Thursday, March 24, 2016

Day 5, Game 1 - Soushi Gakuen (Okayama) vs. Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi)

We're headed to the homestretch in the first round, and 2 more regional champions take the field today.

Soushi Gakuen were the champions of a seemingly down Chuugoku region. We've seen Kaisei already, and the 5-0 win they have over them based upon what we've seen doesn't count for much. So the only game we can take anything from is their loss to Tsuruga Kehi, which is problematic precisely because it is a loss.

On the positive side, ace Takada was able to keep his K rates up against Tsuruga Kehi, so his numbers may be believable. Or at least more believable than most. Flipping the coin, on face value it's of concern that against Tsuruga Kehi their supposedly strong offense got choked off.

Toukaidai Koufu on the other hand was pushing all their competition aside up until the super-regional semifinals when Kisaradzu's Takeda (that's right, not ace Hayakawa, but their reliever Takeda) pitched a shutout. This after the team scored more than 5 runs in every game before that. That could be a problem.

The team uses a tandem of pitchers, with both Kikuchi and Matsuba are control pitchers, and while they split time for the most part Kikuchi went the distance in their final 2 games. In the end, their numbers didn't regress, but Kisaradzu's offense may not be the best indicator for their abilities.

There are questions all around, but as mentioned in the previews I think based upon normal projections Soushi Gakuen has the advantage.

Soushi Gakuen (Okayama)
SS Kitagawa Daiki
2B Yui Asuka
LF Nanba Yuuhei
RF Takai Kakeru
CF Kusuka Minoru
1B Fujise Kanei
C Kobayashi Yuuki
P Takada Housei
3B Honda Ryuuji

Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi)
LF Hagiwara Kyouma
RF Taniguchi Kiwamu (#16)
SS Fukutake Shuu
3B Matsuoka Shunsuke
1B Kurita Shunto
CF Harada Ryuusei
C Kameda Keita
P Matsuba Koujin
2B Kawakami Kazuki


09:00 - First Pitch!

Soushi Gakuen off to a good start, Kitagawa lines one back up the middle for a single.

Matsuba paying a lot of attention to Kitagawa, but he doesn't steal 2nd. Instead Yui bunts him over.

Looks like the Soushi batters have a clear idea what to do with the ball instead of just trying to make contact. Nanba clearly looks to go the other way, though he tries even with a ball inside. Matsuba goes with the high slider to record the K.

And I don't think Takai realized he'd been punched out by the umpire on that fastball outside. Side retired.

Great AB by Hagiwara to start affairs for the Yamanashi champs. Works count full and goes down to reach a fastball, singling to center.

Toukaidai Koufu making good cuts early. Taniguchi also reaching down on a ball and lining it to left. Nanba has to leap, but makes the catch.

And Fukutake grounds into the 6-4-3 double play, and the side is retired.

Odd that #5 batter Kusaka is trying for a bunt hit to start the 2nd, but maybe when he chases the curveball in the dirt, that might be why...

Fujise gets unlucky on a ball at his sock height for the 2nd out, but Matsuba is working the expanded zone. Kobayashi has to go for a ball too far down and in, and still almost gets a base hit, if not for a diving Kurita.

A bit unlucky for Takada as Matsuoka's chopper is called foul by the home plate umpire as Honda throws to 1st. That extends the AB and Matsuoka bloops a ball to center.

After two choppers that allow him to advance to 3rd, Kameda pays it off hitting a 2-seamer that rides back over the plate to center, giving Toukaidai Koufu the 1-0 lead.

Takada trying to give his team a chance, fights off several pitches before earning a 9-pitch walk.

Honda tries to steal a base hit the other way, but Fukutake is able to cut it off in the gap and spin throw to 2nd to cut the lead runner.

Nagasawa-kantoku looks to press his runners, but Fukutake is waiting for him with the ball when he tries to steal 2nd. Kitagawa strikes out afterwards.

Back to Toukaidai Koufu, and it seems like the batters are keying in on that 2-seamer. Kawakami gets a hold of another one that crosses back to the edge and lines it to center. Hagiwara lays down the bunt, but Takada throws the ball wide and pulls Fujise off the bag. Big chance for Toukaidai Koufu.

Except that Takda gets Taniguchi to ground right to Kitagawa who turns the 6-3 double play! 2 out, but Kawakami stands at 3rd.

Fukutake a chance to extend the lead, but he's jammed and grounds to who else - Kitagawa - and he makes the 3rd out!

Soushi Gakuen's batters struggling with that inside pitches, but then they can't identify the good pitches on the outer half of the plate. So they're either striking out, or catching the ball off the end of the bat.

I say that and then Takai gets a fastball off the end of the bat, drives it almost to the wall in center, and thanks to Harada's overthrow, gets to advance to 3rd.

Once again though, Kusuka hits one off the end of the bat and grounds to 2nd - side retired.

Muranaka-kantoku perhaps trying to press as the game advances to the latter stages, has Harada trying to steal 2nd after getting a 2-out single, but he's out by a good margin there as well.

Soushi Gakuen meanwhile seems to be making progress. Fujise is able this time to get ahead of a fastball inside and turn it to right for a base hit. Kobayashi shows bunt, but doesn't straight go for it, instead earning a 4-pitch walk.

Takada though pops up his bunt unable to move the runners 90 feet closer.

So instead Nagasawa-kantoku sends the runners and the ball bounces away from Kameda! Both reach without a throw! Great chance for Soushi!

Honda with a slow grounder to the right side! That should get the run home! But Kawakami goes straight for home, and he has no play! Everyone is safe and the game is tied at 1-1! There was no chance for a play there!

And he almost goes home on an even slower grounder to the right side from Kitagawa! He thinks better and trades the run for the out. 2-1 Soushi Gakuen!

The fielder's choice continues to compound on itself. Yui and Nanba both use their bailing swings to get on an inside pitch and send it back up the middle for base hits, extending the lead to 3-1. Takai adds in one more, sending the first pitch into the wide open gap on the left side for one more run.

In fact, Soushi Gakuen might have extended their lead past 4-1 if not for the fact that Nagasawa-kantoku sent the runners yet again, though this time Nanba was easy meat at 3rd.

Toukaidai Koufu tries to cut into that deficit. Much like the 3rd, Kameda gets a leadoff base hit. PH Satou draws a walk, putting runners at 1st and 2nd with no out.

But again like the 3rd, Kawakami grounds into the 6-4-3 double play and there's 2 out. Hagiwara strikes out on a slider outside and Takada maintains the 4-1 lead into the break.

With Matsuba's day done, #10 Kikuchi takes the hill. He doesn't throw hard, but has the same compliment as Matsuba, and his first inning is a clean one.

As for Takada, he's getting an increasingly easier time it seems as the Toukaidai Koufu batters can't seem to lay off the slider and either make poor contact, or just plain strike out. With 3 innings left to go, there's still time for them, but it's quickly running out.

And instead Soushi tacks on another run in the 8th thanks to Takai once again. He takes a ball the other way (what else is new) for a single. 5-1 Soushi and if Takada can keep his pace it's all but a formality.

Small hiccup to start the bottom half of the frame. Yui throws high on a routine grounder allowing Kikuchi to take 2nd. Once again though Toukaidai can't make any headway. with both Kawakami and Hagiwara getting under Takada's pitches.

Taniguchi does manage to square one up, but credit Kitagawa with making the great stop and throw to 1st to retire the side.

In fact, Toukaidai Koufu would fail to mount a rally in the final innings and Soushi Gakuen advances with the 5-1 win.

No comments: