Thursday, August 22, 2013

Day 15 - Final - Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) vs. Nobeoka Gakuen (Miyazaki)

And then there were 2...

And who saw this coming? If you did, you can take over my blog because you know a heck of a lot more than I do apparently (I could also just watch games again to watch games, but I digress.)

First of all Nobeoka Gakuen. 32 year old kantoku Shigemoto Kouji let out one hell of a scream after the final out was recorded. It has been a long road, one that almost didn't happen because St. Ursula battled with them the entire game before Nobeoka finally prevailed in the 10th.

Nobeoka has been the master of the mid-game adjustment. They have scored 15 of their 21 runs after the mid-game break. If you include the 5th inning, it becomes 19 of 21 runs.

I don't know what it is either, whether they spend the first time or so through the lineup assessing the pitcher and then striking, or if they know the mid-game break could affect a pitcher's rhythm and thus are somehow able to take advantage of it when other schools can't, but 9 of their 21 runs scored were scored in the 6th.

It's so prevailing that it may have been the reason why Hanamaki Higashi tried to attack ace Yokose Takahiro early in counts to try and get a lead before the eventual strike. But changing your strategy to something you're not used to just to try and preempt someone else's strategy doesn't generally lead to victory.

The last thing you need is to give ace Yokose an easy time on the mound. Hanamaki Higashi swung themselves to 9 Ks and 2 walks with a grand total of 3 hits. But in the Toyama Dai-ichi game, he was not as effective, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks and 3 runs in just 3 IP before Ide finished it out.

If we are to believe his interview after the Hanamaki Higashi win, Yokose will start the final - and why not? His one time he came out of he pen was his worst performance.

Maebashi Ikuei gets here having dominated Nichidai Yamagata from start to finish. They took my questions regarding their ability to score runs, laughed, and tore up my sheets. It's not that they scored a lot of runs, it's just that they scored them early so as to try and demoralize Nichidai Yamagata - who showed resiliency in the game against Meitoku Gijyuku.

Arai-kantoku made a key move before the game as Takahashi Tomoya went from the bottom of the lineup to 2nd and immediately rewarded him with a 3-3 effort with a 2B, a SB and 2 runs. Driving him in is the manager's son Arai Kaito, who only went 1-3, but has a sac fly and an effective groundout showing that he knows the situation and what he needs to do.

Interestingly the former #2 batter Tamura Hayato, moved down to #8 in the order and went 2-4 with a triple down the right field line.

On the mound, Takahashi Kouna has pitched all but the first 5 innings against Jyousou Gakuin. He's not the dominating ace that you'd associate with a championship team, but he scatters hits and walks and when he does get into a pinch he shuts the door.

However, I wonder if they'll send out their ace to start the game. It is the final, so perhaps he starts and then Kitagawa comes in. But chances are Kitagawa starts like the Jyousou Gakuin game and then Kouna would come in to close it out. The risk you run is much like their game against Jyousou Gakuin, and more prominently the 2006 final replay where Kikuchi Shouta started for Komadai Tomakomai instead of Tanaka Masahiro. Waseda Jitsugyou would score the opening run in the first, knock Kikuchi out and stay ahead for the rest of the game.

We just don't know a whole lot about their bullpen, unlike Nobeoka - who has 2 other pitchers that in the event of an emergency Shigemoto-kantoku can break the glass and go to. That's a comforting thought for a kokoyakyu kantoku.

I don't think there is a clear favorite, but if it does come down to the pitching - just from what we've seen in terms of depth, Nobeoka Gakuen has the advantage.

It's time for the final! This Natsu Koushien has been very enjoyable from start to finish, and I don't expect anything less from this game either! Play ball!

Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma)
CF Kudou Youhei
2B Takahashi Tomoya
SS Tsuchiya Keisuke
3B Arai Kento
C Ogawa Toshiki
RF Itagaki Fumiya
P Takahashi Kouna
LF Tamura Hayato
1B Kusunoki Hiroki

Nobeoka Gakuen (Miyazaki)
2B Kajiwara Shouto
SS Matsumoto Masaya
CF Sakamoto Ryougo
RF Iwashige Akihito
LF Hamada Shintarou
1B Tanaka Yuuki
3B Usuda Ryou (#14)
C Yanase Naoya
P Yokose Takahiro


12:01 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
First pitch Kudou swings at and grounds right to Kajiwara for the first out.

Ah, and it looks like Kajiwara was injured in the last game, and he can't go.  #5 Watarai comes in to take 3rd and Usuda goes to 2nd.

Tomoya looking for a pitch from Yokose, but Yokose looks to be careful around him. He walks him!

Yokose working outside to Tsuchiya, but he takes one back up the middle past Usuda into center!

Arai also working the count on Yokose, gets it full.

Single through to right! Tomoya being held at 3rd as Iwashige's throw goes right home on the fly! But still manrui for Maebashi with 1 out!

Oh no! Ogawa's swing is basically a bunt in front of home! Yanase picks it up, stands on home, goes to 1st, double play!!

Big chance for Maebashi Ikuei lost by an unlucky swing!

Bottom 1st
Watarai up, probably expecting to come in for Kajiwara, quickly grounds out to short.

Kouna falls behind Matsumoto 3-0, but comes back to fill up the count. Comes with another fastball and Matsumoto rolls one to Kusunoki for the 3rd out.

Sakamoto flies out to right and it's a 0 for both aces to start.

Top 2nd
Maebashi having to start from scratch against Yokose now here in the 2nd. Itasaka gets a hold of a fastball, but it's off the end of his bat and he flies out to center.

Kouna ahead in the count early, sees Yokose even it up and then goes after an inside fastball and roll it to short for the 2nd out.

And Tamura too can't get level on a low fastball and grounds to short. No problem for Matsumoto and the side is retired. That first inning though has to hurt.

Bottom 2nd
Kouna gets ahead quickly on Iwashige 0-2, then cant get him to chase on any of the next 3 balls. Has to put him away with a slider over the plate looking.

Hamada takes a close pitch outside for ball 3, gets jammed inside and hits a slow liner to short.

Tanaka with a grounder to the gap in short, Tsuchiya cuts it off in the gap, throws a 3 or 4 bouncer to 1st and Kusunoki makes the pick for the 3rd out!

Top 3rd
Kusunoki slow chopper up middle over Yokose's head! Usuda ranging over, but misses handle and won't have a play at 1st! Idfield hit for Maebashi!

No bunting from Kusunoki.

Kusunoki picked off! No! He's called for a balk! Kusunoki advances to scoring position!

But Kudou can't even advance him! He goes after the slow curve but pops out to Iwashige in shallow right.

EH? 1-1 to Tomoya and he tries the safety bunt, but fouls it off! Yokose tries the outside pitch to get him to chase, but NG. Then a slow curve and he just makes a late swing to foul it off.

And so with that, Yokose goes up and in and Tomoya has no chance.

Tsuchiya with a base hit past Tanaka, but Kusunoki can't go home because it's hit to Iwashige and he fires one back home for the 3rd out.

Arai comebacker up middle! It hits Yokose and stays near the mound! He recovers, throws to 1st and that's 3 outs! Another unfortunate event for Maebashi!

Bottom 3rd
あ。 Kouna hits Usuda to start the inning. Yanase lays down the bunt, but Kouna is right there on it, fires to 2nd, just gets Usuda, throw to 1st late.

Yokose bunting too. But falls behind 0-2. Does it anyways! Arai charges in throws to 2nd again, and they just get Yanase! Again late at 1st.

Watarai grounder to 1st  and that's the inning. Wonder if part of the bunting strategy is to try and put stress on the defense for later?

Top 4th
Ogawa can't check his swing on a fastball high and is called out.

Itagaki gets around on a fastball inside and singles to left. As expected no bunting.

But there's a hit-and-run on 2-2! Ball way inside and Kouna still manages to foul it off! Yokose goes fastball down and away and Kouna can't reach out to it.

Tamura down quickly 0-2 on a curve and slider in the zone. And Arai-kantoku decides instead to send Itagaki! Throw from Yanase, not even close! Itagaki is out by a mile and the inning is over.

Bottom 4th
Matsumoto being a thorn in Kouna's side. Behind 0-2, he spoils several of Kouna's pitches and works the count full.

Ball back up middle. Tsuchiya with the great pick, turn and throw to 1st... nice play!

Matsumoto liner to 3rd, Arai puts a glove on it, but can't secure the catch! Prevents a possible double though.

And that's key! Iwashige fists one to right and it gets over Tomoya for a base hit! Nobeoka Gakuen threatening!

He gets one of the 2 outs! Hamada hits a pop to Arai, infield fly called for the 2nd out.

Kouna though can't find the strike zone on Tanaka! He walks him and it's manrui for Nobeoka!

Arai-kantoku calls time.

Usuda chopper to 3rd! Arai has to wait for it... throws to AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

His throw right off the hand is high and goes over everything!! Sakamoto already in, Iwashige comes in and it's 2-0 Nobeoka Gakuen!

Kona can't find the outer half on Yanase and he walks him to load the bases again for counterpart Yokose.

Single to right! Tanaka scores! Usuda coming home, throw from Itagaki... in time!

But Nobeoka extends the lead to 3-0! That's usually death for the opponent, but how will Maebashi respond?

Top 5th
Tamura with a ball to left! Hamada running back to the wall! Still running... Looking up!!


That's how they respond. #8 batter Tamura with a leadoff HR and it's 3-1!

Kusunoki with the safety bunt. Bobbled by Yokose! He has no play!

Kudou with a base hit to the right side! Kusunoki taking 3rd and the douten runner is in scoring position!

That's going to be it for Yokose! Shigemoto-kantoku sends in #11 Ide in relief.


Tomoya lays down the perfect squeeze and the defense is caught off guard! Ide can only go to 1st and it's now 3-2!! And the douten runner is at 2nd!!

Oh? What's this! Ide walks Tsuchiya on 4 pitches! Pinch for Nobeoka!

And now he's 3-0 to Arai!

Arai with one off the bat, but it's looks like he got it caught at the end of the bat and flies out to center! Kudou was halfway and did not tag up! 2 down!

Ogawa ahead in the AB, works the count full...

Single through to right! Kudou rounding 3rd... he scores with no throw!


And that's it for Ide! Shigemoto-kantoku scrambling as #10 Nasu comes in.

No help! He walks Itagaki on 4 straight and it's manrui for Maebashi Ikuei! Shigemoto-kantoku calling time, anything to stop the bleeding.

And it works! Kouna hits a grounder to 3rd. Watarai goes to 1st and the inning is finally over, but not before Maebashi counters to tie the game!!

Bottom 5th
Two quick outs from the top of the Nobeoka order. Watarai pulls one right to Kusunoki for the first out, then Matsumoto tries the drag bunt to the right side with no success.

Sakamoto with a line shot that tips off Kouna's glove and up the middle to center for a base hit!

But Kouna shuts the door with a slider up and in and we're at the break!

In a surprising development Nobeoka strikes earlier than expected, only to give it right back with interest as they're on their 3rd pitcher! The pitching advantage has disappeared for Nobeoka! How will it play out!

Top 6th
Tamura, with a ball off the end of the bat, back to Nasu for the 1st out.

Nasu with a rare K as Kusunoki goes after a fastball down and in. 2 down!

Kudou with ball off end of bat, drives it the other way all the way down the line and hits off the top of the padding in front of the foul pole! He's in with a double!

Tomoya grounder to short, Masumoto can't field it cleanly! Goes to 3rd...


Kudou caught rounding 3rd too far and Matsumoto alertly goes there for the out! Side retired!!!

Bottom 6th
Once again Kouna falls behind a batter 3-0, this time Hamada, gets back to full and hits comebaker to Kouna for the first out.

He gets ahead of Tanaka and gets a flyout to left.

And it's a 1-2-3 inning for Kouna post-break! Usuda weak grounder to 2nd and the side is retired!

Top 7th
Tsuchiya with a rip down the right field line... FAIR!!  Takes a hop to the wall, and Iwashige fumbles with the ball at the wall! Tsuchiya in with a 3B and Maebashi Ikuei has a great scoring chance!

Arai scorcher up the 3rd base line... FAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tsuchiya comes home and Maebashi Ikuei has the 4-3 lead!!!

