And now onto our game of the day.
Osaka Touin had to smile even before reaching Koushien, seeing a lot of the powerhouses from other prefectures not even qualify. It just meant that they had less competition to face to get to and win the finals.
But the road has been far from easy. First was a ridiculous game versus Kaisei that they barely won 7-6. Then came facing Meitoku Gijyuku, for the 3rd straight year, and holding on to win that game. After an easy time against Yazu, they slowed down Kendai's running attack enough (with some fortunate events) to reach the semifinals.
And that resume presents a problem. Because their opponent appears to be a team that can beat them at their own game - Tsuruga Kehi.
Now, their offense slowed down last game as they only scored 7 runs against Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei, but they still average over 12 runs a game so far and do not have any signs of stopping. In fact, given some of their actions, they'd rather continue pummeling their opponents if given the opportunity.
If I were Mie, I honestly don't really know who I'd want to face. A seemingly weaker Osaka Touin squad (their team average is under 0.300!) that has done it before, or a ridiculously strong team (only Nakamoto has an average UNDER 0.300) that's never been there before...
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
Osaka Touin (Osaka)
LF Nakamura Makoto
2B Minemoto Takumi
3B Katsuki Kazuya
1B Shouzui Yuuya (#8)
CF Mori Shinnosuke (#9)
RF Aoyagi Kouki (#13)
C Yokoi Yuuya
SS Fukuda Kouki
P Fukushima Kousuke
13:28 - First Pitch!
Good start for Fukushima as he gets Shinohara to hit a weak grounder to 2nd. Shimomura though hits an easy single to right.
Asai with a lines single through to left, and could the engine already be revved up??
Okada almost takes out Fukushima with a hard liner back at him and he can only spin out of the way... Manrui for Tsuruga Kehi!!
Mine single to left! Shimomura scores as everyone moves up a station., 1-0 Kehi already!
Oyana just CRUSHED a ball to right. Aoyagi going back to the wall!!!
Who the heck can stop this team? They took the challenge of facing Osaka Touin and just stepped all over it.
5-0 TSURUGA KEHI.
Hiranuma and Yamamoto groundout to 2nd, but this is beyond ridiculuous.
Nakamura drive to left center!!!
Mine going back to the wall! He looks up!!!
Well, then is it going to be this type of game? It's only 1 run, but it's a statement nonetheless. 5-1!
And now Minemoto draws a walk! Katsuki follows that up with a single to right! Nishitani-kantoku calling for the bunt from Shouzui! He fouls 2 off but lays the 3rd one down!
Mori scorcher up the 1st base line... FAIR!!!!!!! It gets past Shinohara and into right! Both runners are going to score and it's a 5-3 ballgame!! What the heck is going on here?!!
Huranuma retires Aoyagi and Yokoi to retire the side, and while Osaka Touin got the wrong end of that inning, it could have gone much worse.
The engine goes into action again. Nakamoto singles back up the middle for a leadoff hit. Shinohara lays down a bunt to move him over to murderer's row.
Fukushima avoids one bullet as Shimomura flies out to center. But then he adds pressure to himself by throwing a wild pitch moving Nakamoto to 3rd. And then he walks Yokoi...
Fukushima comes out unscathed as he gets Okada to chase the cut ball for the 3rd out!
Both pitchers having success against the bottom of the lineups. Hiranuma strikes out Fukuda on a changeup inside, while Fukushima flies out to center.
But he wants nothing to do with Nakamura and he walks him.
Minemoto with a drive to left.
Mine going back to the wall.
Hiranuma leaves it over the plate and Minemoto knows exactly what to do with it! Amazingly... we're tied at 5-5!!
Katsuki grounds out to 1st, but Osaka Touin has already made up the 5-run deficit!!
Mine goes down swinging and perhaps Fukushima has settled down.
NOPE! NOT AT ALL!!!
OYANA DRIVE TO RIGHT! Does he have his 2nd HR???
He does! It can get more ridiculous! Oyama with 5 RBIs already and he gives Tsuruga Kehi the 6-5 lead!!
And then he walks Hiranuma! Oh boy.
