Saturday, January 24, 2015

87th Haru Koushien Field Announced!

So the field has been announced for the upcoming 87th Haru Koushien (aka Senbatsu). And while I goofed in only putting one team from the Hokushinetsu and Tokai regions in my projections, had I done it properly, I would have had all but one of the 29 main invitees pegged:

Hokkaido

  • Toukai Dai-yon
Tohoku
  • Sendai Ikuei (Aomori)
  • Oomagari Kougyou (Akita)
Kanto

  • Urawa Gakuin (Saitama)
  • Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba)
  • Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma)
  • Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki)

Tokyo

  • Toukaidai Sugao
  • Nishogakushadai Fuzoku

Hokushinetsu

  • Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui)
  • Matsushou Gakuen (Nagano)
Tokai
  • Shizuoka (Shizuoka)
  • Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu)
Kinki
  • Tenri (Nara)
  • Ritsumeikan Uji (Kyoto)
  • Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
  • Naradai Fuzoku (Nara)
  • Osaka Touin (Osaka)
  • Oumi (Shiga)
Chuugoku
  • Ube Koujyou (Yamaguchi)
  • Okayama Ridai Fuzoku (Okayama)
  • Yonago Kita (Tottori)
Shikoku
  • Eimei (Kagawa)
  • Imabari Nishi (Ehime)
Kyushu
  • Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto)
  • Itoman (Okinawa)
  • Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima)
  • Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu (Fukuoka)
Meiji Jingu Bid
  • Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Aomori)
21st Century Schools
  • Toyohashi Kougyou (Aichi)
  • Touin (Wakayama)
  • Matusyama Higashi (Ehime)
Just to explain, it would generally be hard to pass up the runner-ups in the Hokushinetsu and the Tokai regions for a semifinalist. It would have taken a strong resume in order to do so (in my opinion anyways).

And as it turns out, the committee doesn't always go after brand name. Though I think there is a difference between Yokohama and Meitoku Gijyuku. Anyways, Meitoku does not get the benefit of the doubt this time around and the floating bid goes north to Yonago Kita - it's not like it's not well-deserved either.

As for the 21st century schools, they certainly did not consider baseball strength this time around. The 3 teams selected had some of the weakest resumes of the final pool. To be fair though, the 21st century invites were never supposed to be based on baseball merit.  Good for the trio though, the kids get an opportunity to play on the hallowed grounds of Koushien stadium - if even for a game.

There are a lot of familiar names this year - dotted with some newcomers. It may be scratch this time around, but hopefully it'll still end up in exciting baseball come March.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

21st Century Candidates - Final 9

So in less than a couple weeks time, we will have the projected field for the 86th Haru Koushien. Most of the field is pretty much decided, but there is the matter of the 21st century bids which the JHBF gives out to those schools which have shown success in the face of adversity, or for things they have contributed to the community.

The final 9 nominees are:
  • Hokkaido - Kitami Kougyou
  • Tohoku - Matsushima (Miyagi)
  • Kanto/Tokyo - Tomioka (Gunma)
  • Hokushinetsu - Kanazawa Shougyou (Ishikawa)
  • Tokai - Toyohashi Kougyou (Aichi)
  • Kinki - Touin (Wakayama)
  • Chuugoku - Hirata (Shimane)
  • Shikoku - Matsuyama Higashi (Ehime)
  • Kyushu - Yahata Minami (Fukuoka)
Remember that there are 3 bids given out, 1 for the Western regionas, 1 for the Eastern regions and 1 as a wild card.

Let's go through each nominee:

Kitami Kougyou (Lost in Super-Regional Quarterfinals)
Kitami Kougyou actually has a great resume. They didn't have to face Kitami Hokuto in the regionals, but did play and defeat Engaru with 2 runs late. They then defeated Sapporo Dai-ichi and Hakodate Kougyou before losing a 2-0 lead to eventual champions Toukai Dai-yon late.

It would be nice to see a team from Hokkaido to make it as a 21st century team as I think they are generally under-represented. Kitami Kougyou might make it through this year.

Matsushima (Lost in 2nd round of Super-Regionals)
Matsushima's resume, despite reaching the super-regionals, is very weak. They qualified as the 3rd place team out of Miyagi, having been shutout in the regional final to Touryou 5-0, and losing in the semifinals 7-0 to Sendai Ikuei. They defeated Furukawa Gakuen 9-2 in 8 to get that 3rd place.

They blew out Miyako Shougyou in the first round before losing in 10 innings to Oomagari Kougyou 3-2 in 10 innings.

The lack of competitiveness in the major games means on baseball merit they don't really have a leg to stand on that way.

Tomioka (Lost in semifinals of Gunma prefecturals)
Tomioka's resume is much shorter, and therefore is harder to build compared to other schools. Their signature win was in the round of 16 where they defeated Tokyou Noudai Dai-ni 2-1 in 12 innings. They did hold firm early against Kendai Takasaki in the semifinals, but faltered late giving up 5 runs to fall 7-3.

Like Matsushima, if they get in it will be based upon some other merit than on the field results.

Kanazawa Shougyou (Lost in 1st round of Super-Regionals)
Kanazawa Shougyou was impressive in prefecture, defeating powerhouses Kanazawa and Seiryou back-to-back to win the title (They shutout Kanazawa, and then rallied after falling behind 6-3 in the final 2 innings to win 8-6).

The problem is that they suffered a mercy-rule loss to Toyama Dai-ichi. They were shutout by Tsuruga Kehi 2 games later, but then again who didn't? The big name victories in-prefecture will be a plus.

Toyohashi Kougyou (Lost in 1st round of Super-Regionals)
Give credit to Toyohashi Kougyou, they did reach the super-regionals. But they didn't have to defeat any of the big-name schools and when they did it was a 10-0 loss to Aikoudai Meiden. They did salvage 3rd when they defeated Haruhigaoka 3-1.

And in the super-regionals, they fell behind quickly to Hamamatsu Shuugakusha (Shizuoka 2) and lost 6-1.

Sadly, they fall in with the likes of Matsushima and Tomioka when considering teams using baseball merit.

Touin (Lost in prefectural quarterfinals)
Touin's resume might actually be the weakest of them all. They qualified for the prefecturals proper by being one of the 4 winners of the 1st year tournament. But in the first round (i.e. the quarterfinals), they lost 7-5 to Minoshima.

Now, the loss could be qualified in that they gave up 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th, but still with Minoshima not performing well in the super-regionals it doesn't really give Touin that much weight for consideration.

Hirata (Lost in super-regional quarterfinals)
Hirata, for what it's worth in Shimane, built about a good of a resume as they could have.

First, in the first stage, they defeated a solid Izumo Nourin squad 4-0. Then, in the prefecturals they defeated Masuda Shouyou and Taisha before almost slipping up against Matsue Kita, winning in sayonara fashion 3-2. They then gave Risshoudai Shounan all they could handle rallying from behind to force enchousen, but lost an inning later 5-4.

Hirata had a favorable draw in the super-regionals, getting Yonago Higashi (Tottori 4) to open - though they needed all 9 innings to win 2-0. Unfortunately, scoring late was not a successful strategy against Ube Shougyou (Yamaguchi 2) as by that time they were already trailing 4-0, eventually losing 6-3.

Matsuyama Higashi (Lost in 1st round of super-regionals)
Matsuyama Higashi's run this year started off well with a 7-1 win over Touon in the regionals. But when they reached the prefecturals, they struggled all the way through against teams like Matsuyama Kita and Komatsu before putting together a solid 3-2 win over a resurging Nitta squad. However, when paired with Imabari Nishi in the final, they fell flat losing in a shutout 5-0.

They didn't really appear to recover from that in the super-regionals, though admittedly it didn't help that they were paired against Naruto (Tokushima 3). A 5-2 loss spelled the end of things.

Yahata Minami (Lost in 1st round of super-regionals)
Yahata Minami had a good run this year, starting with an exhaustive 8-6 victory versus Touchiku to advance to the prefecturals.

In the prefecturals, they then put a solid game together against Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku, narrowly winning 4-3 before failing late, yielding 5 runs in the final 2 innings to fall 5-4 to eventual winners Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu. Still, with Fukuoka qualifying 4 teams as the host, they advanced to the super-regionals.

They unfortunately drew one of the few first round spots and a game against St. Ursula (Miyazaki 2). Once again, they failed to hold a lead, relinquishing a 2-0 and then a 3-2 lead, falling 4-3 for an early exit.

The run for them was good, but there wasn't a true quality win in their run. Still, compared to some of the other resumes it looks better than most of them.

____________________________________________________________

So, with a summary of all the nominees, who is projected to receive that phone call?

It's hard to say. Mostly because there is that part that can award a bid for something outside of baseball merit.

But, as best as I can determine, here's what I see happening:
  • Hokkaido - Kitami Kougyou
  • Tohoku - Matsushima (Miyagi)
  • Kanto/Tokyo - Tomioka (Gunma)
  • Hokushinetsu - Kanazawa Shougyou (Ishikawa)
  • Tokai - Toyohashi Kougyou (Aichi)
  • Kinki - Touin (Wakayama)
  • Chuugoku - Hirata (Shimane)
  • Shikoku - Matsuyama Higashi (Ehime)
  • Kyushu - Yahata Minami (Fukuoka)
From a baseball point of view, this is about as clear-cut as I have ever seen it. None of the schools crossed out built a solid resume of games, while the ones who are left did.

Of course, JHBF doesn't work that way, so I expect there to be a change somewhere. I just wouldn't know which team they would choose.

Monday, November 17, 2014

45th Meiji Jingu Taikai

So, the Meiji Jingu Tournament got itself underway yesterday, and the results were not surprising.