Ah, but Arai-kantoku tries to steal a base, and Arai's attempt is about as bad as Itagaki's earlier. 1 out...

And now Ogawa goes down swinging on the slider for the 2nd out.

Working to Itagaki, he can't seem to find either the outer or upper parts of the zone and he walks Itagaki!

AHHH!!! Wild pitch from Nasu gets under Yanase and Itagaki advances to 2nd!

And now behind 1-2, Kouna works the count full and works another walk from Nasu! That brings up Tamura...

Ball back up middle, Usuda caught leaning the wrong way, dives... makes the stop! Takes it to 2nd for the out, but Maebashi has the lead!

Bottom 7th
Nobeoka looks to be in trouble. Yanase with a regular grounder to 2nd. Nasu goes down on high away fastball...

And Watarai swings and misses on the forkball! They must be in red alert mode now!!

Top 8th
It's a 1-2-3 inning for Nasu as he settles down getting Kusunoki to fly to right, Kudou a routine grounder to 2nd, and another fly to right by Tomoya. He's trying to give his team a chance to get back in the game.

Bottom 8th
Matsumoto with a pop fly to Tsuchiya for the first out.

Ah, but Sakamoto works a walk! Douten runner on base!

Iwashige ball back up middle! Tsuchiya with an awkward toss to 2nd for 1, Tomoya's throw to 1st...


Kusunoki stumbles after contorting to make the catch and the 6-4-3 double play ends the inning!

Top 9th
Nasu starting the inning off with a 4 pitch walk to Tsuchiya.

And now he's behind Arai 3-0! Shigemoto-kantoku gives a couple of words to Nasu from the bench...

Strike 1... and a fly ball! Hamada camps under it for the 1st out.

Tsuchiya takes off for 2nd! Throw from Yanase... hits Tsuchiya and bounds into left! Tsuchiya takes 3rd with a key insurance run!

Ogawa up to try and get the run in.

Nasu laboring out there as he goes from ahead 1-2 to a full count.

Ogawa dribbler back up the middle! Nasu blocks it with his arm, and keeps the runner at 3rd! Goes to 1st and there's 2 down!

Itagaki works count full after taking a just low strike at 2-2...

Gets the walk!Runners at the corners now for Kouna!

Grounder to short! Matsumoto goes to 2nd for the force and we're headed to the bottom of the 9th!

Bottom 9th
Kouna after getting ahead 0-2 to Hamada throws 3 straight balls... and then hits him! Douten runner on and Arai-kantoku calls time!

Tanaka liner down the left field line... FOUL! Shigemoto-kantoku gives him a smile and a clap for good effort.

Tanaka ball back up middle for a base hit! Runners on 1st and 2nd no out for Nobeoka Gakuen!

#13 Nozaki to hit for Usuda...

Pops it up! Tamura under it in shallow left center for the 1st out!

Yanase up now looking for timely.

Hit-and-run!  But Yanase pulls it just foul!

Pops it up! Ogawa scrambling to the Nobeoka dugout, slides... makes catch!!! 2 out!

And now it's P vs. P as Nasu steps in!!

1-1, Kouna goes 141 to get strike 2 on Nasu!!

Fork outside, emergency fouled off by Nasu!


Kouna with his arms in the air as he strikes out Nasu to win the game! Maebashi Ikuei in their first ever Koushien appearance wins the 95th Natsu Koushien tournament!

And in the hardest part of Natsu Koushien, the losing team is crying at the loss given their opportunity. Even Shigemoto-kantoku is crying... that's hard to take, but I loved the emotion he showed. It made it feel like he cared as much about it as the players. And I bet it makes the players play hard for him as well.

It's hard. It's the hardest part about Koushien, the fact that these kids may have their only shot at Koushien just to fall short. Whether it's in the first round, in the Best 8, or in the finals, to lose and have to deal with your emotions and the reporters and the loss. It's something the media can easily capitalize on. But remember, these are just high school kids that fight with their teammates throughout the year, throughout 3 years, working for this goal. Only 49 get the chance to come here, and only 1 can be the champion.


Final Lines
Maebashi Ikuei
Kudou Youhei - 2-5, 2B, R
Takahashi Tomoya - 0-3, RBI, BB, K
Tsuchiya Keisuke - 3-3, 3B, R, 2 BB, SB
Arai Kaito - 2-5, RBI
Ogawa Toshiki - 1-5, RBI, 2 K
Itagaki Fumiya - 1-2, 3 BB
Takahashi Kouna - 0-4, K, BB
Tamura Hayato - 1-4, HR, R, RBI
Kusunoki Hiroki - 2-4, R, RBI, K

Takahashi Kouna - CG, 3 ER, 7 H, 5 K , 3 BB, 2 HBP

Nobeoka Gakuen
Kajiwara Shouto - 0-0 (Removed after 1st batter due to injury)
Watarai Akihiro - 0-4, K
Matsumoto Masaya - 1-4
Sakamoto Ryougo - 2-3, R, BB
Iwashige Akihito - 1-4, R, 2K
Hamada Shintarou - 0-3, HBP
Tanaka Yuuki - 1-3, R, BB
Usuda Ryou - 1-2, RBI, HBP
Nozaki Kouji - 0-1
Yanase Naoya - 0-3, BB
Yokose Takahiro - 1-2, RBI
Ide Ichirou, - 0-0
Nasu Ryouto - 0-2, 2K

Yokose Naoya - 5+ IP, 3 ER, 8 H, 3 K, BB
Ide Ichirou - 0.2+ IP, 0 R, H, BB
Nasu Ryouto - 4.1 IP, 3 H, 2 K, 5 BB

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Day 14 - Semifinal 2 - Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate) vs. Nobeoka Gakuen (Miyazaki)

With Maebashi Ikuei in the final, who will face them? Hanamaki Higashi has the offense on their side, while Nobeoka seemingly has the pitching on their side.

Hanamaki Higasahi (Iwate)
2B Yagi Hikaru (#14)
CF Chiba Shouta
LF Kishisato Ryousuke (#1)
RF Oota Ryousuke
3B Tadano Shouta (#3)
C Yamashita Hayato
SS Mogi Kazuhiro
1B Oguma Yuuki (#16)
P Nakazato Yuusuke (#11)

Nobeoka Gakuen (Miyazaki)
2B Kajiwara Shouto
SS Matsumoto Masaya
CF Sakamoto Ryougo
RF Iwashige Akihito
LF Hamada Shintarou
1B Tanaka Yuuki
3B Usuda Ryou (#14)
C Yanase Naoya
P Yokose Takahiro


13:30 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Yagi up, goes full count, and grounds to 2nd.

Chiba up, and he's not trying to work the count? Swings 1-0 and grounds to 3rd...

Oof... then collides with Tanaka at 1st. He's shaken up a bit, but eventually gets up and heads to dugout. Though, given his stature there's not a lot he won't win in a collision.

Apparently the patience game is being played by Chiba's teammates, because Kishisato goes full, fouls off a couple and takes a walk.

Oota, behind 1-2, fouls off one... and another... and another, and another!

Yokose finally gets him to ground to 1st, but that's 25 pitches in the inning. Chiba would be proud.

Bottom 1st
And there's Ama-chan's OP theme.

Kajiwara though chops one to short, Mogi makes the play for the 1st out.

Matsumoto hard ball to Oguma, gets in front and takes it to the bag for the 2nd out.

And Matsumoto way out in front of a curve, grounds to Mogi again. Short hops throw, but Oguma makes pitch for a 1-2-3 innning.

Top 2nd
After pitching Tadano low, Yokose goes up and in and Tadano can only roll it to Tanaka for the 1st out.

Yokose doesn't pull out the slider, but the changeup as Yamashita goes down for his first K.

And Mogi first pitch flies out to Sakamoto and the inning is over.

Bottom 2nd
Iwashige short ball to the left side, Mogi charges, gets the throw off and gets Iwashige for out #1.

Hamada swings over a slider letter high for the 2nd out.

Tanaka rolls one to 2nd and... AH!

Yagi whiffs on the ball and it goes 5-hole! Inning continues!

Usuda, after falling 1-2 works the count full. Next pitch... ball!

Oh... that was close... But the inning continues as Yanase steps in with runners at 1st and 2nd.


Nakazato gets Yanase to swing and miss on a slider and the inning is over, but not before he has to throw 11 more pitches.

Top 3rd
Oguma goes after yet another curve, and grounds out to Matsumoto up the middle.

Once again the battery does the ol' setup outside pitch over the plate to get Nakazato.

Yagi with the 6th groundout for Yokose as he hits one to Kajiwara for the 3rd out. Right now he has the Hanamaki batters all fouled up in their timing.

Bottom 3rd
Nakazato doing a great job matching Yokose on the mound, first of all getting his counterpart to pull an outside slider weakly to 2nd and Kajiwara to fly to center on the same.

Matsumoto, though hits a hard grounder up the middle. Yagi makes the great stop, but throws it to 1st when he has no play and throws it away! Sensei (先制) runner on at 2nd base!

But once again Nakazato picks up his 2B. Matsumoto grounds to short and the inning is over!

Top 4th
Wait, who is this person batting as Chiba? He's swinging to put the ball in play!

Slaps one to the left side, takes a high hop that Matsumoto fields, throws to 1st... beats a diving Chiba!

(RUN THROUGH THE BAG!!!!)  (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Kishisato, attacking the 3-1 pitch whizzes it by Tanaka for a base hit.

Hit-and-run! Oota swings, but hits it right to Matsumoto. Has no play at 2nd so goes to 1st for the 2nd out.

Tadano can't get level on a high fastball and flies out t o right and we're still scoreless.

Bottom 4th
This game is whizzing by at a quick pace. Iwashige gets caught on an inside fastball and flies out to Chiba.

Hamada trying to attack first pitch, gets ahead of the changeup and grounds to Mogi.

Tanaka with a slicing liner that Kishisato runs down and we're already to the 5th inning at a neat 40 minutes!

Top 5th
Yamashita with a curve off the end of the bat drops it in center. Mogi laying down bunt, Yokose fields, AHHHHH!!!!!

Yokose falls over and his throw to 1st from the seat of his pants pulls Tanaka off the bag!

Shigemoto-kantoku call for time.

Oguma bunts, but it dies right at home! Yanase goes to 3rd for one, throw to 1st... Oguma just beats it out!

Nakazato up trying to give himself a lead...

But Yokose gets the generous outside strike call! 2 out!

And perhaps with that ouside pitch in mind, Yagi chases a fastball outside to close out the inning!

Bottom 5th
As if to "give back" to Nobeoka, Nakazato gets his own K on the outside corner.

Yanase a blooper to right, Yagi and Oota coming in... Yagi jumps, but can't get and it falls in for a single (he's having a rough day).

Yokose lays down the bunt, Tadano with it goes it 1st, AH!!

Throws it away! Yanase heads to 3rd, but Yagi is backing up the play! Throws to 3rd... and they got him! Nice cover by Yagi! (There you go!)

But man they're not making it easy on themselves! Nakazato uncorks a wild pitch and Yokose heads to 2nd!

Now a base hit from Kajiwara can give Nobeoka the lead!

But he goes after a high slider and hits a comebacker to Nakazato! Tosses it to 1st and the inning is over!

We hit the break with both teams with chances to score, but the starters closing the door. he game is going at breakneck speed... who will wipeout first?

Top 6th
This is not the Chiba I remember! He tries for the safety bunt and is thrown out by Yokose as he dives into 1st. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Kishisato gets setup with a fastball after a curve and pops out to Yanase for the 2nd out.

And before I can really even finish these recaps, Oota looks at an outside fastball for strike 3!

Bottom 6th
One down, and Sakamoto grounds one back up the middle for a base hit.

2-2, Sakamoto takes off for 2nd! Yamashita with the throw but it's high and Yagi cuts it off...

Chance for a base hit here to take the lead, but Iwashige pops it up! Mogi behind 2nd makes the catch for the 2nd out.

Hamada ball to right side, through for a base hit!! Sakamoto being waved around as Oota throws it in, but it's not going to be in time! Hamada breaks the deadlock as he advances on the throw and Nobeoka Gakuen leads 1-0! Once again, Nobeoka is the master of mid-game adjustments!

