So, what do we have in store today?
First up is a school who I will unapologetically root for versus one that made me very sad a couple weeks back.
I started noticing Ueda Nishi (and their neighboring school Ueda Chikuma) only after I (a) visited my friend in Togura/Kamiyamada (which is a stones throw away from Ueda) who runs an ryokan there, and (b) when I noticed the stratification of schools in each prefecture and wanted to root for schools that continuously hit the ceiling of the prefectural powerhouses.
Both Ueda Nishi and Ueda Chikuma fit the bill - though now I guess with a little more stratification, Ueda Nishi is a private school and Ueda Chikuma is not.
Anyways, Ueda Nishi had been reaching as high as the semifinals, but couldn't push past that point. Around the time of 2009, they began fading back into the distance, only to reemerge in 2011. Now, there were still some fits and starts - as such a 3rd tier school is apt to do, but in the fall of 2012 they got their groove on, losing just 3 games starting from the fall taikai. Once to Saku Chousei in the fall prefectural final, and then twice interestingly to Tsuruga Kehi by margins of 1-2 and 2-3 respectively.
While their offense is certainly nothing to write home about - especially given the strength of the prefecture, their pitching was the real key to getting them their first Koushien appearance.
But it wasn't one pitcher. 5 different pitchers took the hill for Ueda Nishi in their 6 games. The top 3 in IP are on the roster for Koushien. Looking on the records the two pitchers that Hara-kantoku goes to are ace # Urano Takashi and #10 Yanagizawa Kazuki. #11 Hanazato Yuusuke is on the roster as well, and was called upon to finish the semifinal game against Chikyuu Kankyou.
Yanagizawa is a righty who can reportedly hit the low 140s, but probably sits more in the high 130 range. Urano is a southpaw who probably sits in the mid 130s with a good slider.
The duo will probably have their work cut out for them because they're paired up with the Chiba champions Kisaradzu Sougou.
That team broke my heart when they defeated Narashino in the final. Judging from the games I did see, it was apparent they were still rebuilding. Yet they reached the finals, and had a chance against defending champs Kisaradzu Sougou.
Kisaradzu Sougou also sent Senshuudai Matsudo home in the semifinals. That enchousen loss became their 3rd straight enchousen loss in the Natsu taikai, with each loss a further step up the ladder.
So I fully expect them to continue their streak of breaking the hearts of my fellow kokoyakyu fans when they defeat Ueda Nishi (sic).
Seriously though, the school this year has not been really been consistent in any one aspect of the game. Sometimes the pitching rules the day as it was against Senshuudai Matsudo, sometimes it would be the offense (Narashino).
Ace Chiba Takao doesn't throw particularly hard (low 130s) and reportedly has a slider, cutter and slow curve. #10 Oikawa Shouta and #12 Nasu Yuuta have been used, but in key games it is all Chiba.
Ueda Nishi (Nagano)
LF Takeda Tatsuki
2B Arai Keisuke
3B Toya Taketo
1B Satou Tatsunori
RF Kozaki Shuuzou (#15)
SS Kanao Kouya
P Urano Takashi
C Ootsuka Masaya
CF Miyazawa Yoshinari
Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba)
CF Azuma Tatsuya
3B Okada Yuuhei
LF Saruta Mizuki
RF Tanida Ryou
1B Sagae Kaito
2B Sakasai Shou
SS Himura Atsushi
C Akiba Kouta
P Chiba Takao
08:00 - First Pitch!
It's a relatively easy first for Chiba to start. In between 2 groundsouts from Takeda and Toya, he gets Arai to chase a slider away for a his first K.
It looks like there will be a lot of contact here as Urano gets three hard groundouts to start the game.
Satou with a deep drive to right, but perhaps the hamakaze is preventing balls from leaving early as Tanida parks under it in front of the fence for the first out.
"Bench starter", #15 Kozaki gets Ueda Nishi's first single with a ball to left center!
But he's wiped out immediately as Kanai grounds into a textbook 6-4-3 double play.
So much for the contact theme. Tanida and Sagae both chase a slider away for Urano's first 2 Ks, and Sakasai pops up to Kanai behind 2nd.
Chiba definitely a contact pitcher.
Urano decides to go for a slow curve, and grounds to Okada. Ootsuka has 2 strikes and also grounds out to 3rd.
