We start off with Yokohama. Not good enough to go to senbatsu, they wound up slogging a tough road to the finals, beginning with their quarterfinal matchup with Toukou Gakuen and ace Matsui. After his performance last year, everyone anticipated his return this year.
But this is Kanagawa prefecture, where there are a vast number of teams - very good teams. And in a single elimination format, one bad game - heck even one bad inning, can spell a team's downfall.
And so it was with Toukou Gakuen facing Yokohama. Takahama and Asama, the two players from Yokohama listed in magazines as "Matsui-killers" lived up to the billing, blasting solo HRs to send him home crying like every other team that would fall.
After that it was Yokohama Hayato, who has been a thorn in their side many times over the last couple of years. This time, they would prevail and move on to face a former powerhouse in Toukaidai Sagami - who after the loss of Hifumi Shinta hasn't quite been the same. While they went 5 scoreless, a 7-0 mercy rule loss continued that trend.
Finally it would be Hiratsuka Gakuen, a 3rd Tier team who finally had their chance to go to Koushien, if only they could beat Yokohama. They actually held their own, but in the end it would not come to pass, a 3-run 5th the only mistake they would make.
Yokohama is not considered one of the top title contenders because of their inconsistent ability to generate offense. A team that can't hit, can't really score and therefore can't win. Ace Itou Shouji doesn't throw particularly hard (low 130s), so he'll have to be on point.
They'll start their campaign in the second round will be Marugame, a school whose only real opposition wound up being in their second game against Ootamae Takamatsu where they had to rally from 3-1 down in the final innings. Otherwise, they wound up breezing through a Kagawa taikai defeating schools such as Takamatsu Shougyou and Jinsei Gakuin with only token opposition.
Marugame apparently depends on the one big inning, having done so against the aforementioned opponents. So Ace Miyazaki Koudai will shoulder the burden as Yamamoto-kantoku doesn't depend on anyone else. Miyazaki throws high 120s with an apparent slider, shuuto and curve.
The fact that Yokohama would have trouble with a team like Hiratsuka Gakuen in the final could be an indicator of fatigue on their part later on in Koushien. But otherwise they could be seen as a title contender. Which is bad news for Marugame because despite the blowouts, Kagawa hadsn't been that great of a performing prefecture as of late, and having to square off against one of the larger prefectures doesn't usually mean good things.
By the way, Yokohama must have the most twitter accounts of all of them. From ace Itou Shouji, I can get to about 4 other accounts! All of which, of course get a lot of attention from the girls. I've linked them here for your amusement. Oh, and did I mention that of the the starting 9 there's 2 3rd years?
3B Kawaguchi Ryou
2B Matsuzaki Kenzou
CF Asama Daiki
SS Takahama Yuuto
1B Watanabe Yoshiaki
C Takai Daichi
LF Hasegawa Hiroyuki
P Itou Shouji
RF Nemoto Kouta (#15)
SS Kurumatani Kouta
1B Monda Naoki
3B Tsugita Atsushi
CF Ikeuchi Taketo
LF Minami Ryousuke
C Yuda Ryouhei
2B Kawamoto Akira
RF Kawanishi Yuushi
P Miyazaki Koudai
08:00 - First Pitch
Kawaguchi with a liner right to Tsugita for the first out.
Matsuzaki jammed and a soft liner to Kawamoto.
Miyazaki thinks he has strike 3 on a fastball on the outside corner, but doesn't get the call.
Wouldn't you know it next pitch lined past Tsugita for a double.
No consequence though as Miyazaki cooly retires Takahama on a fly to left.
Hm... Itou struggling a bit with control as he walks Kurumatani to start the game. Monda tries to bunt him over, but Kawaguchi goes to 2nd and just gets Kurumatani for the first out.
Tsugita swings over a slider and goes down for the 2nd out.
And Ikuechi pinwheels around on an outside fastball as the side is retired. 2 K's but control isn't quite there.
Well, Miyazaki returns favor by walking Watanabe (who is Watanabe-kantoku's grandson). Takai tries to bunt the runner along, but fouls off his attempts and falls behind 0-2.
Three-bunt, but it goes foul! One down for Yokohama.