Tanaka blast to right center! No one's going to get that! Chiba chasing that to the wall, but Tanaka's going to get in with a RBI triple to make it 2-0!

Sasaki-kantoku calls for time...

Usuda grounds out to Mogi to end the inning, but now Hanamaki Higashi will be on the clock.

Top 7th
But they're playing like a team under a lot of pressure instead of digging in.

Tadano unable to pull trigger on fastball outside, goes down looking.

Yamashita an easy comeback to Yokose for the 2nd out..

And Mogi tries to take a fastball the other way, but it's not hit very hard and Kajiwara makes the play at 1st to retire the side!

Bottom 7th
Two quick outs against the bottom of Nobeoka's order as Yanase grounds to short and Yokose gets a taste of his own cooking as he chases an ouside fastball.

Kajiwara grounds out to 2nd and the inning is over.

Top 8th

Kajiwara injures himself running to 1st base and has to be carried off the field. He's crying so it looks like he won't be returning.

And #5 Kajiwara takes his spot, and goes to 3B, Usuda goes to 2B.

Oguma still not recognizing the outside strike goes down looking.

#15 Takeda hitting for Nakazato first pitch grounds to short.

Yagi finally gets a base runner for Hanamaki Higashi as he singles up the middle past Usuda.

Chiba up with a chance to work the count and get on base... maybe?

He swinging away! Hard shot to 2nd, but Usuda is there to block it! Takes it to 2nd and the inning is over!

Bottom 8th
#17 Hosokawa in for PH Takeda to take the hill.

Matsumoto welcomes him with a base hit to center.

But Hosokawa has him picked off! Rundown... oh...

Hosokawa called for the balk, and now Sasaki-kantoku calls for time.

Sakamoto expectedly bunts Matsumoto to 3rd.


But it's a pitchout! Iwashige throws the bat at the ball (which isn't legal anyways), misses, and Matsumoto is run down 2-5-1-6 for the 2nd out!

It almost becomes a 1-2-3 inning of sorts, but Hosokawa walks Iwashige.

Hamada flies out to left and the inning is over...

Top 9th
But they're just 3 outs away from defeat and they haven't played gritty all game!

3-4-5 batters up for Hanamaki Higashi...

Kishisato, first pitch jammed, flies out to center.

Oota flails at the outside fastball and there's 2 outs.

Last chance in Tadano.

He's quickly behind 0-2, now 1-2 fouls off a pitch before holding up on a slider. Works count full... and earns a walk!

Yokose gets up quickly on Yamashita 0-2.


Yokose gets Yamashita to swing on an outside slider and Nobeoka Gakuen wins 2-0!

Wow, did not expect this game. Nobeoka Gakuen did everything they normally do in a ballgame, made their mid-game adjustments and won the game.

But I am very surprised at Hanamaki Higashi and how they played their game. Instead of playing gritty, they played like Yasuda Gakuen a couple of years back who looked like they had somewhere else to go to.

And the poster boy for Hanamaki Higashi, Chiba Shouta, who can be visibly heard crying, is where I point the style blame to - not necessarily him.

Chiba was good in setting up the rest of the lineup, by taking pitches and getting on base. And yet today, he was swinging away like everyone else. I just didn't understand what their strategy was against Yokose. If it was to score before they made their adjustments, simply willy-nilly swinging wasn't going to get it done. If this was Sasaki-kantoku's doing then he loses a couple of managerial points in how he played this opportunity today.

I won't necessarily go so far as to say that a team deserved a loss, because all these teams worked hard to get here, but they did themselves no favors with how they played today.

Yokose and Yanase did exactly what they were supposed to do. Once they identified that the home plate umpire was giving the outside strike, they went there time and again with Hanamaki unable to adjust.

That's not to take everything away from Yokose's performance. He located his pitches well and hit the spots that Yanase was spotting. The question will be if he can do it on 0 days rest.

Day 14 - Semifinal 1 - Nichidai Yamagata (Yamagata) vs. Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma)

There is no preface needed given my reviews of the teams. It will come down to which ace, or perhaps which relief staff can hold the team up.

Nichidai Yamagata (Yamagata)
CF Aoki Tatsuya
2B Nakano Takumu
LF Mineta Jyunnosuke
SS Okumura Hiromu
1B Yoshioka ?
C Asanuma Takanori
RF Takeda Shouhei
P Shouji Misaki
3B Itasaka Hiroki

Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma)
CF Kudou Youhei
2B Takahashi Tomoya
SS Tsuchiya Keisuke
3B Arai Kento
C Ogawa Toshiki
RF Itagaki Fumiya
P Takahashi Kouna
LF Tamura Hayato
1B Kusunoki Hiroki


11:00 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Kouna going outside to Aoki to start, he rolls over a 2-seamer to 2nd for the out.

Nakano with a ball back up the middle gets by Tsuchiya dives for it, but it gets past for a single.

Mineta with a base hit to center! Uh oh, these hits are back up the middle so far and Nichidai Yamagata is threatening.

Kouna despite the pinch, not giving in to Okumura, he tries to nibble the bottom of the zone, but to no avail! He's behind 3-0!

And he winds up walking him! Manrui for Nichdai Yamagata as Araki-kantoku calls time...

Shot to the right side! Tomoya with the pick! Throws to 2nd for 1, back to 1st...

DOUBLE PLAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kouna gets an assist from his 2B as he makes a spectacular play to get his ace out of the inning!

Bottom 1st
Kudou with a single just past a ranging Nakano for a leadoff single. Tomoya to bunt the runner..

NO!! It's a bust-and-run!

And Tomoya executes it perfectly! It goes right though the hole in the left side of the infield and now there's runners on 1st and 2nd with no out! This time Tsuchiya bunts the runners along looking for a timely.

Arai delivers! He hits a fly to right and Kudou tags up! Throw in not nearly in time and Maebashi Ikuei has the 1-0 lead!

Ogawa grounds out to short, but the first strike goes to the first timers!

Top 2nd
Kouna working away to Asanuma, he winds up early and pulling a slider right to Arai for the first out.

Takeda gets a high fastball, but get the bat behind it and flies out to Kudou for the 2nd out.

And it's a 9 pitch inning for Kouna as Shouji liked what he saw from the Kouna's curveball, but he too is under it and flies out to right to end the inning.

Bottom 2nd
Itagaki with a hard grounder to the right side, but Tomoya's counterpart Nakano makes a great stop of his own for the 1st out.

Kouna, after seeing two pitches out of the zone, goes after the first good one, but it's a fastball down and in and he can't quite get the bat level on it. Skies into the air and Okumura takes it on the mound for the 2nd out.


Tamura with a powerful level swing sends one down the right field line. Takeda running over, slides... but can't get to it! He scrambles to get it in, but not before Tamura is in with a triple!

Kusunoki up.

Liner to 1st, off Yoshioka's glove!!! It goes into right and Tamura scores to make it 2-0 Maebashi!!

That's Kusunoki's first hit this Koushien and it's an unfortunate one for Yoshioka and Nichidai Yamagata!!

Kudou grounds to short, but once again, Maebashi Ikuei puts a runner on the board.

Top 3rd
Itasaka ball back up middle, off Kouna! Ah, but it deflects right to Tomoya who goes to 1st for the out! What bad luck!

And Aoki follows that up with a basehit past a racing Tomoya.

Kouna though looking to settle down, freezes Nakano on a forkball for the 2nd out.

But I think the Nichidai batters have Kouna's timing down though as Mineta hits yet another ball back through the middle for a base hit.

Of course timing is one thing, hitting the ball is another! Okumura goes down swinging on Kouna's slider and the inning is over!

Bottom 3rd
#16 Ajiki in for Takeda at RF.

Tomoya moving from #9 to #2 in the order immediately paying dividends for Maebashi! He hits a ball to the opposite way,  Ajiki charging in... but he can't get there! Tomoya in with a double! He's moved over to 3rd by Tsuchiya. Arai up with another RBI opportunity.

And he delivers! This time he pulls one through short and Tomoya scores to make it a 3-0 ballgame!

Ogawa and Itagaki both fly out to end the inning, but this game is accelerating out of hand!

Top 4th
Yoshioka chopper back up middle, guess who's there? Tomoya at 2nd fields and fires to 1st for the first out!

After that though Kouna walks Asaunma on 4 straight.

But it's like he's toying with them because Ajiki goes down swinging on an inside forkball, and Shouji guesses wrong on the slider for the 3rd out.

Bottom 4th
Shouji trying to get back on track, feeds Kouna steady diet of fastballs, then puts him away with the slider.

Tamura ball the other way, Nakano makes a great sliding stop and Yoshioka with the pick at 1st for the 2nd,

And it's finally a 1-2-3 inning for Shouji! Kusunoki flies out to left to retire the side!

Top 5th
Itasaka way ahead of a Kouna offering flies out to center.

Aoki also seeing Kouna well, singles to right. Nakano with the bunt up the 3rd base line, but Arai is there and fires to 2nd!!  They get the lead runner!

Mineta up liner to right, Tamura going back, leaps!

Just makes the catch! I think he was fooled a little there, but he still makes the catch for the 3rd out!

Bottom 5th
Kudou ball back up middle, Okumura trying to get to it, but it just gets past him. Tomoya, despite the 2 hits, bunts him over.

And Araki-kantoku pulls the plug! #11 Satou Kazumasa comes in to replace Shouji on the mound!

Kazumasa though not finding the zone on Tsuchiya walks him.

It feels like he's overthrowing as all the pitches are outside or up, and he's behind 3-0 to Arai!

Liner to 3rd, Itasaka makes the catch! 2 out!

Ogawa flies out to left, and we hit the break with Maebashi Ikuei getting to ace Shouji early and often. Does Nichidai Yamagata have an answer this time against Takahashi Kouna?

Top 6th
Okumura drives the first pitch to center right! Kudou scrambling to get there, but it'll fall in and one hop to the wall! Okumura headed to 2nd, AH!

Kudou's throw misses the cutoff man and Okumura takes 3rd on the error! Chance to get one back!

And they do! Yoshioka with a deep ball to left, Tamura makes the catch, but Okumura easily scores to make it 3-1!

What's this? Kouna being careful with Asanuma? He walks him again! Araki-kantoku has Ajiki bunt him along for a one-timer from Kazumasa.

Ah, but he twirls like a ballerina on a slider from Kouna and the inning is over. Still, they get one run ack!

Bottom 6th
Kazumasa still struggling a bit there with control, but goes up and in on Itagaki and he has no chance at it for the 1st out.

Oh?! He goes a really nice slider away that Kouna just waves the bat at for the 2nd out.

Tamura will not give Kazumasa the clean inning though, he singles just under the glove of Kazumasa into center.

Tamura takes the right opportunity to slide as the pitch as wide outside.

Kusunoki, looking for his 2nd hit skies one to shallow right, Ajiki comes in, slides and makes the catch for the 3rd out.

Top 7th
Itasaka can't replicate that first knock as Kouna whips out the slider and Itasaki has no chance.

Aoki chases a slider inside and pops out to Tsuhchiya.

And Nakano swings on a high slider and pops it to foul territory, Arai heading to the edge of the camera well near the bullpen, and makes the catch to retire the side!

Bottom 7th
#10 Satou Ryouta comes in now for Kazumasa and takes the hill.

Kudou immediately with a ball to the gap in short. Okumura stops it in the gap, fires to first... SAFE!!  Kudou just beats that one out.

Bust and run! But Tomoya misses! Throw to 2nd, SAFE!!

Kudou straight steals the base!

Tomoya with the bunt, Saitou goes to 3rd!


The throw is a bit low and Arai doesn't have it when he goes to tag Kudou! Araki-kantoku calls time, but this situation will be hard to get away with without damage now...

Tsuchiya showing bunt, but doesn't offer. Ah! But Tomoya takes off for 2nd! Throw not in time!

Ahead 1-2 though, Saitou goes full.

Tsuchiya shot to right side! Nakano is in front of it! But he has no play at home and begrudgingly can only go to 1st... Maebashi reestablishes 4-1 lead!

Saitou gets a key 2nd out! Arai pops out to Yoshioka up the 1st base line and he's can limit the damage to 1.

Ah... but it's not that easy as he plunks Ogawa...

