Well, that's more like it! I think we're finally starting to hit the groove now. So onto our matinee game is an all-central matchup between Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou and Matsushou Gakuen.
Kengifushou on paper has the better resume. A pitcher who can throw hard (though that in and of itself isn't a gamechanger) and has a splitter is always a good thing, but the lack of offensive production is an issue. Matsushou Gakuen finally makes it back, but their pitching is a step below, and the offense about the same.
I'm hoping for not a blowout in this game, but at the same time I realize that it's a hope and it probably won't happen.
Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu)
LF Murai Shouma
RF Hirose Masaru
3B Takegoshi Hiroyuki
LF Yamada Youta
C Katou Jyunya
1B Murahashi Kazuaki
SS Oono Rikuo
P Takahashi Shunpei
2B Sakashita Reon
Matsushou Gakuen (Nagano)
CF Momose Masaya
2B Takano Yuuhi
LF' Funazaki Seiya
1B Arakura Kenta
3B Miyajima Shunpei
RF Yaguchi Naoki
SS Sakai Toshiki
C Matsubara Ryouta
P Onda Yuuya
11:20 - First Pitch!
Two quick outs for Onda as Murai hit a soft looper to Sakai, and Hirose hits a fly to center that Murai doesn't have to move for.
But Takegoshi breaks that up and gets the hit out of the way. It's a clean single through the left side.
Yamaoka with ball to deep left, but Funazaki is there to make the catch. He give a high five to Momose as they pass each other and it's a clean inning to start.
Takahashi going for gusto early hitting 146, 150 and 147 on his first 3 pitches.
Momose fighting to stay in the AB, goes around on a 146 fastball inside.
After a 1 pitch out by Takano, Funazaki too succumbs to the fastball. He can't reach a ball outside and Takahashi has 2 Ks already.
Things not going as swimmingly for Onda now. Katou with a ball to the left side, Sakai with the dive, but it's off his glove and into left for a base hit!
Ogawa-kantoku giving the green light as Katou takes off for 2nd! Matsubara's throw to 2nd... not in time!
And now Murahashi with a clean single through the left side. Runner at the corners and no out!
Adachi-kantoku calls for time.
Murahashi takes off for 2nd! Matsubara doesn't get a clean grip on the ball and now there's 2 runners in scoring position!
Oono isn't being hasty though and ends up taking a walk! Manrui for Kengifushou!
Onda hits his counterpart on the very first pitch! Oshidashi HBP and it's 1-0 Kengifushou on the unforced error! And it's still manrui!
Sakashita with a ball back to Onda! He goes home for 1, throw to 1st... double play! Boy, did they need that!
They're not out of the woods yet as it's the top of the order and Murai.
Onda gets Murai on a forkball to end the inning, but Matsuhou Gakuin gives Kengifushou a gift!
I'm not sure how Matsushou will deal with a fireballer as Arakura grounds out to short.
Miyajima with a pop fly to center, Murai charging in dives... just off the end of his glove as he rolls over! Base hit for Matsushou!
But Yaguchi hits a ball to 2nd and AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!
Sakashita, perhaps rueing his spoiling of the opportunity earlier, muffs the ball! It goes straight into right and Miyajima heads straight to 3rd and now Matsushou has something brewing!
Sakai uses Takahashi's power against him as he pushes a bunt to the right side! Murahashi is there, but can only go to 1st and Matsushou ties the game! It's 1-1!
Matsubara strikes out on a slider, but with some help of their own Matsushou has leveled the game!
Kengifushou out to reclaim the lead quickly as Hirose lines a ball to right.
Arakura snap throw to 1st.. and they nail Hirose! Baserunning mistake there.And that hurts even more when Takegoshi draws the walk.
Wild pitch from Onda! Matsubara can't corral it and Takegoshi takes 2nd!
Yamada jumps on the first pitch, but flies out to center for the 2nd out.
And now Takegoshi takes off for 3rd! Arakura's throw to 3rd... and they nail him! Two outs on the basepaths and it's a 0 on the board!
Onda, perhaps realizing that baserunners are at a premium, tries to work the count, draws a leadoff walk!
Back to the top of the order, and there's no bunt from Momose! However he flies out to left and perhaps an out is wasted.
