89th Haru Koushien – Day 8, Game 1 – Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) v Shuugakukan (Kumamoto)

89th Haru Koushien – Day 8, Game 1 – Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) v Shuugakukan (Kumamoto)

(photo courtesy of Asahi)

Well, I’m looking forward to this matchup because it is a battle of managers. Sakushin Gakuin’s Kobari-kantoku has built a program. At the age of 23(!) he took over as manager of Sakushin Gakuin, which was mired in obscurity. 5 years later, his team went to Natsu Koushien, and reached the semifinals where they lost to Kousei Gakuin. From that moment on they would appear and reappear at the tournament Now there was some rebuilding after that year, but eventually it culminated this past summer in a Natsu Koushien title. That certainly will aid him in being able to turn around the program faster  Now, I may not like powerhouse programs, but for someone that young to do what he did, it’s certainly not set in archaic ways and I completely respect what he’s done.

Now, they annihilated Teikyou Dai-go and that was expected. I’m still not convinced the pitching is there and the offense you can’t take much from from their blowout win.

Shuugakukan last summer seemed like they were following a blueprint I thought powerhouse teams should have followed – recruit several top of the line pitchers and rotate as needed to get the title.

Of course, you still have to manage the pitchers. And no, I’m not letting that go.

Now, Kajisha-kantoku returns with a reduced staff looking to do the same thing, and from his first game I’m not sure if he’s learned anything. Also, Shuugakukan also had a blowout win, but that was due to one big inning. About the only team I remember that could depend on such an inning was Tokoha Kikugawa many moons ago, but I don’t think that applies here.

As I said before though, Sakushin Gakuin’s pitching staff isn’t top notch, so there may be an opportunity, but I’m not sure.

Sakushin Gakuin

  • CF Suzuki Maeto
  • 2B Soeda Masato
  • SS Ikezawa Kaito
  • 3B Nakajima Jyun
  • RF Aihara Kousei
  • C Katou Tsubasa
  • 1B Nanai Yuuri
  • LF Ookubo Yuushi
  • P Oozeki Shuutarou

Shuugakukan

  • SS Hanjyou Touma
  • 2B (#14) Watanabe Rui
  • 1B Kimoto Ryuuga
  • 3B Hirobe Shuuhei
  • LF Yamashita Tatsuya
  • P Taura Fuminari
  • C Kouchi Tatsuya
  • CF Fujimoto Shun
  • RF Akasaka Ginjirou

09:00 – First Pitch!

Taura trying to get off to a quick start, freezing Suzuki on a fastball on the outside black. However he leaves on too much over the plate and Souda takes it the other way and it slices fair down the LF line for a double.

He’s moved to third on a ground ball, but it’s an unforced error that brings the run home. Taura spikes a changeup and it gets away from Kouchi and like that Sakushin Gakuin is up 1-0. He goes back to the changeup to strike out Aihara, but his team will be fighting from behind.

Shuugakukan’s batters not wasting any time, swinging away when they feel like and Oozeki has a 7 pitch first inning.

Taura’s control still isn’t great, but it’s good enough to get Katou looking on a looping curve and two groundouts (though the defense is working a bit as they are not really routine).

Oozeki has his first little hiccup in the 2nd. Hirobe hits a ball that goes through Soeda and into right center. 2 down, and with Hirobe now at 3rd, Oozeki falls behind Kouchi 3-1, but gets a loud flyout to end the inning.

I’m not really that confident in Sakushin Gakuin’s offense right now. Yes, Suzuki collects a base hit in the 3rd, but he’s swinging at pitches at eye level. He missed such a pitch before hitting his single. In addition he’s wiped out with a 6-4-3 double play.

Not that Shuugakukan is faring much better. Outside of Hirobe’s hard hit single, it’s been all routine plays for the Sakushin Gakuin defense. Oozeki’s control though still meh.

That pops back up in the 4th when after he makes a great play in the field, Watanabe rips a ball down the left field line for a leadoff double. No bunt, but Kimoto hits the ball the other way to advance him to 3rd.

Again no bunt from Hirobe, instead it ends up being a chopper right to Ikezawa. He drops it, but still holds the runner while getting out.

This time though Oozeki can’t get out of his own jam. A pitch meant to be inside he leaves middle-middle and Yamashita hits it off the actual fence for a double. Watanabe scores to tie the game at 1-1.

