Today's games feature many of the powerhouses that could contend for the title. It also oddly enough is the first of 3 teams where a team from Shikoku is at risk.
Of course, the first team up from the small island is the one perhaps considered to be a favorite to win it all.
But Anraku's first game seemed odd. And it was for several reasons.
First of all Anraku's sitting velocity was all over the place. We'd see him in the mid-upper 130s, then in the low 140s and then he'd go hit high 140s with the occasional 150+.
Which brings me to my second point. The majority of his pitches were fastballs. Yes, his sitting fastball was in a range of mid 130s to high 140s.
Is he throwing fastballs to reduce wear on his arm, and using changes in velocity a la Toua Tokuchi in One Outs, to get batters out? That's an interesting proposition there if it is true.
But perhaps I overspeculate. It probably is that they are just saving his arm. But if that's the case, why leave Anraku in a 9-2 ballgame in the 9th inning when you have #11 Miyata in the pen? Answer probably is, the yakyu default answer - he's the ace and he should finish the game.
Well, we'll see how that goes as the tournament goes on.
Up for them is Hanamaki Higashi who looked.. well, rather un-Hanamaki like in their first game.
Instead they boomed out 5 runs before Hikone Higashi could answer and cruised to a 9-5 win. Yes, they have their slap hitting gnat that just annoys a pitcher and the opposing defense in Chiba Shouta, but otherwise this team does not look like your (um... damn I can't use that analogy) normal Hanamaki Higashi team!
The pitching line from the Hanamaki staff is a mixed bag. They struck out 11, but gave up 9 hits as Hikone was very aggressive at the plate. Should be interesting to see how they fare against Saibi today.
Hanamaki Higasahi (Iwate)
2B Yagi ? (#14)
CF Chiba Shouta
LF Kishisato Ryousuke (#1)
RF Oota Ryousuke
3B Tadano Shouta (#3)
1B Oguma Isamu (#16)
C Yamashita Hayato
SS Mogi Kazuo
P Kouno Masa (#10)
RF Yamashita Takuma
SS Hayashi Kanya (#13)
2B Usagawa Riku
P Anraku Tomohiro
3B Oota Yuuya
LF Goutouji Shin (#8)
1B Fujiwara Kouki
CF Machida Takahiro (#6)
C Kaneko Kouhei
08:01 - First Pitch!
After falling behind 3-0 to leadoff batter Yagi, he goes three straight strikes to for the first out.
Machida for Saibi coming in from LF to play SS, Kanya goes just to the 3rd base side of 2B!
Chiba still beats the shift! He hits it just to the 1B side of 2nd and it's past Usagawa for a base hit!
Anraku having problems with control early as he falls behind Kishisato 3-1...
Single to right! Chiba holds up at 2nd..
Once again, Anraku pitching from behind to Ryousuke also behind 3-1...
Takes a fastball to left for a base hit! Chiba advances a station and it's manrui for Hanamaki Higashi!
Anraku hits Tadano with a slider forcing in a run! 押し出し! 1-0 Hanamaki Higashi!
Oguma follow that with a fly to center! Machida fields it and Kishisato can walk home to make it 2-0!
Yamashita ball to left! But it hangs up and Goutouji catches it for the 3rd out.
A lot of varying fastballs an slow curves from Anraku, but control issues put Saibi behind early!
Yamashita down on a slider down and in from selected starter Kouno.
Kanya with a rip down the 3rd base line, 5-holes Tadano! Kanya presses for 2nd... and gets in just ahead of the throw!
Oh! Now Kouno hits Usagawa with a curve and Saibi has a chance to get those runs back with Anraku up to bat.
Looks early on a swing, tries to 1-hand it and still almost lines it down the right field line!
Kouno though climbs the ladder on him though and gets the K! Yuuya now looked to to get the timely.
But Kouno gets him to go after a change outside! He grounds to Oguma for the 3rd out!
Sasaki-kantoku has gone almost all lefty against Anraku. But against the bottom of the Hanamaki lineup, Anraku gets back on track.
Mogi with a routine grounder to short, Kouno goes fishing on a fastball on the outer half, and Yagi gets a fastball over the middle, but lines right to Goutouji for the 3rd out.
Interesting Kouno that. He's feeding Saibi continuous offspeed pitches either the slider or the change. Goutouji and Fujiwara can't help but try to line those for base hits and instead ground out.
Machida works a well earned walk where we actually get to see him throw fastballs (they're in the low 120s).
But Kaneko goes down looking when Kouno puts a changeup on the outside corner.
Chiba facing the 5-man infield again... goes down swinging on a slow curve from Anraku for the first out!
But Anraku hits his 2nd batter in Kishisato and Hanamaki has another runner on.
Ryousuke liner down the right field line, fair! Kishisato flying around the bases as Yamashita goes to the corner to field it! Kishisato comes in all the way from 1st to make it a 3-0 ballgame! And they're still threatening!
Tadano comebacker! Fielded by Anraku! He has Ryousuke caught between the bases! He's run down for the 2nd out!