First the brackets (next games are in red, completed games in green, winners in bold):

  • Toukaidai Sugao (Tokyo) v. Shizuoka (Tokai)
  • Urawa Gakuin (Kanto) v. Winner of Ube Koujyou (Chuugoku)-Toukai Dai-yon (Hokkaido)
  • Kyushu Gakuin (Kyushu) v. Winner of Eimei (Shikoku)-Tsuruga Kehi (Hokushinetsu)
  • Sendai Ikuei (Tohoku) v. Tenri (Kinki)
As you can see, all the "weaker" super-regions seemed to draw the short end of the stick, having to play the extra game, meaning their chances of earning their region another bid were dramatically reduced.

The "extra" games were not competitive. Ube Koujyou couldn't keep up at all against Toukai Dai-yon. And while it seemed that Tsuruga Kehi was ready to continue blowing out teams, Eimei actually made a game out of it before a 5-ver in the 6th helped them pull away.

Day 2 at least started with a competitive game as Toukaidai Sugao and Shizuoka traded blows. Neither team looked impressive, but it at least was an interesting game with Koiso for Toukaidai Sugao delivering the timely hit in the bottom of the 8th as they went on to win 7-4.

The second game I was interested in just because Tenri out of seemingly nowhere won the Kinki Super-Regionals - and Sendai Ikuei would be a really tough test right out of the blocks.

Early on, Tenri certainly held their own, despite trailing in the game. But ace Saitou couldn't even make it past 6 innings as he was relieved when he gave up his 3rd run. Reliever Moriura provided no support, giving up 3 runs in less than 2 innings of work. Tenri would fall 6-1.

Yesterday was the final 2 quarterfinal games. Toukai Dai-yon would be getting a tougher test in Urawa Gakuin.

Actually, it wasn't a test at all... It was a massacre.

Urawa Gakuin would just need 6 innings to dispatch Toukai Dai-yon 10-0.

The 2nd game would be another litmus test to see where Tsuruga Kehi actually stands facing Kyushu Gakuin.  Tsuruga Kehi would jump out with a quick run in the 1st, but it would kind of get bogged down for a couple of innings. Hayashinaka with a 2-run double would seem to put them back on track.

#18 Yamazaki, who was charged with the start today, couldn't keep that lead. Timely hits from Hasegawa and Tomoda would spur a 3-run 5th to give Kyushu Gakuin the lead. He would stay in for one more inning - which was one too many as he would give up another 3 runs, effective putting the game away. Tsuruga Kehi would get its pitchers more experience as they would fall 8-3.

That leaves us with the following:
  • Toukaidai Sugao (Tokyo) v. Urawa Gakuin (Kanto)
  • Kyushu Gakuin (Kyushu) v. Sendai Ikuei (Tohoku)
Now, the first semifinal will not eliminate any possible participants who would receive an invite. Kanto/Tokyo has a floating bid, and as long as one of them wins, the floating bid goes to the other region. It's just a problem for them because while it guarantees them a chance in the final, it might have been better if there was a chance that it could have been a lead-pipe cinch.

So, the teams that are most interested in how their teams will fare are:
  • Toukaidai Sugao / Urawa Gakuin (Matsudo Kokusai/Nishogakushadai Fuzoku)
  • Kyushu Gakuin (Higashi-Fukuoka)
  • Sendai Ikuei (Tsuruoka Higashi)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Projected Senbatsu Field

So, I've been boggled down with work and being burned out in general. At this point now though, all super-regionals are complete and the Meiji Jingu Taikai will be underway shortly.

If you've followed my twitter, you've heard crazy things about the prefecturals. Sadly though, in the end, there are a lot of familiar faces that will probably receive that phone call in February.

Hokkaido (1)
  • Toukai Dai-yon
Good for Toukai Dai-yon. I'm generally nowadays not a proponent for private schools, but when it's a school that has not been to Koushien in a while, I'm happy to see that Toukai Dai-yon has carried their success from the fall to the spring. Good luck to you at senbatsu! (Oh wait, Meiji Jingu first!)

Tohoku (2)
  • Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi)
  • Oomagari Kougyou (Akita!)
Well, Sendai Ikuei sure looks scary. Sure, they lost in the regionals to Seiwa Gakuen and qualified through the repechage. And in the prefecturals, they barely got by Sendai Nishi. But my guess is they tried to keep their players unexposed and fresh early. Because outside of those games, and perhaps the prefectual final (where it doesn't matter if they won or lost) they just ran rampant through the field, winning their 4 games in the super-regionals by a combined 39-8...

They're baaaaaaaaack....

Now the other qualifier, the runner-up Oomagari Kougyou will have well earned their invitation. Now, Akita is not a strong prefecture by any means, and going undefeated through the prefecturals is nothing to be excited about. But at least they fought through Kakunodate, Akita Chuo, Akita Shougyou and then finally Noshiro Shouyou to win the prefectruals. Not an easy task in-prefecture.

After a slow start against Matsushima out of Miyagi, they went on to defeat Hanamaki Higashi and then Tsuruoka Higashi to reach the finals where they lost 10-4 to Sendai Ikuei. Those quality wins in the super-regionals should allow them to get that 2nd invite.

Kanto (4 + floating bid w/Tokyo)
  • Urawa Gakuin (Saitama)
  • Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba)
  • Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma)
  • Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki)
  • Matsudo Kokusai (Chiba)
Sadly, while there were a lot of schools that were missing from the super-regionals, there were still quite a few powerhouses still left. And for the most part, they did what they were supposed to do.

Win.

Urawa Gakuin perhaps is on their way back. The prefecturals were pretty much cake save for a late rally from Kawagoe Higashi in the finals.

In the super-regionals, they faced Toukou Gakuen (post-Matsui Yuuki of course). Still, they only managed just a 1-0 win.  Their only tough game afterwards was a 10-8 marathon against Kendai Takasaki. It appears to be a weak Kanto region yet again, but if Urawa Gakuin can win in this fashion, who knows.

Kisaradzu Sougou was barely challenged in the Chiba prefecturals (of which Narashino did not survive, dang). They were lucky enough to have drawn the bye, which may have proved crucial as their semifinal game against Jyousou Gakuin they survived 4-3.

The overall resume for Kisaradzu Sougou is not that strong, but having reached the finals it would be impossible to exclude them from an invitation.

I know Kendai Takasaki is yet another private school, but their style of play differs so much from the norm I would like to see it succeed. Their only challenge in the prefecturals was a 7-6 sayonara win against Kiryuu Dai-ichi, and had barely gotten by Meishuu Hitashi (Ibaraki 2) and Matsudo Kokusai (Chiba 2) before losing to Urawa Gakuin.

And finally Jyousou Gakuin should get the last bid, though they had to work for it all the way through. After a clean 2nd round game, they survived 3 close games against Fujishiro, Tsuchiura Kohoku and Meishuu Hitachi to take the top seed from Ibaraki. Then there were 2 more close games against Sano Nichidai (Tochigi 2) and Hiratsuka Gakuen (Kanagawa 1) before falling to Kisaradzu Sougou.

The only other possible school that could receive an invite is Matsudo Kokusai, and they would have to be invited over Jyousou Gakuin. Now, they lost in the quarterfinals to Kendai Takasaki 9-6, but their prefectural resume is much stronger, defeating schools like Senshuudai Matsudo, and Narashino. Still though, I'm not sure it's enough for failing to make the semifinals.

Tokyo (1 + floating bid w/Kanto)
  • Toukaidai Sugao
  • Nishogakushadai Fuzoku
Dawwwww....

Man, I was happy to see that Soujitsu and Sanko would have to duke it out immediately and that there would be one less superpower left.

And when Soujitsu lost to Hoseidai in the quarterfinals, another was lost.

Teikyou also fell in the quarterfinals, to Toukaidai Sugao. These two schools would play to reach the final.

On the other side, there was a possibility that Nishogakushadai Fuzoku and Kanto Dai-ichi would meet yet again... for the 3rd time in 1 calendar year. Each almost stumbled before then, Nishogakushadai in a 1-0 win over Waseda Gakuin, Kanto Dai-ichi a 5-4 win over Kokushikan in 14 innings!

But nonetheless they did meet in the semifinals. And like every other game they've played, it went down to the wire...

... and then past it.

Because they went into extra innings where Nishogakushadai Fuzoku scored 2 in the 11th and then held on for dear life as they gave back one, but not both runs.

Standing in their way the next day would be Toukaidai Sugao.

Sadly (for me), that extra inning game perhaps took a little out of them. Because ace Ooe, much like Hoseidai ace Komatsu faltered late, giving up 2 runs in the 8th inning. For Komatsu, his team was already behind. But for Ooe, his team was clinging onto a 1-run lead. The easy math means that they were trailing by 1 going into the top of the 9th. And they could not make a last-ditch comeback. So yet again... Nishogakushadai Fuzoku plays the bridesmaid.

This time though, I think they get that floating bid. There is no Yokohama that might perhaps upset their bid, though Matsudo Kokusai might make a case. It would be ironic though if they were passed over this year for a new name, when last year they would have been the new name instead of Yokohama....

Hokushinetsu (1)
  • Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui)
Tsuruga Kehi was merciless the last time we saw them. They were just out to crush the competition - something I hadn't expected from a school in the Hokushinetsu region.

This time around, perhaps they played the game to perfection. In the prefecturals, they guaranteed them a spot by getting to the finals, losing to Fukui Koudai Fukui.

But once they reached the super-regionals, they turned on the switch and outside of giving up 2 runs to Komoro Shougyou (Nagano 3), they crushed Komatsu Ootani, Toyama Dai-ichi and finally Matsushou Gakuen to claim the title. They may be scary yet again.