But once again, there is respite at the bottom of the lineup. Yamamoto strikes out, and Nakamoto pops up to Minemoto to end the inning.
But these teams are trading haymakers like there's no tomorrow!
Shouzui working a long AB against Hiranuma but Hiranuma finally wins on the 12th pitch with a groundout to short.
Mori meanwhile gets his 2nd hit with a seeing eye-single to right.
But both Aoyagi and Yokoi uppercut two balls into 2 infield flies and Hiranuma finally as a clean frame.
In this type of game you cannot give the other team free runners. Yet Fukuda does just that as he bobbles the ball on Shinohara's groundout. Shimomura bunts him over.
But Shinohara goes on contact and Asai's grounder goes to short. But Fukuda goes to 3rd and he's caught! Asai doesn't even have time to get to 2nd.
Okada flies out to left and Fukushima holds serve.
Fukuda chopper up middle... it gets through! He finally gets his first hit of Koushien! Fukushima bunts him over.
Nakamura will not take another walk (though he should) and hits a hard bounder to 2nd. Nakamoto goes to 1st, and the runner advances.
Minemoto with his own liner slicing past Hiranuma into center! Fukuda scores and we're level again at 6-6!!
Katsuki earns a walk and that means Hiranuma has to face Shouzui - though he's 0-1 so far.
Shouzui with a fly to right, but the defense is playing in???!!
Mine and Oyana have to scramble back as the ball goes all the way to the wall! Minemoto scores! Katsuki comes around.. he scores!!! Osaka Touin takes the lead on Shouzui's triple!! It's 8-6!!!
Mori with a drive to right! Oyana going towards the foul pole!!!!
Mori with a 2-run HR gives Osaka Touin the 10-6 lead!!!
Aoyagi strikes out to end the inning, but Shouzui and Mori land back-to-back blows and is Tsuruga Kehi on the ropes?
Mine chases a slider outside for the first out.
Oyana will not get 3 consecutive HRs, but he does bloop a single to left.
Fukushima hits Hiranuma on his right leg...
Yamamoto revenges that with a liner to right! Oyana comes around from 2nd to score and it's 10-7!!!
Nakamoto lifts a ball to right! Aoyagi having to scramble back! That's over his head as it bounds to the wall! Hiranuma scores on the double and it's 10-8!!
Shinohara oddly struggling at the top of the lineup. He goes down swinging on a changeup for the 2nd out.
And Shimomura grounds to 3rd! Katsuki with it, takes his time and makes the throw to 1st for the 3rd out!
Tsuruga Kehi doesn't get all the runs back, but cuts the deficit to 2!
Shimomura makes a great play on a short hop to reture Yokoi.
Fukuda chases a shoulder-high fastball and flies out to right.
And Hiranuma flies out to deep center and we hit the break.
Asai shut down after the 1st as he grounds to 3rd.
Okada with a grounder to the left side, Fukuda sells out and dives, but it's out of his reach.
But Mine groudns to short! Fukuda goes to 2nd for 1, throw to 1st... double play!!! 6-4-3 double play and Tsuruga Kehi fails to gain ground!
Both pitchers are over the 100 pitch mark now, with Hiranuma at exactly 100.
Even now, he still wants nothing to do with Nakamura, he walks him to start the inning.
Wild pitch from Hiranuma! Nakamura heads to 2nd!
Another wild pitch! It bounces in front and then goes all the way to the backstop and Nakamura heads to 3rd!
Minemoto draws a 4-pitch walk.
And that's it for Hiranuma. But he's still in the game.
But it's not #11 Umino, it's LF Yamamoto!! He and Hiranuma switch places!
Katsuki rudely welcomes him with a drive to left! That's over Hiranuma's head! Nakamura comes to score, Minemoto heads to 3rd, he's given the wave around! Katsuki has a 2-RBI double and Osaka Touin leads 12-8!!
Shouzui liner, but Asai makes the snag for the 2nd out!
Mori makes poor contact, but hits it to the right side to advance the runner to 3rd.
Aoyagi grounder to short, throw to first is short and goes off of Shinohara's glove! Katsuki scores and it's 13-8!!