Oguma goes down looking for the 3rd out, but Hanamaki Higashi is extending their lead!
Saibi hasn't been able to figure out Kouno just yet, gets retired in order, and I think I have a theory that will have to wait until next inning.
Yamashita give a good fight to Anraku, but he goes down looking on one of the few sliders he's thrown.
Mogi though continues the barrage on Anraku as Mogi singles past a diving Oota and Machida for a base hit!
Kouno bunts Mogi along for a one timer from Yagi.
But he too goes down looking and the side is retired!
I think Kouno is succeeding because he has the same thing that Kazuya did for Obihiro Ootani. If the pitch tracker is to be believed, his fastball is mid 120s at best. His slider is in the upper 110s which is a narrower gap than most. And in the case of slow pitches, it might be helping him out.
Saibi trying to exert extreme patience against Kouno now. Anraku runs the count full before he winds up flying out to right.
Yuuya gets as far as 2-2 before chasing a slider for the 2nd out.
Goutouji goes full as well, fouls off 6 pitches before hitting a single to center.
Fujiwara reached the 3rd full count this inning...
Liner down the 3rd base line... fair!! It gets past Tadano and goes all the way to the wall! Throw goes to 3rd as Fujiwara takes 2nd! Throw back there not in time!
Chance for Saibi as Machida steps in.
He gets behind 1-2 after fouling one off...
But then takes 2 close pitches and fills up the count.
But he's ahead of the changeup! It's a grounder to 3rd and Tadano goes to 1st for the 3rd out!
So the shift is a little different than I described earlier. Machida comes in for CF to take a position way inside - where a fielder would charge to if there was a bunt. the SS plays just about normal.
But with 2 strikes Jyoukou-kantoku pulls him back. As if on cue, Chiba chops one there. Oota charges and throws to 1st to just beat him.
Kishisato up now, and Anraku pulls out the slider one more time! Kishisato goes down swinging for the 2nd out!
And Ryouta goes down swinging for the 3rd out!
Kaneko still exhibiting patience draws a leadoff walk!
Sasaki-kantoku pulls Kouno for #11 Nakazato as we hit the top of the order.
Hit and run! Yamashita though goes down swinging! Hayato (crap, there were 2 Yamashitas too) throws to 2nd and gets the counterpart Yamashita out!
Kanya flies out to center to end the inning, and as we hit the break, Saibi is in a bit of trouble down 3-0 with very few scoring chances against Hanamaki Higashi.
Anraku doing his best, to keep the team in it. After giving a leadoff walk and subsequent bunt, he gets 2 straight flyouts to center to keep the deficit at 3.
Hmm... The patience strategy seems to be stalling. Usagawa gets rung up when a slider catches the outside corner. After a hard lineout to Yagi, Yuuya gets punched out as well on a fastball on the same outside edge.
Two quick outs and the shift comes up for Chiba again.
Chiba with a drive to right! Where's the RF?? Someone is sprinting back to the wall as Chiba flies around the bases and is in with a triple! He's beaten the shift twice! Though I was expecting the RF to play straight, he was shifted too which isn't as good, but is very One Outs-ish.
Kishisato up to try and add a run.
SANSHIN!!! Anraku dials up the slider yet again to end the inning!
One down for Saibi and Fujiwara hits a ball to the left side! Mogi with it, but Fujiwara hustles down the line and is in with a base hit!
Pitch gets away from Hayato! Fujiwara takes off for 2nd as Hayato looks for a foul ball call! Fujiwara going to 3rd!! Hayati scrambles to the ball, fires to 3rd, but not in time!! Fujiwara taking full advantage of the confusion and is now 90 feet away!
Machida back up the middle! Through for a base hit! Fujiwara scores to make it 3-1!
Ah... but Kaneko, not bunting hits a comebacker right to Nakazato! He starts the 1-6-3 double play to end the inning! They're on the board, but still down and running out of time...
Where was this all game? Anraku getting 2 strikes against each of the batters this inning, and retires all 3 via the slider! Where was this in the 1st inning??
Takuma first pitch single up the middle for a base hit! Saibi has the lead runner on.
Ah Kanya with grounder to AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yagi trying to get Takuma crossing him, whiffs on the ball instead!! He spins around as the ball goes into right! Takuma takes 3rd and Hanamaki is in a pinch!
Sasaki-kantoku pulls Nakazato for #17 Hosokawa to preserve the lead.
Usagawa first pitch singles to right center!! Takuma scores and it's 3-2! And Anraku is stepping to the plate!
Ah, but he bails out on the 1-2 and hits it to 2nd! Yagi this time smothers it, tags Usagawa and throws out a very awkward head-sliding Anraku for the double play!! Kanya goes to 3rd, but there's 2 out.
Yuuya swings on the first pitch, hard grounder to short! Mogi dives, but it deflects off his glove!! It trickles into the outfield for a base hit and Kanya walks home! We're 同点 at 3-3!!!
