Tuesday, April 1, 2014

86th Senbatsu - Day 11 - Semifinal 1 - Riseisha (Osaka) vs. Toyokawa (Aichi)

Semifinal action means the 2nd consecutive game for all 4 teams.  Winning it all means winning 3 games in 3 days - something that is a lot to ask for a lot of teams, even the best of them.

Riseisha and Toyokawa both won their game in handy fashion 6-2.  Riseisha's offense continues to impress, this time around putting early pressure on Fukuchiyama Seibi and not letting go.  Mizota was his usual successful, but shaky self and had to concede the mound again to Nagatani, who does have more than just the fastball, though I think he likes to see if batters can hit it.  He's become more than a serviceable reliever, and has steadied the ship when things appear to go awry.

Toyokawa has impressed in every step of the way, defeating the likes of Nihon Bunri and yesterday Okinawa Shougaku.  The offense isn't as strong as Riseisha, but seems to have good prep for the opposing starter.

But really, their strength is ace Tanaka Sora.  He has been dominant in every game so far, thanks to his various pitches and strong control.  Now, there were some hiccups in their most recent game against Okinawa Shougaku, and stamina will of course be an issue now.

However, if Tanaka can continue on like this, it's possible we will have 2 title holders that were first time participants (Maebashi Ikuei currently holds the Natsu Koushien title).

Riseisha (Osaka)
3B Tsuji Motomasa
2B Inoue Kazuya
SS Yoshida Yuuki
LF Nakayama Shouta
RF Nishimura Takahiro
C Hatta Natsu
1B Kinuta Shouta (#14)
CF Tateishi Satoshi
P Mizota Yuuto

Toyokawa (Aichi)
3B Nakamura Kazuya
CF Sugiura Kenta
C Himi Taisuke
SS Takakuwa Heishirou
1B Itou Tappei
RF Takeichi Keishi
LF Yamada Daichi
P Abe Tatsuya (#10)
2B Shima Kairi


11:03 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Interesting!  Toyokawa goes to their bench to start the game!  Abe will see his first action in the Senbatsu semifinals!!

Abe is a left against a left-heavy lineup.

First two pitches are changeups for balls.  Misses again and it's 3-0. Finally gets a fastball over for a strike.

But he throws ball 4!  Leadoff runner on for Riseisha!  Inoue showing bunt, but Abe still having some trouble finding the bottom of the zone.

Inoue tries to lay a low pitch down, but fouls it off and now has 2 strikes.  Still showing bunt, and successfully lays it down.  Yoshida up to try and drive the run in with a base hit.

Hard grounder right to Shima!  He blocks it, and goes to 1st for the out.  Runner advances to 3rd.

Once again, Abe falls behind to Nakayama.

Nakayama to right, but Takeichi doesn't have to move to make the 3rd out.  It's shaky at best for Abe right now.  Can he settle down, or how long can he hold out?

Bottom 1st
On the other side Mizota will start, but how long before he steps aside as well?

He too can't seem to find the zone, falling behind leadoff batter Nakamura 3-0 as well!  Ball 4 and Toyokawa has a runner on!

And already #10 Nagatani is warming up.

Sugiura lays down the bunt, but Mizota up with it!  Goes to 2nd and cuts down the lead runner!

Bad break for Toyokawa, but Himi picks them up with a first pitch single to left!  Toyokawa threatening here in the 1st!

Ah, but Takakuwa gets jammed inside!  He gets the bat around, but hits a sky fly!  Tateishi makes the catch for the 2nd out.

Mizota continues to get himself into trouble.  Against Itou, he's not really close and walks him on 4 straight.  Manrui for Takeichi!

And I don't think they were working around Itou, because he falls behind Takeichi 2-0!

Takeichi pops it up!  Inoue camping under it, makes the catch for the 3rd out and Mizota dodges a bullet!

Top 2nd
Liner back up middle!  It hits Abe in the leg!  He goes to field it, but has no play.  More importantly he is definitly hurting.

Ace Tanaka immediately warms up.

But after some itai spray, and a couple of warmups, he seems good to go.

Hatta tests him with a bunt, which he fields no problem.

Despite Kinuta being the #7 hitter, Abe working exclusively away, and Kinuta still manages to pull the ball to the right side, advancing the runner along.


Tateishi with the running bunt, but fouls it off.

AH!  But Abe hits Tateishi, putting runners at the corners for Mizota!

Mizota not known for being a great hitter though and falls behind 1-2.  Does manage to just foul one off though... and barely another...

