Before I go on with the commentary, I'll be making a chance to how I do things, though the timing perhaps isn't as good.
Trying to cover the first 2 rounds inning by inning isn't bad necessarily, however when you hit a blowout status, or even just a 1-sided game, trying to make interesting commentary becomes about as bad as some of the commentators on MBS/NHK.
Also, over the years I have become noticeably more bitter watching games. It's not that I don't like 高校野球 now. It's just that I've becomed more seasoned, and more knowledgeable. And the purity and joy that I loved so much isn't quite there.
What the success of Osaka Touin and Nichidai-san has shown, and the story of Kousei Gakuin (now Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei) has shown is that much like in college basketball, there may be some upsets, but in the end it's generally the national powerhouses that continue to win. Even if you're Tenri or Nihon Bunri, or Mie, or Kanzei, or or or.. more often than not you'll get there, but not go far.
And when it comes to games here at Koushien, this year is an anomaly, but there is a clear dilenation of tiers between teams because there is a clear delineation of regions. It's just that this year it was so severe and coincidentally by strength of region that it's just funny. No Kyushu, no Shikoku, no Chuugoku, no Tohoku, and probably after today, no Hokkaido. It is possible that after today we will have 3 Kanto schools and 1 Kinki school left.
What does that say about the state of 高校野球 now?
So now, my commentary on the games will focus less on the play-to-play action, and more on observations I see during the game. There will still be some play-by-play, but you can get that on the box scores and on the game replays provided by MBS.
So onto our first game. Jyousou Gakuin is up and against it against Osaka Touin. They have had an easy schedule to get to the Best 8 and now face an Osaka Touin squad that yes, struggled offensively against Kousei Gakuin, and did struggle against Tenri in the super-regionals. But Osaka Touin now has gained that "fearsome" status that will give a team wins because they are who they are (remember Seiryou's 9-8 win over Komatsu Ootani in the Ishikawa finals last summer).
You shouldn't look ahead but you can't ignore Tsuruga Kehi on the horizon. Hiranuma may not be 100% , and we'll learn more today, but you have to start prepping for that as well in the back of your head.
Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki)
2B Ugusa Kouki
CF Takeuchi Ryou
RF Wada Shingo
1B Ishii Daiki
LF Arahara Hiroki
SS Minakami Yuuheio
C Takase Shoutarou
P Suzuki Shouta
3B Ara Masahiro (#15)
Osaka Touin (Osaka)
3B Nakayama Yuuto
2B Nagahiro Tomoki
LF Hamada Kouhei (#3)
CF Aoyagi Kouki
RF Fujii Kempei
C Taniguchi Kazuki
SS Fukuda Kouki
1B Yoshizawa Kazuto (#12)
P Tanaka Seiya
08:30 - First Pitch!
Huh, Ugusa hits the first pitch to center, and Aoyagi runs back, but it's more of a jog.
So when I say that Jyousou Gakuin is probably be up against it Ugusa does that. 1-0 Jyousou Gakuin.
Wada slices one down the left field side for a double. If life would like to prove me wrong about Jyousou Gakuin's chances, I'd be happy to be wrong.
Today there was some rain expected, and the umbrellas are out.
Side retired, but Jyousou Gakuin does appear to be on the ball early.
One out walk to Nagahiro, can't be giving Osaka Touin extra runners.
Suzuki paying A LOT of attention to Nagahiro. And despite all those throws over, he still takes off on a run-and-hit (I say it that way because Hamada swung way late on that pitch). Still wound up like a sac bunt without the risk of bunting poorly (though there's still the risk of a double play).
Ara smothers a ball up the 3rd base line from Aoyagi. The long throw to 1st takes a bounce or two, but gets there in time to end the inning.
This is about as patient I've seen a team. 5 of the first 7 batters have seen at least 5 pitches including the first 2 this inning. Jyousou is expecting either a low scoring game or want to avoid the double play at the bottom of the lineup as Suzuki bunts Takase over with 1 out.
Nothing doing though to score the run. Ara flies out to center.
Only runners Osaka Touin are getting are because of Suzuki. Hits Fujii to start the inning.
Really, Osaka Touin bunting??
Maybe they should have as Taniguchi wipes out his runner with a 5-4-3 double play.
Strike zone seems wide today. Don't know who that will help.
Suzuki hitting his spots well (outside of the dead ball). Jams Fukuda to retire the side.
Tanaka with a 1-2-3 inning. Jyousou getting bat on the ball and making decent contact, but they're right to fielers.
Osaka Touin with their first hit as Yoshizawa checks in with a double past a diving Shimizu and down the line.
Another bunt from Nisitani-kantoku? Why?
Oh, that's why. Shimizu short hops the throw and Ishii can't pick it. Time called from Sasaki-kantoku.
Nakayama sac fly to left and that will score the run. 1-1.
Suzuki gets another 5-4-3 double play, this time ending the inning. But you can't keep a good team down forever, and Osaka Touin finally has their reply.
Oh hey, Minakami with a 2-out single. Still hitting the ball square.
