Halfway home today and now we transition to our 1st afternoon game of the day and it's 2 surprise squads squaring off against one another.
Now, I'm sure if you know kokoyakyu, you'd be telling me, "Fukui Shougyou isn't a no-name squad, what are you spouting off about?".
Ah, but this year was different. Fukui actually was responsible for sending both Hokushinetsu representatives to Senbatsu - Harue Kougyou and Tsuruga Kehi. So you had to figure that one or the other would win the natsu taikai.
And yet that wasn't the case. In fact, Fukui Shougyou defeated both teams en route to the title Tsuruga Kehi 5-1 in the quarterfinals and 2-0 over Harue Kougyou in the finals. The offense isn't stellar, but it was good enough to win.
Obihiro Ootani is the surprise story. Certainly a Tier 3 school for a long time in Hokkaido, they've always ran into the big name schools and fallen short.
Not this year.
Obihiro Ootani defeated both Asahikawa Ryuukoku and Asahikawa Minami 4-3 in back to back games to claim their first ever Natsu title.
But with a mainstay such as Fukushou facing first-timers.... the bloodbath may continue...
Obihiro Ootani (Minami Hokkaido)
LF Aoto Fumitake
C Gondou Toshiki
2B Sugiura Daito
CF Ogawa Keita
1B Konari Ryou
RF Kamei Shinnosuke
3B Kadu Yuuhei
SS Kudou Shouta
P Satou Kazuma (#11)
Fukui Shougyou (Fukui)
CF Yamamoto Takuma
C Nakamura Tatsuya
3B Seki Ryouma
LF Ooishi Itsuki
RF Yasuda Atsuki
P Nakamura Fumihide
1B Hayashi Katsumi
2B Nakaya Masato
SS Miyazaki Masaya
13:50 - First Pitch!
Fumihide showing above average speed with a fastball in the low 140s and a slider in the mid 120s.
As expected, Obihiro starting off slow, and while they work the count both Aoto and Gondou both chase outside fastballs. Sugiura manages to make contact, but flies out to center.
Yamamoto with a chopper up the 3rd base line. Kado playing back charges, but he gets to the ball way late. Sac bunt moves Yamamoto along and Fukushou already threatening.
Seki with a ball fair past a diving Konari down the 1st base line! Yamamoto scores to make it 1-0 as a misplay by Kamei allows Seki to head to 3rd.
Kazuma gets Ooishi and Yasuda to hit shallow flies to end the inning, but Fukushou wasting no time getting on the board.
Fumihide with a fastball that hits off the lip of Ogawa's helmet. He seems ok, but for precautionary reasons, an injury runner goes out to 1st.
Fumihide perhaps a bit spooked after almost hitting the head of a batter, falls behind Konari 3-0. And though he fills up the count, Konari turns one around past a diving Hayashi for a base hit. Yonemaru-kantoku calls time to settle down his ace.
Kamei trying to bunt, but misses twice and is behind 1-2. Flashes it again, and takes it back for a ball. He tries the three-bunt but fouls it off and goes down for the 1st out.
Kado with a ball to center! Yamamoto charging, can't get there and it hops off his glove and high into the air! Ogawa's temporary runner comes in to score and Obihiro Ootani's tied the game up! It's 1-1!
Runners on 1st and 2nd now for Kudou who is also showing bunt, but again can't make contact... But he does lay it down, but right to Fumihide who goes to 3rd for the easy force.
2 down for Kazuma.
He chops one to the left side. Seki takes the bounce and goes to 1st for the 3rd out. The bottom of the lineup must be weak enough to bunt with one out, but Kaku comes through to tie the game!
Kazuma has an over the top delivery that at least in theory should get the fastball down. His velo is slightly below average though.
Seems to be working though here in the 2nd. Fumihide grounds easily to 2nd and Hayashi chases a high 100s curve for his first K.
Nakaya with a hot shot to 3rd, but Kado makes the clean field and throw for the 3rd out.
Hm... ever since the HBP at the head, Fumihide's been quite skittish on the mound. Aoto draws a walk to lead off the 3rd.
Grounder to 2nd by Gondou and it's off Nakaya's glove and in the air! He waits for the deflection, but the throw is late to 1st. All safe!
Chance for Obihiro but man they can't bunt. Sugiura bunts twice, both foul and is behind now 2-2.
Hit-and-run! But the bounder is right to 2nd! Miyazaki take a step to 2nd and throws to first for the double play! How unfortunate!
And Ogawa can't check his swing and a great opportunity by Obihiro Ootani goes begging!