I don't know if Abe is trying to get him to chase, but 2 balls put the count full!


Abe pulls the curve on Mizota and he goes down swinging! 3 out!

Bottom 2nd
Mizota getting a breather against the bottom of Toyokawa's lineup.  Yamada and Abe groundout on a total of 3 pitches.

Shima though, proves to be tougher.  2-2 count, fouls off a couple.

Grounder up 1st base line... Fair!!  Kinuta just a tad late and it's down the line!  Shima in with a double!

Nakamura up, looking to open the scoring with a base hit.

Nakamura gets around the inside pitch and pulls it to right!  It falls in front of Tateishi!  Shima waved around, throw home, cut off!!  Toyokawa takes the 1-0 lead on the 2-out timely by Nakamura!!

Sugiura grounder to 2nd.  Inoue there, but it takes a high hop!  He can't field it cleanly and his throw to 1st is not in time!  Base hit!

Toyokawa can't add any more though.  Himi grounds to 2nd and Inoue goes the short way for the 3rd out.

Top 3rd
Abe again gives up a lead runner as he walks Tsuji for the 2nd time.  And for the second time Inoue bunts him over.

And for the second time, Yoshida grounds to 2nd, advancing the runner.

Will Nakayama, for the second time, fly out to right?

As a matter of fact.  Yes!

Bottom 3rd
Takakuwa somehow extends out and then pulls the ball to left for a base hit.  That's a bit of strength needed there.  Itou bunts him to 2nd.

Actually, Mizota isn't doing all that badly considering that he's not wild, but missing location.  Of course, that has presented themselves it's own issues.

Takeichi though still can't get level on the ball and pops out to Inoue again.

Yamada a hard grounder, but right to Yoshida.  Goes to 1st and the side is retired.

Top 4th
It's also the battle of the ouen-dan's.  Toyokawa with the red background and the TK logo, while Riseisha with the blue-purple background and yellow block R.

Nishimura with their 4th leadoff runner in as many innings with a slicing single to left!

Hatta not showing bunt here, is Okada-kantoku changing things up?

Nope, Hatta lays it down on the 1-1 pitch instead.

Abe working outside to Kinuta, gets ahead 0-2...  gets him ahead of the change and pops it up!  Shima out in the grass makes the catch for the 2nd out.

Abe has really settled down too.  Despite the leadoff batter reaching every inning, he has held them in check.

And then Abe throws a wild pitch... Nishimura heads to 3rd...  Count though 2-2.


Tateishi can only watch as the slider goes over for strike 3!

Bottom 4th
Abe helping his cause!  Grounder to 3rd, gets an assist from a higher hop, and it goes over Tsuji's glove to right!

Shima tries to bunt, but winds up with 2 strikes.  Will he bunt?

Buster!  But hits it foul.

Nakamura blooper to center, Tateishi coming in, but can't get to it! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

The ball cues off to the right and gets by Tateishi!  Nakayama running to cover and Abe is sent home!  And now Nakayama can't field it!  Tateishi scores and Nakayama ends up and 2nd on the error!  2-0 Toyokawa!

And despite that not being a hard hit, and an error on the outfield #10 Nagatani comes in the game...

Nagatani not off to a great start, plunks Sugiura on the numbers.  He's tended to at 1st as Himi steps in.

No panic though.  Nagatani gets a fly ball from Himi for the 2nd out.

Takakuwa completely fooled on the 0-2 slider, has to make contact, and grounds to 2rd for the 3rd out.

Top 5th
Abe finally gets the leadoff batter out.  Nagatani grounds to short.

After another quick grounder, he almost gets a clean inning, but Inoue's grounder to 2nd is bobbled by Shima!  Throw to 1st is too late!

Yoshida grounder to 1st. Now Itou can't field the ball!  Abe hurries to cover but Yoshida gets there first!  2 errors and Riseisha has a small threat brewing!  Imai-kantoku calls for time.

Nakayama grounder to 2nd!  Shima looks to have it, goes to 1st..  3 out!

I'm sure they held their collective breath on that ball, but they get out of the inning with yet again, no damage.

Bottom 5th
Meanwhile Nagatani is doing Nagatani things.  Like striking out Itou on 3 straight.  And then following that up with a fastball on the corner to get Takeichi.

Yamada breaks it up with a first pitch sharp single through the left side.

And what's this?  Abe follows suit!  Toyokawa with their own mini threat with 2 down!

#9 Shima called to try and extend the lead...

