Tag: Maebashi Ikuei

99th Natsu Koushien – Day 11, Game 2 – Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) v Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama)

99th Natsu Koushien – Day 11, Game 2 – Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) v Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama)

(photo courtesy of Mainichi)

Hanasaki Tokuharu

Road to the title

  • def Kaisei (Shimane) 9-0
  • def Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa (Ishikawa) 9-3

One more game has passed, and the story stays the same. Dominated opponents, bottom of lineup struggling, pitching doing enough to win. So the question will be now that they’re arguably facing the best competition in this bracket, how will they fare? I don’t think the bottom of the lineup can be totally ineffective and the team be successful.

But outside of that and asking the pitching to completely dominate, they’ve done all they’ve been asked to do. The question is, is it good enough for the Best 8?

Maebashi Ikuei

Road to the title

  • def Yamanashi Gakuin (Yamanashi) 12-5
  • def Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi) 3-1

In hindsight, looking at the matchup with Meitoku Gijyuku the result could have been predictable. Meitoku Gijyuku already wasn’t that known for their offense, so having a pitching staff like theirs, even if not dominating, could still cause them fits (because most teams don’t have even 1 guy who can throw 140).

Hanasaki Tokuharu will be yet another test, and as I put in my review the main team to advance out of this bracket. Will their pitching once again rise to the occasion?

Lineups

Hanasaki Tokuharu

  • CF Tachioka
  • 2B Chimaru
  • LF Nishikawa
  • 1B Nomura
  • C Sunaga
  • 3B Takai
  • RF Ogawa
  • P Sunawaki (#10)
  • SS Iwase

Maebashi Ikuei

  • P Maruyama (#8)
  • 2B Horiguchi
  • C Tobe
  • 3B Iijima
  • CF Minagawa (#1)
  • LF Yoshizawa
  • 1B Koike
  • RF Iidzuka
  • SS Kurosawa

10:58 – First Pitch!

Maebashi Ikuei doesn’t even really get a chance to settle in before Hanasaki Tokuharu rocks the apple cart.

Chimaru doubles over Iidzuka. Nishikawa triples over Yoshizawa for a 1-0 lead.

Nomura with another double to right makes it 2-0.

After a four-pitch walk to Sunaga, the hit parade continues as Takai singles home Nomura for a 3-0 lead. Throw in a fielder’s choice and the damage all in all is 4 runs.

Hanasaki Tokuharu gifts one of those runs back in the bottom half of the 1st. Leadoff walk to Maruyama, bunted to 2nd, and Sunawaki throws it away allowing Maruyama to score. 4-1.

Tag on another run for Maebashi Ikuei in the 2nd. Yoshizawa laces a ball down the right field side and hustles it out for a triple. Koike grounds out to 2nd, bringing him in for a 4-2 game.

And while they get out of the inning, a bunt single by Iidzuka that causes Sunawaki and Nomura to collide show that the defense right now is eating a struggle sandwich.

Apparently the answer to a struggling defense is more offense. So that’s what they get. First 3 batters in 3rd reach safely, and two batters later Sunawaki brings one home on a single. 5-2.

Then in the 5th Tachiok awalks, Chimaru singles, and Nishikawa doubles bringing in the two ahead of him. 7-2 and Maebashi Ikuei in all kinds of hurt.

The rest of the game was inconsequential. Maebashi Ikuei really had no way back in the game. They added a couple of runs, but still in the end fell 10-4.

So maybe one of the challengers to the title makes it to the best 8, however we’ll need to check up on ace Shimizu. Might have been radar gun watching hitting 150 in the final inning. Should remember that in that final inning he gave up a double and a walk. Speed does not equal dominance. It helps, but you need control.

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99th Natsu Koushien – Day 8, Game 2 – Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) v Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)

99th Natsu Koushien – Day 8, Game 2 – Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) v Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)

(photo courtesy of Mainichi)

Maebashi Ikuei

Road to the title

  • def Yamanashi Gakuin 12-5

Maebashi Ikuei dominated Yamanashi Gakuin from the get-go. It took a couple of innings, but it was clear Yoshimatsu was in trouble. Despite scoring 12 runs, it was off of 9 hits and a whopping 13 walks. You can’t expect that type of assist again, and 9 hits seems a bit pedestrian otherwise.

The pitching staff seemed to be about what I expected, a poor man’s last year’s Shuugakukan. Minagawa struck out 7 but walked 6 while Yoshizawa and Negishi in 5 innings of relief neither struck out anyone nor walked anyone.

