(photo courtesy of Chunichi)
I’m desperately seeking barometer games, and this one should do nicely as well. The Kinki region looks really strong, and the one Kanto ex Tokyo team that has played had a respectable win, but not necessarily dominating.
Shiga Gakuen’s resume was okay, especially playing Riseisha narrowly. Seeing Houtoku Gakuen play it might bump up that resume just a bit. Also returning both of their Koushien starters from last year is a big help as they certainly could be better for the experience. The offense could be their downfall though and that may or may not help against this opponent.
Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou makes it partially on the back of their ace, but he faltered late in parts because the walk bugaboo began to haunt him, so it’s a question if Shiga Gakuen will be able to take advantage of that should it arise. But their offense could be similar to Maebashi Ikuei so if Shiga Gakuen’s pitchers are on their game we could be in for a close low-scoring game.
- CF Shindou Tsukasa
- SS Kohama Ryouji
- C Gotou Katsuki
- LF Takei Ryuuji
- 1B Chinen Ryoutomo
- 3B Yamamoto Shunpei
- RF Tai Kaishuu
- P (#10) Tarahara Kouta
- 2B Nakanishi Ryouta
Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou
- C Shishikura Kenta
- SS Fujimoto Akihiro
- LF Arakawa Taichi
- P Kanekubo Yuuto
- 1B Oono Taichi
- RF Tsukamoto Tsubasa
- 3B Higuchi Keisuke
- CF Tsukagoshi Daiki
- 2B Kujirai Yoshiro
11:35 – First Pitch!
Kanekubo not sharp to start. Shindou singles to right on the first pitch and after taking 2nd, Gotou is hit on the head on the first pitch (not serious).
Now Kanekubo can hit mid 140s with a slider in the low 120s, as well as a forkball and curveball. He almost gets out of the inning, but Chinen reaches down, chops a ball up the 3rd base line that catches Higuchi in between and bounces into foul territory. Shiga Gakuen quickly up 1-0. The pitch wasn’t bad, just a good get and an unfortunate in-between play.
Tarahara seemingly your run of the mill pitcher. Mid 130s fastball with slider and curve. Toukaidai makes him work early on and is paid off when Arakawa singles up the middle. However, he’s picked off by a great move from Tarahara and the inning ends.
Since then Kanekubo has settled down while Tarahara is managing his game. 2 out single and walk in the 2nd could have been troublesome until he got Tsukagoshi to ground out to 3rd.
In the 3rd though a leadoff hit off of Kohama’s glove comes home when Fujimoto’s single to center leads to a throw home that hits the back netting. Kujirai had held up, so it was clearly unnecessary. Tie game 1-1 and Tarahara laboring a bit.
Yet, despite getting it level, Kanekubo struggles again in the 4th. Combination of missed pitches and patient batters led to 2 walks and a manrui situation. However, Shiga Gakuen could only get 1 with a sac fly to right, ekeing out a 2-1 lead.
We finally get a report on Tarahara’s repetoire – curve, slider, changeup and cutball. Seems like he should be more than managing, but I think it’s the control that’s betraying him in the game.
And so it was in the 5th when he hit Kujirai to lead off the inning. After a sac bunt, Fujimoto gets down enough on a curveball to ground it up the middle for a base hit, tying the game once again at 2-2. Tarahara prevents further damage, but as we hit the break, it’s a 4-inning game.
Can’t tell what Tarahara is doing with Chinen, but that’s the 2nd straight walk to him, this time on 4 pitches. Here, they elect to bunt him over to scoring position.
But on a ground ball more up the middle than to the right side, he’s caught in a pickle for the 2nd out. Eventually Tai replaces him at 2nd to reset the situation, but Tarahara grounds to 2nd.
The game enters a period where both pitchers settle in. Neither making a big mistake on the mound as the innings tick by. That’s not to say they’re picture perfect hitting the glove every time. But there’s no real opportunities to break the deadlock.
With the game closing in on effectively sudden death, Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou uses a 1-out single by Kanekubo and bunt him to second for a one-timer. They work around Tsukamoto also to create a force, but it’s not necessary as Higuchi goes down swinging. And with that we enter sudden death.
Immediately Yamamoto takes a fastball back up the middle. But it doesn’t look like Tai is bunting until Kanekubo goes home where he successfully lays it down. Problem is the 8-9 batters are up and haven’t recorded a hit. Tarahara flies out to right, moving the runner 90 feet. Nakanishi puts good bat on the ball, but Oono smothers it and goes to 1st to end the inning.
Top 10, and Shiga Gakuen looks to end it in one frame. Shindou with a swing and drive to left. Arakawa to the fence, slides, but can’t secure it and Shindou is in with a double. However, Arakawa is still down and when the umpire comes out, he immediately calls for the stretcher. He’s carried back but he’s looks in substantial pain. #15 Wakaba comes in short order to take over the position.
Back to the game, Shiga Gakuen moves the runner to 3rd for the heart of the lineup. Gotou hits a hard ground ball, but right to Fujimoto and Shindou has to hold.
However, the futility of the 3-4 batters continue. Takei grounds to Fujimoto as well and the side is retired making the duo 0-9 on the day.
The longer we go into enchousen, the more the offences press for the run and play into the pitchers, who have really found their grooves.
Kanekubo meanwhile hit 150 pitches to end the 11th, Tarahara hits 150 to start the 12th.
Gotou finally gets a hit between the 3-4 batters with one down in the 12th. Interestingly Takei, who had been struggling all day isn’t asked to bunt. He’s retired for the 2nd out remaining hitless. Chinen is given his 3rd free pass to bring up Yamamoto. He can only chop a fastball to 3B so the deadlock remains.
Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou meanwhile tries to jump on the little momentum that might have given. Oono dumps a curve to center. Tanahara leaves a ball over the middle and Tsukamoto singles through the right side. Sayonara run in scoring position.
Higuchi makes contact, but on the end of the bat and a flyout to left. The pressure really mounts as Tsukamoto, who also is hitless, freezes on an outside fastball. 2 innings to go.
Kanekubo gives up the dreaded leadoff walk to Tai, who has also been 0-for this game. Tarahara is looking to bunt but instead Kanekubo falls behind 3-1. The bunt is still on, but he misses and the count is full!
Grounder to 1st. Oono right at the bag, tags it, goes to 2nd, but oh no! He throws it wide! Tai comes home and without the benefit of a hit Shiga Gakuen takes the 3-2 lead!
Things rapidly go downhill after that. The next three batters quickly get base hits extending the lead to 5-2, with even Takei getting his first hit, a double to the RCF wall for an RBI and a 6-2 game. The inning finally ends when Yamamoto grounds into a double play, but the damage is more than done. 3 outs, 4 runs to get.
At this stage of the game, that’s just too much to ask for them. It’s 3 up, 3 down as Tarahara brings the game home. The teams were certainly evenly matched, and it was just attrition on the mound that made the difference. You really have to wonder if Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou should have gone to their bullpen, but unfortunately, this is kokoyakyu and this is what happens. Have to feel bad for Kanekubo because he pretty much gave everything he could.