And what was that by Nakayama? It's like he didn't want to be in front of the ball, and then just ole'd it.
Suzuki walks and its manrui for Jyousou Gakuin.
Ara base hit right through the infield and into right. That scores 2 and gives Jyousou a 3-1 lead! Nishitani-kantoku calling for time.
Ugusa flies out to end the inning, but I don't remember seeing Jyousou on the ball as they have been today.
Also, it's funny when my two feeds which are not synched do something that is.
Also, Osaka Touin is the one who is lost at the plate. Suzuki is throwing strikes and they're swinging at balls. 2 K's against the heart of the lineup?
Another error from Nakayama as he drops a transfer on what would have been the 3rd out.
Arahara connects on one real good. Fujii waits for it at the wall, as they wave Ishii home. Relay throw home is in time and the inning is over! This despite Fujii overthrowing the 1st cutoff man and Fukuda coming over to cover the throw!
Uh oh, the doctors are coming over to the Jyousou Gakuin dugout. Looks like Ishii hurt himself when sliding into home. From the replays his arm got caught on Taniguchi's leg and it looks like he could have hyper extended it or even dislocated it?
After a delay, he comes out to his position. With a piece of something up his nose. So it was a bloody nose instead?
He gets tested immediately, making a good pick on a short throw from Shimizu.
Fukuda with a ball to right center. Fielders spring to the wall, but it just clears it for a homerun! 3-2 now the gap and Suzuki just plain missed with his location there. Was supposed to be away, went down the middle.
Yoshizawa with a liner to left for a base hit and have they solved the puzzle?
Not sure, but Nishitani-kantoku has Tanaka bunting. Takase up quickly and fires to 2nd. Get the lead runner, and SS Minakami well off to leave it at that.
Side retired, but as we hit the break Jyousou Gakuin certainly looks the better team, but I have this niggling feeling that Osaka Touin is figuring things out.
Leadoff walk to Minakami. Tanaka had already thrown 89 pitches through 5.
That was a mess of a bunt by Takase. Easy picking for Taniguchi.
Another walk from Suzuki. Jyousou continues to play the waiting game on him and it's working to get men on base.
No timely hit from Ara, so it's up to Ugusa. Hit the ball to the outfield in each of his ABs, but they just need a liner instead.
Instead, it's a grounder to 2nd. Nagahiro goes the short way to end the self-made pinch.
Suzuki himself is at 71 pitches. Not as bad as Tanaka, but still a fair amount.
Count runs full to the first batter Nagahiro, and #18 Inoue is warming up in the bullpen.
Liner to center, right at Takeuchi. Now a deep ball from Hamada, but the defense is playing back and Arahara is there to run it down.
Takaoka fouls out, but I think they're getting closer. We've seen Sasaki-kantoku go to his bullpen before. But generally they go to them when it's too late. Will the same apply here?
Where was the defense to help out Harada? Takeuchi with the push bunt up the 1st base line, Harada fields it, but with no one at first has to dive at Takeuchi to tag him before he reached the bag.
Also, this inning they're not going deep into counts. Not sure if that's the right thing to do.
Nagahiro almost causes another error when he drops a grounder. Still 3 outs.
Fujii liner to center, but Takeuchi is well placed. And despite a charge in, has no problems with the catch.
Osaka Touin trying to hit the HR to tie the game instead of base hits it would appear. Taniguchi with one to deep left center, but Takeuchi is there.
Fukuda single up the middle, but there's 2 down.
Suzuki misses on a ball inside and it goes over the middle. Yoshizawa all over that and drives it to the gap in right center. That'll go to the wall and Fukuda scores to make it a 3-3 game.
Fukuda has a grounder go off his glove and into center. Yoshizawa scores and it's 4-3 Osaka Touin.
Nakayama is left without a hit, but that's of little consequence. They've finally broken through and taken the lead on Jyousou Gakuin.
Jyousou Gakuin has abandoned their patient strategy here in the 8th. They're almost sunk at this point as it only takes 9 pitches for Tanaka to retire the side.
Uh oh, Minakami with a bad throw to 1st gives Osaka Touin another runner.
And then Suzuki hits Aoyagi.
2 down, Taniguchi delivers a liner to left scoring Nagahiro to make it 5-3.
One down and Ara singles past Fukuda into center. Then Tanaka walks Ugusa? The douten runner is aboard!
Understandably Nishitani-kantoku calls for time.
What?? Sasaki-kantoku calls for a bunt? It advances the runners, but there's 2 out!
Wada flies out to center and that's the game.
Well, it certainly was harder that I thought it would be. But I did think that the Osaka Touin batters were gaining momentum. And where were the other pitchers that Sasaki-kantoku had used before? If the were useful, they should have come in in the 7th inning when they really started hitting him deep. Also, why abandon working the count? You were getting baserunners with that method before.
Jyousou Gakuin proved they certainly are a good team, but unless the pitching depth improves this is probably what you get.
As for Osaka Touin, their offense certainly isn't as powerful from start to finish, but they do appear to get things going later as they get more pitches in. It may mean no full blowouts all the way through, but it also means leads aren't safe late.