They try the hit-and-run but Hasegawa fouls it off...
Once again, but it's right to Tsugita! Double pumps, but still goes to 2nd for one, and the throw to 1st completes the double play!
Itou still not quite consistent with his delivery. But on a full count gets Minami to lean down and golf a ball to left.
Yuda not wasting much time, gets on a fastball and lines it to right.
After Kawamoto tries a couple of safety bunts, he connects on a slider, but the ball is on the outer half and he can only hit it to CF Asama.
Kawanishi fights off a couple of pitches, but then lunges out and misses a slider for the 3rd out. Itou still not hitting his spots, but not missing in the wrong places either.
Itou with routine grounder to short and it's last batter Nemoto.
Nemoto gets around on the fastball and lines it into the gap in left center past Minami for a double!
Kawaguchi with a ball against to the left side, this time it gets past a diving Tsugita down the line! Nemoto easily scores and it's 1-0 Yokokou (nickname for Yokohama)!
Matsuzaki with a ball to the right side, Monda makes great diving block! But he can't get the ball quickly enough to flip to Miyazaki! All safe and Yamamoto-kantoku calls for time.
No help! Asami with drive to left center! Ikeuchi running to ball, but it's over his head. Kawaguchi and Matsuzaki come around to score without a throw and Yokokou up 3-0 on Marugame!
Oddly enough, Miyazaki does cleanup batter Takahama out for a second time with a groundout to 3rd. Watanabe grounds to short to end the inning, but a mini barrage puts up a quick 3 runs.
Meanwhile Itou with a lead cruising along. #9 Miyazaki up, hacking at everything finally grounds out to 1st.
Itou then gets Kurumatani to chase a changeup inside for the 2nd out.
And Monda his a ball off of Itou, but Takahama adjusts and throws to 1st for the 3rd out.
Miyazaki still catching too much of the plate. One down and Hasegawa liner to left for a single.
The bottom of the lineup for Yokokou may not be as strong as Watanabe-kantoku is having Itou bunt the runner along with one out (which he does).
Nemoto with the double that started off the 3rd, hits comebacker that Miyazaki stabs at and fields for the 3rd out.
Tsugita with a liner over a leaping Takahama for a leadoff single! Chances are Marugame will be bunting.
Ikeda does, but Itou gets to it quickly, fires to 2nd and cuts down the lead runner.
Itou plunks Minami and now Marugame has a chance to get a run back, now with Yuda up.
Lines a ball foul down the 3rd base line, but winds up chasing a high fastball away for the 2nd out! Not very happy with himself (as he should be).
Kawamoto with chopper to short. Takahama with quick throw to 1st just beats Kawamoto for the 3rd out.
Now Miyazaki having trouble finding the strike zone walks leadoff batter Kawaguchi to start the inning.
Miyazaki now behind Matsuzaki 2-0...
So far, not much luck on bunting on either side. Matsuzaki lays down bunt, but Miyazaki is able to go to 2nd for the force.
Asama grounder under a diving Monda for a base hit! Matsuzaki heading to 3rd. Kawanishi fumbles with the ball and allows Asama to go to 2nd. Things appear to be getting worse for Marugame as Yamamoto-kantoku calls time.
Takahama does the bat flip as he absolutely crushes a ball. Minami runs out to the wall, but is looking up the entire way.
After being quiet, Takahama declares his presence in a big way. 6-0 Yokokou.
Watanabe and Takai ground out, but Marugame may be done before we hit the mid-game break as they don't really have a relief staff for Miyazaki.
Marugame not able to really mount any type of counter. Miyazaki gets one out single, but Kurumatani grounds into fielder's choice at 2B, and Monda just waves the bat down and up on a slider for the 3rd out.
We hit the break, and I think Marugame looks rather broken. I think it may be a struggle to score even one run at this point.
Well, despite that the defense is doing what they can. Miyazaki gets 3 groundouts against the bottom of the lineup with a great assist from Kurumatani on a diving stop and throw to beat out Nemoto.
With the big lead, Itou can control the game.
Tsugita chases a changeup for the first out, while Ikeuchi can only look back at Itou after watching a fastball catch the outside corner.