Meitoku Gijyuku

Road to the title

  • def Nichidai Yamagata 6-3 (12 inn)

That game went about as advertised. Nichidai Yamagata I expected could be a challenger for Meitoku Gijyuku in this bracket, and they almost beat the team I pegged to advance out of the bracket.

Now Meitoku Gijyuku will have had time to rest up after that extra inning affair, and will still not get any easy outs with Maebashi Ikuei. But the Nichidai Yamagata game might have them sharpened up for it.

Personally I think Maebashi Ikuei will have a harder time of it against a better pitcher and without the multitude of free bases.

Lineups

Meitoku Gijyuku

  • 3B Komobuchi (#16)
  • CF Nakatsubo
  • RF Nishiura
  • LF Taniai
  • SS Imai
  • 1B Kugo
  • C Tsutsui
  • P Ichikawa (#11)
  • 2B Chikamoto

Maebashi Ikuei

  • CF Maruyama
  • 2B Horiguchi
  • C Tobe
  • 3B Iijima
  • P Minagawa
  • LF Yoshizawa
  • 1B Koike
  • RF Iidzuka
  • SS Kurosawa

10:42 – First Pitch!

1st Inning

Both starters not off to rousing starts. Minagawa gives up a leadoff base hit, and sees his pitch count rise over the next couple of batters.

Ichikawa in a relief start hits two batters, but because Maebashi Ikuei is swinging early in counts gets out of the inning.

2nd Inning

The trend for Ichikawa in the 2nd. While Minagawa has a clean inning, Ichikawa gives up a leadoff single and hits a batter. But he’s bailed out when a double steal gets the trailing runner and then Ichikawa retires the next 2 batters.

3rd Inning

Ichikawa’s struggles finally manifest itself here in the 3rd.

Single to leadoff Maruyama. After a groundout, he gives up a hard single to Tobe to center making it 1-0. Two more hard singles load the bases and it looks like he’s in major trouble.

But he gets Yoshizawa to pop out and Koike to line out to 1st, so the damage is just 1 run. Problem is, I don’t imagine it to get any better from here.

4th Inning

Some life in Meitoku Gijyuku. Nakatsubo is hit and with 2 down Taniai doubles down the left field line, but it’s too hard to get Nakatsubo home.

And that’s a shame because Imai lines out to center and they’re turned away.

Surprisingly at the same time they get their first decent scoring opportunity, Ichikawa outside of leadoff single has an easy inning.

5th Inning

The game is flying by and with very little progress on Meitoku Gijyuku’s front. The first half of the game goes in about an hour and they’ll need to use the time here to regroup.

7th Inning

But with each passing inning with Meitoku Gijyuku unable to score, Maebashi Ikuei slowly tightens its grip. And in the 7th they extend their lead.

Kurosawa gets a leadoff single and moved to 2nd on a balk. 2 batters later Horiguchi doubles to left center, making it 2-0.

3-0 now as Tobe singles through the left side.

That’s the extent of the damage, but 1 run already seemed difficult to overcome, 3 seems impossible.

8th Inning

When your leadoff batter is trying to bunt to get your offense started, you’re toast. Kugo bunts into an out, the start of a 1-2-3 inning which sounds the death knell for the Kochi champions.

9th Inning

Meitoku Gijyuku finally gets to Minagawa with a run in the 9th, but they simply switch to their CF Maruyama to get the final out. Much too late for Meitoku to finally do something and they fall 3-1.

The biggest problem I think was that they pretty much let Minakawa have an easy time of things. His final pitch count stood at 116 pitches. In 3 innings he had pitch counts of 11, 9, and 6. That’s really letting him have his way with things.

You only get one shot though and Meitoku Gijyuku goes home. Maebashi Ikuei has taken down one of the possible competitors for the Best 8, but will still have 1 more to go.

