Today wraps up the first round of the 96th Natsu Koushien tournament with our final game actually starting Round 2.
Chiben Gakuen may actually be supplanting Chiben Wakayama as the predominant baseball school. As Wakayama has fallen from their heights in the early-mid 2000s, Gakuen has started to see more and more success at Koushien. Does that mean that Gakuen's "C" will be more prevalent in the years to come? Hard to say, but probably.
Meitoku Gijyuku must be counting their lucky starts. They avoided traps and pitfalls that befell other major schools elsewhere around the country, and yet still almost didn't make it here as Kishi had to navigate a 1-0 win over Kochi Shougyou and then a 6-5 thriller over Kochi.
Kishi is the same ace we've seen in prior years, so really it's a matter of his supporting cast being able to give Kishi some breathing space so he's not under pressure the entire tournament.
If there was a year that the tournament seemed wide open, it's this one. And from the looks of the games in recent days, I think everyone knows it.
So, who wants it?
Chiben Gakuen (Nara)
CF Oonishi Ryouta
C Yoshida Takaaki
1B Okamoto Kazuma
SS Yoshioka Fumiya
2B Iwata Taku
RF Takaoka Yuuichi
3B Hirooka Taishi
P Oda Kyouhei
Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
RF Takano Kouhei
CF Ootani Yuuki
P Kishi Jyunichirou
1B Nishioka Souta
2B Mori Shouma
SS Yasuda Takayuki
C Mizuno Katsuya
LF Ozaki Yuuto
3B Oonishi Kazumasa
09:30 - First Pitch!
I had liked Kishi when I first saw him because it seemed like his control was the best out of everyone that year. Yeah, he does throw low-mid 140s, but the control I liked the best.
After a groundout to open the game, his sliders get the best of both Yoshida and Okamoto to retire the side in order.
Chiben Gakuen not messing around this game, they send out ace Oda to start the game with their relief staff to follow. In fact, looking at the books, Gakuen's performance is that more stunning given that Oda pitched just 1 inning in the prefecturals! 1!
Looks like Meitoku's plan of action is to attack anything in the zone. Takano first pitch grounder to short. Ootani rightly takes an outside pitch the other way, but it's also at Yoshioka.
Kishi, who tends to be wildly hot and cold with the bat here, gives Yoshioka his 3rd assist of the inning with a groundball to end the inning.
Iwata gets Chiben Gakuen's first hit with a single past a diving Yasuda.
But after that, Kishi just slams the door on the inning. First, a slider on the outer half to freeze Takaoka, and then Hirooka skies a slider at home. Mizuno with the catch and the side is retired.
Nishioka has little luck at the plate, getting rung up on a fastball right at the bottom of the zone.
Finally Mori gets Meitoku's first hit, a ball the other way into right for a single.
Oda goes up the ladder to strike out Yasuda for his 2nd K.
Mizuno with a liner the opposite way! Takaoka charging in, dives... but it bounces by him! He has to scramble back to the wall as Mori is waved home! There's no challenge and a bad gamble by Takaoka costs his team a run! 1-0 Meitoku!
Make that 2! Ozaki rips a ball down the 3rd base line, and Hirooka can't stop it! It deflects into foul territory and Mizuno can score to make it a 2-0 ballgame!
It's also costing Oda some pitches on the mound as now he walks Kazumasa and the lineup turns over to Takano.
Chopper up the middle for Takano AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Iwata plain misses the ball! It goes into center and Ozaki scores to make it a 3-0 game!
Iwata makes the play on the next ball hit to him, but questionable defense has cost Chiben Gakuen 3 runs!
Yamanaka with a shot to 3rd, and apparently it's too hot at the hot corner because Kazumasa can't get the glove on the ball, but is lucky to have the ball go off his right ankle to leave it at a single. With last batter Oda up, Kosaka-kantoku elects to bunt.