Ball back up middle!  But it's just a shade too slow as Yoshida fields it and flips to Inoue for the 3rd out.

But Abe is doing a great job in relief holding Riseisha scoreless!  Toyokawa meanwhile has knocked ace Mizota out with the 2-0 lead and now has to deal with Nagatani!

Top 6th
Imai-kantoku figures that's enough for Abe and ace Tanaka enters the game to close it out!

But now it's Tanaka playing with fire!  He walks Nishimura to lead off the post-break action.

And now Abe walks Hatta??  Abe putting himself in a big pinch!

Kinuta lays down the bunt and Riseisha has the douten runner in scoring position!

Okuda-kantoku pulling out all stops, sending in #3 Miura to hit for Tateishi.

And he punishes one to deep left center!  Sugiura chasing it, but it falls in front of the wall!  Both will score and we have a new ballgame!  It's 2-2!!


Tanaka's pitch goes off of Himi's glove and to the backstop!  Miura takes 3rd!

Tanaka bearing down, gets Nagatani on nothing but sliders for the 2nd out.

Tsuji liner!  But right to Itou for the 3rd out.  But Riseisha has tied the game!!

Bottom 6th
#12 Kanaoka takes over in CF.

Nakamura with a ball to shallow left.  Nakayama coming in, slides, but the ball goes off his glove!  Nakamura reaches with a leadoff double and is moved to 3rd by Sugiura.

And perhaps they are walking Himi to get to the righty Takakuwa.

It works!  Takakuwa grounds to 2nd!  Inoue starts the 4... 6.... 3... double play to retire the side!

Top 7th
One down for Riseisha, and Yoshida hits a clean single through the left side.

And then Tanaka hits Nakayama!  Oh boy, he's not looking sharp at all.

Nishiyama clean single through the left side!  Yoshida rounding 3rd, being waved home!  Throw goes to the cutoff and just like that Riseisha has the lead!  It's 3-2!

Hatta base hit to center!  Nakayama holds at 3rd and it's manrui for Riseisha!

Imai-kantoku desperate to find an answer, calls time.

Kinuta has the answer for them!  He singles through the gap at 2nd!  Nakayama scores!  Hatta waved around, he scores!  Riseisha blowing Tanaka up here in relief!  They lead 5-2!!

Things continue to get worse as Tanaka walks Kanaoka on 4 straight and it's manrui yet again!!

Nagatani with a hard grounder to short!  Takakuwa bobbles it, but fires home to just get Hatta for the 2nd out.

Tanaka's inning finally comes to a close when Tsuji flies to left.  But Riseisha jumps not on Abe, but Tanaka!!

Bottom 6th
Itou tries to start a rally with a ball up the middle.  Takeichi showing bunt, but goes for the buster hit... flies out to right.

And the inning comes to a screeching halt as Yamada grounds into the 4-6-3 double play!

Top 7th
Imai-kantoku seeing the writing on the wall, puts in #13 Sugita to replace Tanaka on the mound.

Tries to work Inoue away, but leaves the fastball just over the plate. Inoue hits one to shallow left center!  Sugiura coming in , can't get there!  Inoue busting it out of the box, gets to 2nd!  Yoshioka bunts him along to 3rd.

Now #17 Tsujii comes to hit for Nakayama.  But he pops out to 1st.

Nishimura comes through again!  Base hit to left scores one more to make it 6-2.

Sugita trying to bring the game home, is struggling as well and walks Hatta...

Kinuta grounds to short to end the inning, but it looks like the game has been decided.

Bottom 8th
#16 Furutani comes in for PH Tsujii and goes to center.  Kanaoka moves to LF.

#18 Yamamoto to hit for Sugita, base hit to right.

One down for Nakamura and he gets his 4th hit of the game with a single through the left side.  Though after a pop out from Sugiura, it looks like another 0.

But Himi with a single through short scores Yamamoto to make it a 6-3 ballgame.  But there's still down 3.

Takakuwa first pitch single up middle into center!  Tokumoto whiffs on the ball!  He has to double back and Nakamura scores to make it 6-4!  That gets Okada-kantoku's attention, and he calls for time.

Itou looking to keep the momentum going.

Pops it up!  Tsune an Nakaguchi converging on the ball in foul territory, but no one calls for it!  It drops in foul and Itou's AB continues!

(Apologies for the commentary afterwards, I was trying to do my bowling league and my normal blogging.  So much happened in the last 2 innings of regulation, I lost track... and my mind.

