One of the tournament favorites, Heian, surprisingly lost to Kasukabe Kyoei in the first round.
Kyoei’s left-handed hitters laced to the opposite side of the field well against the southpaw Motouji. Kyoei’s lineup managed five hits and scored five in the first inning while Heian’s staring pitcher, Motouji took one out. Kyoei’s lineup struggled against the second pitcher, Takahashi.
Heian’s Takahashi (#10 LHP) pitched well after taking over from Motouji (# 11 LHP) after the starting pitcher gave up five runs in the first inning. Fastball and off-speed ball combination was very effective, locating balls low. He also locates his change-up low.
After Takahashi came in the game, it was Heian who took over the momentum of the game. However, Kyoei’s well-trained fielding helped the starting pitcher, Kaneko. Outfielders’ reactions to the ball, infielders working the gloves bottom up. Kyoei’s positioning was smart by utilizing the data, changing with every hitter. Many potential hits were caught by Kyoei.
Kyoei started to hit well again off the 3rd pitcher Nakata (#1 RHP). Nakata, however, pitched well after giving up two hits and started to located his FB low. Kyoei did not need any other runs, however, as Kyoei’s starting pitcher, Kaneko (LHP #1) locates the ball low and kept Heian to only one run scored. He paid good attention to the runners as well. It was hard for Heian to use their speed as Kaneko’s pick off was effective. Kaneko’s tempo between the pitches was short to help the entire team play with a good rhythm.
After game comments: Kyoei Coach Honda
“Unbelievable. I told my players before the game, ‘Let’s play our baseball although we are facing the national spring invitational champions’, and the kids did better than expected. I did not expect 5 runs in the first inning at Koshien. I was nervous but my players weren’t at all. During the game, we didn’t ever expect to win easily. Our fielding, especially our third baseball played well. I appreciate all my players.
Kyoei’s pitcher Kaneko, “I just want to thank our team’s defense”.
Heian’s Coach Harada’s comment, “Giving up 5 runs in the first inning means a lot at Koshien”.
Yomiuri Shimbun posted some pictures from this game.