I was able to get my first taste of this year’s tournament. And what a game it was.
Urawa Gakuin vs Sendai Ikuei started rather sloppy (and continued that way), but it was thriller all the way. Mainly because, although the pitching wasn’t able to contain the hitters, both sides only gave in so much as to let the opposition crawl back to equalize. The score went from 1-0 to 1-6 to 9-6 to 10-6 to 10-10. And then came the ninth inning.
There were chances a plenty and Uragaku’s ace pitcher Ojima was doing his best to keep his team in the game. The temperatures in the Kansai region were extremely high today and Koshien was said to have a high temperature of 41°C, which is not a great environment to play sports in. Thankfully this game was the late game, so in the late innings the sun had already set. Ojima ran into trouble right from the get go by loading up the bases because he wasn’t able to find the strike zone. Walks, wild pitches, HBP, you name it. Still, Sendai Ikuei weren’t able to pull away, although they put 6 runs on the board in the first inning. That’s because they’re starter Suzuki was struggling as well. The only difference was that he was lifted after 2.2 IP and his replacement Baba was able to contain the Urawa offense.
So the game went on and in the 9th inning both teams were still in a deadlock, tied at 10. There were lots of chances on both sides, most of the time created by sloppy defense and bad pitching, but neither team was able to run away.
And then, as it goes, the drama came. Ojima was clearly spent. But his coach left him in the game for the 9th. Even after he was struggling in the 8th, loading the bases, but escaping that jam by striking out the side. Ojima got one out, the gave up a hit to right and then was lifted after having thrown 189 pitches. His replacement Yamaguchi gave up the sayonara run.
Lots of tears followed and I guess, although this was a very untidy game, this is what the Koshien tournament is all about. You never know what to expect.