right for a double, 16-1.
Yamane makes it 17-1 with a liner over Usagawa's head.
Takada flies out to center to end the inning.
Ueda up for his 2nd AB, grounds back to Ojima. #12 Utsunomiya, hitting for Kaneko, also grounds back to Ojima.
Hayashi flies out to left, Hattori makes the catch and Urawa Gakuin wins their first ever Koushien title (Haru or Natsu)!!
Urawa Gakuin's players sprint to their oen-dan to celebrate, while Anraku's tears finally come out after the loss is finally realized. He put up a great effort for as long as he could, but 3 games in 3 days was just too much to handle for the 2nd year fireballer. It's always hard to see the losing team, especially in games like these, but here's to hoping Anraku gets another chance here at Koushien before his time is up. He's earned it in my opinion.
Meanwhile Ojima, a 2nd year himself, masterfully worked through Haru Koushien, and while he never threw hard, he managed to deftly avoid big innings and keep his team always in it. Do not be surprised if they may challenge in the summer, but again, the lack of a fireballer will always make it difficult in single-elimination scenarios.
But that's for a later time! For only the second time in the prefecture's history, a team from Saitama wins Koushien! And for Urawa Gakuin, they get to celebrate their first ever Koushien title!! Enjoy it! You've earned it!
Ojima Kazuya (Urawa Gakuin) - W, CG, ER, 8 H, 7 K, 2 BB
Nishikawa Genki (Urawa Gakuin) - 4-5, 2 2B, R, 3 RBI
Kigure Naito (Urawa Gakuin) - 2-4, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI
Yamane Yuuta (Urawa Gakuin) - 3-5, 3 R, RBI, SB, HBP
Anraku Tomohiro (Saibi) - L, 6 IP, 3 ER, 12 H, 2 K, 0 BB, 3 HBP
Yamashita Takuma (Saibi) - 2-4
Morita Shouhei (Saibi) - 2-4, 2B, R, K