Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 15 - Championship - Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa) vs. Kounan (Okinawa)

14 days and 47 games and we're finally here at the championship game. And our matchup here is certainly one that has been hoped for and anticipated, and voila! We stand here today with 2 very good teams to square off for the 92nd Natsu Koushien title.

Kounan is looking for the 1st Haru-Natsu victory since 1998 when the famous Matsuzaka Daisuke led Yokohama to the feat.

To see were we got to this point we go back a year to last spring, when a 2nd year pitcher by the name of Shimabukuro Yousuke took the hill against Toyama Shougyou. The team would lose in 10 innings when Toyama would break a 0-0 deadlock in the 10th, but that wasn't the point. In those 10 innings, he struck out 19 batters while walking just 1. Then in the summer, he faced against title contender (and eventual Best 8 participant) Meihou, he struck out 9 while giving up again only 1 walk in a 4-3 loss.

With 11 of 18 players underclassmen, there was certainly a good possibility we would see them again next year. And come the fall tournament, they finished 2nd in the Kyushu Super-Regionals to surprise Kadena.

Of the 11 underclassmen, 8 were put into the starting 9 again headlined by ace Shimabukuro. With a stronger offense behind him they dominated senbatsu outscoring the opposition 26-3 on the road to the finals, defeating teams such as Chiben Wakayama, Teikyou and Oogaki Nichidai.

Their last opponent was to be Nichidai-san. After falling behind 3-1, it was perhaps thought that he had finally run out of steam. But the team picked him up scoring 4 to take the lead, only to see Shimabukuro give it right back. The game would go into extras, and with each inning Shimabukuro continued to pitch, it seemed like he might finally give up. Instead, it was Nichidai reliever Yoshizawa who caved in the 12th no thanks to an error with 2 down and runners on 1st and 2nd. Kounan would win senbatsu with a 10-5 victory.

In 46 IP, Shimabukuro struck out 49, while yielding only 35 hits and walking 15.

With such a performance, we wondered if they would get back to Koushien. Outscoring their opposition 47-3, there was no question that they were back to try for the sweep.

With the same fervor that they attacked the prefecturals, they mowed down team after team at Koushien taking down teams left and right. Shimabukuro was never challenged in the early going, but there were times in each game where he suddenly became hittable. And in those innings he would yield a run or two.

Things all came to a head against Houtoku Gakuen in the semifinals. Already down 1-0, he would give up 4 runs in the 2nd inning, thanks in part to 2 walks and a bases clearing triple. He was throwing primarily fastballs and his offspeed offerings weren't finding the strike zone. Down 5-0, the team seemed all but lost.

But things changed in the 5th when the team finally got itself in order and scored 3 runs thanks to an error. Down just 2 now, the team felt like it was possible to come back. 2 innings later, they had completed the comeback pulling ahead by the final margin of 6-5.

Even with that last game, Shimabukuro's performance has been stellar:
  • Round 1 - 8/10 vs. Naruto - 7 IP - 29 Batters Faced (BF), 0 ER, 5 H, 7 K, 3 BB
  • Round 2 - 8/15 vs. Meitoku Gijyuku - CG, 2 ER, 38 BF, 2 ER, 8 H, 12 K, 3 BB
  • Round 3 - 8/17 vs. Sendai Ikuei - CG, 35 BF, 1 ER, 6 H, 10 K, 3 BB
  • Quarterfinals - 8/18 vs. Seikou Gakuin - 8 IP, 33 BF, 3 ER, 9 H, 8 K, 0 BB
  • Semifinals - 8/20 vs. Houtoku Gakuen - CG, 40 BF, 5 ER, 10 H, 12 K, 4 BB, HBP
His total line - 42 IP, 175 BF, 11 ER, 38 H, 49 K, 13 BB, HBP

That equates to a 2.35 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP. His 3 ratios are 8.14 H/9, 10.5 K/9 and 3 BB/9.

The biggest questions for Shimabukuro is whether he can have control of his other offerings. We all know that he can throw the fastball hard - what he needs to be able to do is to keep the batters honest with his slider, curve and forkball.

As I noted above, his success isn't dependent just on him, it has a lot to do with the better offense he has backing him up.

Leading the way is leadoff batter Kuniyoshi Tairiku. As the leadoff batter, he has hit 12-21 with a 3B and a HR, while walking 3 times and striking out just once! That's a .571/.625/.810 from a leadoff batter!!

In fact, the top of the lineup has been very successful for Kounan. The trio of Kuniyoshi, Ketashiro and Ganeko have combined for the following:
  • 28-57, 2B, 3-3B, HR, 13 R, 15 RBI, 7 BB, HBP, 3 K
...for a .491/.554/.667 slash line!

A key for the team may rest in their cleanup batter Maehira. He has struggled the entire tournament, sporting a terrible line of 4-21, 4 GIDP and 2 K. They've been able to get by without him, but it certainly wouldn't hurt for him to stand and deliver when the batters ahead of him are hitting and getting on base the way they are.

As a team they are 51-143 with 6-2B, 4-3B, 2 HR, 15 K, 10 BB, HBP and a .357/.403/.497 line.

Standing in Kounan's way is by now well known Toukaidai Sagami. They came into senbatsu as one of the most hyped teams of the tournament led by senior Shinta Hifumi. But when it came to playing on the field, the team flopped. In an attempt to reinvent himself he went from an overhand delivery to a sidearm delivery for the summer. It is very odd for such a top prospect to change his delivery this late in his kokoyakyu career. Some had hypothesized that it was to improve his command. Others said that the sidearm delivery allows him to have a natural pitch that can come in or right-handed batters.

While the latter may be true, the former is by far certainly not. If anything he has become more of a jekyll-and-hyde pitcher. Here are his lines from the games here at Koushien:
  • Round 2 - 8/11 vs. Suijyou - 8.2 IP - 38 BF, 3 ER, 6 H, 3 K, 6 BB, 2 HBP
  • Round 3 - 8/16 vs. Toki Shougyou - CG, 32 BF, 0 ER, 1 H, 6 K, 3 BB, HBP
  • Quarterfinals - 8/19 vs. Kyushu Gakuin - CG, 41 BF, 3 ER, 9 H, 9 K, 2 BB, 2 HBP
  • Semifinals - 8/20 vs. Narita - CG, 47 BF, 7 ER, 14 H, 4 K, 7 BB, 2 HBP
So, his total line? 35.2 IP, 158 BF, 13 ER, 30 H, 22 K, 21 BB, 7 HBP

That equates to a 3.28 ERA, but a WHIP of 1.63, a K/9 of just 5.55, and a ghastly 7.07 BB/9 (including dead balls)!!

I was fortunate enough to take a look at Hifumi in the Kanagawa prefecturals, and it stunned me that his control was so lacking and he was walking a ton of batters.

And throughout the tournament, I wondered why no opponent had taken the strategy of just letting Hifumi hang himself. Make him throw a strike, don't make his job any easier. And if he ever "wised up" and put one right in the zone for a strike, go ahead and punish it to keep him honest, then go back to taking pitches again.

That's what Narita did in their game against Hifumi. Unfortunately for them, their ace was out of gas and couldn't keep the team in the game.

What has saved Toukaidai Sagami has been the offense. They have scored 34 runs in 4 games, and that includes the 3-0 win over Toki Shougyou.

If Hifumi doesn't work out as a pitcher, which may be more and more likely, he'll have a future as a position player, much like Doubayashi Shouta (Chuukyoudai Chuukyou) from last year. His batting lines?
  • Round 2 - 8/11 vs. Suijyou - 4-5, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI
  • Round 3 - 8/16 vs. Toki Shougyou - 2-4, 2B, R, 2 K
  • Quarterfinals - 8/19 vs. Kyushu Gakuin - 1-4, R, RBI, K
  • Semifinals - 8/20 vs. Narita - 4-5, 2B, RBI, K
His batting line? 11-18, 2-2B, HR, 3 R, 5 RBI, 4 K and a .611/.611/.889 slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG if you don't know what that is). He has been by far the most consistent performer in the lineup with LF Ijyuuin Jyun being the closest behind him (7-15, 2-2B, K, BB, .467/.500/.600).

As a team they are 51-143 with 14-2B, 2-3B, HR, 12 K, 5 BB, 4 HBP and a .357/.395/.503 line.

Two well-deserving teams will take the field here with everything on the line. Only one will be able to call themselves Natsu Koushien champions... who will it be?

Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa)
RF Watanabe Masaru
LF Ijyuuin Jyun
2B Tanaka Shinta
C Ooshiro Takumi
P Hifumi Shinta
3B Fukuyama Ryou
SS Someya Ryuutarou
1B Ooshiro Kenji
CF Idzichi Akira (#18)

Kounan (Okinawa)
2B Kuniyoshi Tairiku
CF Ketashiro Kai
3B Ganeko Moritsugu
1B Maehira Daiki
RF Mekaru Keisuke
C Yamakawa Daisuke
LF Irei Shinya
P Shimabukuro Yousuke
SS Ooshiro Kouji


13:00 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Shimabukuro doesn't look too bad to start. The pitches don't seem as wild as before.

But Watanabe takes a 96 kph slow curve and singles back up the middle. Monma will play for the run early on.

The battery is determined to establish the offspeed pitches early on, but Shimabukuro is missing. Tanaka walks on 5 pitches.

Sink or swim, Shimabukuro will not throw the fastball. Two forkballs and Takumi swings on both.

He hits a grounder to 2nd! Tairiku to Ooshiro for one! Relay to Maehira... double play!!!

Shimabukuro gets through the 1st thanks to his defense!

Bottom 1st
Tairiku trying to get a walk from Hifumi, but he won't give in. Hifumi prevails in round 1 by getting him to ground to short.

Ketashiro picks him up with a single past the outstretched glove of a diving Someya!

And on the 1-0 count he takes off for 2nd! Takumi with the throw, AH!!

Takumi throws it away!! Ketashiro goes to 3rd and Kounan has an opportunity!


Ganeko lays down the squeeze! Hifumi over and looking to let it roll foul... and at the last minute it does!! Count goes to 2-2 and Hifumi gets another chance.

But a waste pitch and another that misses outside give Ganeko the walk.

It's not a bad thing as Maehira steps in. Gakiya-kantoku, whether trying to show confidence, being superstitious, or just being plain stubborn bats him at cleanup.

Maehira showing bunt, but taking pitches.

Hit and run!!! Ganeko is sent in motion, but Maehira fouls it off!

And Maehira pops the ball up! Someya behind 2nd makes the catch. At least it isn't a double play...

Mekaru grounds to 3rd and a チャンスー situation for Kounan goes begging...

Top 2nd
Hifumi showing off the bat again as he singles through the left side! Sagami plays for the single run again.

Someya with a hard hit ball to center! But it's hit right at Ketashiro for the 2nd out.


Shimabukuro catches Hifumi off the bag! Snap throw to 2nd and they nail him for the 3rd out! Sagami doesn't get their 2nd chance to get the run in!

Bottom 2nd
Kounan is not giving Hifumi time to throw a ball!