My reactions are in italics...)


Itou swings on the next pitch and hits a gapper to left center!!  Himi scores!  Takakuwa running, takes 3rd on the double by Itou and it's 6-5!!


Toyokawa is only one run behind with the douten run just 90 feet away!  And the gyakuten run is at 2nd!!

And the Toyokawa ouen-dan, already loud, gets even louder as they can sense the comeback completing itself...

Takeichi taking his hacks, but behind 1-2...

Liner!!  It's back up the middle and into center!  Takakuwa scores!  Takeichi being waved around!  Throw from Tateishi.... NOT IN TIME!!!!


Toyokawa has somehow with 2 outs put together 5 runs and has taken the lead!!!!

IT'S 7-6 TOYOKAWA!!!!!!!!!

Yamada pops up to 2nd to end the inning, but Toyokawa is now 3 outs away from advancing to the final!!

Top 9th
Imai-kantoku sends in #17 Ookouchi to pitch.  But I look at my roster and he's an OF??  What about Ochiai?? (I learned later that he was sick and unavailable to pitch)

So if Ookouchi is pitching... does that mean they have no pitchers left??   I remember my first trip to Natsu Koushien back in 2006.  Teikyou trailed Chiben Wakayama 8-4 going into the top of the 9th.  They somehow went and scored 8 in the top of the 9th capped off with a PH 3-run HR.  That PH was for their pitcher.  And they had none left.  Try as they might, they couldn't find one to close the game.  Chiben Wakayama went on to win in sayonara fashion 13-12.

I began to wonder if this might end up the same way...  I felt helpless for Teikyou back then when I blurted out (much to the surprise of everyone) that they had no pitchers left.  I really didn't want to see that again now.

First two pitches are balls and same goes the 3rd.  Not terrible, but not in the zone either.

Finally a strike.

Oh no....

Kanaoka drives a ball to left!  Yamada going back to the fence!



First batter for Riseisha confirms my fears.  It's a douten HR for Kanaoka and we're at 7-7...

The question will be now, can they somehow find 3 outs?

There's one as Nagatani pops out to 2nd...

But each batter is a battle... After falling behind 3-0, he works the count full.

Yet still walks him...

There's 2... Inoue reaches out and pops a ball up to 3rd.  Nakamura makes the catch.

Yoshida up to try his hand at Ookouchi.

Tsuji takes off for 2nd!!  Throw in... not in time!  Gyakuten runner in scoring position!

So, Imai-kantoku elects to intentionally walk Furutani to get to Furutani.

But it's not Furutani, but #15 Fukuyama.  Okada-kantoku playing the lefty-righty matchup.

And like as if Imai-kantoku had a full bullpen, he makes a change!  It's 1B Itou who takes the hill!  #16 Satou comes in for reliever Ookouchi and goes to 1B.

What in the world is Imai-kantoku doing?  It's obvious he has no real pitchers left...  And yet he's laughing!  Really??  I guess maybe if you know you're already in this situation, and you put yourself in it, then I suppose you can.  But this is for a place in the finals!

And perhaps as expected, he's struggling - and yet having some success against the PH.  Count goes to 2-2 as Fukuyama fouls off a pair...


I have no idea what that pitch is, but Fukuyama chases it outside and somehow, someway, Toyokawa has gotten out of the inning!!

Bottom 9th
But given the bullpen stuations, it is tenuous at the very best.  If Toyokawa wants to win this game, they have to win now.  There's no way these emergency pitchers can hold on for much longer, and yes I know it's been just 1 inning, but it's the truth - especially against an offensively minded team such as Riseisha.

The bad part is that Toyokawa has their 8-9-1 hitters up. And looking at their roster, they are very low on options.  Imai-kantoku will have to run with what he has...

Riseisha on the other hand, has their bullets to use.  PH Fukuyama goes to 1B, Kinuta goes to 2B.  Inoue goes to RF, and Nishimura goes to CF.

First up, new 1B Satou.  He doesn't look totally outmatched, but the count falls to 1-2.

SANSHIN!  Nagatani goes inside with a fastball and Satou cannot catch up!

Shima first pitch swinging!  It's a dying ball to center..  Nishimura charging in... makes the running catch.  Quickly 2 down.

Last chance really in Nakamura, he's gotten on base all 5 times today.

Ball to left!  Kanaoka ranging to his right, in foul territory... makes the catch!

Side retired for Toyokawa, and they will have to survive another half inning.  But judging from the 2 bench players left, I don't think there's much they can do at this point.

