Ugh. I just lost my Best 8 Review post, so these will have to be abbreviated.
Naruto unfortunately for them in my opinion decided to blowout Tokoha Kikugawa. From recent history having such a game winds up being detrimental in the next game as teams generally struggle. Furthermore, Moriwaki-kantoku never pulled Bandou despite the lead, and pitching on 1 day's rest could be a problem.
For Hanamaki Higashi, they have their usual gritty bits such as #2 citter Chiba. Sasaki-kantoku has basically utilized the entire roster and reorganized the lineup to fit the matchup. Same thing with the pitchers, even pulling in Kishisato (who didn't pitch in the prefecturals at all) for the Saibi game.
He seems to be successful choosing the starter, but the relief staff thereafter struggles, and so runs are to be had.
Hanamaki Higasahi (Iwate)
2B Yagi Hikaru (#14)
CF Chiba Shouta
LF Kishisato Ryousuke (#1)
RF Oota Ryousuke
3B Tadano Shouta (#3)
C Yamashita Hayato
SS Mogi Kazuhiro
1B Oguma Yuuki(#16)
P Hosokawa Toshiki (#17)
2B Nakano Yuuki
CF Koumoto Yuujirou
SS Kawano Yuuto
1B Ise Hayato
RF Inaoka Kenta
C Kusaka Hiroki
3B Matsumoto Takanori
P Bandou Yuugo
LF Narukawa Shuuji
08:00 - First Pitch!
Yagi playing patience game with Bandou, does wind up grounding to short after reaching a full count.
Chiba does gritty things spoiling away pitch after pitch after getting count full. 8... 9... 10... 11... all foul.
12th pitch, foul again. Naruto not realizing this perhaps, but this is rapidly increasing pitch count for later.
13th pitch, ball 4! They should have done what Major did in whatever ep I can't remember and just walked him beforehand to save pitches.
Now in the middle of the lineup, the strategy is seemingly abandoned as Kishisato swings away. That's to his detriment as he whiffs on a forkball down 2-2 for the out!
That leaves it to cleanup batter Oota, but it looks like the Naruto battery wants nothing to do with him getting 3 balls before catching the outside half.
But Oota gives them an out when he goes after a ball inside and rolls one to Ise for the 3rd out. But Bandou has thrown a lot of pitches.
Looks like the strategy for starter Hosokawa and Saski-kantoku is to go away to all the batters, and so far it's working.
But to Naruto's credit, they are trying to take it the other way. It's just that both Nakano and Koumoto both ground to short, and Kawano goes to 2nd.
Hm, after building the pitch count in the 1st, they're giving pitches back in the 2nd - though Bandou is throwing more strikes. Tadano falls behind 0-2 and chases a fork ball, grounding to 2nd. Yamashita goes on the next pitch and grounds to short.
Mogi also swings on the first pitch and hits a high slider back up the middle. But again after falling behind 0-2, Oguma grounds to a fielder's choice at 2nd for the 3rd out.
Against Ise, Hosokawa works both sides, eventually getting him to pull a fastball in right to Mogi.
Inaoka gets a rare ball in the middle of the plate, but all he can do is ground to 2nd.
Kusaka the first time we see Hosokawa have issues with control, winds up walking Kusaka.
But comes right back to strike out Matsuki on a screwball and the inning is over!
Once again with 2 strikes Bandou uses the fork and Hosokawa chases.
Yagi with a sharp ball back up the middle, but Bandou finds a present in his glove.
Chiba after that 13 pitch AB, trolls Bandou who things throwing a strike will be fine. Lines one to center for a base hit.
Kishisato though likes the high fastball and flies out to left for the 3rd out.
Hosokawa now inside to Bandou jams him and he hits a soft fly to Oguma. But against #9 batter Narukawa, he winds up hitting him with the curve. Moriwaki-kantoku will play for the one-time as Nakano bunts him along.
Koumoto though attacks a 1st pitch fastball on what looks like the outer half and just rolls one to short. Mogi the easy play for the 3rd out.
Oota making contact with the fork, lines one to center! The ball hits off the heel of Koumoto's glove and pops up! Oota takes off for 2nd and beats the throw!
Tadano with the safety bunt, but a crashing Ise has it within milliseconds it seems and goes to 3rd! Oota realizing he's out goes back, but he's in a rundown. But despite the time it takes, Tadano doesn't advance!
Yamashita popup behind home, Kusaka makes a great catch against the padding, but he enjoys the nice play that Tadano takes 2nd!
It winds up not hurting them as Mogi goes after the outside fastball and grounds out to 2nd.