Yamakawa swings on the first pitch and it a grounder just to the left of 2nd. Someya right there to make the play.

Irei swinging away and goes down swinging on 3 straight!

And Shimabukuro swings on the 1-0 pitch and hits a grounder wide of 1st. Kenji fields it, makes a very high toss to Hifumi, but he snags it and tags the bag just before Shimabukuro gets there.

Top 3rd
Shimabukuro still throwing everything but a fastball it seems.

One down and Kenji is hit by such a ball.

Watanabe singles on a fastball (2 seam maybe?) and singles to left! Runners on 1st and 2nd with one down!

Ijyuuin takes 2 strikes and has to swing away. He hits a fly ball right to Irei for the 2nd out.

And Shimabukuro gets ahead of Tanaka 0-2 and he gets him to ground out to 1st!

That 140+ fastball is nowhere to be found, and surprising yet, he's throwing his offspeed pitches for strikes!!!!

I have to wonder if there was some strategy in last game. I believed he was tiring and couldn't throw anything but fastballs for strikes, and now here is is throwing almost exclusively offspeed and hitting!

Perhaps Kounan was letting us all, and more importantly Toukaidai Sagami on?

Botttom 3rd
One down and Tairiku is hit on the foot by Hifumi! Gakiya-kantoku will play for the run as well.

But the bunt leaves an interesting question. Walk Ganeko to get to Maehira?

No! They're going after him and Ganeko fouls off a pitch down the 1st base side.

Ganeko with a good shot at 3rd, but Fukuyama is there for the play, 3 out!

Top 4th
Shimabukuro is doing a great job at keeping the batters off balance. He's barely throwing the 4-seamer and mixing in all his other pitches. As a result, Takumi hits a lazy fly to center, Hifumi grounds out to 3rd, and Fukuyama flies out to left to end the inning.

Bottom 4th
Maehira very patient at the plate, works the count full and draws a walk!

Mekaru with the bunt. Hifumi a bit slow to get to it, but he throws at 2nd! Maehira is out by a good margin. Man, I didn't think he had time, but instead he had plenty!

Hit and run!!!

Mekaru takes off and Yamakawa hits a grounder up the middle! Tanaka can't get to it and Mekaru bolts to 3rd! Runners at the corners!

Irei up, no bunt!

And now he lines one up the middle! It's past Hifumi's glove and into center!! Mekaru scores and Kounan is on the board! 1-0!!!

Shimabukuro up to help his own cause!


But it's a pitchout!!! Takumi with it, throws to 3rd! AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Takumi throws it away!!!!!!!!!!!

Yamakawa scores and it's 2-0 Kounan!

Shimabukuro with a grounder to 2nd. Tanaka fumbles with it, but makes the out at 1st.


First pitch from Hifumi to Ooshiro goes behind him!!!

And now Ooshiro with a grounder through to left! Irei scores! It's 3-0 Kounan!!!

Tairiku with a grounder up the middle! Ooshiro advances to 3rd!

Ketashiro with a drive to right center!!! Watanabe running back to it... dives...


It goes off the glove and everyone will score! Ooshiro scores! Tairiku comes all the way around from 1st, and it's 5-0 Kounan!!!!

The replay shows that that pitch from Hifumi was hung out to dry like the laundry.

Ganeko hits a grounder to short... and Tanaka can't find the handle on the ball again! He gets it, but it's too late!! He bends over in frustration as Ketashiro scores, making it 6-0 Kounan!!


Watanabe plays it off the fence!!

Ganeko comes in to score on Maehira's triple and it's 7-0!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mekaru strikes out swinging to end the inning, but Kounan sends 11 people to the mound and completely undressed Hifumi to the tone of 7 runs!!!

Top 5th
Toukaidai Sagami's offense continues to be silent.

One down, and Kenji gets Sagami's 4th hit of the day as he hits a grounder to right.

Idzichi flies out to left and Kenji takes the bold tag up to 2nd and gets there!

But Watanabe goes down swinging on a slider to end the inning.

And that's Shimabukuro's 1st K of the day!!!!!

Bottom 5th
One down and the hit parade continues! Irei with a drive to center! Idzichi has to play it off the wall and Irei's in with a double!

Shimabukuro grounds out to short, but advances to 3rd.

Ooshiro hits a hard grounder to short! Someya backhands it, but it's off the glove! The momentum takes him away from the ball and everyone's safe! It's 8-0 Kounan!!!!!

Ooshiro tries to steal 2nd on the first pitch, but Yamakawa makes an accurate throw and guns him down.

But that's another run that Sagami has to make up as we head to the break!!

Top 6th
One down and Tanaka hits a grounder up the middle! Tairiku with the diving stop! Throw to 1st... not in time!

AH!!! First pitch to Takumi is lost by Yamakawa and Tanaka advances to 2nd.

He tags up to 3rd on a flyout to deep left center.

Karaburi sanshin!!!

Hifumi goes down swinging on a forkball to end the inning!

Bottom 6th
Tairiku with his 2nd hit! He singles to left! Ketashir follows that with a grounder past the glove of Tanaka into right!




Ganeko with a 3-run homerun on another hanging pitch from Hifumi and it's 11-0!!!!!!!!!!

Monma-kantoku calls time, but it's way past too late...

Maehira connects with a ball, but flies out to center.

Mekaru connects with a ball and drives one to left! Ijyuuin plays that off the wall for a double!

Yamakawa grounds out to short for the 2nd out. Mekaru holds.

Irei with a drive to right!!! Watanabe running back... IT'S OFF THE END OF HIS GLOVE AGAIN!!!!

Mekaru scores as Irei slides into 3rd!!! 12-0!!!

Shimabukuro with a grounder to the right side! Tanaka tries to run it down but can't! Irei scores and it's 13-0!!

With that single, everyone on Kounan now has a hit!

Ooshiro grounds out to 3rd to end the inning. But Kounan sends 9 more batters to the plate and has completely blown it wide open!

Top 7th
Fukuyama makes good contact with a Shimabukuro pitch but lines one right to Maehira.

Someya with a weak grounder to 1st. And there's quickly 2 down.

Kenji with a single to center. Ketashiro to field it, but loses the handle on the ball! Kenji takes 2nd on the error!

Idzichi with a single to left! Kenji rounds third and the throw is cut off! Sagami on the board at 13-1.

Watanabe hits a weak chopper to Shimabukuro for the 3rd out, but Toukaidai Sagami has avoided the shutout.

Bottom 7th
And Hifumi has finally been relieved of his misery. #10 Egawa Kyousuke replaces him and takes the hill.

Tairiku with a hard liner, but right at Tanaka.

Ketashiro with a chopper past Egawa's glove! Tanaka dives but can't get it! Goes into center for a base hit!

Ganeko with a single to left, and it seems like the hit parade will keep on going!

Maehira strikes out swinging for the 2nd out. The runners were taking off and Takumi makes a good throw to 3rd to get the lead runner for the 3rd out.

Top 8th
Shimabukuro continues to induce contact from the Sagami batters!

Ijyuuin and Tanaka both ground out to 3rd before Takumi sinlges to center.

Egawa, behind 1-2, fouls a couple of pitches off before hitting a single to right!

Karaburi sanshin!!!!!!!!!!

Shimabukuro records just his 3rd K in Fukuyama with a rare fastball up and away!

Bottom 8th
One down and Yamakawa singles through to left.

#16 Agena Shun comes in to PH for Irei.

He strikes out swinging and Yamakawa is thrown out easily stealing 2nd.

Top 9th
#15 Kiyota Riku comes in to PH for Someya.

Kenji first pinch grounds to 1st... Maehira takes it to the bag for the out! 2 down!!

#14 Miyazaki Daisuke the last chance for Toukaidai Sagami as he comes in for Idzichi.

KARABURI SANSHIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As befitting an end, Shimabukro strikes out Miyazaki swinging on a 142 kph fastball to end the game!!!

興南!  春夏連覇!!!!!! (Kounan! Haru-Natsu renpa!!!!)


(And while I'm happy, I wonder to think that I could have been there to see it all.... *sighs*)

And understandably, while Kounan celebrates, Toukaidai Sagami is understandably sad. Many of them are crying because they lost, and perhaps in some ways the manner in which they lost. For as much as they succeeded in getting to this point, to lose here in this way is bittersweet. For Hifumi Shinta, he will certainly still get drafted into NPB should he decide to do so, but to finish his kokoyakyu career in this manner must be frustrating.

And as the awards are given out, the teams march around the field and the flags are lowered, we close the door on another year of baseball. It certainly has been a memorable one as we have been treated to the 6th haru-natsu championship, led by an amazing ace in Shimabukuro Yousuke.

But while this door ends, the door opens on the 2011 season as the Fall tournament in some places are underway which will determine the 2011 senbatsu participants.

So... who will next year's heroes be?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day 14 - Semifinal 2 - Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa) vs. Narita (Chiba)

So Kounan has advanced to the finals with a chance for the haru-natsu sweep. But the question is now, who will they face?

Toukaidai Sagami has had what can only be considered an interesting run to the Best 4.

Ace Hifumi showed a lot of wildness so far, walking and hitting quite a few batters. And yet, he throws a 1-hitter against Toki Shougyou. It's hard what to make of him because he is still considered the top prospect and it could be argued that he's effectively wild, but unless someone's able to fix his control issues, it's hard to see him as a top of the rotation pitcher.

Fortunately for him, his offense is trying to do a good imitation of Teikyou's offense, scoring enough runs to make his pitching a non-issue.

But what happens when you face another good pitcher? That's what Nakagawa Ryou represents from Narita. For those that saw their run in the Chiba prefecturals, you had to figure there was something special there - especially his 1-hit performance in the finals.

He's continued his dominating style into Natsu Koushien. Taking a good look at him with the crooked hat and the emotion he shows, he kind of reminds me of a Felix Hernandez when he's dialed in.

A good chunk of his success I believe has been his splitter. Because pitch recognition may not be developed for a lot of the players out there, this could be a very effective pitch if thrown correctly - and in Nakagawa's case seems to be used with very good results.

But now he's facing off against a very good offense. Will he have the same success as he has had against everyone else?

Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa)
RF Watanabe Masaru
LF Ijyuuin Jyun
2B Tanaka Shinta
C Ooshiro Takumi
P Hifumi Shinta
3B Fukuyama Ryou
SS Someya Ryuutarou
1B Ooshiro Kenji
CF Idzichi Akira (#18)

Narita (Chiba)
2B Oogi Ryouta
CF Oka Michiya
1B Kaneko (Yasuhiro)
C Kondou ?
LF Takahashi (Kyuu)
SS Kimura Yuuji
RF Katsuda Yuuto
3B Anzui Daiki
P Nakagawa Ryou


13:41 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Watanabe with a grounder to short. Kimura with the stop but he fumbles the ball! Watanabe is given an infield hit. Ijyuuin bunts him over to 2nd.

Tanaka lines one into the left center field gap! Watanabe rounding 3rd and he scores! Sagami on the board quickly at 1-0!

Takumi with a single to right! Tanaka comes around to score and it's 2-0 Sagami!!

