Well, with the new format, there were no guaranteed "blocks of death" as it were. That didn't mean however that the initial draw could create "deathmatches". Such is the case here ending Day 3. The Fall Meiji Jingu champions wind up playing the senbatsu champions in a doozy of an opening round matchup. The only question is whether Sendai Ikuei will be up to the task.
I say this because they didn't look all that impressive at senbatsu, and while they mostly swept through the Miyagi taikai, it took an unfortunate collapse by Shibata to allow Sendai Ikuei to reach Natsu Koushien.
Urawa Gakuin has been on some kind of roll. I shouldn't be surprised by ace Ojima anymore, but the results he and his team are producing are on a scale equal to that of the haru-natsu renzoku yuushou squads of recent years. They have not lost in competition since the Meiji Jingu tournament.
And speaking of which, they are looking to be the 3rd team in the last 4 years to perform the haru-natsu perfecta.
Urawa Gakuin (Saitama)
SS Takemura Haruki
LF Hattori Masamitsu
CF Yamane Yuuta
3B Takada Ryouta
1B Kigure Naita
RF Saitou Ryousuke
C Nishikawa Genki
P Ojima Kazuya
2B Tsuda Shouki
Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi)
SS Kumagai Takahiro
2B Kikuna Yuuki
LF Hasegawa Hiro
CF Uebayashi Seiji
1B Mizuma Toshiki (#9)
C Kobayashi Ryou
RF Kawashima Yuuta (#16)
3B Katou Naoya
P Suzuki Takato
16:35 - First Pitch!
First pitch a popup to Kumagai behind 2nd base before the siren even finishes.
Hattori with a grounder to 3rd. It's off Katou and goes towards 2nd! He recovers, but instead of eating it, he airmails it out of play! You could call that E5, E5 and Hattori is at 2nd!
Yamane makes him pay for the error! He blasts one to left center that falls in for a double! Hattori scores and it's 1-0 Urawa Gakuin!
Suzuki gets cleanup batter Takada to hit a foul fly to Kawashima, and Kigure to ground to short to end the inning, but Urawa Gakuin with the first strike!
Kumagai leads off with a single through the right side. Sendai Ikuei looking to strike back.
Wild pitch for Ojima! Douten runner in scoring position.
And now Ojima walks Kikuna!
AHHH!!! Another wild pitch from Ojima! Now 2 runners in scoring position! And a walk to Hasegawa!!
What is going on??!! Manrui, no out for cleanup batter Uebayashi!!
Count at 1-1 and Uebayashi gives Ojima a partial reprieve swinging at a pitch way up and in.
High inside again, and Uebayashi just fouls it off.
SANSHIN!! Ojima gets Uebayashi to chase a slider down and in for the first out. Ojima still not out of the woods just yet.
Yep, Ojima hits Mizuma and with 3 walks/hit batters, it's 1-1.
Ryou up, and Ojima runs the count full on him too. This is the wrong time to start struggling.
Ojima hits the glove, but it's called a ball! Oshidashi again and Sendai Ikuei takes a 2-1 lead.
Sensing blood perhaps Sasaki-kantoku PH for Kawashima right off the bat. #15 Abe comes in to hit.
But he goes after an Ojima offering way too high! 2 out.
Katou up and Ojima still under red alert conditions. But Katou bails him out twice, swinging on high pitches to put the count level at 2-2.
But Ojima is high again and now with 2 outs everyone's on the move.
He throws high yet again, and forces in yet another run. It's 3-1 now and #11 Wakumoto heads to the bullpen.
Suzuki the 9th batter up, and he hits a curve to left! It falls in! Mizuma scores, throw home from Hattori late and Ryou scores to make it 5-1.
And so inexplicably, unbelievably, Kumagai is up AGAIN this inning.
Full count, Kumagai fouls off several before hitting one back up the middle scoring Katou and it's 6-1.
Ojima finally gets out of the inning when Kikuna grounds to 2nd.
But this has been a shocking disaster for Ojima right off the bat. They still have 8 innings to go, but they've got a lot of work to do...
Abe stays in the game at RF, and it turns out Kawashima may have had an accident crashing into the fence on a foul ball and had to be pulled.
The offense for Urawa Gakuin has yet to get started it seems. Saitou grounds to short, and Nishikawa hits a deep drive but Hasegawa is able to park under it for the 2nd out.
Ojima grounds to Kumagai as well and the side is retired.
Hard ball by Hasegawa to Kigure at 1st. He blocks it, flips to Ojima, but he drops it and Hasegawa is safe.
Despite the lack of control, he gets Uebayashi to strike out as his ball outside is more inside and up.
Mizuma squares to bunt and manages to lay one down despite the ball almost at his chest. 2 outs, though I don't know why you'd bunt with an obviously struggling ace. Ryou first pitch swings and grounds out to Takemura ending the inning with no damage.
Tsuda with a blast to left! That's over Hasegawa's head and to the wall for a leadoff double from the #9 hitter!