Tokai (1)
  • Shizuoka
I was surprised to find that Shizuoka's victory was just their 2nd overall. For as much success as they've had in getting to Koushien recently, the fact that they have not won in 50 years?

They were challenged twice in their run to the title. Both times was in the title games. First in the prefecturals versus an unknown Hamamatsu Shuugakusha where they won 13-8, then in the super-regional final 7-6 over Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou.

Unfortunately, their resume otherwise is rather weak, defeating no other big name schools en route to the title. They will certainly be unexposed heading into the Meiji Jingu Taikai.

Kinki (6)
  • Tenri (Nara)
  • Ritsumeikan Uji (Kyoto)
  • Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
  • Naradai Fuzoku (Nara)
  • Osaka Touin (Osaka)
  • Oumi (Shiga)
(Holy crap, what the heck, since when did Tenri ever get back on the powerhouse bandwagon again??!!)

*ahem*

Well, I had gone off the Tenri bandwagon. They had underperformed as one of the supposed duo of Nara (Chiben Gakuen being the other), and disappointed when they did make it to Koushien.

So I guess it would be perfect timing to bail when they do something like this. They were able to defeat both Chiben Gakuen and up-and-comers Naradai Fuzoku (who as you can see qualified themselves).

And then, it's like they summoned the Tenri of old, scoring 6 in the 8th to put away Houtoku Gakuen. They then went and limited Osaka Touin to just 3 runs(!) in a 3-2 win. Bolstered by that, they put away Ryuukokudai Heian 6-1 to take a spot in the finals against Ritsumeikan Uji, where they scored 3 runs in the 1st, and never looked back - winning 8-4 to claim the title.

Of course, this is just the super-regional. The cynicist in me says that they still have time to disappoint come senbatsu.

Since we're in the prefecture, Naradai Fuzoku should get the phone call given they reached the semifinals. The resume is admittedly not strong, having Tenri as their only quality game in the prefectural finals - losing 6-3. And in the super-regionals, they survived a low-scoring game against Toba winning 2-0, and then defeating Minoshima 3-2 - this before losing to Ritsumeikan Uji 4-1. Despite that they shouldn't be passed up as the other quarterfinal losers that I don't expect to get a bid make any strong case.

It was a strange taikai this year, because in the semifinals were just 2 prefectures, and the possibility of a single prefectural final. Nara, as you can see is one.

The other? Kyoto no less.

Ritsumeikan Uji managed to dodge most of the bullets in the Kyoto prefecturals facing just Kita-Saga and Toba before narrowly losing to Ryuukokudai Heian.

Moving onto the super-regionals, they rallied to defeat Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku 11-7 and then soundly defeated Oumi 6-2. You know how the rest of the story goes now.

Finally, the other semifinalist, Ryuukokudai Heian. They got a pass straight to the prefecturals proper with their summer victory. They didn't waste it, blowing through teams like Kyoto Shouei and Kyoto Seishou before edging out Ritsumeikan Uji.

The super-regionals started out good enough with a 7-0 win over Osaka Shoudai Sakai. It was tougher sledding against Kita-Ootsu, rallying from down 4-0 in the 2nd half of the game to win 6-4. There would be no such rally against Tenri, as they fell behind 6-0, losing 6-1.

All 4 schools should get an invite.

The problem is the final 2 schools. Well, maybe just 1.

Osaka Touin will get an invite. If Yokohama can get an invite as a floating bid over Nishogakushadai Fuzoku (who I thought had a stronger resume), Osaka Touin will not be denied.

Not that they aren't deserving. The only close game in the prefecturals was in the semifinals defeating Osaka Shoudai proper 5-1. They started with a 10-0 win in 5 over Hidaka Nakatsu (Wakayama 3) before losing to Tenri 3-2. That narrow loss to the eventual champs will rightly earn them a bid.

So that brings us back to who gets the other bid. The other quarterfinal losers were:
  1. Minoshima (Wakayama) - Quality name, but a narrow win to Tsuna, then a loss to Naradai Fuzoku who didn't really compete with Ritsumeikan Uji? Pass
  2. Kita-Ootsu (Shiga) - Kita-Ootsu was not really challenged in the prefecturals, only losing to Oumi in the finals 3-1. They edged out Wakayama Higashi (Wakayama 3) in the top of the 9th 8-6, and then actually led against Ryuukokudai Heian before letting it slip away late. Heian's sound loss to Tenri does not help their cause.
  3. Oumi (Shiga) - Oumi's road in the prefecturals was brand name wise harder. Hieizan, Hikone Higashi and then Kita-Ootsu in the finals. Super-regionals had a quality win against PL Gakuen, who is making a renaissance of sorts. But they were outmanned versus Ritsumeikan Uji.
Unfortunately for Kita-Ootsu, it would appear that they are competing with their rival school in Oumi. And Oumi appears to have the better resume, and thus gets the final bid.

Chuugoku (2 + floating bid with Shikoku)
  • Ube Koujyou (Yamaguchi)
  • Okayama Ridai Fuzoku (Okayama)
  • Yonago Kita (Tottori)
There was the standard fare in Chuugoku again. But the draw immediately pitted these schools against one another. Hiroshima Shinjyou v. Kanzei? Check. Kouryou v. Okayama Ridai Fuzoku? Yup. Soushi Gakuen v. Shimonoseki Kougyou? Roger. And Yonago Kita vs. Risshoudai Shounan? You betcha.

What's more, once those matchups were done, the winners of the first 2 games have to re-enter the fray. The perhaps unfortunate part for both Kanzei and Okayama Ridai Fuzoku is that with the draw, they had to play each other after winning the first round of the super-regionals. Okayama Ridai Fuzoku clearly had the better of it in the prefecturals, winning 8-2 thanks to a big inning. Kanzei couldn't avoid the same fate, giving up 3 runs in the 2nd. They would fight back, but a run in the 9th wasn't enough as Kanzei would fall again 4-3. After those 2 games, Ube Shougyou in the semis was no problem, cementing a place in the finals, and more importantly an invitation to senbatsu for sure, win or lose.

Ube Koujyou won the Yamaguchi prefecturals, only challenged by Shimonoseki Kougyou where they let a 5-1 lead get away in the top of the 8th, but scrambled to re-take the lead in the bottom half.

Saijyou Nougyou (Hiroshima 2!) couldn't keep up, losing 15-0 in 5 innings. Soushi Gakuen, had the better of Ube Koujyou early, but they bounced back quickly, shutting out Soushi Gakuen afterwards, winning 4-2.Yonago Kita should have been a pushover, especially after they had to endure a 13 inning game against Masuda Higashi. But, Yonago Kita continued to persevere. They gave Ube Koujyou all they could handle, as the pair of Fukumoto and Takahashi yielded just 1 run to the favorites. But sadly for Yonago Kita, the offense could not push through the tying run and thus fell 1-0.

So that setup the final between Ube Kougyou and Okayama Ridai Fuzoku. Okayama Ridai Fuzoku surely would be considered the favorite considering who they played up until then.

But perhaps Ube Koujyou had some of that sticktuitiveness that Yonago Kita showed rub off on them, because they were able to keep Okayama Ridai Fuzoku's offense in check. In fact, despite the fact that ace Uenishi couldn't hold the 1-0 lead, his school never trailed, as he would close out the 11th with a 2-1 win to claim the title.

By the way, Uenishi's full name? 上西 嵐満, or Uenishi Ranma!

Now, I've included Yonago Kita in the discussion for the floating bid. It will be hard to matchup name-wise with Meitoku Gijyuku. But, the resume isn't weak by any means, and Meitoku had the floating bid last year. Meitoku though did not disappoint posting wins against Chiben Wakayama and Kanto Dai-ichi.

Shikoku (2 + floating bid with Chuugoku)
  • Eimei (Kagawa)
  • Imabari Nishi (Ehime)
  • Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
Eimei is a deserved winner. In the quarterfinals, Eimei was almost tripped up by Tier 3 Sanbonmatsu. Still, they survived 8-7. That might have woken them up as they easily dispatched Jinsei Gakuen and Kanonji Chuo to claim the prefectural title.

That momentum continued into the super-regionals. They defeated Naruto and Kochi with back-to-back 7-0 mercy rule games to reach the finals.

Imabari Nishi almost never made it to the super-regional final. Against Imabari Kita in the first game, they needed 13 innings to win 2-1. After a seemingly easier time against Uwajima Higashi, Matsuyama Seiryou and Matsuyama Higashi couldn't mount a challenge.

It appeared they needed another warmup game as they handled Kawashima (Tokushima 2) 4-1. They'd need it because Meitoku Gijyuku loomed large next - even without Kishi, because they have another young ace by the name of Kunimitsu Akito (国光 瑛人) who was already acclimating himself in the position.

Kunimitsu was staked to a 4-0 lead early, but perhaps the stage got to him as Imabari Nishi scored 4 in the 5th to level the game. Nakano would come in relief of Kunimitsu and try to hold the line, but would not be able to as Imabari would take the lead in the 8th as ace Sugiuchi would make it stick, winning 5-4.

Once again, the momentum seemed to continue as Sugiuchi would shut down Eimei as his team would slowly build a 2-0 lead. But it appears that he just ran out of steam late. Eimei would score 5 unanswered runs in the final 2 innings to take the lead and hold on for the 5-3 win.

I do think Meitoku Gijyuku, despite getting the floating bid last year, will probably get it again. Kishi was a solid ace that turned the cameras, and it's possible that Kunimitsu might do the same if the JHBF thinks about it.