AH!! Takumi takes off for 2nd before the pitch and Nakagawa has him picked off! Throws to Kimura and he's out!

Hifumi with a single through the right side! 4 hits off Nakagawa here in the 1st!

Fukuyama grounds into a fielder's choice at short to end the inning, but Sagami's offense quickly puts Narita in a hole here in the 1st!

Bottom 1st
Oogi with a chopper over Hifumi's head! Tanaka goes over to field it, but it goes under his glove and Oogi's in with a leadoff single!

Oka goes down 1-2, but manages to lay the bunt down.

Kaneko with a swinging bunt. Takumi picks it up in front of home and throws to 1st for the out. Oogi doesn't advance.

Cleanup batter Kondou becomes Hifumi's first walk of the day.

And then Takahshi becomes Hifumi's 2nd walk! Manrui for Narita!


Hifumi throws behind Kimura for ball 1!

And Kimura swings on the next pitch??!! He hits a fly to center! Idzichi under it for the 3rd out!

I though Narita was getting it in that they needed to let Hifumi work hard and get walks off of him... and then Kimura goes and does that....

Top 2nd
Nakagawa settling down after that rough first inning. He retires the bottom 3 of the order with little difficulty which should build some confidence.

Bottom 2nd
Hifumi records his first K as he gets Katsuta swinging to start the 2nd.

Anzui with a liner just above Hifumi's glove into center!

No bunt from Nakagawa, but he pops it up! Tanaka with it for the 2nd out.

And Oogi can't check his swing and goes down for the 3rd out.

Top 3rd
Watanabe tries for the bunt single, but Anzui comes in and his throw to 1st is just in time for the out!

Ijyuuin gets his first hit of the game as he singles to the right of 2nd.

AH!!!!!! Wild pitch from Nakagawa goes off Kondou's glove and to the 3rd base dugout! Ijyuuin advances to 2nd!

Tanaka though flies out to left for the 2nd out.

Takumi with another timely hit as he takes an easy swing into center to score Ijyuuin. 3-0 Sagami!

Hifumi goes down swinging for the 3rd out, but Toukaidai Sagami adds on to their lead!

Bottom 3rd
Oka with a single to right to lead off the 3rd for Narita! He's bunted over to try and cut the deficit.

Kondou with a hard liner to right for a single! Too hard as Oka has to hold!

Takahashi with a single to right! Oka scores! Narita is on the board at 3-1!

And Kimura is given a dead ball? It seemed like a swing, but the home plate umpire calls a dead ball! It's manrui for Narita!

Katsuta up and they're back to taking pitches. He takes ball 4, and Kondou comes in to make it a 3-2 ballgame!!


Anzui with the push bunt squeeze and both Kenji and Tanaka converge on the ball, and no one's covering 1st!

All safe!


Kenji sees that Kimura was trying to score from 2nd! He throws to 3rd as he's trying to scramble back and he's caught in a rundown! He's tagged out, but allows Katsuta enough time to advance to 3rd. But, Takahashi's run means that Narita has

Nakagawa with a drive to right center! That's past the outfielders and to the wall!!!!!!!!!

Katsuta scores! Anzui all the way from 1st, he scores on Nakagawa double!! 逆転!!!!! Narita has come back and taken a 5-3 lead!!!!!

And now Oogi walks!!!! That's Hifumi's 5th walk/dead ball on the day!


Oka with a drive to right, goes just right of the right field foul pole!!!

Hifumi finally gets Oka to ground to 2nd to end the inning, but not before Narita finally finds a way to take advantage of Hifumi's wildness to the tune of 5 runs!!!

Top 4th
Fukuyama with a single to right for a leadoff single. Someya bunts him along to get a run back.

Kenji first pitch swings and grounds to 2nd. Kimura's throw is a bit offline, but Kaneko makes the tag for the out.

Karaburi sanshin!!!!!!!!!!

Idzichi waves badly at a slider in the opposite batter's box for the 3rd out!

Bottom 4th
Kaneko with Narita's 8th hit of the day, a grounder through the right side for a single.

But Kondou wipes it out! He hits a ball back to Hifumi who starts the 1-6-3 double play!! 2 outs!

Takahashi with a drive to center. Idzichi running back, running back....


Takahashi with the homerun to dead center field off Hifumi!!!!!!!!!!! It's 6-3 Narita!

Kimura grounds out to 3rd and the side is retired. But Narita plays add on, and will need to against this offensive squad!

Top 5th
Watanabe hit by Nakagawa on the 3-2 pitch, giving Sagami a leadoff runner.

And now Ijyuuin draws a walk! Runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs for Sagami!

Hit and run! Monma calls for the hit and run, but Tanaka fouls the 1-1 pitch off!

1-2 and he lays the bunt down! Runners advance 90 feet for Takumi.

Pop up in foul territory! Kaneko to the camera well... and tumbles in! He doesn't make the catch, but more importantly, he's ok.

And he hits a ball to deep center! That'll get the run in as Oka makes the catch.


Oka drops the ball on the transition! The 3rd base coach is furiously sending Ijyuuin home!! He scores!! The miscue costs Narita a run as Sagami pulls within one! It's 6-5!!!!!

Hifumi with a single through to left and the rally keeps going!

Fukuyama follows that with a single back up the middle!! Gyakuten runner on for Sagami!

Soomeya with a liner to right! Katsuta charging in, dives....


The ball goes under his glove and all the way to the wall!!! Hifumi scores!!!! 動転!!!!! Fukuyama comes around 3rd.. he scores!!!!!! 逆転!!!!!!!!!!

Toukaidai Sagami has come back from down 6-3 to lead 7-6 here in the 5th!!!

Kenji flies out to left to end the inning, but we have one heck of a ballgame on our hands!!!

Bottom 5th
Back with a second chance to hold the lead, Hifumi does a good job in the 5th retiring the bottom 3 batters in 10 pitches.

We're at the break, and boy do we need a breather! The lead has switched hands twice on big innings on both sides! We're barely through the midway point and 13 runs have been scored in this semifinal!!!!

Top 6th
Idzichi with a drive to center! That's over Oka's head! One hops to the wall and he's on with a leadoff double!

Watanabe with no bunt, but grounds to 3rd effectively acting as a bunt.

They don't need it!!! Ijyuuin takes a 1-0 curve deep to left! That's over Takahashi's head and takes a hop to the wall! Idzichi scores and it's now 8-6 Sagami!!!!

Tanaka moves him over to 3rd as he grounds out to short.

Takumi with a pop fly in the left field foul territory. Anzui has a beat on it, but misses! And Kimura falls down and almost rolls on Anzui's legs! But they're both fine. Another foul fly and Kaneko goes tiptoe on the camera well wall to try and catch it but can't get it.

And now Takumi with a shot down the left field line, FAIR! Ijyuuin comes home for the 3rd time this game and it's 9-6!!!!

Grounder to 3rd by Hifumi, and Anzui stabs at the ball, but he misses and it goes by him into left! Takumi scores and it's 10-6 now for Sagami!

Fukuyama with a hit to center! Oka goes to 3rd with the throw, but it's not in time to get Hifumi and Fukuyama advances to 2nd!

Ojima-kantoku with a conference...

Someya flies out to left to end the inning, but Narita finds themselves down more than when the whirlwind of action started!!!

Bottom 6th
Top of the order for Narita, and Oogi takes a walk!

Oka swinging away grounds to 1st! Kenji to 2nd for the AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He throws it wide of Someya and it's off his glove!!! All safe!!!

Kaneko tries to lay down the bunt, but he can't! He swings away at the 1-2 pitch and grounds to 2nd! Tanaka flips to Someya for one, throw to Kenji... double play!!!

Bad break for Narita as an ideal scoring situation now has them behind the eight ball! 2 down and runner on 3rd for Kondou.

But Hifumi walks Kondou! Runners on the corners for Takahashi who hit the HR in the 4th!

Liner by Takahashi! But it's right at Watanabe for the 3rd out! Narita loses a great scoring opportunity and they're down to the final third of the game...

Top 7th
Kenji with a single past a diving Oogi into center.

Idzichi with the three bunt, but the ball just goes foul before stopping and he's out.

Watanabe with a liner to center! Oka back up, reaches his glove and make a near snocone catch!


Ijyuuin with a hot liner as well, but that's right at Katsuta for the 3rd out.

Bottom 7th
Katsuta with a one out single to left center.

Anzui in a good battle with Hifumi pops one up in foul territory down the right field line. Tanaka and Watanabe converge on the ball. AH!

Tanaka makes the catch and they just avoid colliding!

Nakagawa with a hard shot at Kenji, but he blocks it and steps on the bag for the 3rd out.

Top 8th
One down and Kaneko makes a great diving stop! He races Takumi to the bag and just beats him out!

Hifumi won't let Sagami go quietly in the 8th as he lines one down the left field line for a double!

But after a stubborn 8-pitch AB, Nakagawa gets Fukuyama to ground out to short.

Bottom 8th
Oogi with a chopper to the left side. Fukuyama can't field it and while Someya runs it down, Oogi easily beats out the throw.

Kaneko up, but he hits another grounder to 2nd! Tanaka starts the 4-6 3 double play and that's the 2nd consecutive DP he's hit into!

Kondou first pitch lines a single to right!

Takahashi first pitch swinging lines a single to left!!

And now Kimura is hit on the hands!!! Manrui for Narita!!!

The players gather together on the mound as Monma-kantoku calls a conference.

Katsuta steps in, hoping to atone for his error.

But he hits a grounder to 3rd! Fukuyama takes it to the bag and the inning is over! Could that have been Narita's last real chance??

Top 9th
Someya with a grounder to 1st. Kaneko with the great diving stop! Flips to Nakagawa, but Someya slides ahead of Nakagawa's foot!

Monma, not satisfied with a 3-run lead (and who couldn't blame him?) has him bunted over to 2nd.

Idzuchi with a ball right back to Nakagawa. He turns to Someya and catches him off the bag! They run him down, but Idzichi replaces Someya at 2nd.

Watanabe with a drive to center! Oka goes back to the wall, but the ball beats him to it! Idzichi scores! Watanabe heading to 3rd! Relay throw from Kimura nails him at 3rd for the 3rd out!

But Sagami adds one more insurance run to make it 11-7!!

Bottom 9th
#14 Takatsuka Ryouta comes in to PH for Ishii. First pitch swinging hits a drive to deep left center! But it hangs up and Ijyuuin catches it for the first out.

Nagakawa first pitch swings and he flies out center. 2 quick outs for Narita!

But Oogi doesn't give up! He draws a walk!

Oka up to try and keep the game going...

Karaburi sanshin!!!!!!!

Hifumi strikes out Oka to end the ball game!

In a back and forth game, Toukaidai Sagami gets the last word as they rally in the 5th and 6th innings to retake the lead for good.

While the performance today was a bit sloppy on both sides, it also speaks to the drive that the teams had to fight past the fatigue, past the tiredness, all for the chance to win the Natsu Koushien.

Narita certainly gave the tournament a run for their money as the surprise team out of Chiba charged through the brackets making it all the way to the best 4. And while they certainly had a chance here against Toukaidai Sagami and fell short, it certainly was a deserving team that made it this far. They may be disappointed, but should also be applauded for their efforts.

