Riseisha has made it here dominating every game, until that completely nuts game against legitimate contender (and first timers!) Toyokawa. Despite jumping on not relief starter Abe, but actually ace Tanaka Sora (who had been one of the more dominating pitchers), reliever Nagatani looked finally human for once and they found themselves seemingly in a dogfight late.
However for Toyokawa, they gambled - going all out on offense at the expense of pitching, reminding all of us of the famous (or infamous depending on who you rooted for) Teikyou-Chiben Wakayama game of 2006. And without #11 Ochiai due to illness, they were out of legitimate pitchers. Imai-kantoku did his best to find an emergency pitcher, but much like Teikyou, it was all in vain.
I did not have Riseisha as a possible contender for the title, mainly because the pitching didn't seem to hold water. However, they have succeeded by jumping on their opposition early, and forcing their hand relative to pitching and their offense pressing playing from behind. Mizota isn't really a stud ace, but has been serviceable despite giving up several runs. Instead, the heft of the weight actually falls upon Nagatani who is generally tasked with holding the line, wherever it is when he enters the game. But yesterday's efforts may mean that his effectiveness might be cracking just a bit.
Ryuukokudai Heian had the potential to be a contender considering that Harada-kantoku had been supposedly combining multiple pitchers together to complete a game - essentially breaking the game up into smaller parts that each pitcher could handle.
And yet, for the most part at Koushien, he instead has asked these pitchers to go a full 9 - instead alternating his starters. This isn't new news, other teams such as Narashino have done it before. So far, it's been #10 Takahashi Keiji and unknown #18 Motouji Reiji (he wasn't even on the fall roster!!). Ace Nakata has been put in relief, but outside of his 4.1IP performance, has been used in short stints. Not a surprise since I believe from reports he's actually considered their "closer". And there's still 2 pitchers that they haven't used - #11 Inudzuka Takaya and #16 Minato Youichi. Harada-kantoku has made his pitching as close to true pitching staff as we've seen.
The offense is also impressive from a skill standpoint. There have been points where Heian have shown their power (hey, it's that Motouji guy hitting a HR!). But as the Kiryuu Dai-ichi game showed us, these guys can run. Now sure, against Sano Nichidai, they were like the Blues Brothers, just running around and around, but if done properly it looks to be a legitimate threat. Speed doesn't slump, and Heian appears to have speed for days.
Now as mentioned before, this is a rematch. These teams played in the Kinki Super-Regional semifinals with Heian winning that game 11-7. In that game, Keiji started for Heian, struggled, and then handed it over to Inudzuka who gave up apparently just 1 run thereafter.
On the other side, Nagatani actually started that game, and had two bad innings where he was tagged for 4 runs apiece. He handed it over to the relief staff who failed to record and out, before ace Mizota entered the game, and finished the final 2.2 innings while giving up another 3 runs.
There should be no secrets going into this game. These teams are familiar with each other well enough (even #18 Motouji now that Riseisha has 2 games of data) and should make for a very competitive, high-tension final.
The ouen-dans are ready, Riseisha's yellow R, and Heian's black H displayed prominently. For both Harada-kantoku and Okada-kantoku, it's a high point in their long tenures. Okada's is approaching 30 years, Harada 20...
So without further ado... our championship game!
Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)Riseisha (Osaka)
CF Tokumoto Kentarou
RF Ootani Tsukasa
2B Himeno Taisei
1B Kawai Taisei
LF Nakaguchi Daichi
3B Tsune Hitoshi
SS Ishikawa Takuya
C Takahashi Yuuya
P Takahashi Keiji (#10)
CF Tokumoto Kentarou
RF Ootani Tsukasa
2B Himeno Taisei
1B Kawai Taisei
LF Nakaguchi Daichi
3B Tsune Hitoshi
SS Ishikawa Takuya
C Takahashi Yuuya
P Takahashi Keiji (#10)
3B Tsuji Motomasa
2B Inoue Kazuya
SS Yoshida Yuuki
LF Nakayama Shouta
RF Nishimura Takahiro
C Hatta Natsu
CF Kanaoka Youhei (#13)
1B Kinuta Shouta (#14)
P Mizota Yuuto
12:34 - First Pitch!