And apparently #9 batter Miyazawa's father is Ghanan if I heard the announcers right.
Anuyways, Chiba paints the corner according to the home plate umpire and the side is retired.
No surprise, another groundout, this time by Himura.
Akiba with a grounder to short, Kanai with it for the... throws it away! No one is backing up (that's rare), and Akiba takes 2nd!
Chiba up and Kojima-kantoku not bunting. Hits a slow grounder to short, Kanai charging, throws, and a good stretch by Satou for the out.
Back to the top of the order and Azuma. He hits a comebacker to Urano! Runs and tosses to 1st and side is retired!
Takeda with a shot down the right field line... fair!! That rolls all the way to the fence and Takeda is in with a leadoff double! Arai with the textbook bunt moves him to 3rd base for Toya!
Chiba and Akiba consistently pitching away to Toya to try and prevent squeeze, induce weaker contact.
Toya still pulls one, but right to short! Himura with it, AHHHH!!
Himura whiffs and the ball goes behind him into left! Takeda, who was heading back to 3rd, comes home and Ueda Nishi leads 1-0!
Satou up to try and continue the momentum, but he grounds into the 2nd inning-ending double play to retire the side. But an error by the Kisaradzu defense costs them the run!
Urano racking up Ks faster than I was expecting. Okada chases a slider on the outside corner for his 3rd K.
Huh, another buried slider, another swing and miss. Ootsuka throws to 1st to complete the out, but that's 4 Ks now...
Cleanup batter Tanida makes contact, but it's a grounder right to Arai for the 3rd out.
Chiba just refusing to pitch inside it seems.
And Kozaki can focus on the outside part and flies that one-handed swing to poke one into center for a leadoff single. Kanai just completely deadens a bunt to move him along.
Oh hey, 2-0 to Urano, he pitches inside... for a ball. And then walks him on 4 straight. At least it sets up the force I guess.
Ootsuka stepping in. He's showing bunt?
Grounder to the left side... where is the SS? He's way over towards 2nd and can't scramble back!
It's through to left and Kozaki is being sent home!! Throw from Saruta... not in time! Some aggressive running there gives Ueda Nishi the 2-0 lead!
AH! But that aggressive running gets them into trouble! Miyazawa shows bunt, but doesn't offer and Urano is caught off the bag! Akiba throws to 2nd and he's run down for the 2nd out!
Miyazawa flies out to center and the inning is over. But this is a bit of a surprise through 4½ innings!
Oof. Urano's sweeping slider is wreaking havoc amongst the Kisaradzu ranks. Sagae chases a slider down and away for Urano's 5th K.
Sakasai behind 1-2, doesn't bite on the slider, takes a 3-2 ball up and in for a walk. 2nd baserunner for Kisaradzu today.
Sakasai setting the blueprint for the rest of the team. Himura not biting on anything low and he too draws a walk. Hara-kantoku calls time. Gotta throw strikes to get them to bite on the slider.
But don't give them a meatball! Akiba jumps on the first pitch and lines it to left center and past the defense. Miyazawa runs it to the wall, but both runners will easily score and we're douten at 2-2 on Kisaradzu's first hit.
Chiba with a chopper up the first base line, past Satou! Akiba comes around and just like that Kisaradzu Sougou takes a 3-2 lead!
Things are getting worse as Azuma singles to left! Runners on 1st and 2nd and still just 1 out! Okada then with a slow grounder to 3rd. Toya's throw pulls Satou off the bag and everyone's safe!
Manrui for Saruta and he hits a singles through the right side! Chiba and Azuma score to make it a 5-2 ballgame. Saruta is caught in between 1st and 2nd, but Okada does a good job of drawing attention at 3rd, plus no one covered 2nd on the rundown.
Tanida hits a chopper over Satou's head and that goes into right. 2 more score and it's 7-2 Kisaradzu.
That's the end of the day for Urano as Yanagisawa comes in. He retires the next two batters, but it's way too late. 11 batters and 7 runs later, we head into the break with Kisaradzu Sougou in full control.
Takeda tries to start the long road back with a blast to deep center. Azuma has to play the ball off the wall as Takeda comes in with a double.
Arai goes for the bust and hit (no run), but flies out to right. Though Takeda could take 3rd, but he doesn't go.
