What an interesting draw this is. The spring champions Ryuukokudai Heian immediately put to the test in the opening game versus the Lucky Star school Kasukabe Kyouei (who actually is not that bad at baseball), they're like a Tier 2 school (good in prefecture, but not in the list of top schools).
Ryuukokudai Heian, if you look at the scores, seem to be picking up where they left off with their only close game in the 3rd round in a 3-0 win over Saikyou.
But they didn't have to face any of the top schools. In fact, the closest is Tier 3 Kyoto Subaru in the finals, and that was a 10-0 win. So while they did what they were supposed to, they did what they were supposed to.
Supposedly then we might get an idea of how they've improved today in the opening game.
But maybe not. While Kasukabe Kyouei did manage to make their return trip back to Koushien this year, like Ryuukokudai Heian they didn't face any of the top tier schools in the prefecture. The closest thing perhaps was their Round of 16 game versus Kawagoe Higashi where they narrowly won 2-1.
Kasukabe Kyouei ace Kaneko Daichi doesn't have overpowering stuff, but seems to be effective with a low 130s fastball with a shuuto go to with the standard slider and curve. It'll be interesting to see how it plays against the spring champs.
But from the little information I have (I don't have the official program yet), it looks like Ryuukokudai Heian handled their business better against their opponents and as a result should be able to advance. Neither team has been tested, so it's really down to recent performance.
Kasukabe Kyouei (Saitama)
SS Shimizu Shouta
2B Sano Naoki (#14)
C Moriya Genki
3B Harada Hiroki
1B Hiratsuka Taiga (#13)
P Kaneko Daichi
CF Nagaoka Daichi
RF Kobayashi Shintarou
LF Takano Ryouji
Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
CF Tokumoto Kentarou
RF Ootani Tsukasa
LF Nakaguchi Daichi
1B Kawai Taisei
C Takahashi Yuuya
SS Ishikawa Takuya
2B Himeno Taisei
3B Tsune Hitoshi
P Motouji Reiji (#11)
10:30 - First Pitch!!
Motouji on the mound for Heian to start the game.
Shimizu opens with a solid base hit to left. Sano puts down a great bunt, but Motouji throws it away at 1st! Shimizu goes to 3rd and Kasukabe is threatening early!
Moriya does his job as he lifts ball to left center, Tokumoto catches it, but Shimizu can walk in for a 1-0 lead!
Motouji continues to look shaky as his pitches are anywhere but in the zone. Behind 3-1, Harada gets a pitch he likes and singles to shallow left.
And now he hits Hiratsuka! Manrui as #10 Takahashi Keiji goes out to the bullpen.
Kaneko with a grounder to Tsune, but he can't handle the hop! It goes into left and now it's 2-0 Kasukabe Kyouei!
Nagaoka drive to right center! Tokumoto running back to chase it, but it falls in behind him! One runner scores, 2 runners score! Kaneko held up at 3rd wisely.
Still no movement from Harada-kantoku.
Kobayashi takes a ball the other way! That's over the infield and drops softly in the grass! Kaneko scores, it's 5-0 Kasukabe Kyouei and now finally #10 Takahashi Keiji relieves Motouji!
Honda-kantoku continues to press as he has Kobayashi take 2nd! Throw is cut off as Heian considers a delayed double steal.
Keiji finally gets out #2 as Takano K's looking on a ball down the middle. And finally ends the inning on a comebacker from Shimizu.
Kasukabe Kyouei though bats around for 5 runs. Now it'll be a matter of how they play the game going forward.
Tokumoto with the swinging bunt and Kaneko flubs the pickup! Infield base hit to lead off for Heian.
Ootani trying to but the runner along, but falls behind 0-2... Still tries it then and manages to lay down a beauty.
Kaneko by the way has a funky compact sidearm delivery that barely goes over 130.
Nakaguchi chases a ball outside, but manages to poke it to 2nd to at least advance the runner. But Kawai grounds to 3rd! Harada makes the pick and throw as Heian is left off the board.
Moriya continues to see the ball well, despite the P change. He hits a hard 1-out single to center. This after Sano is caught looking.
But Harada hits into a 3-6-1 double play and that threat is done.