99th Natsu Koushien – Day 2, Game 3 –  Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) v Yamanashi Gakuin (Yamanashi)

99th Natsu Koushien – Day 2, Game 3 – Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) v Yamanashi Gakuin (Yamanashi)

(photo courtesy of Mainichi)

Maebashi Ikuei (3rd appearance, 2nd consecutive)

  • Location – Maebashi-shi, Gunma
  • Private school
  • Student Body – 1,700 students (975 female)
  • Club Size – 69
  • Kantoku – Arai Naoki (荒井 直樹)

Road to Koushien

  • def Takasaki Keizaidai Fuzoku 3-1
  • def Nitta Akatsuki 8-1 (7 inn)
  • def Takasaki Shoudai Fuzoku 8-0 (7 inn)
  • def Tokiwa 4-0
  • def Meiwa Kenou 10x-3 (8 inn)
  • def Kendai Takasaki 6-4
No Pos 選手 Name Yr B/T Ht Wt
1 P/CF 皆川 喬涼 Minagawa Kyousuke 3 R/R 178 79
2 C 戸部 魁人 Tobe Kaito 3 R/R 181 77
3 1B 小池 悠平 Koike Yuuhei 2 R/R 176 76
4 2B 堀口 優河 Hochiguchi Yuuga 3 R/R 174 68
5 3B 飯島 大夢 Iijima Hiromu 3 R/R 185 82
6 SS 黒沢 駿太 Kurosawa Shunta 3 R/L 173 60
7 LF 吉沢 悠 Yoshizawa Yuu 3 R/R 174 65
8 CF/P 丸山 和郁 Maruyama Kazuya 3 L/L 171 72
9 RF 飯塚 剛己 Iidzuka Gouki 3 R/L 180 69
10 P 根岸 崇裕 Negishi Takahiro 3 R/R 193 96
11 P 木島 佑起 Kijima Yuuki 3 R/R 173 75
12 C 市川 龍之信 Ichikawa Ryuunoshin 3 R/R 171 66
13 IF 原田 捷敏 Harada Katsutoshi 3 R/R 167 60
14 IF 深川 理来 Fukagawa Riku 3 R/R 180 69
15 IF 市川 直之 Ichikawa Naoyuki 3 R/L 176 79
16 IF 北原  翔 Kitahara Shou 2 R/R 178 65
17 OF 川端 優希 Kawabata Yuuki 3 R/L 165 63
18 IF 田中 宏樹 Tanaka Hiroki 3 R/R 178 70

Maebashi Ikuei might be trying to copy Shuugakukan in that they’re carrying multiple fireballers (4 to be exact). I’ve said that the powerhouses should try to create a structure of a major-league pitching staff with multiple aces who would be interchangeable. I’m not sure this team has it quite right as their current levels don’t seem to be on the same level as Shuugakukan last year. However, as we’ve seen it doesn’t matter how much talent you have if you don’t use it correctly. It will be interesting to see if Arai-kantoku can do more with seemingly less.

Yamanashi Gakuin (7th appearance, 2nd consecutive)

  • Location – Koufu-shi, Yamanashi
  • Private school
  • Student Body – 1,104 students (504 female)
  • Club Size – 66
  • Kantoku – Yoshida Kouji (吉田 洸二)

Road to Koushien

  • def Koufu Minami 13-4 (7 inn)
  • def Nichidai Meisei 3-1
  • def Koufu Kougyou 5-4
  • def Nihon Koukuu 4-2
  • def Toukaidai Koufu 14-3
No Pos 選手 Name Yr B/T Ht Wt
1 P 吉松  塁 Yoshimatsu Rui 3 L/L 178 78
2 C 五十嵐 寛人 Igarashi Hiroto 3 R/R 178 83
3 1B 栗尾  勇摩 Kurio Yuma 3 R/R 185 82
4 2B 小林  侃汰 Kobayashi Kanta 3 R/R 175 82
5 3B 清水  玄司 Shimizu Kenji 3 R/L 177 73
6 SS 広瀬  巧真 Hirose Takuma 3 R/L 174 69
7 LF 中尾  勇介 Nakao Yuusuke 3 R/R 175 78
8 CF 松尾  孝太 Matsuo Kouta 2 L/L 174 72
9 RF 丹沢  海輝 Tanzawa Kaiki 3 R/R 179 76
10 P 石井  友樹 Ishii Yuuki 3 R/R 173 68
11 BN 宮内  大河 Miyauchi Taiga 3 L/L 180 75
12 PH 山本  瑞基 Yamamoto Mizuki 3 R/L 181 86
13 BN 相沢  利俊 Aizawa Kazutoshi 1 L/R 175 72
14 BN 佐藤  颯 Satou Riku 3 R/R 173 72
15 OF 村田  海斗 Murata Kaito 3 R/L 163 62
16 BN 勝又  功徳 Katsumata Koutoku 3 R/L 180 82
17 PH/OF 関口  俊哉 Sekiguchi Shunya 3 R/L 169 69
18 BN 垣越  建伸 Kakikoshi Kenshin 2 L/L 182 92

Yamanashi Gakuin basically repeated the same story from last year defeating Nihon Koukuu and Toukaidai Koufu to once again claim the title.

