(picture courtesy of Mainichi)
Our day ends with another 21st century team in Nakamura facing off against a former champion in Maebashi Ikuei. Nakamura managed to defeat Meitoku Gijyuku in the prefectural final, but it was not an elimination game for either. The loss to Eimei hurts in that while Eimei has been to Koushien in the past, they’re not considered a general powerhouse you can take a barometer off of.
Maebashi Ikuei’s resume is slightly better, playing 4 close games against more well-known teams. But note that Keiou was passed up for Nichidai-san for the floating bid, the Kendai Takasaki game was also a non-elimination game, and the pitching staff gave up a fair number of runs in the super-regionals.
The nod should go to Maebashi Ikuei because of level of competition, however we have seen cases where the Kanto region is unusually weak. So this could be an early benchmark as Nakamura comes in as a 21st century team.
- SS Oosaki Rin
- LF Iyota Haruki
- P Kitahara Noa
- 3B Ichien Yuuta
- C Nakano Seidai
- CF Okaue Hayate
- RF Okamoto Ryou
- 1B Takeda Haruto
- 2B Shimomura Yuuto
- P Maruyama Kazuya
- 2B Kurosawa Shunta
- CF Minagawa Kyousuke
- 3B Iijima Hiromu
- C Tobe Kaito
- SS Horiguchi Yuuga
- LF (#14) Tanaka Kouki
- 1B Koike Yuuhei
- RF Iidzuka Gouki
14:45 – First Pitch!
Bit of an inauspicious start as Maruyama plunks Oosaki to start the game. Looks like an average pitcher, low-mid 130s fastball on average with a slider, curve and changeup. Comes back hitting the mitt w/a fastball on the outside black but then a changeup goes between Tobe’s legs and Nakamura’s in business. A letter high fastball, perhaps not what they wanted, still gets a K. Throw in one more on the black and he strikes out the side. Certainly he has good control at times, but it’s getting the job done.
Kitahara much the same. Low 130’s fastball, with at least a curve and slider, thought they are a bit more slower than average. Has a clean first inning.
Hm. Maruyama generally sits in the low-mid 130’s but then the radar gun says 140 and even says 145 which is peculiar because sometimes when you give it a little extra you get maybe 5 kph max. Instead we’re talking about 10.
While Nakamura tries to figure out that bit, Maebashi Ikuei may be already getting to Kitahara. Iijima and Tobe both hit clean singles that eventually but both in scoring position. Tanaka too connects on a fastball for a single to left center, giving Maebashi Ikuei the 2-0 lead.
Nakamura finally gets their first hit in the 3rd when Oosaki in his 2nd AB singles back up the middle. But while Maruyama struggles getting the offspeed stuff over for a strike, Nakamura struggles to hit the fastball which he can locate.
The good news for Nakamura is that the damage so far has been limited to the 2-run 2nd. Kitahara’s off-speed pitches are giving the batters fits and while he is walking a couple of batters, they’ve been with 2 outs and end up stranded.
Post break Oosaki gets a base hit to center and before you can blink Arai-kantoku switches Minakawa and Maruyama while Yoshizawa, now wearing #10, warms up.
Minakawa throws just as hard as Maruyama does and with somewhat the same arsenal. But his first act is to throw wide to 1st and let Oosaki advance to 2nd. Unfortunately for Nakamura, he then takes off for 3rd on a ball to short and is cut down.
After Kitahara gets frozen on a slider on the outside black, Minakawa misses badly with his pitch, locating in when it was supposed to be out and that allows Ichien to single through the left side. But instead of a run, the runner is at 3rd. And that proves costly when Nakano can only ground to 2nd to end the inning.
Having missed out on an opportunity there, Maebashi Ikuei’s message must have been to just get base hits. Horiguchi and Tanaka dump singles into the outfield, and after a SB putting both runners in scoring position, Koike lines a fastball that winds up over the plate instead of outside past a diving Ichien and down the LF line for a 2-run double to double Maebashi’s lead to 4-0.
Throw in a sac bunt and a booted ball from Shimomura and that lead extends to 5-0.
Nakamura unfortunately can’t get any traction. Even when they get a break like in the 7th when Okamoto strikes out but reaches 1st, it leads to nothing. Actually the got a second break when Kurosawa failed to tag Okamoto, but because he thought he was out, he broke for 2nd late and that allowed the 4-3-6 double play.
The 高校野球 gods though still have a fancy for Nakamura though. As they are on their way to finishing their game and going home they smile upon them. Top 9th, runner on 2nd, 2 out. Okaue grounds a ball to 2nd, but as it takes it’s final bounce, it takes the famous irregular hop and skips over Kurosawa. It glances off his glove and into right scoring a run and allowing Nakamura to leave without being shutout, losing 5-1.
At first the game seemed like Maebashi Ikuei was going to run away similar to what Houtoku Gakuen did. But Kitahara and his pitching kept the offense in check as best he could having just 2 bad innings. The game may not have been in doubt, but they played very respectively.
Maebashi Ikuei as mentioned had an easy time of it. With Yoshizawa injured the rest of the pitching staff seems to be holding its own. One wonders though with 3 pitchers topping out in the 140s (Yoshizawa would have made 4), were they trying to mirror Shuugakukan and build a strong pitching staff instead of a dominant ace? Time will tell as they face Houtoku Gakuen in the 2nd round, but it does look like Minagawa is a little better than he was last year.