And now Ogawa takes off for 2nd! Throw from Asanuma has him, so he scrambles back! Okumura chasing him sees Tsuchiya breaking for home! He runs down Ogawa as Tomoya scores! Which came first?!

It's the out! The umpires rule the tag out came first and the run doesn't count!

Top 8th
But Nichidai Yamagata is surely pressing now. The side is retired in just 7 pitches and it really looks bad for them.

Bottom 8th
Well, Maebashi doesn't mind being retired in 8 pitches. Nichidai gets their first 1-2-3 inning, but it may well be too late.

Top 9th
Kouna at a neat 95 pitches entering the 9th.

Asanuma hits a curve back into center for a leadoff single.

#13 Mito hits for Ajiki, but succumbs to the slider, 1 down.

Saitou grounder to 2nd! Tomoya with it! Goes to 2nd for one, goes to 1st... double play!! Game set!

Takahashi Kouna and Maebashi Ikuei sends his team to the championship game with a 4-1 win over Nichidai Yamagata!!

It's really too bad for Nichidai Yamagata, having reached the semifinals for the first time in school and prefectural history, they were almost taken out of the game right off the bat. It looked like there still might be some fight left in them after scoring the run in the 6th, but Kouna would shut them down thereafter.

But it was a great run for the boys from Yamagata. I know they're crying because they lost and perhaps lost without a chance, but considering their run, they should still be proud of their achievements. Hopefully it won't be another 7 years before we see another team make a run.

For Takahashi Kouna, this has to be one of the best scenarios for him. Just a shade over 100 pitches in a winning effort and while he may not still be able to go the full 9, he will be able to go longer than perhaps they were expecting.

Just one more game before making history for his school.

Day 13 - Day of Rest

Well, have we got an interesting final 4 on our hands. Now let's see if I can't do this post without losing it on Blogger.

Here is big picture what is at stake:
  • All 4 schools are looking for their first ever Natsu Koushien title.
  • Only one prefecture remaining has won a title (Gunma - Kiryuu Dai-ichi - 1999)
  • None of the other prefectures has ever reached the championship game.
  • This is the furthest a team from Yamagata has advanced (prior was Best 8 - Nichidai Yamagata - 2006)
  • This is the 4th time a team from Iwate has reached the Best 4 (Hanamaki Higashi - 2009, Morioka Chuu, now Morioka Dai-ichi - 1917, 1919)
  • This is the 3rd time a team from Miyazaki has reached the Best 4 (Miyazaki Shougyou - 1964, Takanabe - 1965)
  • If Maebashi Ikuei wins, it will be the first time a first-time participant would win the Natsu Koushien tournament since Touin Gakuen (Kanagawa) in 1971. Osaka Touin (Osaka) back in 1991.
So in other words, this may be the best chance they, or even their prefecture perhaps, will get at winning a Natsu Koushien title.

Nichidai Yamagata (Yamagata)
  • Day 6 - def. Nichidai-san 7-1
  • Day 10 - def. Sakushin Gakuin 5-2
  • Day 12 - def. Meitoku Gijyuku 4-3
Nichidai Yamagata has probably the best resume out of the 4 schools left. Standing up to Sanko and their prefectural taikai performance, taking the white glove, and smacking them in the face with it was already shocking enough, but then to follow that up against a team that reached the Best 8 last year, score 3 quick runs early, then fight a close game until the 8th when you can finally put it away?

Oh, and top top that off you face off arguably the favorite of all the teams left, find a reply to every shot that they gave you, and give the finishing blow to KO them?

Color me more than impressed.

Part of that success has been ace Shouji Mizuki. The only pitcher to take the hill for Nichidai Yamagata, he has managed to keep batters off balance by pitching to locations to each batter. Not just away or in, but even working high or low to batters. This tendency to pitch in locations can lead to strikeouts (12 in the Sakushin Gakuin game), but walks and the occasional dead ball as well (8 in the Meitoku Gijyuku game). It depends on how good Shouji's control is that game, as well as the patience of the opposition.

The one big question is that Shouji in all likelihood will take the hill again on just 1 day's rest. In the Meitoku Gijyuku game, he too was on a day rest, and was knocked around in the 8th, almost surrendering the lead if not for a decision by Mabuchi-kantoku to try for the squeeze bunt with the bases loaded and 1 out - despite the fact Shouji had walked/hit the bases loaded.

That being the case, what level will he be to start the game? Araki-kantoku has #10 Saitou Ryouta and #11 Satou Kazuma in reserve, but we haven't seen them yet.

If he will take the hill for the duration of the tournament, the offense, who has admittedly answered every call, will be tasked to do more. But the heroes have changed from game to game. Their motto seems to be my motto for baseball strategy, "Next man up!" That is, you don't have to do it yourself, if necessary, get on base, keep the inning going and let the next man continue it.

Of course there are cleanup batters Mineta and Okumura, but they're just a part of it. I mean, you could even say Shouji himself at the bottom of the lineup is a threat. Several times he's gotten a hold of one, but flied out deep. He could find the seats one of these last two games at a rather opportune time...

Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma)
  • Day 5 - def. Iwakuni Shougyou 1-0
  • Day 9 - def. Shounan 1-0
  • Day 11 - def. Yokohama 7-1
  • Day 12 - def. Jyousou Gakuin 3x-2 (10 inn.)
Maebashi Ikuei is the only team who survived from the first round to make it to the Best 4. 3 of their 4 games have been extremely high stress. Ace Takahashi Kouna has only had 4 innings off, and the decision to not start him almost cost them.

But the baseball gods played the cruel trick on Jyousou Gakuin, forcing ace Iida to leave the game after apparently suffering some sort of injury, and allowed Maebashi Ikuei to come back and win the game.

Takahashi Kouna has been the story for Maebashi Ikuei keeping his team in the game until his team could take the lead. The question will be though, how much will be be available over the next 2 days? We know that #10, 2nd year Kitagawa Shougo started the game versus Jyousou Gakuin, went 5 innings, and seemed serviceable enough, but his line (5 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 K, 3 BB) reminds me of another pitcher:

Nasu Ryouto (Nobeoka Gakuin) vs. Seiai - 8 IP, 0 ER, 6 H, K, 2 BB

That's right, I think both Nobeoka Gakuen and Maebashi Ikuei have a similar relief staff profile. Not dominating, not terrible, but seemingly average yet effective on the mound. Normally, I'd immediately raise the question of how effective such a pitcher could be in the late stages. But without a clear favorite and with each team with some visible flaws, it may not be as big of an issue as in other years.

Still, if push came to shove you'd want your ace on the mound and you have to walk the tightrope between saving your ace and actually getting to the next game for the ace to pitch in.

But the biggest question is the offense. Kouna can put up as many 0's as he's like, but if his team can't score, it won't do him any good - unless they keep going 15 innings and the JHBF just gives up. Going back to the Jyousou Gakuin game, they managed a grand total of 6 hits against Iida before he had to leave the game. 2 of those 6 were bloopers.

Ok, Iida is a special case because apparently he knows his fastball is garbage and should use it as little as possible. But still, you could go back to the other games (outside Yokohama because we knew their ace wasn't that good) and see they generally have trouble scoring. I mean, I couldn't even really tell you who to look for in getting hits other than the middle of the order, and even then you could say that players like Itagaki Fumiya or even Takahashi Kouna himself might be key. I just can't tell you because it's been an offense that borders 2011-2012 Mariner levels (and yes, that is a shot at my own team).

But you want a team with fight, they have the intangibles that can work both ways. First-timers to Koushien? Check. Not one, but two 2nd year pitchers? Check. A team that might not know any better? You bet.

It's been a fun ride so far, how far will they go?

Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate)
  • Day 6 - def. Hikone Higashi 9-5
  • Day 10 - def. Saibi 7-6 (10 inn.)
  • Day 12 - def. Naruto 5-4
"How does this make any sense", one asks?

Last year they had ace Ootani Shouhei who reportedly hit 160 on the gun, and they couldn't even get to Koushien. The year after he graduates, his school not only reaches Koushien, but reaches the Best 4 for the 2nd time in school history defeating one of the top title contenders in Saibi (pulling in your ace number who had never pitched in the prefecturals - though apparently pitched 1 inning in relief against Toukaidai Sagami and thus was given the #1 uniform??!!), then using a fortunate bounce off 1st base to rally to defeat one of the remaining powerhouses at Koushien?


But that is the case and here they are.

Sasaki-kantoku has been the mastermind, somehow putting his team in position game after game. He seemingly knows who top put especially on the mound, at least to start a game. But as he has to go to the bullpen (which he will have to do), he's struggled finding the right combination. Of course, they've won their games despite that, but as demonstrated in the Saibi game, it could make things very uncomfortable.

One person who makes things uncomfortable for their opposition is CF Chiba Shouta. In the Saibi game Jyoukou-kantoku brought in the CF to play where a fielder would be on a sac bunt. It's actually smart - the bringing in the other outfielders too, not as much. But Chiba embodies the grittiness that the team is famous for. In their most recent game, his first AB went 13 pitches before drawing a walk. In fact, he would draw 4 walks and reach base all 5 times he was up.  The pitch counts on his 4 walks?
  • 13, 8, 8, 10 - for a total of 39 pitches!!
For a starting pitcher, dedicating 39 pitches to just 1 batter could be suicidal to a pitcher at this rate where pitch conservation is a must. I would almost recommend a strategy I remember from the manga Major where a batter continued to foul off pitches and they finally decided it was better to just walk the batter than to waste pitches. Teams might want to follow that strategy.

The only problem is that walking him puts up Kishisato Ryousuke and the middle of Hanamaki's lineup. Doesn't mean the rest of the lineup can't produce though, they can and it's different people each time out it seems.

The offense will need to continue to pickup the pitching which is kind of the reverse of  what it normally is.

Nobeoka Gakuen (Miyazaki)
  • Day 5 - def. Jiyuugaoka 4-2
  • Day 11 - def. Seiai 10-0
  • Day 12 - def. Toyama Dai-ichi 5x-4 (11 inn.)
Nobeoka Gakuen admittedly has the weakest schedule of the 4 teams remaining. Oddly enough, they have played 3 teams coming to Natsu Koushien for the first time!!

There are a lot of questions surrounding this team as a result. You could say the Toyama Dai-ichi game was their statement game, but again it was against a first-timer and it's hard to judge the credit you could give for that win.

The pitching staff raises more questions as well. As mentioned in the Nichidai Yamagata post, Nobeoka Gakuen generally has gone to #10 Nasu Ryouto? (I still don't know his first name), to start games. But he's a pitcher who will generally pitch in he zone, not strikeout a lot of people, not walk anyone, and pitch to contact (until after that overturned double play).

He usually stays in the game until there is a hint of trouble into which Shigemoto-kantoku has put in ace Yokose Takahiro - though he has had mixed results so far.

And more recently, there's #11 Ide Ichirou who they went to in the Toyama game when Nasu went almost the full 9 and then relieved Yokose when he struggled against Toyama Dai-ichi.

Offensively, cleanup batter Iwashige Akihito and followup batter Hamada Shintarou are the lynchpins of the offense that has at times struggled to score runs.

But to be honest, I can't really pan the team as a whole, mostly because there just isn't enough information out there to say that this team can't be a title contender. It may be they're not, but there's just too many questions unanswered.

Plus - they do the best rendition of the new hit ouen-dan song, the OP theme to Ama-chan (see at 3:10), and that's always a good thing.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Day 12 - Quarterfinal 4 - Toyama Dai-ichi (Toyama) vs. Nobeoka Gakuen (Miyazaki)

Well, with that completely... um... conflicting end to that game, we come to our final matchup.

Toyama Dai-ichi has gotten here by defeating a weaker Akita Shougyou team, then routing Kisaradzu Sougou late.  Again though they did not pull starter Miyamoto for that game and as a result #10 Ishikawa will be starting.

Their offense seems to come in bunches as they can string hits together as if they can feel the momentum.

For Nobeoka Gakuen, they followed a close 4-2 win over Jiyuugaoka with a rout of first timers Seiai 10-0. The two pitcher system seems to be working for Shigemoto-kantoku, but Nasu went 8 innings and one wonders how many innings he can go before giving way.

Except that they too are changing pitchers. #11 Ide, who finished the game, will be starting this one.