So despite the hustle double, it winds up resulting in nothing.
Another jam job done by Hosokawa and Kawano hits one back to Hosokawa.
Ise actually gets a good fastball to lineup but grounds right to Mogi for the 2nd out.
Inaoka actually able to hit a fly ball to the outfield, but he was out in front of a slider and lifts it to Oota for the 3rd out.
Oguma gets a good changeup to hit, but hits it right back to Bandou for the first out.
Hosokawa works the count full on Bandou, but winds up hitting another comebacker for the 2nd out.
So back to the top of the order and Yagi. I'd almost take the out to have Chiba start the inning.
And Bandou obliges by spotting the fastball on the inside corner for the 3rd strike.
Kusaka gets a 3-2 count, takes the outside fastball back the other way past a diving Yagi for a base hit! Naruto finally breaks the no-hitter!
Bust-and-run! Matsumoto grounds one to 1st! Oguma looks 2, but goes to 1st for the out.
Bandou drives a ball to center! Chiba scampering back, looks back, scampers more... Makes the catch! Kusaka holds at 2nd and there's 2 down!
Narukawa flies out to right though and we hit the break scoreless! Both Hosokawa and Bandou have pitch well so far, though it looks like Naruto is starting to make better contact on Hosokawa's offerings. Bandou meanwhile has given up baserunners in every inning except the 5th, but has clamped down there after.
I do imagine Sasaki-kantoku will be going to the bullpen in the 2nd half. Can they get to Bandou before then?
Chiba leading off the 6th, falls behind 2-2 and now goes into defensive mode, gets to 3-2 right off the bat.
Foul ball #1... #2...
Nope, lasts just 2 pitches as he walks on the 3rd 3-2 pitch.
Kishisato drive to center! Koumoto back going back...
It's off the first wall on the backscreen! Chiba sets that up with the walk and the ace number (though he doesn't really pitch) gives his team the 2-0 lead!!
Bandou trying to recover, Oota grounds one to Ise.
Tadano can't get to the fastball on the outer half for the 2nd out.
And Yamashita flies out to Narukawa.
But as expected an ace finally breaks down and it's Bandou!
Oof. Leadoff batter Nakano for Naurto looks rather silly swinging at slider near LH batters box for 1st out.
Hosokawa trying to entice Koumoto away, but he doesn't bit and he draws a walk.
Uh oh, now Hosokawa behind Kawano now 3-0!
Ball 4! Runners on 1st and 2nd for Ise!
But only now does Sasaki-kantoku sends out #11 Nakazato to the bullpen. That might be a problem.
Sasaki-kantoku calls time to buy time for Nakazato.
Ball 1 wide to Ise....
Grounder to short, Mogi can't secure it! It goes to left and Koumoto comes to score! Kawano goes to 3rd and he's a good chance of blowing the 2-run lead they just got. 2-1!
And Sasaki-kantoku is still sticking with Hosokawa...
Inaoka lines a fastball the other way down the left field line... FAIR!! Kawano scores, Ise takes 3rd and Inaoka takes 2nd on the throw in! Douten at 2-2 and Naruto still threatening!
And Sasaki-kantoku is still sticking with Hosokawa...
Kusaka hard grounder to 2nd! Yagi goes home and Ise is caught in between! He's run down and there's 2 out!
But still runners at the corners with 2 out.
Matsumoto single through short! Inaoka will come in to score easily and Naruto has come back!! 逆転, 3-2 Naruto!
Bandou hits one back to Hosokawa for the 3rd out, but the damage has been done. Naruto takes the lead and now Hanamaki Higashi will have to start all over again.
Mogi starts off the inning with a line single to left center. Oguma moves him over for Hosokawa.
But Bandou falls behind 3-0 before Kusaka goes out to see him.
Liner to left! Narukawa to his right... makes the sliding catch! 2 out.
Yagi bounds one to Kawano and the side is retired!
Narukawa early on a slider, flies out to center. Nakano lifts one to the right side and Yagi makes the catch.
Ah, but on a full count to Koumoto, he walks him.
And then against Kawano he's all over the place. He manages to get the count full, but walks him too.
And now finally does Sasaki-kantoku send in #11 Nakazato to relieve him to face Ise, that's a tough first batter.
But Ise flyball to center! Chiba ranging to his left.. makes the running catch for the 3rd out! They prevent Naruto from scoring, but still trail with just 6 outs to go!
Chiba does lead off the 8th...
And he's ahead 2-0. I'd almost consider walking him even though he's the douten runner to save pitches...
