Today finishes up the 2nd round and begins the acceleration towards the final. 3 spots on Day 11 are left and Yazu, Oumi and Kendai Takasaki await their opponents. My guess is, all 3 would like to know their opponent sooner rather than later, because those 3 are playing musical chairs with the winner actually being the loser. Because the last one standing draws the winner of Meitoku Gijyuku and Osaka Touin.
But we're getting a little ahead of ourselves. First up, two rather unlikely teams in Yamagata Chuo and Toukai Dai-yon battle it out for a spot in the round of 16.
Toukai Dai-yon shocked a lot of us when they outplayed Wakao-kantoku and Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku to the tune of 6 runs and tossing a 5-hitter. Yes, Fukuoka is uncharacteristically weak for a metropolitan prefecture, but coming from Hokkaido? And from a tier 3 school in Toukai Dai-yon?
The biggest surprise? Ace Nishijima Ryouta. Not only was it a 5-hitter he throw, but he struck out 12 while walking 3.
Those are number that you would expect to see when they're in prefectural play. Not at Koushien. It's not like he throws hard - in fact his velo is average for an ace pitcher (~mid-130s fastball). 9 were swinging, so perhaps it was due to poor plate discipline, but we'll just have to see if he can repeat his performance.
As for Yamagata Chuo, that was one of the days my body was pretty much shutting down on me. But from what I remember, I questioned whey they replaced Hayasaka when he was so effective. And it was that in the 9th inning, with Komatsu having gone to their 4th pitcher, that they completely collapsed as they watched as Yamagata Chuo score 4 runs to take the lead - and eventually win 9-8.
Suffice it to say, this team has flaws. Ace Ishikawa was responsible for putting his team in the hole giving up 6 runs in less than 4 innings of work. Their 2nd year reliever Satou was far more effective, despite the fact he gave up 6 free passes (he did only give up 2 hits in his 5.1 IP of work).
On offense, yes they scored 9 runs, but it was thanks to the bottom of the lineup. That's nice to see, but at the same time having the heart of your order go 3-13 looks really bad.
Yamagata Chuo (Yamagata)
2B Takahashi Yuusuke (#14)
LF Satou Miharu (#13)
RF Nagai Daichi
3B Aoki Riku
1B Takahashi Kazuki
SS Nakamura Ryuu
CF Takahashi Ryousuke
C Abe Koutarou
P Satou Ryousuke (#11)
Toukai Dai-yon (Minami Hokkaido)
CF Takahashi Iwami
2B Ookawara Akira
SS Fukuda Ryouta
LF Ookouchi Wataru
1B Abe Yoshi
RF Takada Shou
P Nishijima Ryouta
C Ueno Jyunki
3B Wakahara Shunnosuke
09:30 - First pitch!
Nishijima already working on his K count. Yuusuke goes down on 3 straight with the finisher being a fastball on the outside edge.
2 down, and Nagai gets the first base hit as he just aims the ball and bloops it into left for a base hit. Aoki grounds to short though, and the inning is over.
And as expected, Satou takes the hill first instead of in relief. He strikes out Iwami on a slider to start the inning.
After that he gets 2 easy groundouts and its a scoreless first.
Kazuki with a drive to deep left center, Iwami sprinting to the wall.. makes the running catch! One down.
2 quick outs now as Nakamura grounds to 1st.
And 2 K's for Nishijima as he gets Ryousuke looking on yet another fastball.
Ookouchi goes after the very slow curve, but can't get a level swing, grounding to 3rd.
There are a lot of batters just looking. Yoshi becomes another such K victim as Ryousuke paints the edge of the zone.
Takada grounds to 1st, Yoshi tosses to Nishijima for the 3rd out.
More struggles on offense. Koutarou and Satou Ryousuke ground to short.
Ishiakwa tries the slow curve, but Yuusuke pounds it to right field for a base hit.
Koharu then singles past a chasing Ookawara into right.
Nishijima clamps down and gets Nagai on a slider in the dirt for the 3rd out.
