It's been almost one whole week, and we finally get to see the ace that everyone's talked about for months, and has even been the subject of talk in the states - Saibi's Anraku Tomohiro. His run through Senbatsu was one that was documented and questioned thoroughly especially after his eventual breakdown not just in the finals, but in the semifinals as well.
Surprisingly, it almost didn't happen. Against Kawanoe in the semifinals they actually trailed 2-0 entering the 8th inning. But, they would rally for the victory and have no problems with Imabari Nishi for the title.
Anraku is still as advertised. Throwing even harder now - expect low-mid 150s with a cut ball, slider and curve. I don't know if he's going to try and hit 160 considering last spring, but he will throw hard.
The ony question for him now, can he last through the blazing (and I mean approaching 40C) heat to finish what he couldn't in the spring?
Sadly for me Mie wound up drawing the short straw. Interestingly, they actually had to defeat more than their share of strong teams to win the tournament. Starting in round 2 they barely beat out Inabe Sougou Gakuen 2-1. Then their final 3 games were against defending champ Matsusaka, Uji-Yamada Shougyou and then Komono. Oddly, they got through those games easier than against Inabe Sougou.
I don't have anything on ace Wakabayashi Hiroto, and offensively probably you can focus on Utsunomiya Azuma and Nishimura Koudai.
Other than that, I got no other info on these guys. (Which doesn't portend good things for them against Anraku... and I wanted Mie to win a game too...)
RF Yamashita Takuma
SS Hayashi Kanya (#13)
2B Usagawa Riku
P Anraku Tomohiro
3B Oota Yuuya
LF Goutouji Shin (#8)
1B Fujiwara Kouki
CF Machida Takahiro (#6)
C Kaneko Kouhei
LF Hamamura Eisaku
SS Nishimura Koudai
CF Nagano Hayato
2B Utsunomiya Azuma
1B Shimada Takumi
RF Ogawa Ryuusei
3B Seko Ren
C Kitade Kazuma
P Wakabayashi Hiroto
10:31 - First Pitch
Yamashita starts off the game on a great note with a single back up the middle. Kanya moves him along to 2nd.
Usagawa liner to short! Nishimura catches it, throws to 2nd
Utsunomiya misses the ball and it hits Yamashita in the face. The ball deflects back a good amount back to 3rd and he's pulled out for an injury runner.
And Wakabayashi gets Anraku to one-hand a swing and pop it up! Utsunomiya behind 2nd, makes the catch for the out.
After about a 10 minute delay, Yamashita has to be pulled. #15 Morita comes in to replace him
How will the delay affect Anraku?
Hamamura takes a 151 fastball the other way through short for a base hit!
Nishimura falls behind 0-2 trying to bun, goes for the three-bunt... but fails. One down.
Nagano gets a hold of a slider! Morita running back... it's over his head! Hamamura coming round 3rd, being waved home! Throw goes to 3rd and it's 1-0 Mie!
Wild pitch all the way to the backstop and Nagano scores to make it 2-0!
Anraku finally settles down as he gets Utsunomiya to chase a 151 fastball away for strike 2 and then Shimada makes contact on a 155 fastball but grounds out to 2nd.
But surprising start for Mieko here in the 1st as they jump on Anraku after the delay!
Ah, Wakabayashi hits Oota to start off the inning. Goutouji bunts him along to 2nd.
But Wakabayashi then hits Fujiwara! He's not making things easy on himself after being given a lead.
Then he turns around and gets Machida on a fastball outside for the 2nd out! He's almost out of it.
And then he walks Kaneko on 4 straight - it's manrui now!! What is going on?
He still can't throw a strike! Falls behind 2-0... 3-0!
He walks in a run, literally! Saibi gets a run back at 2-1!
Okita-kantoku calls time as Nishimura steps in. He'd better be waiting because Wakabayashi can't hit the broadside of a barn.
Nope, goes after the first pitch because I guess they think he'll have to just pump in a strike instead temporarily instead of whatever strategy they had.
But he flies out to deep right and the inning is over. Wakabayashi fortunate to have gotten away with just 1 run.
Ogawa lines a single to left off Anraku to lead off the 2nd! Seko bunts him into scoring position.
