Mie makes their first foray into the Best 4, who will join them next?
Kousei has barely survived their two games, needing some help from Bushuukan to win late, then only prevailed against Seiryou in 10 innings. It certainly doesn't feel like the teams from several years ago that reached 3 consecutive calendar finals.
And worse yet, they're facing the offensive juggernaut this year.
No, not Osaka Touin (again), but Tsuruga Kehi!
The Fukui representative have outscored their opponents 42-2! And simply put, until a team can prove that they're not who we see they are, they have to be considered one of, if not the favorite.
Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Aomori)
3B Houjyou Hiroyuki
SS Adachi Yuuya
1B Moriyama Hiroki
2B Fukae Taisei
RF Arai Katsunori
LF Nakazaki Jyukiya (#16)
CF Arai Katsutaka
C Baba Ryuusei (#12)
P Goya Kai (#11)
Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui)
1B Shinohara Ryou
3B Shimomura Takamasa
SS Asai Kouya
C Okada Kouta
CF Mine Kentarou
RF Oyana Shou
P Hiranuma Shouta
LF Yamamoto Akihiro
2B Nakamoto Takahiro
10:55 - First Pitch!
Interesting! After Houjyou grounds out to 3rd, he walks up to Moriyama in the on-deck circle and relays info about Hiranuma!
Meanwhile, Adachi draws a 4-pitch walk.
Moriyama not bunting.. works the count, and he draws a walk!
Fukae decides to go for it, but uppercuts the 2-1 pitch. Shimomura in foul territory makes the catch for the 2nd out.
Hiranuma gets out of the inning as Katsunori is twisted on a fastball down and in for the 3rd out! Kousei certainly trying to work the count against Hiranuma, but can't get the timely to drive in the run.
Goya getting the bench start, definitely a bit tentative, but still attacking the Kehi batters.
Shinohara liner, but right at Moriyama. Shimomura with a foul fly, and Moriyama makes that catch near the fence for the 2nd out.
But then he walks Asai and Okada bak to back and without having to swing a bat they have a chance to score.
Mine with a drive to right. Nakazaki not even moving.
That, my friends is a no-doubter. 3-0 Tsuruga Kehi.
Oyana follows that up with a single to center.
But thankfully for Goya, he strikes out Hiranuma to retire the side. But the Tsuruga Kehi offense is already up and running.
Looks like the bottom of the lineup has abandoned the patient strategy. 9 pitches Hiranuma needs to retire the side in the 2nd.
Yamamoto with a single to right to start the inning.
Ah.... Goya hits Nakamoto on the head. He looks ok, but is replaced at 1st for an injury runner in Oyana.
Goya meanwhile makes way for #10 Yagi.
And including a sac bunt, Yagi retires the side in order!
10 pitches to retire the side - this game feels like it's over already.
And one down, Mine and Oyana both single to left, Nakazaki's defense a bit shaky.
Yagi gets out of the inning as Hiranuma lines to 2nd and Fukae doubles off Oyana.
Fukae grounder up the 3rd base line... fair!! Shimomura can't make the diving catch and he's in with a double!
AH! And now a balk is called on Hiranuma! He never gets set.
But Hiranuma comes right back to get Katsunori to chase a slider in the dirt and jams Nakazaki into a short fly that he catches himself.
Yamamoto comes around to score when after a leadoff hit and a bunt+groundout move him to 3rd, Shimomura singles to center. 4-0.
More of the same from Kousei. Sadly nothing of note.
Leadoff single from Okada comes in after a bunt and double off the wall in center. 5-0.
Yamamoto with 2 down goes to deep right center and off the wall for a triple, 6-0.
Ace Nakagawa comes in for Yagi.
Nakamura welcomes him with a single through the right side, 7-0.
Shinohara grounds out to end the inning, and as we hit the break the only question left to ask is can Kousei prevent Kehi from scoring double digits?
3 up, 3 down...
#17 Takaku in for Nakazaki in LF.
Kehi is on the verge of scoring another run when Asai gets hit by Nakagawa, steals 2nd and takes 3rd on Baba's throwing error. Mine grounds to 3rd, so no run.
Fukae with the leadoff walk. One down, Takaku singles through the right side.
2 down and Takaku goes for 2nd and gets no throw from Okada.
Baba with a single to left, Fukae and Takaku score preventing the shutout at 7-2.
Nakagawa walks his counterpart, but otherwise pitches a clean frame. Kehi still siting at 7 runs.
Moriyama gets a 2-out single, but that's all that Kousei can muster.
#7 Kitanuki getting playing time in RF for Arai Katsunori.
PH #17 Matsuoka, in for Shinohara, draws a walk and is replaced by #16 Yonemitsu.
With 2 outs, #18 Matsmoto comes in for Katsutaka and goes to 1B, Moriyama goes to LF and Takaku goes to CF.
Didn't even need notice it was raining at Koushien.
Yonemitsu stays in to play 1B.
Captain Chiba gets an AB in the final frame, but like so many other innings, they go down in order as Tsuruga Kehi wins 7-2.
Sadly for Kousei their run ended about as quickly as it could have as Mine hit the 3-run HR in the 1st inning. After that they played a catchup game they couldn't win.
And so the same story repeats itself...
Kehi perhaps looked a little more "vulnerable" with Nakagawa shutting them down, but it could also be because they know they're playing in 2 days.