With Naruto moving on to the 2nd round and Shuutoku off the board, the winners from yesterday continue to hold their breath as to who will be left with the Sendai Ikuei-Urawa Gakuin winner. But for now, we turn our focus to our brunchtime matchup between Koushien regular Sakushin Gakuin and first-timers Sakurai.
Sakurai was the beneficiary of a rare year in Nara. There were hints that it would be a down year in Nara. It wasn't Tenri or Chiben Gakuen representing Nara in Senbatsu, but unknown Yamato Kouryou - who didn't look all that impressive.
Fast-forward to the summer and before you knew it all 3 aforementioned teams would be eliminated leaving an opportunity that all remaining schools would be tripping over themselves to take advantage of.
Sakurai would climb over the masses and be successful, defeating Yamato Kouryou who was the last vestige of the upper tier.
They will be facing a Sakushin Gakuin squad who is now at Natsu Koushien for their 3rd straight year. Though they had to earn it this time around. A 1-0 win over Sano Nichidai in the finals, and 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th to defeat Seiran Taito and advance to Koushien.
Despite the close calls, prefectural strength and experience should give the edge to Sakushin Gakuin.
Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi)
RF Kobayashi Yuusuke
3B Soeda Shinkai
C Yamashita Yuuto
1B Nakamura Kouichirou
LF Emata Yuusuke (#16)
CF Suzuki Masashi
SS Kawakami Shuugo
2B Yamanashi Kouta
P Watanabe Yuuma
SS Sugiyama Kouki
3B Nishiguchi Taiki
RF Okamoto Yuuhei
1B Yokoyama Tomoaki
LF Kinoshita Kunio
P Takeno Kouhei
C Shimada Kouta
CF Kasei Masato
2B Okada Shun
10:55 - First Pitch!
Hm.... Not a good start. Takeno walks Kobayashi on 4 straight, then a passed ball by Shimada puts the runner in scoring position. Fortunately for him, Soeda hits it back to him and he can look the runner back before going to 1st.
Takeno pretty much your average lefty as he climbs the latter on Yamashita for the 2nd out.
But Nakamura hits one to right! Azuma going back and it's off his glove! Kobayashi scores to make it 1-0 right of the bat!
Emata with a grounder to short, should end inning, but doesn't! He short hops it and Yokoyama can't pick it. Nakamura was heading home all the way and just slides around the tag from Shimada to make it 2-0.
Suzuki flies out to right, but it's not looking good for the Nara representatives.
Oh, it isn't looking good at all... Sugiyama and Nishiguchi both go fishing on balls out of the zone for 2 Ks.
Okamoto stays patient at the plate, and eventually works a walk. Cleanup batter Yokoyama gets it off the end of the bat and bloops one into center. Okamoto takes 3rd.
So here's a small chance for Sakurai and Kinoshita.
Ah, but Kinoshita is frozen on a fastball inside and the side is retired.
Takeno looking a little better against the bottom of Sakushin's lineup. He induces a grounder from Kawakami, and both Yamanashi and Watanabe end up looking a bit silly swinging at air for a much needed 1-2-3 inning.
Watanabe has some deliberate delivery there and doesn't throw fast (high 120s-130). Sakurai perhaps still trying to time him as Takeno grounds out to 3rd.
Shimada booms one down the left side... but just is a bit ahead of it as it lands deep into his ouen-dan. He goes down swinging for the 2nd out... and Kasai quickly flies out to center after that.
Back to the top of the order and Takeno in trouble again. Kobayashi with a deep drive over Okamoto's head and to the wall for a leadoff triple. Then he plunks Soeda and things might be getting worse.
But a grounder to short but Yamashita is fielded by Sugiyama who holds the runner at 3rd before going to 1st for the out!
Nakamura with a chopper up the first base line, Yokoyama fires home and gets Kobayashi who is going on contact. Two outs!
