The final game of opening day features the Nishi Tokyo champs Nichidai Tsurugaoka and Toyama's representative Toyama Shougyou - who is making an appearance after 10 years away.
There appears to be a lot of schools that seemed to have avoided the minefield that could appear.
Nichidai Tsurugaoka makes their 3rd appearance despite their toughest competition being Toukaidai Sugao in the finals where they walked off in the bottom of the 9th.
Again, there is little info on the team and ace Akiyama Shou. Perhaps this is becoming more and more intentional, but maybe it's just me.
Toyama Shougyou as mentioned is back after 10 years away having easily handled Takaoka Shougyou 9-3 to punch their ticket. But it was the quarterfinal game where they survived 1-0 in 10 innings that perhaps gives pause to the team's prospects.
We have our first bonafine candidate for an ace in Toyama Shougyou's Morita Toshiya. He can easily hit 140 on the radar gun, with a slider 20 below that and a slow curve 20 below that. If his release point is the same and his control is good, it'll be hard to key on anything at all.
From the data I can see, his K and BB rates are not stellar, but they're not terrible either. That's a bit of a red flag, but teams have won with those types of numbers before. So Nichidai Tsurugaoka will prove to be a good challenge for him to start - though I'm sure they'd have liked something a little easier to start.
Toyama Shougyou (Toyama)
CF Shiina Kouhei
2B Yokomichi Eiji
RF Sakamoto Jyunichirou
LF Kutsuwada Takuma
1B Katou Daisuke
C Tomikawa Seiya
3B Iwase Daiki
SS Yanase Kazuya
P Morita Shunya
Nichidai Tsurugaoka (Nishi Tokyo)
3B Toyuda Shouhei
LF Nakazato Masaya (#14)
2B Yamagishi Tetsuya (#10)
C Nishida Kenta
CF Kurita Yuuichi
SS Nishigaya Atsushi
1B Ikushima Kouhei
RF Kunio Masato
P Akiyama Shou
15:27 - First Pitch!
Kouhei goes right after the first pitch and singles through the right side and immediately he's moved to 2nd.
But neither Sakamoto nor Kutsuwada can get the timely hit. Sakamoto goes down swinging on a fastball up and in, while Kutsuwada flies out to center.
Nakazato gets things going for Tsurugaoka with a single to center, but while the inning gets extended after Yokomichi relay on a 6-4-3 double play goes high, Yamagishi runs himself out of the inning getting caught at 2nd.
Akiyama doing his best to match with Morita, after getting a groundout by Katou, he gets both Tomikawa and Iwase to chase balls outside for his 2nd and 3rd Ks of the game.
Nishida, getting a 2nd AB effectively goes after the first pitch and singles through the left side. Kurita tries the safety bunt, but the defense makes the play for the out.
Nishigaya tries to do the same thing, but once again Iwase is there for the play. 2 outs, Nishida now at 3rd.
It's like Hagiumi-kantoku is already expecting a low-scoring game. Ikushima pounds the ball into the ground, but it's right at SS and Yanase makes the play for the 3rd out.
It's a quick inning for Toyama Shougyou thanks to Tsurugaoka's defense. Toyuda makes a great backhanded catch at the wall in foul territory to retire Iwase, while Kunio makes the stretch on a running catch on a ball from Kouhei.
Not quite caught up yet, but it looks like Morita is more in the high 130s-low 140s with the fastball.
2 down for Tsurugaoka and Toyuda chps one back up the middle for a base hit. Nakazato gets his 2nd hit in as many AB with a solid liner over a leaping Yanase.
But against the lefty Yamagishi, he gets him waving on a slider outside, and the mini-threat is eliminated.
Akiyama continuing to baffle the Tomishou batters. Yokomichi just watches a slider hit the outside corner for strike 3. That's 4 for Akiyama.
He puts up another notch when Kutsuwada watches the fastball on the outside corner yet again for the 3rd out. It's his 3rd clean inning, and Kouhei's opening single is the only blemish.
Morita despite perhaps having more attention, has been the more hittable of the 2 pitchers.
Nishida with a hard liner, but Yokomichi makes the great catch to prevent the base hit. After that, it's a simple fly to center from Kurita and Nishigaya chases a slider down and in. That's actually his first clean inning so far.
Katou with a dive to deep right center! Sakamoto with no chance to get that ball as it goes all the way to the wall! Katou hustles around for a leadoff triple and just like that Tomishou is threatening!
But it looks like Tomikawa is trying to pull a ball being thrown outside and instead hits a weak fly to left. Can't tag up on that.
Iwase with a slow chopper to the right side. But Ikushima misses it and Nakazato can't compensate after going to the bag! It trickles to right field and Tomishou leads 1-0!
Maezaki-kantoku will play for the timely as Yanase bunts Iwase to 2nd. 2 down for ace Morita to help his own cause.
