(photo courtesy of Asahi)
We’re finally underway! And our opening game to most in attendance is a warmup to the matinee matchup. That doesn’t mean that this game isn’t important. It certainly is for these squads.
For Shirtsu Kure, the reason is obvious. This is their first ever time to reach Koushien. Sure, the schedule was on the easier side, but that still doesn’t take away from them that they did what they needed to go to get here, winning a revenge matchup against Hiroshima Shinjyou and defeating Tottori Jyouhoku. But looking at the team as a whole, it’s hard to get around the fact that they’re still a Tier 3 school.
Their road begins with a Shigakukan team that has emerged out of an Aichi prefecture that has had a vacuum with the decline of Aikoudai Meiden and Chuukyoudai Chuukyou. But while they now look over the landscape of Aichi, the rest of the Toukai region is not so clear, barely getting by the 21st century Tajimi and the aforementioned Chuukyoudai Chuukyou before falling flat to Shizuoka.
Given their penchant to play close games, I would not be surprised if this one was close as well but on paper Shigakukan should have the advantage.
Shiritsu Kure (Hiroshima)
- LF Fuke Ryouhei
- 2B Okuda Kazuki
- 1B Kondou Daisuke
- SS Nitta Shunki
- C Kashio Kenta
- RF Aoki Yuuki
- CF Nishioka Yuuki
- 3B Kamigakiuchi Yuui
- P Ikeda Riki
- RF Jyoudzuka Tomoki
- CF Fujiwara Rentarou
- 3B Kamakura Hiroto
- C Iguchi Atsuhiro
- P Niimi Ryousuke
- 1B Iwai Motoki
- LF Miura Shunpei
- SS Kimura Kouki
- 2B Fujiwara Daisuke
10:34 – Game Start!
Already we see that Niimi is maxing out in the low 130’s. Fuke chases a changeup and chops one back to Niimi and Okuda is caught looking on a fastball on the outside black. But we can see why he doesn’t carry a high strikeout rate. He does have a 1-2-3 1st, which is a great start for them.
As for Ikeda, he doesn’t even touch 130, though the announcers say he carries a curve, slider, shuuto and changeup. Already things go a bit wrong when a short grounder to the left side goes off Kamigakiuchi’s glove. Nitta tries to salvage it, but it’s much too late. The official scorer gives it a hit, and it probably was.
And already, Nakamura-kantoku calls for time. It doesn’t help as Jyoudzuka steals 2nd and Rentarou bunts the runner along.
Ikeda tries to nibble, but on a 3-2 count gives in. Kamakura chops one to the left side, allowing Jyoudzuka to score. 1-0 Shigakukan.
Ikeda avoids any further damage, but already the first-timers find themselves behind.
Kure thankfully won’t be no-hit as Nitta quickly starts off the 2nd with a single past a diving Kimura into center. In typical 高校野球 fashion, he’s bunted to 2nd.
Niimi almost picks off Nitta with a pretty deliberate fake that almost seems like it should be a balk. And he’s paying a lot of attention there too. So much so that it seems like it’s affecting his control having to pitch with runners on.
And yet, Nitta is given the green light after a walk to Aoki and he takes 3rd with no throw!
Nishioka completes the 高校野球 run by selling out on a suicide squeeze and successfully laying it down tying the game at 1-1.
Heading into the bottom of the 2nd, there’s nothing really from either pitcher that indicates that they have shut down stuff. Locations are spotty, and there’s no devastating pitch from either side. Ikeda does though get an easy 1-2-3 2nd.
An indicator of that is the matchup between Niimi and Fuke to end the 3rd. 12 pitches, many easily spoiled by Fuke until he flied out to center.
So the game goes a bit non-descriptly, though Shigakukan’s Daisuke and Jyoudzuka do square up Ikeda a bit in the 3rd.
Of course I jinx it though because Okuda quickly drives one to left. It hangs up though, allowing Miura to run back and catch it.
But we don’t see another base runner until the 5th when Aoki singles through the right side. Nakamura-kantoku immediately tried to set the game in motion, but the pitch was fouled off. What he’s not doing is bunting the runner over. Instead it’s a hit and run and Nishioka delivers a single to right, putting runners on the corners!
This brings up the situation in the 2nd where they squeezed, and Shigakukan is really worried about it. So much so that Niimi is throwing to 3rd and eventually Nishioka takes 2nd. Kamigakiuchi works a walk and now Kure has manrui for their #9 batter, Ikeda.
Ikeda lines out to left, but enough to still allow Aoki to score from 3rd. However, Nishoka tries to take 3rd on a delayed tag up, but while the ball gets away from Iguchi, Niimi is there to throw to 3rd getting him by a country mile to end the inning. Still Kure leads 2-1.
Ikeda though seems keen to give the lead right back. Niimi singles to center and then Iwai is walked on 4 straight. PH #14 Nakane moves the runners over.
Kimura lunges for a ball to hit to the right side, but it’s hit too hard allowing Kure to get Niimi coming home.
Shigakukan really playing for the run here with #17 Shimizu coming in to run for Iwai at 3rd and Kimura stealing 2nd on a ball that ended up in the dirt.
And with the 3B playing a bit in, that allows Daisuke to ground a ball through the left side scoring not 1, but 2 when the throw is cut off. Shigakukan takes a 3-2 lead.
Things have a chance to go completely sideways for Kure, but Jyoudzuka gets called going around to end the inning, perhaps a bit fortunate.
Nakane gives way to #10 Kawaguchi who takes the mound. Niimi goes to 1st and Shimizu takes over in left.
Kawaguchi is a side armer who has a severe cross-fire that has Kure in fits post-break. What seems to be hurting them more is that Shigakukan is squaring up Ikeda better.