Top 10th
And the inning ominously begins with Nishimura taking the first pitch through the left side, he's 5-5 with a walk now.  Hatta squaring to bunt, but Itou not giving him anything so far buntable.  And now Itou is behind 3-0....

Ball 4...  Oh boy....

Kinuta now squaring to bunt.  Lays it down.  Ah....

Nakamura slips charging in!  Throw to 1st, not in time!  Bunt base hit for Kinuta on the slip by Nakamura and Toyokawa is really in a world of trouble...

Time for Toyokawa as Tanaka comes out for Imai-kantoku.


The first pitch from Itou hits Kanaoka on the head, and that brings in a run.  8-7 Riseisha and a game that already appeared over, probably is now.

Imai-kantoku firing probably his last bullet.  Itou is leaving the mound, but who is replacing him? Even his own players are standing around wondering what's going on...

And it appears that C Himi will actually take the hill!  Itou goes back to 1B, and #12 Imai goes in Satou's place to work behind the plate.  The players are all laughing, and I suppose by this time now that's about as much as you can do given the circumstances.

At this point the only bench player left is IF #14 Yoshimura (Remember that Ochiai is unavailable due to illness).

Perhaps as expected, Himi struggles on the mound, falling behind Nagatani 3-1, but manages to fill up the count.

But his full count pitch goes way up and in, and it's a 9-7 game.

Tsuji chopper up middle!  Over Himi's head, and through the drawn in infield!  One run scores, Kanaoka being waved around!  Throw from Sugiura... not in time and it's 11-7...

Inoue tries to lay down the bunt, but Himi goes to 3rd and easily gets Nagatani for just the 1st out...

Yoshida chopper to left side.  Nakamura tries to play the hop, but it gets by him for a base hit.  Manrui yet again for Riseisha.

#12 Nakamura in to hit for Fukuyama.

First pitch fly down the right field line!  Takeichi sprinting over... reaches out... makes the catch!  He slips and falls, but Tsuji was going to tag up anyways.  12-7.

Nishimura up for his 2nd AB this inning. Yoshida takes off for 2nd, no throw.

Count runs full on Nishimura, chopper in front of the plate.  Himi charging in, quick throw... gets Nishimura to end the inning.  But as expected, Riseisha has blown it open.

Bottom 10th
Nakamura stays in to play 1B.

Sugiura trying to start the long road back with a single back up the middle.

Despite the deficit, the ouen-dan playing Ama-chan, and about as vocal as ever.  Just in case, #18 Honjyou for Riseisha is warming up.

Himi jammed inside, pops it up!  Kanaoka coming in to shallow left center, makes the catch for the 1st out.

Takakuwa at the plate now... he pops it up!  Nakamura under it in foul territory, and there's 2 down.

Itou the last chance for Toyokawa...

Fly to center.  Nishimura going back, still going back... stops...and makes the catch to end the game.

Toyokawa gave just about all it could give in this game, but just ran out of options at the end and thus fell short to Riseisha 12-7 here in 10.

It's too bad really as Toyokawa really did have a title contender on their hands.  But everything started when Imai-kantoku oddly enough put his ace pitcher in relief.  You can't fault him though, relief starter Abe had been playing with fire during all 5 innings of work.  You didn't want to keep him in the game too long, so putting in your ace to work the last 4 innings made sense.

What perhaps he might have though about in hindsight is that Riseisha could have been preparing for Tanaka all along.  And if so, putting him in would have been the worst thing he could have done.

It certainly seemed to be the case as Riseisha jumped n him for 5 runs.  And with Nagatani on the mound, it seemed like they had no shot.

Credit Toyokawa though, they didn't give up, they got to Nagatani and actually took the lead!

But it came at a high price...

Bringing back memories of a famous games 8 years ago, Imai-kantoku had pinch-hit for his last official pitcher as he was already down a pitcher due to illness.  He tried to patch a staff together with what he had left, and while they had given up lead, still had a chance to win the game in regulation.

And much like the Meitoku Gijyuku-Chiben Wakayama game, Toyokawa needed to win it in regulation.  This time around though it was not to be.  And Riseisha put the game away in enchousen.

I do hope to see Toyokawa back at Koushien again, but with Aichi as it is, it might be a tough thing to ask for.

As for Riseisha, they are the first team to enter the finals.  They certainly got their biggest scare today, and the more reliable Nagatani has shown his first cracks of weaknesses.  Will they be able to hold on for one more game to win the title??

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