(picture courtesy of Sanspo)
You. I’ve got you.
Riseisha’s Takeda Yuu is really the real deal. Yeah, there was the game against Nichidai-san, but they were one of the more offensive powers in the tournament, so that was to be expected. But his last 2 games have been absolutely stellar, making a 1-0 lead look insurmountable to Shiritsu Kure and then being pitcher perfect through the first 6 innings against Moriokadai Fuzoku.
The offense is actually a bit concerning. In their last matchup against Moriokadai Fuzoku the team implemented a small ball strategy that lower tier teams use which is completely inexplicable because when they had to swing away they actually hit the darned ball. So it’s really shooting themselves in the foot.
Houtoku Gakuen is here mainly because Fukuokadai Oohori made a conscientious decision to sit their ace Miura, and that had to be the main reason for their loss. I do believe they have been the beneficiary of an easier schedule but you can only play who’s put in front of you. Ace Nishigaki did not give up a run until their last game and has averaged a K per inning. But the walk numbers have slowly gone up as well, and that just won’t do here.
In addition, they have not faced an ace like Takeda, and yet in the Maebashi Ikuei game when ace Maruyama came in, the Houtoku offense shut down.
Houtoku Gakuen is probably on the back foot, but if they can survive the first couple of innings they may stand a better chance. They just might too, because Takeda isn’t starting.
- RF Ishida Ryuuji
- 2B Mizobe Touki
- 3B Yasuda Hisanori
- LF Wakabayashi Shouhei
- 1B (#17) Hamauchi Taiyou
- CF Tsutsui Taisei
- C Katayama Yuu
- SS Nishiyama Koutarou
- P (#10) Matsui Hyakudai
- SS Kozono Kaito
- CF Nagayama Yuuma
- 2B Kataoka Kokoro
- C Shinohara Shouta
- 1B Kantou Yuusuke
- 3B Ikegami Hayate
- LF (#17) Nagao Ryouya
- RF (#7) Okamoto Sou
- P Nishigaki Masaya
11:00 – First Pitch!
Nishigaki leaves one right over the plate and Yasuda deposits it in the first couple rows in right. 1-0 Riseisha just like that.
Matsui’s job will be to nurse the game as best he can. And if Takeda doesn’t need to take the mound all the better.
But the very first batter goes to a full count and singles past Nishiyama into center. Nagayama bunt fails to move the runner over, and then to add insult to injury Mizobe makes a great diving stop on Kataoka’s ground ball, gets the out at 1st, and then throws to 3rd where they get Nagayama who tried to take the extra base. 3rd out at 3rd. Oy.
Riseisha notches another run on it’s belt in the 2nd. Leadoff walk to Hamauchi, but no bunting by Riseisha. 2 down and Nishiyama at bat. Drives a ball to right, Okamoto under it, until he’s not! He makes a last minute leap and it’s over his head! Runner scores and it’s 2-0 Riseisha.
I mention the little things to Houtoku Gakuen, but that also applies to Riseisha.
Shinohara’s ground ball to the right side is run down by Mizobe, but his footing goes from under him and he can’t make a play. Later, Ikegami singles to center and Shinohara takes 3rd, but then the ball rolls up Tsutsui’s arm and toward right. Shinohara restarts and goes home, giving back the gift run 2-1.
Despite that Riseisha continues to pressure Nishigaki. Ishida drives a ball to center left and it’s by Nagayama for a double. Now Mizobe strikes out, but after that Nishigaki walks both Yasuda and Wakabayashi to load the bases.
Nagata-kantoku has seen enough. Ikegami comes in from 3B to pitch and #13 Hosoki takes over at 3B.
The outside corner though seems to be an engima, because on the 2-2 pitch it looks like the corner but is called ball 3. Ikegami looks like he puts it in the same place and this time he gets the punchout. 2 down.
Tsutsui pops out to Shinohara at home and for now they’re holding on.
Houtoku though is trying to do more than that. One down, top of the lineup due in the 3rd. Kozono and Nagayama square up a pair of fastballs for singles. Things get worse for Matsui when he spikes a 55-foot curveball. Both runners advance and now a base hit can give Houtoku Gakuen the lead.
Kataoka square up a ball and drives it to right, but not only is it right at Okamoto, but Kozono was not tagging up. 2 down.
