And we're underway! Seeing both Ojima and Anraku having to turn in their flags reminds us how the competition was just on another level. But for this tournament there will be new names as both are absent. Anraku because he was hurt and Ojima because he was a senior.
The two lucky contestants to draw the opening game hail from the western parts of Japan.
Since I've already gone through a lot of the analysis on the matchup, we know that for Kamimura Gakuen the pitching just has to be good enough (supposedly) as the offense supposedly carries the team. That's the opposite for Iwakuni, whose offense is not very good, but the pitching seems to do just enough to hold up their end of the bargain.
So without further ado, let senbatsu begin!
Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima)
CF Nakayama Kouki
LF Honda Kei (#13)
1B Yamamoto Takuya (#9)
3B Kojima Chikara
C Toyoda Shougo (#12)
SS Tokou Masao
P Azuma Michihiro
2B Kawano Ryou
RF Nozaki Taisei (#7)
2B Kawamoto Takuho
C Mizuno Daichi
LF Higashi Fumiya
1B Tsuchiya Tomohiro
P Yanagawa Takehiro
RF Kametani Yuuta
3B Kawamura Ryousuke
SS Kihara Hayato
CF Koutari Kyouhei
10:47 - First pitch!
First pitch slider way down and away at 122. Goes for it again, same result.
And again, he finally gets a swing from Nakayama.
4 sliders now and he falls behind 3-1... 5 sliders, and it's a leadoff walk. Not a very good start.
Safety bunt popped up, but foul and out of the reach of Kawamura. Honda though lays the bunt down and Kawamura has no play but to 1st.
A little better, but Yanagawa goes almost all offspeed. Yamamoto with a ball back up the middle, great range from Kihara! He picks it and throws to 1st for the 2nd out! Nakayama goes to 3rd.
There's a fastball to Kojima at 140, but it's a ball. Another and he's behind 2-0.
Kojima with a ball to center! Koutari backing up, but not quickly. Settles in front of the wall... 3 out! He gets out of the mess!
Azuma off to a slow start falling behind Kawamoto 3-0, but puts in 2 strikes to fill the count. Kawamoto with a grounder to short, Tokou makes a great back handed stop, but his quick throw to 1st has nothing on it and Kawamoto beats it out! Tokou may have had more time than he thought...
Mizuno tries to but him along, but his first attempt rolls foul. His second attempt works though, and Azuma saunters to it and goes to 1st for the out. So both teams with a small chance early.
Slow curve to Higashi at 96. As expected, he goes low 130s with the fastball. But he can't locate anything as all and walks Higashi on 4 straight. Kamimura's pitching perhaps a bit shakier to start the game as Tsuchiya steps in.
Ah, but he's all crossed up on the slow ball and holding up his bat dribbles one to the left side! It advances the runners but there's 2 out.
Yanagawa up to try and help his own cause goes after a 1-0 slow pitch and flies out right to center to end the inning.
Wow, that was quick. I didn't have time to get the next inning ready, because Kamimura swings away. 2 pitches for 2 quick outs, and then 3 more to Azuma and the inning is over!
Azuma really goes to that slow curve a lot. Kametani is way ahead of one and strikes out swinging.
Kawamura tries to hold up on the pitch and wait for the fastball. He just gets one under a diving Nakayama for a base hit.
No 1-out bunting from Kawaguchi-kantoku as Kihara swings away. However though he fills up the count, he flies out to a ranging Nakayama in left center.
Azuma then jams Koutari as he pops out to Yamamoto in foul territory to end the inning.
Kamimura is still struggling with the timing as Kawano is ahead of a Yanagawa offering and pops out to Higashi down the left field line.
Nozaki looks to use his speed as he lays down a bunt! Yanagawa rushes over and makes a quick throw, but there's not enough on it and Nozaki beats it out for a base hit.
Meanwhile, Yanagawa continues to work away to the righties with the slider and despite Nakayama's attempts to hold up, chases one for the 2nd out.
And expecting a steal, they pitchout on Honda and Nozaki does indeed take off... and gets throw out to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Azuma is changing speeds all over the place to Kawamoto, with a ~90 slow curve, a low 130 fastball, a 120s slider, and then a ~100 change that Kawamoto flies to right for the first out.
Mizuno goes after the fastball, but is jammed and pops up to Tokou who winds up on the 2nd base side of the infield.
Higashi is being more selective in the box, getting ahead 3-0 before Azuma walks him to bring up Tsuchiya,
I can see that Azuma tries to throw the battes off with pitches across the spectrum, but he has no control and walks him on 4 straight prompting a visit from Oda-kantoku.
