Month: April 2017

89th Haru Koushien – Final Thoughts

89th Haru Koushien – Final Thoughts

(picture courtesy of MBS live feed)

With Osaka Touin winning the title and surprisingly the first in 5 years, there is time for final thoughts as the teams go through the final ceremony.

This year, more than any I can remember (maybe with the exception of 2006 Natsu Koushien), boiled down to pitching.

First is something that had already been known, but now is readily more apparent. Kantoku’s (at least the smart ones) are not relying on just the ace anymore. You are seeing teams that are not just carrying pitchers by name and only when things go bad, but switching to them before they do. You also saw cases where the kantoku actually benched an ace specifically to prevent overwork.

That’s great, pitchers won’t be taxed as much as they have in prior years. They’ll still go 140 pitchers or something like that when they start though.

What you’re also seeing are more teams carrying more than once ace. If you’re going to carry more pitchers that you plan on using, why not get the best?

This means that there could be a greater separation between the powerhouse teams that can pull in players, and the rest of the field. Yes, there were cases like Fukuokadai Oohori’s Miura where an ace could still carry a team, but as you saw it just takes something unexpected and things can be derailed. As time goes on, I would not be surprised to see the number of teams making Koushien decreasing as more and more teams fall behind.

It’s sad because it continues to move away from the narrative that any team can get to Koushien, and that any team can win, and that saddens me.

Yeah, the idea isn’t realistic, but the dream should still be there, should still be realistic. It’s already bad enough that I’ve seen too many games in the prefectural finals where an underdog loses a lead late to a known power because of course they’re supposed to do that.

I’ll probably have articles to write similar to the ones I wrote earlier detailing how much of the field actually goes and wins at Koushien to highlight those points, because they’re becoming more and more relevant now I think.

89th Haru Koushien – Day 12, Final – Osaka Touin (Osaka) v Riseisha (Osaka)

89th Haru Koushien – Day 12, Final – Osaka Touin (Osaka) v Riseisha (Osaka)

(picture courtesy of 高校野球フォトアルブム)

They may seem friendly but…

Well, after the showers gave the players a day of respite, we are finally at the final, and for the media, outside of the fighting Kiyomiya’s making it, one could argue that not only can this matchup be hyped, you could also say the two best teams made it here.

Riseisha already was coming in as the Meiji Jingu winner, and defeated Osaka Touin and Waseda Jitsugyou in the fall and Nichidai-san here. They were the favorites and they’re now here in the finals looking to be the 4th team to perform the aki-natsu renzoku yuushou:

  • 1983-83 – Iwakura (Tokyo)
  • 1997-98 – Yokohama (Kanagawa)
  • 2001-02 – Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)

For Osaka Touin, their road included defeating Shizuoka, Toukaidai Fukuoka and Shuugakukan. The offense looked good early, but has stalled in their more recent games when they started facing better pitching.

In theory Riseisha has the best pitcher out there, but at the same time this could be viewed as a rivalry game of sorts with Riseisha looking to challenge Osaka Touin for superiority over Osaka. Not that all the other schools in the prefecture needed it though.

Pitching has basically been the story of the tournament. Many good teams, some were beset by extra games, some were beset by poor managing, some were beset by the inability to ride out the schedule.

Takeda Yuu has risen to the occasion, however had they played yesterday there would have been major concerns about him closing the game as he had struggled in the latter innings of their semifinal. Now, Tokuyama Souma also had similar troubles, but if you can’t score you can’t win and perhaps playing on back-to-back days would have helped them. That’s out the door now and I think the advantage lies back with Riseisha on paper.

But as I said, this game you may as well take that and throw it out the window. All bets are off in front of a capacity crowd.

Osaka Touin

  • CF Fujiwara Kyouta
  • LF (#12) Miyazaki Jinto
  • 1B (#5) Nakagawa Takuya
  • RF Yamamoto Dante Musashi
  • 3B (#13) Yamada Kenta
  • C (#3) Fukui Shougo
  • 2B Sakanoshita Haruto
  • SS Izumiguchi Yuuta
  • P Tokuyama Souma

Riseisha

  • RF Ishida Ryuuji
  • 2B Mizobe Touki
  • 3B Yasuda Hisanori
  • LF Wakabayashi Shouhei
  • 1B (#17) Hamauchi Taiyou
  • P Takeda Yuu
  • CF Tsutsui Taisei
  • C Katayama Yuu
  • SS Nishiyama Koutarou

12:32 – First Pitch!

Um, what?

Fujiwara is able to turn around an inside slider and drives it over the fence in right! Osaka Touin is already up 1-0!

1 out and Takeda walks Nakayama to bring up Yamamoto. He grounds into the 6-3 double play, but it will be interesting to see how the teams react now. Takeda’s control not quite as sharp early, and both team’s strategy should be to make the pitchers work. To what extent will be determined how they can battle at the plate.

Tokuyama already going to that outside slider. Ishida is able to hold off on it, until the count goes 3-2, and then he reluctantly goes around.

Osaka Touin is working the bottom outside corner to righties and the umpire is giving those strikes. That will not help Riseisha at all as Mizobe is frozen on a fastball that paints the corner. Yasuda gets frozen too and Tokuyama strikes out the side. Very good start for him, and Riseisha perhaps just under a little bit more pressure.