For Toukaidai Sagami, they'll have less than a 24 hour turnaround before they face Kounan for the title. However, they suffer from the same problems as Kounan with an pitcher possibly suffering from fatigue with little time to recover...

Day 14 - Semifinal 1 - Kounan (Okinawa) vs. Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)

We're down to our best 4 teams, and the way the draw has gone, you could almost call it either a battle of Kanto vs. everyone else, or one of Nishi vs. Higashi Japan.

This game will feature the teams not from the Kanto region, that is Kounan and Houtoku Gakuen.

6 teams from Okinawa have gotten this far, and only twice has a team made it to the championship game (Okinawa Suisan, 1990-91, lost both). Kounan was one of those team to make it this far, 42 years ago.

This team, who wan senbatsu, has a good chance of finally giving the prefecture their first Natsu Koushien winner. With Shimabukuro on the mound combined with a well-balanced (yet powerful) offense, there is little in the way of weaknesses for Kounan.

Houtoku Gakuen is no stranger to being here, having won it all back in 1981 (although they've only reached this stage one other time in Natsu Koushien).

Outside of the Saga Gakuen game, Houtoku depends highly on their pitching tandem of ace Oonishi Kazunari and 1st-year Tamura Ichirou as their offense is a bit lacking. With Tamura having pitched primarily in yesterday's win, chances are they will be leaning on Ooshiro today.

Kounan (Okinawa)
2B Kuniyoshi Tairiku
CF Ketashiro Kai
3B Ganeko Moritsugu
1B Maehira Daiki
RF Mekaru Keisuke
C Yamakawa Daisuke
LF Irei Shinya
P Shimabukuro Yousuke
SS Ooshiro Kouji

Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)
CF Yashiro Kazuma
2B Tani Koushirou
3B Nakashima ?
1B Koshii Yuuki
C Morita Kouki
RF Urasaki Hiromasa
LF Kinoshita Yuuki
P Oonishi Kazunari
SS Haseba Takashi


11:00 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Tairiku continues his hot hitting at Koushien with a grounder to left for a leadoff single!

It's a hit and run! Ketashiro pokes it through the right side, and Kounan has runners at the corners!

Again no bunt! Ganeko with a grounder to 1st. Koshii goes home and Tairiku is tagged out at the plate!

Maehira, comebacker to Oonishi! Goes to Haseba for one, relay to Koshii, double play!!!

Oonishi gets out of a no down, runners at the corners pinch here in the first!!!!!

Bottom 1st
Yashiro opens Houtoku's offense with a single to center and is bunted along.

Nakashima with a hard grounder to 1st. It bounces off of Maehira and into right! Mekaru charges in to the ball, but Yashiro rounds 3rd and will score the opening run of the game! Houtoku leads 1-0!!

Nakashima off for 2nd! Koshii swings and the ball gets away from Yamakawa! No chance for a throw!

Koshii trying to continue the inning works the count full, but looks at a called strike 3 on the outside corner!

AH! Shimabukuro hits Morita! Runners on 1st and 2nd!

Karaburi sanshin! Urasaki strikes out on a 144 kph fastball to end the inning! But Houtoku has struck first against senbatsu champions Kounan!

Top 2nd
Kounan's batters forced to be aggressive at the plate as Oonishi throws strikes.

3 batters + 6 pitches + 6 strikes = 3 outs

Bottom 2nd
Shimabukuro gives up another leadoff hit! Kinoshita singles to center!

He's moved along to 2nd. And now Yamakawa has him stuck between 2nd and 3rd! He's going to throw to 2nd, but last second bounces it in the dirt towards 3rd when he sees Kinoshita breaking for 3rd! Ganeko goes down the 3rd base line to field it, and can't get back in time to tag Kinoshita!

What Yamakawa should have done was to charge the runner like we've seen some heads-up teams do to close the distance.

And now last batter Hasebe draws a walk on a 3-2 pitch just outside! Shimabukuro in trouble again!!


Yashiro with the squeeze on the 1-1 pitch, but it goes foul!

And now Shimabukuro can't seem to find the plate with his offspeed pitches! Ahead 1-2, he walks Yashiro to load the bases!

We saw a lot of fastballs at the beginning of last game, could it be that he has lost the feel of his offspeed pitches??

Karaburi sanshin!!!!

Shimabukuro goes back to the fastball with a 144 kph fastball, and a 145 kph fastball for the 2nd out!

It's more fastballs to Nakashima, the count goes to 2-2...

Nakashima with a drive to left center!! Ketashiro chases after it, dives... but it's no use!! The ball goes way above his head and bounces to the wall!! Everyone's going to score! The throw comes in as Nakashima slides into 3rd!


Now Koshii gets a hold of a hanging forkball and hits a grounder to right! Nakashima scores and the score is 5-0!!!!!

Morita flies out to right to end the inning, but Kounan is in serious trouble. Shimabukuro seems to have no control of any of his offspeed offerings, and Houtoku is looking dead red! There's no way Kounan has a chance if he can't figure it out!

Top 3rd
How does Kounan respond to this?

Again, Oonishi is throwing strikes and forcing the batters to swing. Shimabukuro and Ooshiro both groundout.

Tairiku with a grounder to 2nd, but Tani boots it! Runner on for Kounan.

Ketashiro with a fly deep down the left field line. Kinoshita jumps on top of the padded wall and climbs the fence trying to make the catch! That's reminiscent of Akamatsu's catch for the Hiroshima Carp!

And now Ketashiro is hit by Oonishi! Runners on 1st and 2nd!

Ganeko steps in. But Maehira is on deck, and he's been practically ineffective the entire tournament (3-17, 2 K, HBP). I would actually consider walking Ganeko to get to Maehira.

Ganeko with a hard liner to right! It's in for a base hit, but Tairiku has to hold at 3rd!

And so Maehira steps in...

... and grounds out to 2nd to end the inning...

Bottom 3rd
Kinoshita with a grounder up the middle. Shimabukuro trying for the kick save, but misses!

And now Kinoshita is trying for 2! But Yamagawa makes a strong throw to 2nd and Kinoshita pops up and walks back towards the dugout before the call is even made.

Oonishi strikes out to end the inning. Shimabukuro has 4 K's, but is down 5.

Top 4th
Kounan's offense almost seems to be fully pressing down 5, they've been totally thrown off now that they find themselves behind by a wide margin! 8 pitches and Oonishi is back in the dugout!!

Bottom 4th
One down, and Yashiro gets on for his 3rd time today, this time a single to center. And now Tani walks!

Kounan cannot afford to go down any further here!

Nakashima flies out to center for the 2nd out...

Karaburi sanshin!!!

Shimabukuro gets Koshii on a fastball high and away for the 3rd out!

Top 5th
Shimabukuro with a grounder past a diving Tani into center!

Ooshiro with a grounder to 3rd! Nakashima with the great pick!


He throws it away going to 2nd!! Shimabukuro advances to 3rd! Chance for Kounan!!

Tairiku is finally retired! Oonishi gets him out swinging for the first out!

Ketashiro with a hit to left! Shimabukuro scores. Kinoshita fumbles with the ball and Ooshiro is being sent home! Throw comes in, and Ooshiro goes outside and slides around the tag!!! He's safe! Kounan on the board at 5-2!

Nagata-kantoku with a conference with Ganeko up to bat and 1st base open. I'd still consider walking him to get to Maehira.

Ganeko with a single up the middle! Ketashiro being sent home! He has to!!!!

Throw from Yashiro goes to Tani, his throw home is in time, but Ketashiro slides outside again and misses the tag! 5-3 Houtoku!!

And that brings up Maehira. Can he break his slump?

No! Grounds to 2nd! Tani to Haseba for one, his throw to Koshii, more than in time for the double play!

Maehira's struggles continue and have killed 2 opportunities by Kounan!

Bottom 5th
One down and Urasaki draws a 4-pitch walk.

Kinoshita not bunting, but hits a comebacker to Shimabukuro! He goes to Ooshiro for one, AH!!!!!!!!

His throw to 1st is high and goes to the camera well! E6 and the runner advances to 2nd!

Oonishi with a liner, but it's right to Irei for the 3rd out.

As we head to the break, Kounan has been able to cut into the early deficit Shimabukuro put them in, but they still trail by 2 and Shimabukuro is far from being back to normal.

Top 6th
Mekaru with a grounder to 3rd. Nakashima with the nice pick, twirls, but his throw to 1st is wide and Koshii's stretch can't get the ball!

Yamakawa looks to bunt him, but he three bunts and there's one down!

So Mekaru takes matters into his own hands! He takes off for 2nd! Throw from Morita is wide and he's in safely!

But Irei grounds out to 2nd and there's 2 down with Mekaru standing 90 feet away from home.

Shimabukuro looking for a base hit to help his cause...

He pokes one through the left side! Mekaru scores and Kounan has pulled within 1!! It's 5-4!!!!!

Ooshiro grounds out to Koshii to end the inning, but a 5-0 lead for Houtoku has almost all but evaporated!!

Bottom 6th
One down for Houtoku and Yashiro hits a ball to the left center field gap! That gets by the fielders and all the way to the wall! Yashiro rounding 2nd, heading for 3rd!! Relay throw from Ooshiro...


Yashiro perhaps pressing a bit tries to stretch the double and is thrown out!

Tani flies out to Irei in left and the inning is over!

Top 7th
Tamura warming up again, no choice now for Nagata-kantoku as Kounan has almost equalized. My guess is that he tried to hold him out as long as possible, being a 1st year and throwing 7+ innings yesterday.

Top of the order and Tairiku. He singles back up the middle! Ketashiro bunts the douten run to 2nd.

Ganeko with a drive to right center! Yashiro running over, but the ball gets past him! That'll go all the way to the wall! Tairiku scores, 動転!!!

Kounan has come all the way back to tie the game!! And the gyakuten run in Ganeko stands just 90 feet away!!

Nagata-kantoku has no choice, he sends in Tamura Ichirou to take the hill with no room for error... Did he wait too long???

...and in steps Maehira... 3-20 for the tournament and in another key spot...

Grounder up the middle! That's through the infield! Ganeko scores!! 逆転!!!!!

Kounan has come back all the way from down 5-0 to take the lead here in the 7th!!!

It's not over yet! Mekaru lays down a bunt and sprints for 1st! Nakashima with the throw, but it's late! Runners on 1st and 2nd, and still only one down!

Yamakawa flies out to right for the 2nd out, but Maehira advances to 3rd.

But Tamura finally closes the door as Irei pops one up to Koshii on the 1st base line to end the inning.

However, Kounan has come back from the dead to take the lead with just 2 innings left to go!

Bottom 7th
How will Houtoku respond now that they're down 1?

They're swinging early perhaps pressing... Nakashima grounds to 2nd, and Koshii quickly flies to left.

Morita first pitch swinging grounds one through to left. But Urasaki hits a grounder to 2nd. Tairiku goes to 2nd and that ends the inning!

Top 8th
Tamura doing a good job in relief retiring the 8-9-1 batters with little issue, getting his team back in the dugout to pick up the sticks again...