Oh, and now Suzuki hits Takemura! Hattori up, and he's taking balls and getting ahead 3-1. Suzuki fills up the count, and tries to go inside, but Hattori whips the bat around and actually pulls it foul!
Hattori with a ball to right, and Abe completely misplays it, letting it bounce under his glove and behind him! Uebayashi alertly backed up the play and only Tsuda scored to make it 6-2.
Yamane earns a walk after a full count. Manrui for Urawa Gakuin.
Wild pitch?! Takemura comes in to score and it's 6-3.
Cleanup batter Takada looked awful swinging on that high outside fastball. One down.
Kigure with a drive to left center, Hasegawa has to play it off the wall and now it's 6-5 Sendai Ikuei.
Still one out and Saitou up to bat. Suzuki gets his 2nd out also via the K as Saitou chases a changeup down and in.
Nishikawa up to hit.
And that ball is crushed. It goes off the wall as well for another double that scores Kigure to make it tied at 6-6.
Ojima with a grounder past a diving Kikuna and Nishikawa scores. 7-6 Urawa as now they have batted around.
That knocks Suzuki out of the game. Or at least to RF. #10 Baba comes in for Shutou and takes the hill, Suzuki goes to RF.
Baba starts off by walking Tsuda. Back to the top of the order and Takemura. Wild pitch sends both runners into scoring position.
Takemura singles through to right, Ojima scores to make it 8-6. Hattori singles to center and Tsuda comes in to make it 9-6.
Yamane ends the inning unable to check his swing. But inexplicably, Urawa Gakuin scores 8 to now take a 3-run lead.
I don't even know what's going on anymore. *flips table* *walks away*
(Not really walking away.)
But perhaps we have some order back in the game. For Ojima is throwing strikes and getting outs. 11 pitches, 3 outs against the bottom of the order (soft liner to Takemura, flyout to Yamane, dribbler up the first base line that Ojima flips to 1st).
Baba hasn't gotten the message as he hits Takada to start the inning. Kigure bunts the runner along to play add-on.
Saitou looking for his 1st hit, still is looking as he goes down swinging for the 2nd straight AB.
Nishikawa though delivers yet again, this time a single through to left. Takada aggressively sent home and a bobble by Hasegawa allows him to score putting Urawa in double digits at 10-6.
Ojima flies out to center to end the inning, but if we looked at the lead and not the actual score, it might have been more what we could have been expecting.
Because Ojima seems to have finally settled down (enough).
Kumagai grounds out to short, Kigure gets ahead but flies out to left, and Hasegawa looks just plain sill chasing a high ball for the 3rd out.
Baba settling down too it seems. He finally retires Tsuda with a fastball down the middle, then freezes Takemura as well on a changes right at the bottom of the zone.
Finally, Hattori hits it hard, but right to Kator who goes to 1st for their 2nd 1-2-3 inning.
Ojima somehow has Uebayashi's number despite the 1st inning. He gets him to hit a routine fly to right for the firsr out.
Mizuma too falls victim grounding out to Takemura.
Ryou lines out to Kigure to end the inning. And we finally hit the break with the game at a completely weird 10-6.
Baba has settled down too. Though he accidentally goes up and in on Takada, glancing one off the helmet, he gets both Yamane and Kigure to fly out to center and records a 3rd strikeout on Saitou.
Baba for his 2nd AB singles to center. Katou follows that up with one of his own, and Yamane's throw to 3rd goes over the moon and everyone advances a base.
Onodera to hit for Suzuki, but hits a hard ball to 2nd preventing the runners from advancing.
Kumagai with a ball to right center. Yamane running over to field it AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
The ball goes off his glove and falls in! Baba and Katou score and it's 10-8.
Kikuna with a blooping liner that falls in fair next to the right field line! Kumagai scores and Kikuna takes 2nd! It's 10-9!
I don't even think the players know what's going on anymore. Hasegawa runs off to first thinking he has a walk when it's really 3-2.
It turns out better for Hasegawa as he singles back up the middle, Kikuna scores and it douten... at 10-10....
And Uebayashi has had absolutely NOTHING to do with it. He is jammed and pops out to Kigure near the mound.
Mizuna strikes out to end the inning, and with 3 innings to go we have a new ballgame - or at least what is supposed to resemble one.
Onodera stays in the game at 1B, Mizuma goes to RF.
Baba looking the better pitcher right now. He gets 3 routine groundsouts from the bottom of the lineup and gives his team a chance a the lucky 7.
Ryou leads off the inning with a walk. Baba lays down the bunt, Ojima fields it, throws to 2nd, wide! Takemura has to leave the bag. All safe!
Now Sasaki-kantoku has Uebayashi talk to both runners.
Next pitch, Nishikawa fires to 2nd and what is Ryou doing off 2nd! He's run down 2-6-5, but Takada throws to 2nd as Baba slides and and the tag is made.
No call... still no call as the umpire comes in...
OUT!!! He calls him out! It's a 2-6-5-4 rundown double play!
I don't understand, even...
um, you see... uh... there...
