Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Day 3, Game 1 - Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki) vs. Akashi Shougyou (Hyogo)

So far, the games haven't been all that competitive in the end. Hopefully this changes today with our opening matchup.

Akashi Shougyou has the better resume on paper having wins over Fukuchiyama Seibi and Houtoku Gakuen, though both have faded away as of late so using them as benchmark wins do not count as much as it once did - especially since Houtoku Gakuen was passed over for an invite.

Yoshitaka's numbers don't look bad on face value, but in his last couple of outings, specifically in the Kinki Super-Regionals, he gave up a lot more hits and issued more walks - which eventually led to their downfall against Osaka Touin - though how Yoshitaka gave up only 5 runs giving up 12 hits and 6 walks is beyond me.

Offensively, they were never totally embarrassed in any of the games - everyone got their share of hits and runs, which is at least a positive.

Nichinan Gakuen's resume is rather light. The semifinal win against Shounan is their keystone win, but then was shutdown in the final by Shuugakukan. The pitching staff appears loth to issue a walk, which is good and Moriyama's K rates didn't decline with the step up in competition, so there's that.

Offensively the team seems to go for the "go big or go home" strategy. For the competition they faced, their 0.295 BA isn't all that impressive. But 3 batters in their lineup have an ISO equal or greater than their BA -  - Hamamoto (0.450 BA, 0.450 ISO), Nagahara (0.286/0.428) and Ishijima (0.250/0.542). And Masuda's isn't bad either (0.357/0.286).

So the question is whether that power we see translates at all. If it does, then Yoshitaka will need to tread carefully. But if not, then they might struggle to move on to the next round.

Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki)
CF Nagahara Takumi
SS Ishijima Yuuto
2B Maeda Yoshiki
LF Masuda Kaisei
RF Hamamoto Itsuki
C Hagiwara Tatsu
3B Yoshiga Kenshin
1B Matta Tomoki
P Moriyama Genki

Akashi Shougyou (Hyogo)
LF Gotou Taketo (#18)
SS Oonishi Shintarou
CF Hashimoto Kazuki
3B Konishi Shouta (#3)
1B Matsushita Yuudai (#4)
P Yoshitaka Sou
RF Fujiwara Yuusuke
C Fujii Seiya
2B Oota Ryousuke (#14)


09:02 - First Pitch!

Yoshitaka seems a little shaky to start. Fastball sitting in the upper 130s, but really unable to locate it. Ishijima takes the opportunity to take a fastball sitting in the zone to left for a one-out single.

It appears he has a slider, 2-seamer, splitter, and the slow curve that he can't seem to get over the plate consistently.

And with 2 down Ishijima jumps the gun way too early for 2nd and is run down for the 3rd out.

Moriyama on the other hand is starting off very well. He is hitting the bottom of the zone time and time again and early Akashi Shougyou is having trouble reaching it - despite him throwing in the 120s. He induces 2 golf shots and a K in his opening frame.

Things don't improve for Yoshitaka in the 2nd. He leaves a change smack in the middle of the zone and Hamamoto hits a no-doubter down the left side for a HR. 1-0 Nichinan, but it could be more as his fastballs are high and suggesting a release point way too early.

But given the lead, Moriyama for some reason can't find the form from the 1st. Falling behind his first batter 3-0, he leaves one just a little too much in the zone and Konishi drives it over Hamamoto's outstretched glove for a double. Despite being bunted over, neither Matsushita nor Yoshitaka can drive him in. Instead, both hits bounders to Maeda and are retired.

Yoshitaka settles (just) in the 3rd as he is more comfortable with his change and splitter - though he does get a wakeup call when Ishijima lines a ball back to Yoshitaka, who deploys the self-preservation button and snags the ball out of reflex more than anything.

The respite proves brief though as Masuda checks in with his first single to center. Throw in a balk where it looks like his leg twitched before going to 1st and he's under duress again. But the split again saves him as Hamamoto grounds to short, and Hagiwara waves over one in the dirt (at 135!) for strike 3.

The inconsistent play continues though as Yoshitaka breezed through the 5th with no issues.

As for Moriyama, he's doing a good job working the edges of the strike zone. He yields only a soft single to center after that ringing double with all the other outs either off the end of the bat, or jam shots.

Akashi Shougyou gets another shot at it when Oota gets a single to start the 6th. But they need two bunts to move the runner to 2nd and things look bleak. But Hashimoto is able to get around on a pitch and single to right, driving in the douten run without a throw making it all square 1-1.

As the game progresses to the final stages of regulation, it seems like the opportunities have flipped. Yoshitaka, despite still having control issues, is leaning on the splitter heavily to get his outs - and it's working.  Meanwhile, offensively they've been able to get runners on every inning.

Their best chance comes in the 8th when Oota bloops one just in front of Nagahara. And when he can't field it cleanly, Oota takes 2nd. Hazama-kantoku calls time to talk to his runner (odd), but Gotou winds up laying down the bunt.

Oonishi already showing bunt before the pitch, takes a couple. But then they go for it on a 2-0 count, and somehow Oonishi is able to reach up and lay down a perfect squeeze. Moriyama is late, and has to go to 1st, giving up the run, and this late. 2-1 Akashi Sbougyou.

Nichinan with no time to respond still does! Maeda gets a hold of a letter-high fastball and drives it in front of the wall in right center for a triple! Even after Hazama-kantoku calls time. Yoshitaka plunks Maeda on the number, bringing up... Hamamoto.

And he hits a clean single to center, leveling the game once again! 2-2, and still only one down!

Once again, Yoshitaka goes to the splitter. Strikes out Hagiwara for the 2nd out, and Yoshiga swings on the first pitch flying out to center. Akashi gets one last chance to avoid our first enchousen game.

One down in the bottom of the 9th, Matsushita lines a ball past a ducking Moriyama. And then when Yoshitaka lays down a bunt, Moriyama's throw is behind the runner pulling Ishijima off the bag. What's worse, Matsushita steps off after the safe call and Ishijima had a chance to tag him if he just had his wits about him,

The snowball continues when Moriyama inexplicably hits Fujiwara on the back - something very unusual. Morisaki-kantoku doesn't call time, and Fujii lays down the sayonara squeeze to end the game 3x-2.

But, while a sayonara squeeze would be exciting, in this case it just wasn't. Moriyama up until then hadn't really been all that terrible, and was arguably the better pitcher (Yoshitaka got bailed out by the splitter a LOT). It just seemed like unfortunate circumstances that cost them the game more than something overly bad.

In review though, it felt to me that Moriyama was somehow late to a squeeze even though he knew it was coming. In reality it was because he was still in the windup and not out the stretch that allowed the runner from 3rd to get a large jump. That is all on Moriyama.

Even with that, Nichinan didn't play a bad game, Akashi just got things to fall their way in the end and I guess they advance.

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