Ah! Takeno is called for a balk in his 3rd/1st fake and that means that Soeda makes it 3-0 Sakushin Gakuin!
Oh... grounder to 2nd by Emata is booted by Okada and everyone's safe...
Things go from bad to worse as Suzuki walks to lead the bases. And it does get worse when Kawakami singles through to right. 2 more runs score to make it 5-0 Sakushin Gakuin...
Yamanashi strikes out to end the inning, but Sakurai risks having the game get out of hand early.
Sakurai trying anything to counter, as they were patient last inning, are attacking now. Okada though chases an outside fastball for the first out. Sugiyama and Nishiguchi are retired quickly thereafter to end the inning.
*sighs* Watanabe strikes out, but the ball goes back to the screen and he reaches 1st safely. Kobayashi then hits a deep double to left and Sakushin threatens again.
Soeda hits a fly to center deep enough to score Watanabe to make it 6-0. Yamashita and Nakamura are retired thereafter, but Sakurai does look outclassed today.
Okamoto with a good eye, works the count yet again and earns a walk. Yokoyama then turns the next pitch around and singles to center.
Well, chance for Sakurai with no outs.
Kinoshita with a drive to left! Emata running back... running back to the pole!!
What's this out of nowhere! Kinoshita take the hanging fastball and makes a blowout something less so! It's 6-3!!
And with one down, Shimada singles back up the middle! Might they have figured out Watanabe?
Ah, well they'll have to wait another inning. Kasei hits it right back to Watanabe for the 1-6-3 double play. But at least the deficit is manageable!
Takeno doing his best to keep the deficit at 3. Emata flies out to left, Takeno gets an assist from Kasei who charges in and makes a diving catch on Suzuki's shallow fly.
Bad luck for Takeno though as a grounder to 2nd from Kawakami takes a high hop over Okada for a base hit. He then takes 2nd on the Sakurai battery.
But no harm done, Yamanashi grounds to 2nd to retire the side.
One down, and Sugiyama loops one over a leaping Yamanashi for a base hit.
Nishiguchi sizing up a buster hit, hits a seeing eye single past Nakamura and Yamanashi for a basehit! Are they threatening? Kobari-kantoku not leaving anything to chance calls for time.
Up now is Okamoto who is 0-0 with 2 walks. With runners in scoring position though he falls behind 0-2...
Grounder up the middle, Yamanashi charging, misses ball, but regroups to at least get the runner out at 2nd. 2 outs now for Yokoyama who is 2-2 on the day. On deck is Kinoshita who blasted the 3-run HR.
But he's left to watch as Yokoyama flies out to center to end the inning. Sakurai unable to cut into the lead any further heading into the break. They have cut the lead in half, but the offense still isn't quite clicking...
Watanabe's day is done as #7 Takahashi comes in to bat for him.
Takeno greets him by giving him a free pass to 1B.
Kobari-kantoku continues to keep the game moving as Takahashi takes 2nd with no throw (Shimada drops it on the transfer).
Kobayashi with a hot shot to short. Ball takes a high hop and hits Sugiyama in the chest. He gathers himself and fires to first to retire Kobayashi for the first time this game. Takahashi moves to 3rd.
And odd time to try a waste pitch on a squeeze behind 2-0 because at 3-0 you're going to walk him more often than not (which they do).
Soeda takes 2nd without a throw as perhaps the Sakurai battery has given up on trying to throw runners out?
Well, Yamashita gets his 1st hit - a timely through to left. Takahashi scores, and Soeda just slides in the 5-hole Shimada leaves and it's now 8-3 Sakushin Gakuin.
Make that 9-3 as Nakamura pulls one deep to right center that goes all the way to the wall for a triple.
That ends the day for Takeno on the mound. #10 Kaji comes in for Kasei and takes the hill. Takeno goes to LF and Kinoshita to CF.
Kaji is a side-armer who throws even slower. PH Tamagawa in for Emata singles to center to make to 10-3.