But Anraku has the upper hand against the bottom of Mie's order. Kitade is jammed and grounds to first. Wakabayashi goes after an outside fastball and grounds to 2nd.
Usagawa with a ball to left center! Hamamura sprinting to his left, dives... misses it!!
It goes all the way to the wall as Nagano backing up runs it down! Usagawa pushes for 3rd... slides in safely! Already douten chance for Saibi!
But Wakabayashi gets Anraku for the 2nd time! Popup to short, 1 down!
Back to control issues though as he falls behind Oota... and walks him. Runners at the corners for Goutouji.
Jammed! Blooper to right center! Nagano sprinting in... dives... can't get it!
It falls in and Usagawa scores. 同点! 2-2!
Machida with a base hit to center! Oota being waved home!! Throw from Nagano, up the 1st base line! Machida with the 逆転 timely and Saibi leads 3-2!
That'll be it for Wakabayashi. #11 Masaki comes in to replace him.
But there's no relief so far. Full count to Kaneko, gets hit for another manrui situation.
Morita comebacker, snagged by Masaki!! Goes to 1st, but the damage has been done. Wakabayashi's wildness costs his team the early 2-run lead!
Once again, baserunner for Mie! Hamamura takes a slider inside and singles back up the middle! Nishimura will bunt the douten run over.
Nagano gets jammed! Kanya behind the mound makes the catch for the 2nd out!
Utsunomiya up, and he's swinging away. 149 up, missed. 153 outside.. missed.
Anraku goes 154 and Utsunomiya goes down on 3 straight!
Masaki perhaps settling down as Kanya flies out to center.
Oh! He goes 143 to punch out Usagawa!
And then 145 to get Anraku? Wakabayashi was the main ace during the Mie taikai, so I'm confused now.
Anraku was never touted to be unhittable. That went to Matsui over at Toukou Gakuen.
Mie certainly getting their hacks in. Ogawa checks in with a single past a sprinting Usagawa for a one-out single.
Okita-kantoku goes for the hit-and-run! Seko though hits it right back to Anraku who goes to 1st for the 2nd out.
Kitade trying to get the douten runner home, takes an outside fastball the other way, but right to Usagawa for the 3rd out.
So Masaki throws low 140s with a slider in the low 130s.
Oota flies out to center to start the inning before Masaki hits Goutouji.
Fujiwara battling Masaki fouling of several pitches. Hits liner to right side, caught by Utsunomiya! Goes to 1st and doubles out Goutouji to end the inning!
Masaki with a ball to left center, but Goutouji over makes the catch.
Hamamura has Anraku's number this game as he singles back up the middle yet again!
If only Nishimura could have similar luck. Hig goun as he grounds to 2nd. Usagawa goes to 1st for the 2nd out.
And Anraku, decided to go with only fastballs, strikes out Nagano on 3 straight to end the inning.
Mie heads to the break having frittered away an early 2-0 lead. But they have been getting their knocks in against Anraku, so there still seems like a chance to get back in the gane.
Machida starts the inning taking a very close 3-2 pitch outside and drawing the walk.
Pitch gets away from Masaki and Machida takes 2nd!
Kaneko with a weak grounder to short allowing Machida to move 90 feet.
Morita gets the job done. Fly to right caught by Ogawa, but no chance at home. Machida scores to make it a 4-2 ballgame.
Kanya follows that up on the next pitch with a base hit to left.
Uh oh. Thinks may be falling apart for Masaki as Usagawa singles past Nishimura.
But once again the pitchers for Mie retire Anraku! He hits a liner to short and the damage is limited just 1 run.
Oof. Cleanup batter Utsunomiya chases a 150 fastball near the LH batters box for the 1st out.
Shimada elects to go after the slider but pops out to Fujiwara.
And Ogawa tries to get around on an Anraku fastball, but not quite, grounding to Usagawa for the 3rd out.
If there's something that Masaki is doing well, its going around the zone pitching outside, but also inside to the batters.
Oota chases a high slider for the 1st out, and then because I wrote that about him, he leaves one in the middle that Gotouji takes to right.
Fujiwara with a grounder to 3rd, Seko goes to 2nd... AH!!
Seko throws it low and it gets by Utsunomiya! Everyone's safe! Trouble for Mieko as Kaneko steps in...
