(photo courtesy of Nikkan Sports)
The stands should be filled because of both teams involved. Houtoku Gakuen is basically a stone’s throw away from Koushien Stadium. So it’s basically a home game for the team whenever they play. One of Tajimi’s points what that their ouen-dan traveled well, so if it’s anything like Shin-Minato some years back (2011), then it should be one packed stadium.
It’ll be also be interesting because I had Houtoku Gakuen compared to Shigakukan, and Tajimi actually played Shigakukan and narrowly lost. And of course we saw how Shigakukan played yesterday. Houtoku Gakuen has talent that was good enough to play on the U-15 teams for Japan and yet the resume, though extensive, is underwhelming. Their only quality games were losses to fellow qualifiers and that’s almost never a good thing (see Nichidai-san for a double-edged example). For Tajimi, their only quality was the Shigakukan game. So what we’re left with are two teams that project to be average. It’s just a matter of who executes, who gets a fortunate bounce, or who wakes up on the right side of the bed. Even Houtoku Gakuen’s former experience won’t necessarily help them here.
- SS Kozono Kaito
- CF Nagayama Yuuma
- 2B Kataoka Kokoro
- C Shinohara Shouta
- 1B Kantou Yuusuke
- 3B Ikegami Hayate
- LF (#17) Nagao Ryouya
- RF (#7) Okamoto Sou
- P Nishigaki Masaya
- C Yamada Tomoya
- 2B Kumazaki Yuuto
- CF Katou Masaki
- 1B Satou Kouki
- 3B Okai Toshiki
- RF (#13) Mori Shouta
- LF (#14) Mito Yuuhei
- P Kawachi Keita
- SS Konishi Katsuki
12:10 – First Pitch!
Ace Kawachi anything but a fireball. He’s a side-armer who throws in the high 120s. It’s a side arm throw, but he ducks down leaving the trajectory low. As expected from a side-armer he has a slider and curve and that’s it.
He manages to freeze Kozono on a fastball inside, but Nagayama singles to right. Immediately Nagata-kantoku sends the runners in motion, and despite a pitchout the throw isn’t in time.
Things seemingly getting out of hand quickly. Kataoka inside-outs a pitch and slices one to center to score Nagayama, 1-0 Houtoku Gakuen. Shinohara gets plunked and then Kantou singles to center on the first pitch making it 2-0 home team in the tip of the cap.
Kawachi is able to salvage the inning thereafter, but it’s not the start they envisioned.
Conversely Nishigaki makes Yamada and Kumazaki look silly before Katou hits a routine fly to center.
Kawachi has a clean 2nd inning which is great, but it highlights the tightrope he walks. Being a sidearmer and not throwing hard, he must locate and move around to be successful. Oh and to not leave one up unless it goes way up like in the K to Nishigaki.
Tajimi early on looks over their skis against Nishigaki. he touches 140 with a slider and curve and Tajimi is just trying to catch up to it. Bench starter Mori has the best success, and really any success against Nishigaki as he is paid off on the 10th pitch of his AB lining a curveball to right.
Meanwhile Houtoku Gakuen looks to pull away. A leadoff single by Nagayama turns into a run just 1 batter later when a ground ball to short instead of possibly turning 2 ends up in right field and a 3-0 Houtoku Gakuen lead.
There will be no respite for Tajimi this game. A walk to setup the double play just means more runs. In fact, this game if put in Sportscenter would be buried in the middle of the show.
There’s not really any need to go through the rigor-mural of detailing how it all goes down but Kawachi makes it through just 1 out in the 3rd. 10 batters come up and the lead balloons to 10-0 before #17 Tsuge enters the game.
He does his best to salvage the situation, but at the same time Houtoku Gakuen is ready to speed the game up so they can get back the hotel room. Less effort now means possibly more effort to give later. Weird part is Tsuge throws just as hard but has more success than Kawachi.
The game ends up with a 21-0 win in favor of Houtoku Gakuen. Teams have a tendency to struggle after posting a large win so it’ll be interesting to see how they do in the next game. Nishigaki was pulled, but he still pitched 7 innings.
Early on it was evident that it was going to be a blowout. But 21-0? And if you use logic (which can be dangerous), Kure played Shigakukan close as a Tier 3 school, Tajimi played Shigakukan close in the aki taikai, and Houtoku Gakuen blew out Tajimi.
This could mean that… (a) the Toukai region is really, really weak. (b) Chuugoku may not be much better. (c) the Kinki region is really that strong this time around.
The thing is I wonder about Nishigaki. It’s not like his stuff was top level and Tajimi right from the get-go was over-matched so there’s little to take from this. Control was ok, he buried quite a few balls and left some way up. I won’t really decide one way or the other just yet. But I’m still a bit skeptical.