Because 2 strikes later, he's in his defensive mode. Ball 3 outside, here we go!
Ball 4! Again, I think it might have been the best choice. But you just can't miss to Kishisato like last time.
Bandou pulls the slow curve and Kishisato whiffs over it.
Kishisato bleeder to short, Kawano throw to 1st... OUT! Just gets Kishisato on a bang-bang play!
Oota up and Sasaki-kantoku sending a message out to him.
Oota goes after 2nd pitch, looks like high fastball, flies out to center. 2 down.
Tadano grounder to 1st... AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The ball hits the bag and bounds over Ise into right! Chiba rounding 3rd, he scores!! The lucky bounce ties the game at 3-3!!!!
Yamashita drive to deep left center! Narukawa running to it, won't get there! Tadano heading for 3rd, going home... he scores! Yamashita in with a double and Hanamaki Higashi has taken the lead at 4-3!!
Moriwaki-kantoku calls a conference to try and calm things down.
Mogi with a single to the right side... Nakano chasing after it, can't get it! Yamashita scores and it's now 5-3!
Things quickly falling apart as Bandou hits Oguma... Is this the end for Naruto?
Not yet perhaps. Nakazato flies out to center and the deficit is at 2, still a lot, but manageable.
Inaoka gets a good fastball to hit, but pulls it right to Oguma for the first out.
Kusaska jammed on fastball inside, grounds to 2nd, 2 down!
Matsumoto works a walk, and at least the douten runner can get to the plate.
Ah! But Nakazato has Matsumoto caught off 1st! They start the rundown, but it looks rather awkward. They move him to 2nd, but the Ogawa buries the throw and he's safe!
AH!AH! Now Nakazato throws it away to 2nd and Matsumoto goes to 3rd! One base hit can make this a 1-run game!
But Bandou ahead of the changeup and he grounds to Tadano for the 3rd out!
#10 Maegawa comes in for Narukawa and takes over in RF. Inaoka goes to LF.
After a popout by Yagi, it's the Chiba show.
Yep, 2-2 and he fouls 1... 2... 3... 4... takes ball 3... ball 4!
So he's 1-1 with 4 walks.
Bandou retires the next 2 batters, but Naruto has a lot of work to do now...
#5 Mihara comes in for Oguma and goes to 3B, Tadano returns to his nubmered position of 1B.
Nakazato struggling with the zone, falls behind 3-0 and while he gets a strike him, ends up walking him! Douten runner will come to the plate!
And now he's having trouble with Nakano, going 2-0 before getting a generous call on a ball out and low.
So they try the low zone again.. and get it! 2-2!
Slider way outside though, and it's a full count. Oh, Nakano goes after ball 4 but fouls it off. I don't hear anyone warming up in the bullpen.
And only now with the douten runner on base with no out, does Sasaki-kantoku switch out Nakazato for #10 Kouno.
Normal kokoyakyu practice would be to bunt here to move the douten runner to scoring position.
Indeed Koumoto is showing bunt.
But while they're worried about defense, Kouno falls behind 2-0!
Finally one in the zone, but Koumoto fouls it off!
Comebacker! Kouno catches it in the 5-hole! Maekawa is stuck off 3rd! He's run down and there's 2 outs! Still runners on 2nd and 3rd, but with only one out to spare.
And cleanup batter Ise is up. Will they risk putting the gyakuten runner on base?
They walk him on 4 pitches and will go to face Inaoka! Sasaki-kantoku calls time.
Nakazato gets ahead 0-1... Inaoka swings, 0-2!
Grounder to 2nd! Yagi blocks it! goes to field it... can't get it! CAN'T GET IT... CAN'T GET IT!!!!!!!
He has to eat the ball and Nakano scores! We're at 5-4 and the sayonara run is at 2nd!!!!
Kusaka up to deliver the winning hit.
NO! Pops it up! Mogi under it, Mihara coming over! Mogi! Mihara!!
It's Mihara who makes the catch! GAME SET!!
Oh my god what a finish! I knew this game would be close, but not to this extent!!
Bandou trying not to cry, but you can tell he and the rest of the team are holding it back. But man what a game.
The two keys I had earlier came to fruition. Bandou did fatigue on the mound, and Hanamaki Higashi would have to go their bullpen. But Sasaki-kantoku almost pulled the trigger late, not once, but twice - putting the reliever into a complete high leverage situation. That works if you're in the majors and you're playing the sabermetric game. But these are high schoolers! Dear lord man, have better judgement!
But because of it Naruto was able to mount 2 rallies and make this game about as close as you can get.
I need a drink...