Kaneko deep drive right! Ogawa, playing in, runs back but it's over his head!! Both runners score as Kaneko slides in with a 2-RBI triple to make to 6-2.
Morita with a blooper to left. Hamamura coming in dives, and can only trap it! Morita's RBI single makes it a 7-2 game.
Kanya flies out to center, but Saibi looks to be in control.
Okita emptying bench.#16 Watsuji hitting for Seko, flies out to left.
Kitade gets caught looking at a fastball on the outer half of the plate, and #17 Nakano hitting for Masaki grounds to short for a 1-2-3 inning.
Watsuji stays in the game to play 3B while #18 Imai comes in for PH Nakano and takes the hill.
He's a lefty who throws in the upper 120s, so nothing really special there.
He winds up walking Ankraku with 1 down, and Jyoukou-kantoku will try and play for a run as Oota bunts him over.
And the get it when Imai leaves one over that Goutouji drives over Hamamura's head for a double. 8-2 in favor of Saibi.
Fujiwara grounder to 2nd and the inning is over.
Hamamura gets a bad break as Kaneko sells the outside corner for the 1st out.
Nishimura comebacker to Anraku, and I think I've figured out what's been nagging me about Anraku right now. I'll explain after the game.
Nagano swings at a fastball high and in and pops out to Kanya for the 3rd out.
Imai almost gets a 1-2-3 inning after two quick retirements, but much like the entire game for Mie, he walks Morita.
Morita goes for 2nd, throw from Kitade skips by Nishimura and into center. Morita takes 3rd.
Kanya lines a single over Nishimura and it's a 9-2 ballgame.
Usagawa lines out to left and the inning is over.
Last chance for Mie.
Utsunomiya starts off the inning with a base hit to right.
Down 7, no bunting and Shimada with one to the left side past Kanya for a base hit. Runners on 1st and 2nd.
Ogawa up, and he hits a ball to center. Machida charging in, dives.. but misses it! Runners scramble to advance. Throw from Morita to 3rd... OVER EVERYONE!!! It goes into the camera well and the runners get 90 more feet. Utsunomiya scores to make it 9-3.
Eh? Now Anraku hits Watsuji and it's manrui!
#13 Yamaguchi to hit for Imai.
Liner to right! That falls in! Runners move a station and it's 9-4.
Hamamura liner to left! Goutouji running back, leaps!
IT'S OVER HIS HEAD!!
Goutouji flops on the grass as the ball goes to the wall! Machida backing up gets the ball in, but it's a 2-run double and it's 9-6!! With only one down!
Douten runner in Nishimura up. Drive to center!
But Machida is there for the catch. Yamaguchi comes home and it's a 9-7 game.
Douten runner still comes up in Nagano, but now there's 2 out.
Nagano last chance..
Fastball, grounder to 2nd! Usagawa with it, goes to 1st... game set!!
Anraku and Mieko makes it interesting in the 9th, but 7 runs just too much to overcome, Saibi advances 9-7!
Man, the one thing that endears me to Mie is the fact that it seems more than any other team, they wear their emotions on their sleeve. Doesn't even matter which year, you see a lot of them now crying and that's ok.
Oh, so the thing that was nagging me about Anraku. In the spirit of trying to preserve him is he just not throwing as hard as he could? Becaseu we saw him hit higher speeds on the gun.
But if you're conserving and then going for it whenever you like, doesn't that mess with your mechanics? And it's not like you can turn the speed on and off like a switch and still be effective. I mean there is the case of Verlander who gets stronger as the game goes along, but I could liken that to a slow warmup. That isn't this.
And the struggle in the 9th is concerning as well. It may very well be worth watching in their next game... Against Hanamaki Higashi in Day 10!
Anraku Tomohiro (Saibi) - CG, 7 ER, 11 H, 7 K, 0 BB/HBP
Goutouji Shin (Saibi) - 3-3, 2B, R, 2 RBI, BB, HBP
Morita Shouhei (Saibi) - 1-2, R, 3 RBI, 2 BB
Hamamura Eisaku (Mie) - 4-5, 2B, R, 2 RBI
Ogawa Ryuusei (Mie) - 3-4, R