But both teams are somewhere between their first and second games, I just don't know where.

Toyama Dai-ichi (Toyama)
CF Hirata Masazumi
RF Nishida Yuuki
3B Kuroda Masataka
LF Kouyama Kazuhiro
SS Nakamura Jyunka
1B Fujii Shintarou
C Takamori Hiroyuki
2B Terasaki Hikaru
P Ishikawa Tatsuya (#10)

Nobeoka Gakuen (Miyazaki)
2B Kajiwara Shouto
SS Matsumoto Masaya
CF Sakamoto Ryougo
RF Iwashige Akihito
LF Hamada Shintarou
1B Nozaki Kouji (#13)
3B Watarai Akihiro
C Yanase Naoya
P Ide Ichirou (#11)


16:30 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Two quick outs from Ide as Hirata grounds to 2nd and Nishida pops up to Nozaki.

And Kuroda goes down on a well placed fastball inside by Ide!

Bottom 1st
Kajiwara with grounder up the middle, Terasaki is there, but he boots it and the leadoff runner is on.
Matsumoto bunts him along for Sakamoto.

Uh oh, he walks Sakamoto on 4 straight.

But Iwashige rolls one to 3rd!  Kuroda steps on 3rd, goes to 1st... double play! Nice work by Kuroda and the side is retired!

Top 2nd
Kouyama liner down the left field line fair! He's in with a leadoff double!

So about Ide, he's a sidearm pitcher with a fastball in the low 130s and a slider(?) in the 110s. He's been throwing predominantly fastballs, so I haven't really seen a whole lot.

Nakamura moves him to 3rd with a grounder to 2nd.

Fujii with a fly ball to left! Hamada under it as Kouyama sets to tag up.

Coming! Throw home... not in time! Toyama Dai-ichi leads 1-0!

Ah, now Takamori gets hit in his arm.  He's a bit hurt, but works his way to 1st.

Terasaki with a shot to the left side! Matsumoto ranging, makes the great diving stop! Throw to 1st...

Beats a diving Terasaki for the 3rd out!But a leadoff double by Kouyama gives the first timers the lead!

Bottom 2nd
Hamada on a full count, hits grounder past a diving Nakamura into center. No bunting from Shigemoto-kantoku.

That's fine as Nozaki gets ahead 3-1.

But he hits a fly ball to right which Nishida secures.

Now Shigemoto-kantoku has Watarai bunt him along for Yanase, who has quite a bit of success hitting in the 8-hole.

Ishikawa shuts the door though as Yanase grounds to 2nd to end the inning!

Top 3rd
Ishikawa probably not known for his hitting as he goes down on 3 straight.

Hirata grounder to right side, Terasaki makes a great diving stop and throw to 1st for the 2nd out.

And it's a quick inning fro Ide as he retires the side in just 6 pitches!

Bottom 3rd
Ide with a grounder past a lunging Kuroda for a base hit!

Well, Ishikawa throws a fastball in the high 120s. There's also seeming something in the high 110s, a slider in the lower 110s, and then a slow curve in the 100s.

Kajiwara grounder to Nakamura! He goes to 2nd for one, but Kajiwara beats the throw to 1st.

Hit-and-run! Matsumoto bloops one to center! Hirata charging, but it falls in! Kajiwara only gets to 2nd worried about the catch.

Sakamoto singles back up the middle!  Kajiwara being sent home!! Throw from Hirata...

Apparently he has a direct line to home plate because that throw hits Takamori on a dime and Kajiwara is meat at the plate! 2 out!

Iwashige with a deep drive down the right side, but Nishida is there for the catch! Side retired with no damage!

Top 4th
Ide now showing off the slider to to the opposition as Kuroda and Kouyama become his 3rd and 4th K victims.

Nakamura, not wanting to suffer the same fate swings on the first pitch and flies out to center.

Bottom 4th
Meanwhile Ishikawa looks to be working up and down in the zone and it seems to be working as neither Hamada, Nozaki or Watarai can get the ball out of the infield.

Top 5th
#3 Tanaka comes in for Nozaki and takes over at 1B.

Fujii with a ball to deep right! Iwashige running back plays it off the wall! Fujii rounding 2nd, going for 3! Relay from Kajiwara...


It's a perfect relay to get Fujii and prevent a good chance for Toyama Dai-ichi!

Takamori with a grounder to the left side, Ide lets it go! Matsumoto with it, but his throw is high!

Ah, Ide gets helped out as Terasaki flies out to center on the first pitch.

And it looks like ace Miyamoto will enter as #13 Sawamura hits for Ishikawa. He does down swinging and the inning is over.

Bottom 5th
Kouna comes in for PH Sawamura to take the hill.

Right off the bat Yanase can't check his swing and is called out by the umpire.

Ide too goes down to the slider.

Kajiwara with a soft liner, Terasaki stumbles, but makes the catch to retire the side.

We hit the break with both teams getting chances here and there but otherwise we're stuck in a pitching duel to end the quarterfinals!

Top 6th
One down and Nishida hits a ball to short. Matsumoto fields, throws to 1st... wide! It gets by Tanaka and Nishida is safe at 1st!

Eh? Shigemoto-kantoku decides now to put in ace Yokose. Seems a bit odd timing, as Ide didn't look like he was in trouble yet.

First pitch Kuroda liner to center! Sakamoto has to stretch up but he makes the catch.

But then Yokose walks Kouyama on 4 straight which gets Shigemoto-kantoku to call a quick conference.

That seems to help as he gets Nakamura to ground to short to end the inning.

Bottom 6th
Matsumoto with the drag bunt up the first base line! Fujii hast to charge in, goes for the swipe tag, misses! Leadoff single for Nobeoka!

Sakamoto groudner to 3rd! Kuroda goes to 2nd, but Terasaki stumbles covering 2nd and can't secure the ball! All safe!

Cleanup batter Iwashige bunts the runner along.


They go for the sqeeze but Hamada fouls it off!


Hamada with a ball to right that gets by the defense! It goes all the way to the wall as Hamada slides in with a 2-RBI triple! Nobeoka Gakuen takes the 2-1 lead!!


This time they do it as Tanaka puts down the safety squeeze! There's no play home and Nakamura has to go to 1st for the out! 3-1 Nobeoka Gakuen!

Watarai goes down swinging, but the 1st timers will have their work cut out for them.

Top 7th
Fujii with liner to left center, Sakamoto sprinting over lunges...

But he misses it as he tumbles! It goes to the wall as Hamada has to cover! Fujii's in with a double!

Now Yokose walks Takamori and there's 2 runners on now for Terasaki. He's not bunting.

Single through the opening in short! Fujii coming around and the throw home is cutoff! It's 3-2, runners on 1st and 2nd still with no out!

Miyamoto flies out to deep center for the first out, but Takamori moves to 3rd. Douten run 90 feet away.

Yokose gets key 2nd out as Hirata gets under a fastball and pops out to Kajiwara!

Nishida, ball to the left side will get through the infield! Takamori scores and we're all tied at 3-3!

Not for long! Kuroda lines a ball to left!  Terasaki rounding 3rd, throw from Iwashige... not in time! Toyama Dai-ichi has taken the lead back at 4-3!!

Kouyama goes down swinging on a full count fastball, but we're right back to where we started with Toyama Dai-ichi holding a 1-run lead!!

Bottom 7th
Hoping for a lucky 7 of their own, Miyamoto tries to squash it as Yanase goes down swinging on the slider for the first out.

Yanase chopper to short, Kouyama has to wait for it, throw to 1st... high, and it pulls Fujii off the bag!

Hit-and run! But Kajiwara misses! Takamori goes to 2nd and Yanase is out for the double play!

Top 8th
Tamura and Fujii are retired quickly enough, but Takamori works the count full before striking out swinging on the slow curve.

Bottom 8th
Things not easy for each pitcher as Miyamoto walks Matsmoto.

Shigemoto-kantoku goes for the hit-and-run, and still manages to advance the runner despite grounding to short.

Down 1-2, Iwashige works count full, fights off 3 pitches..

Gets the slider and lines it down the 3rd base line, fair!! Matsumoto scores and we're tied once again this time at 4-4!

Wild pitch from Miyamoto and Iwashige takes 3rd! Now a sac fly can give Nobeoka the lead again!


Miyamoto goes inside on Hamada and gets the K!

Up to Tanaka now...

Miyamoto gets out of it! Tanaka grounds to 2nd and we head to the last inning of regulation tied at 4-4!!

Top 9th
We're going back and forth here as Terasaki singles to left.


Wild pitch from Yokose sends the gyakuten run to 2nd! Shigemoto-kantoku callse for time.

Miyamoto ball off end of bat, back up the middle past Yokose into center! Terasaki at 3B and Toyama Dai-ichi threatens again!

Fly to left! Hamada under it, caught, but Terasaki doesn't go!

And now Shigemoto-kantoku pulls Yokose for #10 Nasu!!

Grounder to 2nd! Kajiwara goes to 2nd for one, Matsumoto to 1st... Double play!!

Ah, what is this?!

There was a practice ball that went into the field of play. The LF umpire called time, but it wasn't seen by the home plate umpire! They discuss and call it a no play!

Count 2-0 to Nishida, Nasu fires one, two... and 3 strikes as Nishida swings and misses!

Nasu pissed throws 2 more strikes to Kuroda.


Nasu gets it all himself as he fires a pitch on the outside corner to retire the side!!

Bottom 9th
#14 Usuda to hit for Watarai, chops one back to Miyamoto for the 1st out.

Yanase grounder to the left side, Kuroda with a great diving stop, stands, fires to 1st... 2 out!


As pissed as Nasu is he still can't hit Miyamoto's slider! He goes down and we're off to enchousen... again!!

Top 10th
Nasu on a roll, Kouyama with a "I can't believe I swung at that" face as he chases the slider for out #1.

Nakamura with his first hit, a single back up the middle.

Fujii grounder back up middle. Matsumoto flips to Kajiwara for 1, but Fujii beats out throw to keep the inning alive.

Takamori grounder to 3rd! Usuda with the great stop, throws to 2nd... gets Fujii to end the inning!

Bottom 10th
Miyamoto matching Nasu batter for batter, induces Kajiwara and Matsumoto to ground out.

Sakamoto pops out to Fujii and we're to the 11th!

Top 11th
Nasu starts off by getting Terasaki to hit a comebacker for the 1st out.

Miyamoto with a deep drive to center! Sakamoto backing up, backing up!

Makes the catch right at the fence for the 2nd ou!

And Hirata lazily flies to left and now Toyama Dai-ichi has to hold serve!

Bottom 11th
One down, Hamada singles to right!

And now Tanaka singles through the right side as well! Shigemoto-kantoku calls time...

Grounder to 2nd! Nakamura goes to 2nd for one, NO! It's safe! Throw to 1st,


Nakamura throws it away at 1st! Hamada comes in to score and Nobeoka Gakuen has the sayonara victory 5-4 in 11 innings!!

But man, you see how hard Toyama Dai-ichi is taking it, and it's understandable. The team was in their first appearance at Koushien, they were the first team from Toyama to reach the Best 8 since 1973, and could've been the first team to reach the Best 4. They certainly fought the entire game and had like Nobeoka Gakuen left everything on the field. They were 6 outs away from moving on, and wound up on the wrong end. Sadly it was not to be - and it doesn't make the loss hurt any less.

For Nobeoka Gakuen, they certainly fought, and perhaps that reversed double play turned on a switch on both sides because both teams wanted to win this on their own merit. And they did.

So now they advance to the semifinals where they will face a game Hanamaki Higashi squad. Rest up boys, your job isn't done yet!

Day 12 - Quarterfinal 3 - Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki) vs. Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma)

Oh, the situation keeps on changing here at Koushien. With Meitoku Gijyuku's loss it opens things even further for everyone else although you can consider Nichidai Yamagata to be a new contender.

Maebashi Ikuei's Takahashi Kouna has come onto the Koushien stage and announced his presence.

He has given up just 1 run so far in 3 games, winning 1-0 twice (Iwakuni Shougyou & Shounan) and then the dominance of Yokohama 7-1!  He pitches similar to Kishi in that he has excellent control and he has a slider that he is not afraid of putting anywhere in the zone - inside, outside, even high if he wants to. For batters who are used to a slider being buried, this is unusual.

