Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reviewing the field - Tohoku's Meiji Jingu Bid Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei

And now to the school indebted to Sendai Ikuei - Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei. There were on the outside looking in having lost in the super-regional semifinal, but were reprieved when Sendai Ikuei won the Meiji Jingu tournament, thereby giving the region one extra bid. And much to the script, the JHBF went with the bigger name over Yamagata's Tsuruoka Higashi.

Kousei, as they now like to be called, got a free pass to the prefectural finals with their win in the summer. They took full advantage of it, blowing through the field all the way to the finals where they eked out a 5-4 win over Aomori Yamada.

Their games in the super-regional were also underwhelming. A 3-1 win over Yamagata Jyouhoku and a 4-1 win over Noshiro Shouyou put them in the semifinals, but a 7-2 loss to Sendai Ikuei ended things.

Kousei has been pretty much rebuilding since their 3 consecutive final appearances. 2 pitchers have been promoted to take over duties on the mound. They are 3rd years Goya Kaito (呉屋 開斗) - who wore #18 last spring, and Nakagawa Masashi (中川 優) - who wore #11. Nakagawa appears to have more pitches at his disposal (slider, curve, change and fork), but Goya's results on the mound are much better.

The only other holdovers from last spring are C Baba Ryuusei (馬場 龍星) and SS Adachi Yuuya (足立 悠哉). Both of them played against Yokohama last year and did well (though Yokohama didn't deserve to be there in the first place).

I found a roster for the team, and a starting lineup:
  1. CF Arai Shouki (新井 勝貴)
  2. RF Kasumi Shouta (加角 翔太)
  3. SS Adachi Yuuya (足立 悠哉)
  4. LF Sawada Shunichi (澤田 俊一)
  5. 1B Nakajima Yuuki (中嶋 勇希)
  6. 2B Nakazaki Jyukiya (中崎 寿希也)
  7. 3B Endou Taisei (遠藤 大誠)
  8. C Baba Ryuusei (馬場 龍星)
  9. P Goya Kaito (呉屋 開斗)
I put Goya in for Nakagawa in the picture because he started the games in the super-regional.

The problem is that last year they had pitchers that were supposedly better than this pair and got routed by Ryuukokudai Heian. The offense, who again consisted of mostly seniors, was ineffective. While they get to go back to Koushien, it seems unlikely that they will be able to improve on that performance. Consider them still in rebuilding mode.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reviewing the field - Tohoku runner-up Oomagari Kougyou

And now our first surprise in Akita's Oomagari Kougyou. Akita in the Tohoku region is generally the weakest of the 6 prefectures. So to see a school - and not one necessarily top tier - get to Koushien is shocking.

It wasn't a fluke either. Early on, you might have thought it was as they struggled to win the Nanbu regionals beating teams like Oomagari, Yokote and Yokote Jyounan. They continued to struggle, but this time it was more understandable as they face the top teams, defeating Kakunodate, Akita Chuo, Akita Shougyou and Noshiro Shouyou to claim the title.

After a scare in the opening game of the super-regionals against Matsushima, they had to play 2 against Hanamaki Higashi. Fortunately for them, Hanamaki Higashi already had to do that the round before against Higashi-Nihondai Shouhei. Hanamaki Higashi couldn't play 2 extra games, and lost a slugfest. And while they defeated Tsuruoka Higashi the next day, they couldn't win 4 games in 4 days, getting drubbed by Sendai Ikuei in the final.

While the loss against Sendai Ikuei could be looked at as a negative, it was their 4th game in as many days. It might not be a positive for them if you were considering their title chances, but they seem to be solid otherwise.

The game starter for Oomagari Kougyou is not their ace number, but #7 Takeda Ryuusei (武田 龍成). I can't find much info on him other than the video though. But while he occupies the cleanup spot, it's the projected 5th batter Nakamura Kazuki(?) (中邑 一生). Against Hanamaki Higashi in the replay and Tsuruoka Higashi he delivered with 2 2-RBI triples in his first AB.

The lineup used against Hanamaki Higashi in the replay I will use as their starting 9 absent of a full roster

  1. CF Sasaki Shunichi (佐々木 駿一)
  2. SS Akagawa Shun (赤川 駿)
  3. 2B Nakano Seiya (中野 星夜)
  4. P Takeda Ryuusei (武田 龍成)
  5. RF Nakamura Kazuki (中邑 一生)
  6. 3B Sawatari Akito (佐渡 敬斗)
  7. 1B Okamoto Atsushi (岡本 昌真)
  8. LF Odajima Kouta (小田嶋 康太)
  9. C Suzuki Taira (鈴木 平)
Their chances at senbatsu are probably not good, but at the same time you cannot completely discount their run given playing Hanamaki Higashi twice and easily understandable excuses against Sendai Ikuei.