Harada takes an extra second after the ball goes right to him, makes the easy throw to 1st. Quick fly to right by Ishikawa and there's 2 down.
Yuuya is jammed and pops one right to Sano to end the inning. Kaneko making quick work so far on Heian.
Hiratsuka fouls off a couple (just) before popping out to Kawai.
Keiji doing great work in relief, getting Kaneko to ground to 1st, while Nagaoka K's. He's at least holding the deficit at 5, but they will need to start scoring runs sooner rather than later.
1B Hiratsuka leaps into camera well to make a catch on Tsune's foul fly. He can't however get in front of Keiji shot down the 1st base line and Heian has a runner in scoring position.
Kaneko wanted the K on his 2-2 pitch, but didn't get it. Gets something close in a grounder to 2nd, but Keiji advances to 3rd on the play.
Ootani is jammed though and grounds to short, and once again Heian's runner is stranded at 3rd.
More of the same from Keiji, as he gets his 4th K v Kobayashi, followed by 2 routine plays and it's another 1-2-3 inning.
But Heian really does need to score some runs.
Nakaguchi not helping things as he pops out to Hiratsuka near the coaches' box.
Kawai trying his darnest to get on base, continues to foul off pitch after pitch, gets a break when Shimizu and Takano. He finally makes good contact, but it's right at Nagaoka for the 2nd out.
Yuuya though prevents the clean inning as he singles past a diving Shimizu.
Ishikawa trying to put one in the same place, but Shimizu gets to this ball! Stands, throws to 1st... fine play to retire the side!
Keiji racking up the Ks as Sano waves on the slider outside and in the dirt for the 1st out.
And now it's 6 Ks as Moriya also chases the slider.
Harada refuses to go down on a K, but grounds to 2nd instead. As a result, he's faced the minimum.
Meanwhile, Kaneko finally records his 1st K in Himeno when he puts a changeup on the outside edge for the 1st out.
I guess along with the first K goes the first BB as Kaneko just misses inside on a 3-1 fastball to Tsune.
Kaneko refuses to be beaten twice by Keiji, gets him to roll over a ball to 2nd. It's not fast enough to double off Tsune, so they go to 1st.
Tokumoto lifts a ball to left center, Tokumoto sprinting to his left, and just manages to run it down in the gap to end the inning!
Kaneko isn't throwing hard, isn't overpowering, but is doing the most important thing... putting up 0's.
Hiratsuka with an excuse me swing puts the ball up the middle. Himeno cuts off Ishikawa and makes a leaping throw for the out.
Ouch. Kaneko plunked right on the hip. Wonder if that will affect him later.
Keiji looks like his control is fading, but Kasukabe's batters haven't caught on yet. Nagaoka chases the slider in the dirt for the 2nd out.
Whoa. Keiji has to fight for his life there as Kobayashi hits a liner right at his head! Keiji gets the glove up to block the ball, but it trickles to behind the mound and they have no play.
Kasukabe has their best opportunity in a while, but the batters are still chasing. Takano goes after a slider outside as well, that's 8 Ks for Keiji and despite the shaky inning still puts up 0s.
One pitch, one out. Ootani with a hard liner, but right to Takano. Nakaguchi can't square up the ball either, and it's an easy fly to Kobayashi.
Kawai prevents the clean inning with a ball though the left side.
But what's this? Yuuya is fooled on a changeup and Kaneko gets his 2nd K to end the 6th!
Shimizu drive to deep left! Nakaguchi backs up, backs up.... Makes the catch at the wall for the 1st out. That was really close for Keiji there.
I think though the Kasukabe batters are getting the idea, because Sano continues to take pitches in his AB, eventually drawing the walk. That gets the attention of Harada-kantoku.
Ah, but Sano gets caught trying to steal 2nd too early and is caught in a pickle! He's run down and that's 2 out! That's a break for Heian.
Moriya drive down the left field line! Nakaguchi running towards the pole, still running... Makes the catch right before he hits the padding and once again Keiji hangs up a donut. (though it's getting a bit shaky)
Ishikawa with a ball to shallow left center, Takano ranging over, slides... but can't secure the ball! It hits the heel of his glove and Ishikawa is on with a single!