Bottom 8th
Shimobukuro giving it all he's got!

Karaburi sanshin!!!

Kinoshita goes down swinging on a high fastball!

Tamura up now..


Tamura looks at a fastball on the outside corner for the 2nd K.

Karaburi sanshin!!!

Haseba strikes out on another high fastball and Shimabukuro has struck out the side here in the 8th!!!!!

Top 9th
One down for Kounan and Ganeko singles to right! That's brings up Maehira, what will he do?

He bunts the runner along! They're going for the one-timer!

Karaburi sanshin!!!

Mekaru goes down after an 8 pitch AB! 3 outs!!! Tamura's done all he can do now....

Bottom 9th's up to the offense to deliver....

Yashiro with a grounder to the right side....

Tairiku dives and his glove just gets the ball! Gets up, throws to 1st... One down!!! A fine play by by Tairiku here in the 9th!!!!!

Tani singles through the right side! Douten runner on for Houtoku Gakuen!

Nakashima up for Houtoku, he had the bases clearing triple in the 2nd, but has been silent since.

Karaburi sanshin!!!!! Nakashima swings at a high fastball for out number 2! Tani on the hits and run! Yamakawa throws to 2nd...


Yamakawa throws it away!!!!! The ball goes into the outfield and Tani heads to 3rd!!!!!!!!!!!

Last chance in cleanup batter Koshii... Haseba goes over to talk to him before he heads to the plate...

First pitch outside border for a strike...

...then a fastball down and away, ball 1!

Fastball swung on and missed, 1-2!!!

Fastball high... 2-2!

KARABURI SANSHIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Koshii foul tips the fastball into Yamakawa's glove and he hangs on! Kounan wins!! Kounan wins!!!

Kounan comes from down 0-5 to come back and win against the hometown team of Houtoku Gakuen!

Kounan runs onto the field to celebrate, while Houtoku Gakuen is crushed... After the playing of Kounan's song, you can see the pain in the Houtoku players as they are just crushed after losing 6-5... and who can blame them? They had the favorite to win it all on the ropes, and it slipped away from them. It's is a bitter and painful defeat, and many are crying and some cannot get themselves to walk back to the dugout. Their performance on the field was well deserving of their run this year, but it will end here in the best 4. Tip your hat to the hometown 18, they still had a run to remember.

Kounan has a big issue going into tomorrow's game, and that is ace Shimabukuro. His control issues are ever real now, and he'll only have 24 hours to recover. Will he be okay for the final??

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 13 - Quarterfinal 4 - Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo) vs. Niigata Meikun (Niigata)

Our last semifinal feature a hometown team squaring off against the prefecture that finished runner-up last year.

Houtoku is looking for Hyogo's first semifinal appearance since 2000 when Ikuei got there. After close wins against Tonami Kougyou and Fukui Shougyou, they beat up on Saga Gakuen 13-5 to get to the Best 8.

They've done it using a combination of their ace Oonishi Kazunari, and 1st year reliever Tamura Ichirou. While Oonishi has started the other 3 games, it will be the first year Tamura who will start this game.

For Niigata Meikun, this is only the 5 time a team from that prefecture has reached the Best 8. Before Nihon Bunri did it last year, the last occurrence was in 1984. Now, Niigata Meikun looks to get their prefecture to the Best 4 for the 2nd consecutive year.

They've advanced by defeating a decent Kyoto Gaidai Nishi 5-3, than sliding past Nishi Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku 1-0. They too depend on a tandem of pitchers in ace Ikeda Shun and Kanda Kenta.

So, who will advance for the right to face Kounan?

Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)
CF Yashiro Kazuma
2B Tani Koushirou
3B Nakashima ?
1B Koshii Yuuki
C Morita Kouki
LF Kinoshita Yuuki
RF Urasaki Hiromasa
P Tamura Ichirou (#11)
SS Haseba Takashi

Niigata Meikun (Niigata)
2B Yamamoto Hidemasa
CF Machiya Shougo
SS Tamura Masahiro
RF Karasawa Maki
1B Urushihara (Hiromu)
C Matou Ryou
3B Itou Gou
P Ikeda Shun
LF Nishiyama Takashi


13:40 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Yashiro and Tani both hit groundouts to start the game. Two down now and Nakashima singles to right. But Ikeda retires cleanup batter Koshii with a grounder to 2nd.

Bottom 1st
Ichirou walks Yamamoto to start off the inning. Satou-kantoku elects not to bunt, but Machiya goes down swinging for the first out.

Masahiro with a shot to left! Kinoshita backpedaling makes the catch for the 2nd out!

Ah.... Now Ichirou hits Karasawa with a pitch putting runners on 1st and 2nd.

Urushihara bails him out by taking the first pitch and hitting into a fielder's choice at 2nd.

Top 2nd
Ikeda continuing to induce groundballs from the Houtoku batters. Morita and Urasaki ground out to short, and Kinoshita hits one back to Ikeda.

Bottom 2nd
Ichirou records his 2nd K as he gets tall Matou to swing on a high fastball. After a first pitch comebacker from Itou, Ichirou gets Ikeda swinging to end the inning.

Ichirou's control looks good here to start for Houtoku, If he can keep this up, Houtoku will have good chances in this game.

Top 3rd
Ichirou takes a 3-2 pitch just outside for a lead off walk.

Haseba showing bunt, lays it down down the 3rd base line.

Itou charging, fields, double clutches, and throws high! It pulls Urushihara off the bag! All safe!

Now Yashiro lays down another bunt and moves the runners along 90 feet.

One down and Tani grounds one to 2nd! But Tamura doesn't head home! Yamamoto goes to 1st and there's 2 out!

Nakashima with a base hit to center! Tamura coming home, Haseba being waved around! Machiya with the throw home, Matou with the swipe tag...


The just get Haseba at the plate! 3 out! But Houtoku strikes first in the quarterfinal leading 1-0!

Bottom 3rd
Two quick outs for Ichirou when he walks Machiya.

Masahiro with a shot down the left field line... foul!

Machiya takes off for 2nd! Morita with the throw to 2nd, but Haseba is slow with the tag! Machiya slides in safe!

Full count to Masahiro and the pitch hits him! But he was swinging when he was hit and is called out to end the inning!

He stays down for a bit as an assistant from Houtoku comes over with some spray. Masahiro though gets up quickly and shakes it off as if to say that he doesn't need it and heads to the dugout.

Top 4th
Koshii with a grounder to left to open the inning and he's bunted to 2nd.

Urasaki with a grounder up the middle! That's past a diving Masahiro into center! Koshii stops at 3rd.


Kinoshita with the squeeze down the 1st base line! Ikeda watching it on the line, decides to try and let it run foul, but it stays fair... stays fair... and at the last minute goes a little bit to the right where he picks it up, foul!!

What a bad break for Houtoku!


Kinoshita tries it again but this time Ikeda glove tosses and Koshii is trapped! He's run down, but gives enought ime to allow the runners to advance to 2nd and 3rd.

Ichirou hits a grounder to the right side! Yamamoto running into the outfield grass fields it! Throws to Ikeda covering 1st and they get the out! Nice piece of fielding by Meikun!

But a fortunate roll helps keep Houtoku off the boards here in the 4th!

Bottom 4th
Karasawa with a single to the left side to start the 4th. He's bunted over for Matou, but Ichirou's control is getting ahead off the Meikun batters forcing them to swing away.

Matou takes a high fastball for a strike 3, and Itou goes down swinging to end the inning!

Top 5th
Ikeda with his first easy inning since the 2nd retiring the 9-1-2 batters all on groundouts, all in 9 pitches.

Bottom 5th
Ichirou with his 4th walk/hit-by-pitch as he walks Ikeda to start the inning.

Nishiyama tries the bunt, but Ichirou fields it quickly and fires to 2nd to get the lead runner!

Yamamoto with a grounder to 2nd! Tani flips to Haseba for one, relay to Koshii, double play!! 4-6-3 double play turned by Houtoku ends the inning!

As we head into the break, Houtoku holds on to a slim 1-run lead as 1st-year Tamura Ichirou is managing the game on the mound!

Top 6th
Two quick outs for Ikeda and he's about to get out of the inning when Morita takes the 2-2 pitch to center for a single.

Urasaki though, grounds out to short to end the inning.

Bottom 6th
Machiya grounds out to 1st to start the inning.

Tamura with a clean hit to left for a single. He goes to 2nd after Karasawa's tough chopper up the line is fielded by Nakashima and he makes a good throw to 1st.

Urushihara goes first pitch swinging though, and hits a high comebacker to Ichirou. He goes to 1st for the 3rd out.

Top 7th
Ikeda gets his 3rd 1-2-3 inning, while in the process striking out fellow starter Ichirou for his first K of the game here in the 7th!

Bottom 7th
Conversely, Matou swings at a ball up and away for Ichirou's 7th K of the game.

Itou swings and misses on a slider high and away... and Ikeda flies out to Kinoshita on the left field foul line for the 3rd out!

Top 8th
Yashiro goes down and lines one over Masahiro into left for leadoff single. Tani bunts him into scoring position.

And what's this? Satou-kantoku stays true to his 2 pitchers system and sends in Kanda Kenta to finish the game for Niigata Meikun!

Nakashima with a grounder though to right! Yashiro rounding 3rd scores on the single! It's 2-0 Houtoku!

Koshii with a grounder to short! Masahiro smothers it! Flips to Yamamoto for one, his throw to first in time for the inning ending double play!

But Nakashima with the timely hit gets Houtoku a little more breathing room!

Bottom 8th
One down and top batter Yamamoto singles to left. Satou-kantoku will play for one run here in the 8th.

So 2 down runner in scoring postiion for Masahiro, and Nagata-kantoku calls a quick conference.

Masahiro with a grounder through the left side! Yamamoto comes around 3rd and scores! They've cut the deficit to 1! It's 2-1!!

Karasawa with a base hit past a diving Nakashima into left! Runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 down!

Nagata-kantoku not taking any more chances, pulling Ichirou for ace Oonishi Kazunari.

His first batter will be Urushihara. A base hit here could tie the game or even give them the lead.

Grounder to short! Haseba makes the great stop!! Stumbles and tosses to 2nd for the force!! 3 outs!!

The insurance run in the 8th has become even more key now that Meikun is now on the board.

Top 9th
Morita with a grounder to short. Masahiro with the high throw, but Urushihara makes the sweep tag for the out.

Urusaki goes down swinging on a high fastball for out number 2.

And Kinoshita strikes looking out a 3-2 fastball for out number 3!

So! We head to the bottom of the 9th with Houtoku holding a fragile one run lead! Can they close it out?

Bottom 9th
Meikun will send their 6-7-8 batters to the plate.

Matou grounds to 3rd. Itou with the stop, fumbles the ball, but has time to go to 1st for the first out.

Itou with a grounder to 2nd. 2 down...

Last chance in Kenta...

He pops it up! Urasaki under it.... game set!!

Houtoku holds on to defeat Niigata Meikun by the score of 2-1!!

