And then there were 8. The contingent of Tokoku and Hokushinetsu teams are still there, though depleted over the last couple of days.
Mie, though not in those regions, probably shares some of the hopes they do in that they're not a prefecture known for strong baseball. And yet they're here in the Best 8 and got there their own way - by making sure they grinded their way there. Whatever the score, they will wind up playing a close game.
Okinawa Shougaku showed it had some backbone when stood up by Nishougakushadai Fuzoku. There has always been a feeling of not performing to their potential, but this year they've seemed to buck that by defeating not Nishougakushadai Fuzoku and in the first round Sakushin Gakuin.
But there's still something that makes me a non-believer. Whether it was the fact they couldn't keep their lead, or the fact that they've shown promise before. Winning this game might start pushing people towards believers.
CF Nagano Hayato
2B Sada Taiki
SS Utsunomiya Touma
1B Nishioka Musashi
LF Yamamoto Youma (#10)
3B Uchida Ren
RF Seko Ren
C Nakabayashi Kengo
P Imai Shigetarou
Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa)
CF Akamine Ken
2B Nakamura Masaki (#13)
LF Nishihira Daiki
3B Asato Takeru
RF Kubo Shuuto
1B Uehara Kouta
SS Sunagawa Osamu
P Yamashiro Daichi
C Irabu Shouta
08:00 - First Pitch!
Nagano with a base hit past a diving Nakamura into center. Sada bunts him along.
おっと！ Yamashiro hits Utsunomiya (who hasn't done a lot at the plate!) Okishou in some trouble early!
Nishioka single to right! Nagano being waved home! Throw goes to 3rd and Mie leads 1-0!
Yamamoto tries the squeeze, but bunts it foul! That puts him at 2 strikes and probably swinging.
Perhaps he should have three-bunted....
He makes a very poor swing on a slider almost in the other batter's box for the 2nd out.
Uchida does the same, and perhaps wishes he didn't make contact as he just rolls a ball to short where Sunagawa just tosses it to 2nd for the 3rd out.
Yamashiro prevents further damage, though even if Mie scored runs, they'd probably give them back in the name of grinding out the game.
Akamine hits a ball to right for a base hit, but Seko is a bit lazy in getting the ball in, allowing Akamine to take 2nd!
After a sac bunt, Imai making things really hard on himself as he hits Nishihira.
Asato grounder to 3rd! Akamine going home stops and he's in a rundown! But he's alertly smart about it and gives the runners enough time to advance as far as they can before being tagged out.
So a base hit is still dangerous.
First base is still open, but Imai decides to fight against Kubo. Count runs full..
Kubo sprints out of the box but the home plate umpire rings him up for the 3rd out! Imai wiggles out of another one!
Seko can't help out at the plate right now either as Yamashiro puts one at the knees for the first out.
Nakamura simply hits a ball back to Yamashiro for the 2nd out, and then Mie's batters need to know the proper way to stay alive as he just take a slow swing and hits it right to Sunagawa.
Imai also having an easier time of it after the opening frame. Uehara strikes out on the outside slider, and then he gets 2 groundouts for a 1-2-3 inning.
2 down and Utsunomiya singles to right. Yamashiro tries to be careful with Nishioka, but winds up walking him.
Small chance for Mie, but Yamamoto can't get the base hit as he grounds to 3rd to end the inning.
Akamine with his 2nd hit of the game, a one-out single to left. But Imai gets himself out of the inning quickly as Kubo grounds into the 6-4-3 double play.
Yamashiro and his control again coming into play as he gives up a one-out walk to Seko. Nakabayashi not bunting with 1 down, bloops one to shallow center. Ken coming in, but he won't get there in time! It falls in and everyone's safe as Seko scrambles into 2nd.
That gets Higa-kantoku to call time.
Iimai grounder to 1st, Uehara goes to 2nd for 1, but Sunagawa sees no play at 1st and snap throws to 3rd just in case Seko went too far (he didn't).
Nagano drive to right! Kubo sprinting back to the wall! It'll fall in near the wall! Seko scores, Imai all the way from 1st scores on the 2R triple! 3-0 Mie!
Sada grounds to 3rd, but Mie's captain giving his team some insurance runs!
Which Imai starts giving back!
Asato with a deep drive to left! Yamamoto back towards the left field foul pole...
Mie is never comfortable with a big lead and Asato helps dent that large lead a little. One out solo HR from Okishou's cleanup batter and it's 3-1!
Kubo follows that up with a single to center! And then Uehara with a seeing-eye single sends Uehara to 3rd and Okishou threatens again!
Nakamura-kantoku calls for time.
But Sunagawa hits a drive to left! Yamamoto scrambling back to the wall, turns, and makes the catch right at the wall!
Kubo tags up and it's a 3-2 ballgame!
Imai strikes out his counterpart for the 3rd out, but once again, Mie makes it a tenuous situation for itself.
Utsunomiya having a great game at the plate so far, gets his 2nd hit of the game with a single through the left side.
Then promptly gets himself thrown out by a very wide margin at 2nd. Boy that looked odd.
Nishioka with a drive to left! Nishihira going back to the wall! He gives up!
