Anyways, we are one day away from finding out who our spring champion is for 2015. I have to wonder if that may already have been decided.
Think about this. Over the last 3 calendar years, Osaka Touin has been to Koushien 5 times, the only time they didn't make it was senbatsu last year.
Of those 5 appearances, they have won it all 3 times.
And the times they did not win?
- 2013 Summer - They lost in the 3rd round to Meitoku Gijyuku (Kishi Jyunichirou, now at Takushoku Daigaku)
- 2013 Spring - They lost in the 3rd round to Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Fujita Ryuuji, now at Rikkyou Daigaku)
I already had mentioned before the tournament started that I found it surprising with Tanaka's peripherals that Osaka Touin hadn't gone farther in the Kinki Super-Regionals. What I think we should have learned from before is that none of those titles matter - well, it doesn't matter if you are really looking at the main prize of winning senbatsu. Same thing goes for the Meiji Jingu tournament. Seriously, if you were the Kinki representative and if you winning the Meiji Jingu tournament would somehow allow Osaka Touin in, would you actually try to win?
Either way, they're here, and they're 2 games away from winning it (again).
Of course, that close game proved that they were vulnerable, unlike other times. The offense is not as explosive as usual, but can still give pop, which counts for something. Tanaka isn't a full-blown ace, but he's not average either.
Tsuruga Kehi is still a question mark. Outside of the first game, which was about as dominant a 3-0 game could be, they have squeaked by their opposition. Their offense is uneven and even small-ball based outside of Hiranuma, which puts a lot of pressure on Hiranuma to keep the score low. Now, chances are that freaky 5th inning versus Shizuoka probably won't happen since some of it I figure was weather-based. But, when facing Sendai Ikuei, he started showing signs of breaking down. Osaka Touin will no doubt push him to his limit.
Grudgingly, I still favor Osaka Touin. I hope my same friend is right in that Tsuruga Kehi will win this game, but I have my doubts.
Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui)
3B Shinohara Ryou
2B Nakai Kidzuku
SS Hayashinaka Yuuki
P Hiranuma Shouta
CF Yamamoto Kouta
RF Matsumoto Teppei (#17)
1B Ueda Ryouya
C Kamon Yuusuke
LF Kinoshita Shougo (#9)
Osaka Touin (Osaka)
3B Nakayama Yuuto
2B Nagahiro Tomoki
RF Fujii Kenpei
CF Aoyagi Kouki
C Taniguchi Kazuki
SS Fukuda Kouki
1B Yoshizawa Kazuto (#12)
LF Harada Tomoki (#3)
P Tanaka Seiya
11:03 - First Pitch!
Shinohara really holding firm at the plate, taking a close pitch to get the count full. And is rewarded with a base hit through the right side. Naturally, Tsuruga Kehi goes with the bunt.
They're really going with the patience game here. Teams do not seem to be doing that a lot, so it's a surprise Azuma-kantoku has done it here. But it's working as Hayashinaka draws a walk.
Hiranuma also goes to the max on Tanaka. But Tanaka wins on a high fastball! 2 down.
That leaves it to Yamamoto. And they are as patient as, aw... I wrote myself into a corner. Anyways, he again is not trigger happy and he draws a walk! The bases are loaded!!
Matsumoto playing the same game, but Tanaka gets ahead for the first time 1-2, then throws a pitch way up and in to waste it.
Whoo hoo!!!! Did that just happen? Matsumoto drives a pitch to left and while the outfielders run back, they know it's gone! It's 4-0 Tsuruga Kehi!!
There's the 3rd out, but man that is a great start for the Hokushinetsu champs!
Meanwhile Hiranuma sits down the Osaka Touin order. Gets some help from Kinoshita who makes a catch right at the 3rd base fence.
What the heck? Tanaka is still getting rocked! Back to back gappers score another run and it's 5-0!
Osaka Touin getting something back as a grounder to short from Nakai gets the runner out at 3rd. Heads up play by Fukuda.
Hayashinaka with a ball the other way slicing down the line fair! And it gets by Fujii! Nakai scores and it's 6-0!
