And now our final matchup of Day 3. Can I please get a close game (before Tenri preferrably)? I'm not sure I'm going to get one here because Urawa Gakuin is also a serious contender, but I guess we'll see.
Urawa Gakuin (Saitama)
3B Suwa Tadayoshi
2B Dai Kouta
SS Tsuda Shouki
1B Yamazaki Kouta
CF Kouki Yuushi
RF Takahashi Tsukasa
LF Araki Yuuya
C Nishino Shinya
P Egichi Shouri
Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
CF Jyoujima Hiroki
C Yoshimura Hayate
2B Hashimoto Kazuki (#14)
RF Nishikawa Hirotaka (#9)
1B Masaki Tatsuya (#13)
P Takahashi Keiji
3B Horikita Akito
SS Jyougahara Kazuki
RF Ichioka Souma (#17)
14:05 - First Pitch!
And before the siren finishes off, Suwa lines a ball back up the middle for a base hit. Dai moves him along into scoring position.
Despite the quick start from Urawa Gakuin, ace Takahashi is hitting the high 130s. Not sure if he goes to 140, but it's at least a tick higher.
Tsuda gets ahead of an offspeed pitch and rolls it to the left side. Horikita has to charge in so Suwa advances to 3rd.
The form looks like it could lead to walks as there is some extra motion I'm not used to seeing and as I think that he offers a pass to Yamazaki.
He also has several pitches including a changeup, splitter and slider. The splitter should be a key for him to be successful.
Kouki makes good contact, but lines out right to Hashimoto for the 3rd out. No damage, but it's a shaky start for Takahashi as well.
The only problem with Urawa Gakuin being a contender is the fact their ace doesn't strike out a lot of batters. For the Kanto region, it might be understandable, but his rates are really low.
Well, Jyoujima hits a soft looper to Dai to start, and then Yoshimura hits a slow dribbler to 3rd.
He's getting a lot of weak contact, works really quickly on the mound, but isn't really pinpoint accurate as he walks Hashimoto.
Nishikawa goes down and gets under a changeup and lines it down the left side! Araki runs it down, but Hashimoto advances to 3rd and Heian has a chance to get on the board first.
Nishino makes a snap throw to 1st and almost picks off Nishikawa. The 1B umpire was really close to calling that one.
But Eguchi gets himself out of it as Masaki swings and misses on a changeup in the dirt. Nishino goes to 1st and the side is retired. Not exactly a strong start either from the Meiji Jingu runner-ups.
Keiji (there are two Takahashi's playing, one on each side) seems to be settling down. Tsukasa (the other Takahashi) grounds out right to 1st. He then pulls out the slider on Araki for his first K of the game.
Nishino breaks up the rhythm with a first pitch single to left. That will at least let the lineup turn over first thing next inning.
And it will as Eguchi flies out to left to end the inning.
Eguchi though hasn't quite gotten himself straightened out yet. After a first pitch out to Keiji, he walks Horikita on 4 straight, and then hits Jyougahara on his first pitch!
Ichioka chases a ball outside, but dribbles it like a bunt to the left side! Suwa charges in, but his throw to 1st is late! All safe and manrui for Heian!! And it's the top of the lineup in Jyoujima!
Eguchi jams him! Jyoujima hits the ball right to Dai who starts the 4, 6, 3 double play to end the inning. Again Eguchi gets himself out of the jam with the help of good fielding behind him.
One down for Urawa and Dai pokes a ball back up the middle and out of the reach of the infielders for a base hit.
Tsuda just golfs a ball inside in the air into shallow left. Jyougahara and Nishikawa converge, and it's Jyougahara that makes the catch - though just barely as he rolls over a ducking Nishikawa.
Keiji isn't quite out of the inning just yet, as cleanup batter Yamazaki battles for an 8 pitch walk.
But that effort winds up wasted when Kouki swings on the first pitch and pops out to Hashimoto to end the inning.
Eguchi continues to miss the zone, going 3-0 to Yoshimura before throwing a strike. He gets the out though when he grounds out to 2nd.
Hashimoto quickly pops out to 1st, but after that Eguchi gets himself behind yet again, giving the batters something hittable. Nishikawa drives one to right, but Tsukasa is there to make the catch
If nothing else, Keiji has not only settled down, but his delivery perhaps now is throwing off the Urawa batters. Tsukasa and Araki both go down swinging on offspeed pitches.
Nishino is able to work the count in his favor and get a pitch to hit, but it's just a fly to right for the 3rd out. Keiji certainly is winning the battle on the mound even though the game is scoreless.
Masaki with a grounder to 3rd, but Yamazaki is off the bag for the play and Masaki winds up safe!