Morita jammed, and it's like a bunt up the 3rd base line. Toyuda charges in, and his throw just beats out a husting Morita for the 3rd out. But Tomishou draws first blood here in the 5th!
No consecutive clean innings, but Morita can only blame himself as he walks Ikushima to start the inning. Maezaki-kantoku calls for time. As expected Kunio moves him along.
Tsurugaoka gets a break as Ikushima goes to 3rd on a ball hit to SS Yanase. Instead of going to 3rd, he goes to 1st on the ball.
That means a wild pitch/passed ball could tie the game.
Instead though Toyuda pops it up! Yanase calling for it as he goes out to shallow left! He makes an adjustment, and another... and makes the catch for the 3rd out! The threat is averted, and this game is easily more competitive than the first 2 as Toyama Shougyou is holding the narrow lead over Nichidai Tsurugaoka going into the break.
It's almost back to the status quo for Akiyama, but Sakamoto spoils it with a 2-out liner to left. #11 Kobayashi warms up in the bullpen.
Kutsuwada apparently tries to be a small shift that Tsurugaoka is doing as a ball that would go right to the SS, I see the SS chasing it down and not even being close.
Hagiumi-kantoku calls for time perhaps to buy time for the bullpen.
Buyt it can't solve the struggle on the mound! Katou just points the ball to the right side, right in between everyone! Sakamoto is sent home and the throw is diverted to 3rd, but the tag isn't in time! Katou collects his 2nd RBI ans Tomishou now leads 2-0!
Tomikawa puts up a great fight with 2 down fouling off several pitches and sends a decent drive to center, but Kurita is there for the 3rd out.
Nichidai Tsurugaoka is desperate for base runners. So much so they're trying to bunt base hits.
As a result, Morita needs just 4 pitches to retire the side in order!
Iwase leads off the inning with a bloop single to right center. Maezaki-kantoku, with the 8-9 batters upcoming has them double bunt the runner to 3rd.
Top batter Kouhei though can't deliver as he pops out to short to end the inning.
ABC showed a graphic that Morita is going to his slider more in the later innings. Kurita falls victim to one such pitch.
Same goes for Nishigaya as he becomes Morita's 5th K.
Ikushima avoids being the 3rd K in the inning, but can only hit a routine grounder to 2nd for the 3rd out.
Toyuda doing some work at the hot corner, snagging a shot from Yokomichi to rob him of a base hit.
He gets another assist when Sakamoto hits one right to him.
It's not 3 putouts though as Kusuwada hits it over his head, but to Nakazato in left.
#7 Kanai comes in to hit for Kunio, and delivers a single back up the middle!
I don't think they're having Akiyama bunt despite showing it, but he lets a pitch go that's just too close and is rung up.
Toyuda with a single through the right side and the douten runner is on for Tsurugaoka! That gets Maezaki-kantoku to call for time.
#10 Iwaki is warming up in the bullpen and now #17 Igarashi is running at 2nd for Kanai.
Nakazato rips a ball down the 1st base line, just foul!
Nakazato grounder back up middle, but right to Yanase! It's not hit hard and that allows Nakazato to beat the throw and keep the inning alive.
Yamagishi tries for the safety bunt with the count 1-1 and 2 out??!!
Morita gets Yamagishi to chase the slider outside and Nichidai can't score! They're down to their final 3 outs!
Igarashi stays in to play RF.
Akiyama was about to have a clean inning until Iwase came up to bat. He collects his 3rd hit of the game, a simple single to center.
Yanase's troubles at the plate continue as he grounds one to 2nd. Nakazato goes the short way to 2nd for the 3rd out.
But this is it, there are no more innings left, they need at least 2 runs to continue the game.
Nishida and Kurita swing on the first pitch, and both hit grounders for 2 quick outs.
Last chance goes to #13 Miura...
But he goes down swinging and the game is over! Morita shuts out the Nishi Tokyo champs and advances with a 2-0 win!
Morita wasn't dominating in the sense that he was striking out a ton of batters, but he pitched to his defense and was very effective in keeping batters off balance. And he made 2 runs hold up against one of the better schools out of Tokyo. The challenge will get tougher with Kanzei up next, but perhaps they'll be up to the task.
As for Nichidai Tsurugaoka, it's certainly painful to get here and be eliminated on opening day, but they certainly weren't cheated. They just faced a very good opponent that got a couple of breaks that made the difference.
Morita Shunya (Toyama Shougyou) - CG, SHO, 6 H, 8 K, BB
Katou Daisuke (Toyama Shougyou) - 2-4, 3B, R, RBI
Iwase Daiki (Toyama Shougyou) - 3-4, RBI, K
Akiyama Shou (Nichidai Tsurugaoka) - CG, 2 ER, 8 H, 5 K
Toyuda Shouhei (Nichidai Tsurugaoka) - 2-4
Nakazato Masaya (Nichidai Tsurugaoka) - 2-4