So Harada-kantoku will go with Keiji once more like the semifinal. Riseisha goes with Mizota to start instead....
And a cute little elementary school girl throws out the championship game's ceremonial 1st pitch. Aw....
Tokumoto scorches a slider down the right field line! He's going for 3! Riseisha has to throw as he gets in standing triple!
Ootani ball back up middle! Inoue runs it down, glove tosses to Yoshida, but he has no throw! Nice try, but Tokumoto scores to make to 1-0 Heian!!
Himeno showing bunt, but can't lay it down running the count to 2 strikes.
Shows bunt! And he lays it down.
#10 Nagatani already in the bullpen as Mizota falls behind 2-0.
Kawai slicer down left field line... just foul!
Ball 4! Mizota puts another runner on as Hatta goes to to talk to his ace...
It doesn't help! Mizota walks Nakaguchi on 4 straight and it's manrui for Heian! Hatta goes out for another talk as Nagatani warms up...
Ball 1 way high! Will Tsune hand Mizota the rope?
Doesn't need to! Mizota hits him in the back! Oshidashi dead ball and it's 3-0 Heian!
And still no change at P!
Finally, a first pitch strike to Ishikawa. He swings and fouls off another, behind 1-2.
Checks his swing, just.... Umpire doesn't give go around.
Jammed! Pops it up to 2nd. Inoue on the outfield grass, makes the catch, 2 down.
Mizota still struggling with the zone. Falls behind Yuuya 2-0 before firing 2 to level the count.
Pops it up! Kinuta near the bullpen, makes the catch to retire the side.
But Heian has decided to take the fight to Riseisha and put them on their heels! Despite the barrage Mizota stays in.
How will Riseisha respond?
Before that, Himeno is apparently getting treatment for something. For what I'm not sure. He emerges, and looks ok, but not sure what happened there.
Keiji not looking too sharp, falling behind Tsuji 3-0, and then hits him! Oy.
The wildness works to Keiji's advantage against Inoue who was trying to bunt. Winds up behind 0-2.
Lunges to bunt, and pushes it foul! 1 out! Why bunt on that pitch?
Keiji at least missing in the right places, but still not close and wait a sec.. a pitch that looked over the plate is called ball 4??
Nakayama up now with the douten run on base.
And suddenly, against the righty, he gets ahead 0-2?! Then gives one back on a waste pitch.
Nakayama ball down the right field line... foul!!! Just foul!
Fastball inside, just a little too much...
Keiji throws out the curve and Nakayama is way out in front for the 2nd out!
Nishimura high chopper in front of the plate! Keiji waits for it, turns and fires.. 3 out! Keiji has his own issues on the mound, but unlike his counterpart, gets the donut!
A better start to the inning for Mizota as Keiji rolls one to short for the first out.
Tokumoto still going after Mizota, but gets under a pitch this time. Nakayama coming in, makes the sliding catch for the 2nd out.
Ootani up, behind early, he works the count full... only to watch the changeup go right down the middle for the 3rd out. Well, for at least an inning, Mizota has settled down.
Hatta sharp liner through the left side for a leadoff single. Kanaoka, getting a start after his efforts last game,bunts the runner along. Riseisha fine with playing for 1 run early.
Kinuta goes after a high pitch and hits it up the middle! Inoue looks to be there, but no! It somehow gets by him and into center! Hatta being sent home! Throw from Tokumoto... not in time! Kinuta gets a run back with a timely single! 2-1!
Mizota up, and he bunts the runner along for the top of the order.
Tsuji ball up middle! Ishikawa just picks it up off the end of his glove! Square and throws to 1st... 3 out!!! Nice play by Ishikawa to keep the lead!
One down, and I don't think Mizota wants to face Kawai at all. He winds up walking him for the 2nd time.