Offensively, the team seemed rather lethargic at the plate (though now it have been due to who they were facing). That was until the Yokohama game where they just wrested control of it and never gave it back.

Jyousou Gakuin has been the master of late game adjustments. Ineffective early on, come the 5th inning they turn on a switch and next thing you know, it's over.

Once again, in a blowout in the bottom of the 9th, Sasaki-kantoku did not pull ace Iida even after he was hit with a throw scrambling back to 2nd. It did look like the throw did affect him for the last inning though and with no rest, how will it affect him today?

(But to start it's not Takahashi Kouna starting, but 2nd year #10 Kitagawa Shougo! That's surprising!)

Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki)
CF Takashima Shouta
C Yoshinari Yuusuke (#9)
2B Shindou Suguru
3B Uchida Yasuhito (#2)
1B Ishii Daiki
SS Yoshizawa Gakushi
LF Ikezawa Kouhei
P Iida Harumi
RF Ganryuu Tatsuya (#15)

Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma)
CF Kudou Youhei
LF Tamura Hayato
SS Tsuchiya Keisuke
3B Arai Kento
C Ogawa Toshiki
RF Itagaki Fumiya
P Kitagawa Shougo (#10)
1B Kusunoki Hiroki
2B Takahashi Tomoya


13:35 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Hm.. Jyousou's batters are taking a wait and see approach on Kitagawa.

Takashima goes full before grounding to 2nd.

Yoshinara grounder to the left side, Tsuchiya running it down in the gap, but the throw to 1st can't beat a diving Yoshimura!

Shindou drive to deep center! Kudou running back, running back!!

Leaps and makes the running catch right before the wall!!  Nice play!!

Once again though Kitagawa falls behind 3-0. Fills up the count, but eventually walks him! Runners at 1st and 2nd for Ishii.

Kitagawa has low-mid 130s stuff, with a cut ball in the upper 120s, slider

Ishii flies out to Itagaki, and while a bit shaky, he puts up a 0!

Bottom 1st
Meanwhile, Maebashi Ikuei's batters are attacking early. Kudou hits a fastball outside the other way to short.

Tamura falls behind 1-2 and goes down looking on the fastball inside.

And it's a 6 pitch inning as Tsuchiya flies out to left.

Top 2nd
Yoshizawa ball back up the middle. Tsuchiya runs it down just before the outfield grass, throws to first, not in time!

Ikezawa with the bunt, but Arai charging in takes it and fires to 2nd! Tsuchiya awkwardly throws to first and throws it away! They get the lead runner, but put it back on 2nd thanks to the error!

Iida chases a slider and rolls it to 2nd. Ikezawa takes 3rd on the play.

Ganryuu, patient at the plate, works a walk and flips the lineup back to Takashima.

Hits the high fastball!!

It's a drive to the gap in left center that no one will get! Ikezawa scores! Ganryuu from 1st... he will score! Takashima in at 2nd with a timely double! 2-0 Jyousou Gakuin!

Yoshinari back up the middle. Tsuchiya with it, no! He loses the handle on the ball! All safe!!

Arai-kantoku calling time as the game threatens to get away from them.

Shindou flies out to left, but Jyousou Gakuin takes the early lead!

Bottom 2nd
Arai booms a ball down the left field line foul. Winds up pulling a ball to Yoshizawa in SS.

Ogawa pops up a ball to shallow left center, Yoshizawa, Ikezawa and Takashima all converge, but it's just out of Yoshizawa's dive for a base hit!

No bunting from the Maebashi Ikuei squad.

Itagaki chopper to short, Yoshizawa goes to 2nd! Gets 1, goes to 1st, double play!!  Side retired and Iida's faced the minimum!

Top 3rd
Kitagawa working from behind again, this time to Uchida. But no problem as he grounds to short. Ishii and Ikezawa fly out shortly after and it's Kitagawa's first clean inning

Bottom 3rd
Kitagawa down quickly swinging on 3 sliders.

Kusunoki with a quick comebacker to Iida, he stops it, fumbles a bit, but makes the play at 1st.

And Iida continues to face the minimum as Tomoya is frozen on a slider inside.

Top 4th
Hot grounder up the middle, Tsuchiya with the great sliding grab, spins throws and gets Ikezawa for the 1st out!

After getting ahead of Iida 0-2, Kitagawa plunks him. Sasaki-kantoku has Ganryuu bunt him for Takashima, can he do it again?

No! Kitagawa gets him to hit a grounder to the vacuum that is Tsuchiya! Goes to 1st, 3 out!

Bottom 4th
Iida's only throwing the slider about 50% of the time, the fastball and 2-seamer making up most of the rest.

And the Maebashi batters aren't figuring it out at all. Tamura strikes out in between two bad swings and groundouts to 2nd. It's not looking good offensively for Maebashi at all.

Top 5th
After Yoshinari's groundout to 1st, Takahashi Kouna warms up.

Shindou another ball to the vacuum... and same with Uchida. Those are nothing for Tsuchiya and the side is retired.

Bottom 5th
Arai under the 2 seamer from Iida and pops out to Ishii.

Ogawa with a cut swing bloops one to right. He has both of Maebashi's hits. Itagaki bunts him over, and Takahashi Kouna will come in after the break as #13 Tomita comes in to hit for Kitagawa.

Tomita chopper to Iida, goes to 1st for the out. He looks like he things it was foul, but it was called fair and the side is retired.

Maebashi Ikuei's relief starter Kitagawa's day is done. But he leaves with his team behind 2-0. Will that wind up being the difference in the game, or can they unlock the puzzle that is Iida?

Top 6th
Ace Takahashi Kouna takes over for PH Tomita.

Ishii short chopper to the right side, Tomoya charging, throws back across to 1st for the out.

Yoshizawa introduced the the wonder that is Kouna's slider, goes down swinging.

And Ikezawa swings and misses on the forkball for a 1-2-3 inning. He's certainly going to shut down Jyousou's offense but....

Bottom 6th
...what about their offense?

One down and Tomoya flies the bat around and pokes one to left for a base hit. What will they do?

Kudou hitting, but he goes right into a 4-6-3 double play! They are in serious trouble.

Top 7th
Kouna misses on the 3-2 pitch and walks Iida. He takes off as Ganryuu bunts, but misses! Throw to 1st from Ogawa though short hops Kusunoki and that allows Iida to reach 2nd!

Ganryuu bunting, pops it up! Crashing Kusunoki catches it, spins fires to 2nd and they double off Iida who was going on the bunt! 2 out!

But Takashima remains a thorn in Maebashi's side hitting a single to left.

Now he takes off for 2nd! Throw from Ogawa, and Tsuchiya doesn't secure the ball!

No matter! Kouna just throws the forkball and Yoshinari spins around for the 3rd out!

Bottom 7th
Iida starting the inning at 63 pitches. He should still be fine.

Tamura with finally a hard hit ball lines one over Yoshizawa to center.

Maebashi bunting? Tsuchiya trying to bunt, fouls it off.

Tries the buster, but doesn't work, now down 1-2.

2-seamer away and Tsuchiya chases for the first out.

Arai with a slow chopper to the left side. It perfectly splits both Uchida and Yoshizawa! It's slow enough that Yoshizawa can stop it, but that's all!

Sasaki-kantoku calling time.

AH! Ogawa looks really bad on a bail swing from Iida's slider. 2 down!

Itagaki waiting for a pitch from Iida, but instead gets a 4-pitch walk! It's manrui with Kouna up to bat!!

First pitch, Kouna fouls it off himself and needs a moment or two...

Ah, it looks like he hit it off the side of his knee...

He's back in now. gets ahead 2-1...

Swings on the 2-seamer and it's 2-2!

Fastball inside, fouls it off! And again!

Slider outside, ball 3!


Iida gets Kouna on the slider and the side is retired!!

Top 8th
Kouna mowing down batters as Shindou goes down swinging.

Uchida strikes out too, but the pitch goes all the way to the backstop and he takes 1st!

Ishii with a single through the right side! Kouna in a pinch here!

Gets Yoshizawa to fly out to center, 2 down.

But he walks Ikezawa on 4 straight to load the bases! Manrui for Jyousou with Iida at bat!

AH!!! Wild pitch from Kouna! Ogawa with it, quickly, but the runners retreat! Still manrui!

Now #14 Shioya comes in to run for Ishii at 2nd...

Count runs full..


Fastball right down the middle and Iida can only walk back to the dugout as Kouna lets out a yell!

Bottom 8th
#13 Wada comes in for PR Shioya and takes over at 1B.

One down and Tomoya gets his 2nd single through the right side.

But it quickly becomes 2 down when Kudou flies out to left.

Tamura goes down on the slider and it looks like they've lost their best chance...

Top 9th
Kouna strikes out the side, but right now it's padding the stats in a losing effort.

Bottom 9th
Can Maebashi Ikuei somehow solve Iida in just 3 outs?

Supposedly, the right batters are coming up. It's 3-4-5 for Maebashi Ikuei.

Iida with leg cramps drinking some sports drink as he has 106 pitches. He's taken back to the dugout as #18 Kaneko warms up just in case...

And at 4 minutes he re-emerges from the dugout and will look to finish the game.

Ah? At 1-1, Iida calls over the umpire and he's asking to be taken out. The trainers come out and he has to be helped off the field! #18 Kaneko does come in to the game.

Very first pitch from Kaneko, Tsuchiya grounds to 2nd.

Arai grounder up the 3rd base line, fair! Uchida with it, goes to 1st for the 2nd out!

Last chance in Itagaki, Up 2-0, Kaneko puts in strike 1... now strike 2...

Liner down the right field line... FAIR!! IT'S FAIR!!!  Ogawa stops at 3rd and the douten runner is in scoring position as once again Kouna steps in!

Liner to right center!  That's going to split the defense! It goes all the way to the wall!!  Ogawa scores! Itagaki scores!!

We're all tied at 2-2!!!!!!!!!

And with Kouna at 3B, the sayonara run stands 90 feet away!

Kaneko rattles, falls behind Kusunoki 2-0! Gets a strike in, but now another ball and it's 3-1!

Grounder to 2nd! Shindou with it goes to 1st and we're headed to enchousen!

Top 10th
Shindou looking to make this a one inning affair singles to center!

But no bunt from Uchida! He swings away at a slider and lifts it to center where Kudou has it for the 2nd out.

Only now does Sasaki-kantoku bunt Shindou along.

But Yoshizawa goes down swinging and we're to the bottom of the 10th.

Bottom 10th
Uh oh, it's a 4-pitch walk to Tomoya to start the inning. Kudou not bunting.

Single back up the middle! Now the sayonara run is in scoring position with no out!

Now Tamura bunts him along, runners 2nd and 3rd.

Surely they will walk him.

No! No!

Tsuchiya attacks the first pitch and he singles to right center! Sayonara!

You can say all you want about being able to close, or to be strong enough mentally to handle any situation, but seeing the image of your ace being carried off the field is hard to take for anyone.

I mean, good for Maebashi Ikuei that they were able to take advantage, but I feel bad for Jyousou Gakuin...

I'll just leave it at that for now...

Day 12 - Quarterfinal 2 - Nichidai Yamagata (Yamagata) vs. Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)

Meitoku Gijyuku under the flag of ace Kishi has brought the team back to the best 8. He did so while revenging the loss to Osaka Touin last year. He will not rack up the K's like other aces, but he exhibits a level of control which makes him very successful.

The problem with them is their offense. Yes, they did enough win the battle with Setouchi ace Yamaoka, then jumped on Osaka Touin ace Kuzukawa. The problem is they didn't score anything thereafter when Kuzukawa was replaced, garnering just 2 hits.

Nichidai Yamagata has been on a run similar to the run they made in 2006 when they got to this point. Ace Shouji has carried them past Nichidai-san and then against Sakushin Gakuin - two generally strong stalwarts in the kokoyakyu world. He has a very sharp slider that can confound batters - see the 12Ks against Sakushin Gakuin. The one nagging bit is the 7 walks in the first game. Not all of them were because he wasn't locating the slider, it just seemed like he was plain missing the plate. Will a patient team at the plate possibly expose him?