Tsuruga Kehi still making Tanaka pitch. Another walk. Another walk. Manrui?!!
NO. NO F****IN WAY!!!!!
HE DID IT AGAIN!! MATSUMOTO DID IT AGAIN!!!!!!
HE HIT HIS 2ND MANRUI HOME RUN!!
It's 10-0 Tsuruga Kehi and Tanaka is finally pulled. #11 Takayama comes in to take over and gets the last out.
Now, you may think I'm happy Osaka Touin is getting hammered. I am. But I'm not necessarily happy in the sense that the camera focuses on Tanaka and while he's getting instruction, he's holding back tears. You know he's going to be strong because 高校野球, but even I know at the end these are still kids. You can't tell me that that won't affect him. It could break him and we may not see him in the summer. He could work harder and get even stronger than before. But this is a moment for him and I do honestly feel sorry for him.
When I root against a school I root against the uniform, never the player.
Nothing going right for Osaka Touin. They get their first hit, then go down as Fukuda lines into a 3 unassisted double play.
Tsuruga Kehi still getting base hits, but it's singles, not doubles and HRs. Takayama though gets out with no damage.
I'd remove Hiranuma, but this is still Osaka Touin, and Harada just hit a 1-out triple to deep left.
Hiranuma though can pitch aggressively and retires Takayama and Nakayama to strand the runner.
There will be no 3 consecutive manrui HRs as Matsumoto comes in with just a runner on 2nd.
Takayama finally sits him down catching him looking on a fastball just on the outside edge.
About the only thing of note as Ueda flies out is that he's the only one without a hit (0-3), while Yamamoto doesn't have an official AB (0-0, 2 BB, Sac bunt)
Huh, CF Yamamoto loses a fly ball to center and Nagahiro has a leadoff double. But three fly balls later, and the side is retired. Yamamoto does find the ball this time around for the 3rd out.
I've never seen Osaka Touin as cooked as they are now. Nakayama makes not 1, but 2 errors helping load the bases. With Hiranuma out, Takayama gets him to fly out to left. Thankfully for all sides, not another manrui HR.
Side retired in order for Osaka Touin. We're at the break and there's really little to say. The rest of the game may take just a couple of paragraphs.
Players are being subbed in periodically by both teams. Nishitani-kantoku is giving his bench pitchers #11 Takayama an inning then passing it on to #10 Matsui.
Matsui unfortunately hits Nakai on the head. We have had more pitches hit off of players heads this year than I can remember in all the years past.
Nakayama almost has a 3rd error when his throw short hops Harada, but he stays with it and recatches the ball just in time for the 3rd out in the 7th.
Tsuruga Kehi doing situational play. Some sac bunts, and even a squeeze bunt in the 8th that scores 1. 11-0. But while it is validly pointed out that this is a non-leverage situation it's still practice.
Though by the 8th Hiranuma needs to go to a different position at least. He doesn't need to throw any more this game - even if he's at 90 starting the 8th.
But in true 高校野球 form, he finishes the game. Out of defiance maybe Fukuda give the ball one final drive, but perhaps the hamakaze knocks it down and Mori has it for the final out.
There really wasn't much to say after the first 2 innings. Tsuruga Kehi made Tanaka throw strikes, and when he did he was hit hard. When does a batter have 2 consecutive manrui HRs in a game. When does a a player get 2 manrui HRs in a Koushien??
Tsuruga Kehi, who had appeared to struggle on offense, just methodically dismantled the #1 team over the last 3 years.
And like I mentioned before, Tanaka finally lets the tears come out after the game. How can you not after giving up 10 runs in less than 2 innings of work? Was it wrong of Nishitani-kantoku to leave him in? Prolly not in Japanese terms. Being relieved like that after the work he's done would lose face.
But this is pretty bad.
No doubt though we'll see them back at Koushien, and Nishitani-kantoku will have them ready. Just hope Tanaka will be ok.
Tsuruga Kehi now has to be the front-runner to win after this game. They executed a strategy that I advocate to no end, but never see. Making a pitcher hang themselves. And it worked.
Please do it more often, underdog teams in 高校野球. It works.