And now he's missing the zone on Nakaguchi as well, and walks him again on 4 straight!
Are they trying to work around the 4 & 5 batters?? So they'll walk 2 batters just to get to Tsune?
It might work though! Tsune grounds to 2nd. Yoshida to 2nd for 1, throw to first high! Kinuta tries the tag, but he's safe! Heian still has a chance!
Ishikawa grounder to the right side! That's by Kinuta! That gets by Inoue too!! Base hit! Kawai scores! Tsune to 3rd! Ishikawa going to 2nd... throw from Tsuji... OUT!!!
Ishikawa runs himself out of the inning trying to take an extra base! The run does score, but Riseisha avoids more. 3-1 Heian!
Inoue gets Riseisha another leadoff runner with a hard single past a diving Ishikawa. Yoshida not bunting though.
Yoshida takes the slider the other way! It slices down the left field line fair! Inoue heads to 3rd and Riseisha with a great opportunity here!
And it looks like it's forced Harada-kantoku's hand here. #18 Motouji comes in for Keiji to take the hill.
Okada-kantoku elects to bunt! Nakayama lays it down, and advances Yoshida to 2nd. Interesting...
Nishmura chopper! Runners going on contact! Tsune goes home... and Inoue doesn't even make it there. 2 out.
Motouji though being very careful with Hatta. Borderline pitches all the way, yet he sneaks one in and gets a swinging strike on a change. Full count.
Grounder to 2nd! Himeno gathers it in! Takes his time, goes to 1st... 3 out! Motouji gets Heian out of a no out, runners at the corners situation!
Yuuya swings on a high fastball and drives it to right center. Tateishi and Nishimura headed towards the wall! It lands just in front of it! Yuuya already around 2nd, and reaches 3rd without a throw!
Motouji looking for any decent fly ball to get the runner in, has the count run to 2 strikes and fights a pair off.
But Mizota wins the battle, twisting him on a fastball inside.
Now the hard part begins. Leadoff batter Tokumoto steps in.
However, he is not eager. Takes his pitches, gets ahead 3-1. Takes a change for strike 2.
Fastball outside and up! Tokumoto takes it the other way! Yoshida has no play and Yuuya makes it 4-1!
And Tokumoto takes off for 2nd! Throw from Hatta, not nearly in time! Now a base hit from Ootani could tack on another!
But again, he's patient. Not chasing, and works his count full.
This time though, Mizota breaks out the change and Ootani swings and misses for the 2nd out.
If Riseisha is really unintentionally intentionally walking the 4-5 batters, they probably would like to get Himeno out.
And they do. Himeno flies to left to end the inning.
Kanaoka with a screamer towards 2nd. Himeno smothers it, goes to 1st for the out.
But Kinuta needs a moment at 1st after Motouji hits home on the first pitch. Okada-kantoku has Mizota bunting.
You don't suppose in this case, Harada-kantoku had Kinuta put on base so Okada-kantoku would waste an out with a bunt?
Well with the count 1-2, he tries it anyways, lays it down on the line, and Yuuya makes the executive decision to make the play at 1st since they were running out of time for any play whatsoever.
Top of the order and Tsuji.
He's looking for his pitch, but Motouji makes the decision for him with a slider for strike 2.
And he gets him to chase the slider down and away for the 3rd out!
Well, it looks like my working around of the middle batter theory isn't really valid. Mizota is going after Kawai and strikes him out swinging on the slider.
Goes after Nakaguchi as well. And on a full count, he climbs the ladder on him and it's back-to-back K's. That's just weird for the 4-5 batters...
Tsune grounds to short for the 3rd out and it's just Mizota's 2nd 1-2-3 inning.
Inoue with a liner to center, but perhaps off the end of the bat and Tokumoto is there for the catch.
Yoshida ball up middle. Himeno slides over, but can't field it cleanly! Desperate throw to 1st, not in time! E4.
AH! And a low pitch from Motouji scoots on the grounder under Hatta! Yoshida advances to 2nd!