Even with the lead, Chiba isn't going aggressive in the zone. He throws outside 4 times, and walks Toya. Gojima-kantoku calls time, perhaps to tell Chiba to be just a little more aggressive in the zone. Not fat, aggressive.
Chiba still not pitching in the zone, though Satou chases one for what reason I don't know. He's having the same problem that Urano had earlier, and maybe Ueda Nishi is being patient...
OR NOT. Satou chases one more to make the count 2-2. And still goes after one but lines it foul.
He instead fights with the bat, lines a ball that Sagae picks and goes to 2nd for the force. 2 outs.
Kozaki also tries to swing his way through, though in his case he was 2-2. But he reaches out and hits one just a bit too hard and flies out to right to end the inning.
Judging by the way Ueda Nishi attacked the 1st & 2nd, 1 out situation, they won't change strategy or adjust out of norm to rally back.
Well, looks like Kisaradzu Sougou will try and quickly cruise to the win to rest their players. Bottom 3rd of the order swinging away, and are retired in just 5 pitches.
Kanai isn't too big to accept the walk and he does so to start the Lucky 7.
Yanagisawa though looking to hit, bust-and-runs a grounder to 1st for 1 out.
And when Ootsuka waits for a pitch? Chiba walks him. But the Ueda Nishi batters aren't committing to wait and wait like Kisaradzu did.
Miyazawa especially. He swings at two pitches and is behind 0-2 when at least one of them wasn't a strike.
And having put himself behind early, he swings and flies out to right for the 2nd out.
Takeda does try to swing the team back and chases change down and in, chops to 1st for the 3rd out.
Yep, Ueda Nishi at this rate will flail to the end.
Yanagaisawa records his first 2 Ks in Azuma and Okada before Saruta singles to center. Inning though end on very next pitch as Tanida grounds to 2nd.
Ueda Nishi showing guts by swinging away - retired in order in 5 pitches.
#9 Kobayashi comes in for Kozaki to play RF.
Himura collects his 1st hit on a soft liner past a diving Kanai, but other than that the inning goes along harmlessly.
#16 Watanabe comes in for Saruta in LF.
Kobayashi able to get a hack in and beats out an infield grounder to Himura. And for some reason down 5 goes for and steals 2nd to much applause.
Kanai's at least has learned the game of taking a walk and draws his 2nd.
#12 Kondou comes in to hit for Yanagisawa, bet he'll be swinging away.
Yep, and grounds to 2nd. Sakasai goes to 2nd for one.
Ootsuka too is swinging away and singles through to left. 7-3, and Gojima-kantoku calls for time.
Miyazawa up, after swinging on first pitch, winds up behing 0-2 and having to protect. Reaches down for a ball and pops up to Sagae for the 2nd out.
Takeda last chance for Ueda Nishi.
He gets under one and drives it to left center. ?! Watanabe is sprinting back?
It's over his head! Both Kondou and Ootsuka score to make it a 7-5 game!
Arai to continue the game, but he falls behind 1-2
Chases a high fastball and that's the game!
Kisaradzu Sougou behind the 7-run 5th defeat Ueda Nishi 7-5.
And really game boiled down to 2 points. When Kisaradzu Sougou finally stopped swinging at Urano's low offerings and Hara-kantoku told him he need to throw some strikes, Urano just left them over the plate for Kisaradzu to slap all over the place.
And second, Chiba had been pitching predominantly outside for most of the game. It was very much in the same vein as Urano. But Ueda Nishi couldn't commit to that strategy consistently as evidenced by the 7th:
- Walk, groundout, walk, flyout, groundout.
As it stand the boys from Nagano are crying and scooping their dirt, and Kisaragzu Sougou moves on. But Kisaradzu despite the 7 runs do not look like a strong team and are at risk in the next round.
Akiba Kouta (Kisaradzu Sougou) - 1-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI
Saruta Mizuki (Kisaradzu Sougou) - 2-4, R, 2 RBI
Takeda Tatsuki (Ueda Nishi) -3-5, 3 2B, R, 2 RBI
Ootsuka Masaya (Ueda Nishi) - 2-3, R, 2 RBI, BB
Kozaki Shuuzou (Ueda Nishi) - 2-3, R