No matter though because Shinohara is there again! He takes the outside fastball the other way for a base hit and Kozono scores to tie the game 2-2. Takeda starts warming up…
And he’s coming in. Matsui is PH for in the 4th which means his day is done. He gave them 3 innings, but probably could not go further.
Ikegami rudely welcomes him with a single back up the middle. He’s bunted over, though not for Okamoto, but PH (#13) Shiodzuki. Puts in a good AB, but lines out to Nishiyama.
Hosoki grounds back to Takeda to end the inning, but as you could prolly understand Takeda’s control is not quite all there to start his stint. Next inning will be a good indicator of his effectiveness.
Ikegami though threatens to throw it away. Gives up 2 two-out singles on his fastball before finally getting a routine ground ball from Hamauchi to end the inning.
Houtoku Gakuen goes in order, much to Takeda’s pleasure certainly, so we’re at the break knotted at 2. Houtoku Gakuen has held on so far, so they do certainly stand a chance in the final 4 innings, especially with Takeda not as sharp.
More small things for Riseisha, and again with Mizobe. Kantou with a ball back up the middle, Mizobe runs that one down too, but again he can’t control his slide and the ball slips away. He gets to advance to 2nd when Ikegami hits a ball slowly back up the middle. And wouldn’t you know it Nagao singles to center on the next pitch and Houtoku Gakuen has the 3-2 lead.
Riseisha suddenly finds themselves needing a run and only 9 outs to go. But the batters are struggling with Ikegami’s delivery, especially his high pitches to which they can’t square them up. Soon there’s 2 down for Yasuda and they basically put him on. Which is fine because Wakabayashi pops out.
More trouble for Takeda. Kantou takes an outside forkball the other way down the line for a one-out double. Bears down to get the final 2 outs, but Riseisha running out of time.
In fact before you know it, it’s the top of the 9th and Riseisha still trailing by 1.
#3 Shirataki to hit for Nishiyama, maybe as a last gasp with the bottom of the order up.
Instead though Ikegami leaves a ball middle-middle and Shirataki takes it to the wall in right center for a double! Douten run on base with no out! #16 Matsubara replaces him at 2nd. He’s bunted to 3rd, though that can be dangerous.
But now Ishida draws a 4-pitch walk and Nagata-kantoku calls time.
This time Mizobe shows bunt and it’s a safety squeeze. Fouls off the first one.
Does it again and somehow the defense isn’t ready! Shirataki comes home and beats the throw tying the game at 3-3!
That’s it for Ikegami as he goes back to 3rd and #10 Tsudaka takes the mound. Facing Yasuda isn’t the ideal way to enter, but with a base open (even if it’s 3rd) they’re apparently comfortable enough walking him. This to bring up Wakabayashi, who’s 1-3 on the day.
But he delivers! Liner to right falls in front of Shiodzuki and Ishida scores to make it 4-3! And still 1 down!
Hamauchi up to try and add to the lead. Instead he hits a grounder to short. Kozono home for 1, throw to 1st, oh dear…
The throw is high right from the get go and sails down the RF line. Both runners score and Riseisha has a 6-3 lead as Houtoku Gakuen melts down.
Now it’s Houtoku who has to chase, and it’s not 1, not 2, but 3 runs.
One down they do start something. Shiodzuki draws a walk and then PH #18 Yamamoto singles past Hamauchi. That turns the lineup over to Kozono, and he works the count full.
Takeda throws what looks like ball 4, but Kozono instead swings on the shoulder high pitch and pounds it through the right side! One run scores making it 6-4 and runners at the corners!
Making things worse is that Takeda isn’t really finding the strike zone. He falls behind Nagayama 3-1 with pitches that aren’t really chaseable. And then on 3-2 he grooves one that Nagayama pulls foul.
OH MY. Nagayama rips one up the middle, but it’s Mizobe! Mizobe makes the diving stop, goes to 2nd for 1, throw to 1st and that’s the game! After his misplays earlier, he comes through in the end to save the game!
While Riseisha celebrates in the victory, the Houtoku Gakuen players are taking it hard because Nagata-kantoku is retiring after this tournament and it’s hard to go out in this manner. And perhaps that played a little role in how the 9th turned out. Just 3 outs, 3 outs to reach the final and give their kantoku a parting gift. Unfortunately, that was not to be.
Riseisha moves on, but the immediate concern is Takeda. The relief pitching was anything but and Takeda was not sharp at all. They may very well be in a bind tomorrow no matter what happens.