Oh, the situation keeps on changing here at Koushien. With Meitoku Gijyuku's loss it opens things even further for everyone else although you can consider Nichidai Yamagata to be a new contender.
Maebashi Ikuei's Takahashi Kouna has come onto the Koushien stage and announced his presence.
He has given up just 1 run so far in 3 games, winning 1-0 twice (Iwakuni Shougyou & Shounan) and then the dominance of Yokohama 7-1! He pitches similar to Kishi in that he has excellent control and he has a slider that he is not afraid of putting anywhere in the zone - inside, outside, even high if he wants to. For batters who are used to a slider being buried, this is unusual.
Offensively, the team seemed rather lethargic at the plate (though now it have been due to who they were facing). That was until the Yokohama game where they just wrested control of it and never gave it back.
Jyousou Gakuin has been the master of late game adjustments. Ineffective early on, come the 5th inning they turn on a switch and next thing you know, it's over.
Once again, in a blowout in the bottom of the 9th, Sasaki-kantoku did not pull ace Iida even after he was hit with a throw scrambling back to 2nd. It did look like the throw did affect him for the last inning though and with no rest, how will it affect him today?
(But to start it's not Takahashi Kouna starting, but 2nd year #10 Kitagawa Shougo! That's surprising!)
Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki)
CF Takashima Shouta
C Yoshinari Yuusuke (#9)
2B Shindou Suguru
3B Uchida Yasuhito (#2)
1B Ishii Daiki
SS Yoshizawa Gakushi
LF Ikezawa Kouhei
P Iida Harumi
RF Ganryuu Tatsuya (#15)
Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma)
CF Kudou Youhei
LF Tamura Hayato
SS Tsuchiya Keisuke
3B Arai Kento
C Ogawa Toshiki
RF Itagaki Fumiya
P Kitagawa Shougo (#10)
1B Kusunoki Hiroki
2B Takahashi Tomoya
13:35 - First Pitch!
Hm.. Jyousou's batters are taking a wait and see approach on Kitagawa.
Takashima goes full before grounding to 2nd.
Yoshinara grounder to the left side, Tsuchiya running it down in the gap, but the throw to 1st can't beat a diving Yoshimura!
Shindou drive to deep center! Kudou running back, running back!!
Leaps and makes the running catch right before the wall!! Nice play!!
Once again though Kitagawa falls behind 3-0. Fills up the count, but eventually walks him! Runners at 1st and 2nd for Ishii.
Kitagawa has low-mid 130s stuff, with a cut ball in the upper 120s, slider
Ishii flies out to Itagaki, and while a bit shaky, he puts up a 0!
Meanwhile, Maebashi Ikuei's batters are attacking early. Kudou hits a fastball outside the other way to short.
Tamura falls behind 1-2 and goes down looking on the fastball inside.
And it's a 6 pitch inning as Tsuchiya flies out to left.
Yoshizawa ball back up the middle. Tsuchiya runs it down just before the outfield grass, throws to first, not in time!
Ikezawa with the bunt, but Arai charging in takes it and fires to 2nd! Tsuchiya awkwardly throws to first and throws it away! They get the lead runner, but put it back on 2nd thanks to the error!
Iida chases a slider and rolls it to 2nd. Ikezawa takes 3rd on the play.
Ganryuu, patient at the plate, works a walk and flips the lineup back to Takashima.
Hits the high fastball!!
It's a drive to the gap in left center that no one will get! Ikezawa scores! Ganryuu from 1st... he will score! Takashima in at 2nd with a timely double! 2-0 Jyousou Gakuin!
Yoshinari back up the middle. Tsuchiya with it, no! He loses the handle on the ball! All safe!!
Arai-kantoku calling time as the game threatens to get away from them.
Shindou flies out to left, but Jyousou Gakuin takes the early lead!
Arai booms a ball down the left field line foul. Winds up pulling a ball to Yoshizawa in SS.
Ogawa pops up a ball to shallow left center, Yoshizawa, Ikezawa and Takashima all converge, but it's just out of Yoshizawa's dive for a base hit!
No bunting from the Maebashi Ikuei squad.
Itagaki chopper to short, Yoshizawa goes to 2nd! Gets 1, goes to 1st, double play!! Side retired and Iida's faced the minimum!
Kitagawa working from behind again, this time to Uchida. But no problem as he grounds to short. Ishii and Ikezawa fly out shortly after and it's Kitagawa's first clean inning
Kitagawa down quickly swinging on 3 sliders.
Kusunoki with a quick comebacker to Iida, he stops it, fumbles a bit, but makes the play at 1st.
And Iida continues to face the minimum as Tomoya is frozen on a slider inside.
Hot grounder up the middle, Tsuchiya with the great sliding grab, spins throws and gets Ikezawa for the 1st out!
After getting ahead of Iida 0-2, Kitagawa plunks him. Sasaki-kantoku has Ganryuu bunt him for Takashima, can he do it again?
No! Kitagawa gets him to hit a grounder to the vacuum that is Tsuchiya! Goes to 1st, 3 out!
Iida's only throwing the slider about 50% of the time, the fastball and 2-seamer making up most of the rest.
And the Maebashi batters aren't figuring it out at all. Tamura strikes out in between two bad swings and groundouts to 2nd. It's not looking good offensively for Maebashi at all.
After Yoshinari's groundout to 1st, Takahashi Kouna warms up.
Shindou another ball to the vacuum... and same with Uchida. Those are nothing for Tsuchiya and the side is retired.
Arai under the 2 seamer from Iida and pops out to Ishii.
Ogawa with a cut swing bloops one to right. He has both of Maebashi's hits. Itagaki bunts him over, and Takahashi Kouna will come in after the break as #13 Tomita comes in to hit for Kitagawa.