Kyushu (4)
  • Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto)
  • Itoman (Okinawa)
  • Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima)
  • Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu (Fukuoka)
  • Higashi-Fukuoka (Fukuoka)
Kyushu Gakuin's victory in the Kyushu super-regionals was not an easy task. Sure, the prefecturals were as their only real close game was a 5-2 win over Chinzei in the quarterfinals. But they still faced Shuugakukan and Kumamoto Kougyou.

Things got slightly easier once they got to the super-regionals, though they had to rally after giving up 5 runs in an inning to Kaisei (Nagasaki). After that, Chubu Shougyou (Okinawa 1) and Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu (Fukuoka 1) were no match as they reached the finals.

Their opponent in the final would be Itoman. Having rolled over the majority of the competition, they seemed to give their players a rest as they lost narrowly to Chubu Shougyou in the prefectural final 3-2.

Their road to the finals were filled with tough competition. They did have a warmup game against Saga Gakuen to start, but after that they surrendered 5 runs late to Meihou (Oita 1) forcing enchousen. They would win in 11 innings 9-6.

Against Kamimura Gakuen in the semifinals they actually relinquished their lead, having to rally to force enchousen and winning 4-3 in 10.

Itoman's late-inning woes would rear its ugly head in the finals, this time with no chance for response. 3 runs in the 8th to tie the game and the sayonara run in the 9th to claim the title.

Kamimura Gakuen will get a bid. Shounan provided some resistance in the 4th round but lost 5-2, and Kagoshima Jyousai reached the finals this time around though they lost 6-2.

Kumamoto Kougyou proved to be no match, but they needed 4 runs in the final 2 innings to force enchousen against Higashi-Fukuoka, winning 6-5 in 11.

The only question will be the last bid. Yes, Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu did reach the quarterfinals, and they did win their prefecture. But the blowout loss against Kyushu Gakuin is not promising. However, their biggest competition for the bid would be Higashi-Fukuoka - the runner-up in the prefectuals to Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu. The resume isn't that much better, and as a result may not be enough to promote themselves to the final bid.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The road to senbatsu - Hokkaido champion decided!

Well, guess who's on a roll now?

After finally getting back to Koushien this past summer, Toukai Dai-yon decided that they liked it there enough to go back there again in the spring!

Oddly, they had trouble in the quarterfinals of the super-regional against Kitami Kougyou, as they rallied from down 2-0 in the final 2 innings with 2 in the bottom of the 9th to walk off to the semifinals. Compare that to the very next game where they mercy-ruled Komadai Tomakomai 14-7 in 7 innings!

They would have to face a Hokkai squad looking to wipe the bad taste of the summer from their mouths, and having to face Hokkaido Sakae, Hokushou and Sapporo Nichidai just to reach the finals - certainly more difficult that what Toukai Dai-yon had to face,

And yet, while the game was close, Toukai Dai-yon never trailed - scoring a run in the first on their way to a 3-2 win for their 5th title and 1st in 14 years.  This guarantees them a bid at senbatsu and a chance to earn the region one more bid at the Meiji Jingu tournament.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The road to senbatsu - Aki Taikai - Hokkaido

So we're well underway in the Aki Taikai's - the fall tournaments that will give the best indicators who will be invited to Senbatsu.

Here's where things stand in the Hokkaido Super-Regionals:

Hokkaido only gets 1 allocated bid, so all of Hokkaido competes in their own super-region. Before that, teams have to qualify out of their regionals.
  • Hakodate Regionals - Hakodate Kougyou, Hakodatedai Yuuto
 Hakodate Kougyou did face difficulty in the A block, while Hakodatedai Yuuto faced almost none.
  • Muroran Regionals - Komadai Tomakomai, Hokkaido Sakae
Both schools won their games very easily.
  • Sapporo Regionals - Sapporo Nichidai, Hokkai, Sapporo Dai-ichi, Toukai Dai-yon
Sapporo only gets 4 spots given the combined taikai. None of the schools here are surprising, though Toukai Dai-yon is certainly weaker than where they were in the summer.
  • Otaru Regionals - Hokushou
Otaru Chouryou almost did it again. Facing Hokushou in the semifinals, they took a 5-4 lead in the 5th, but ace Chiba couldn't hold it, giving up 2 as Hokushou revenged the summer loss with a 6-5 win. That was their only opposition
  • Asahikawa Regionals - Asahikawa Kougyou, Asahikawa Ryuukoku
This region was much more competitive, though admittedly Asahikawa Kougyou did have to face Asahikawa Jitsugyou and Asahikawa Meisei.
  • Nayoro Regionals - Wakkanai Ootani
Wakkanai Ootani got a great performance from ace Endou, shutting out Shibetsu Shouun 2-0 to win the regionals.
  • Kitami Regionals - Kitami Kougyou, Kitami Hokuto
Kitami Kougyou came from behind to defeat Engaru in the opening round 3-2. After that, the rest was a breeze in Block A. Kitami Hokuto after obliterating Kuneppu 32-0 stumbled a bit thereafter in the immediate game thereafter, but otherwise was unchallenged.
  • Tokachi Regionals - Obihiro Sanjyou, Shirakaba Gakuen
No Obihiro Ootani this year either, they were mercy ruled by Obihiro Sanjyou in the Block A final. Shirakaba Gakuen had no issues getting through in Block B.
  • Kushine Regionals - Kushiro Hokuyou, Nakashibetsu
Kushiro Hokuyou took out one of the regulars in the Block A final, defeating Bushuukan 9-5 in the final. Nakashibetsu comes through with close games versus Kushiro Koryou, Betsukai and a 10-inning final against Kushiro Konan.

    Monday, August 25, 2014

    Final Thoughts

    To carry my thoughts on the final to my final thoughts on this Koushien...

    I for one was happy so many powerhouses were left out of Koushien this year. If I had my way, Komatsu Ootani and Sekine Gakuen would have been here instead of Seiryou and Nihon Bunri respectively. I root for the underdog whenever I can because I think 甲子園 should not be reserved for the top schools who can recruit and bring in talent. There is so much being made about that there are 3917 schools that compete for the right to get to Koushien every spring and summer.

    But realistically, only a fraction of those realistically has a chance. Maybe around 200-300, or about 2.5% of the schools realistically have a chance at just getting to Koushien. Once you get here, the chances of winning it are even slimmer - remember, just by location alone, 20 prefectures have not yet even won 1 Natsu Koushien title.

    And so if you're talented ballplayer, what do you think when you live in say Tottori, where no one has won a title, and you aspire to win one?

    Of course, you go to a school that has a track record of winning titles - and an already weakened prefecture gets even more so.

    You want an immediate example? Ace Fukushima, 3B Katsuki and LF Nakamura all hail from... Fukuoka - where the last title won from there was back in 1992 with Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku.

    And so the stronger get stronger, and the rest, well... who cares because they're not winners.

    It's why I now almost despise the powerhouses with a passion. Their brand name carries them so far, from recruiting all the way to in-game play where the no-names have to fight the constant whipping they receive just to have a chance. And even then, like in the case of Komatsu Ootani and Sekine Gakuen this year and like Kakunodate and Kasumigaura last year, getting the final 3 outs is mentally more tough than anything out there.

    And yet, it's Seiryou that's lauded for their comeback because they're Seiryou and they showed their power when I argue that no, it's poor Komatsu Ootani who couldn't overcome the victim mentality when things started to go wrong.

    I think my best comparison is saying the powerhouse schools are say the Big 5 conferences in college football, and the rest of the schools are the other Division 1 schools. Yes, they're there, but no, they're rarely if ever going to be considered for the title.

    Think about this. With Osaka Touin's win today, they have won 3 of the last 7 Natsu Koushien titles.

    Okay, but one could argue to me.. "Well you rooted for Komadai Tomakomai in 2006 and they were going to their 3rd straight Natsu title? What about that?"

    Well, for one, they're from Hokkaido - and until they won back in 2004, no team had won from Hokkaido. So I wanted them to make the most of their run while they had it. You can see that they went to Koushien one more year, but after that has faded into almost anonymity.

    "And what about rooting for Kouryou back in 2007?"

    That's a fair question. And my answer is it was during that time that I still had not seen 高校野球 the way I do now. And I rooted for Kouryou because they seemed like a strong team that deserved to win.

    Of course, while I still like Kouryou, if I were to go back to 2007 knowing what I know now, I probably would root for Saga Kita.

    And that's why this year I was happy to see the non-powerhouses have their day. Kasukabe Kyouei defeating Ryuukokudai Heian right off the bat, Toyama Shougyou, Mie, Jyouhoku, Moriokadai Fuzoku amongst others. It was fun to see their fanbases be able to cheer for a victory as opposed to just being there.

    But in the end Osaka Touin won - and I can understand it because of the dynamic that exists today. But the pessimist in me sees that one tactic in the 7th as something that made the win unbearable - because since they were losing - to Mie no less, they would resort to things like that to gain an advantage and "rightly" claim the title.

    In America - I wouldn't doubt it at all. In Japan, in 高校野球, I would have said in the past "Never.". But now I can't discount the possibility, and that is what saddens me and puts a even bigger shadow on something that I liked so much.

    Kesshou - Mie (Mie) v. Osaka Touin (Osaka)

    And so here we are...

    It's been a topsy-turvy tournament to say the least, with the tone being set in the very first game setting the one as senbatsu champs Ryuukokudai Heian was shown the door. From there we saw two regions not known for strong baseball - Tohoku and Hokushinetsu, go almost clean through to the 3rd round. We even had a possibility of an all-Hokushinetsu final has the results yesterday been different!