Harada-kantoku will play for the run as this appears to be a low scoring game. Keiji moves him along.
Horikita does the right thing, as he pulls the ball to the right side advancing the runner. Now it's up to Jyoujima to get the timely hit.
But he won't get a chance! Despite being up 0-2,. Eguchi hits Jyougahara to put runners at the corners! That'll bring up Ichioka who already has a hit on the day.
Eguchi gets him to be ahead of a cut ball and rolls it over the right side! Dai charging in, makes the pick and tosses to 1st for the 3rd out! Nice play by Dai to prevent the run from scoring!
Eguchi apparently trying to hit the ball the other way where there apparently are gaps, but he flies out instead.
Suwa seems to have a beat on Keiji though as he hits a slicing liner to left for a base hit, his 2nd of the day.
After a Dai flyout, Suwa is sent by Mori-kantoku! Yoshimura drops the ball on the transfer and Suwa is in without a throw. But like the batters before him, Tsuda is late to the ball and he flies out to right. Ichioka makes all 3 putouts.
Despite having success against Eguchi working deep into counts, the top of the order does the exact opposite. 7 pitches and the side is retired.
So we hit the break with the game deadlocked at 0-0. It's the second time we've had a close game where you feel that both teams are in it. Keiji is still having the better of it versus the competition, but Eguchi might finally be rounding into form - though not quite yet. Urawa Gakuin is certainly in the more precarious position, but it's not dire by any stretch.
Yamazaki looks to break the standoff as he singles past Horikita into left. Kouki bunts him along.
Tsukasa grounds out, but again moves the runner along. But now Araki needs a base hit to give his team the lead.
Araki chops one to the left side! Jyougahara runs it down in the gap, throws to 1st... and Masaki stretches for the out! Good defense from Heian keeps the game scoreless!
Nishikawa gets a hold of a changeup and sends it down the right field line! Tsukasa tries to run it down, but will have to play it on a hop! He quickly gets it in, but not before Nishikawa is in with a leadoff double!
Masaki squares to bunt him over, and somehow lays it down after he has to duck to avoid the ball hitting him! That's impressive (or lucky) no matter how you look at it.
And now it's Keiji's turn to help his own cause...
Grounder to 3rd! It's a contact play! Nishikawa breaks for home as Suwa throws home! Nishino make the tag... OUT!
They get him at home! I think. That looked like a quick tag and I'm not completely convinced he got him, but the umpire called it and that's all that matters!
Horikita grounds to short, and Tsuda goes the short way to end the inning. The game remains scoreless!
Will the lucky 7 prove to be for one of these teams?
Not for Urawa so far. Nishino and Eguchi both ground out before Suwa has a chance to hit. Suwa gets his 3rd single of the day to put a runner on, but Dai can't do much with it as he chases a ball low and pops it up to left. Nishikawa comes in to put it away and the side is retired.
Eguchi trying to hold serve, freezes Jyougahara on a fastball inside for just his 2nd K. Ichioka can fare no better, hitting a ball back to Eguchi.
Jyoujima send a ball to deep right, and while Tsukasa is backpedaling, he still makes the catch for the 3rd out. No dice for either side in the lucky 7.
Tsuda gets the Urawa offense going here in the 8th with a ball back up the middle and just past Keiji's glove into center. Despite the scoreless draw, Mori-kantoku is not going for a bunt (This is actually where I would consider laying one down - but with Yamazaki up, I can understand why not to as well though that is oddly MLB thinking).
Keiji wins the battle as Yamazaki chases a ball low and golfs it to center for the 1st out.
Kouki tries to get around on a fastball inside, but instead pops out to Jyougahara.
Desperate to get anything started #15 Araya comes in to hit for Tsukasa. But he too pops one up to short! Jyougahara camps under it and makes the catch!
Harada-kantoku tries the drag bunt for a base hit, and while Yoshimura lays it down, Yamazaki and Eguchi play it perfectly for the out.
Hashimoto's struggles at the plate continue as he's twisted on a fastball inside, and immediately knows it.
And Nishikawa goes after the first pitch, but it's a routine grounder to short. Tsuda makes the play to 1st and we head to the 9th still scoreless!
Urawa Gakuin gets another leadoff runner as Araki pokes a ball over Jyougahara for a base hit! Will Mori-kantoku call a bunt with the bottom of the lineup up?
Yes! BUt it's right back to Keiji! He goes to 2nd for one, throw from Jyougahara... OUT!!! Double play! Oh, the time they go for it late and it backfires!
Eguchi goes down swinging on three straight and Urawa will have to play for enchousen!!