Kaji does retire the next two batters as Suzuki skies one to 2nd and Kawakami grounds to 2nd. But the rout is back on again.
Tamagawa stays in to play LF, and #10 Asayama comes in for PH Takahashi and takes over on the mound.
With a new pitcher, Sakurai has to start adjusting all over again... and the results speak for themselves. Kinoshita towering popup to Yamanashi, and both Takeno and Shimada both flail.
Sensing the end, Morishima-kantoku starts emptying the bench. #12 Ueji comes in to replace Shimada.
One down and Asayama up for his first AB hits one over the head of Yokoyama for a double.
Kobayashi bypasses a chance for the cycle, instead getting his 3rd extra base hit. Asayama flies around the bases and scores from first. 11-3.
After a Soeda groundout, Yamashita is plunked to bring up Nakamura who promptly ends the inning with a fly to center.
Sakurai trying to restart the offense, but 2 groundouts to Kawakami and a laser that's caught by Yamanashi ends the inning.
Kaji almost gets a 1-2-3 inning, but Kawakami spoils it with a single to left. But he gets Yamanashi to fly out to left thereafter. I think both teams want to get out of here.
Okamoto finally is rewarded for his patience with a base hit, but otherwise the Sakurai offense remains silent.
#11 Azuma replaces Takeno in LF, and #14 Yamamoto replaces Okada at 2B.
Looks like Sakushin Gakuin not done. Asayama starts off with a walk. After Kobayashi pops out, PH Tanaka comes in for Soeda and hits an infield single to Sugiyama. Yamashita bloops one to left to load the bases.
Sakurai not helping things. Grounder up the first base line is whiffed by Yokoyama and a run scores to make it 12-3. Tamagawa then gets hit forcing in another run, 13-3.
Suzuki hits a sac fly to right, and it's 14-3. Kawakami singles past a drawn in infield and it's 15-3.
Kaji hits Yamanashi in the back and it's manrui again. At least it's not hard throws.
But Sakushin Gakuin has batted around...
Asayama with a hard hit that goes off of Yokyama's glove. Both he and Yamamoto go for it, and 2 runs score. 17-3.
Mercifully the inning ends when Kobayashi pops out to 2nd.
#14 Yoshizawa comes in for PH Tanaka and takes over at 3B.
Morishima emptying the bench.
#16 Sugimoto to hit for Azuma, flies out to center.
#15 Sasaki to hit for Ueji, he singles to right center. #18 Iguchi runs for him...
#13 Takaya with a single to left center puts runners at 1st and 2nd.
#14 Yamamoto to hit for Okada, grounder to the right side, Yamanashi goes to 2nd, and he throws it away! Iguchi scores to make it 17-4.
With #17 Tatezumi hitting for Sugiyama, he hits a grounder back up the middle. Yamanashi turns to 2nd, but then 1st, and all safe! Takaya scores to make it 17-5.
Nishiguchi to try and keep the momentum, but he grounds into the 6-4 3 double play to end the game.
Well Morishima-kantoku at least was able to get everyone in the game, which for a team that may never see Koushien for a long time, is a nice gesture.
Despite the loss, Sakurai's members before leaving the field, line up near the infield dirt, place their caps down in front of them kneel and bow saying "Arigatou gozaimashita!". Even their intro was very respectful. I like that and I'm sorry to seem them routed as such.
Sakushin Gakuin will move on with the win.
Kobayashi Yuusuke (Sakushin Gakuin) - 3-6, 2 2B, 3B, R, RBI
Nakamura Kouichirou (Sakushin Gakuin) - 2-6, 2B, 3B, 4 R, RBI
Kawakami Shuugo (Sakushin Gakuin) - 4-6, R, 3 RBI
Kinoshita Kunio (Sakurai) - 1-3, HR, R, 3 RBI
Okamoto Youhei (Sakurai) - 1-2, 2 BB, R
All the bench players for Sakurai who got in the game and made something of it in the 9th.