Katou walks and then Onodera pops out to Takemura to end the inning.
Takekura opens the 8th with a single to center. Hattori behind 0-2 hits a bunt that looks more like a grounder to advance the runner.
And now a ball goes 5-hole on Kobayashi and Takemura heads to 3rd.
Yamane is called for not checking his swing (though it seemed like he did). 2 outs, go-ahead run still 90 feet away.
Takada with a blooper... Onoder backing up... falls backwards as he makes the catch. 3 out and still tied at 10 apiece.
Kumagai liner to center for a leadoff hit. Kikuna looking to bunt, but Ojima winds up walking him to put the gyakuten runner in scoring again, again with no outs.
Hasegawa hit on the back, and we're back to the first inning again it seems. Manrui, Uebayashi up at bat.
And Uebayashi still can't buy a hit. Ojima gets him to chase a fastball low, and that's his 3rd K against Ojima.
Mizuma up. And behind 1-2, he chases a fastball down and away for the 2nd out.
Ryou now trying to get just one run in, any way possible.
Falls behind 1-2 after a fastball on the outside corner.
Ryou swings and miss on a fastball on the outside part of the plate and all Ryou can do is look up. Manrui, 0 out, 3 Ks. And Ojima at 170 pitches or there abouts.
Kigure up to start, on 1-1 pitch swings at a 55' pitch. Waits one more ball, then swings at 60' pitch.
Saitou picks a good time to get his first hit, as he singles in front of Uebayashi in center.
Nishiyama up, he's frozen on a fastball on the outside corner.
Ojima up to help his own cause, falls behind 1-2...
Liner, right to Kumagai for the 3rd out! Now Ojima has to play for enchousen!
173 pitches and counting for Ojima.
175 is a shot from Baba right to Takada who fires to 1st for the out.
And now Ojima seems to be having cramps or something like that as he's stretching out his foot.
Water is sent out to him, and it does look like it's cramps. It's been even hotter than the hottest days today.
Ojima will press on, as the bullpen warms up. There won't be much time to pull him with it being bottom 9 and all.
Katou with a blast to right center! Saitou sprinting back, still going... Makes the running catch!
Onodera up now, and Ojima throws two fairly wide and falls behind. Fires one in there, and he lines one to right.
That's it for Ojima. Mori-kantoku in this crucial time sends in #10 Yamaguchi to relieve Ojima and preserve the tie.
Perhaps with the top of the lineup up, and Ojima certainly not 100% in the legs, Mori-kantoku figured it was time.
But Yamaguchi is stepping into a fire here in the bottom of the 9th. He gets ahead of Kumagai 2-2, and forces him to start swinging at anything close.
Drive to left! That's easily over Hattori's head! He quickly turns it around, but Onodera is heading home! Throw is not in time and Sendai Ikuei bids Urawa Gakuin sayonara!
Okay, I'm going to do a writeup on this game, because I know that there will be things said in the Japanese media that I don't think will be fair.
The biggest thing that will come to the forefront will be Ojima being relieved with 2 outs and a runner on 1st. Yes, Ojima had been trying to stretch or do something with his heel or lower leg in the 9th. And he did get the first 2 outs after all. The Japanese way would be for Ojima to collapse on the mound and then replace him. (See games 1 and 2). By pulling him out "early" and the game ending thereafter, the manager will get criticized, and IMO unfairly.
We really don't know if he was injured before the game either. It's possible he was pitching with an injury - with certainly would explain his line today when you compare it to all the games prior. So to throw 180+ pitches under some time of lower body injury would be herculean at best. Considering how Ojima was apologizing to Mori-kantoku after the game, it's possible it was the case.
But if you add a possible injury to the ace, the pressure of a possible haru-natsu, and then for reliever Yamaguchi to not blow it for his ace? I mean you couldn't see it coming, but in hindsight was a possibility.
And I know for a good more than half of the roster it's their last year. But Ojima still has one year left. Now, he won't have the same backup behind him but there's still in theory one more year. Given the heat that Saibi took for working Anraku, Mori-kantoku - despite the 180+ pitches, could at least have been looking out for his ace a little.
The whole pitching deal with Urawa Gakuin will take away from the fact that Sendai Ikuei won the game. And they should get credit for that. But despite this winding up being a great game, it was still ugly on many levels. It was a bear of a game. A not-so-bad looking one at the end, but one nonetheless (I don't know if I used the right analogy there, but oh well). I mean, if you look at the box score, only one batter for Sendai Ikuei had more than one hit. And they scored 11 runs. That was how nutty this game really was.
Baba Kousuke (Sendai Ikuei) - W, 6 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 7 K, BB, 2 HBP
Kumagai Takahiro (Sendai Ikuei) - 4-6, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI
Kikuna Yuuki (Sendai Ikuei) - 1-2, 2B, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB
Hattori Masamitsu (Urawa Gakuin) - 2-4, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI
Nishikawa Genki (Urawa Gakuin) - 2-5, 2B, R, RBI