Goutouji unlike all the other batters this inning, plays waiting game. Fights at full count and draws a walk!! Gyakuten run in scoring position as Sasaki-kantoku calls time.
Ah! Goutouji is caught off 1st! They run him down, but then run down Yuuya in some rundown I don't think I'll figure out. Let's just say he's run down and the inning is over.
BUT! Saibi has tied the ball game and Anraku has seemingly gotten his groove back!
Where other teams might be pressing though, Hanamaki Higashi appears to be showing some calmness at the plate. They're taking pitches and waiting for something to hit.
Both Hayato and Mogi go deep into the count before flying out to right.
Hosokawa singles to left with 2 down and the top of the lineup coming up!
But Yagi hits into a fielders choice at 2nd and the inning is over. Anraku holds the line...
As his team has a sayonara chance in the bottom of the 9th. And with Chiba leading off the inning for Hanamaki, it would behoove them to win in regulation.
Fujiwara out in front of a pitch and grounds to 3rd. Tadano with it, throws to first... AHHHH!!!!!!
It's out of Oguma's glove! Tadano's throw one hops to Oguma and he can't secure it! Sayonara run on for Saibi!
Machida lays down a perfect bunt and now the runner is in scoring position!!
Kaneko up and it doesn't look like they're really pitching to him as they fall behind 3-0! Ah, but Hosokawa fires one, then another into the zone and the count runs full.
Kaneko with an excuse me swing pops out to Mogi at 2nd and there's 2 down for Saibi.
What?? Kishisato is taking the mound??!!!
I don't know what to say about this move. Kishisato never pitched in the prefecurals!
To put Kishisato on the mound, Tadano goes to LF and #5 Mihara comes in for Hosokawa to take 3B.
And he does it! Takuma grounds to short! Mogi goes to 1st and Hanamaki is out of the pinch! We're to enchousen!
Chiba up, no shift this time..
But he still finds a way! Single to center to start the extra frame.
Kishisato grounder up the 1st base side AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!
It gets by Fujiwara and down the right field line!! Chiba easily in at 3rd! Kishisato digging for 2 makes it! Jyoukou-kantoku calling time...
And they'll load the bases for the force... ball 4 to Ryousuke and now Tadano comes up.
Anraku pumping fastballs to the plate. Gets Tadano on a slider for the first out!
But he can't get clean out of it! Oguma singles to left! Chiba comes home and it's 4-3!
Hayato now with a fly to deep left center. Goutouji has it, and Kishisato can come in to make it 5-3! Oh it's not looking good...
Mogi with a drive to right center!! That splits the defense!!! One run in... Oguma rounding 3rd... he scores on the triple from Mogi!! 4 runs for Hanamaki Higashi this inning might spell Saibi's downfall!! It's 7-3!!
Kanya down 0-2 to Kishisato... He singles through to left!
Usagawa up, and Saibi not panicking. He works the count full and takes a walk!
That puts 2 up for Anraku. Wouldn't it be funny if..
Anraku a bomb to right center!! The OF are giving up near the wall!
Anraku delivers a 3-run HR to pull Saibi within 1, IT'S 7-6!!!!
Yuuya with a popup to the left side. Mihara, Mogi and Tadano all converge on it...
NO ONE GETS IT AND IT FALLS FAIR!!!!!
It catches the line and Yuuya is at 2nd!!
From down 7-3, Saibi has the douten runner at 2nd!
Goutouji in to bunt... But it's too hard! Kishisato goes to 3rd, but Mihara drops it!
AHH!!! But Yuuya held up! Now he's run down! They tag him out and now there 1 out with a runner on 1st!
Still the douten runner still on base.
Morita up for his first AB.
Grounder to 3rd! Mihara to 2nd for one, throw to first...
Morita grounds into the 5-4-3 double play and the game is over!!
Ah the momentum for Saibi complete dissolves and Hanamaki Higashi holds on for the victory!
Hanamaki Higashi, seemingly in control, sees their lead disappear. But they don't panic, go into extras, pull Kishisato out of a hat on the mound, has a Hanamaki Higashi style inning and holds on for the win.
As for Anraku, he's inconsolable as Hanamaki Higashi celebrates the win... as well as the other players having been eliminated way too early for their expectation.
But they certainly fought back not once but twice... though the 2nd rally falls just short.
He's better now in the interview, not visibly crying, but I'm sure there will be some when the cameras are gone.. I'm sure he's apologizing to his seniors for not helping them reach total victory. He'll have one more go, but for those seniors the summer is over and I'm sure he's sorry for that.
And for the rest of the field... it just opened up even further...
Chiba Shouta (Hanamaki Higashi) - 3-5, 3B, 2 R
Oota Ryousuke (Hanamaki Higashi) - 2-4, 2B, R, RBI
Anraku Tomohiro (Saibi) - 10 IP, 7 ER, 11 H, 14 K, 2 BB, 2 HBP
Anraku Tomohiro (Saibi) - 1-5, HR, R, 3 RBI
Fujiwara Kouki (Saibi) - 2-5, 2B, R