(photo courtesy of Asahi)
The crowd is still full and for good reason. The front-runners for the Senbatsu title take the field in a very critical matchup against mainstay Nichidai-san. Perhaps you would want a matchup to make sure your team is in form, but right off the bat anything can happen.
Riseisha comes after winning the Meiji Jingu tournament and almost completely having their way with the competition. A lot of the credit has to go to ace Takeda Yuu who shut down the competition, including Waseda Jitsugyou. They have 3 big hitters in their lineup, but the rest may be questionable – still they averaged 7 runs in the super-regionals and Meiji Jingu tournaments combined.
Nichidai-san’s resume is rather weak outside of the Waseda Jitsugyou game, but the fact that they played them close and Waseda is considered a contender gave them enough credit over the possible Kanto representative. The thing is, it’s questionable if their talent is there because that was just one game. And they’re starting off by facing the front-runners. This game is a double-edged sword for both sides.
- RF Ishida Ryuuji
- 2B Mizobe Touki
- 3B Yasuda Hisanori
- LF Wakabayashi Shouhei
- CF Tsutsui Taisei
- P Takeda Yuu
- 1B (#17) Hamauchi Taiyou
- C Katayama Yuu
- SS Nishiyama Koutarou
- 3B Inoue Taisei
- 2B Oonishi Kakeru
- P Sakurai Shuuto
- 1B Kanari Reo
- RF Hiruma Kaito
- SS Hioki Wataru
- LF Mizoguchi Kouhei
- CF Yagi Tatsuya
- C Tsuhara Ryuuto
14:00 – First Pitch!
Well, Sakurai can hit 140 after all. The control looks good on the fastball but the slider just looks like a chase pitch so far. It does get him 2 K’s though in the 1st, so there’s that.
Meanwhile, Takeda struggles right out of the gate. A 4-pitch walk to Inoue and then leaving a hanger over the plate to Oonishi for a triple. He’s able to settle down after that, but by the time the 1st is over, Nichidai-san leads 2-0.
And right now it’s all one way in favor of Nichidai-san. Riseisha seems unable to cope with Sakurai as he racks up 2 more Ks in the 2nd.
Takeda still having issues with the Nichidai-san lineup, giving up singles to Yagi and Tsuhara at the bottom of the lineup. It’s not like he’s missing location, Nichidai-san’s batters are just hitting the ball. Takeda gets out of the inning, but he’s certainly on the back foot.
Of course, timing dictates I say that and something opposite happens. Hamauchi in for matchup purposes singles back up the middle. After a sac bunt, $9 batter Nishiyama hits a letter high fastball deep and over the LF head for a double, cutting Nichidai-san’s lead to 2-1.
Sakurai looking vulnerable now as he hits Mizobe with 2 down, but he strikes out Yasuda for the second time in as many ABs. Still up 2-1, now with 6 Ks.
Takeda is settling down, but Nichidai-san isn’t making it easy on him. He is yet to have a clean inning, but it’s not like he’s pitching poorly in my opinion. The speed is just a tick over average, he’s not missing his spots by a large margin, but it’s not missing bats (though he did get 2 Ks in the 3rd).
Riseisha continues to struggle offensively outside of that 3rd inning. Sakurai has had 3 clean frames and the 4th is the first one he didn’t have 2 Ks so I guess there’s that.
Of course I say that and then in the 4th Yagi gets a fortunate infield hop that eats up Mizobe and Takeda walks Tsuhara. The bottom 2 have reached base in every appearance.
And yet he retires the top of the lineup to end the inning. I have no idea.
Defensive replacement in LF as #15 Yanagizawa comes in for Mizoguchi. Maybe as a result of the ball over his head? It seems weird.
So does Riseisha’s lineup. The heart of the lineup is 0-6 with 5 Ks. And yet in the 5th, after Katayama walks and Nishiyama singles, the bottom of the lineup is 3-4 with a double, run, RBI and just 1 K.
What’s this? Ishida looks to have crushed a ball. Yagi goes back to the wall and is slowing down! Wait, really?!
Yes! It’s gone for a home run! The top of the lineup comes through in a big way as Ishida hits a 3-run HR to give Riseisha a 4-2 lead!
With that one mistake the script totally flips. Takeda gets his first clean inning before the break, and Sakurai is at 80 pitches already through 5, and trails despite striking out 9.