A wonderful game played on both sides to close out quarterfinal play! It was a contrast of pitching styles on the mound, with Houtoku's Tamura K's versus Ikeda's pitch-to-contact style. And yet they held the opposing team at bay for 7+ innings until they both finally gave. The difference in the game was Kenta's first batter in relief singled to score a run, while Oonishi got his batter to ground out to short to end the inning.

Niigata Meikun's run matches those of only 3 others ever in prefecture history, and only exceeded by last year's Nihon Bunri squad. Personally, I hope that this is a trend of things to come from the mountainous prefecture.

Houtoku Gakuen keeps alive the home team's run here at Koushien, but it will certainly not get any easier from here as they will have less than a 24 hour turnaround before they face Kounan in the first semifinal. How will the first year Tamura Ichirou fare when he's called into action? Will the offense be able to generate key hits against Shimabukuro? These are valid questions, but ones that the coaching staff will have little time to address.

Day 13 - Quarterfinal 3 - Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa) vs. Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto)

The sun rises on the second day of quarterfinals here at Koushien. And first off is the game between Toukaidai Sagami and Kyushu Gakuin.

This was for the most part the Toukaidai Sagami that we thought we were supposed to see in senbatsu - with the headline pitcher carrying his team to victory. And while they are here in the best 8, they don't quite the look of a championship team. Suijyou gave them a good run, and while Hifumi pitched a 1-hitter against Toki Shougyou the offense just managed 6 hits and 3 runs. Hifumi though in 17.2 IP, has issued 12 walks/hit batters.

For Kyushu Gakuin, while they had to play 3 games, they were really only tested in the 3rd against neighboring Kagoshims Jitsugyou where they showed they could still score runs, the pitching wasn't all that effective either.

The winner of this games has the unenviable task of facing Narita and ace Nakagawa Ryou. But better to advance, than to go home, right?

Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa)
RF Watanabe Masaru
LF Ijyuuin Jyun
2B Tanaka Shinta
C Ooshiro Takumi
P Hifumi Shinta
3B Fukuyama Ryou
SS Someya Ryuutarou
1B Ooshiro Kenji
CF Idzichi Akira (#18)

Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto)
RF I Shouhei
SS Mizowaki Hayato (#15)
CF Yamashita Tsubasa
1B Hagiwara Eiji (#14)
2B Tomitaka Hirotaka
3B Matsunaga Rem
C Sakai Koushirou
P Watanabe Masataka
LF Shimoda Hayato


11:00 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
As the siren sounds, Watanabe Masaru pulls the first pitch past the glove of Tomitaka into right.

Monma-kantoku will play for the run as Ijyuuin bunts the runner along. A grounder to 1st by Tanaka give the 2-out, run on 3rd situation.

Takumi with a ball to left. Shimoda charging in, but it drops in front! Masaru scores and Sagami is up 1-0!

Hifumi strikes out to end the inning, but Toukaidai Sagami takes the early lead!

Bottom 1st
I with a leadoff single through the infield to left! Mizowaki pops up his bunt and Hifumi with the catch makes it 1 down!

Yamashita swinging away, grounder to 2nd! Tanaka flips to 2nd for one, but the relay is late.

Hagiwara with a single through the right side and it's runners at the corners!

...but Tomitaka grounds out to 2nd and the inning is over.

Seems like Kyushu Gakuin's going after Hifumi early in counts, which given his wildness issues may help him.

Top 2nd
Fukuyama with a comebacker up the middle! Interestingly, the bottom of the lineup isn't bunting. And that makes it easy for Watanabe Masayoshi has he retires them fairly quickly to end the inning.

Bottom 2nd
Matsunaga with a chopper up the right side. Kenji goes to field it, but his toss to Hifumi is behind him! It goes off his glove and Matsunaga is safe! E3! Sakai bunts him into scoring position.

Two down after a Watanabe strikeout and Shimoda hits a grounder to left! Outfield is playing way in and Matsunaga has to hold at 3rd.

Back to the top of the order and I. He's patient against Hifumi working the count and running it full...

Karaburi sanshin!!

He strikes out on a low slider and Hifumi gets out of the jam!

Top 3rd
Masaru starts off the inning with a 4-pitch walk. Ijyuuin with the push bunt. Hagiwara fields, but neither Tomitaka or Masayoshi are there to cover 1st! All safe!

Tanaka with the real sac bunt and now a sac fly will drive in a run.

And Takumi does just that with a drive to center! Yamashita is easily under the ball, but Masaru tags up making it 2-0 Sagami!

Hifumi hits a ball to left center, but Yamashita runs in and makes the catch to end the inning - but not before Sagami adds a run.

Bottom 3rd
One down for Kyushu and Yamashita draws a walk. After Hagiwara strikes out, Yamashita takes off on the first pitch! The tag from Someya is just a tad late as Yamashita slides in safe!

Tomitaka though flies out to center and the inning is over.

Top 4th
Fukuyama with a single to center.

Someya not bunting hits one back to Masayoshi! He goes to 2nd for one, but relay from Nakamura is low and gets by Hagiwara! Someya takes off for 2nd, but Tomitaka backing up the play throws back to Nakamura who tags Someya out!

Double play!??

Can't really fault Someya too much for going, but perhaps the 1st base coach might want have to assessed that situation a bit.

Kenji grounds out to 2nd and that's the inning.

Bottom 4th
Patience seems to be the theme now for Kyushu. Matsunaga works the count full and takes the 7th pitch inside, and goes to 1st, but is called strike 3! Can't really tell how good that shuuto is, but it certainly did the job there!

And Sakai is hit by Hifumi! Sakai-kantoku looks to advance him along but Watanabe ends up three bunting out. Last batter Shimoda grounds into a fielder's choice at short to end the inning.

Top 5th
One down and top batter Masaru lines one into center for a single.

And Masaru takes off on the 2-2 pitch! Throw from Sakai is good, but Watanabe barely slides in safely!

Ijyuuin with a grounder to 3rd. Matsunaga looks at 2nd (?) and throws to 1st... HIGH! Hagiwara has to jump to field it and can't tag Ijyuuin! Runners at the corners!

Tanaka with a grounder to 3rd. Matsunaga throws to 2nd... OFFLINE! It goes into the outfield and Watanabe scores! 3-0 Sagami!

Takumi with a grounde to 2nd. Tomitaka tries to go to 2nd, but Tanaka's in safe. Nakamura goes to 1st to get one out, but Ijyuuin scores to make it 4-0 Sagami!!

Hifumi gets the 3rd out popping up to 1st, but two errors by Matsunaga double Toukaidai Sagami's lead!

Bottom 5th
Kyushu trying to make Sagami work. I grounds to 2nd after a 6 pitch AB, Mizowaki draws a walks on 5 pitches.

Surprisingly Yamashita swings on the first pitch and flies to left.

Unfortunately, taking pitches this inning doesn't quite work as Hagiwara strikes out looking on 5 pitches to end the inning sending us to the break.

But the principle of taking pitches is to make the pitcher tired later, or put him in unfavorable counts. If they keep this up, they may not see the benefits until later...

...although that may be too late by that time.

Top 6th
Two down and Kenji lines one back at Masayoshi, knocking his glove off! He picks it up and underhands the ball to 1st, but he's in considerable pain, holding his left wrist.

The replay shows the ball hitting his wrist flush just under the glove. He's getting the spray, but it may take more than that to make that feel better.

Bottom 6th
Tomitaka is hit by Hifumi to start the inning, and #6 Nakamura Ryuunousuke PH for Matsunaga bunts him along.

Sakai steps in, but Masayoshi hasn't come out to the on deck circle just yet.

And Sakai goes down looking on a low ball... 2 down.

Uh oh... this could be bad for Kyushu. #12 Maekawa Kazuhiko comes in to PH for Watanabe, which means he's out for the game!

Maekawa hits a grounder to the left side! Tomitaka tries to shield the ball from Someya, but he makes a great diving stop! He pops up and his throw to 1st is in time to get the out! 3 out!

Top 7th
So, Nakamura stays in the game to play 3rd, and #10 1st-year Ootsuka Naoto takes over on the hill.

And he does a great job here, retiring the 9-1-2 hitters in just 7 pitches!

Bottom 7th
Two down for Kyushu when Mizowaki hits one down the left field line. Ijyuuin heads to the foul pole, slides, but it lands in front of him! Mizowaki in with a double.

Yamashita with a hard shot at 3rd! Fukuyama drops the ball. Recovers, throws to 1st....


The throw just beats out a hustling Yamashita and that ends the inning!

Top 8th
Ootsuka walks Tanaka on 4 straight to start the inning, but when Takumi tries to lay down the bunt, it's right on front of home. Sakai fields it quickly and throws to 2nd for the force. Relay by Mizowaki is just a tad late for the double play!

Hifumi with his first hit as he hits a roller past Mizowaki into left.

Sakai-kantoku calls a conference as Fukuyama steps in. 4 runs is tough to come back from, but any more and it's pretty much over.

Karaburi sanshin! Fukuyama strikes out on a fastball outside!

Ootsuka's having to pitch with all he's got as he doesn't have the fastest fastball (~130 km).

Hit and run! Someya lines one down the right field line... fair!! I runs it down at the wall as both Takumi and Hifumi score on the double making it 6-0!

Kenji grounds out to short to end the inning, but it's probably too late now for Kyushu Gakuin down 6 with just 2 innings left to play.

Bottom 8th
Hagiwara with a grounder back up the middle past a diving Tanaka for a leadoff single. After Tomitaka goes down swinging, #17 Ueno comes in to run for Hagiwara.

Nakamura with a single to left, runners on 1st and 2nd.

Sakai with a shot into the left center field gap! The runners fly around the bases as Idzichi slides over to cut it off in front of the wall! Ueno scores, and Nakamura scores all the way from 1st on the double by Sakai! Kyushu Gakuin is on the board at 6-2!

#16 Nishiura Ryouhei comes in to PH for Ootsuka. But he grounds one to 1st. Kenji underhands to Hifumi who just beats a diving Nishiura for the 2nd out.

#13 Iwata Naoki comes in to PH for Shimoda. Sakai-kantoku throwing everything he has into the inning. Takes the 1-2 pitch just outside. And then singles back up the middle! Sakai scores from 3rd to make it 6-3.

I is jammed by Hifumi, but he gets enough of it to put it into center for another base hit!

That finally gets the attention of Monma-kantoku as he sends someone out to talk to Hifumi.

Mizowaki steps in.

Chopper to the left side. Hifumi fields it! Throws to 1st and that ends the inning! Kyushu gets 3 runs, to cut the deficit in half, but they still have 3 runs to make up...

Top 9th
Changes for Kyushu. #18 Motomura (Yuu) comes in for PR Ueno, #3 Miyazaki (Kazushige) comes in for PH Nishiura and takes the hill.

Idzichi lays down a safety bunt! Nakamura charges, but the throw doesn't beat a sliding Idzichi!

Masaru not bunting, hits one just to the right of Mizowaki. He continues running towards 3rd as Idzichi realizes he's stuck and he's run down 6-5-4.

Ijyuuin with a single through the right side. That puts runner on 1st and 2nd.