    In the end though, we have none of that. Instead, we have a perennial Koushien team trying to play David to one of the - if not the - most dominant powerhouses in recent years, the Goliath that is Osaka Touin.

    Osaka Touin was supposed to be here - especially given the dearth of other powerhouses in this year's field. They went and routed Riseisha, they went and routed PL Gakuen.

    The road here at Koushien though was anything but smooth. The Kaisei gamei, the Kendai Takasaki game, and last but not least facing a team that was trying to not only emulate, but surpass them. They have certainly been tested.

    They've perhaps gotten things together at the right time versus the right opponent. Tsuruga Kehi for the first half of the game traded blows before they just plain ran out of gas.

    There are consequences of course. Ace Fukushima threw 160 pitches yesterday. They did rest him for a game earlier against Yazu, where #10 Tanaka would throw a 3-hitter.

    Still though, 160 pitches is 160 pitches. What will they have left? And do they feel arrogant enough to start Tanaka throwing down the challenge to Mie?

    Because this is Mie's first trip to the finals, their first trip even just to the Best 4. They're in a position that they've never been in before with a chance to win the title.

    Mie was tested right off the bat as they had to comeback against Kouryou eventually winning in 11. Then they had to face Oogaki Nichidai, upstart Jyouhoku, before seemingly hitting their stride defeating both Okinawa Shougaku and Nihon Bunri soundly.

    They have always felt to me like the ultimate blue-collar team. Never the big-name talent, just players who put their nose to the grindstone and were never cheated in a game, no matter how the opponent.

    Ace Imai Shigetarou has been through this before. He was the last line of defense against Anraku and Saibi last year, allowing 1 ER in 2 innings. This year, he has carried the team through all the games and threw around 130 pitches in his effort against Nihon Bunri, though near the end it wasn't as stressful.

    I could analyze this game to death, but there's something about this Mie team that just throws all that out the window. They'll be in it for sure, whether or not they can win... well I guess we'll find out.

    Mie (Mie)
    CF Nagano Hayato
    2B Sada Taiki
    SS Utsunomiya Touma
    1B Nishioka Musashi
    LF Inaba Ryuuya
    3B Yamai Tatsuya (#16)
    RF Seko Ren
    C Nakabayashi Kengo
    P Imai Shigetarou

    Osaka Touin (Osaka)
    LF Nakamura Makoto
    2B Minemoto Takumi
    3B Katsuki Kazuya
    1B Shouzui Yuuya (#8)
    RF Aoyagi Kouki (#13)
    C Yokoi Yuuya
    CF Mori Shinnosuke (#9)
    SS Fukuda Kouki
    P Fukushima Kousuke

    Home Plate Umpire - Furukawa
    1st Base Umpire - Tachibana
    2nd Base Umpire - Ootsuki? (大槻)
    3rd Base Umpire - Doi

    ______________________________________________________

    13:00 - First Pitch!

    Top 1st
    Nagano liner back at Fukushima! He gets his glove on it, deflects it straight up and makes the catch for the first out! Bad luck there for Nagano, but a nice play from Fukushima.

    Sada gets ahead 3-0 before Fukushima puts in 2 strikes. He takes an easy swing and lines a ball to center for a single.  However, Utsunomiya can't do anything and grounds to short. Fukuda tries to go for the double play, but Utsunomiya beats out the throw at 1st.

    Nishioka with a liner, but right at Katsuki and he makes the catch to retire the side! Some good defense by Osaka Touin, but Mie is making good contact on Fukushima's pitches early, and that is something to watch out for.

    Bottom 1st
    But there's a problem for Mie. Imai is maxing out at 130. Which means he's lost significant velocity from yesterday.

    Nakamura with a liner to left, but Inaba - making the start today makes the catch.

    Minemoto with a ball up the middle, Sada makes the stop, tries the jump throw, but it's offline and late. Nishioka snags it, but can't make the tag. Good try though.

    Hit-and-run from Nishitani-kantoku! Katsuki grounds to 2nd, and working to plan Sada's only play is to 1st. 2 down though as Shouzui steps in.

    Grounder to 3rd! Yamai with the great pick on the short hop! Throw to 1st low, but Nishioka makes a great pick on his end to secure the out. Scoreless through 1.

    Top 2nd
    Inaba makes the most of his start! He hits a gapper to right center that splits the defense for a leadoff double!

    But Yamai wastes the chance! He pops his bunt, Fukushima secures it and it's like any normal base hit+bunt scenario.

    Fukushima though falling behind Seko 3-0, but then firing strikes in once again to fill the count. He ends up walking him, but it also creates the force.

    Nakabayashi drive to left! Nakamura going back to the fence! It falls in front of the wall! Inaba scores! Seko being waved around! Throw in... he scores!! #8 batter Nakabayashi helps out his battery mate and gives Mie the 2-0 lead!

    Imai tries to help his own cause, but he fouls out to Katsuki near the camera well.

    Nagano working the count as a base hit could mean a 3rd run. Count goes full...

    And he walks Nagano! Creates a force, but with 2 out I don't think that was the idea this time.

    Sada jammed and hits a bouncer up the 3rd base line. Katsuki makes the throw to 1st and the side is retired. Mie though strikes first with a timely double from Nakabayashi! Though 2 runs is still really meaningless at this point.

    Bottom 2nd
    Aoyagi waiting for his pitch, lines a ball to left. Seko coming in, slides.. makes the catch for the 1st out!

    Yokoi clean liner to left for a single, Inaba waits for the bounce into his mitt.

    Mori chases a slider way away for the 2nd out. The ball gets away from Nakabayashi and Yokoi can take 2nd.

    Imai playing exclusively away from Fukuda, but gets the count full after falling behind 3-0.

    But Imai gives him too much of a strike! He lines it to right for a basehit! Relay throw in not nearly enough and it's a 2-1 ballgame!

    Fukushima chases the slider as well. Nakabayashi throws to 1st to complete the play, but already Osaka Touin has one of the runs back.

    Top 3rd
    Both pitchers having to work. Fukushima 36 pitches through 2 innings so far.

    Utsunomiya gets the bat around on an inside fastball and puts it past Fukushima's feet into center.

    Nakamura-kantoku goes for the hit-and-run, but Nishioka fouls it up the 3rd base line.

    Nishioka goes down and drives a ball, but it's more of a golf swing as Mori is there near the wall for the catch.

    Inaba meanwhile is on fire at the right time! He bloops a ball to left and Nakamura has no play on it. Runners on 1st and 2nd for Yamai.

    Unlike Imai, Fukushima's velocity doesn't seem to have dropped. His fastball is in the upper 130s.

    But Yamai is having no luck! He's jammed, chops one to 3rd and Katsuki starts the 5-4-3 double play to end the inning!

    Bottom 3rd
    Nakamura slicer down the left field line... fair!  Inaba has to run it down, but Nakamura is in with a leadoff double!

    AH! Imai throws a wild pitch and the douten runner is 90 feet away! Nakamura-kantoku calls time.

    SANSHIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Minemoto chases the slider down and away and Imai dodges 1 bullet. But still 2 to go.

    And that's it. Katsuki with a fly to deep left center. The throw just goes into the infield and we're douten at 2-2!

    Shouzui flies out to right, but as expected, Osaka Touin has tied the game.

    Top 4th
    Seko ball up the middle, Fukuda makes the pick, takes a couple of steps.. fires from 2nd and is there for the out.

    Nakabayashi can't repeat his first AB and skies a ball to Fukuda for the 2nd out.

    The bottom of the lineup this time around proves to be easy as Imai goes down looking to end the inning.

    Bottom 4th
    Aoyagi gets under a high fastball and pops out to short. Yokoi goes after the first pitch and drives it to center. Nagano running back towards right center makes the catch.

    And Mori helicopters a swing, but merely grounds out to Nishoka for the 3rd out. Both aces get a 1-2-3 inning this frame.

    Top 5th
    Nagano on a ball just inches from the ground hits a liner to center! What the??!!

    Sada with the bunt, Fukushima goes to 2nd... AHHHHH!!!

    He throws it wide and Fukuda can't snag it! It goes into center and Nagano takes 3rd!

    Utsunomiya overswinging at his AB when he just needs at minimum a sac fly.

    But then he just goes down and makes contact on a pitch and bloops it to center! Mori coming in, but he can't get there! Nagano comes in and Mie retakes the lead! 3-2!

    Nakatani-kantoku calls time...

    Nishioka tries to lay down the bunt, but he pops it up! Shouzui makes the charging catch and goes to 1st to double off Utsunomiya! Big mistake, and while it's often seen, the cleanup batter bunting backfires for Mie and what was a great scoring opportunity leads to just 1 run.

    Bottom 5th
    Bottom of Osaka Touin's lineup trying to attack Imai early this inning. But neither Fukuda nor Fukushima can make any headway and there's 2 out.

    Nakamura works the count, but chases the changeup for the 3rd out! The game going at a quick pace, and Mie holds a fragile 3-2 lead over Osaka Touin heading into the break!

    Both teams certainly having opportunities against the aces on the mound. Mie though has squandered good scoring opportunities with poor bunting fundamentals. Will that hurt them later?

    Top 6th
    #5 Uchida (who apparently is injured) to hit for struggling Yamai and it pays immediate dividends! He singles to left! Seko successfully bunts him along.

    Nakabayashi with a ball off the end of the bat, flies out to right. Uchida makes it to 3rd, but there's 2 out for Imai. He's quickly down 0-2...

    He has to swing away, and hits one right to Fukuda. Throw to 1st and Uchida is stranded at 3rd.

    Bottom 6th
    Uchida, despite the injury will stay in to play 3B...

    Minemoto with a clean single through the left side.