Reviewing the field - Tohoku champs Sendai Ikuei

Sendai Ikuei comes into Senbatsu as probably the favorite to beat - this despite the fact that they weren't even the qualifier out of Miyagi (that was Rifu, by the way).  What is even more impressive is that in their 16 games, they lost only once (that was early on to Seiwa Gakuen), and only one other team was within 5 when the siren sounded (that was Urawa Gakuin after they lost 4-1 in the Meiji Jingu title game!).  All this while beating teams such as the aforementioned Rifu, Tohoku, Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei, and Kyushu Gakuin.

Leading the way is staff ace Satou Sena (佐藤 世那). He throws right around 140, and reportedly actually has a forkball, sinker and splitter instead of the usual curve and slider.

Offensively, the team looks to catcher and cleanup batter Gunji Yuuya (郡司 裕也). He was 5-12 in the Meiji Jingu taikai and drove in 6 runs. The person who really revved things up as the tournament progressed was #3 batter Hirasawa Taiga (平沢 大河). Despite being the SS, he hit 5-10 with a 2B, 3B and a HR plating 5. That 3-4 combo may be a force to be reckoned with.

The roster as of the Meiji Jingu tournament was as follows:
  1. P Satou Sena (佐藤 世那)
  2. C Gunji Yuuya (郡司 裕也)
  3. 1B Sasaki Ryousuke (佐々木 良介)
  4. 2B Yatsu Koudai (谷津 航大)
  5. 3B Satou Shouta (佐藤 将太)
  6. SS Hirasawa Taiga (平沢 大河)
  7. LF Kii Kaishuu (紀伊 海秀)
  8. CF Aoki Reima (青木 玲磨)
  9. RF Sasaki Tooya (佐々木 柊野)
  10. (P) Domeki Yuuki (百目木 優貴)
  11. (P) Kobayashi Yuuta (小林 勇太)
  12. (C) Wakasa Takeru (若狭 武瑠)
  13. (IF) Seto Taichi (瀬戸 泰地)
  14. (IF) Sasaki Keita (佐々木 啓太)
  15. (C) Maeno Koudai (前野  広大)
  16. (OF) Yoshino Katsutoshi (吉野 克駿)
  17. (OF) Saida Kaito (齋田 海斗)
  18. (OF) Tateyama Takehiro (立山 貴大)
Their strong showing throughout the fall taikai will put them as one of, if not the favorite. If there is an apparent weakness it might be the bottom of the lineup (minus ace Sena). They did relatively little at Meiji Jingu and giving up free innings to the opponent might catch up with them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reviewing the field - Hokkaido champs Toukai Dai-yon

Over the next month or so I will be trying to review all 32 teams that have qualified for this year's Haru Koushien noting players to watch, and chances in the tournament. First up is the Hokkaido champs Toukai Dai-yon.

Toukai Dai-yon makes a return trip to Koushien after qualifying for the Natsu Koushien last summer. It certainly wasn't an easy trip back as they had lost all of 4 of their declared roster from the summer. But they advanced out of the regionals despite narrow victories over Sapporo Ryuukoku, Sapporo Asahigaoka and Sapporo Ootani.

Onto the super-regionals, and they certainly faces tougher competition rallying from down 2-1 to defeat Kitami Kougyou 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th in the quarterfinals before trading blows with Hokkai eventually winning 3-2.

From the Meiji Jingu roster it looks like former #18 Oosawa Shiiya (大澤 志意也) has taken over duties as the staff ace. He's not a dominator on the mound, topping out at a reported 138 with a standard curve/slider combo. If you wish to follow him, you can do so. I can add more players who have twitter accounts if you like to follow them. Just let me know.

The roster as of the Meiji Jingu tournament was as follows:

  1. P Oosawa Shiiya (大澤 志意也)
  2. C Oogawa Kouhei (小川 孝平)
  3. (1B) Nakajima Hiroki (中島 弘貴)
  4. 2B Kanemura Kousei (金村 航成)
  5. 3B Saitou Ryuusei (斎藤 龍生)
  6. SS Tomita Yuuki (冨田 勇輝)
  7. 1B Sou Kangi (邵 広基)
  8. LF Sakon Taisei (左近 太勢)
  9. CF Yamamoto Kousei (山本 浩平)
  10. (OF) Miyazaki Hayato (宮崎 隼斗)
  11. CF/(P) Watanabe Atsushi (渡邉 敦史)
  12. (C) Nouguchi Daiki (納口 大樹)
  13. (OF) Sakamoto Towa (酒本 永遠)
  14. (IF) Tachibana Sou (立花 奏)
  15. (IF) Yoshida Yuuma (吉田 祐真)
  16. (IF) Murase Wataru (村瀬 渉)
  17. (OF) Ueno Daiki (上野 大貴)
  18. (P) Gon Towon (権 濤源)
I haven't really found much information on the team, but given their path in the fall and their 10-0 loss to Urawa Gakuin at Meiji Jingu suggest that their time will depend on their matchup.

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.