Not to be outdone, Mie's cleanup batter says to Asato, "Hey, I can do that too!" And the ball goes up about 10 rows for a 4-2 lead!
And now Yamamoto finally gets his basehit when there's no runners in scoring position (sic). Single to center and Yamashiro is getting hit hard - not to mention he's already at 94 pitches!!
Uchida with a blooper to left, Nishihira comes in, but has to play it on a hop!
Seko chopper to 3rd, Asato has it goes to AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
He loses the ball on the transfer! And by the time he picks it back up everyone's safe!!
But Yamashiro comes right back and blows a ball past Nakabayashi for the 2nd out.
Imai drive to left center! Nishihira won't get this one! Everyone will come around to score on the bases clearing triple by Imai! 7-2 Mie!!
Nagano single to center! Imai being sent home and Mie takes a 8-2 lead! Nagano takes 2nd on the throw and it certainly looks like they're trying to break that cycle!
Well, we'll see. Sada grounds out to short, so we'll see if this lead can stick, or like all the other ones they start giving it right back.
Well... Irabu leadoff single to left...
Imai gets Akamine to regrettably swing on a slider for strike 3.
Nakamura with a short liner to left, but Yamamoto is there for the catch for out number 2.
And at least for an inning Mie seems to have held the large lead... Nishihira swings over the slider for strike 3.
So, we hit the break with Mie all over Okishou ace Yamashiro. But their penchant for close games makes any lead seem unsafe.
Higa-kantoku makes the pitching change. Kubo comes in from right to take the hill while Yamashiro goes to take Kubo's position in RF.
Utsunomiya with a soft liner up the middle, his counterpart Sunagawa stretches out and makes the leaping catch.
Mie's batters seem to be swinging way too early on Kubo's pitches as evidenced by their repeated reaching out to the ball. Yamamoto is able to take a pitch down the right side for a double, but Uchida right afterwards is early too and just pops it up for Sunagawa.
Well, Imai walks leadoff batter Asato, thought that's understandable.
Kubo chopper to 2nd, Sada charges turns and backpedal flips to 2nd for one, Utsunomiya to 1st for the double play.
Uehara rolls a ball to 1st and it's another clean inning.
Seko with a blooper to center that falls in for a base hit. Nakabayashi tries to bunt the runner along, but winds up with 2 strikes. Goes for the bust-and-run, singles through the open left side.
Now Imai is able to get a bunt down, but it's not good at all. Kubo goes to 3rd and they almost double off Imai at 1st.
Nagano fares worse as he hits into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Leadoff batter reaches yet again as Sunagawa singles up the middle.
あ。 #10 Kinjyou hits for Yamashiro, officially ending his nightmare day. Kinjyou though goes down swinging.
Irabu, ahead 3-1 lines a single to left and they're in business here in the Lucky 7.
Akamine with a liner to right, but right at Seko for the 2nd out.
Nakamura liner up middle, off Imai's glove! Utsunomiya there to pick it up, fires to first for the 3rd out!
Kinjyou stays in the game to play RF.
Sada with his first basehit of the game, lines a single to left. Utsunomiya bunts him along.
With first base open, they're careful with Nishioka and wind up walking him.
Yamamoto liner, but right to Nakamura. Sada straying a bit too far is doubled off at 2nd and the side is retired.
Again, Okishou gets the leadoff runner on. This time Nishihira's hot shot eats up Uchida and it goes into foul territory.
Asato grounder to 2nd, AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
Sada just whiffs on the ball and it goes to right! Nishihira takes 3rd on the error!
Kubo with another grounder to 2nd! Sada has this one, goes to 2nd for one, but Utsunomiya double clutches and the throw to 1st isn't in time! Nishihira scores to make it 8-3.
Uehara grounder to 1st, but Nishioka has it! Tags 1st, throws to 2nd where Utsunomiya tags Kubo for the 3rd out.
Higa-kantoku sends another person to the hill, this time 1B Uehara. Kubo goes back to RF and Kinjyou goes to 1B.
Uchida with a really awkward swing on a ball inside hits it to right. Kubo going back towards he foul pole??!!
That ball went out? That didn't even look like a HR swing to me, it felt more like a stay alive swing.
Uehara only yields a 2-out walk to Imai, but gets out harmless otherwise.
#18 Matsumura in the game now to play RF.
2 down, Irabu gets a base hit up the middle, and is replaced by #12 Akamine Taku.
Ken grounds to 1st, Nishioka goes to the bag, and Mie is in the Best 4 for the first time in school history with a 9-3 win!!
Mie, long a participant at Koushien, has never been able to make a deep run until now. Starting with their win over Kouryou they have persevered through the field and are now into the Best 4 with this win. This win seemed uncharacteristic in that Mie was actually able to keep a big lead. One would hope that doesn't mean that they've peaked too early. They are after all just 1 game from the finals!
Alas, for Okinawa Shougaku the run falls short yet again. It's odd, they've had the team to challenge for the Koushien title, but whether it be the schedule or the weather, they just not been able to break through. That'll be it for this team of players, the kouhai's will have to step up and sooner rather than later because aki taikais are underway.