Nakayama with a ball up the middle! Himeno makes a great sliding catch! Double clutches, goes to 1st, gets the out! He comes back with a great play after the error!
AH! Nishimura gets a hold of a pitch! Tokumoto sprinting to the wall! Leaps! Just out of his reach! Yoshida scores and it's a 4-2 ballgame on Nishimura's double!
Hatta looking to make it a one-run game with a base hit.
But he can't! Motouji with the change gets him swinging and keeps the lead at 2! We hit the break with Riseisha continuing to chase Heian. But Motouji in relief has for the most part kept Riseisha at bay. It's possible in the final Harada-kantoku will go back to splitting the game up into parts like he did in the fall taikais.
Ishikawa badly fooled on a fastball outside, goes down on 3 straight.
Yuuya making it look easy, liner to right for a single. Motouji not bunting, not after that HR in the first game Makes decent contact, but it's a fly right to Kanaoka for the 2nd out.
Tokumoto with his 3rd hit of the day, a single through the opposite way.
Ootani waiting for his pitch, takes a real borderline one for ball 3... but can't get fortunate twice. He gets rung up and the inning is over.
Kanaoka with a blooper to right center. Tokumoto and Himeno converge, but can't get there in time! Leadoff runner on again for Riseisha!
After Kinuta bunts the runner over, Mizota is called back. His day is done as #17 Tsujii comes to hit. He grounds to 2nd, and advances the runner for the top of the order.
Tsuji though, doesn't have a hit so far...
And still doesn't! He chases the forkball and the side is retired!
#10 Nagatani as expected, comes to the mound looking to maintain the line for Riseisha.
His job starts against the 3-4-5 hitters for Heian.
Himeno having a better time of it against Nagatani, has an 9 pitch AB capped off with a liner to center for a base hit. Kawai, despite having 2 strikes, successfully bunts him along.
Nakaguchi in a prolonged AB against Nagatani, fouling off several pitches...
But Riseisha wins again! Nagatani has him chasing the slider way outside for the 2nd out.
Tsune trying to get his first base hit, but Nagatani pulls out the slider again, and he foul tips it into the glove for the 3rd out! Nagatani giving up the leadoff hit, but bearing down after that. Holds the line for now, but they're slowly running out of time.
Lucky 7 for Riseisha, can they start a rally?
0-2 for Inoue, grounder to short for the 1st out.
Motouji issues his first walk of the game, walking Yoshida on 4 straight.
But Nakayama swings on the first pitch and grounds to 3rd! Tsune goes to 2nd for 1... Himeno to 1st... double play!! They turn the double play to end the inning!
Defensive changes for Riseisha. #8 Tateishi comes in for Nakayama and goes to CF. Kanaoka goes to LF.
Ishikawa a quick flyout to left.
Yuuya with his 3rd hit, waiting on the slider hits it to left.
Motouji hitting, but chases the fastball away for the 2nd out.
Oh? Balk called on Nagatani? Ah, he really didn't step towards first on that pickoff throw.
Tokumoto with a controlled swing, tries to poke one the other way, but it's hit too hard and Kanaoka makes the catch.
Nishimura grounder to short, throw to 1st. LATE!!! Ishikawa takes too much time getting the ball off and it's a base hit for Riseisha! Oh, that's a mental error there from Ishikawa.
Riseisha meanwhile not bunting. With just 6 outs to play, you might not be able to afford giving one up.
They may not have to! Motouji falls behind Hatta 3-1 and just gets the call on an inside fastball.
Hit and run! Grounder to short! Ishikawa bounces it to first.. and Kawai makes the pick for the out! Oh, that's dangerous.
And #11 Inudzuka is warming up with the count 2-0 to Kanaoka. Make that 3-0! Will we see his first appearance in the finals?
Well, Motouji gets two strikes in to fill up the count, but then bounces a ball for ball 4! Runners on 1st and 2nd for Riseisha as indeed #11 Inudzuka makes his first appearance on the mound!
