Three games which all ended with a one run lead, now that’s what I call exciting. And it gets even better when in one game one pitcher delivers a wonderful performance only to lose the game in extra innings. As a character in “H2” said it absolutely right: “Let me show you the benefits of a game without a time limit”. Seiho 清峰 (Nagasaki) vs Seibi 福知山成美 (Kyoto) 1-0
The dediding run in this one came through yet another beautifully executed squeeze play in the 5th inning. The run itself was achieved in a very common way for Japanese high school baseball: lead-off double, sacrifce bunt (runner on third), squeeze play to bring the runner home. It was all Seiho needed to win this. Their starting pitcher Imamura went the distance to secure the win. On a funny note: in the 5th just before the squeeze play the radar gun was showing that Seibi‘s pitcher Nagaoka threw a 157 km/h fastball, which is nearly impossible. There must have been a mistake there as his throws all looked like they had the same speed.
Minoshima 箕島 (Wakayama) vs Kaisei 開星 (Shimane) 4-3 (11)
It seems as if schools from the Wakayama prefecture have a preference for showing the starting letter of their school in the stands. It struck me during last year’s summer tournament when Chiben Wakayama had a huge “C” in their part of the stands. And now Minoshima have a slightly smaller but nonetheless impressive “M” made of of their supporters. Right from the start both teams were scoring runs, but none of them was able to grab a bigger lead, so the game remained very close. In the 6th Kasei were able to tie it and from there on both defenses were exchanging zeros on the scoreboard. The game had to go to extra innings. In the top of 11th one hit by Minoshima first baseman Numa came trough and was dropped in left field by the defense, scoring the go ahead run. This sealed Kasei‘s fate and maybe they should have gone to the bullpen earlier, because their starting pitcher Haruki was still on the mound.
Nanyo Kyougou 南陽工 (Yamaguchi) vs PL Gakuen ＰＬ学園 (Osaka) 2-1
I don’t know if one can say that this result is an upset, but I always heard that PL Gakuen is one of the powerhouse schools in each Koushien tournament they take part in. E.g. they were the opponents in that legendary game when Matsuzaka tossed his 250-pitch outing in 1998. All runs in this game came in the 10th inning. If I see this correctly then it’s extremly tragic for PL Gakuen‘s lefthanded starting pitcher Nakano, as he had a no-hitter for 9.1 innings. His opponent, Nanyo‘s backup pitcher Iwamoto (it seems as if Nanyo‘s ace Nakagawa started the game in right field just in case) wasn’t as sharp as Nakano, but kept his team in the game all the way. Whenever PL Gakuen threatened, he had an answer. But Nakano was sparkling. A very sharp slider which led to 12 strikeoutrs and only a single walk he finished the first nine innings with only a little bit over 100 pitches and faced the minimum of 27 batters (he was perfect through 5.1, if I read this scorecard correctly). He had great control on the mound but everything fell apart in the 10th.It all started with a one-out single to left. The next batter was retired on a flyball to left center, but what followed was a single to right which brought the runner on first to second. A double up the middle scored the first run. And yet another hit to left scored another one. Nanyo were getting greedy and tried to score a third time, but that runner was out at home. PL Gakuen weren’t able to retaliate, scoring only one run in their half onf the inning. What a nailbiting finish to a day of close games.
On a musical sidenote, I was thrillied to hear that Nanyo were using Otsuka Ai‘s “Sakuranbo” as a song from the stands.