(photo courtesy of Chunichi Shinbun)
Sakai (1st appearance)
- Location – Sakai-shi, Fukui
- Public school
- Student Body – 808 students (331 female)
- Club Size – 67
- Kantoku – Kawamura Tadayoshi (川村 忠義)
Road to Koushien
- def Hokuriku 2x-1
- def Mikata 4-3
- def Takefu 10-1 (7 inn)
- def Fukui Shougyou 2-0
- def Tsuruga 3-0
Sakai reaches Koushien only needing to really beat Fukui Shougyou and they did. But the final 2 days they were 16-58, which I don’t have to tell you isn’t very good while the pitching had 7 Ks to 1 BB. Ratio is good, but 7 Ks in 18 innings isn’t. The lack of offense, and lack of strikeouts from the mound do not equate to a second round appearance.
Meihou (6th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
- Location – Beppu-shi, Oita
- Private school
- Student Body – 493 students (254 female)
- Club Size – 83
- Kantoku – Kawasaki Jyunpei (川崎 絢平)
Road to Koushien
- def Oita Tsurusaki 11-2
- def Saiki Kakujyou 12-1
- def Nakatsu Minami 10-1
- def Oita Maidzuru 13-3
- def Oita Shougyou 7-0
Meihou blitzed through the field with the only close game the final, and that wasn’t even close and Oita Shougyou was the closest thing they had to tough competition.
But Oita hasn’t won a game at Koushien since 2011, when… Meihou won their first game. In fact Meihou has been the only team to win a game for the prefecture since 2008.
The pitching is the question though as in the final 2 games they struck out 4, and walked 4. This from a team blowing out their opponents. That’s not going to be good. But the sheer fact their offense dominated from start to finish give more indication than what Sakai has to offer.
- SS Yoshida
- 2B Matsuura
- LF Kaeriyama
- CF Makino
- 1B Karube
- RF Demise
- P Yoshikawa
- C Ishikawa
- 3B Yamauchi
- SS Mimura
- 2B Ryuu
- LF Hamada (#17)
- 1B Sugizono (#7)
- RF Satou Yuuki
- 3B Honda
- C Yoshimura
- P Satou Fuuma (#10)
- CF Kan
15:40 – First Pitch!
Early on it did look like Meihou had the advantage offensively. 2nd inning, got 2 runners on with 2 outs, but when Kan delivered a single, they unwisely sent the lead runner home, and was thrown out. They’d come through in the 3rd when a leadoff single by Mimura was plated thanks to Hamada’s double.
So Meihou finally broke through to lead 1-0. Sakai started to get better opportunities getting leadoff hitters on until in the 5th, Yamauchi’s leadoff single would score when Kaeriyama’s grounder was whiffed on by Ryuu.
And so it seemed like we were going to go to the break tied.
But Yoshikawa was not able to hold off the dogs any longer. Ryuu leads off with a walk, then is driven in by Ryuu’s double. After a groundout, Meihou delivers 4 singles to increase the lead from 2-1 to 4-1.
Meihou though PH for their starter which means Hashidzume enters the game.
And his first pitch is, slow?
It’s a knucleball?
Everything he throws is slow. He’s maxing out at 130 and he’d better have good movement or else.
He walks Demise, and after an out, Hashidzume just gets hit hard. Part of it is because of the slow speed, but the rest is because he just can’t locate it seems.
So Yoshikawa singles followed by a Ishikawa double to the left field wall making it 4-2. Yamauchi then gets Sakai’s 3rd consecutive hit past Hamada and just like that we’re tied!
Boy, Hashidzume better lean on that knucleball or else they’re done for.
The bigger problem is that it seems like momentum has completely switched. Meihou can’t make any headway offensively, and you feel like it’s a matter of time before Sakai scores.
As I write that, Karube singles back up the middle. Instead of a regular sac bunt Demise pushes it to the right side, and suddenly the defense is all out of position. Everyone’s safe and now a sac bunt by Yoshikawa puts the gyakuten run 90 feet away.
Hashidzume dodges the first bulled by jamming Ishikawa and fouling him out. Yamauchi hits a hard grounder to 3rd, but Honda is able to gather it, throw to 1st..
But it gets by Sugizono!! Both runners score and Sakai gains the 6-4 lead! And with Meihou not hitting, they seem almost dead to rights.
Except they weren’t. At least not yet.
PH Matsutani walks. After an unlucky bounce on Kan’s ball up the middle that almost turned into a double play, Miyoshi drives a double to left over Kaeriyama’s head so one run scores. 6-5.
Hamada drives a ball to left, Kaeriyama chases after it to the wall, looks up!
As if it wasn’t nuts enough Hamada gives Meihou back the lead right when it matters! They’re up 7-6!!
And their #18 Mizogami closes the door with 3 quick outs!
Oh my gosh, this is one of those game you could expect between two scrappy squads. Does the pitching hold out, can the offense find their bats? Momentum can swing quickly from one side to the other, and in this case swung right up until the end.
It’s a crushing loss for Sakai, who had a break finally go their way to not only tie, but take the lead. And yet, in the end it was one swing of the bat that did them in.
Sakai goes home, but they’ll get things ready again for the fall. They’ll lose a couple of their starters, but maybe they can put together another run.
For Meihou, it’s great they were able to advance, but dear lord Hashidzume I’m not sure can function on the mound. If he can throw the knucleball more often maybe, but otherwise everything else he threw was too slow and he’ll need pinpoint control to make it work.