    Katsuki not bunting, but he hits it right to short! Utsunomiya to 2nd for 1, throw to 1st as Minemoto slides in... DOUBLE PLAY!!!

    Sada hanging in there makes the throw to 1st as Katsuki dives short to 1st! 2 out!

    (Cue Docomo mushroom sliding into first...)

    Shouzui tries to check his swing, but makes contact with the ball and hits it right back to Imai! He goes to 1st and the side is retired!!

    Top 7th
    Nagano proving his worth as a leadoff batter as he gets his 2nd base hit to center! 4 quality ABs so far today!

    Hit-and-run!! Nagano takes off on the 0-1 pitch, Sada swings and misses, but Yokoi airmails the throw!

    Sada further helps the throw as he just throws the bat at the ball and hits it to the right side advancing him to 3rd.

    SQUEEZE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    But it's a pitchout!!!!!

    Utsunomiya has no chance to foul it off and Nagano is run down! 2 out!

    Oh, is Nakamura-kantoku trying to give Osaka Touin a chance? He's playing traditional 高校野球 which is completely failing him! It's when he lets his players play that they do their best.

    Utsunomiya does draw the walk. But Nishioka lines out to Nakamura in deep left for the 3rd out.

    Bottom 7th
    Aoyagi leading off the inning, tries to appeal for a dead ball that clearly wasn't. But head ump Furukawa confers. No dead ball is given, but it seems strange.

    He eventually draws a walk. Yokoi bunts him along.

    But Imai seems to be affected as he hits Mori...

    And now Fukuda singles to center! Manrui for Osaka Touin!

    Nakamura-kantoku calls for time...

    Fukushima does the best thing he can. He avoids the double play at least by striking out swinging and rotates the lineup.

    Nakamura jammed, bloops one to center! Nagano charges in, dives... but can't make the catch! 2 runs score and Touin takes the 4-3 lead.

    Minemoto grounds out to Imai, but Touin does take the lead with just 2 innings to go.

    Top 8th
    Mie though is playing desperate. Inaba, Uchida and Seko all fly out and they'll be down to their final 3 outs.

    Bottom 8th
    Apparently that is it for Imai on the mound for now. He goes to RF as #12 Mori replaces Seko and takes the hill.

    Katsuki starts him off with a single to center. Shouzui bunts him along.

    Now #11 Setoue comes in to pitch for Mori, and #18 Matsumura comes in for Inaba to play LF.

    And he hits Aoyagi...

    Settles down a bit, fires a couple of strikes and gets Yokoi to pop up to center. Nagano charges in... makes the running catch for the 2nd out.

    He then fires 2 strikes in to Mori.. and he pops it up! Matsumura with the catch and the side is retired.

    Top 9th
    But it's Osaka Touin that has the 4-3 lead going into the 9th...

    And it's the 8-9-1 batters up for Mie. Nagano may get to bat with 2 outs...

    Nakabayashi completely different from last inning's ABs. Tries to take pitches, drives a ball to center and Mori is there for the out.

    Imai will stand in to hit, despite his poor BA.

    But he fouls off pitches staying alive...

    And singles up the middle to set it up for Nagano.

    Nagano with a liner to left and that's in for a single. Imai as the douten run is in scoring position.

    Nakatani-kantoku calls for time.

    Now Nakamura-kantoku goes with a PH? #13 Suzuki stands in to hit for Sada.

    SANSHIN!!!!

    Suzuki too eager perhaps chases the changeup inside and there's 2 out.

    Utsunomiya grounder to short, Fukuda throws to 1st, and a diving Utsunomiya can't stop the inevitable. Osaka Touin claims the title with a 4-3 win over Mie.

    I'm sorry, but while my alliances are clearly against Osaka Touin, I wouldn't have minded them winning because well... they're Osaka Touin and they're a powerhouse, and etc. etc.

    But I have issue with this win. Yes, Mie did themselves no favors during the game. The failed bunt in the 2nd... the failed squeeze in the 7th. If Mie had just played the game straight up - especially in the 7th, they could certainly be in a better position.

    I can't really get over the dead ball request that Aoyagi made in the 7th though. It clearly wasn't a dead ball, he knew it, but he got the umpires to confer and it wound up throwing off Imai's rhythm as Osaka Touin would score the douten and gyakuten runs.

    And as I was clearly reminded, the saying goes, "You play to win the game."

    Sure, of course you do.

    But I would rather it be done the right way. One that doesn't require seemingly underhanded tactics. I'm no optimist, let me tell you - otherwise why would I be thinking this? But when I first started watching 高校野球, it was because I thought the premise was pure and wholesome.

    As you've read my thoughts on it in recent years, I have found that that vision is far from reality.

    As I see the interviews going on with Fukushima and Nakamura, they are crying because they won. And of course there can only be one winner. But more often than not, like in real life - it's the big cats that generally rule the day.

    Life isn't fair, and I know that. It's just sad to think that it applies to the extent that it does here.

    Sunday, August 24, 2014

    Jyunkesshou Game 2 - Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui) v. Osaka Touin (Osaka)

    And now onto our game of the day.

    Osaka Touin had to smile even before reaching Koushien, seeing a lot of the powerhouses from other prefectures not even qualify. It just meant that they had less competition to face to get to and win the finals.

    But the road has been far from easy. First was a ridiculous game versus Kaisei that they barely won 7-6. Then came facing Meitoku Gijyuku, for the 3rd straight year, and holding on to win that game. After an easy time against Yazu, they slowed down Kendai's running attack enough (with some fortunate events) to reach the semifinals.

    And that resume presents a problem. Because their opponent appears to be a team that can beat them at their own game - Tsuruga Kehi.

    Now, their offense slowed down last game as they only scored 7 runs against Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei, but they still average over 12 runs a game so far and do not have any signs of stopping. In fact, given some of their actions, they'd rather continue pummeling their opponents if given the opportunity.

    If I were Mie, I honestly don't really know who I'd want to face. A seemingly weaker Osaka Touin squad (their team average is under 0.300!) that has done it before, or a ridiculously strong team (only Nakamoto has an average UNDER 0.300) that's never been there before...

    Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui)
    1B Shinohara Ryou
    3B Shimomura Takamasa
    SS Asai Kouya
    C Okada Kouta
    CF Mine Kentarou
    RF Oyana Shou
    P Hiranuma Shouta
    LF Yamamoto Akihiro
    2B Nakamoto Takahiro

    Osaka Touin (Osaka)
    LF Nakamura Makoto
    2B Minemoto Takumi
    3B Katsuki Kazuya
    1B Shouzui Yuuya (#8)
    CF Mori Shinnosuke (#9)
    RF Aoyagi Kouki (#13)
    C Yokoi Yuuya
    SS Fukuda Kouki
    P Fukushima Kousuke

    ______________________________________________________

    13:28 - First Pitch!

    Top 1st
    Good start for Fukushima as he gets Shinohara to hit a weak grounder to 2nd. Shimomura though hits an easy single to right.

    Asai with a lines single through to left, and could the engine already be revved up??

    Okada almost takes out Fukushima with a hard liner back at him and he can only spin out of the way... Manrui for Tsuruga Kehi!!

    Mine single to left! Shimomura scores as everyone moves up a station., 1-0 Kehi already!

    OH MY.

    Oyana just CRUSHED a ball to right. Aoyagi going back to the wall!!!

    HAITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    DEAR LORD.

    Who the heck can stop this team? They took the challenge of facing Osaka Touin and just stepped all over it.

    5-0 TSURUGA KEHI.

    Hiranuma and Yamamoto groundout to 2nd, but this is beyond ridiculuous.

    Bottom 1st
    NO WAY!!!!!!!!!!!

    Nakamura drive to left center!!!

    Mine going back to the wall! He looks up!!!

    HAITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Well, then is it going to be this type of game? It's only 1 run, but it's a statement nonetheless. 5-1!

    And now Minemoto draws a walk! Katsuki follows that up with a single to right! Nishitani-kantoku calling for the bunt from Shouzui! He fouls 2 off but lays the 3rd one down!

    Mori scorcher up the 1st base line... FAIR!!!!!!! It gets past Shinohara and into right! Both runners are going to score and it's a 5-3 ballgame!! What the heck is going on here?!!

    Huranuma retires Aoyagi and Yokoi to retire the side, and while Osaka Touin got the wrong end of that inning, it could have gone much worse.

    Top 2nd
    The engine goes into action again. Nakamoto singles back up the middle for a leadoff hit. Shinohara lays down a bunt to move him over to murderer's row.

    Fukushima avoids one bullet as Shimomura flies out to center. But then he adds pressure to himself by throwing a wild pitch moving Nakamoto to 3rd. And then he walks Yokoi...

    SANSHIN!!!

    Fukushima comes out unscathed as he gets Okada to chase the cut ball for the 3rd out!

    Bottom 2nd
    Both pitchers having success against the bottom of the lineups. Hiranuma strikes out Fukuda on a changeup inside, while Fukushima flies out to center.

    But he wants nothing to do with Nakamura and he walks him.

    Minemoto with a drive to left.

    Naw...

    Can't be...

    Mine going back to the wall.

    HAITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Hiranuma leaves it over the plate and Minemoto knows exactly what to do with it! Amazingly... we're tied at 5-5!!

    Katsuki grounds out to 1st, but Osaka Touin has already made up the 5-run deficit!!

    Top 3rd
    Mine goes down swinging and perhaps Fukushima has settled down.

    NOPE! NOT AT ALL!!!

    OYANA DRIVE TO RIGHT! Does he have his 2nd HR???

    HAITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    He does! It can get more ridiculous! Oyama with 5 RBIs already and he gives Tsuruga Kehi the 6-5 lead!!