Minami works a walk, but Yuda quickly pops out to Takahama for the 3rd out
One down and Matsuzaki with a base hit to left.
Asama up and no bunting here. But he cues a ball up the 3rd base side like a bunt! Miyazaki scrambles to field it, and the throw to 1st is way over everything! No one is backing up 1st and the runners run free. Matsuzaki scores and Asama slides in safe when Yuda tries to get him at 3rd. 7-0 Yokohama.
Takahama spins around and hits another swinging bunt up the 3rd base side. But Yuda can take his time as Takahama seemed all turned around.
Watanabe still left without a hit as he grounds to 1st for the 3rd out.
Marugame getting one-off hits but not much else. This inning it's Kawanishi who gets the one-out hit, but Miyazaki and Kurumatani strand him there.
Miyazaki issues another walk, this time to Takai to leadoff the inning. Once again an unsuccessful bunt, this time by Hasegawa, which leads to Itou grounding into the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Well, another lone baserunner for Marugame as Itou hits Tsugita.
Wait, what's this? Ikeda liner down the left field line.... fair! That'll go to the wall! Tsugita gets to 3rd and Marugame might avoid the dreaded shutout!
Not so fast says Itou! Full count to Minami, has balls to throw a slow curve that Minami just can't wait for. 2 down.
Yura up, waits for his pitch, and takes 4 straight for manrui.
Yamamoto-kantoku sends in #16 Ono to hit for Kawamoto...
But I don't think he told him a walk is a good as a hit because three pitches later, the side is retired (Itou just pounds him senseless inside).
#14 Tateoka comes in for PH Ono and goes to 2B.
Nemoto with a bunt to the left side, Miyazaki tries to fire to 1st, but it pulls Monda of the bag.
Kawaguchi with a ball off Miyazaki. Kurumadani makes adjustment and goes to 1st.
#9 Ono to hits for Matsuzaki. Grounds to 3rd where Tsugita realizes Nemoto is coming his way and goes back to tag him out. 2 down.
Asama collects his 4th (official scoring has it at 5) hit of the day with a ball right through the gap at short.
And while Takahama had the 3-run HR, he's been silent the rest of the game. Full count, he goes down swinging on an inside slider.
#14 Endou comes in for PH Ono to play 2B.
Can Marugame avoid the shutout?
Kawanishi with a base hit back up the middle! Maybe they can!
But Miyazaki can only turn and head back in resignation as he's punched out on a fastball on the outside corner.
Kurumatani takes a ball the other way past Kawaguchi for a base hit! There's still a chance.
Monda though hits the first pitch and flies to center! Kawanishi advances to 3rd but there's 2 out.
Last chance in Tsujita.
He does it! Pulls a slider through the left side and Marugame is on the board! 7-1!
Ikeuchi gives a ball a ride to deep left, but Hasegawa trotting to in front of the wall makes the catch for the 3rd out.
Yokohama with a dominating 7-1 win, Marugame at least prevents shutout.
Yokohama scored their runs in bunches, with 4 consecutive hits in the 3rd, and the big 3-run HR in the 5th accounting for most of the runs. The bottom of the Yokohama lineup perhaps is concerning as everyone below Takahama got a total of 3 hits, 2 of them from Nemoto.
But the top of the lineup was strong enough to overwhelm Marugame.
On the mound Itou was racking up the Ks. Marugame seemed lost at the plate, and Itou wasn't missing in the wrong places until perhaps the 8th inning. It didn't wind up being an issue, but it could be later.
As for Marugame, they had their chances early in the 1st, but after that they were scattered until the 8th where by that time there was added pressure to score. Sadly it's another one-and-done appearance for Marugame.
Itou Shouji (Yokohama) - CG, ER, 8 H, 13 K, 2BB, 2 HBP
Asama Daiki (Yokohama) - 4-5 (Official line has 5-5), 2 2B, R, 2 RBI
Matsuzaki Kenzou (Yokohama) - 2-4, 3 R
Takahama Yuuki (Yokohama) - 1-5, HR, R, 3 RBI
Tsugita Atsushi (Marugame) - 2-4, RBI, HBP
Kawanishi Yuushi (Marugame) - 2-4, R