Miyazaki chases the slow curve and hits a slow bounder to 2nd for out #1.
But back to the top of the order and Yamamoto draws a walk. Tatsuya fallow that up immediately with a grounder past a diving Sugiura into center! Ogawa's throw to 3rd is over everything! Kazuma backs up the play, but Tatsuya advances to 2nd! Pinch for Obihiro!
Seki hard liner, caught by a charging Sugiura for the 2nd out!
Ooishi grounds to 1st, and Konari runs it to the bag for the 3rd out! Kazuma gets out of the jam!!
Fumihide's control still seems off as he gives up a one-out walk to Kamei.
They're pitching away and he's missing his spots. Then on a slider, he goes high and in which can't help his skiitishness.
But Kado bails him out by swinging on an outside pitch and pulling it to Miyazaki who starts the inning-ending DP.
Yasuda with a grounder to 2nd, and it oles past Sugiura into right for an E4.
Fumihide tries to bunt the runner along, but Kazuma fields and guns the lead runner out at 2nd.
Fukushou is fighting back though as Hayashi singles back up the middle.
Kazuma responds inducing a flyout from Nakaya. But then gives it back walking Miyazaki...
Amino-kantoku calls time as leadoff batter Yamamoto steps in.
Kazuma starts off behind 2-0, but gets Yamamoto to chase a high ball! Aoto charging in towards the left field and stretches out to make the catch right at the line!
Boy, they're toeing the line...
One down, and Kazuma's chopper to the left side leads to a base hit as he hustles down the line.
Back to the top of the order and Aoto, but he goes down swinging on a high fastball for the 2nd out.
Gondou up and he works the count full. Blooper to shallow right center... goes over Nakaya for a base hit! Kazuma heads to 3rd and Obihiro has a mini chance!
Sugiura with another blooper to right! Yasuda charging in... makes the sliding catch to retire the side! Obirito Ootani almost blooped their way to a run!
Ok, so thanks to one of my friends I realized something. During the times I was paying attention to velo for Kazuma. I just thought I was catching him at times he was throwing an offspeed pitch.
Kazuma's fastball is in the mid 110s. Yes, that's right. Even weirder still, his curveball is in the 100s.
So there's a 10 kph difference between his fastball and curveball.
I don't quite get it.
And yet, even though Tatsuya singles to center, and Seki bunts him along, Fukushou continues to struggle.
Cleanup batter Ooishi hits a hard grounder to 3rd. Kado looks back Tatsuya and goes to 1st for the 2nd out!
And I can't believe this, but Yonemaru-kantoku calls for a steal of 3rd! Gondou fires to 3rd and he's out to retire the side!!
Obihiro Ootani attacking early in the count. Ogawa and Konari are both retired on just 3 pitches.
But Kamei checks in with a single over a leaping Miyazaki.
Kado up, and he's taking some scary swings. Blasts one foul deep into his ouen-dan on the 3B side.
OH! Kado with a ball to deep left center!! The fielders scamper back as the ball takes one hop to the fence! Kamei scoring all the way from 1st and Obihiro Ootani is up 2-1!!!
Kudou flies out to right to end the inning, but the team from the great north has the lead!!
So I think me and my twitter friends have figured out how the heck Kazuma can be so successful.
Much like a cutter and fastball have similar velo but different movement and thus harder to hit, it's possible that the fastball/curveball combo work for Kazuma only because they're so, so... slow.
And since the movement is exaggerated on the pitches due to the slow speed, it's actually hard to time for either.
So when Yasuda grounds out to 1st and Fumihide flies out to center, their timing might be right, but they're guessing the wrong pitch!
Hayashi waits on a slow slow curve on a full count and works a walk.
Wild pitch from Kazuma! (As wild as a 110 pitch can be). But Kazuya may be losing a bit of control here in the 6th.
Comebaker to Kazuma! He knocks it down, scampers behind the mound, throws to 1st for the 3rd out!
Yonemaru-kanoku must be scratching his head at all this. He sends in #10 Hasegawa to relieve Fumihide in the meantime while he tries to figure what's going on here.
But Kazuma not helping! He lines a ball to center for a base hit!
Back to the top of the order, and Hasegawa tries to shut it down before it starts. Aoto not bunting, chops to 3rd, but advances the runner. Gondou goes down swinging for the 2nd out.
And Amino-kantoku tries to press the issue! Kazuma caught off 2nd and Tatsuya goes to 2nd to start the rundown! Kazuma decides to break fully for 3rd, but 2-6-5 and the inning is over.