Make that more pressure. Osaka Touin’s batters are making contact on the ball. While Yamada has a routine fly to center. Fukui lines a ball that requires a fully stretched diving catch by Nishiyama.

And then on a not that bad pitch, Sakanoshita takes a letter high fastball and deposits it in the ouen-dan seats in left! It’s 2-0 Osaka Touin!

Takeda really not looking himself and Osaka Touin is having absolutely no mercy early on!

Riseisha gets it’s first base runner, but not by contact. Wakabayashi draws a hard-earned walk. Okada-kantoku will play for 1, putting him in scoring position for Takeda.

Except he too goes down on that outside slider. 2 down.

The first contact for Riseisha though does not bring the runner home. Tsutsui grounds out to 2nd and the inning is over.

But, if nothing else the 3rd shows that despite Tokuyama’s start he’s still vulnerable. He issues another walk, this time to Nishiyama with one out. The control isn’t sharp, but what they have to do is unlock that outside corner of the strike zone – which they haven’t quite done.

The 4th yields another walk, again by Wakabayashi. Hamauchi though is jammed and grounds into the 4-6-3 double play. Still more contact, and better contact.

All this while Takeda continues to settle down. Osaka Touin perhaps thinks there is blood in the water after the 2 home runs, but instead Takeda settles down and just about pitches 3 clean frame with the exception of Izumiguchi who inside-outs one past a diving Nishiyama into left center in the 5th.

But Riseisha with no base hits yet and would like to get that monkey off their backs. Takeda would just like to get on base, and almost does when a 3-2 pitch just gets a piece of the bat when he pulls it back.  Instead Tokuyama paints that corner again and it’s 1 down.

The next 2 batters quickly fly out and Riseisha still has no hits through 5 and now time is working against them.

Oh, that bottom 5 proves very costly as Fujiwara leads off the 6th, and of all things hits another letter-high fastball out to right-center for his 2nd HR of the game. 3-0 Osaka Touin and all 3 runs scored via solo HRs!

Takeda gets himself into further trouble with hits to Nakagawa and Yamada, but gets out of it. At this point the difference seems to be that Takeda may be a more polished pitcher overall than Tokuyama, Tokuyama has that slider that gives right-handed batters fits.

Is it too late? Nishiyama jumps on a fastball meant for the outside part but instead lands middle-middle and he drives it off the padding in right for a triple.

Ishida tries to hit a sac fly, but the runner doesn’t tag as Yamamoto throws home on the fly. That’s an arm.

Mizobe perhaps not wanting to hit a ball to right because of Yamamoto, instead chops one back to Tokuyama. 2 down.

With a base open and another righty on deck, Tokuyama does the right thing and walks Yasuda.

Wakabayashi up, falls behind, and once again Tokuyama clips that outside corner, this time with the slider and Riseisha’s best chance is gone.

The futility is completed in the 7th when Hamauchi gets a base hit and then Takeda hits into a double play. PH Takemura walks, but Izumiguchi makes a great pick on a ball back up the middle and completes the play at 1st.

With just 2 innings to go to get 3 runs, I don’t see a way for Riseisha to get back into this game.

A peculiar move by Osaka Touin in the 8th. Despite there being 2 down and a runner on 1st, they pitch to Yasuda anyways. You may bring the tying run to the plate with a walk, but there was no need to pitch to him and he singles through the left side. Next thing you see is Wakabayashi scooting one past a diving Yamada. Ishida scores and Riseisha is on the board, 3-1.

Before I can write my twitter reply saying Riseisha had scored Tokuyama misses with his slider and Hamauchi sends it to deep left center and it falls in. Both runners come around to score and just like that it’s 3-3!

Well, there you go. Riseisha can’t get the gyakuten run home, but the game is tied and we’re basically in sudden death.

Top 9th, Osaka Touin still trying to end it in regulation. Sakanoshita singles to right and is bunted over.

Nishitani-kantoku sees Tokuyama’s day is over and sends in #18 Nishijima to bat.

He hits an inside pitch to left, and Wakabayashi goes to the fence and looks up!

It’s gone! It’s a pinch hit 2-run HR! Just as quickly as Riseisha had tied it up, Osaka Touin retakes the lead down the home stretch! 5-3!

After that it all goes to heck. Osaka Touin’s top 4 batters go triple, single, triple, single and a tie game goes to 8-3 as Matsui replaces Takeda on the mound.

Matsui stops the bleeding there, but if down 3 was a challenge, down 5 is just impossible. Neo in relief of Tokuyama is a bit shakier than his prior games, letting 2 runners get on base, but he gets the job done with a double play and Osaka Touin wins the title with an 8-3 victory!

The game was dictated early by Osaka Touin’s no fear of Takeda. Without an out pitch to really mess with the batters, they hit him early for 2 home runs, eventually becoming 4 before being pulled. If he is to take the next step, he needs to develop some type of pitch like Tokuyama’s slider. Because that pitch frustrated batters up and down the lineups and Riseisha was no exception. Unless teams can figure out a way to combat that, there may be no limit as to how far they can go.

Riseisha unfortunately is shown that they’re still 2nd best in their prefecture. They may have made strides, but there still is a ways to go. And in the meantime, everyone else has to look out for Osaka Touin yet again.