Kishi elevates a ball and Ryouta shoots it through the right side! Yamanaka getting the green light and the throw is cut off! Chiben cuts into the lead at 3-1!
And now is another bunt by Kosaka-kantoku! They'll try to tack on another run with Okamoto at the plate.
Kishi tries to go with the slider, but he leaves it over the plate and Okamoto is expecting it! Drives it to left for a base hit and Ryouta scores to make it a 3-2 ballgame!
Yoshioka really trying for a HR, just flies out to center again. Still, Chiben Gakuen makes a big dent in the deficit.
Kishi still cold at the plate, lining out to Takaoka.
Nishioka gets a liner over Oda into center, but only one pitch later is it wiped out as Mori grounds into the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Kishi keeping his defense busy using all of the field. Though this inning it's left. While he does record a K v. Takaoka, Iwata and Hirooka both boom balls to deep left - but the park holds it in and Ozaki makes both plays with ease.
Yasuda with a ball to deep right! Takaoka has to play it off the wall and he's in with a leadoff double!
Bunt from Mizuno, and Oda falls down!! Okamoto can't double back to the ball in time and everyone's safe! That's a bad break for Chiben there.
Oda unable to find the strike zone after falling down, falls behind Ozaki 3-0 before finally getting a strike.
And now he hits him to load the bases as #11 Murakami starts warming up. Kosaka-kantoku calls time to buy his P time just in case...
Last batter Kasumasa up for Meitoku to try and open up the game for Meitoku.
SQUEEZE!!! It's a pitchout! But Kazumasa's leap to reach it just makes contact to push it foul!
They don't risk another one, but Kazumasa hits it right at 2nd! Iwata goes home for 1, but Yoshida can't complete the double play. Still 2 outs, but no runs in.
Not any longer! Takano seeing Oda perfectly, almost takes him out with a liner back up the middle! It's station-to-station as Mizuno scores to make it 4-2!
Ootani with a full count, makes a cardinal sin in letting a close pitch go. He goes down looking on the fastball inside and there's 2 out!
That leaves it up to Kishi who is 0-2 on the day.
SANSHIN!!!! Oda once again brilliant with a screwball that catches the outside corner to freeze Kishi and retire the side!
Kishi seems to have settled back down, after the shaky 3rd. He retires both Yamanaka and Oda without much incident.
Of course then Ryouta comes up and Kishi leaves another slider over the plate! Ryouta with a drive to center, Ootani racing back, leaps, but it's off his glove! Ryouta makes it all the way to 3rd and Chiben has a chance to cut the lead once again!
No dice! Kishi goes top shelf with the slider and Yoshioka can't make contact with it! Side retired and Kishi keeps the lead at 2!
Nishoka with a slider down the right field line and he's in with a leadoff double! Mori bunts him over for Yasuda.
Kosaka-kantoku makes a defensive change, sending in #11 Murakami to replace Yamanaka in LF.
Yasuda liner! But it's right at Iwata and he makes the reflex catch (he was drawn in!!). 2 out!
Mizuno liner! Iwata leaps and makes another catch to end the inning! Iwata with some good defensive works saves the run. And as we hit the break, Kishi and Meitoku Gijyuku hold a 4-2 lead, but they can't feel too comfortable with it.
Kishi being too careful with Okamoto going all away, and he takes the 3-2 pitch the other way! Mori racing out to shallow right center, leaps, but can't get it! He's on with a leadoff single!
Yoshioka with the same and hits one fair down the 1st base line! Takano has to field it near the wall but gets it back to prevent Okamoto from coming home. Douten runner in scoring position!
Iwata with a fly to left! Ozaki trying to wind up for the throw... Okamoto racing home as the throw comes in, Yasuda with the relay, but it's not in time! 4-3!
Takaoka with a fly to right, it's deep enough to advance the runner and now a base hit or a wild pitch can tie the game.
Instead it's a grounder to Hiraoka and the side is retired!
