Well, I'm back, and the scene at Koushien is not what I quite expected. On this half of the bracket, if you had put a gun to my head, I would have picked 2 teams from the Kinki region, but just not these two. Instead I would have picked Shiga Gakuen and Akashi Shougyou.
The Chiben Gakuen appearance here really surprises me. They weren't any big shake in their first game, but certainly could have held their own against Kajitsu. But Shiga Gakuen seemed to be having the better of things going into their quarterfinal matchup. Instead, Murakami throws a 2-hitter against the runner-ups and they're here now!
Weirdly, while both semifinalists here played someone from the Kinki region in the quarterfinals, it wasn't any type of revenge match from the super-regionals. And even more odd, neither is this one. Heian's road is a bit more believable as they had Kousei in the 2nd round (who hadn't graded out all that well) and Akashi Shougyou (who rightfully provided an equal challenge).
I can't really speculate on games I haven't seen, but these teams initially graded out about the same. The pitchers have been equally effective at limiting runs, but it seems that at this point (a) Chiben Gakuen has been able to put runs on the board more consistently, and (b) Heian despite the day off has to recover from a 12 inning game. On both sides the advantage should favor Chiben Gakuen to reach their first ever final.
Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
CF Ogawa Koutarou
2B Kubota Yuu
SS Nishikawa Ranse
1B Hashimoto Kazuki
P Ichioka Souma
3B Tomita Shintarou
LF Okada Yuuki
RF Takeuchi Yoshinori
C Takeba Akahito
Chiben Gakuen (Nara)
2B Osame Daichi
C Okasawa Tomoki
SS Oota Hidetake
RF Fukumoto Yuuma
1B Takahashi Naoki
P Murakami Shouki
3B Oohashi Shunpei
LF Nakamura Akita (#13)
CF Aoki Yuudai
11:04 - First Pitch!
Huh, Ogawa on the first pitch with a routine chopper to Oota, but he hustles out of the box and reaches safely! Kubota tries to pitch a ball that puts him on his kiester, and that never turns out well. Pops out to Okazawa.
Murakami though seems to be hitting the ground running. He's already working the sides of the zone. While Nishizawa and Hashimoto do try to go the other way, they can do no better than flying out.
Meanwhile, Ichioka isn't as on his game for Heian. Despite getting the first out, Okazawa lines a bender back up the middle for a single.
Both managers seem to want to keep the running game going as Kosaka-kantoku also gives the green light to his runners. He doesn't need to though as Oota draws a walk, creating an early pinch.
Ichioka seems to work exclusively away to Fukumoto to take away his power and I can't tell if he jus doesn't adjust, but he falls for a changeup wide for the 2nd out.
And Kosaka goes for a double steal for I don't know why and Okazawa is out by a country mile. 3 out and Ichioka walks away unscathed.
I thought Murakami was going to get an easy 2nd inning, as his first two pitches were flown out to right. However he then goes to issue a 4 pitch walk to Okada. The struggles continue as Takeuchi doesn't bite on the outside pitches, instead taking one at 3-1 back up the middle for a base hit.
Takeba though wipes it all out with one pitch, swinging at a ball up at his eyes, and not surprisingly popping out to Oota behind 2nd to end the inning. Still a 0, but perhaps a little more work than he really needed.
Ichioka continues to work exclusively outside to the batters. Takahashi falls victim the same way Fukumoto did, but when Murakami doesn't bite he gets a better pitch to hit and pulls a single through the left side.
But when Oohashi goes down swinging the same way the last 2 went, I notice that Ichioka's release on his Ks looks like he's trying to put reverse side spin to make it go away from the righties.
Nakamura does make contact, but grounds out to 2nd leaving the game scoreless.
It doesn't last for long though. After a single by Kubota, Hashimoto delivers a 2 out single to left. But bench starter Nakamura has the ball bounce off the heel of the glove and it gets by him. Kubota scores and Heian takes the 1-0 lead.
Ichioka tries to add on with a single to center, but Aoki shows how it's done with a seed to home throwing out Hashimoto by a wide margin.
Chiben Gakuen though is getting baserunners, but seems to be running themselves out of innings. Last batter Aoki gifts his team with a leadoff hit. But there's a failed bunt by Osame, and then he's picked off 1st to boot, effectively killing the inning.
Okada is really becoming a pain in the side of Murakami as he draws his 2nd walk. Not only that, but he picks the right time to take off for 2nd as Murakami's pitch is in the dirt and Okazaki can't cleanly pick and make a throw. However, they can't bring him home this time either as Takeuchi and Takeba both ground out.
Chiben Gakuen isn't even getting breaks when things seem to go right. After Fukumoto gets a one-out single, Takahashi scorches a ball up the 3rd base line. Tomita though, makes the diving stop right over the bag, fires to 2nd and just gets Fukumoto for the out. That stops that rally too and Heian still leads.
Murakami continues to put himself in bad situations. He walks Ogawa to lead off the 5th, then Ogawa takes off on the next pitch and just gets under the tag. A bunt over and Heian looks to double their lead.
Murakami blows one chance when he gets Nishikawa to fly out out center, and Hashimoto can only wince when he's called out on a change that just grabs the outer edge.
He's held serve, but his offense can't get anything going. Aoki gets on with 2 outs, but Osame's struggles at the plate continues, popping out in foul ground to send us to the break.
As much as I'd though Chiben Gakuen would have the advantage, it's actually been the reverse. Murakami looks like the more tired pitcher while Ichioka is giving the batters fits.
Post-break, the game seems to be giving the breaks to Heian. Bottom 6, Oota at 1st with 2 out and Takahashi hits another ball up the 3rd base line, and once again Tomita makes the stop and throw to 1st for the 3rd out.
And now in the lucky 7, Takeuchi's grounder to 1st takes a high bound at the last minute and goes over Takahashi for what turns out to be a double. After an apparent hit-and-run that is fouled off the non-protected part of Okasawa, Murakami goes top shelf to strike out Ogawa.
Kubota makes things interesting with a slow chopper to the middle, but Osame cuts it down, and makes the running throw across his body to 1st to get the 3rd out.
Kosaka-kantoku is running out of time and is resorting to pushing the envelope. Oohashi draws a one-out walk and gets bunted to 2nd for the one-timer. However, that forces him to send him home when Aoki gets a single to left. Okada comes up with a great throw home, and the side is retired with just 6 outs to go for the Chiben squad.
It's about this time that the MBS stream breaks repeatedly. But I'm able to get parts of the game where Osame singles to left and after a bunt Oota singles through the left side. Kosaka-kantoku doesn't send him this time with just one down.
But Chiben Gakuen cannot solve the problem of the outside pitch. Fukumoto chases that mysterious change away, and then Takahashi chases the high fastball away for the 3rd out.
The stream continues to break as Chiben makes one last rally in the 9th. But I catch Oohashi with a single through the left side, then the short clip when Nakamura singles to center, and then of Aoki with a single to right! Amazingly it's manrui!
But it breaks one more time. Am I really going to miss a sayonara hit?
Well no. But Osame singles back up the middle, 1 run will definitely score, but when Ogawa misplays the ball, the game is over and out of nowhere Chiben Gakuen comes back with 4 hits to win 2-1!
No, I don't understand what happened. Chiben Gakuen didn't get a break, couldn't get a hit, couldn't figure out Ichioka's changeup. And 4 hits later, they have a win.
*throws book out window*
I don't know if the better team won. Maybe they did because the other team couldn't finish. But maybe it was Heian who paid for all those breaks earlier that they couldn't cash in on. Either way Chiben Gakuen is in the finals.