Our sandwich game today ends the opening round of the 95th Natsu Koushien. The winner here will play Maebashi Ikuei on the last game of Day 9. Not impossible, but not easy.
Anways we have an all-Kyushu matchup for the final 1st round game.
Shounan makes an appearance at Natsu Koushien after a 4 year hiatus. With defending champion Kamimura Gakuen eliminated by Kagoshima Jyouhou, the path was open to the final where fellow powerhouse Kagoshima Jistugyou waited. And in a game where hits were not at a premium, Shounan prevailed with a walkoff in the bottom of the 9th. Despite the team getting a lot of hits, there are no real standouts amongst the bunch.
As for the mound, Yamashita Atsuhiro is their ace, and from all indications your average lefty ace. Low 130s with the usual slider/curve combo.
Sasebo Jitsugyou successfully defended their Natsu title for their 5th summer appearance. It wasn't easy as they had to defeat Isahaya (a good 3rd tier team in Nagasaki), Kaisei, and lastly Nagasaki Nichidai. Versus Kaisei, they needed a 2-run 8th to move on, and then against Nagasaki Nichidai they were one of the many finals that day that went into enchousen thanks to a run in the bottom of the 9th, winning 2 innings later.
About the only consistent part of the Sajitsu offense is cleanup batter Tazaki. Considering that, Shounan might pitch around him more often than not. Pressure then will fall upon ace Kinoshita Itoshi, a soft tossing lefty who throws in the mid-upper 120s with the default slider and curve. Also, there is 3B Yamaguchi Akira who was actually called upon to start the final and pitched 6 innings. I cannot find information about his pitching through, so I expect Kinoshita to take the bulk of the innings.
So long as neither ace completely falls apart or isn't the ace they were in the natsu taikais, there will be some opportunities for both teams in this game.
Sasebo Jitsugyou (Nagasaki)
CF Sakai Kenya
RF Tahata Yuuto
3B Yamaguchi Akira
LF Tasaki Toshiki
C Yamada Shun
SS Kawabata Jyun
P Kinoshita Itoshi
1B Sasahara Takumi
2B Ushirokado Keita
CF Ikeda Taishi
LF Kumasako Mitsuhiro
SS Imada Tenshi
C Ogata Sousuke
3B Fujino Yuuta
1B Hongou Kentarou
P Yamashita Atsuhiro
RF Ootani Shinpei
2B Shimada Kiyohita
11:45 - First Pitch!
Sakai way early on offspeed pitch, goes one handed and grounds out to 2nd.
Tahata chases a high fastball and flies out to right.
Apparently the curve that Yamashita has is a slow curve (mid-upper 90s). Slider is in high 110s-low 120s.
Yamashita goes full on Yamaguchi, and while he hits the glove, it's inside and he walks Yamaguchi to bring up Tasaki.
Wild pitch from Yamashita sends Yamaguchi to 2nd, but that becomes of inconsequence when he walks Tasaki on 4 straight.
But Yamashita gets Yamada to chase a sinker down in the zone to get out his self-made pinch!
Ikeda with a seeing-eye single that gets past Tasaki into center! Yamanoguchi-kantoku has Kumasako bunt him along into scoring position for Imano.
He hits a chopper back up the middle! Ushirokado with it goes to 1st for the out, but Ikeda moves to 3rd.
Kinoshita gets Ogata to chase a slider out of the zone for the 3rd out and the leadoff base hit doesn't come to hurt him early.
First pitch Kawabata flies out to right.
Counterpart Kinoshita works the count full, but immediately walks back to the when Yamashita misses the glove with his change but right over the plate for strike 3.
Yamashita missing again with his location and walks Ushirokado, flipping the lineup back to the top and Sakai.
Sakai goes to swing early and grounds out to 1st to end the inning. If I was Sajitsu, I'd be extra patient on Yamashita and make him throw strikes, because he's either missing wide or low.
Kinoshita working fast, and Fujino hits a comebacker that Kinoshita leisurely fields and throws to 1st.
Kinoshita's first really bad pitch hits Hongou to put him on. Yamanoguchi-kantoku wants Yamashita to bunt, but winds up behind 1-2. Three-bunts and lays it down.
Ootani liner back up the middle past the stab of Kinoshita! Hongou coming home, NO!
Sakai with a strike right to home plate and Hongou scrambles back to 3rd! Nice throw!