    And then he walks Hiranuma! Oh boy.

    But once again, there is respite at the bottom of the lineup. Yamamoto strikes out, and Nakamoto pops up to Minemoto to end the inning.

    But these teams are trading haymakers like there's no tomorrow!

    Bottom 3rd
    Shouzui working a long AB against Hiranuma but Hiranuma finally wins on the 12th pitch with a groundout to short.

    Mori meanwhile gets his 2nd hit with a seeing eye-single to right.

    But both Aoyagi and Yokoi uppercut two balls into 2 infield flies and Hiranuma finally as a clean frame.

    Top 4th
    In this type of game you cannot give the other team free runners. Yet Fukuda does just that as he bobbles the ball on Shinohara's groundout. Shimomura bunts him over.

    But Shinohara goes on contact and Asai's grounder goes to short. But Fukuda goes to 3rd and he's caught! Asai doesn't even have time to get to 2nd.

    Okada flies out to left and Fukushima holds serve.

    Bottom 4th
    Fukuda chopper up middle... it gets through! He finally gets his first hit of Koushien! Fukushima bunts him over.

    Nakamura will not take another walk (though he should) and hits a hard bounder to 2nd. Nakamoto goes to 1st, and the runner advances.

    Minemoto with his own liner slicing past Hiranuma into center! Fukuda scores and we're level again at 6-6!!

    Katsuki earns a walk and that means Hiranuma has to face Shouzui - though he's 0-1 so far.

    Shouzui with a fly to right, but the defense is playing in???!!

    Mine and Oyana have to scramble back as the ball goes all the way to the wall!  Minemoto scores! Katsuki comes around.. he scores!!! Osaka Touin takes the lead on Shouzui's triple!! It's 8-6!!!

    うそ!うそだろう!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Mori with a drive to right! Oyana going towards the foul pole!!!!

    HAITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Mori with a 2-run HR gives Osaka Touin the 10-6 lead!!!

    Aoyagi strikes out to end the inning, but Shouzui and Mori land back-to-back blows and is Tsuruga Kehi on the ropes?

    Top 5th
    Mine chases a slider outside for the first out.

    Oyana will not get 3 consecutive HRs, but he does bloop a single to left.

    おっと。。。

    Fukushima hits Hiranuma on his right leg...

    Yamamoto revenges that with a liner to right! Oyana comes around from 2nd to score and it's 10-7!!!

    Nakamoto lifts a ball to right! Aoyagi having to scramble back! That's over his head as it bounds to the wall! Hiranuma scores on the double and it's 10-8!!

    Shinohara oddly struggling at the top of the lineup. He goes down swinging on a changeup for the 2nd out.

    And Shimomura grounds to 3rd! Katsuki with it, takes his time and makes the throw to 1st for the 3rd out!

    Tsuruga Kehi doesn't get all the runs back, but cuts the deficit to 2!

    Bottom 5th
    Shimomura makes a great play on a short hop to reture Yokoi.

    Fukuda chases a shoulder-high fastball and flies out to right.

    And Hiranuma flies out to deep center and we hit the break.

    ドン。。。

    Top 6th
    Asai shut down after the 1st as he grounds to 3rd.

    Okada with a grounder to the left side, Fukuda sells out and dives, but it's out of his reach.

    But Mine groudns to short! Fukuda goes to 2nd for 1, throw to 1st... double play!!!  6-4-3 double play and Tsuruga Kehi fails to gain ground!

    Bottom 6th
    Both pitchers are over the 100 pitch mark now, with Hiranuma at exactly 100.

    Even now, he still wants nothing to do with Nakamura, he walks him to start the inning.

    Wild pitch from Hiranuma! Nakamura heads to 2nd!

    Another wild pitch! It bounces in front and then goes all the way to the backstop and Nakamura heads to 3rd!

    Minemoto draws a 4-pitch walk.

    And that's it for Hiranuma. But he's still in the game.

    But it's not #11 Umino, it's LF Yamamoto!! He and Hiranuma switch places!

    Katsuki rudely welcomes him with a drive to left! That's over Hiranuma's head! Nakamura comes to score, Minemoto heads to 3rd, he's given the wave around! Katsuki has a 2-RBI double and Osaka Touin leads 12-8!!

    Shouzui liner, but Asai makes the snag for the 2nd out!

    Mori makes poor contact, but hits it to the right side to advance the runner to 3rd.

    Aoyagi grounder to short, throw to first is short and goes off of Shinohara's glove! Katsuki scores and it's 13-8!!

    And it looks like Aoyagi needs some treatment as his head slide into first scraped him up in some way, I think his arm.

    It looks like they're thinking about an injury-runner, but I'm not sure the umpires will let that fly. After a delay, he comes out to 1st.

    However, he gets caught off 1st and is run down to end the inning.

    Top 7th
    Tsuruga Kehi trying to hit their way out of the deficit.

    Oyana with a sharp drive to center, but Mori sprinting back makes the catch.

    Hiranuma with a liner to left, but Aoyaji makes the catch there too.

    Yamamoto tries a different strategy with a safety bunt! Katsuki charges in, but his throw is late!

    And Nakamoto pays that off! He drives one to left center and that'll go over the drawn in defense and to the wall! Yamamoto scores to make it 13-9!!

    Shinohara flies out to left to end the inning, and now it's time that Tsuruga Kehi's enemy...

    Bottom 7th
    Yokoi draws a leadoff walk and Osaka Touin would like to play add-on. But Fukuda pops up his bunt and Okada makes the catch.

    Fukushima flies out to left, and that brings out Nakamura again, who is actually just 1-2 with 2 BB and that HR.

    Nakamura with a popup to shallow right center... Everyone converges on it, and it's Nakamoto who makes the sliding catch for the 3rd out!

    Top 8th
    Fukushima leaves a ball too close to the plate and Shimomura singles past a diving Fukuda.

    Shimomura takes off for 2nd! Throw from Yokoi not even close! Through remember they're down 4.

    Asai tries to stay alive, but flies out to right.

    Nakatani-kantoku calling for time, Fukushima is sitting at 132 pitches.

    Fukushima can't throw a strike! He falls behind Okada before getting a ball in. But he still winds up walking him and that brings up Mine who is 1-3 on the day with 2 Ks and a double play to his name.,

    Mine drive to left, but it's not nearly deep enough. Nakamura is there for the catch.

    And that brings up Oyana... he may be their last real chance in this game....

    At first it looks like they're going to pitch around him, but two strong swings level the count.

    Comebacker! Fukushima squats and squeezes the ball! Goes to 1st and Tsuruga Kehi comes up snake eyes!!

    Bottom 8th
    Minemoto with a single through the right side. Katsuki on the very next pitch hits a gapper to right center past the outfielders. Minemoto comes all the way around from 1st to score and make it 14-9.

    Wild pitch from Yamamoto sends him to 3rd and this could be it. He then walks Shouzui, they get that back after he's caught trying to steal 2nd.

    Still, Mori hits a sac fly to right to make it 15-9.

    The day officially ends for Hiranuma. #10 Taniguchi comes in for him to take the hill while Yamamoto goes back to left. And while he hits the first batter, he gets Yokoi to fly to center to end the inning.

    Top 9th
    #17 Matsuoka hits for RP Taniguchi, and gives a pretty good AB. However Fukushima wins as he flies out to left.

    Yamamoto with a grounder to the right side. Shinohara grabs the ball, tosses to Fukushima who barely beats Yamamoto to the bag for the 2nd out.

    Nakamoto gets hit to flip the lineup over to the top and Yonemitsu.

    And he singles through the right side. Nakamoto goes to 3rd, but they're still a long ways from a tie game.

    Shimomura now steps in to try and keep the dream alive. Down 0-2, he takes two pitches Fukushima tries to paint the corner with.

    But on the 3-2 pitch, Shimomura hits a liner to left! Nakamura is there for the catch and on his 160th pitch Fukushima closes out the game!! Osaka Touin prevails 15-9!!

    Yet even in this crazy game, you have to feel for Tsuruga Kehi. They went through this entire tournament being the proverbial bully, and I even proclaimed then to be wearing the black hats. Yet, those words were spoken in hyperbole and we have to remember they are still kids.

    And perhaps you need that confidence, that arrogance - whether visible or not, is necessary to win the tournament. For Tsuruga Kehi, it was more apparent and hence the black hat comments.

    You can perhaps question not relieving Hiranuma in prior games to rest his arm - especially the Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei game. But in the end they played a great tournament and just ran into a team that could finally keep up with them.

    And so we have our final set. It's an all central affair with Osaka Touin trying to win their 4th title against Mie who is trying to win their 1st.

    Jyunkesshou Game 1 - Nihon Bunri (Niigata) v. Mie (Mie)

    And now, the stretch run...

    The first game many consider as the warmup game. With the offensive power teams playing in the second semifinal, people look at this final as one where a team can say they at least made the final - though in Nihon Bunri's case they made the final in that instant classic versus Chuukyoudai Chuukyou.

    Nihon Bunri has played 4 close games - even their last game against Seikou Gakuin was close until the top of the 9th. Their key victory in this run was perhaps their comeback win against Toyama Shougyou because of the comeback and the fact that Toyama Shougyou had some quality wins of their own.

    Iidzuka is the only pitcher for Bunri they're willing to use it seems, so we'll see how he does in the possible last 2 games.

    Mie actually played out of character in their last game. They had gone out to a 3-2 lead against Okinawa Shougaku before in character giving up 2 runs. Out of nowhere they scored 5 immediately thereafter and did NOT let Okinawa Shougaku back into the game.

