Toyokawa has not been intimidated all senbatsu so far. A gutsy opening game versus Nihon Bunri, and then easily handling Ikeda (and the history behind it).
Tanaka Sora is the lynchpin in this team. His dominance on the mound is what has helped this team reach the quarterfinals in their first ever appearance. The only question will be - now that the schedule has changed to play 3 games in 3 days, can he hold out until the end?
Okinawa Shougaku's last win of 8-1 is a bit deceiving as the game was tied at 1-1 before they pulled away in the 2nd half. The offense can take advantage of weak pitching perhaps, but may not get that benefit here. In that, fist half of the game though, they had just 3 hits - and all in the 1st inning.
I'm not sure they were expecting Toyokawa when the brackets first came out, but I wonder if perhaps they would have rather taken that revenge matchup versus Nihon Bunri instead...
3B Nakamura Kazuya
CF Sugiura Kenta
C Himi Taisuke
SS Takakuwa Heishirou
1B Itou Tappei
RF Takeichi Keishi
LF Yamada Daichi
P Tanaka Sora
2B Shima Kairi
Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa)
CF Akamine Ken
2B Kubo Shuuto
LF Nishihira Daiki
3B Asato Takeru
1B Uehara Kouta
SS Sunagawa Osamu
C Irabu Shouta
P Yamashiro Daichi
2B Nakamura Masaki (#13)
10:48 - First Pitch!
Kazuya pops a ball down the left field line, fair! He's on with the leadoff hit. Sugiura bunts him along.
AH! A pitch low gets away from Irabu and Kazuya advances to 3rd!
Himi with the looper falls into center and Toyokawa quickly strikes! 1-0!
Takakuwa with a ball down the right field line, and that's fair! Himi goes to 3rd, and Takakuwa takes 2nd as Kubo gets the ball in! Yamashiro in big trouble early!
Itou liner opposite way, over a leaping Asato!! Himi scores from 3rd, Nishihira has trouble fielding it and Takakuwa comes home!! Throw is cut off and Toyokawa leads 3-0 now!!
Higa-kantoku quickly calls time.
Takeichi just out in front of the slider and pops it up for the 2nd out.
Yamashiro finally gets out of the inning with Yamada's groundout to short, but Okinawa Shougaku have dug themselves a hole early!
Well, that's new. Tanaka doesn't seem to getting some of those borderline calls and he walks Akamine to start the game. It continues with Kubo, though he lays down the bunt.
Nishihira hits a comebacker to Tanaka who catches Akamine off 2nd, but in trying to run him down Nishihira goes to 2nd... so it's a wash with a lot of effort expended (unless Nishihira is slower than Akamine).
Doesn't matter though as Asato just dribbles a ball back to Tanaka for the 3rd out.
The bottom of Toyokawa's lineup seems to provide Yamashiro no trouble as he gets Tanaka to groundout to 1st and Shima to chase the slider.
It's the top of the lineup that gives him fits.
Kazuya painting the lines apparently as he grounds a ball past a diving Uehara down the 1st base line for a double!
Then he hits Sugiura (it was a full count) to put runners on for Himi who already has a timely hit. Can he add one more?
YES!! He singles to right! Kazuya rounding 3rd, throw coming in for Kubo up the 3rd base line, and it gets away from Irabu! He scrambles to get it and Sugiura is waved home! Irabu looks home, but no one's home! Sugiura comes in uncontested and it's 5-0!
Takakuwa grounds to 3rd, and after Asato makes a great grab (the ball looked like it wanted to spin a different direction), the side is retired.
But for the Meiji Jingu champs, this looks real bad.
Uehara singles to center to leadoff the inning, and it looks like Higa will play a run at a time as Sunagawa bunts him over.
But Irabu grounds back to Tanaka, and Yamashiro chases the slider for the final 2 outs, stranding him at 2nd.
In an attempt to shake things up, Higa-kantoku sends Kubo in to take the hill. Yamashiro goes to replace him in RF.
Man the umpire today has a narrow strike zone. I swear that 1-2 pitch to Itou was on the corner. And if it was, it cost him as Itou hits a ball to the left side. Sunagawa gets to the gap, but boots the ball away! Base hit for Toyokawa! Takeichi bunts him along to 2nd.
Yamada takes one the other way into the right center field gap! Itou can stroll home and it's 6-0 Toyokawa!
Kubo gets the last 2 batters out, Toyokawa is putting the foot down on Okishou's throats right now...
Tanaka is having some control issues, but nothing serious to be worried about yet. He strikes out 2 more batters en route to his first 1-2-3 inning.
Kubo perhaps settling down in relief as he gets Kazuya and Sugiura on grounders.
I say that and then Himi goes off and doubles into left center.
Takakuwa with a drive to left center!! Akamine going back to his right... still going...
Makes the catch near the wall for the 3rd out! They finally get a donut on the board, but it still took a bit of work.
Nishihira with a ball off the end of the bat going like a bunt up the 3rd base side. Nakamura charging in, his throw is late and one hops Itou and up in the air! Shima backs up the play though.
Asato not bunting here as perhaps they're a bit too far behind now with the game almost half over.
But he hits a grounder to 3rd! Nakamura smothers it, looks to 2nd then fires to 1st, just beating out Asato.
Uehara takes one the other way! Takakuwa can't get to it and it goes to left! There's no throw home on the play and Okishou is on the board thanks to Uehara! 6-1.
Sunagawa his one back to Tanaka! Goes to 2nd for one, AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Both Takakuwa and Shima are there at 2nd, but neither one get the ball!! It goes to center as everyone is safe! E6 and that gets Imai-kantoku to call time.