Yamanoguchi-kantoku sends Ootani! Yamada drops ball and he's in without a throw!
And on Day 5, I finally hear 残酷な天使のテーゼ...
And Kinoshita works out of the jam tying up Shimada on an inside fastball! Nicely done!
Yamaguchi again being patient, has another full count, and draws another walk! Tasaki senses a strike from Yamashita and singles to right! Sajitsu with their first good opportunity in the game!
But Yamada hits a grounder right to Fujino! He goes to 2nd to start the inning ending 5-4-3 double play!
Shounan's batters attacking early in count, but not timing up the pitches. 2 quick groundouts from Ikeda and Kumasako.
Imada decides to wait and takes the cut ball through the right side for a solid single.
Except that he then gets caught taking off early and is run down 1-3-6 to end the inning!
Kawabata chases a full count fastball up in the zone, but still manages to hit a hard grounder to short. Imada's throw is wide, but Hongou makes the tag for the out.
Kinoshita completely fooled on the slider, goes one-handed and grounds to 2nd.
Yamashita almost gets the clean inning, but then hits Sasahara with a slider to put him on. This allows Ushirokado to bat and the lineup to turn over next inning.
Ushirokado grounds to short and Imano takes it himself to 2nd to end the inning.
Ogata gets another leadoff runner for Shounan, inside outing a pitch the other way for a base hit.
Fujino showing bunt, lays it down, but it's too hard and Kinoshita fires to 2nd. It's high, but Kawabata stretches to make the out.
Yamanoguchi-kantoku believing this to be a close game has Hongou bunt as well and he does successfully.
So it's now up to a one-timer from Yamashita to get the run in.
But Yamashita swings and misses on a slider to end the inning.
So Sasebo Jitsugyou's Shimizu-kantoku used to be a coach over at Seihou. Traitor. (I kid. Managerial jobs are always what coaches strive for so the fact he got one I'm happy about. But to a rival school.. aargh.
Anyways, Sakai with a drive to center! Ikeda running back, but he goes full bore as it goes over his head. One hops to the wall and Sakai in with a double.
Shimizu-kantoku looking to have Tahara bunt. He lays one down that stays on the line, and Hongou has to play. Sakai advances to 3rd.
Yamaguchi up, 2 walks on the day. No bunt so far.
SANSHIN!! Yamaguchi perhaps looking to hit instead of getting on base, chases a screwball for the 2nd out!
Tasaki up, and while he's waiting for a good pitch, Yamashita gets ahead 1-2.
Tasaki gets around on an inside fastball and drives it to left! Kumasako running back towards the foul pole...
...and makes the catch!
Tasaki get a lot of that pitch, but not enough!
Ootani catches a hanging slider and drives it to left center! That's to the wall for a leadoff double for Ootani!
Shimada for a bunt and the first pitch is up and in! He tries to get out of the way but it hits the bat! After another failed attempt, he goes for the three-bunt and lays it down! Sasahara charging in looks 3, but ends up going to 1.
Ikeda showing safety squeeze, but like Shimada goes behind 0-2. Waste pitch shows nothing.
Yamanouchi-kantoku calls for three-bunt squeeze and Ikeda gets a high pitch to bunt!
Kinoshita charging, gets to ball, but can't field it cleanly! Has to go to 1st and Ootani scores! 1-0 Shounan!!
Kumasako tries a safety bunt but is easily thrown out as we head to the break.
Despite Yamashita's perceived control issues, (4 BB, 1 HBP), he's managed to give up nothing. Meanwhile, Kinoshita has left pitches too much in the zone, allowing early baserunners (3 leadoff baserunners) ending up in the 1 run.
Sajitsu continues to try and aggressively swing their way out of the shutout, but it's not working against Yamashita.
Yamada and Kawabata both hit routine grounders to 3rd...
And after swinging his way to 0-2, Kinoshita walks back to the dugout after watching a fastball on the outside corner.
One down and grounder to 2nd by Ogata bounces off Ushirokado's glove for an E4.
Fujino bunts him along to 2nd for the one timer.
Hongou with a hard grounder to the gap in short, Kawabata makes the backhanded sliding stop and throws to 1st! Sasahara makes the catch, but is pulled off the bag! He goes back and tags it for the 3rd out! Nice play!
Sasahara trying to play the patience game, but Yamashita puts a fastball on the outside corner for strike 3!