And Yanagawa frustrates the hell out of me as he swings on the first pitch, and grounds the slow curve to Toukou for the 3rd out...
Honda gets Kamimura started after the gift from Yanagawa as he lines one past a diving Tsuchiya down the right field line! Honda hustles to 2nd and get in ahead of the throw. Yamamoto doesn't bunt, but hits the ball to Tsuchiya to advance the runner.
Ah. Slider from Yanagawa is short and bounces up and away from Mizuno. Honda scores easily to give Kamimura the 1-0 lead!
And then Kojima lines one over a leaping Kawamura for another double... That gets Kawaguchi-kantoku to call time.
It apparently doesn't help as he walks Toyoda on 4 straight... It at least creates the force.
But Yanagawa is trying to nibble and get the batters to chase. The slider inside at 1-2 is easily held up on as it's in the dirt. Though not believing that Yanagawa would go there again, he just fouls off one.
Yanagawa leaves a slider out over the plate, and Tokou lines it to left, but Higashi is close enough to get it. Any higher and it might have been trouble.
But Yanagawa's fastball is nowhere close at this point. The first 2 are high, though Azuma bails him out on one of them. Yanagawa eventually gets Azuma ahead of one and flies it to right to end the inning, but Kamimura's bats might finally be warming up.
Azuma is milking the lack of timing by Iwakuni's batters by going to the change and slow curve.
Yet, he gives Kametani a fastball that he crushes to left. Honda can only play it off the wall as Kametani goes to 2nd on a leadoff double.
Expectedly, Kawamura bunts him to 3rd...
Azuma goes back to the slow stuff to get a grounder, but instead falls behind 3-1. Backed into a bit of a corner he goes to the fastball and Kihara fouls it off.
But you don't really get groundballs on the curve and change.. and Kihara proves that point by flying one to RF far enough to score the run and make it a 1-1 game!
Koutari grounds out to 3rd to end the inning, but Iwakuni quickly strikes back to tie the game!
Kamimura's batters can't seem to lay off the slider enough as Kawano swings at a buried one to be retired 2-3 for the first out.
Nozaki finds himself on base again after he fists one back up the middle past a diving Kawamoto for a base hit. And this time he goes on a non-pitchout and takes 2nd easily. And once again, the batter knows which way to hit the ball as Nakayama grounds to the right side to advance the runner - though there's 2 outs.
And while Yanagawa continues to have some control problems, he catches his fastball at Honda's knees and puts up the donut after giving up the run!
Kawamoto goes after a high change from Azuma and lifts it to right center. Nakayama and Nozaki converge, and after a stop-start he makes the catch in front of the wall.
It looks like the message of waiting has passed through the lineup as Mizuno draws a walk.
And then promptly takes too big of a lead and is picked off by Toyoda...
Higashi, with no runner and 2 out gets a little more aggressive, but instead chases a change down in the zone and pops up to Kawano to bring us to the break all level at 1.
Can't say I'm too impressed with the pitching so far, both aces have had control issues. Yanagawa can dial the fastball up a little, but doesn't have the control.
Yamamoto gets a hold of a hanging slider and laces it to center. Koutari running back and slighty to right almost overruns it and makes the catch in front of his face.
Kojima decided to play golf on a slider from Yanagawa and pops out to Tsuchiya in foul territory.
Emboldened a little, he gets ahead of Toyoda 0-2, but then tries to get him to chase the slider all the way to a full count... and a walk. That wasn't necessary and will make Yanagawa throw more pitches.
The control issues continue with Yangawa as his fastball just isn't consistent at all. So he goes back to the slider and gets Tokou to hit a shallow fly. Kihara chases it to the foul line, reaches out, makes the NO!
He catches it, but it pops out when his glove hits the ground! Tokou goes to 2nd and Toyoda to 3rd!
Yanagawa uncorks another wild pitch at the absolute wrong time! It bounces away from Mizuno again and Kamimura retakes the lead at 2-1!!
Azuma dribbles one to Tsuchiya for the 3rd out, but it's Yanagawa who gets in his own way... again.
Tsuchiya makes solid contact, but right to Kawano for the 1st out. Yanagawa chases after the change outside for the 2nd out, and then Kametani goes after a fastball way outside and dribbles it back to Azuma for the 3rd out.
This time, Azuma holds serve.
Things might be turning for Iwakuni as Kawano singles back up the middle past a diving Kihara for a leadoff single. Nozaki, despite falling behind 0-2, lays down the bunt.
