Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Day 4, Game 1 - Tosa (Kochi) vs. Osaka Touin (Osaka)

I'd like to be able to say that the tournament has been great so far, but to be honest I'm not really one to blow smoke up one's hind quarters so I won't. Most of the games have not been competitive, and the two that were, one was a bit of a snoozer (sorry Shoudoshima/Kamaishi, but while I know why teams employ the severe bunting strategy it doesn't make it any more interesting), and the other didn't really feel like there was much tension in the air (sorry Akashi Shougyou, it really didn't feel like it was anything of your doing that gave you the win outside of executing the squeeze bunts, and even to that extent blame had to be on Nichinan Gakuen's ace for continuing to pitch out of the windup).

Sadly, the opening game of Day 4 won't be any better...

That's because Osaka Touin takes the field, and the unfortunate victim is the Meiji Jingu bid in Tosa. Their key win was against Shoudoshima, who didn't show anything against Kamaishi, and then their 2 losses were to Meitoku Gijuku who also failed to do much against Ryuukokudai Heian. That alone should wave one of the biggest red flags now in the tournament. It makes their 0.260/0.319/0.337 line even more damning, and their ace Osaki, who sports a 5.4 K/9 and 3.4 W/9 rate that much more questionable.

Compare that with Osaka Touin, who while they all didn't impress, all the participants they faced in the fall that qualified for Senbatsu have moved on so far - Chiben Gakuen (ok), Akashi Shougyou (meh), Shiga Gakuen (interesting), and Kisaradzu Sougou (meh) - with only Takamatsu Shougyou yet to play.

Now Osaka Touin does have a weakness this year, and that is their ace Takayama. There has been some fanfare regarding him, but as concerning is the fact that he has walked 31 in his 63.2 innings of work. It would be more of a concern if teams were more welcome to just take a darned walk when it's handed to them, and maybe, maybe, Tosa might be able to as they averaged 4 per game. But unless Takayama just walks in runs left and right, I don't see them troubling the team I call the Yankees (or Kyojin if you like) of the 高校野球 world.

Tosa (Kochi)
RF Yoshihara Tarou
SS Morisaki Yuuto
CF Yoshikawa Shuusuke
1B Shibata Daisuke
LF Matsubara Nobuki
2B Doi Ryoutarou
C Kaji Kengo
P Osaki Genshou
3B Baba Shunpei

Osaka Touin (Osaka)
2B Nagahiro Tomoki
SS Nakayama Yuuto
3B Yoshizawa Kazuto
LF Mitsui Kensuke
1B Furutera Kouki
RF Matsuyama Shin
C Kuribayashi Yuuma
P Takayama Yuuki
CF Kawanaka Ryouutarou


09:00 - First Pitch!

So Takayama looks good off his first batter hitting all his spots.

Of course, when I think that, he plunks Morisaki...

But Nishiuchi-kantoku pushes a bit too far, He tries for the straight steal but Shuusuke stares at a fastball on the outside corner for strike 3 and then Kuribayashi throws Morisaki out.

Meanwhile, Osaka Touin is already trying to jump on Osaki. Nagahiro and Nakayama both hit deep fly balls to center, and Yoshizawa tries to, but pops out instead.

Oh? What's this? Shibata gets a hold of a fastball and drives it to center! Kawanaka has to chase and it's over his head! Shibata's in with a double! And now Matsubara bloops one to center! Shibata holds at 3rd as Kawanaka fires one home, but that allows Matsubata to take 2nd!!

What's worse, Takayama has issues with his control and walks Kaji! Manrui for Tosa!

But like I always see, when you have a pitcher with control issues, they still try for base hits instead of the free pass. Osaki winds up unable to check up on a pitch way down and away, and then Baba hits a routine grounder to 2nd for the 3rd out. So Tosa gives Takayama a helping hand.

That's a shame because Mitsui looks to get the Osaka Touin engine going with a double just out of the reach of Yoshihara in RF. He's bunted to 3rd.

But Matsuyama can't take it the other way and grounds to 3rd. Mitsui has to hold.

Osaki gets out of the jam! He gets Kuribayashi to swing over a changeup and for now he staves them off!

But things finally start crumbling in the 3rd. It starts with a hit batter to the #9 batter Kawanaka. After a fielder's choice for the 2nd out, Nakayama hits a slow grounder that Morisaki can't pick. Yoshizawa then turns on a ball and lines it down the LF line for a double, scoring Nagahiro. 1-0.

They walk Mitsui to create the force, but Furutera simply lifts a ball to left. It's slow enough to score 2 (never mind Matsubara's throw takes a million bounces to home). 3-0.

After 1 more hit batter (which really didn't matter since there was a free base), Osaki finally gets his 3rd out. But 9 batters later and they're spotting the Evil Empire (Don't blame me, their ouen-dan played the Star Wars music!) 3 runs.

Tosa's been shut down since their chance in the 2nd, while Osaki has kept Osaka Touin off the board. Eventually we hit the break with the score still 3-0. Osaki has actually done his job, but the problem is in part the defense has let him down.

The game was probably out of reach already, but Osaka Touin extended the lead to 5-0 in the 6th thanks to 3 hits to start the inning and a subsequent sac fly later.

Defensive gaffes continue for Tosa, who should have had their 3rd out in the 7th with the bases loaded, but Morisaki goes the short way instead of the natural 1st throw, and wouldn't you know it Doi can't secure it. 7-0.

Add on 2 more in the 8th in garbage time and we get to the final score of 9-0. It was all downhill for Tosa after they let the manrui 1-out chance slip away in the 2nd. Osaka Touin would get on the board and not look back.

And the questions regarding Osaka Touin are not answered. Takayama's control was about as one would expect with him walking almost 3-4 batters a game and he was never in a stressful situation after that. As for the offense, they did show the power that the Evil Empire would have, but it wasn't all that consistent. And you can't look at the end of the game because Tosa by that time was already defeated.

So the concerns one would have with Osaka Touin are not answered. Nor will I think they will be facing Kisaradzu Sougou next.

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