So after 48 games we are finally here. At a final that could have been predicted, and probably once we got to the Best 4, wasn't wanted.
Miyagi is looking for it's first ever Koushien title. Of course that means that this would be Sendai Ikuei's first as well. Only twice before has a team from Miyagi reached the finals. Ikuei was first back in 1989, losing to Teikyou 2-0 in 10. Then in 2003 with Tohoku and if you didn't figure it out already, yes - Yu Darvish.
Sendai Ikuei has had to come from deep in the field to get here. The good news was that their first game was relatively early, and they had no problems with Meihou. The closest games they had were in the Round of 16 when they edged out Hanamaki Higashi 4-3, and then the next round where Akita Shougyou put up a fight early before their ace broke down midway.
If we don't count the Meihou game, the team doesn't get extra base hits that often despite what you'd think. Only 11 of the 43 hits have gone for extra bases.
Also, with perhaps the exception of Sasaki Ryousuke, who has been fairly consistent, it is different people delivering each game. Which is good, because you're not overly reliant on one person like some other teams.
As for the pitching, there's Satou Sena, who I swear has been around for forever. He's not an power pitcher by most metrics, as when he's on he doesn't strike out a lot of batters. While his #10 Doumeki Yuuki spelled him for a bit against Hanamaki Higashi, Sena's last outing against Waseda Jitsugyou he struck our just 3, while walking/hitting 7 in all. Not a good sign going into the finals. Don't be surprised if Doumeki starts the game.
The last time a Kanagawa team was in this spot was with Toukaidai Sagami, facing Kounan and Yousuke Shimabukuro, and a revamped Hifumi Shinta who wound up being more wild than effective. Would you believe that the last time a Kanagawa team won a title was back in 1998 with Yokohama and... yep, Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Toukaidai Sagami has only been challenged once against of all teams Hanasaki Tokuharu. Outside of that their schedule has been rather soft, facing Seikou Gakuin, Yuugakukan and last time out Kanto Dai-ichi. They had 19 of their 52 hits go for extra bases, with their 2 key batters being their 3 & 5 hitters Sugisaki and Isoami.
As for the pitching, time is split between ace Ogasawara and #11 Yoshida who have been effective enough. Not dominating, but effective. What is concerning is the end of the semifinal against Kanto Dai-ichi. Yoshida was beginning to struggle late, and when Ogasawara came in, the batters had a bit of a field day. Of course they still won, but with 0 days rest neither pitcher will get themselves right for today. Will they have anything left today?
We're about to find out!
Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa)
2B Chino Keijirou
CF Miyaji Kyouhei
SS Sugisaki Shigeki
RF Toyoda Hiroshi
1B Isoami Eito
C Nagakura Ren
LF Takeuchi Daiki
3B Kawaji Seitarou
P Ogasawara Masayuki
Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi)
3B Satou Shouta
CF Aoki Reima
SS Hirasawa Taiga
C Gunji Yuuya
1B Doumeki Yuuki (#10)
LF Kii Kaishuu
RF Sasaki Tooya
2B Yatsu Koudai
P Satou Sena
13:02 - First Pitch!
They will go with Sena to start the game, but Doumeki is lingering at 1st.
First pitch forkball, swing over by Chino. He has to fight off pitches as his ouen-dan sings the school's theme.
And he successfully dumps a ball into left for a leadoff hit, and we're off and running.
After an attempt at bunting, they go for the hit-and-run instead, but Miyaji fouls it off. He does get it into play, and advances the runner with a 6-3 putout.
Sena leaves a ball up! Sugisaki drives one to deep center! It's off the top of the padding! He's in with an RBI double and Toukaidai Sagami is already ahead 1-0!
Toyoda a base hit through the left side! Sugisaki being sent home and the throw is much too late! 2-0 Sagami and it's a quick time-out called by Sasaki-kantoku.
Isoami grounds to 3rd for the 2nd out. And while Nagakura makes contact, it's a lineout to right. Inning over, but Toukaidai Sagami off to a strong start.