Bottom of the lineup trying to get on base, Kazumasa tries the safety bunt, but dives to first on a relatively close play at first and 1 down.
Despite no one on base Oda rather not wants to deal with Takano, and winds up walking him.
Ootani works another long AB versus Oda, but can't crack the code just yet as he chases the high fastball for the 3rd out.
Looks like Oda's day is done. One down and #17 Osamu comes in to PH for him, he winds up grounding out to 2nd.
Ryouta on fire today against Kishi, hits a deep ball down the left field line... fair! He's in with a double and is a HR away from the cycle!
But Yoshida can't bring him in! He pops it up behind home plate and Mizuno makes the catch to retire the side!
With that, #10 Uranaka comes in the game and takes over on the mound.
Kishi with a ball back up the middle, just out of the reach of Yoshioka for a leadoff single. Nishioka bunts him along for Mori.
Ball back up middle, past a diving Iwata into center! Kishi rounding 3rd gets the stop sign and Meitoku is threatening here in the 7th!
Uh oh. Something's wrong. Ryouta calls time, and is walking slowly in. Looks like he might be injured, but from the replay it's hard to tell what's wrong.
Looking at it carefully again, it looks like on the step before reaching the ball, his right leg/angle bent a bit, then after the throw, it gave again.
But after a small delay, he emerges from the dugout and the game continues with Yasuda given a big chance here.
The delay seems to have affected Uranaka because he walk Yasuda on 4 straight to load the bases for Mizuno! Kosaka-kantoku calls for time.
Grounder to 2nd! Iwata goes to 2nd for 1, but Yoshioka drops the ball on the transfer! They only get 1 and Kishi scores and it's 5-3!
Now Mabuchi-kanoku sends in #11 Tanaka to hit for Ozaki.
First pitch Tanaka swings and pumps his fist in the air! Osamu back to the wall....
Tanaka needs just 1 pitch and he hits a 3-run HR to blow open the game! The ball ends up about 15 rows up and it's 8-3 Meitoku Gijyuku!
That's it for Uranaka. Okamoto comes in from 1B to take the hill and #13 Shimizu comes in for Uranaka to take the hill.
He gets Kazumasa to ground out, but the destruction is complete.
#18 Tada comes in for PH Tanaka to take over in left.
And Chiben, probably broken now, goes quietly in just 8 pitches...
With the game out of hand, no need for Oonishi to hurt himself further, he's replaced by #16 Takeda.
Takano starts off the 8th with a walk and after a groundball advances him Kishi in garbage time collects another base hit and an RBI as Takano scores on the play. 9-3. Liner to left by Mori, 10-3.
That's it for Okamoto. He goes back to 1st as Murakami comes in from LF to take the hill. #14 Takahashi comes in for Shimizu to take over in LF.
Yasuda goes down and bloops a ball to left. Runners move up a station and it's manrui for Mizuno.
Mizuno understands the need to finish the game and save energy, strikes out swinging.
Tada gives the ball a ride, Takaoka has to scramble back, but has enough time to park under it and make the catch for the out. Side retired, and Chiben will get their last ABs
The game may be out of hand, but Hirooka finally checks in with a base hit, and a HR no less to left field. 10-4.
But that just delays the inevitable. Murakami and Takahashi are quietly dispatched as Kishi and Meitoku Gijyuku take care of Chiben Gakuen 10-4.
It was a good game to start too. A pitchers duel that started to see cracks in both pitchers armor as Chiben Gakuen was scoring runs against Kishi.
However, the game ended on one pitch when PH Tanaka sent a curve into the stands for a 3-run HR. That unfortunately crushed the spirits of Chiben Gakuen resulting the score you see.
Kishi as mentioned was far from dominating and left several pitches up and Chiben promptly punished them. He'll need to clean those up if they want to make a deep run, powerhouse team or not.
It's sad for Chiben Gakuen to end their year this way, but the kouhais will be winding up now to secure a spot at senbatsu.