Ushirokado gets ahead 2-1, but thinks he'll get a good pitch and doesn't. Grounds out to 3rd.
Sakai behind 1-2, grounds right to Hongou who takes it himself for the 3rd out.
Time running down for Sajitsu their 2nd straight appearance, and Yamashita seems to be locating better now.
The aces having trouble against each other especially as Yamashita turns around to walk back after getting frozen by Kinoshita.
Ootani golfs an 0-2 pitch, Sakai and Tahata coming in, both charging in but it falls between them and Ushirokado for a base hit!
Once again, Yamanoguchi-kantoku is calling for a bunt with 1 down and Shimada obliges. But Ikeda is called going around on a slider and is retired 2-3 to end the inning.
Sajitsu's batters look clueless out there. 1-1 to Tahata and he pinwheels around on a screwball. Manages to fill up the count though.
However he swings on an up and in fastball and grounds out to 2nd.
Yamaguchi can't do much but fall behind when a 99 slow curve comes in for strike 2... And he goes down swinging on yet another sinker.
Tasaki getting fastballs all day, but can't get enough contact. He flies out to center to end the inning.
Kinoshita at a very tidy 83 pitches, but trailing 1-0.
Kumasako with a chopper up to the left side. Yamaguchi takes it off the short hop and fires to 1st for the out!
Imada gets his 2nd hit with a single to left center.
Hit-and-run! Ogata misses, but the ball is in the dirt and Yamada can only block it! Ogata then grounds to 2nd advancing the runner for Fujino.
Kinoshita gets him to ground to short to end the inning...
...but they're out of time now. They have to score here or they go home.
5-6-7 batters up for Sajitsu.
Two screwballs, and Yamashita is up 0-2 on Yamada.
Yamashta tries it one too many times and Yamada takes it back up the middle for a base hit!
Shimizu-kantoku calling for the bunt from Kawabata...
He shows it, but takes a couple before attempting one. But he fouls it off and he's behind 1-2...
Yamashita trying to get him to bite on a screwball, but no dice.
Kawabata swings away but fouls it off.
Hit-and-run!! Kawabata makes contact and singles through the left side! Runners on 1st and 2nd with no out and Yamanoguchi-kantoku calls time as Fukuyama comes out to the mound.
And while #15 Inoue was in the on-deck circle, he's called back for #14 Sakamoto. Is he there to bunt?
Yes! And he lays a beautiful one down! Looks like Inoue was there if Kawabata bunted. But with no out, he sent in a bunter.
Gyakuten runner in scoring position for captain Sasahara. He's 1-2 on the day.
Looks like they're not really pitching to him. Yamashita falling behind 2-0. Screwball inside 3-0, and I think this is an unintentional intentional walk.
Yep, they make it official as they pitch out.
Another conference now as Ushirokado comes in. Hes 0-2 with a walk.
He's taking pitches but Yamashita gets the outside corner for 1-1. Goes after a fastball on the outer half and fouls it off!
Fastball outside, ball 2.
Sets up inside... Grounder to 3rd!! Fujino goes to 2nd for one, ball to 1st... double play! Ushirokado grounds into the game ending DP.
That's unfortunate as perhaps with an inside pitch, it might have been better for Ushirokado to take the pitch, but that's all in hindsight.
In reality, Sajitsu just couldn't solve the screwball or perhaps figure a strategy to not go after it. They had some chances early when Yamashita was not as accurate, but after that couldn't mount anything until the 9th inning, and by that time the pressure had built against them.
For Shounan, Yamashita certainly used his screwball to the fullest extent. Some timely hitting and well timed bunts, as it were, were enough to advance today. If they thought that bunting was necessary in this game, they'll need it against Maebashi Ikuei where they will get very few baserunners.
Yamashita Atsuhiro (Shounan) - CG, SHO, 5 H, 6 K, 5 BB, HBP
Ootani Shinpei (Shounan) - 3-3, 2B, R, SB
Imada Tenshi (Shounan) - 2-4
Ikeda Taishi (Shounan) - 1-3, RBI
Kinoshita Itoshi (Sasebo Jitsugyou) - CG, ER, 7 H, 5 K, HBP
Sakai Kenya (Sasebo Jitsugyou) - 1-4, 2B
Yamada Shuu (Sasebo Jitsugyou) - 1-4