(picture courtesy of Asahi)
The games have so far not necessarily gone the way I though it might have. Regions look stronger and weaker than it might appear. Kinda like those side view and rear view mirrors. Chuugoku looked better and Toukai looked worse, until Kinki (Houtoku Gakuen) annihilated Toukai (Tajimi) and made both look bad. I thought Kyushu might still be strong, until a lower qualifier out of Kinki (Chiben Gakuen) crushed a team I thought might be able to contend (Kumamoto Kougyou). So that means that this first game could be a key as the top team out of Kyushu faces the floating bid from Chuugoku.
My original thought was that Fukuokadai Oohori behind ace Miura Ginji could at least be mentioned in the conversation for the title. The offense could let them down at some point, but as Kumamoto Kougyou showed, if your pitching fails you really have nothing.
Soushi Gakuen could have won the title if they had won their semifinal, or so I thought. Shiritsu Kure’s showing against Shigakukan, even if Toukai is overall weak, means that that may not have been the case. I’m not sure their pitching is on par, but it may not need to be given that it is Fukuokadai Oohori’s weak side.
In short, this seems like another barometer game to see how these regions shake out.
(*Note that Soushi Gakuen has made this lineup L heavy, should be interesting because they have no L pitchers to speak of so this might be who they carry for this game)
- CF Yamamoto Aoi
- SS (#4) Kimura Shouta
- LF (#1) Nanba Yuuhei
- C (#13) Kobayashi Yuuki
- 2B (#10) Miyazaki Ryuusei
- RF (#16) Inoue Takuya
- 1B Kaneyama Shouhei
- 3B (#6) Nakayama Shun
- P (#11) Akiyama Tatsuhiko
- SS Kubota Yuuya
- RF Hirano Koutarou
- C Koga Yuuto
- 1B Higashi Reo
- 3B Inamoto Yuusei
- 2B Saitou Tomoya
- CF Nishi Hayato
- LF Kabashima Ryuutarou
- P Miura Ginji
09:00 – First Pitch!
Soushi Gakuen trying to play the handedness card, and Fukuokadai Oohori is pitching exclusively away from the RH batters. Not that he’s not a hard thrower – he’s hitting the low 140s. But this is their game plan and he’s going to be working hard on the mound as the first 2 batters go 2-2 and 3-2 respectively (the latter walks).
The game plan is pretty simple, pitching to the 1B side of the plate for all batters. Fastball and curveballs to the righties. Fastball and sliders to the lefties. Kobayashi gets a seeing eye single to put runners on 1st and 2nd, but another grounder ends the inning. It’ll be a battle for control of that half of the plate the entire game.
Fukuokadai Oohori playing straight up is just taking what they’re given so far with Kubota dumping a ball into center and Hirano taking a pitch way high for a 3-2 walk. But while they bunt the runners over, Hirano gets caught off 2nd on a liner to short and is doubled off to end the threat. Akiyama out of a jam, but it’s a bit of a shaky start.
You do have to wonder though, does the handedness lineup mean that they have that flexibility, or does it mean they can’t trust their starters with R on R matchups? Miura has a 1-2-3 second.
As for Akiyama, he’s not missing many bats. Inamoto dumps a ball into left for a base hit, and then with two outs leaves a slider over the plate and Kabashima drives it to left. Nanba chases all the way to the all, but it just clears for a homerun and a 2-0 lead for Fukuokadai Oohori.
Miura is just picking them up and laying them down. I’m not seeing dramatic misses of location and Soushi Gakuen can’t seem to work with the outside pitch. 6 infield outs so far.
3rd inning for Oohori, 3rd lead baserunner on. Another sac bunt and this time a walk and Akiyama is in another jam. Gets fortunate when Higashi catches a ball on the end of the bat and lines out to left.
Luck runs out as another pitch over the plate is blasted by Inamoto over the RF head for a bases clearing triple and a 4-0 lead for Fukuokadai Oohori. It’s becoming clear that the modified lineup is just to try and get an advantage, but Akiyama is overmatched right now.
Soushi Gakuen finally gets a chance in the 4th. Kobayashi, the only player to have success, gets his 2nd hit with a ball through the left side. A rare walk puts 2 runners on.
But after a fielder’s choice, Kaneyama hits a ball to right, but just gets under it enough to allow Hirano to catch it for the 3rd out.
The experiment is over though for Soushi Gakuen. Nanba takes the mound, Kobayashi goes to RF. Nishibayashi comes in for PR Kakumoto and takes over in LF and Fujiwara takes over at C.
But even with his wide variety of pitches (about 5 or 6 and I couldn’t catch them all), it couldn’t help against Kabashima. He too leaves one over and once again he parks it over the LF fence. 2 ABs, 2 HRs, 5-0 Fukuokadai Oohori lead.
About the only thing tripping them up is their baserunning. For the 2nd time this game they get doubled off on a liner. This time with one out and a runner at first. Higashi hits his 3rd straight liner, but again right at Kimura who goes to 1st for the DP.
Soushi Gakuen finally gets a great chance post break as Nanba takes a ball the other way for a double to the RCF wall. Kobayashi hits a blooper to center, but Nanba can’t go past 3rd as he had to hold up to make sure it dropped. 2 runners in scoring position and a chance to cut into the deficit.
But Miyazaki grounds back to Miura. He makes a rundown at 3rd though the end result is the runners in the same place. New LF Nishibayashi is tied up on an inside fastball for the 2nd out. He’s about to get out of the mess until he leaves one up letter high to Kaneyama. He takes it out to straight center and Nishi can’t secure it as he collides with the wall. 2 runs score as Soushi Gakuen gets on the board 5-2.
Miura does finally get out of the inning, getting Nakayama to chase the slider, but there’s just a hint of concern for Fukuokadai Oohori.
With Nanba shutting down things on his end, Soushi Gakuen tries to build on the 6th inning in the Lucky 7. But they do it thinking Miura is faltering and swings away. A 6-pitch inning kills things.
Soushi Gakuen gets another chance in the 8th. A dropped ball by Inamoto to start the inning leads to a base hit by Kobayashi and then an unfortunate deflection off of Miura’s glove on a chopper loads the bases.
And yet, Miura strikes out Nisibayashi again, gives up a sac fly, but down 2, Kobayashi at 2nd tries to tag up and is thrown out 4-2-5 to end the inning. 5-3.
Fukuokadai Oohori adds one more thanks to a manrui HBP, though they prefer they hit someone else other than Miura, but they go on to win 6-3.
Miura was good for the most part, except for the 6th where his control seemed to have failed him a bit, and in the 8th where an error snowballed into a run. As for the offense, it was strong early against the relief starter, but when Nanba came it, they looked rather average. You wonder then what would have happened had he started the game instead. That’s not the case though and they’re onto the second round. he lack of continued offensive success may be a point of concern going forward.