And yet, Kawaguchi comes out in the 7th and struggles to find the zone. Nitta was patient to lead off the inning and take a walk where he was missing the zone significantly.
Here I would say to give Kawaguchi a little more slack, but true to their game plan they try to be aggressive on the base paths and Nitta reads the movement wrong and is picked off 1st.
That hurts because Kashio immediately afterwards singles through the left side. And then with two out Nishioka reaches out on a ball outside the zone, but successfully pokes it to right for a base hit. What might have been an RBI single is just runners at the corners.
Kawaguchi makes it interesting when he initially fails to field a comebacker from Kamigakiuchi, but he makes the out at 1st to end the threat.
Kure tries to threaten again in the 8th. 2 down, Kawaguchi hits Okuda and then Kondou with a tricky ball back up the middle. SS Kimura is able to run it down, but can’t make the short throw to 2nd in time. Asao-kantoku calls for time as cleanup batter Nitta steps in.
Kawaguchi being extra careful with him, but falls behind 3-1. On 3-2 he gets him to swing at a high fastball and ground to short. But Kimura’s first action after spinning around is to 2nd where he realizes he has no play! He tries to square back to 1st, but Nitta dives in ahead of the throw! Manrui!
Asao-kantoku assessing the situation switches Kawaguchi and Niimi.
That’s enough though as Kashio grounds to short. Kimura goes to 1st all the way this time and Kure is denied again.
Perhaps the nail in the coffin, Kimura gets on base to lead the 8th by getting hit (he didn’t move out of the way IMO), moving to 2nd on a wild pitch, getting bunted to 3rd and then Kure was not ready for a squeeze. 4-2 Shigakukan.
Top 9, #16 Ootani now in LF. Kure tries to mount one last rally with Aoki leading off with a single back up the middle. #14 Kanaya runs for him.
But Nishioka was showing squeeze (down 2?) but fouled out to Iguchi right at the netting. Kamigakiuchi also showing bunt, but then from his crouching stance gets around on an inside pitch and lines it down the left field like for an RBI double! 4-3 Shigakukan and Asao-kantoku switches pitchers again!
Ikeda as one of the last chances for Kure. Asao-kantoku hoping the crossfire messes things up.
But Kawaguchi leaves one over the plate and Ikeda lifts it to RCF for a base hit! Kamigakiuchi comes home and Ikeda ties it up! 4-4!
Asao-kantoku playing damage control with another timeout but Kawaguchi struggles. Fuke hits one back to Kawaguchi and he catches Ikeda off 2nd! He’s thrown out and there’s 2 down with the go-ahead runner not in scoring position anymore.
But Asao-kantoku goes all in putting Niimi back on the mound and #17 Shimizu Yuito at 1B. He’ll have to finish it out.
It starts poorly as he hits Okuda on the head! Now the go-ahead runner is back at 2nd! And a timely double steal on a ball in the dirt means a base hit could bring in 2!
Kondou with a drive to left! Ootani goes back and fields it to retire the side! Shigakukan gives up the lead, but can still win it in regulation.
Except that Ikeda retires the side in order and we’re headed to enchousen!
Both teams get a runner on with 2 out, but fail to do much with it. It seems like we’re with the aces until the end, until someone wins or we reach 15.
Unless we’re not. With Ikeda on his way to walking Rentarou on 4 straight #11 Nagata Rikuya warms up.
Kamakura provides Ikeda with an out of the inning, but Ikeda can’t cleanly play the chopper back to him, it deflects to 1st and he can only recover and make the out at 1st. 2 out, but a base hit by Iguchi could end the game.
Instead, Ikeda jams Iguchi and he pops out to 2nd. To the 12th!
Niimi may be running out of gas. Kondou, hitless until this point has a 1-out single to center. Nitta rips one back up the middle for a base hit.
And now on a pickoff throw to 2nd, Niimi throws it wide and both runners advance! Iguchi goes out and tells him to focus at the plate.
And yet. YET! On the first pitch Iguchi fires to 3rd and hits Kondou! The ball goes into foul territory and both runners advance with Kondou giving Kure the 5-4 lead!
Shigakukan is playing for the squeeze, but Kashio doesn’t care! He lays it down, Niimi desperately tries to flick the ball home, but he misses! Everyone’s safe and Kure leads 6-4! What is happening to Shigakukan?
Complete implosion. Runners on 1st and 2nd now for Kure after a walk. Kamigakiuchi with a foul fly to right, but Jyoudzuka drops it. He goes on to single through a wide open left side for manrui.
Asao-kantoku makes the change. #11 Hashidzume comes in for 1B Shimizu to take the mound. Niimi goes back to 1B.
Ikeda grounds out to 1st (he thought he had fouled it off, and the side is retired, but Shigakukan finds itself behind due to self-inflicted wounds.
Ikeda trying to see the game out, but having thrown now 150 pitches, he leaves one over for his counterpart and Niimi hits it off the top of the padding in LF for a double. And with Ootani showing bunt, he plunks him. New P Hashidzume bunts the runners along. A base hit here could tie the game.
Instead Kimura grounds out to 3rd. Kure gives up the run for the out. 6-5 Kure leads, 2 out, douten runner on 2nd.
Ryousuke with a hard shot to 3rd! Kamigakiuchi fields it, but Ootani collides with him! Both fall down and everyone’s safe! But the 3B umpire calls Ootani out for failing to give Kamigakiuchi the ability to field the ball and after an appeal, it stands! That’s the 3rd out and Kure holds on!
For as close of a game as it was, it was an unfortunate way to end the game, but it was the right call. Shigakukan just shot itself in the foot one too many times to survive. They had their chances.
For Kure it is a great feeling to have won in their first appearance. But their present will either be Riseisha or Nichidai-san. At least the dream can live on for one more game.