7th inning now, and once again, Sakurai faces the bottom of the Riseisha order. And he walks Hamauchi to lead it off. Katayama sacs again and after a wild pitch, Sakurai cannot find Nishinomiya and walks him on 4 straight, turning the lineup over, again.
He strikes out Ishida although he gives up a hard foul ball. But after Mizobe also drives a ball deep and foul he lines a ball to left, driving in Hamauchi to make it a 5-2 Riseisha lead.
A HBP to Yasuda, his 3rd free pass, has to mean he’s out of gas. Yet Ogura-kantoku is sticking with him and that could be dangerous.
Fortunately, cleanup batter Wakabayashi is up and he swing on a ball in the dirt for his 4th K of the night. I don’t think the term Golden Sombrero translates though.
But as quickly as Riseisha took the lead, Nichidai-san uses the Lucky 7 to claw back the margin. After striking out Tsuhara, Inoue and Oonishi single back up the middle. And then he leaves one up for his counterpart Sakurai and he rips it down the right field line, clearing the bases! It’s back to a 5-4 Riseisha lead!
After a timeout, Takeda pitches around Kanari to create a force. He doesn’t need it though for Hiruma as he strikes him out on 3 straight pitches! 2 down and Hioki is their last chance this inning.
And he hits a foul fly to right to end the inning! Takeda gets out of the jam, but his control seemed not as sharp as in prior innings, and was certainly leaving pitches up in the zone.
Could the script flip once again? Bottom 8, Yanagisawa singles back up the middle. Yagi moves the potential douten run into scoring position for Tsuhara.
It does! Takeda leaves a ball over the plate and Tsuhara drives it deep to right center for an RBI triple! We’re all square at 5-5!
Inoue tries to put Takeda in the coffin, turning an inside pitch deep but foul. He succumbs to the slider, as does Oonishi, stranding Inoue at 3rd.
So heading into the 9th we’re basically under sudden death. And for Sakurai it came at the worst time as the 8-9-1 batters were due up.
And wouldn’t you know it, he walks Katayama on 4 straight. Ogura-kantoku can’t risk it now and sends in #10 Okabe. He takes over Yagi’s spot and Sakurai goes to center.
The fortunate thing is that the best the bottom 2 can do is put a runner in scoring position. Now, with Sakurai in center can the Riseisha lineup do something? It’s certainly change of pace as Okabe does not throw as hard, but does he have the stuff?
For now yes. Ishida meekly waves at a pitch outside in slow motion as he knows he’s walking back to the dugout.
2 straight changeups get him ahead of Mizobe before a waste pitch.
Mizobe reaches out and pokes a ball to the left side. It somehow gets under Inoue and past Hioki into left! Katayama with a wide turn coming home, the throw comes in and… he’s safe! Katayama slides under the tag and Riseisha has a 6-5 lead!
And if Shigakukan’s collapse in the 12th was one thing, Nichidai-san’s in the 9th was another.
Sakurai and Okabe switch places, but on the first pitch Yasuda doubles to deep left giving Riseisha a 7-5 lead. After that…
- Wakabayashi hits ball back up middle, Hioki stops it, but boots it so there’s no play. 8-5.
- Tsutsui singles to right.
- Okabe retakes the mound.
- Takeda with hot shot to Inoue and it bounces off of him to SS for no play.
- PH #3 Shirataki drives a ball to deep right, clearing the bases with a triple. 11-5.
- #14 Kuwayama comes in to run for Shirataki
- Katayama hits swinging bunt, Tsuhara falls down fielding it, throw is late. 12-5.
- Nishiyama walks.
- Ishida singles to left, this time Katayama is thrown out to end the inning.
That basically ended the game for Nichidai-san. They got a couple of baserunners on in the 9th, but it was too hard of a hill to climb that late.
The thing is, if somehow Nichidai-san had found a way to advance, their viability going forward could be an issue. Yes, they would still be favored to reach the quarterfinals but the fact that in game 1 Sakurai was already unable to finish a game would bring up huge red flags. It’s not to say that Riseisha has their own pitching troubles, but Takeda didn’t look as bad in the late innings. He could be tiring a bit, but he didn’t look done. Some of Sakurai’s pitches suggested he was done.
Nichidai-san did well with their converted CF turned ace. But in the end it just wasn’t enough. It’s actually a wonder how they held on against Waseda Jitsugyou if you ask me.
Riseisha is fortunate the game wound up the way it did. Takeda shows bit and pieces of being a good pitcher, but hopefully for them this is just him warming up.