So they make it up! Takano lays down the safety bunt! Takegoshi charging in, throws to 1st... SAFE! Takano does the head sliding thing and still beats out the throw for a base hit!
But Takahashi buckles down. He gets Funazkai on a slider, and then Arakura on a fly to left and just like that he's out of the jam.
Onda cruising along here in the 4th, getting Katou to ground out to 2nd, and striking out Murahashi on a slider.
Well, that was odd. Onda went through his delivery but dropped the ball. Everyone has a good laugh.
But Oono gets a single to right.
And now Takahashi comes through with a single through the left side! Has something gone wrong? #11 Haga is warming up.
That's not good. Onda leaves one over the plate and Sakashita drives it to left and it doesn't look good.
Yep. That's a no-doubt about it 3-run HR. Sakashita makes up for his errors in spades and it's now 4-1. Matsubara wanted that away, it was dead center.
And after Onda hits Murai, Adachi-kantoku has seen enough. #11 Haga comes in to relieve Onda who pitched well for 3.2 innings.
No offense to him, but with Matsushou into the bullpen, the game is over.
Hirose with a short liner to right, Yaguchi makes the great sliding catch to end the inning. But whatever momentum Matsushou Gakuen had is completely gone.
The comfortable lead allows Takahashi to pitch more aggressively now. Miyajima fights in his AB, but flies out to left. Yaguchi can't catch up to the fastball, and Sakai pops out. 3 up, 3 down.
Haga walks Takegoshi to start the inning, and when Yamaoka hits a ball back to Haga, he hesitates too long and his throw to 1st is late. Ogawa-kantoku, wanting to make sure the game is in hand, has Katou bunt.
But Murahashi, after his good 1st AB, has struggled and can't check his swing. He goes down for the 2nd time.
Oono lines out to left to end the inning, but Haga will probably have more innings like this going forward.
It's a new inning, but the same story. Matsushou's batters are swinging away and either popping out or striking out. We're at the break and the game already feels decided.
Takahashi with a booming drive to left center, Momose running it down and makes the catch for the 1st out.
Sakashita, perhaps feeling his oats goes after a high fastball and goes down for a K. Murai grounds to 2nd there after and Kengifushou is looking to shorten the game.
Matsuhsou has waved the white flag. Takano, Funazaki and Arakura all go down swinging. It's not pretty.
Hirose collects his 2nd hit of the game as well as a SB, but Haga gest Takegoshi to foul out to Matsubara at the back screen (with a guy in blond hair and a yellow jacket waving him over). Yamaoka succumbs to the forkball, and Katou flies out to center to end the inning.
I think the message came through that if you wanted to shorten the game, get them to hit the ball.
Unfortunately for Takahashi it still takes the same number of pitches, but he does retire the side in order.
Not much to see here, Kengifushou is retired in order as they're not looking on piling on the score.
Adachi-kantoku getting his bench players in. #16 Iidzuka comes in for Matsubara and #12 Atou comes in for Haga. Still they're retired in order.
#10 Tokuda comes in for Iidzuka and takes over on the hill. Atou stays in to play C.
Hey, Tokuda is a true sidearmer. That's cool.
Murai gets a base hit, then takes too big of a turn and Funazaki fires from left and guns him down. Heh.
Tokuda yields a walk to PH #18 Ueno, but gets Takegoshi to hit a comebacker for the 3rd out.
Ueno stays in to play RF and #16 Kariya comes in for Sakashita to play 2B.
Matsushou is retired in order yet again, and the game comes to an end.
I realize I was terse with the last couple of innings, but when you've seen as much Koushien as I have, you know when a team's been defeated for the most part. That 3-run HR pretty much did it. Matsushou Gakuen did okay all things considered, but they just ran into a brick wall today in Takahashi Shunpei.
Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou gets tested early, but got it easy late. Teams won't break down as quickly as Matsushou Gakuen, but a win is a win in your opening game. As one of my twitter friends said, Takahashi was high in the zone, but as long as he doesn't miss middle, there have been examples of pitchers who have lived at the top of the zone. it's rare to see from a Japanese pitcher, but considering we've seen significantly less bunting, anything is possible. Now about those head sliding into first...
Anyways, Kengifushou advances to the 2nd round where they'll face the winner of the next game. Takahashi appears to have the goods to be a power ace, but we'll need to see him against tougher competition to see if he really is one.