His first batter will be Kinuta, no easy out at all.
Hard liner down the right field line foul!
Inudzuka has a weird motion that almost looks like he throwing overhand, yet trying to create a sidearm action?
Either way, after that first foul, he falls behind 3-1! AND WALKS HIM!!! Manrui for Heian!!
Nagatani up to hit, but he doesn't really. What will Okada-kantoku do?
Slow curve way high. Curve way low!
And after that pitch, Harada-kantoku can't afford to wait any longer. In comes the first right hander, their closer ace Nakata.
But he enters the game with the bases loaded and the count 2-0! Not much room for error at all! Did Harada-kantoku mismanage the bullpen?
Pitch high! 3-0!!
Fastball over for a strike. 3-1. Fastball again... full count!!!
Nakata goes for the slider on a full count and gets the K! Oh, that takes a lot of balls...
Tsuji up and Nakata gets ahead 1-2! Waste pitch, 2-2 (Can you really afford that?)
Tsuji jammed! Grounder back to Nakata! Goes to 1st... 3 OUT!!!!!
Kawai pumps his fist as Nakata gets out of a manrui 1-out pinch!!!
Ootani walks on 4 pitches to start. Oh, is this the end for Riseisha? Himeno bunts him along.
Kawai crushes a ball! Is it gone? Is it gone?? Nishimura looking up!
Kawai all but puts the game away with a 2-run HR! 6-2 Heian!!!
Nagatani gets the final 2 outs, but Heian is all but on the precipice of winning the 86th Haru Koushien!
Inoue at least will not give up without a fight. He singles to left center.
Nakata falls behind Yoshida 3-1, but fills up the count, and gets a popup! Ishikawa secures it for the first out!
#3 Miura to hit for Tateishi, hits a ball down the right field line.. foul!
Count goes to 2-2... now 3-2.
Liner! But right to Ishikawa! 2 down!! Nishimura the last chance.
Flyball to center! Tokumoto under it. Makes the catch!
The team runs out of the dugout as Ryuukokudai Heian wins their first ever senbatsu, 6-2!!
Ryuukokudai Heian had the whole package this Koushien, with a deep pitching staff and an offense that flashed both power and speed. And outside of the Kiryuu Dai-ichi game, they never trailed in any matchup. And when they were down, they continued to fight inning after inning putting extreme pressure on a team already tired from 2 consecutive games. Finally, they always seemed to understand the situation at hand.
It was about as complete a performance you could find from a champion.
Credit should be given to Riseisha as well. Perhaps not considered a title contender to start the tournament, they slowly made their case game after game, putting teams away with their offense and the combination of Mizota and Nagatani on the mound. And after laying ace Tanaka Sora and Tokoyawa to rest in the semifinal, you had to wonder if this would be their year, especially with the opportunity to avenge the loss they suffered in the Kinki Super-Regional semifinal.
It was not to be though, as it was Heian who played their own game to perfection. They will have to wait for another time, perhaps a possible draw at Natsu Koushien for another shot.
But congratulations are in order for both teams and for the first time champs Ryuukokudai Heian!
Takahashi Keiji (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 2+ IP, ER, 4 H, 2 K, BB, HBP
Motouji Reiji (Ryuukokudai Heian) - W, 5.1+ IP, ER, 3 H, 3 K, 2 BB, HBP
Nakata Ryuuji (Ryuukokudai Heian) - SV, 1.2 IP, 0 ER, H, K, 0 BB
Tokumoto Kentarou (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 3-5, 3B, R, SB
Kawai Taisei (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 1-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB
Takahashi Yuuya (Ryuukokudai Heian) -3-4, 3B, R
Mizota Yuuto (Riseisha) - L, 6 IP, 4 ER, 7 H, 7 K, 4 BB, HBP
Nagatani Takahiro (Riseisha) - 3 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 3 K, BB
Nishimura Takahiro (Riseisha) - 2-5, 2B, RBI
Inoue Kazuya (Riseisha) - 2-5