And we have seen all 4 pitchers at some point in time:
#1 - Arimura Taisei (140 kph) - 2 G, 2.1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 2 K, 2 BB
#10 - Nakai Yuusuke (141 kph) - 2 G, 6.2 IP, 0 ER, 7 H, 4 K, 1 BB
#11 - Taura Fumimaru (141 kph) - 2 G, 1 GS, 7.1 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 4 K, 3 BB
#12 - Kawabata Kento (141 kph) - 3 G, 2 GS. 10.2 IP, 1 ER, 13 K, 2 BB
That's just ridiculous. I've NEVER seen a team with that much good pitching. And with 3 of them splitting time, it's hard to think that any one of them is completely empty in the tank. "Ace" Arimura has had the least amount of work. and you have to figure he'll see some extra time with just 2 games to go. And if one struggles, you have options - actual options.
The only weakness, and we saw it last game, is their offense. Despite scoring 4 runs last game, it was on just 5 hits. And they only drew 2 walks to boot. There are 2 batters who have been consistent - SS Matsuo Taiga and LF Amamoto Kousuke who have gone 6-13 and 7-10 respectively, but the drop in hits is concerning as that does leave less room for error on the pitching side, though they have options.
Hokkai is by far the underdog in the matchup. They barely survived against Matsuyama Seiryou, defeated an average Nichinan Gakuen team, and somehow were the team to finally defeat a weaker Seikou Gakuin.
Ace Oonishi will probably be in hot water all night, having pitched all innings so far for Hokkai. His K/BB rates have improved of sorts (6/6, 3/0, 6/2), but I can't imagine him having the same success against this lineup, especially having given up 3 runs in his last outing.
Offensively the one person who stands out is 1B Kawamura who is 5-11 with a HR. The team is batting around 0.333, but against this pitching staff you have to imagine that won't last.
- def Tokoha Kikugawa 6-1
- def Inabe Sougou Gakuen 6-1
- def Jyousou Gakuin 4-1
CF Harada Takumi (原田 拓実)
1B Kimoto Ryouga (木本 凌雅)
C Kuki Ryuuhei (九鬼 隆平)
LF Amamoto Kousuke (天本 昂佑)
3B Hirobe Shuuhei (廣部 就平)
2B Horie Kouhei (堀江 航平)
RF Kimura Yuuji (木村 勇次)
P (12) Kawabata Kento (川端 健斗)
Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido)
- def Matsuyama Seiryou 2x-1
- def Nichinan Gakuen 4-1
- def Seikou Gakuin 7-3
2B Kanno Shinji (菅野 伸樹)
3B Satou Yuuki (佐藤 佑樹)
C Satou Taiga (佐藤 大雅)
1B Kawamura Yuuto (川村 友斗)
LF (15)Fuse Taisei (布施 太聖)
RF Gehou Tadashi (下方 忠嗣)
P Oonishi Kento (大西 健斗)
CF Suzuki Yamato (鈴木 大和)
13:05 - First pitch
It's an active first inning for Shuugakukan. Matsuo triples to right center, Harada walks. He then gets thrown out at 2nd, Oonishi uncorks a wild pitch, but they recover to throw out Matsuo at home. Kimoto singles to right and finally Amamoto saves extra bases when he lays out for a shallow liner to left.
All that for no runs.
Meanwhile Ono draws a leadoff walk off Kawabata. 2 outs now, and Taiga hits a ball hard at 1st. Kimoto blocks it in front of him, but stumbles, looks to toss to 1st but Kawabata is nowhere to be found! That continues the inning, runners at the corners, no wait, now manrui after he hits Kawamura and where is the rest of the pitching staff?
He gets fortunate when Fuse hits a chopper to the left side. He fields it, and throws to 1st for the 3rd out.
Kajisha-kantoku has a chance to relieve Kawabata by PH for him int he 3rd, but he doesn't...
Come the bottom of the 3rd it all finally bites him in the ass. Kawabata gives up a leadoff walk and a base hit. After getting 2 outs, he is finally relieved by #10 Nakai, but it's with runners on 2nd and 3rd.
And you knew the good luck wasn't going to last. Oonishi drives a ball to the right center field wall for a bases clearing triple. After that, Hirobe throws wide to 1st on a grounder.
0-0 becomes a 2-0 deficit, becomes a 3-0 deficit.
If Shuugakukan goes on to lose this game, it is WORSE than the Kousei loss because he had 3 other competent pitchers available and failed to go to ANY ONE OF THEM. Any team would kill for 2 above average pitchers, Kajisha-kantoku possibly has 4. 4!
He should be fired on the spot and have to find his own way back to Kumamoto.
Anyways, the game basically continues with one way direction all pointed at Hokkai. They get 1st 2nd with one out in the 4th, thanks to an error, then in the 5th, gives up a leadoff walk and after a fielder's choice, gives up singles to Ono and Kanno for a 4-0 game as we hit the break.
Never expected this.
Top 7th, Shuugakukan gets their best chance yet to score. Kuki doubles to right center. Amamoto singles through the left side for runners at the corners.
Yet Hirobe flies out to shallow center. Horie check swings into fair territory and is out 2-3. Then, Kajisha-kantoku PH for Arimura... with his last P #11 Taura!!
A wild pitch gets a runner in for 4-1. Taura for his part walks. But Hanjyou grounds out to 2nd and 1 run is all they get!
And then one major error makes this a game. 2 down, Matsuo on 2nd thanks to a HBP. Kuki with a base hit to right which might score 1.
Until the ball somehow gets past Gehou's glove... and all the way to the wall.
In shades of Waseda Jitsugyou-Kanzei, Kuki makes it all the way around and beats the throw in. We have a 4-3 game.
I REPEAT, WE HAVE A 4-3 GAME.
Now, Hokkai would go quietly in the 8th, leaving it all to Shuugakukan to make one last run.
But the bottom of the lineup was due, a 6-9 part of the lineup which to this point was 1-11...
Hirobe grounds out to 3rd...
Horie grounds out to 2nd... Last chance in Taura...
Chopper to short, throw to 1st... safe!! Taura's slide doesn't cost him as he still gets in ahead of the throw!
Up to Hanjyou...
Chopper to short again... throw to 1st... GAME SET!
There is no comeback, Hokkai holds on for a 4-3 win!
Hokkai almost gives it up in bizarre circumstances but they prevail. Shuugakukan's run at a title is short circuited, but not because of the players, it is because of Kajisha-kantoku not utilizing his entire pitching staff. A pitching staff that mind you any manager would kill for. 4 viable pitchers.
And yet, Kawabata was the one most used, and perhaps the one most likely to be pulled at any sign of trouble. Except he wasn't. He was left in to endure two manrun situations and was only replaced when again there were runners in scoring position. He was left in when you could have lifted him for a PH after struggling for the 2nd straight inning.
None of that happened. And as a result, they were in a hole they could never get out of.
This loss is worse in my opinion because Kajisha-kantoku obviously had options and failed to use them. This when it seemed he had managed it well to this point.
They could have won the championship. They instead are going home.
Hokkai will get their chance to be the 2nd team from Hokkaido to win Natsu Koushien. But it will not be easy. They will need the same patience they showed today against Imai tomorrow. And Oonishi will probably need to pitch the game of his life.
It's not impossible. But it'll be difficult.