Boy, so far this Koushien tournament has been both exciting and boring, and yesterday with uncharacteristic play by teams with errors on both offense and defense. Not really sure what to expect going forward, though some things you can still be guaranteed to see.
Kendai Takasaki was responsible for eliminating last year's champs Maebashi Ikuei, unceremoniously unseating them 6-2 in the 3rd round. They'd win the title surviving two 1-run games defeating Kiryuu Dai-ichi and Isesaki Seimei to take the title.
As for Iwakuni, their notable win was in the semifinals where they defeated Ube Koujyou 2-1 before surviving Yokote Minami to make their 5th appearance at Koushien. The odd part is that their lineup seems upside down with their better hitting players at the bottom of the lineup. Not sure why you'd do that. They don't really hit for a high average given the prefecture, this compared to Kendai Takasaki who not only has a high average, but also like their predecessors, steals a lot of bases.
Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma)
CF Hirayama Takayuki
2B Hoshino Yuusuke
RF Wakimoto Naoto
1B Nagashima Ryouhei
C Tsuge Sena
LF Yamagami Takashi
3B Nakasuji Tenma
SS Yokomizo Takuto
P Kawai Tomoya (#11)
2B Kawamoto Takuho
LF Otani Rentarou (#15)
C Mizuno Daichi
1B Tsuchiya Tomohiro
P Yanagawa Kenta
SS Kihara Hayato
RF Kametani Yuuta
3B Kawamura Ryousuke
CF Koutari Kyouhei
08:00 - First Pitch!
Yanagawa looking good early retiring the first two batters without issue.
However, Wakimoto hits a soft single to right, and he actually goes for 2nd! Throw from Kameya not in time and Wakimoto puts himself in scoring position! This from the guy that had 11 steals in prefecturals, Iwakuni should have known better.
And on 1-2 ball in the dirt, Wakimoto takes off for 3rd! Throw is not nearly in time and if you weren't familiar that Kendai Takasaki's calling card is speed, now you know.
But Nagashima goes down on a slider away and despite Wakimoto's best efforts, he's stranded at 3rd.
Kawamoto skips steps 1-2! He drives a ball deep into the LCF gap and though he stumbles, has a standing triple!
Otani works the count full on Kawai and bloops one to left! Hirayama charges in, slides... does he make the catch?
No! It takes a hop and Kawamoto comes home and Iwakuni leads 1-0!
Mizuno tries to lay down a bunt, but winds up popping out to Tsuge for the first out. Tsuchiya up, and he winds up going down on 3 straight for the 2nd out. Didn't look too pleased about that last strike call.
Same goes for Yanagawa as he watches a pitch on the outside half to retire the side. Still Kawamoto's leadoff triple is paid off and Iwakuni has the lead!
Tsuge with a ball right at Kawamoto, but he can't field the ball cleanly! The ball bounces back towards the mound and he'll have no play!
E4, but Yamagami isn't bunting. Instead he winds up flying out to right.
Shibahiki takes a slider the other way... fair down the right field line! Tsuge holds at 3rd, but Kendai threatens to take the lead!
Kendai's batters are getting a heavy diet of sliders, and Yokomizo falls victim to one for the 2nd out.
(It's harder to head the ouen-dan, but I heard Ama-chan, the song of choice last year)
Last batter Kawai proving to be a tougher challenge though as he manages to foul off several balls. But on the 10th pitch, Yanagawa wins the battle as Kawai grounds to 2nd for the 3rd out.
Kihara draws a leadoff walk to start the inning, Kameya immediately with the bunt.
Kawamura perfectly drops one into left center, and the outfield has no throw home! Kihara score to make it a 2-0 ballgame!
Koutari supposedly looking to bunt, eventually lays it down as the lineup turns over to Kawamoto. After falling behind 1-2, he takes a couple to fill up the count.
He does it again! He drives yet another ball to left center! Hirayama cuts it off, but it's another XBH for Kawamoto, this time scoring Kawamura to make it 3-0!
Otani with a single to center, but they're sending Kawamoto??!! That's a bad decision all the way, and he's thrown out by a mile to end the inning. Another baserunning error today, which limits the damage to 2 runs. 3 runs is certainly manageable.
After leveling the count on Hirayama, Yanagawa hits him on the feet to give Kendai the leadoff runner.
Yanagawa paying a lot of attention to Hirayama, and almost picks him off several times, but when he finally throws home Hirayama takes off and easily steals 2nd!
Hoshino with a single through the left side! Runners at the corners with no out for Kendai Takasaki!
Wakimoto manages get a deep enough fly to left to bring Hirayama home and it's 3-1.
Right after that Hoshino takes off for 2nd, and the throw is late! AH! Wild pitch and Hoshino is at 3rd!
That proves costly when Nagashima hits a chopper to the left side. Kawamura knocks it down and his only play is to 1st. Kendai has cut the deficit to 3-2!
Tsuge grounds to 3rd to end the inning, but Kendai's speed giving their opponents fits yet again!
Change on the hill as ace Takahashi ascends to the mound.
There's a delay as Hirayama has yet to emerge from the dugout. But after a couple of minutes he sprints out.
Takahashi gets two quick outs, partially thanks to a great leaping catch by Hoshino on a liner from Tsuchiya.
It's not a clean inning though as he gives up a full count walk to Yanagawa.
The count goes full to Kihara, but he lines out to Wakimoto to end the inning. Kendai finally puts up a 0 and they're back on the bats.
Yanagawa gives up another leadoff runner when he walks Yamagami.
And it's a wild pitch from Yanagawa! Yamagami goes to 2nd and heads for 3rd! No throw! Kendai's speed at work once again!
Grounder to short, Kihara has time to go home, but they concede the run! He goes to 1st for the out and we're all tied at 3-3!
Kendai's ouen-dan playing a very uptempo version of Ama-chan as Yokomizo grounds to 2nd.
Yanagawa gets 2 groundouts to end the inning, but not before some unforced errors give up the lead.
1 down, Kawamura with a bloop to left. Yamagami charging in, dives... but he can't get it and it bounces behind him! Kawamura winds up with a double!
Koutari at least puts the ball in play on the opposite side to advance the runner along.
They're still pitching to Kawamoto, and finally they retire him. He's left at the plate on a slider inside for strike 3.
2 quick outs to start the inning as Otani makes the putout on both balls.
Wakimoto spoils it with a single back up the middle.
Speed again kills and Wakimoto takes 2nd with no throw.
And that pays off! Nagashima with a liner over a leaping Kawamoto and Wakimoto scores to give Kendai the 4-3 lead!
Nagashima takes off for 2nd and beats the throw! Kendai running laps around Iwakuni.
Tsuge puts it almost in the same place, and there's no throw home here either. It's 5-3 Kendai!
The hits keep coming as Yamagami singles to 2nd. That gets a mound visit from Kawaguhci-kantoku.
Shibahiki grounds out to end the inning, but now it's Iwakuni doing the chasing...
Otani hits a ball to deep right, but Wakimoto has time to get under it for the catch.
Mizuno and Tsuchiya go quietly and the side is retired. Kendai Takasaki heads into the break with the lead and the momentum.
First pitch from Yanagawa after the break hits Yokomizo. Not a great start as Takahashi bunts the runner along. There's a slight mixup in the fielding, but Kawamoto covers 1st for the out.
After another grounder advances the runner to 3rd, Hoshino steps in looking to play add-on.
Grounder back to Yanagawa! Off his foot! Kawamura to the ball, fires to 1st... in time! 3 out! Great heads up play by Kawamura to make the play and save a run!
Yanagawa searches for a pitch to hit, but lets one by that's just too close and is rung up.
Kihara attacks the first pitch, but flies out to center. Kameya meanwhile works the count, but ends up swinging on a poor pitch for the 3rd out. Iwakuni is officially in trouble.
Even the routine plays aren't routine. Wakimoto grounds to 3rd and Kawamura has to get rid of the ball quickly to get the out.
Nagashima with a double past Koutari in center gives Kendai another scoring chance.
But Tsuge and Yamagami are retired without incident and Yanagawa keept the deficit at 2.
Iwakuni almost goes in order as Kawamoto manages a 2 out single back up the middle.
But Kawaguchi-kantoku tries to press the issue. Kawamoto takes off for 2nd, but Tsuge's throw is in plenty of time to make the 3rd out.
Iwakuni gives up yet another leadoff runner as Shibahiki walks to lead off. Aoyagi-kantoku this time has Yokomizo bunt the runner along.
Once again though Yanagawa shuts the door on Kendai's chance, but his team is running out of time.
And the offense has no traction whatsoever. Two straight grounders to short, and a K looking by the 2-3-4 batters prolly means this game is in hand for Kendai Takasaki.
It takes a little bit of effort, but Yanagawa finally gets Nagashima to fly out to center to complete a clean 1-2-3 inning. Yet, his team still trails by 2 with just 3 outs to go.
No luck for Yanagawa, he goes after the slider outside for the first out. Kihara follows that with an easy fly to center, and they're down to their last out. #7 Higashi comes in to hit.
Higashi though pops out to Yokomizo and in a neat 92 pitches Takahashi gives Kendai Takasaki the 5-3 win over Iwakuni!
Iwakuni started well against relief starter Kawai, but once ace Takahashi entered the game their offense completely shut down. That allowed Kendai to use their game plan of speed to level and eventually take the lead. Speed kills, they had a chance several years ago until they inexplicably went away from the strategy. Hopefully this time they'll see it through to the end.
Takahashi Kazuki (Kendai Takasaki) - 7 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 8 K, BB
Wakimoto Naoto (Kendai Takasaki) - 2-4, 2B, R, RBI, SB
Nagashima Ryouhei (Kendai Takasaki) - 2-5, R, 2 RBI
Kawamoto Takuho (Iwakuni) - 3-4, 2B, 3B, R, RBI
Kawamura Ryousuke (Iwakuni) - 2-3, 2B, R, RBI
Otani Rentrarou (Iwakuni) - 2-4