Ace Yoshimatsu Rui hopefully will have made strides for the team from last year where he did well at Natsu Koushien, but wasn’t even able to reach 6 innings which hurt the team. Offensive output was also a bugaboo, but there is some hope from the Nihon Koukuu semifinal where the bottom third of the lineup was able to drive in half the runs.

This game all depends on the pitching staffs. Has Maebashi Ikuei’s deep staff has improved enough to become a legitimate threat? Indications from their last two games might suggest they haven’t. Has Yoshimatsu been able to lengthen out to pitch a full game? Maybe, but not for back to back games. That part won’t matter for a one-game snapshot, so that might go in their favor.

Lineups

Maebashi Ikuei

  • CF Maruyama
  • 2B Horiguchi
  • C Tobe
  • 3B Iijima
  • P Minagawa
  • LF Yoshizawa
  • 1B Koike
  • RF Iidzuka
  • SS Kurosawa

Yamanashi Gakuin

  • C Igarashi
  • 1B Kurio
  • LF Nakao
  • 2B Kobayashi
  • RF Sekiguchi (#17)
  • 3B Shimizu
  • CF Matsuo
  • P Yoshimatsu
  • SS Hirose

13:21 – First Pitch!

1st Inning

That was quick. Maruyama is hit to leadoff the game, bunted to 2nd. And then goes to steal 3rd! He’s in safely, which means Iijima’s single to left makes it a 1-0 game just like that for Maebashi Ikuei.

Minagawa isn’t lighting the world on fire either. He gives a free pass to leadoff batter Ishibashi, and then with 2 outs walks Kobayashi. He prevents a run when he blocks, but can’t field Sekiguchi’s comebacker.

He rears back though and blows a 144 kph fastball past Shimizu to end the inning.

2nd Inning

Yamanashi Gakuin threatening again. Minagawa gives up a leadoff walk, and on the very next pitch Matsuo steals 2nd. But despite being bunted over, Hirose is caught looking on a slider on the outside edge, and Igarashi given the green light on 3-0 fouls out to Tobe at the back screen. Inning over.

3rd Inning

Any break Yoshimatsu got in the 2nd is gone. In almost a carbon copy of the first, Maruyama gets on base, is bunted over, steals 3rd (though it’s close this time) and scores when Iijima gets a base hit. 2-0.

That’s where the similarities end though. Yoshimatsu starts leaving balls over the plate and they get progressively more punished:

  • Minagawa doubles to right center, 3-0
  • Yoshizawa doubles to almost the exact same place, 4-0
  • Koike homers down LF line, 6-0

A walk to Iidzuka ends Yoshimatsu’s day, but way too late.

4th Inning

Despite being up 6 runs, and the directive generally to throw strikes, Minagawa walks Shimizu, Matsuo and then Hirose to load the bases. Those 3 makes a total of 6 walks already.

PING.

And when he finally throws a strike Igarashi drives it out of Maruyama’s reach at the wall. That will clear the bases and it’s 6-3 when it really didn’t need to be.

5th Inning

Ishii, Yamanashi Gakuin’s 3rd P of the game, just needed to hold serve to keep momentum on their side. He just misses on a ball to Iiduzka who then steals 2nd, and then 3rd. But Igarashi’s throw to 3rd is wide and goes into left, allowing Iidzuka to score. 7-3 and their gains are ground to a halt.

What’s worse, Arai-kantoku goes to #7 Yoshizawa to pitch. Such is the case when you have multiple options. An error prevents a clean inning, but otherwise Yamanashi Gakuin is back in trouble again.

6th Inning

Having burned through their ace and one other, Yamanashi Gakuin perhaps not in a position to lock things down. Ishii hits Tobe, and after a sac bunt, Minagawa dumps a ball to center allowing Tobe to score making it 8-3.

You can almost close the book on this game now.

3 batters later and Iidzuka hits a rare HR to right. 11-3 and we can close the book on this game for good.

Rest of game

The rest of the game again became inconsequential. However, it seems that Maebashi Ikuei’s pitching staff, while they have 4 pitchers who can throw over 140 like Shuugakukan, aren’t as dominating as Shuugakukan. It was a good try, but in the end it’s a poor-man’s version of it.