Nichidai Yamagata (Yamagata)
CF Aoki Tatsuya
2B Nakano Takumu
LF Mineta Jyunnosuke
SS Okumura Hiromu
1B Yoshioka ?
C Asanuma Takanori
RF Takeda Shouhei
P Shouji Misaki
3B Itasaka Hiroki

Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
CF Yano Masao
2B Hata Hikaru
3B Itsuzaki Tomonari
P Kishi Jyunichirou
1B Nishioka Takashige
LF Son Ho Kyun (#9)
RF Ozaki Yuuto (#15)
C Baba Yuudai
SS Iwami Takashi


11:00 - First Pitch

Top 1st
First pitch swinging, Aoki hits slop chopper up middle. Iwami there and goes to 1st for the out.

Nakano late on the Kishi offering, also rolls one to short.

Nichidai Yamagata attacking Kishi early when they know they'll get strikes, but Mineta flies out to Son in left and he side is retired in 7 pitches.

Bottom 1st
Yano tries to size up a curveball, but grounds out to short.

Hata slices a slider the other way and it goes to left center for a base hit.

Itsuzaki not bunting here, but grounds to 2nd. Hata cuts down the lead runner. Mabuchi-kantoku sending Itsuzaki! Throw from Asanuma... just late!

Kishi with a drive to righ! Takeda running back, but he knows it's over his head! Itsuzaki scores as the the throw comes in and Kishi has his first base hit, a run scoring double! 1-0 Meitoku Gijyuku!

Nishioka grounds to 2nd, but Nichidai Yamagata behind it early as they already trail after 1.

Top 2nd
Nichidai Yamagata's batters are so concerned with falling behind they are swinging away very early in counts.

Okumura with a quick grounder to 2nd, Yoshioka hits the very definition of a swinging bunt as Kishi throws him out.

Asanuma at 1-1 swings on two consecutive sliders to retire the side.

Bottom 2nd
Son gets under one, Takeda settles under it for the first out.

Same with Ozaki as he hits a silo HR to Okumura.

Baba tries to time the curve, but grounds to Itasaka for the 3rd out.

Top 3rd
Just to keep the batters off balance, Kishi on 2-1 goes slider, fastball to Takeda for his 2nd K.

Shouji checks in against his counterpart lacing a fastball to left.

Araki-kantoku will try for the one-timer with Aoki as Itasaka bunts the runner along.

Kishi looking for the edges can't find against Aoki, falls behind 3-0 fires a couple of balls to fill up the count.

But Kishi goes for another fastball and Aoki is all over it! Yano sprinting back as it lands behind him and one bounds to the wall! Shouji will score and we're all tied at 1-1!

Nakano is called around on a slider to end the inning, but Kishi gives in too much at 3-2 and we're tied!

Bottom 3rd
With the game tied, Shouji goes to work on the Meitoku batters.

Works outside to Iwami, who grounds to short.

Yano goes after a slider outside, but is ahead of it and pulls it to 2nd. And Iwami is jammed inside and rolls one to more over to Nakano and the side is retired

Top 4th
Both pitchers in a groove as Kishi needs just 6 pitches to retire the 3-4-5 batters from Nichidai Yamagata. Still trying to attack Kishi before he gets the advantage.

Bottom 4th
Itsuzaki able to draw a walk after working the count full.

Mabuchi-kantoku calls for the hit-and-run! Kishi puts one to the left side, Okumura scrambling back, runs it down in the gap, goes to 1st... gets Kishi! One down, but Itsuzaki advances to scoring position.

Once again, Nishoka work the count full on Shouji.

Liner back up the middle, Shouji goes for cover as it whizzes by him! Itsuzaki being waved home an the throw is cutoff! 2-1 Meitoku Gijyuku!

Hit-and-run again! Son with a fly to left, but Mineta is back towards the wall! Naw it can't be, right?

Nope. He catches it with some room to spare for the 2nd ou.

Ozaki goes down on a slider to retire the side but Meitoku retakes the lead!

Top 5th
Kishi continuing to keep the batters off balance. Asanuma jammed on fastball up and in, hits soft pop to 2nd.

Takeda reaches out on a slider and grounds out 2nd.

Ahead 1-2 to Shouji, Kishi tries slider after slider, but Shouji doesn't bit and takes a walk.

Itasaka would have fouled out to Nishioka if he didn't flub the ball, but no damage done as on the next pitch he grounds to short

Bottom 5th
Shouji still cruising though for the most part. Baba chases slider outside for another K.

Iwami an easy comebacker to Shouji for out #2.

But instead of a 1-2-3 inning, Shouji grazes Yano's butt.

Yano goes for 2nd! It's a slow curve, but Asanuma quick throws to 2nd... Yano slides into Okumura... OUT! Nice play by the Nichidai catcher!

We hit the break with our expected pitcher's duel. Shouji has given up a couple of untimely hits but has been fairly effective nonetheless.  Kishi has been just as effective, with perhaps the mistake to Aoki being the only one so far.

Top 6th
Aoki with a grounder to the right side, Nishioka makes great stop, hesitates, flips to Kishi, SAFE!

Kishi can't get his footwork at 1B down right and the douten runner is on base! Nakano bunts him along to 2nd for Mineta as Mabuchi-kantoku calls time.

Mineta though flies out to center and there's 2 out. Okumura up to bat.

Swings at a way high fastball! Yano springing back to right center! Are you kidding me?

It lands in front of the wall! Aoki will easily score from 2nd as Okumura is in with a triple! How in the world?!

Yoshioka fouls out to Nishioka, but once again we're level!

Bottom 6th
Hata with a high chopper to the left side. Itasaka waiting for it, fires to 1st.... just gets Hata for the out!

Itsuzaki with a ball to left center, Aoki charging in dives... has it, no! It pops out! Itsuzaki to 2nd and Meitoku has a chance to retake the lead!

Oh? Shouji pitching around Kishi? He gives him nothing to hit and he draws a walk.

Nishioka makes him pay! Single to right and Shouji can only give a laugh as Meitoku retakes the 3-2 lead!!

He clamps down though getting Son to ground into the 6-4-3 double play, but Nichidai Yamagata will have to play catchup once again!

Top 7th
Asanuma responding immediately with a single to right center! Takeda bunts, but Kishi goes to 2nd! They get one, Iwami's throw to 1st... beats a head-sliding Takeda (would have been safe if he ran).

2 down!

Shouji drive to right! But the wind knocks it down! Ozaki in front of the wall makes the catch for the 3rd out!

Bottom 7th
Defensive change for Nichidai Yamagata. #16 Ajiki comes in for Takeda to play RF. Wonder if he hurt himself in the dive to 1st.

Baba looking to distance his team from Nichidai singles through short. Mabuchi-kantoku will play for the one timer as Iwami bunts him along for Yano.

Yano draws a walk, and that gets Araki-kantoku to call time.

On the very next pitch, he "hits" Hata, though he really grazes his butt if at all. Manrui for Meitoku!

And Shouji gets out of it! Itsuzaki gets under a high fastball and flies out to center! They're still in it!

Top 8th
Itasaka liner, but right at Iwami for the 1st out. Back to the top of the order and Aoki.

Man he's got a good swing, nice and level. Lines one right back to center.

Nakano with the safety bunt, but Itsuzaki makes the strong throw for the out.

Kishi leaves one over for Mineta! He drives it to deep left center! Yano scrambling back... no chance! Mineta in with a triple and we're tied again at 3-3!!!

And now they're intentionally walking Okumura to get to Yoshioka. Ball 4 and in steps Yoshioka, 0-3 on the day.

LINER TO RIGHT!!!!! That's in for a base hit! Mineta scores and Nichida Yamagata has their first lead in the game here in the 8th! It's 4-3!!!!

Asanuma flies out to right, but it's now Meitoku Gijyuku under the clock!

Bottom 8th
Shouji being just as cautious with Kishi, winds up walking him to start the inning. Nishioka will bunt him along for Son.

And perhaps also in the same vein, Shouji pitches around Son to get to Ozaki. Ball 4 and gyakuten run is on base.

Mabuchi-kantoku counters by sending in #13 Takahashi to bunt for Ozaki.

But he's down 0-2, and he just checks his swing.

2-2 and he gets fooled, but has a quick bat to foul it off.

Pitch way outside and it's 3-2!


Shouji goes inside and hits Takahashi with the fastball in the shoulder! Manrui for Meitoku as Araki-kantoku calls time. 138 pitches for Shouji, and they're leaving him in!

#7 Oonishi in to run for Takahashi.

OH! First pitch inside makes Baba hit the deck!


Baba kneeling lays it down but it goes foul!

And now swinging away falls behind 1-2! Should he have been patient with a tired Shouji on the mound?


But Baba pops it up! Asanuma doesn't need to catch it, but does anyways for the 2nd out!

Iwami up to bat, and he gets one final message from Mabuchi-kantoku.

But he pops it up! Okumura secures it and Shouji holds serve here in the 8th!

Top 9th
Oonishi stays in at LF, Son moves to RF.

Ajiki up for his first AB, singles back up the middle! Playing for insurance, Shouji bunts him along for Itasaka.

But Itasaka pops out to Hata on the first pitch.

Aoki flies out to right, and it's hang on time for Shouji! Did Meitoku blow their best chance last inning, or are there some theatrics left in the bottom of the 9th?

Bottom 9th
Top of the order due for Meitoku. Yano steps in...

Shows bunt, takes strike 1. Slider inside, swung and missed.

Shouji gets a generous outside strike and Yano spins around in frustration! One down.

Hata rolls over one. Yoshioka keeps calm, recovers and goes to 1st for the 2nd out!

Last chance in Itsuzaki.

Puts a slider inside for strike 2, 1-2 now... fastball outside, 2-2.. slider high 3-2...

Kishi waiting on deck...

Line down the 1st base line.. foul!

Grounder to 2nd! Nakano with it, goes to 1st..

GAME SET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nichidai Yamagata fights from behind all game, come through in the top of the 8th and take their very first lead, and win 4-3!!

Kishi is in tears understandably after the loss. He pitched so well up until this point, but he left pitches in the zone in key situations (Not to Okumura, you just tip your hat there). Even still, he pitched very well, and was let down by his kantoku's strategy more than anything. Yes, for most of the team the summer is over, but the team has absolutely nothing to be disappointed about.

For Nichidai Yamagata, they succeed their performance back in 2006 (when I got to see them in person) with an impressive win. Perhaps Hanamaki Higashi's grittiness is carrying over because it never felt like they were out of it and continuously fought back.

Ace Shouji will need that day of rest as he was certainly laboring in the 8th. Will he be rested enough for the semifinal?

Day 12 - Quarterfinal 1 - Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate) vs. Naruto (Tokushima)


Ugh. I  just lost my Best 8 Review post, so these will have to be abbreviated.

Naruto unfortunately for them in my opinion decided to blowout Tokoha Kikugawa. From recent history having such a game winds up being detrimental in the next game as teams generally struggle. Furthermore, Moriwaki-kantoku never pulled Bandou despite the lead, and pitching on 1 day's rest could be a problem.

For Hanamaki Higashi, they have their usual gritty bits such as #2 citter Chiba. Sasaki-kantoku has basically utilized the entire roster and reorganized the lineup to fit the matchup. Same thing with the pitchers, even pulling in Kishisato (who didn't pitch in the prefecturals at all) for the Saibi game.

He seems to be successful choosing the starter, but the relief staff thereafter struggles, and so runs are to be had.

Hanamaki Higasahi (Iwate)
2B Yagi Hikaru (#14)
CF Chiba Shouta
LF Kishisato Ryousuke (#1)
RF Oota Ryousuke
3B Tadano Shouta (#3)
C Yamashita Hayato
SS Mogi Kazuhiro
1B Oguma Yuuki(#16)
P Hosokawa Toshiki (#17)

Naruto (Tokushima)
2B Nakano Yuuki
CF Koumoto Yuujirou
SS Kawano Yuuto
1B Ise Hayato
RF Inaoka Kenta
C Kusaka Hiroki
3B Matsumoto Takanori
P Bandou Yuugo
LF Narukawa Shuuji


08:00 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Yagi playing patience game with Bandou, does wind up grounding to short after reaching a full count.

