89th Haru Koushien – Day 7, Game 1 – Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) v Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)

89th Haru Koushien – Day 7, Game 1 – Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) v Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)

(photo courtesy of SportsNavi)

Into the 2nd round now and already a little bit of surprises so far. Riseisha challenged by Shiritsu Kure and Moriokadai Fuzoku making Chiben Gakuen look pedestrian.

Hopefully today continues to build the tension for tomorrow’s games too.

Houtoku Gakuen completely annihilated Tajimi, but extreme blowout games such as that doesn’t generally portend well for the team in the next round. But there’s just little to really take from that game that could be useful.

Maebashi Ikuei did handle Nakamura, but they looked about as they should. Good, not great, and certainly vulnerable.

So what do we make of it? At first there may have been the impression that the Kinki region was even stronger than originally though. However the last couple of games have brought that image back down to earth. Houtoku Gakuen, as one of the last teams invited from the region, will be put to the test here today in front of their home crowd.

Maebashi Ikuei

  • CF (#1) Maruyama Kazuya
  • 2B Kurosawa Shunta
  • RF (#8) Minagawa Kyousuke
  • 3B Iijima Hiromu
  • C Tobe Kaito
  • SS Horiguchi Yuuga
  • LF (#14) Tanaka Kouki
  • 1B Koike Yuuhei
  • P (#10) Negishi Takahiro

Houtoku Gakuen

  • SS Kozono Kaito
  • CF Nagayama Yuuma
  • 2B Kataoka Kokoro
  • C Shinohara Shouta
  • 1B Kantou Yuusuke
  • 3B Ikegami Hayate
  • LF (#17) Nagao Ryouya
  • RF (#11) Shiotsuki Rikuto
  • P Nishigaki Masaya

09:00 – First Pitch!

Maruyama not on the mound for Maebashi Ikuei, perhaps for rest. But more importantly he’s moved to the top of the lineup.

Maebashi Ikuei attacking Nishigaki early looking for pitches in the zone to drive. Maruyama and Kurosawa with deeper fly ball outs. Minakawa on the other hand, proves to be stubborn at the plate, fouling off several pitches before being paid off in the 11th pitch. He’s jammed completely, but the ball just flutters over Nishigaki’s glove and into no-mans land for a base hit.

Bit of an odd moment as the 3B camera is on and Minakawa is seen jumping to 2nd, but scrambling back when nothing happens on the mound.

Iijima proves almost as stubborn, but he’s in fact twisted in knots on a slider inside. Side retired, but early on there is a good sense of the strike zone.

Houtoku Gakuen on the other hand quickly trying to prove their first game wasn’t a fluke. Nagayama starts it with one down surprising the defense with a safety bunt. After that Negishi appears out of sorts, walking Kataoka on 4 straight and hitting Shinohara to load the bases.

He still can’t find the strike zone agaainst Kantou but appears to get a break when Kantou hits one to short. But a charging Horiguchi can’t field it cleanly and barely gets his backup play at 1st. 2 out, but Houtoku Gakuen up 1-0.

When Ikegami hits a ball to the left side, I’m shocked to see the defense somewhat in with 2 outs. As a result the ball sneaks through for a base hit and a 2-0 lead.

Nagao finishes the scoring in the 1st with a bloop hit that falls in just fair own the RF line. 2 more runs score and just like that it’s 4-0.

Maruyama goes back to the mound after the relief start plan fails. He stems the tide, but can’t help his offense get base hits. He himself pops out to end the 2nd.

What we’re seeing out of Nishigaki is quite a bit of movement on his breaking pitches, and while Maebashi Ikuei is holding off on some of it, they’re not able to lay off of it enough to make a difference. In fact, they get their 2nd base hit in the 4th, but is stranded at 2nd when Iijima and Tobe both whiff on large breaking pitches.

It’s also got to be frustrating for Maebashi Ikuei in that since Maruyama takes the mound, Houtoku’s offense still gets a baserunner each inning but for the most part he’s shutting them down. Control is ok, but not quite hitting the framed glove. At worst, they could have been tied at 0-0 had he started, although you would have to say Houtoku Gakuen was having the better of it even then.

The last couple of innings are an exercise in futility for Maebashi Ikuei. They get runners on in each inning after the break, twice they’re caught stealing. And they only get 2 runners on base during their last ABs.

It was a speedy and dominating performance by Houtoku Gakuen, but this time on the defensive side of the ball. They avoided a letdown though one could argue had Maruyama started the game they could have been in for a dogfight. Such a game was avoided, though they certainly can’t depend on that going forward.

That will be what Maebashi Ikuei and their fans will be wondering as they head home. Was it necessary to start their reliever instead of riding Maruyama first? Oh, what might have been.

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