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.

89th Haru Koushien – Day 2, Game 3 – Nakamura (Kochi) v Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma)

89th Haru Koushien – Day 2, Game 3 – Nakamura (Kochi) v Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma)

(picture courtesy of Mainichi)

Our day ends with another 21st century team in Nakamura facing off against a former champion in Maebashi Ikuei. Nakamura managed to defeat Meitoku Gijyuku in the prefectural final, but it was not an elimination game for either. The loss to Eimei hurts in that while Eimei has been to Koushien in the past, they’re not considered a general powerhouse you can take a barometer off of.

Maebashi Ikuei’s resume is slightly better, playing 4 close games against more well-known teams. But note that Keiou was passed up for Nichidai-san for the floating bid, the Kendai Takasaki game was also a non-elimination game, and the pitching staff gave up a fair number of runs in the super-regionals.

The nod should go to Maebashi Ikuei because of level of competition, however we have seen cases where the Kanto region is unusually weak. So this could be an early benchmark as Nakamura comes in as a 21st century team.

Nakamura

  • SS Oosaki Rin
  • LF Iyota Haruki
  • P Kitahara Noa
  • 3B Ichien Yuuta
  • C Nakano Seidai
  • CF Okaue Hayate
  • RF Okamoto Ryou
  • 1B Takeda Haruto
  • 2B Shimomura Yuuto

Maebashi Ikuei

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

14:45 – First Pitch!

Bit of an inauspicious start as Maruyama plunks Oosaki to start the game. Looks like an average pitcher, low-mid 130s fastball on average with a slider, curve and changeup. Comes back hitting the mitt w/a fastball on the outside black but then a changeup goes between Tobe’s legs and Nakamura’s in business. A letter high fastball, perhaps not what they wanted, still gets a K. Throw in one more on the black and he strikes out the side. Certainly he has good control at times, but it’s getting the job done.

Kitahara much the same. Low 130’s fastball, with at least a curve and slider, thought they are a bit more slower than average. Has a clean first inning.

Hm. Maruyama generally sits in the low-mid 130’s but then the radar gun says 140 and even says 145 which is peculiar because sometimes when you give it a little extra you get maybe 5 kph max. Instead we’re talking about 10.

While Nakamura tries to figure out that bit, Maebashi Ikuei may be already getting to Kitahara. Iijima and Tobe both hit clean singles that eventually but both in scoring position. Tanaka too connects on a fastball for a single to left center, giving Maebashi Ikuei the 2-0 lead.

Nakamura finally gets their first hit in the 3rd when Oosaki in his 2nd AB singles back up the middle. But while Maruyama struggles getting the offspeed stuff over for a strike, Nakamura struggles to hit the fastball which he can locate.

The good news for Nakamura is that the damage so far has been limited to the 2-run 2nd. Kitahara’s off-speed pitches are giving the batters fits and while he is walking a couple of batters, they’ve been with 2 outs and end up stranded.

Post break Oosaki gets a base hit to center and before you can blink Arai-kantoku switches Minakawa and Maruyama while Yoshizawa, now wearing #10, warms up.

Minakawa throws just as hard as Maruyama does and with somewhat the same arsenal. But his first act is to throw wide to 1st and let Oosaki advance to 2nd. Unfortunately for Nakamura, he then takes off for 3rd on a ball to short and is cut down.

After Kitahara gets frozen on a slider on the outside black, Minakawa misses badly with his pitch, locating in when it was supposed to be out and that allows Ichien to single through the left side. But instead of a run, the runner is at 3rd. And that proves costly when Nakano can only ground to 2nd to end the inning.

Having missed out on an opportunity there, Maebashi Ikuei’s message must have been to just get base hits. Horiguchi and Tanaka dump singles into the outfield, and after a SB putting both runners in scoring position, Koike lines a fastball that winds up over the plate instead of outside past a diving Ichien and down the LF line for a 2-run double to double Maebashi’s lead to 4-0.

Throw in a sac bunt and a booted ball from Shimomura and that lead extends to 5-0.

Nakamura unfortunately can’t get any traction. Even when they get a break like in the 7th when Okamoto strikes out but reaches 1st, it leads to nothing. Actually the got a second break when Kurosawa failed to tag Okamoto, but because he thought he was out, he broke for 2nd late and that allowed the 4-3-6 double play.