Ogasawara gets the inside strike on Shouta to start his final campaign.
Aoki hits a changeup off the end of his bat and it's a harmless groundout to short.
Hirasawa alsot gets the ball off the end of the bat, but it shoots through the right side for a base hit. And with 2 down, he'll try and steal 2nd! Nagakura's throw to 2nd is high and into center! Hirasawa moves to 3rd.
Ogasawara decides to hit 149 on the gun, which I think is the fastest we've seen, the result though is a walk to Gunji, bringing up Doumeki.
But he weakly grounds to 1st and the side is retired.
Takeuchi gets a leadoff single and is moved along via out to 2nd and 3rd, flipping the lineup back over to Chino.
And Chino is being as stubborn now as he was in the 1st.
This time though he gets him on the fastball and the side is retired.
Ogasawara effectively using the inside part of the plate against opposite handed hitters as he strikes out Kii looking
Tooya gets a base hit, but when Sasaki-kantoku puts on the hit and run, Yatsu swings and misses on a high pitch and Tooya is more than dead meat at 2nd.
Yatsu, after fouling off a couple of pitches, swings and misses on the changeup. Side retired.
Sugisaki guides a ball back up the middle for a 1-out single. Toyoda with a grounder up the 3rd base line, Shouta with it in foul territory, but hesitates and his throw to 1st is late.
Isoami checks in with his hit, and that drives in Sugisaki without a throw. 3-0 as Sasaki-kantoku calls time yet again.
It's no help though as Nagakura lines one down the left field side. Another run scores and Toukaidai Sagami is trying to run away with it early now at 4-0.
Monma-kantoku calls for the squeeze, but Takeuchi misses. Isoami is run down for the 2nd out.
Takeuchi flies out to right, but Sagami has doubled their lead. Worse yet, Sena doesn't seem to be able to fix his control issues.
Ogasawara looked to be heading for a clean inning, but on the 2nd groundball to Sugisaki he airmails the throw to 1st.
Aoki takes advantage stepping out and hitting a ball back up the middle! It's past Sugisaki and there will be no throw home! The error costs them a run as it's 4-1.
Hirasawa rips a ball to center! All Miyaji can do is block it and Hirasawa is in with a double! Monma-kantoku calling time now.
Gunji with a base hit! He singles past Chino! Aoki scores and it's 4-2!
Doumeki single to center! Hirasawa comes in! It's a 4-3 ballgame!!
Kii with a liner, but it's a soft one to Ogasawara! He goes to 2nd and that kills the rally! But not before we have a ballgame again!
But now it's a matter of pitcher attrition. Who can hold out?
Senda walks Kawaji to start the frame. Ogasawara bunts him over.
Sena finally retires Chino. Gets a big assist from Hirasawa on the short chopper, but there's 2 down.
Miyaji hits a ball to left, Kii turning around, sprints back! It's over his head! Kawaji can easily score and it's 5-3! Kii got fooled just enough there and Toukaidai Sagami pulls ahead just a little further again.
With 1st open, they are careful with Sugisaki, eventually issuing a walk.
Toyoda singles to left! Kii misplays the ball again! Miyaji definitely scores, and Kii throws to 3rd and gets an oversliding Sugisaki for the out.
But, 3 steps forward, 2 steps back. It's a 3-run lead for Sagami.
The bottom of the lineup for Sendai Ikuei though is unable to make headway as they go down in order.
Yamamoto comes in for Kii to start the inning. Probably due to the 2 plays he had last inning.
Sena gets his first 1-2-3 inning. He needs it, but what he needs more is the offense to get going again now that it's turned over.
Sugisaki with another error! Shouta gets on base thanks to the wide throw and Sendai Ikuei has a chance perhaps to cut into the lead again.
Sasaki-kantoku calls for the bunt, and Aoki is able to lay it down. But 1st is open as Hirasawa steps in.