Satou allows his first baserunner after walking Nishijima to start the inning. Ueno bunts him along.
And just to show you how low-scoring of an environment this is, Wakahara is also showing bunt.
He hasn't offered yet and gets ahead 2-0. He may not have been meaning to bunt at all as he tries to poke a ball somewhere at 2-1. Does it again at 2-2 and hits a soft liner to Nakamura behind 2nd.
Iwami swings and misses on the outside fastball and the side is retired.
I think Nishijima, knowing this will be a low-scoring game, isn't going for K's but instead bad contact. That would in general use less pitches and save him for later.
And he gets 3 groundouts in 12 pitches. Not bad considering normal pitch counts for a full game starter can go easily into the 120s.
Satou hasn't given up a hit, but he issues his 2nd walk to start an inning. Ookawara is the recipient and Fukuda looks to bunt him along.
Even with 2 strikes he tries the bunt, but he pushes it foul and goes down for the first out.
Ookouchi swings away, but flies out to right for the 2nd out.
Ookawara takes things into his own hand and breaks for 2nd! Throw is in the dirt and Koutarou has no play!
But the ball gets away from Koutarou, and Yoshi reaches safely! The opening run stands 90 feet away now as Shouji-kantoku calls time.
Satou gets Takada on another slider and this time Koutarou stays with it and tags Takada for the 3rd out!
More futility at the plate Takahashi Ryousuke hits an easy grounder to 2nd. Koutarou gets ahead 3-1, but winds up chasing the slider for a K.
And Satou Ryousuke swings on the first pitch and flies out to Iwami in left center for the 3rd out.
Nishijima too tries going on the first pitch, but its a routine fly to left.
Satou Ryousuke finally gets a strike on a slow pitch to Ueno, and strikes him out on a fastball.
Wakahara tries for the drag bunt, but that doesn't work. The teams have combined for 3 hits, and one team has all of them. There are only two walks, and the other team has both of them.
I see enchousen coming.
Yuusuke continues the futility at the plate swinging at a slider outside for another K.
Koharu hits a foul fly to left, Ookouchi has space to make the catch for the out.
And Nagai with a very weak swing grounds right to Yoshi for the 3rd out.
Questionable call here, though Satou has thrown a lot of pitches.
#4 Okuyama comes in for Yuusuke and goes to 2B. Ishikawa comes in for Koharu and takes the hill. Satou Ryousuke goes to LF.
And immediately Iwami gets a base hit - a sharp grounder through the right side.
No bunt for Ookawara, but he goes down swinging lunging at a ball outside.
Oowaki-kantoku elects for the hit and run, but Fukuda flies out to right. And while Toukai Dai-yon finally gets their first hit, they can't do anything with it as Ookouchi hits a hard grounder to 3rd to end the inning.
Nishijima finally tries the eephus with 2 out to Nakamura, but it's a ball. Nakamura actually considered bunting it before realizing it was too far away.
But regardless, Nishijima not surprisingly sets down the side in order.
#16 Imagawa hits for Yoshi. And hits the first pitch sharply past Aoki for a base hit!
Takada bunts him along, but now you're asking for a base hit, and Nishijima can't oblige. He pops out to Nakamura for the 2nd out.
Ishikawa blows a 148 kph fastball by Ueno for the 3rd out. Toukai Dai-yon is getting more opportunities with Ishikawa on the hill, but still can't do anything about it.
#13 Tomita comes in for PH Imagawa and takes over at 1B.
Oh? Nishijima gives up his first walk to Koutarou with 1 out!Ryousuke bunts him along to 2nd hoping for a one-timer from Okuyama.
Nishijima not even at 100 pitches, but on his 95th he walks Okuyama on 4 straight.
And he misses again to Ishikawa to start his AB! And again!
And again!!! 3-0 to Ishikawa!
Finally a fastball down the middle for a strike. And another to fill up the count.
On his 101st pitch Ishikawa can't make contact on the fastball and the side is retired!
Interesting note - whenever he's thrown the eephus, his control as gone away for a little while...