The 高校野球 gods though still have a fancy for Nakamura though. As they are on their way to finishing their game and going home they smile upon them. Top 9th, runner on 2nd, 2 out. Okaue grounds a ball to 2nd, but as it takes it’s final bounce, it takes the famous irregular hop and skips over Kurosawa. It glances off his glove and into right scoring a run and allowing Nakamura to leave without being shutout, losing 5-1.

At first the game seemed like Maebashi Ikuei was going to run away similar to what Houtoku Gakuen did. But Kitahara and his pitching kept the offense in check as best he could having just 2 bad innings. The game may not have been in doubt, but they played very respectively.

Maebashi Ikuei as mentioned had an easy time of it. With Yoshizawa injured the rest of the pitching staff seems to be holding its own. One wonders though with 3 pitchers topping out in the 140s (Yoshizawa would have made 4), were they trying to mirror Shuugakukan and build a strong pitching staff instead of a dominant ace? Time will tell as they face Houtoku Gakuen in the 2nd round, but it does look like Minagawa is a little better than he was last year.

Handicapping the field – Maebashi Ikuei (2nd appearance, 1st in 6 years)

Handicapping the field – Maebashi Ikuei (2nd appearance, 1st in 6 years)

(photo courtesy of daily.co.jp)

Road to Haru Koushien

Prefecturals

  • def Kiryuu Shiritsu Shougyou 5-1
  • def Shiritsu Oota 9-0 (7 inn)
  • def Maebashi Shougyou 6-1
  • def Takasaki Shoudai Fuzoku 11x-1 (5 inn)
  • def Takasaki 10-0 (5 inn)
  • def Kendai Takasaki 4-3

Super-Regionals

  • def Hakuoudai Ashikaga 6-5
  • def Keiou 4x-3
  • lost Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou 3-5

Maebashi Ikuei is back on the scene, but outside of that magical 2013 Natsu Koushien, they have had no success. This current version of the team will try to change the narrative.

The good news is that they defeated all the teams they needed to as all the no-names they handled with little problems. But as soon as you threw in teams whose names you heard of, and they were fighting for their lives. In fact, in all of their super-regional games they were having to try and come from behind.

Arai-kantoku is going with a 2-pitcher strategy, and leaves the door open to flexibility. The bigger question is, how good are they are. See, both players came in relief last summer, and had not-so-stellar results.

First off is new ace Yoshizawa Yuu (吉沢 悠). He was the first to come in relief versus Kadena and while he got a double play to start his stint, it soon went south, eventually giving up 5 hits and 4 runs.

He has a fastball that can hit 140, and an apparent changeup in the mid-120s and a curve in the 110s. The problem is, Kadena has a beat on everything – especially the fastball. And I’m not sure that’s improved any. Against Maebashi Ikuei, he went 7 striking out 5, but giving up 8 hits and all 4 of Maebashi’s runs. He walked 3, hit 2 batters, and most of the hits were hits to the outfield. None of this bodes well.

The second is CF Maruyama Kazuya (丸山 和郁) who came in to pitch the final inning of the Kadena game. He didn’t give up a run in his inning of work, and both struck out and walked one. His fastball started consistently in the upper 130s, but eventually sat in the lower 130s. It looks like he has a slider and a changeup both in the mid-high 110s, and he flashed a slow curve which didn’t register at all, but probably was in the 90s. Oddly, it was the one slow curve that seemed to be the the off-speed pitch he got over the plate.

It’s no wonder then why Maebashi Ikuei immediately ran into trouble once they got past the riff-raff.

Offensively, they return very little from their starting 9. Cleanup batter 3B Iijima Hiromu does return as well as the aforementioned Maruyama come back to spearhead the lineup. But it might also say something when reliever Minakawa Kyousuke (皆川 喬涼) moves from a reliever position to RF, while still making spot appearances on the mound. Though I think his move to the field might be more of a permanent one as while he can throw upper 130s, the control of his off-speed pitches was not really great at all and Kadena’s batters were pretty much able to lay off of it.

Anyways, back to the hitting, the good news for Maebashi Ikuei is that while the offense appears to be a light-hitting ballclub, the team does not have any readily apparent holes in the lineup, which is excellent. In fact, their #3 batter, new C Tobe Kaito (戸部 魁人) seems to be having success in the lineup. Now as a whole their offense wasn’t putting up the numbers against elite levels of competition, but that won’t matter for most draws. It means if nothing else the offense should be competitive. The biggest question will be the pitching and if the promoted pitchers can get any more effective.