Chiba does gritty things spoiling away pitch after pitch after getting count full. 8... 9... 10... 11... all foul.

12th pitch, foul again. Naruto not realizing this perhaps, but this is rapidly increasing pitch count for later.

13th pitch, ball 4! They should have done what Major did in whatever ep I can't remember and just walked him beforehand to save pitches.

Now in the middle of the lineup, the strategy is seemingly abandoned as Kishisato swings away.  That's to his detriment as he whiffs on a forkball down 2-2 for the out!

That leaves it to cleanup batter Oota, but it looks like the Naruto battery wants nothing to do with him getting 3 balls before catching the outside half.

But Oota gives them an out when he goes after a ball inside and rolls one to Ise for the 3rd out. But Bandou has thrown a lot of pitches.

Bottom 1st
Looks like the strategy for starter Hosokawa and Saski-kantoku is to go away to all the batters, and so far it's working.

But to Naruto's credit, they are trying to take it the other way. It's just that both Nakano and Koumoto both ground to short, and Kawano goes to 2nd.

Top 2nd
Hm, after building the pitch count in the 1st, they're giving pitches back in the 2nd - though Bandou is throwing more strikes. Tadano falls behind 0-2 and chases a fork ball, grounding to 2nd. Yamashita goes on the next pitch and grounds to short.

Mogi also swings on the first pitch and hits a high slider back up the middle. But again after falling behind 0-2, Oguma grounds to a fielder's choice at 2nd for the 3rd out.

Bottom 2nd
Against Ise, Hosokawa works both sides, eventually getting him to pull a fastball in right to Mogi.

Inaoka gets a rare ball in the middle of the plate, but all he can do is ground to 2nd.

Kusaka the first time we see Hosokawa have issues with control, winds up walking Kusaka.

But comes right back to strike out Matsuki on a screwball and the inning is over!

Top 3rd
Once again with 2 strikes Bandou uses the fork and Hosokawa chases.

Yagi with a sharp ball back up the middle, but Bandou finds a present in his glove.

Chiba after that 13 pitch AB, trolls Bandou who things throwing a strike will be fine. Lines one to center for a base hit.

Kishisato though likes the high fastball and flies out to left for the 3rd out.

Bottom 3rd
Hosokawa now inside to Bandou jams him and he hits a soft fly to Oguma. But against #9 batter Narukawa, he winds up hitting him with the curve. Moriwaki-kantoku will play for the one-time as Nakano bunts him along.

Koumoto though attacks a 1st pitch fastball on what looks like the outer half and just rolls one to short. Mogi the easy play for the 3rd out.

Top 4th
Oota making contact with the fork, lines one to center!  The ball hits off the heel of Koumoto's glove and pops up! Oota takes off for 2nd and beats the throw!

Tadano with the safety bunt, but a crashing Ise has it within milliseconds it seems and goes to 3rd! Oota realizing he's out goes back, but he's in a rundown. But despite the time it takes, Tadano doesn't advance!

Yamashita popup behind home, Kusaka makes a great catch against the padding, but he enjoys the nice play that Tadano takes 2nd!

It winds up not hurting them as Mogi goes after the outside fastball and grounds out to 2nd.

So despite the hustle double, it winds up resulting in nothing.

Bottom 4th
Another jam job done by Hosokawa and Kawano hits one back to Hosokawa.

Ise actually gets a good fastball to lineup but grounds right to Mogi for the 2nd out.

Inaoka actually able to hit a fly ball to the outfield, but he was out in front of a slider and lifts it to Oota for the 3rd out.

Top 5th
Oguma gets a good changeup to hit, but hits it right back to Bandou for the first out.

Hosokawa works the count full on Bandou, but winds up hitting another comebacker for the 2nd out.

So back to the top of the order and Yagi. I'd almost take the out to have Chiba start the inning.

And Bandou obliges by spotting the fastball on the inside corner for the 3rd strike.

Bottom 5th
Kusaka gets a 3-2 count, takes the outside fastball back the other way past a diving Yagi for a base hit! Naruto finally breaks the no-hitter!

Bust-and-run! Matsumoto grounds one to 1st! Oguma looks 2, but goes to 1st for the out.

Bandou drives a ball to center! Chiba scampering back, looks back, scampers more...  Makes the catch! Kusaka holds at 2nd and there's 2 down!

Narukawa flies out to right though and we hit the break scoreless! Both Hosokawa and Bandou have pitch well so far, though it looks like Naruto is starting to make better contact on Hosokawa's offerings. Bandou meanwhile has given up baserunners in every inning except the 5th, but has clamped down there after.

I do imagine Sasaki-kantoku will be going to the bullpen in the 2nd half. Can they get to Bandou before then?

Top 6th
Chiba leading off the 6th, falls behind 2-2 and now goes into defensive mode, gets to 3-2 right off the bat.

Foul ball #1... #2...

Nope, lasts just 2 pitches as he walks on the 3rd 3-2 pitch.

Kishisato drive to center! Koumoto back going back...


It's off the first wall on the backscreen! Chiba sets that up with the walk and the ace number (though he doesn't really pitch) gives his team the 2-0 lead!!

Bandou trying to recover, Oota grounds one to Ise.

Tadano can't get to the fastball on the outer half for the 2nd out.

And Yamashita flies out to Narukawa.

But as expected an ace finally breaks down and it's Bandou!

Bottom 6th
Oof. Leadoff batter Nakano for Naurto looks rather silly swinging at slider near LH batters box for 1st out.

Hosokawa trying to entice Koumoto away, but he doesn't bit and he draws a walk.

Uh oh, now Hosokawa behind Kawano now 3-0!

Ball 4! Runners on 1st and 2nd for Ise!

But only now does Sasaki-kantoku sends out #11 Nakazato to the bullpen. That might be a problem.

Sasaki-kantoku calls time to buy time for Nakazato.

Ball 1 wide to Ise....

Grounder to short, Mogi can't secure it! It goes to left and Koumoto comes to score! Kawano goes to 3rd and he's a good chance of blowing the 2-run lead they just got. 2-1!

And Sasaki-kantoku is still sticking with Hosokawa...

Inaoka lines a fastball the other way down the left field line... FAIR!!  Kawano scores, Ise takes 3rd and Inaoka takes 2nd on the throw in! Douten at 2-2 and Naruto still threatening!

And Sasaki-kantoku is still sticking with Hosokawa...

Kusaka hard grounder to 2nd! Yagi goes home and Ise is caught in between! He's run down and there's 2 out!

But still runners at the corners with 2 out.

Matsumoto single through short! Inaoka will come in to score easily and Naruto has come back!! 逆転, 3-2 Naruto!

Bandou hits one back to Hosokawa for the 3rd out, but the damage has been done. Naruto takes the lead and now Hanamaki Higashi will have to start all over again.

Top 7th
Mogi starts off the inning with a line single to left center. Oguma moves him over for Hosokawa.

But Bandou falls behind 3-0 before Kusaka goes out to see him.

Liner to left! Narukawa to his right... makes the sliding catch! 2 out.

Yagi bounds one to Kawano and the side is retired!

Bottom 7th
Narukawa early on a slider, flies out to center. Nakano lifts one to the right side and Yagi makes the catch.

Ah, but on a full count to Koumoto, he walks him.

And then against Kawano he's all over the place. He manages to get the count full, but walks him too.

And now finally does Sasaki-kantoku send in #11 Nakazato to relieve him to face Ise, that's a tough first batter.

But Ise flyball to center! Chiba ranging to his left.. makes the running catch for the 3rd out! They prevent Naruto from scoring, but still trail with just 6 outs to go!

Top 8th
Chiba does lead off the 8th...

And he's ahead 2-0. I'd almost consider walking him even though he's the douten runner to save pitches...

Because 2 strikes later, he's in his defensive mode. Ball 3 outside, here we go!

Foul... foul...

Ball 4! Again, I think it might have been the best choice. But you just can't miss to Kishisato like last time.

Bandou pulls the slow curve and Kishisato whiffs over it.

Kishisato bleeder to short, Kawano throw to 1st... OUT! Just gets Kishisato on a bang-bang play!

Oota up and Sasaki-kantoku sending a message out to him.

Oota goes after 2nd pitch, looks like high fastball, flies out to center. 2 down.

Tadano grounder to 1st... AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The ball hits the bag and bounds over Ise into right! Chiba rounding 3rd, he scores!!  The lucky bounce ties the game at 3-3!!!!

Yamashita drive to deep left center!  Narukawa running to it, won't get there! Tadano heading for 3rd, going home... he scores!  Yamashita in with a double and Hanamaki Higashi has taken the lead at 4-3!!

Moriwaki-kantoku calls a conference to try and calm things down.

Mogi with a single to the right side... Nakano chasing after it, can't get it! Yamashita scores and it's now 5-3!

Things quickly falling apart as Bandou hits Oguma... Is this the end for Naruto?

Not yet perhaps. Nakazato flies out to center and the deficit is at 2, still a lot, but manageable.

Bottom 8th
Inaoka gets a good fastball to hit, but pulls it right to Oguma for the first out.

Kusaska jammed on fastball inside, grounds to 2nd, 2 down!

Matsumoto works a walk, and at least the douten runner can get to the plate.

Ah! But Nakazato has Matsumoto caught off 1st! They start the rundown, but it looks rather awkward. They move him to 2nd, but the Ogawa buries the throw and he's safe!

AH!AH! Now Nakazato throws it away to 2nd and Matsumoto goes to 3rd! One base hit can make this a 1-run game!

But Bandou ahead of the changeup and he grounds to Tadano for the 3rd out!

Top 9th
#10 Maegawa comes in for Narukawa and takes over in RF. Inaoka goes to LF.

After a popout by Yagi, it's the Chiba show.

Yep, 2-2 and he fouls 1... 2... 3... 4... takes ball 3... ball 4!

So he's 1-1 with 4 walks.

Bandou retires the next 2 batters, but Naruto has a lot of work to do now...

Bottom 9th
#5 Mihara comes in for Oguma and goes to 3B, Tadano returns to his nubmered position of 1B.

Nakazato struggling with the zone, falls behind 3-0 and while he gets a strike him, ends up walking him! Douten runner will come to the plate!

And now he's having trouble with Nakano, going 2-0 before getting a generous call on a ball out and low.

So they try the low zone again.. and get it!  2-2!

Slider way outside though, and it's a full count. Oh, Nakano goes after ball 4 but fouls it off. I don't hear anyone warming up in the bullpen.

BALL 4!!!

And only now with the douten runner on base with no out, does Sasaki-kantoku switch out Nakazato for #10 Kouno.

Normal kokoyakyu practice would be to bunt here to move the douten runner to scoring position.

Indeed Koumoto is showing bunt.

But while they're worried about defense, Kouno falls behind 2-0!

Finally one in the zone, but Koumoto fouls it off!

Comebacker! Kouno catches it in the 5-hole! Maekawa is stuck off 3rd! He's run down and there's 2 outs! Still runners on 2nd and 3rd, but with only one out to spare.

And cleanup batter Ise is up. Will they risk putting the gyakuten runner on base?


They walk him on 4 pitches and will go to face Inaoka! Sasaki-kantoku calls time.

Nakazato gets ahead 0-1... Inaoka swings, 0-2!

Grounder to 2nd! Yagi blocks it! goes to field it... can't get it! CAN'T GET IT... CAN'T GET IT!!!!!!!

He has to eat the ball and Nakano scores! We're at 5-4 and the sayonara run is at 2nd!!!!

Kusaka up to deliver the winning hit.

NO! Pops it up! Mogi under it, Mihara coming over! Mogi! Mihara!!

It's Mihara who makes the catch! GAME SET!!

Oh my god what a finish! I knew this game would be close, but not to this extent!!

Bandou trying not to cry, but you can tell he and the rest of the team are holding it back.  But man what a game.

The two keys I had earlier came to fruition. Bandou did fatigue on the mound, and Hanamaki Higashi would have to go their bullpen. But Sasaki-kantoku almost pulled the trigger late, not once, but twice - putting the reliever into a complete high leverage situation. That works if you're in the majors and you're playing the sabermetric game. But these are high schoolers! Dear lord man, have better judgement!

But because of it Naruto was able to mount 2 rallies and make this game about as close as you can get.

I need a drink...