Eguchi trying to lock things down, but Masaki isn't making it easy as he's fouling off pitches. But he can't hold up on the outside change for the 1st out.
Horikita is just trying to get the ball in play, defending the plate when he falls behind 0-2. Eguchi gets him though on an inside fastball for the 2nd out and back-to-back Ks and now 5 in all.
Horikita with a chopper up the middle, but Eguchi makes a spinning grab! Throws to 1st and we're headed to enchousen!!
Suwa finally gets a chance to leadoff again with no outs.
Chopper up the middle! Off Keiji's glove! But Jyougahara is there! Throw to 1st, OUT!!!
The throw beats out a head-sliding Suwa for the first out! (Ugh, the head-sliding thing again)
Dai with a slow chopper to the left side, Horikita gets rid of the ball quickly and just gets Dai for the 2nd out.
Tsuda goes for it all! He drives a ball to deep left! But Nishikawa is there near the fence to make the catch and the side is retired.
I barely have time to get the inning ready when it's already over. Eguchi needs just 4 pitches to retire the side. I think Heian may be pressing just a little.
Yamazaki having success of his own at the plate having drawn 2 walks. He works the count full, and gets his 3rd walk when Keiji just misses on the outside corner! He's nonplussed as the go-ahead runner gets on! Kouki lays down a good bunt and the runner goes on to 2nd.
Keiji looks to bear down now, as Araya steps in. He gets ahead 1-2.
Araya is all turned around on a fastball on his fists and he's gone for the 2nd out! That leaves it to Araki to get the timely hit that both teams have been lacking. He got a base hit in his last AB. Does he have Keiji figured out?
He's certainly fighting, that's for sure. Keiji is coming at him inside and he's fouling off pitches.
At the same time Keiji has to mind Yamazaki as they'll be pressing the action.
He takes off! Araki hits the ball to the right side.. and it's past Horikita!!! Nishikawa ready to fire home... AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
He muffs the ball and Yamazaki comes home without a throw! Araki scrambles into 2nd and Urawa Gakuin takes the 1-0 lead here in the 11th!!
Nishino with a scorcher up the 1st base line... FAIR!!!!!
Masaki can't make the diving stop and it goes into right! Araki rounding 3rd, he's sent home! Throw in is cutoff and it's 2-0 Urawa Gakuin!! That is a key insurance run for the Kanto champs!!
Eguchi pops out to Hashimoto, but Urawa Gakuin has taken the lead!
Eguchi has a chance to close out the game, but instead he walks Yoshimura! Now Hashimoto represents the tying run as he steps in.
But he hits a grounder to 3rd! Suwa goes to 2nd for one, throw from Dai... Double play!!!
The throw beats a seemingly slow Hashimoto and there's 2 out! Urawa Gakuin just one out away from advancing to the next round.
And Nishikawa hits a grounder to 3rd! Suwa flubs the ball, but stays with it. Throw to first and Yamazaki secures the catch and the game is over! Urawa Gakuin outlasts the reigning spring champs 2-0!!!
We finally get our first close game and it is one worthy of Koushien! Eguchi and Takahashi trade 0's for 10 innings, but Urawa Gakuin finally breaks the tie in 11!
The teams weren't great offensively, and the pitching certainly wasn't "dominating" by general definition. But the pitchers were hitting their spots and inducing poor contact all around. Eguchi certainly took more time to get himself started, but once he was on, Heian had little opportunity to score a run. Meanwhile Urawa Gakuin was starting to get hits off of Keiji and was getting closer and closer to breaking through.
Now, I had given the edge to Urawa Gakuin given the performances in the fall. The fact that Heian hung in so long against Urawa Gakuin is impressive, but this brings up an interesting problem.
Ryuukokudai Heian and Osaka Touin played Tenri in the super-regionals. Heian was defeated soundly, while Osaka Touin lost narrowly. But we've also seen Ritsumeikan Uji and Naradai Fuzoku defeated soundly. This could mean that instead of the entire Kinki region being weak, it was just the half of the bracket that Ritsumeikan Uji came out of, in which you have to reassess Tenri's chances (we've already done that with Osaka Touin). If Heian can do something about their offense, they may stand a chance in the summer.
As for Urawa Gakuin, it perhaps isn't a good sign when after 8 blowouts, your game is the only close one. The fact that Eguchi took a while to warm up isn't good either, but it's his first game in a tournament setting since the fall, so there can be some excuses there. As mentioned before, the bracket opens up from here, so perhaps he'll get more chances to shake the rust off, though 11 innings right off the bat probably isn't good. They still profile as contenders, but the offense will need to show something more next game.