Tomita chopper to Iida, goes to 1st for the out. He looks like he things it was foul, but it was called fair and the side is retired.
Maebashi Ikuei's relief starter Kitagawa's day is done. But he leaves with his team behind 2-0. Will that wind up being the difference in the game, or can they unlock the puzzle that is Iida?
Ace Takahashi Kouna takes over for PH Tomita.
Ishii short chopper to the right side, Tomoya charging, throws back across to 1st for the out.
Yoshizawa introduced the the wonder that is Kouna's slider, goes down swinging.
And Ikezawa swings and misses on the forkball for a 1-2-3 inning. He's certainly going to shut down Jyousou's offense but....
...what about their offense?
One down and Tomoya flies the bat around and pokes one to left for a base hit. What will they do?
Kudou hitting, but he goes right into a 4-6-3 double play! They are in serious trouble.
Kouna misses on the 3-2 pitch and walks Iida. He takes off as Ganryuu bunts, but misses! Throw to 1st from Ogawa though short hops Kusunoki and that allows Iida to reach 2nd!
Ganryuu bunting, pops it up! Crashing Kusunoki catches it, spins fires to 2nd and they double off Iida who was going on the bunt! 2 out!
But Takashima remains a thorn in Maebashi's side hitting a single to left.
Now he takes off for 2nd! Throw from Ogawa, and Tsuchiya doesn't secure the ball!
No matter! Kouna just throws the forkball and Yoshinari spins around for the 3rd out!
Iida starting the inning at 63 pitches. He should still be fine.
Tamura with finally a hard hit ball lines one over Yoshizawa to center.
Maebashi bunting? Tsuchiya trying to bunt, fouls it off.
Tries the buster, but doesn't work, now down 1-2.
2-seamer away and Tsuchiya chases for the first out.
Arai with a slow chopper to the left side. It perfectly splits both Uchida and Yoshizawa! It's slow enough that Yoshizawa can stop it, but that's all!
Sasaki-kantoku calling time.
AH! Ogawa looks really bad on a bail swing from Iida's slider. 2 down!
Itagaki waiting for a pitch from Iida, but instead gets a 4-pitch walk! It's manrui with Kouna up to bat!!
First pitch, Kouna fouls it off himself and needs a moment or two...
Ah, it looks like he hit it off the side of his knee...
He's back in now. gets ahead 2-1...
Swings on the 2-seamer and it's 2-2!
Fastball inside, fouls it off! And again!
Slider outside, ball 3!
Iida gets Kouna on the slider and the side is retired!!
Kouna mowing down batters as Shindou goes down swinging.
Uchida strikes out too, but the pitch goes all the way to the backstop and he takes 1st!
Ishii with a single through the right side! Kouna in a pinch here!
Gets Yoshizawa to fly out to center, 2 down.
But he walks Ikezawa on 4 straight to load the bases! Manrui for Jyousou with Iida at bat!
AH!!! Wild pitch from Kouna! Ogawa with it, quickly, but the runners retreat! Still manrui!
Now #14 Shioya comes in to run for Ishii at 2nd...
Count runs full..
Fastball right down the middle and Iida can only walk back to the dugout as Kouna lets out a yell!
#13 Wada comes in for PR Shioya and takes over at 1B.
One down and Tomoya gets his 2nd single through the right side.
But it quickly becomes 2 down when Kudou flies out to left.
Tamura goes down on the slider and it looks like they've lost their best chance...
Kouna strikes out the side, but right now it's padding the stats in a losing effort.
Can Maebashi Ikuei somehow solve Iida in just 3 outs?
Supposedly, the right batters are coming up. It's 3-4-5 for Maebashi Ikuei.
Iida with leg cramps drinking some sports drink as he has 106 pitches. He's taken back to the dugout as #18 Kaneko warms up just in case...
And at 4 minutes he re-emerges from the dugout and will look to finish the game.
Ah? At 1-1, Iida calls over the umpire and he's asking to be taken out. The trainers come out and he has to be helped off the field! #18 Kaneko does come in to the game.
Very first pitch from Kaneko, Tsuchiya grounds to 2nd.
Arai grounder up the 3rd base line, fair! Uchida with it, goes to 1st for the 2nd out!
Last chance in Itagaki, Up 2-0, Kaneko puts in strike 1... now strike 2...
Liner down the right field line... FAIR!! IT'S FAIR!!! Ogawa stops at 3rd and the douten runner is in scoring position as once again Kouna steps in!
Liner to right center! That's going to split the defense! It goes all the way to the wall!! Ogawa scores! Itagaki scores!!
We're all tied at 2-2!!!!!!!!!
And with Kouna at 3B, the sayonara run stands 90 feet away!
Kaneko rattles, falls behind Kusunoki 2-0! Gets a strike in, but now another ball and it's 3-1!
Grounder to 2nd! Shindou with it goes to 1st and we're headed to enchousen!
Shindou looking to make this a one inning affair singles to center!
But no bunt from Uchida! He swings away at a slider and lifts it to center where Kudou has it for the 2nd out.
Only now does Sasaki-kantoku bunt Shindou along.
But Yoshizawa goes down swinging and we're to the bottom of the 10th.
Uh oh, it's a 4-pitch walk to Tomoya to start the inning. Kudou not bunting.
Single back up the middle! Now the sayonara run is in scoring position with no out!
Now Tamura bunts him along, runners 2nd and 3rd.
Surely they will walk him.
Tsuchiya attacks the first pitch and he singles to right center! Sayonara!
You can say all you want about being able to close, or to be strong enough mentally to handle any situation, but seeing the image of your ace being carried off the field is hard to take for anyone.
I mean, good for Maebashi Ikuei that they were able to take advantage, but I feel bad for Jyousou Gakuin...
I'll just leave it at that for now...