Tanaka reaches down and laces one to right center! That'll go all the way to the wall! Masaru and Ijyuuin score to make it 8-3.

Takumi with a grounder to 2nd. Tomitaka goes home with the throw, but it's high and Sakai has no chance at the tag. 9-3 Sagami.

AH!!!!! Sakai with a snap throw to 1st gets away from Kimura and goes into right! Takumi advances all the way to 3rd on the error!

And on the very next pitch, Hifumi lifts one to deep center, allowing Takumi to tag up from 3rd. 10-3 Sagami.

That'll be it for Miyazaki as Kyushu's last bench player, #11 Oyamada Shunsuke comes in to relieve him on the mound. He gets Fukuyama to ground out to 2nd to end the inning.

But it's all but over for Kyushu Gakuin as they're down 7 with just 1 inning to go, and have used all their bullets.

Bottom 9th
As expected, Kyushu goes down in order to end the game.

While Kyushu Gakuin was able to slow down Toukaidai Sagami's offense down early, they weren't able to capitalize on their chances early on to keep themselves in the game. And an unfortunate injury to their ace pitcher at the end of the 6th inning didn't help their cause either. As a result, the game wound up breaking down for them late despite scoring 3 in the bottom of the 8th.

Still it was a good effort put forth by Kyushu, especially scoring those runs in the 8th already down 6-0. They can take pride in that they advanced to the Best 8 for the first time in 47 years, but it will be a Kanto semifinal as Toukaidai Sagami advances to meet Narita.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Final draw determined

Between the 1st and 2nd quarterfinals today the draw for the Best 4 was held. The matchups for Day 14?

Semifinal 1 - (Houtoku Gakuen-Niigata Meikun winner) vs. (Kounan-Seikou Gakuin)
Semifinal 2 - (Kyushu Gakuin-Toukaidai Sagami winner) vs. Narita (!!!)

Day 12 - Quarterfinal 2 - Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima) vs. Kounan (Okinawa)

Our 2nd semifinal of the day was one I thought might be interesting if it happened, and lo and behold, they drew each other in the Best 8!

Kounan we all know from senbatsu, Shimabukuro on the mound, and the well-rounded offense from top to bottom - that hasn't changed. About the only chink in their armor is that Shimabukuro has had small gaps where his pitches are more than hittable which has led to some runs.

Seikou Gakuin has been a pleasant surprise. Under the guise of their newly minted #1 Saiuchi, they pulled off the upset of Kouryou, and then defeated a solid Riseisha squad. Offense is certainly a concern, especially against Shimabukuro, but as long as Saiuchi keeps the team in the game, I thought they had one of the better chances to defeat Kounan. Throw in the fact that Shimabukuro is working on less than a day's rest, and it seems like the chances increase.

So, what will we see today?

Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima)
SS Murashima Daisuke
CF Nemoto Koichi
2B Yamaguchi Kouki
1B Endou Masahiro
RF Sanpei (Eiki)
3B Saitou Hideya
C Hoshi Yuutarou
LF Itakura Kouta
P Saiuchi Hiroaki

Kounan (Okinawa)
2B Kuniyoshi Tairiku
CF Ketashiro Kai
3B Ganeko Moritsugu
1B Maehira Daiki
RF Mekaru Keisuke
C Yamakawa Daisuke
LF Irei Shinya
P Shimabukuro Yousuke
SS Ooshiro Kouji


13:50 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
Shimabukuro starts off the game with a strikeout of Murashima on a fastball inside!

Nemoto strikes out on a fastball down and away!

And Yamaguchi pops it up in foul teritory! Ganeko near the camera well makes the catch! Shimabukuro's thrown all fastballs!

Bottom 1st
Kuniyoshi with a leadoff single through the right side! Gakiya will play for the single run.

But Ganeko pops up to center! Nemoto ranging to his left makes the sliding catch!

And Saiuchi gets Maehira to ground to short to end the inning!

Top 2nd
Masahiro with a drive down the left field alley for a double! Sanpei moves him to 3rd.

Hideya with a shot down the right field line, fair! Hideya's in with an RBI double! 1-0 Seikou!

Hoshi with a scorcher down the left field line fair! That's good for a double! Hideya scores and it's 2-0 Saikou!

Itakura pops it up. Ooshiro under it for the 2nd out.

Saiuchi with a grounder through the left side for a base hit! Hoshi comes around, HE SCORES!!


They're looking for the fastball and swinging away!

Murashima with a grounder to the right side. It deflects off of Kuniyoshi's glove and into right! Saitou advances to 3rd!

And Gakiya-kantoku calls a conference. This is a surprising turn of events...

Murashima takes off on the 1-1 pitch. No throw! A base hit here could blow it wide open!!

But Shimabukuro strikes Nemoto out swinging to end the inning.

The stadium is quiet as the scoreboard reads 3 runs for Seikou here in the top of the 2nd!

Bottom 2nd
Mekaruwith a grounder back up the middle for a leadoff hit. He's bunted to 2nd for Irei.

Irei with a ball to the right center gap! That'll go to the wall! Mekaru scores and Kounan quickly strikes back with a run, 3-1!

Shimabukuro with a fly to right. Sanpei with the catch, and Irei tags up! The throw is on a line to home, but Hoshi can't handle it! Irei scores and it's 3-2 Seikou!!

Ooshiro with a single past Yamaguchi into center! And he goes to steal 2nd! He slides in safe!

Kuniyoshi with his 2nd hit, another ball through the left side! Ooshiro stops at 3rd and there's runners at the corners!

Saitou-kantoku with a conference. Are they really going to give the lead up this quickly?

Kuniyoshi takes off for 2nd! Throw from Hoshi and he's trapped between bases? He's run down 2-6-3 and just like that the inning is over! That has to be a missed sign somewhere...

Top 3rd
Shimabukuro was about to get a 1-2-3 inning when Sanpei singles past Ganeko into left.

But he quickly shuts it down by striking out Hideya for his 5th K.

Bottom 3rd
Ketashiro gives Kounan another leadoff runner as he hits a high fastball to left. Ganeko moves the douten run into scoring position for cleanup batter Maehira who has for the most part struggled this tournament.

But he delivers a base hit up the middle! Ketashiro, originally thinking it was going to be fielded went back to 2nd, then bolted for 3rd and beat the throw from Nemoto.

Runners at the corners now.

Mekaru with a chopper past Yamaguchi! Ketashiro comes in ! Douten!!!

Yamakawa with a grounder to short! Murashima to Yamaguchi to Masahiro for the inning-ending double play!

But the lead for Seikou is short lived as Kounan's offense roars right back!

Top 4th
Hoshi with a ball to the left side. Ooshiro with a great stop! And he makes a strong throw to 1st for the out!

Shimabukuro retires the next two batters for a 1-2-3 inning, and Kounan is back on the sticks again.

Bottom 4th
One down and Shimabukuro hits a popup to shallow center. Yamaguchi and Nemoto range towards it, and they bump into each other! The ball drops in! E4, and that's Seikou's first error!

Ooshiro tries the push bunt up the 1st base line! Saiuchi barely runs it down and tosses it to 1st for the 2nd out.

Kuniyoshi with his THIRD hit of the game as he shoots a ball through to left! Shimabukuro holds at 3rd!

Count 1-2 to Ketashiro. Fastball down and in.... ball! Fastball inside... ball!!!

Oh, Saiuchi doesn't look happy about that...

And Ketashiro takes full advantage!!!!! He drives one to right center! It's going to the wall! That'll clear the bases! Ketashiro in with a triple, 5-3!!

Saitou-kantoku makes the change... #11 Haga Tomoya comes in to relieve Saiuchi. You have to wonder if he was squeezed on those two pitches because that certainly affected him...

Ganeko wiht a grounder to 2nd. Yamaguchi boots it!!! He runs it down, throws to 1st, but it's too late!! Ketashiro scores and it's 6-3 Kounan!!

Maehira grounds out to 2nd to end the inning, but a possible borderline call costs Seikou 3 runs!

Top 5th
Murashima with a single through the left side. Saitou tries the hit and run, but Nemoto chops one back to Shimabukuro who goes to 1st. He advances to 3rd on the flyout by Yamaguchi to right.

Masahiro in a battle against Shimabukuro trying to get the runner in. He fouls a couple off as the count runs full...

SANSHIN!!!! Masahiro can't catch up to a Shimabukuro fastball, and he's out of the inning!

Bottom 5th
Mekaru with a single to left to start the inning.

AH!! Haga's pickoff throw to 1st is missed by Endou! Mekaru advances to 2nd!

AH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wild pitch by Haga advances Mekaru to 3rd!! What's going on with Seikou??!

Yamakawa with a single through the right side! Mekaru comes in and it's 7-3!

Hit and run! Irei with a grounder up the middle! Yamaguchi charges back tosses to 2nd for one, and Murashima throws to 1st for the double play!

Shimabukuro grounds out to 2nd to end the inning, but Kounan continues to add on!

Top 6th
Shimabukuro with a good lead now begins to go in cruise control. 2 flyouts and a K later, and they're back in the dugout.

Bottom 6th
Haga is doing what he can on the mound as he quickly retires the side in order to get his team back on offense.

Top 7th
Seikou Gakuin in a bit of panic mode as the batters are becoming more aggressive at the plate. 6 pitches and Shimabukuro is back in the dugout...

Bottom 7th
Haga continues to shut down the Kounan offense, as he gets 2 groundouts and a fly to center for yet another 1-2-3 inning.

Top 8th
Nemoto finally gets something started in the 8th with a single to the right side. And although they're down 4, he takes off for 2nd and beats the throw from Yamakawa!

So Yamaguchi swings away, but he pops it up to left.

Masahiro with a slow roller to the right side! Kuniyoshi charges, throws to 1st, but it's not in time! Runners at the corners!

Sanpei looking to cut the deficit down...

SANSHIN!!!!! He goes down on a forkball!

And Hideya hits a fly to left! Irei under it for the 3rd out! Seikou will be down to their last 3 outs in the 9th...

Bottom 8th
2 down for Kounan and Haga gives up hist first hit since the 5th as Shimabukuro singles through the right side.

Ooshiro follows that up with a liner down the right field line! Ooshiro's in with a double!

And that brings up Kuniyoshi Tairiku, who's 3-4 on the day...

He's walked by Haga and it'smanrui for Kounan!

Ketashiro with a ball to left center! Nemoto running over, dives... It's off his glove!!!! Everyone's going to score! Ketashiro in with a double and it's 10-3...

And now Ganeko walks...

Thankfully for Seikou, Maehira grounds to 1st to end the inning...

Top 9th
Changes for Kounan. #11 Kawamitsu Kouya comes in for Maehira and takes the hill. Shimabukuro goes to right, and Mekaru goes to 1st.

Hoshi in a desperate battle against Kawamitsu, runs the count full and fouls off pitches. But on the 11th pitch Kawamitsu gets him on a high fastball.

#13 Fukuda (Akihito?) comes in to hit for Itakura, and he draws a walk!

#14 Saitou Yuuki comes in to run for him while #17 Nakamura Shouta comes in to PH for Haga.