They will go with Ishikawa for the rest of the game. #7 Takahashi Ryuusei comes in for Satou Ryousuke and takes over in LF.
Wakahara tries the safety bunt, but Aoki charges in and makes a great throw for the out.
Iwami screamer up the 3rd base line... fair!! Aoki can't get this one and Iwami has a double!
Ookawara not bunting, but Oowaki-kantoku has the hit and run! Ookawara strikes out but Koutarou doesn't throw to 3rd! 2 down, but a run stands 90 feet away!
Ishikawa falling behind Fukuda, count goes to 3-1. But he pops it up! Ryousuke comes in, then has to make a last minute adjustment - but still makes the catch for the 3rd out!
Nagai singles past a diving Wakahara! Yamagata Chuo with only their 2nd leadoff runner!
AHH!! Aoki pops up his bunt! Koharu makes the running catch for the first out!
Kazuki grounder to the left side, Wakahara goes to 2nd for the out.
And with Nakamura grounding out to 2nd, Yamagata Chuo will have to play for enchousen!
Ookouchi tries to work the count and get on base, but Ishikawa gets the outside corner for strike 3!
Tomita grounds out to 2nd and we may be headed to enchousen.
Takada ball up the 1st base line... fair!!! Koharu can't get it and it's down the line! He's in with a double and the sayonara run is in scoring position!
Shouji-kantoku calls time as Oowaki-kantoku sends in #17 Yamamoto to run for Takada.
Liner! But Ishikawa snags it and Nishijima can only give a wry smile as we're headed to enchousen!
Yamamoto stays in the game at RF.
Nishijima perhaps running low on gas as he walks Ryousuke to start the inning.
Snap throw from Ueno, WIDE!!!! It goes into right as Ryousuke goes to 2nd! Yamamoto throws to 2nd... HIGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ooukouchi has to run it down and Ryousuke has 3rd base! Oh, what were they thinking??
Oowaki-kantoku calls time, though they're in bad shape.
Nishijima strikes out Koutarou looking for the first out! Can he get the team out of this big pinch?
Ryuusei singles through the left side and Yamagata Chuo takes the 1-0 lead!
And now Ryuusei takes off for 2nd! Throw from Ueno... short and goes into center!!
Ryuusei taking off for 3rd, throw from Iwami... HIGH!!!!!!!
It goes off Wakahara's stretched out glove and into Toukai's dugout! Ryuusei score on another pair of errors and they lead 2-0!!
Okuyaam singles to center and Toukai may be finished! Shouji-kantoku taking no chances has Ishikawa bunt the runner over to try and get on more run.
But Nishijima strikes out Nagai swinging. Destruction complete though and their ship is left in critical condition.
Ueno strikes out swinging on 3 straight.
Wakahara chopper to right side. Kazuki with it, tosses to Ishikawa, but he can't find the bag! Wakahara beats him out and they can bring the douten runner to the plate.
Iwami barely avoids strike 3 once, but gets completely frozen when a change goes over for strike 3. Wakahara takes 2nd, but his run doesn't matter.
Last chance in Ookawara.
But Ishikawa can't (isn't?) throwing a strike?! He falls behind 3-0, and then finally fires one in. Fastball fouled off and the count runs full...
Grounder to 2nd, Okuyama fumbles it slightly, but goes to 1st and the game is over! Yamagata Chuo survives in enchousen 2-0!
I joked about the lack of offense in the game, but in reality both teams were desperate to score a run and conversely knew that they would need to prevent 1 run. And it was that thinking, that pressure in enchousen that finally got to Toukai Dai-yon and allowed Yamagata Chuo to advance.
Some people would joke that neither team should win given how awful the offenses were. But that's not fair to the kids. They can only play with the talent they're given and if that results in a game like this - so be it.
But you can tell from the Dai-yon player's faces that it's no laughing matter. 21 years they waited only to have it end in this matter? They weren't even alive the last time Dai-yon went. It's a painful way to go.
Yamagata Chuo survives yet again. But for how much longer is debatable.