And it looks like Aoyagi needs some treatment as his head slide into first scraped him up in some way, I think his arm.
It looks like they're thinking about an injury-runner, but I'm not sure the umpires will let that fly. After a delay, he comes out to 1st.
However, he gets caught off 1st and is run down to end the inning.
Tsuruga Kehi trying to hit their way out of the deficit.
Oyana with a sharp drive to center, but Mori sprinting back makes the catch.
Hiranuma with a liner to left, but Aoyaji makes the catch there too.
Yamamoto tries a different strategy with a safety bunt! Katsuki charges in, but his throw is late!
And Nakamoto pays that off! He drives one to left center and that'll go over the drawn in defense and to the wall! Yamamoto scores to make it 13-9!!
Shinohara flies out to left to end the inning, and now it's time that Tsuruga Kehi's enemy...
Yokoi draws a leadoff walk and Osaka Touin would like to play add-on. But Fukuda pops up his bunt and Okada makes the catch.
Fukushima flies out to left, and that brings out Nakamura again, who is actually just 1-2 with 2 BB and that HR.
Nakamura with a popup to shallow right center... Everyone converges on it, and it's Nakamoto who makes the sliding catch for the 3rd out!
Fukushima leaves a ball too close to the plate and Shimomura singles past a diving Fukuda.
Shimomura takes off for 2nd! Throw from Yokoi not even close! Through remember they're down 4.
Asai tries to stay alive, but flies out to right.
Nakatani-kantoku calling for time, Fukushima is sitting at 132 pitches.
Fukushima can't throw a strike! He falls behind Okada before getting a ball in. But he still winds up walking him and that brings up Mine who is 1-3 on the day with 2 Ks and a double play to his name.,
Mine drive to left, but it's not nearly deep enough. Nakamura is there for the catch.
And that brings up Oyana... he may be their last real chance in this game....
At first it looks like they're going to pitch around him, but two strong swings level the count.
Comebacker! Fukushima squats and squeezes the ball! Goes to 1st and Tsuruga Kehi comes up snake eyes!!
Minemoto with a single through the right side. Katsuki on the very next pitch hits a gapper to right center past the outfielders. Minemoto comes all the way around from 1st to score and make it 14-9.
Wild pitch from Yamamoto sends him to 3rd and this could be it. He then walks Shouzui, they get that back after he's caught trying to steal 2nd.
Still, Mori hits a sac fly to right to make it 15-9.
The day officially ends for Hiranuma. #10 Taniguchi comes in for him to take the hill while Yamamoto goes back to left. And while he hits the first batter, he gets Yokoi to fly to center to end the inning.
#17 Matsuoka hits for RP Taniguchi, and gives a pretty good AB. However Fukushima wins as he flies out to left.
Yamamoto with a grounder to the right side. Shinohara grabs the ball, tosses to Fukushima who barely beats Yamamoto to the bag for the 2nd out.
Nakamoto gets hit to flip the lineup over to the top and Yonemitsu.
And he singles through the right side. Nakamoto goes to 3rd, but they're still a long ways from a tie game.
Shimomura now steps in to try and keep the dream alive. Down 0-2, he takes two pitches Fukushima tries to paint the corner with.
But on the 3-2 pitch, Shimomura hits a liner to left! Nakamura is there for the catch and on his 160th pitch Fukushima closes out the game!! Osaka Touin prevails 15-9!!
Yet even in this crazy game, you have to feel for Tsuruga Kehi. They went through this entire tournament being the proverbial bully, and I even proclaimed then to be wearing the black hats. Yet, those words were spoken in hyperbole and we have to remember they are still kids.
And perhaps you need that confidence, that arrogance - whether visible or not, is necessary to win the tournament. For Tsuruga Kehi, it was more apparent and hence the black hat comments.
You can perhaps question not relieving Hiranuma in prior games to rest his arm - especially the Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei game. But in the end they played a great tournament and just ran into a team that could finally keep up with them.
And so we have our final set. It's an all central affair with Osaka Touin trying to win their 4th title against Mie who is trying to win their 1st.