And again Oozeki makes a mistake. This time Taura, who actually isn’t bad with the bad, drives it to the fence in right center, this time for a triple and gives his team the 2-1 lead.

Kouchi goes down swinging, but if Oozeki can’t get his control straightened out, I’m not sure there’s much they can do.

Shuugakuan extends the lead in the 5th. Fujimoto and Hanjyou with similar hits just out of the diving reach of Soeda put the runners at the corners. And despite Oozeki getting a groundball for a possible double play, Watanabe beats out the throw at 1st and before the break Shuugakukan leads 3-1.

Sakushin Gakuin gets a chance in the 7th. A walk by Nakajima starts off the inning, but lack of situational awareness hurts them. Aihara singles to center, but Nakajima tries to press to 3rd and is thrown out when his run isn’t the tying run.

But that does allow a warning sign to be raised. And after Katou lines out to right, Kajisha-kantoku replaces Taura with Kawabata with PH #14 Ishido coming to bat. Now he gives up a base hit to him, but then gets Ookubo on a slider, much to his own disappointment.

In the 8th, a surprise. One down, top of the Sakushin Gakuin order, and now they decide to play the waiting game with Kawabata. Suzuki walks. Soeda walks. Ikezawa slices a ball over Hirobe, and Suzuki scores from 2nd easily. 3-2 Shuugakukan.

Kawabata is hitting the gun hard. 145, 148. But he’s not finding the zone. Nakajima walks. Manrui as Kajisha-kantoku calls for time.

Aihara didn’t sick to the game plan and fell behind. Tried to fight off a couple before he swung on a slider inside and eye-high. That leaves it up to Katou.

But he too falls behind in the count and has to try and hang in there. The count runs full and now everything will be put in motion.

Fastball letter high, fouled off.

Fastball down, swung on and missed. Kawabata escapes with the lead.

Not much to be done with that pitch, but falling behind by swinging at 1-1 didn’t help him.

Shuugakukan goes quietly, meaning that Sakushin Gakuin left to their last ups. Ishido in a PH role earlier gets ahead 2-1 and then gets a pitch to hit. He lines it down the RF line for a double!

#15 Kanno comes in to hit for Ookubo, but doesn’t show the same discipline. Falls behind 0-2 and is frozen on a curve right over the plate.

Oh? A wild pitch from Kawabata goes high in the air and now Ishido stands 90 feet away from a tie game!

All this while Oozeki has to stand in. He falls behind (though he would have had he not swung at the 1-1 pitch. And now he too just stands there as the curve falls in again for strike 3.

Last out, and top of the order in Suzuki. Holds up on a couple of pitches, gets ahead 3-0, and lets the next pitch through. 3-1 pitch somehow is called on the outside black (yes I know there’s like an additional ball width outside the black available).3-2 and now it’s sudden death.

Two fastballs, two foul balls.

Cut ball outside, ball 4 and the game continues on. Soeda now to try and get the run home, or at least extend the game.

Suzuki steals 2nd, dangerous because his run technically doesn’t matter right now.

Soeda also gets ahead 3-0 and also lets the next pitch go. Gets a fastball down the middle and fouls it off. 3-2 again…

Fastball outside, fouled off. He’s leaning over, I think they should pitch inside.

Curveball and he holds off! It’s low and it’s manrui! Ikezawa, who had the base hit to bring it within 1 two innings ago steps in.

Swings on the first pitch! Fortunate to foul it off of himself. But attacking the first pitch now?

Cut ball just low and it’s 1-1. Fastball, again low, 2-1 and now he’s ahead.

Connects, but it’s a fly ball to center. Fujimoto barely has to move and he makes the catch! Sakushin Gakuin rallies, but it’s not enough as Shuugakukan holds on for a 3-2 win.

There were bits and pieces of the lineup, specifically the top 4 batters, who really showed the discipline I think was needed to win the game. The rest of the lineup struggled to hold off on the breaking pitches that weren’t even close. That short circuited several innings which made it harder for them to make a comeback. I bet you Kobari-kantoku will have that straightened out come the summer.

You can also see that the pitchers for Shuugakukan have velocity, but control continues to escape them. Had Sakushin Gakuin been able to show just a little more discipline more of those ABs would have turned into walks and who knows what would have happened. Still, they were good enough today and they move onto the quarterfinals.

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