And with 3 innings to go Harada-kantoku can't bunt anymore. Himeno attacks the 1-0 pitch, but flies out to Nagaoka who was waiting in deep CF.
Harada-kantoku though wants to be aggressive and he has Ishikawa take off! Tsune makes contact on the ball outside and hits it to center! Nagaoka has to play it on the hop and there's runners on the corners!
That's also going to be it for Keiji as #15 Nishikawa comes in to hit for him.
He doesn't get a base hit, but does the next closest thing which is to hit a sac fly to RCF. Heian is at least on the board at 5-1.
Kaneko shuts it down though, freezing Tokumoto on a fastball that just gets the outside corner! Heian scores the run, but Kaneko cedes no more to the spring champs!
Ace Nakata finally takes the hill here in the 8th with his team trailing by 4.
Kawai with the quick reflexes, still snags the ball on the irregular high hop! Runs it himself for the 1st out.
Whoa, and Nakata is rudely welcomed as PH Miura hits one right back up the middle! Nakata can[t react fast enough gloveside and it goes into center for a base hit.
Honda-kantoku also tries the hit and run, but only prevents the DP as Kaneko hits one back to Nakata.
Nagaoka single to center! Miura takes the wide turn but heads back to 3rd on the throw home. That still leaves an opportunity for Kobayashi.
Nakata settles down enough though to get Kobayashi to swing on a ball inside and pop out to center to end the inning. Another 0 for Kasukabe Kyouei, but Heian is down to their final 6 outs.
Miura stays in the game to play 1B as he PH for Hiratsuka.
Ootani attacks a high curve and easily singles it to center for a leadoff base hit.
Uh oh, now Kaneko hits Nakaguchi and Honda-kantoku calls for time. This has the chance to be very dangerous for Kasukabe Kyouei.
#10 Watanabe heads to the bullpen, but he needs time to warm up. Meanwhile, Kaneko has thrown 2 balls to Kawai.
But Kawai swings on a ball way too inside! It goes right to 3rd where Harada starts the 5-4-3 double play! Ootani goes to 3rd, but now there's only 2 runs at stake instead of 3!
Kaneko goes up and in on Yuuya and he can't sit on the pitch! He goes around and Kaneko leaves the mound with no damage done!
Kasukabe Kyouei seems to be racing for the bottom of the 9th to close the game as the first 2 batters are retired on just 3 pitches. Sano seems to at least want to give Nakata some grief, but he eventually flies out to left. 3 up 3 down as the relief staff has not given up a run. Problem is, their starter gave up 5.
Ishikawa with a hard shot, but it's right to Harada and there's 1 out.
Himeno chases a bad ball and pops out to Miura and the senbatsu champs are down to their last out! Moriya goes out to talk to Kaneko.
Last chance to Tsune.
Tsune spins around on Kaneko's fastest pitch of the day (135) and the game is over!
Natsu Koushien starts with a shock as the spring champs cannot even get out of the first day! Kasukabe Kyouei defeats them 5-1!!!'
I have to say I'm shocked. I think a lot of people were to see Motouji just completely meltdown right off the get go, giving up 5 runs and failing to record the 2nd out.
And it's not like Motouji had failed in the spring either. It was just that he was ineffective against the Saitama champs. The relief staff did their job, but the offense couldn't make up the early deficit.
The majority of the praise has to go to ace Kaneko who kept the bats of Heian silent throughout most of the game. The late innings are a bit of a concern, but starting their campaign with a win against the senbatsu champs have to build confidence in the team.
Kaneko Daichi (Kasukabe Kyouei) - CG, ER, 7 H, 4 K, BB, HBP
Nagaoka Daichi (Kasukabe Kyouei) - 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI
Kobayashi Shintarou (Kasukabe Kyouei) - 2-4, RBI, K
Motouji Reiji (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 0.1+IP, 5 ER, 5 H, HBP
Takahashi Keiji (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 6.2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 8 K, HBP
Nakata Ryuuji (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 2 IP, 2 H
Takahashi Keiji (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 1-2, 2B
Kawai Taisei (Ryuukokudai Heian) - 1-4