Grounder to 3rd... Ganeko can't field the ball! That's Kounan's first error!

Murashima with a grounder up the 3rd base line! Ganeko tries to let it go foul, it doesn't! Base hit for Murashima!!

Nemoto looking to keep the inning going...

Karaburi sanshin!

Nemoto strikes out swinging to end the game!

And so Shimabukuro and Kounan are just two games away from the Haru-Natsu sweep!

Saiuchi and Haga felt the full force of Kounan's offense. Admittedly, the game probably turned on the two borderline pitches to Ketashiro in the 4th. But you can see that Kounan from top to bottom have good hitters, and power ones at that. It's why they succeeded this year, when in years past when Shimabukuro went, he was stopped in the 1st game because of a lack of defense - despite striking out 15+.

Seikou's run was certainly impressive, and I believed they had one of the better chances to defeat Kounan. With the less than 24 hour turnaround for Kounan, I thought their chances were better.

The 3-0 start proved that they could indeed score on Shimabukuro. But baseball is about pitching and hitting, and today the pitching wasn't enough for Seikou.

But a good effort nonetheless for Seikou, they just happened to run into a really, really good team.

Day 12 - Quarterfinal 1 - Narita (Chiba) vs. Kanto Dai-ichi (Higashi Tokyo)

Quarterfinal action should be nothing but fireworks today. Narita and Kanto Dai-ichi, who were just on the field yesterday, are back on the mound with a spot on the Best 4 on the line.

Narita seemed dead to rights against Kita-Ootsu yesterday, down 3-0 and managing just 5 hits after 5. But Kita-Ootsu ace Okamoto tired in the 7th leading to 5 runs. It wouldn't be over yet as Kita-Ootsu found a way to tie the game in the bottom of the 8th. But the pitching failed them again, giving up the winning run in the top of the 9th.

But Nakagawa pitched the entire game, and didn't look as sharp to start or to finish...

Kanto Dai-ichi on the other hand never trailed to Waseda Jitsugyou, garnering a 5-2 lead before blowing up late leading 10-3 before winning 10-6.

It may have come at a price. Yonezawa-kantoku may not have made a smart decision on his birthday leaving Shirai on the mound. Not only did he pitch the entire game, but he gave up 3 runs in the 9th, definitely a sign of fatigue.

So when both aces pitch CG's, Narita is sending ace Nakagawa back to the mound, Kantou is sending #10 Ide Kazuki to the hill in this all-important game.

Whose decision will be right?

Narita (Chiba)
2B Oogi Ryouta
CF Oka Michiya
1B Kaneko (Yasuhiro)
C Kondou ?
LF Takahashi (Kyuu)
SS Kimura Yuuji
RF Katsuda Yuuto
3B Anzui Daiki
P Nakagawa Ryou

Kanto Dai-ichi (Higashi Tokyo)
2B Yamashita Kouki
RF Shibusawa Maiya
SS Itou Shinji
3B Miyashita Akihiro
C Honma Ryou
CF Haketa Hiroki
1B Koyama Kouhei
LF Saitou Yutaka
P Ide Kazuki (#10)


11:01 - First Pitch!

Top 1st
One down for Narita and Oka singles to center.

Ah~~~~ and now he hits Kaneko.

...and now he walks Kondou???!!!!

Manrui for Narita, and Ide is in big trouble!

Takahashi with a grounder to 1st. Koyama goes to 2nd for one, but the relay to 1st isn't nearly in time and Narita leads 1-0!

And Takahashi takes off for 2nd! No throw! Runners on 2nd and 3rd!

Kimura with a drive to right center!! Hakata running over, sprinting furiously, dives!

It's in and out of his glove!!!! Kaneko scores! Takahashi scores!! It's 3-0 Narita!

Ide finally strikes out Katsuta to end the inning - but not before he puts his team down 3 right off the bat!

Bottom 1st
Yamashita with a single past Kimura's glove into center leads things off for Kanto. Yonezawa plays for the one run, but Itou's fly to center make it quickly 2 down.


Nakagawa gets cleanup batter Miyashita looking on a fastball for strike 3! Nakagawa not looking so bad on 24 hours rest.

Top 2nd
Anzui with a grounder to short. Itou with a one-bounder to 1st and Koyama can't make the pick!

A bunt and a grounder give Narita the usual runner on 3rd, 2 out situation.

The error doesn't hurt Kanto as Oka flies out to center. But at this point errors are not an option for any team needing to play the role of upset.

Bottom 2nd
One down, and Haketa draws a walk. Nakagawa's control didn't look particularly good there as a pitch goes above Haketa's head. and ball 4 wasn't particularly close.

With 2 down, Haketa decides to get himself into scoring position and steals 2nd on a pitch down and away that Kondou has to smother.

But it won't do him good this inning as Saitou is late on a fastball and flies to right to end the inning.

Top 3rd
Ide hits Kaneko for the 2nd time today to start the 3rd, and looking to play add-on Ojima-kantoku elects for the bunt.

Takahashi holds on a 3-2 pitch wide and walks. Runners on 1st and 2nd with one out.

Yonezawa-kantoku has little choice but to warm up Shirai.

Kimura singles to center! Kaneko holds at 3rd! Manrui for Narita again!

And that forces Yonezawa's hand. Shirai, who threw over 170 pitches yesterday, will retake the hill to try and stem the tide.

Katsuta with a fly to center! Haketa under it for the catch, but it will easily score Kaneko making it 4-0 Kanto!

But he walks Anzui to load the bases again!

Nakagawa with a grounder to the left side! Miyashita with the running grab, fires to 2nd for the 3rd out.

Shirai gets Kanto out of the inning with minimal damage, but they still find themselves down 4.

Bottom 3rd
Shirai strikes out looking on a borderline low pitch from Nakagawa.

Yamashita on for the 2nd time today, this one on a walk. And he takes off on the 1-0 pitch and slides in easily!

But Shibusawa pops up to shallow center, leaving it to #3 batter Itou to get the runner in.

Except that Yamashita takes off for 3rd! Kondou with the throw, and Yamashita is out!!! Kanto runs themselves out of the inning here in the 3rd!

Top 4th
Oogi with a single to left. Oka tries to bunt him along, but Shirai fires to 2nd, and gets the lead runner!

Ooo~~~ that was a close call there, I though the runner could have been safe...

Kaneko with hard grounder right at 2nd! Yamashita blocks it, has trouble fielding the ball, but makes the back toss to 2nd for the out.

And Kaneko tries to steal 2nd! Honma with the good throw and they nail him to end the inning!

Bottom 4th
Nakagawa goes 3 up, 3 down here in the 4th. If Nakagawa's finally hitting his stride, that's not a good sign for Kanto...

Top 5th
Kimura with a diving catch in right on a shallow fly by Kimura to end the inning! Shirai gets his first real 1-2-3 inning!

Bottom 5th
Haketa with a grounder just out of the reach of a diving Kaneko into right for a leadoff single!

And he takes off for 2nd! Kondou with another strong throw and they nail him!

Saitou with a drive to left center! Takahashi runs to the wall, leaps and it lands just in front of the wall! Saitou running all the way slides into 3rd!

How much does the CS hurt Kanto now???

Shirai takes it the other way through the left side for a single! Saitou scores and Kanto is on the board at 4-1!

Yamashita flies out to center to end the inning, and Kanto does have a run on the board heading into the break. But it easily could have been more.

Top 6th
Very quick inning for Shirai as he retires the bottom of the Narita order in 9 pitches.

Bottom 6th
But the bats need to start turning around at this junction.

Shibusawa strikes out swinging on a high change...

Sanhin!!! Itou gets caught looking at a fastball inside for strike 3!

On the verge of striking out the side, Miyashita hits one to left center! Takahashi runs over and makes the sliding block of the ball, but Miyashita is in with a double.

Up to Honma to try and drive the runner in.

But he grounds to 2nd! Kimura throws to 1st for the out and Kanto can't draw closer here in the 6th!

Top 7th
Oogi with a liner to left for a leadoff singe. Bunt and grounder advance him to 3rd for a one-timer with cleanup batter Kondou.

Shirai throws a 0-1 slow curve and Kondou laces it to right! Oogi scores to make it 5-1! Not sure you want to give the batter that type of ball in that situation though...

Takahashi grounds to 2nd for the 3rd out, but Kantou has one more run that they need to make up now!

Bottom 7th
Nakagawa about to have an easy 1-2-3 inning when Saitou grounder to 3rd takes an irregular bound and goes above Anzui in the left for a single.

Saitou takes off for 2nd! Kondou's throw is high and he just slides in safe!

But Nakagawa strikes out Shirai on a high fastball to end the inning!

Top 8th
2 down and Anzui singles to right. Shibusawa fires to 1st, and they almost nail Anzui!

Nakagawa with a drive to center!! Haketa running back to the wall!! Jumps!

It's off the top of the padding! The ball goes back in to play where they throw in in, but not before Nakagawa slides in with an RBI double! It's 6-1 Narita!

Oogi flies to right to end the inning, but the door is closing on Kanto Dai-ichi's run at Koushien.

Bottom 8th
Yamashita with a comebacker past Nakagawa for a leadoff single. Shibusawa tries the drag bunt up the 1st base line, but fails as he's thrown out at 1st.

Itou with a single to right! Yamashita rounds 3rd and scores to make it 6-2!

Miyashita up now to keep the rally going...

SANSHIN!!! Miyashita swings on a slider away for strike 3! 2 down!

Honma with a drive to center! Oka running to the wall, and it bounces off the wall in center! Itou comes around to score and it's 6-3!

One more run and things get interesting!

Ah! Haketa pops out to 2nd to end the inning! Kanto scores a couple of runs, but the deficit is still at a big 3 runs!

Top 9th
Oka with the safety bunt down the 3rd base line! Miyashita charges in, but his throw to 1st is late! Leadoff hit for Narita!

A bunt and a tagup on a fly to right give the runner on 3rd 2 out situation.

Takahashi flies out to left to end the inning...

Bottom 9th
And it's crunch time for Kanto Dai-ichi...

7-8-9 batters are scheduled to step in.

#15 Funakoshi Ryou steps in for Koyama... Gets ahead 2-0, then looks at 2 strikes... Grounder to shirt! Kimura throws to 1st, one down!

Saitou with a drive to right center! Takes a bounce to the wall for a double!

Yonezawa-kantoku with a conference as #12 Kashiwabara Mitsumu steps in for Shirai! This is all hands on deck for Kanto!

Comebacker to Nakagawa! Turns to 2nd! Catches Saitou off the bag! They run him down and there's 2 outs! Kashiwabara advances to 2nd.

Yamashita with a drive down the right field line!! Katsuta running to the foul pole! Runs into the wall, AND MAKES THE CATCH! Katsuta with a fine running catch right at the foul pole ends the game!

Kanto Dai-ichi's gamble of using their reliever to start the game backfires as Narita jumps on him for 4 runs and never look back! Even on just 24 hours rest, Nakagawa pitches superbly against a formidable opponent.

But it will be Narita who moves one step close to the 92nd summer title!!