Irabu chopper up middle! Takakuwa shovels it to Shima, who goes to 1st for the inning-ending double play!
The error by the middle infielders don't cost them any more runs, but Okinawa Shougaku is on the board, and in some ways that's just as important.
Kubo outside of the 3rd has done outstanding in relief. Toyokawa's batters are still making contact, but nothing like what they were against Yamashiro.
After that shaky bit, Tanaka gets to feast against the bottom of Okishou's lineup. And much like the 3rd he racks up 2 more K's in a 1-2-3 inning.
Tanaka has looked a bit more hittable against the middle parts of the lineup, but has only given up the 1 run. Okishou can at least be comforted that Kubo is doing a great job in emergency relief.
There's a breakthrough in the 8-9 batters as Shima gets a one-out single to left center.
But Kubo again doing some fine work. Kazuya chases the high curve and grounds into the 4-6-3 double play.
Tanaka gets two consecutive groundouts from Kubo and Nishihira, before serving one over that Asato takes back up the middle for a basehit.
Uehara hits a ball into left center, Sugiura racing to his right... makes the running catch to end the inning!
Kubo walking Sugiura on 4 straight gets a timeout from Higa-kantoku.
And Himi, who's 3-3 on the day, lays down the bunt! It's successful, but he's also 3-3 today!
Kubo gets one of the 2 outs he needs when Takakuwa plays golf and pops out to short.
Ama-chan plays with the ouen dan in full voice.
Sanshin! Itou chases the slider inside for the 3rd out.
2 quick outs for Tanaka, and Yamashiro's day is officially done. #10 Kinjyou comes to hit for him and gets hit himself.
But Nakamura grounds to short and Okishou fails to gain any more traction.
Kinjyou stays in to play RF.
Toyokawa's bats have fallen to a murmur against Kubo. Once again he records a clean inning to at least given them a chance at a comeback.
Akamine with a rip over a leaping Nakamura down the left field line! He's in with a leadoff triple!
Imai-kantoku calls time as a graphic has him at 101 pitches.
Kubo swings on the first pitch and hits a chopper to 3rd. Akamine holds as the out is recorded at 1st.
Tanaka leaves one over the plate and Nishihira drives that over Yamada's head and to the wall! Akamine scores on the double to make it 6-2. It's a start, but there's a ways to go.
SANSHIN!! Tanaka goes with the slider outside instead of the shuuto and Asato misses for the 2nd out!
Uehara trying to continue the inning, falls behind 1-2. Tanaka runs off the mound on what he thinks is strike 3, but the ump perhaps squeezes him.
But Uehara hits a soft grounder to 2nd. Shima makes the out at 1st and Okishou is limited to just the 1!
Shima, after a slow start, hits a seeing eye single through the right side!
Kazuya with the buster hit, hits one to the left side. Asato has no play as he was crashing in, and by the time Sunagawa gets to it, he has no play!
Sugiura instead shows the bunt late and moves the runners along for Himi. It's another chance situation for him. Can he deliver a 3rd time? Will Okishou even let him?
Kubo pitching him outside. Might just put him on.
But no, they catch the outside edge for strike 2.
They go with the change and Himi bites! He's finally retired!
Takakuwa with a ball to center, but Akamine is there to make the catch for the 3rd out. Kubo's done his part giving up just 1 run over 7 innings of work.
Now, can the offense dig deep and find something?
Sunagawa scorcher to the left side, Nakamura with the diving stop. Quick throw to 1st... Short hops Itou and he can't secure it! Leadoff batter on for Okishou.
#4 Fuchigami in to hit for Irabu...
Fouls off a couple and the count is at 2-2.
Grounder up middle! Takakuwa to 2nd for 1, Shima to 1st... double play! Okishou down to their final out!
Kinjyou the last chance...
Kinjyou low shot right to Shima, has to play the in between hop and it goes off his glove into right! There's still some life for Okishou.
And now Nakamura gets his first hit at the right time, with a ball back up the middle for a base hit. The dream continues.
But it does come to an end. Akamine grounds to 2nd. Shima gathers it and goes to 1st to end the game! First timers Toyokawa moves on to the Best 4 with a 6-2 win!
Toyokawa never gave Okinawa Shougaku a chance to be in this game. The opened the scoring early, expanded the lead, and in some ways crushed Okishout's spirit. Kubo kept them in the game, but the offense could never get themselves right after that start.
And once again Okinawa Shougaku falls short, despite their successful fall campaign. They'll have to right the ship once again for the summer campaign.
Toyokawa meanwhile is the team no one wants to face. Riseisha will get the honors tomorrow.
But there are some cracks. The 3-4-5 batters for Okishou were 5-12, and while that's not enough to create offense per se, it is an indicator that perhaps he's a bit more vulnerable than we thought. And remember that they'll have no rest going forward, so how will his arm hold up?
Still, they're a scary team.
Tanaka Sora (Toyokawa) - CG, ER, 8 H, 6 K, BB
Himi Taisuke (Toyokawa) - 3-4, 2B, R, RBI
Nakamura Kazuya (Toyokawa) - 3-5, 2B, 2R
Itou Tappei (Toyokawa) - 2-4
Yamashiro Daichi (Okinawa Shougaku) - 2 IP, 5 ER, 6 H, K, 0 BB, HBP
Kubo Shuuto (Okinawa Shougaku) - 7 IP, ER, 6 H, 5 K, BB
Nishihira Daiki (Okinawa Shougaku) - 2-4, 2B, R, RBI
Uehara Kouta (Okinawa Shougaku) - 2-4