Oooo.... And Ogasawara gets the outside strike to get Hirasawa out. 2 down.
Gunji pops out to 2nd and we're at the break. Sena certainly looks like the worse of the 2 pitchers so far, but Ogasawara is not without his issues as well. Still, Sendai Ikuei is chasing 3 with their offense only showing life in 1 inning.
Kawaji with a drive to right. Tooya running to the foul pole! Is this ball gone?
NO! It's an out! Tooya leaps, makes the catch as his back collides with the padding and hangs on! He's on the ground, but he has the ball!
And quickly Ogasawara flies out to left, and Chino strikes out on 3 straight.
One down and Yamamoto gets a 4-pitch walk.
#15 Nishimaki is hitting for Tooya! And he singles through the left side!
Yatsu with a single to center! Manrui for Sendai Ikuei for Sena!
But he goes down on 3 straight and it'll be up to Shouta to bring the runners home. Monma-kantoku calls for time.
Ogasawara not really pitching in the zone, trying to take advantage of Ikuei perhaps pressing. Shouta for his part is at least staying alive by fouling pitches off.
Shouta, drive to center! Miyaji ranging over, now back! It's past him! Everyone's going to score! Everyone does score! Miyaji is in at 3rd and we're all tied at 6-6!!!!!
Aoki with a blooper to right center! Everyone converging on it!
It's Toyoda! He has a long slide and makes the catch for the 3rd out!
Damage done! It's a 3 inning game!
Nishiwaki stays in at 1B, Doumeki to RF.
Quick flyout to center by Miyaji. Sugisaki soon follows with a grounder to short.
Toyoda liner to right! Doumeki charging! Dives... MAKES THE CATCH!!!!
That's balls right there. It gets past him, it's 7-6 for sure.
But with momentum seemingly with Sendai Ikuei, the middle of the lineup is falling flay. Hirasawa with a popup, and Gunji fly to center - suddenly there's 2 out.
Doumeki gets hit and the inning continues.
Sasaki-kantoku tries to send Doumeki.... But Nagakura just gets him with his throw! Side retired!
One down, Nagakura's grounder to Yatsu is muffed putting on the gyakuten run.
Takeuchi fooled badly on the forkball for the 2nd out.
And Kawaji down on the forkball! 3 out!
Perhaps they wanted to take the base so that Yamamoto could either drive in the run, or lead off the inning. However, he grounds out to 2nd.
Nishimaki makes good contact, but also grounds out to 2nd.
Yatsu gets hit, but he's called to be in the zone and not getting out of the way, and is therefore called out! 3 down and we're onto the 9th!
Ogasawara drive to right?? Doumeki going back?????
Where in the world did that come from! First pitch for Sena and it's gone! And Sagami has the lead! It's 7-6!?!!!
Miyaji double down the left field line...
Sugisaki blooper also down the left field line, Miyaji in for 8-6...
Toyoda with a gapper to left center for a double, 9-6.
Isoami fly ball to right center. Doumeki dives... and makes the catch! But he forgets how many outs are there! Toyoda tags up from 2nd and scores for 10-6.
The bleeding finally ends there, but so does Sendai Ikuei's chance at the title.
Sendai Ikuei goes quietly in the bottom of the 9th and as Toyoda makes the final out, they win their 2nd ever Natsu Koushien title!
Man, it's a sad way to end such a great game. Satou Sena is understandably inconsolable, especially after holding out as long as he did. I don't know if you prefer losing like that or in sayonara fashion where it's closer. Perhaps if it was closer you could have though about doing something different. But perhaps like this you know you had nothing left... Perhaps if it was close, you'd look back on Kii's plays before he was pulled and wonder if he had played it right, would they have the lead instead of a tie game.
There's a lot of ifs, and it shouldn't take away from what Toukaidai Sagami did, especially Ogasawara who delivered the real final blow that would KO Satou Sena. Just a bummer way to end an exciting final.