Nakayama with a hard grounder to the left side. Kihara makes a running pick, but realizing he might not have a play at 1st goes to 3rd... but Kawano beats out the throw. Runners at the corners, 1 out!
But Honda swings and pops it up! Mizuno takes off the mask and makes the catch for the 2nd out!
1-1 to Yamamoto and Kawaguchi-kantoku calls time.
The timeout might have thrown off Yanagawa as Yamamoto gets around on a hanging slider! Kametani running back, but he gives up!!
Oh how unfortunate for Iwakuni and Yanagawa as Yamamoto blows the game open with a 3-run HR to make it 5-1!
Kojima takes the 1st pitch and singles to center and his struggles continue. He finally gets out of the inning when Toyoda grounds to 1st, but it's way too late.
I'm going to have a hard time believing that Iwakuni's offense can come back from 4 down...
Kawamura way ahead pretty much throws his bat at a change from Azuma and pops out to Honda in shallow left.
Kihara soon follows with a grounder to Tokou for the 2nd out... And with such a deficit, Iwakuni feels they have to swing away, which given their stats is a bad thing. Koutari grounds to short as well, and it's a 1-2-3 inning.
Tokou with a single to center, Koutari overruns the ball and it gets past him allowing Tokou to advance to 2nd.
Once again, Azuma does the right thing, slaps the ball to the right side to advance the runner.
Kawano pops the ball just over Yanagawa! Kihara has to charge in and make the play at 1st. 6-1 Kamimura.
Nozaki with another bottom of the order hit, popping one onto the outfield grass in center. Kawamoto tries for the back-handed diving catch, but can't get it! Nozaki on his wheels ends up at 2nd! Iwakuni certainly looking like they're seeing the endgame as Kamimura is applying pressure.
Nakayama with a grounder to the left side! It's past a diving Kawamura, but Kihara makes the stop in the gap, and makes a strong throw to 1st! It beats Nakayama for the 3rd out! Nice play by the SS.
One down and Mizuno blasts a hanging slider to left! Honda has to play it off the padding and Mizuno checks in with a double.
With a 5-run lead, I'd consider sending in the bullpen, but Azuma stays out there. And while he works the count full, Higashi earns the walk prompting a visit from Oda-kantoku.
Tsuchiya steps in, 0-3 on the day. Make that 0-4 as he goes back to Azuma with the comebacker! He goes to 2nd for 1, but Tokou's throw to 1st is short and Tsuchiya is safe.
But Yanagawa soon after grounds to 2nd and Kamimura Gakuen is 3 outs from the 2nd round.
There seems to be a high strike zone this game as Yanagawa gets ahead of Honda 1-2. He winds up hitting a change to center for the 1st out.
Yamamoto's bat still smoking as he pulls another slider to right for a single.
Kojima tries to do a Yamamoto impression, but his full swing goes right to Higashi in left.
And Toyoda grounds to 2nd for the 3rd out.
Last ups for Iwakuni and Kawaguchi-kantoku sends up #17 Odani to hit for Kametani. He puts in a decent AB, taking a couple before flying out to center.
Kawamura makes the most of his probable last AB, bookending a single with a walk.
Down 5, Jock Rock plays in the Iwakuni ouen-dan...
Meanwhile, Azuma struggles here with his control, falling behind Kihara 2-0.
There's the high strike again. And because of it, Kihara goes after the next one, and grounds into the 5-4-3 double play to end the game.
Yanagawa was hanging in there early, but the peripherals caught up to his pitching - not to mention horrible timing. A 3-run HR by Yamamoto helps Kamimura Gakuen pull away leaving Iwakuni little chance to catch up. Kamimura's offense doesn't look good enough to hold up the pitching though and they'll struggle to move on going forward.
For Iwakuni, their run was indeed built on a house of cards and when pressed by the opposition here in Koushien, it all collapsed. Still, they can say that they won the Chuugoku Super-Regional if nothing else.
Yamamoto Takuya (Kamimura Gakuen) - 2-5, HR, R, 3 RBI
Nozaki Taisei (Kamimura Gakuen) - 3-3, SB
Tokou Masao (Kamimura Gakuen) - 2-4, 2B, R
Azuma Michihiro (Kamimura Gakuen) - CG, ER, 4 H, 2 K, 6 BB(!)
Kametani Yuuta (Iwakuni) - 1-3, 2B, R
Mizuno Daichi (Iwakuni) - 1-2, 2B, BB
Higashi Fumiya (Iwakuni) 0-1, 3 BB
Yanagawa Takehiro (Iwakuni) - CG, 5 ER, 11 H, 2 K, 3 BB