Miyazaki ahead of a Kazuma offering (which is easy to do), and hits an easy ball back to Kazuma. Yamamoto golfs one high to left where Aoto makes the catch for out #2.
Tatsuya makes good contact, but leaves it up for Ogawa to run down for the 3rd out! No lucky 7 for Fukushou!
(Also, the announcers say that Kazuma is at a neat 102 pitches through 7. That's pretty low all things considered.)
Hasegawa is not the hard thrower that Fumihide is, but he still goes upper 130s touching 140.
Control is better though and Obihiro's offense is completely shut down. Sugiura and Ogawa go down swinging on the rising ladder and Konari just lazily flies out to left for a 1-2-3 inning.
Seki with a ball down the 1st base line, fair!!! he goes down an inside pitch and lines it past a diving Konari! He's in with a leadoff double! Can Fukushou tie the game?
Cleanup hitter Ooishi bunting, but sends his first attempt foul. His second attempt is even worse, and now he's behind 0-2!
But he lays down the bunt! Kazuma takes it in front of Kado, but his turn and throw is high! All safe!
Amino-kantoku calling time. Perhaps at best all Obihiro can expect is a douten game going into the 9th. Or is this the end of the line for the team from the north?
Yasuda showing squeeze, but not needing it as he gets ahead 2-0.
And he lays it down! It's hard enough up the 1st base line and all Konari can do is go to 1st for the out! 2-2!
Hasegawa up and he takes the first pitch to right for a base hit! Runners at the corners for Fukushou!
Hayashi up to bunt now. The only problem with throwing slow... bunting is easier.
SQUEEZE! But Kazuma is on it! He goes to Ooishi going down the line who slows down, but realizes he's late! Throws home, but it's too late! Ooishi scores to makes it 3-2 Fukushou!
That's the end of the day for Kazuma as ace number Tamura comes in.
But with Kazuma gone, the magic is too. Nakaya singles through the gap in short scoring Hasegawa to make it 4-2.
Tamura gets Miyazaki and Yamamoto to ground into fielder's choices to end the inning, but the damage has been more than done.
For 2 runs for Obihiro Ootani at this time of the game is probably too much to ask.
Kamei with a blast to left center!! Yamamoto back to the wall..
WHAT JUST HAPPENED????!!
Yamamoto on one pitch brings Obihiro Ootani back to within one and with no outs!! 4-3!!!!
Kado with a liner to center for a base hit! Can this really be happening?!
Kudou showing bunt, but gets ahead 2-0. Finally takes a strike. Then feigns bust-and-run, takes ball 3!
But he bunts it too hard! Hasegawa goes to 2nd for 1, throw from Miyazaki.. double play!
#15 Ikeda to hit for Tamura. Last gasp for Obihiro Ootani.
Falls behind 0-2, actually tries to hit the high fastball and fouls it off...
Two sliders in the dirt and it's 2-2. Fastball at his head, 3-2.
Check swing foul.. unfortunate.
Pulls another one foul. Ahead and rockets another one foul.
Aw, that was a low strike... But Ikeda is called out and the game is over...
Fukui Shougyou is fortunate to advance, and I feel really bad for Obihiro Ootani. Was Kazuma's pitching gimmicky? Sure. But he executed it well. Unfortunately, it wasn't the pitching, but the defensive decisions that would be their downfall.
Start with the bunt by Ooishi. Kazuma fielded it, had to spin around and throw to first. Kado charging in had a better angle and had momentum on his side. The throw goes wide and now there runners at the corners with one out.
Fast forward to Hayashi's bunt back to Kazuma that he fielded. All he had to to was toss home and Ooishi would have been in a rundown. But he tries to run him down himself and lets Ooishi break home and score. Perhaps the earlier decision made it so he put pressure on himself to fix the mistake he made earlier.
Either way, those two decisions probably cost Obihiro Ootani the game.
And considering Kazuma's unique slow pitching, it's a shame he couldn't finish it (or let his teammates help).
Fukui Shougyou may perform better against "regular" aces, but certainly I feel this should have been Obihiro Ootani's game.
Hasegawa Ryouta (Fukui Shougyou) - W, 3 IP, ER, 3 H, 4 K
Seki Ryouma (Fukui Shougyou) - 2-3, 2 2B, R, RBI
Nakamura Tatsuya (Fukui Shougyou) - 2-3
Satou Kazuma (Obihiro Ootani) - 7.1+ IP, 4 ER, 7 H, K, 3 BB
Kamei Shinnosuke (Obihiro Ootani) -2-3, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB
Kado Yuuhei (Obihiro Ootani) - 3-4, 2B, 2 RBI