    Mie's record looks rather impressive having defeated 3 known participants in Kouryou, Oogaki Nichidai, and their last opponent Okinawa Shougaku.

    Mie too depends on their ace Imai Shigetarou. But despite the lopsided win over Okishou, he did give up 12 hits and 3 walks and was immensely helped by the defense.

    So both aces already showing some chinks in the armor and could be taken advantage of - and is the reason why I think a lot of people think the 2nd semifinal is really the final.

    What's more, ace Hiranuma still looks strong as in their last game he gave up just 4 hits while striking out 10.

    Nihon Bunri (Niigata)
    RF Hoshi Kenta
    SS Kurodai Naito
    1B Kodachi Otowa (#8)
    3B Ikeda Takamasa
    2B Arai Makoto
    C Kamakura Wataru
    LF Kobayashi Masaya
    CF Takeishi Ryou (#16)
    P Iidzuka Satoshi

    Mie (Mie)
    CF Nagano Hayato
    2B Sada Taiki
    SS Utsunomiya Touma
    1B Nishioka Musashi
    LF Yamamoto Youma (#10)
    3B Uchida Ren
    RF Seko Ren
    C Nakabayashi Kengo
    P Imai Shigetarou

    ____________________________________________________________

    11:00 - First Pitch!

    Top 1st
    Right off the bat, Hoshi gets Nihon Bunri's offense going with a single up the middle. The speed on the fastball though is at 130 which I think is a touch slower than in previous games.

    Kurodai pops his bunt! Nakabayashi makes the catch, fires to 1st, but throws it away! It goes into left and Hoshi gets to 2nd after all!

    And then he hits Kodachi! Is Imai already out of gas??

    Ikeda grounder to 2nd!! Sada to 2nd for 1, throw to 1st... DOUBLE PLAY!!!

    Imai's defense gives him yet another assist! And in what appeared could be a disastrous start ends up with nothing at all!

    Bottom 1st
    Nagano with a grounder off the end of the bat goes the other way through the infield for a leadoff single. As Sada bunts the runner along, Iidzuka's velocity appears down as well! He's down to the low-mid 130s!!

    And Utsunomiya with a clean single through the left side! Nagano being waved home, throw from Kobayashi... is cutoff! Mie quickly leads 1-0!

    Yamamoto with a bit of an indignant look as he gets rung up the home plate umpire on a ball that seemed clearly outside (and you wonder why the HS players and Japanese LL team pitches outside the way they do...)

    Uchida grounds out to end the inning, but the drop in Iidzuka's velocity is very concerning.

    Top 2nd
    Opportunities again for Nihon Bunri. Arai draws the leadoff walk and is bunted over.

    But Kobayashi pulls his grounder to the left side, preventing Arai from advancing to 3rd.

    Takeishi flies out to right, and Nihon Bunri can't seem to get that timely hit.

    Bottom 2nd
    Okay, perhaps he was just warming up because Iidzuka is back in the high 130s. But he still gives up a leadoff hit as Seko singles to right. Nakabayashi moves him along.

    Imai with a hard liner back up the middle, Seko scrambles back to 2nd as Kurodai goes for him, but then goes to 1st to get Imai.

    And no timely from Nagano as he goes after the first pitch and grounds out to 2nd.

    Top 3rd
    Change defensively as #16 Yamai comes in for Uchida.

    Imai finally retires his first leadoff batter as Iidzuka flies out to right.

    Hoshi though looking to make him pay! Drive down the left field line! Yamamoto going towards the foul pole... FOUL!!!

    That was close.

    But he's not deterred! He pulls a ball through the right side and he's already 2-2 on the day!

    Kurodai trying to lay down the bunt can't, but hits a short chopper that acts like one to move Hoshi to scoring position.

    Kurodai goes down and slices a ball to center! That's in for a base hit, but Hoshi has to hold up at 3rd! Nihon Bunri once again seemingly ready to jump on Imai!

    But Ikeda hits a grounder to short! Utsunomiya with it, goes to 1st... and Nihon Bunri is denied again!!

    Bottom 3rd
    Iidzuka, despite the slight velo loss, appears to have settled down. The top of Mie's lineup attacking pitches in the zone, hit into 3 groundouts in just 8 pitches.

    Top 4th
    Nihon Bunri with another baserunner as Kamakura draws a 1 out walk.

    SANSHIN!!!

    Kobayashi just turns away in disgust as he sees a fastball get called on the outside edge for strike 3! 2 down.

    Takeishi can't do anything either as he grounds to short. Utsunomiya's throw is high and takes Nishioka off the bag, but he gets the tag on despite a minor collision.

    Bottom 4th
    Yamamoto's struggles at the plate continue as he chases a slider away for the first out.

    Yamai with a chopper just outside of Ikeda for a base hit.

    Hit-and run!!

    Seko singles to left! Uchida heading for 3rd, and Kobayashi's throw is cut off! Mie threatening big time against Iidzuka!!

    SQUEEZE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Nakabayashi lays down the squeeze and Iidzuka has no play at home! He has to go to 1st and Mie leads 2-0!!

    Imai with a chopper in front of the plate, he thinks it's a foul ball, but Kamakura pick it up and goes to 1st for the 3rd out, but Mie is slowly extending their lead.

    Top 5th
    Nihon Bunri needs the break to regroup and fast, because they're completely scuffling at the plate.

    Iidzuka hits a ball right back to Imai for the first out. Hoshi gets retired for the first time on a slider, and Kurodai quickly chops one to short for an easy play from Utsunomiya...

    Bottom 5th
    But they can still play defense! Already 1 down, Sada hits a ball to the left side - Kurodai makes a great running pick and throw for the 2nd out!

    It's not a complete clean inning though as Iidzuka hits Utsunomiya.

    Nishioka with a chopper out in front of home and Kamakura fields and throws for the 3rd out.

    We hit the break and both teams have had their opportunities. However, Mie has been the one to capitalize on them so far building a 2-0 lead. Can Nihon Bunri regroup to mount a comeback?

    Top 6th
    The only concern for Mie is that Imai is already at 84 pitches.

    But he seems to be getting better. He goes changeup inside on Kodachi for his 3rd K.

    Ikeda grounder up 1st base line past a diving Nishoka into right! He's booking it and gets his double!

    Arai can't deliver a base hit and can only move him 90 feet with a short chopper up the 3rd base line. 2 down and they need a base hit from Kamakura.

    But he hits a grounder to short! Utsunomiya gets rid of it quickly, but it takes what seems like infinite bounces before Nishioka can glove it for the 3rd out!  Bunri again shutout!

    Bottom 6th
    Nakamura-kantoku has seen enough of Yamamoto and sends in #7 Inaba to hit.

    Sadly for him, that spot seems to be a black hole has he strikes out swinging!

    Yamai grounder to short, Kurodai runs that one down too! Throw to 1st, AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Kodachi for some reason can't secure the ball and the inning continues!

    Nakabayashi with a single to left!

    And now things really going wrong as Iidzuka walks Imai to load the bases!!! And for Nagano no less!

    Nagano, chopper, through the left side!!  Seko scores! Nakabayashi being waved in! Throw home... not in time!! Captain Nagano comes through again and gives Mie a 4-0 lead!!

    Sada grounds out to short, but Mie may very well be on their way to the final!!

    Top 7th
    Nihon Bunri trying to fight as Takeishi fights of a pitch to right for a base hit.

    But Iidzuka hits a grounder right to 2nd! Sada starts the 4-6-3 double play and just like that Bunri is down to their final 6 outs!

    Bottom 7th
    Mie fine to leave things as is, go down in order to speed up the game.

    Top 8th
    #18 Matsubara now in LF for Inaba.

    But Nihon Bunri just can't hit themselves out of the funk. Hoshi and Kurodai are quickly retired before Imai issues his 3rd walk.

    After ball one to Ikeda, Nakamura-kantoku calls time.

    Ikeda a drive to left! Matsubara going back! Still going!

    But he stops in front of the wall and makes the catch for the 3rd out! Ikeda can only look out to left as he turns back to his dugout... Mie is just 3 outs away from the final!!

    Bottom 8th
    Yamai drive to left!!  ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!!

    HAITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    As if to say to Ikeda, "That's how it's done!" he blasts one to about the same place, but the difference is that his ball leaves the field! 5-0 Mie!!

    Seko grounder to the gap in the left side, but Kurodai runs that one down too!! Throw to 1st, just not in time to get Seko, but man this guy can field his position.

    Nakabayashi bunts him along for Imai to try and add on even more.

    But Iidzuka strikes out both Imai and Nagano to retire the side. Still, his team is 3 outs away from elimination...

    Top 9th
    Imai with a drive to center, but Nagano is there for the catch.

    Kamakura flies out to right, and they're down to their final out!

    Kobayashi grounds out to 3rd! Yamai to 1st, and Mie advances to the final!!

    What a performance by Mie! Even through Imai gave Nihon Bunri opportunities the defense was all but perfect as Imai would pitch a shutout! Not only that, but the offense took advantage of the opportunities it was given - and that was clearly the difference as it put Nihon Bunri on the defensive early.

    It's really sad for Nihon Bunri. I really like both of these schools in general and it was sad to see that one of them had to lose. And their players can't help but cry at the fact that they fell one game short of the final. I'm sure that they also remember that final when they almost completed the comeback, and how it would be great to head there once more and revenge that final.

    But sadly it is not to be. Nihon Bunri has to be one of the stronger teams out of the Hokushinetsu region annually, and I really do hope one day they get that title.

    For Mie, their time is now. They are in the finals, and while the odds are certainly stacked against them, they have the chance, and that's all they can ask for.