Friday, July 29, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Teams who have punched their ticket

This post will be bumped to the top and be updated as more tickets are punched (Public/Private, number of appearances, other notes). I don't think I have to tell you what the colors mean to me:
  • Kita Hokkaido - Clark Kokusai (Private, 1st apperance)
  • Minami Hokkaido - Hokkai (Private, 37th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
  • Aomori - Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Private, 8th appearance, 4th in last 6 years)
  • Akita - Oomagari Kougyou (Public1st apperance)
  • Yamagata - Tsuroka Higashi (Private, 5th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
  • Iwate - Moriokadai Fuzoku (Private, 9th appearance, 3rd in last 5 years
  • Miyagi - Touhoku (Private, 22nd appearance, 1st in 7 years) 
  • Fukushima - Seikou Gakuin (Private, 13th appearance, 10th consecutive, all 13 since 2001)
  • Ibaraki - Jyousou Gakuin (Private, 16th appearance, 1st in 3 years, 10th appearance since 2001)
  • Tochigi - Sakusin Gakuin (Private, 12th appearance, 6th consecutive)
  • Gunma - Maebashi Ikuei (Private, 2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years)
  • Saitama - Hanasaki Tokuharu (Private, 4th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
  • Chiba - Kisaradzu Sougou  (Private, 5th appearance, 1st in 3 years, all 5 since 2003)
  • Nishi Tokyo - Hachiouji (Private1st apperance)
  • Higashi Tokyo - Kanto Dai-ichi (Private, 7th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
  • Kanagawa
  • Yamanashi - Yamanashi Gakuin (Private, 6th appearance, 1st in 5 years)
  • Nagano - Saku Chousei (Private, 7th appearance, 3rd in last 5 years)
  • Niigata - Chuuetsu (Private, 10th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
  • Toyama - Toyama Dai-ichi  (Private, 2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years)
  • Ishikawa - Seiryou  (Private, 18th appearance, 3rd in last 4 years)
  • Fukui - Hokuriku (Private, 3rd appearance, 1st in 24 years)
  • Shizuoka - Tokoha Kikugawa (Private, 5th appearance, 1st in 3 years)
  • Aichi - 
  • Gifu - Chuukyou  (Private, 6th appearance, 1st in 14 years)
  • Mie - Inabe Sougou Gakuen (Private, 2nd appearance, 1st in 6 years)
  • Shiga - Oumi (Private, 12th appearance, 1st in 2 years, 7th appearance since 2001)
  • Kyoto - Kyoto Shouei (Private1st apperance)
  • Nara - Chiben Gakuen (Private18th appearance, 1st in 2 years, 7th appearance since 2001)
  • Wakayama - Shiritsu Wakayama (Public, 5th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
  • Osaka - 
  • Hyogo - Shiritsu Amagasaki (Public, 2nd appearance, 1st in 33 years)
  • Okayama - Soushi Gakuen (Private1st apperance)
  • Hiroshima - Hiroshima Shinjyou (Private, 2nd appearance, 2nd consecutive)
  • Tottori - Sakai (Public, 8th appearance, 1st in 9 years)
  • Shimane - Izumo (Public1st apperance)
  • Yamaguchi - Takagawa Gakuen (Private1st apperance)
  • Kagawa - Jinsei Gakuen (Private, 11th appearance, 1st in 9 years)
  • Tokushima - Naruto  (Public, 11th appearance, 5th consecutive)
  • Ehime - Matsuyama Seiryou (Private1st apperance)
  • Kochi - Meitoku Gijyuku (Private, 18th appearance, 7th consecutive12th appearance since 2000)
  • Fukuoka - 
  • Saga - Karatsu Shougyou (Public, 5th appearance, 1st in 5 years)
  • Nagasaki - Nagasaki Shougyou (Public, 7th appearance, 1st in 29 years)
  • Miyazaki - Nichinan Gakuen (Private, 8th appearance, 1st in 2 years, 6th appearance since 2000)
  • Oita - Oita (Private, 2nd appearance, both in last 3 years)
  • Kumamoto - Shuugakukan (Private, 2nd appearance, 1st in 15 years)
  • Kagoshima - Shounan (Private, 19th appearance, 8th appearance since 2000)
  • Okinawa - Kadena (Public, 1st appearance)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Today's Finals (07.28)

12 finals today. After today (weather pending), there will only be Kanagawa, Aichi, Osaka, and Fukuoka left to decide their champions.

Miyagi - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • Rifu v (S) Tohoku
This final matchup is a battle between 2 teams looking to get back to prominence. Tohoku had a 2 year span when they had Darvish and almost won it all. But the team soon afterwards fell back into the masses. Since then they would be seeded, but never able to really deliver.

Rifu came out of seemingly nowhere in 2009 when in the spring, as a 21st century team no less, they reached the Best 4 before losing to Hanamaki Higashi and Kikushi Yuusei.

Since then, they've seemed to hover in Tier 3 status, good, but not great. They had a cup of coffee in 2014, but were embarrassed by Kendai Takasaki.

Both teams have not had the smoothest of runs, but when it mattered they got the win. Rifu defeating Touryou and Tohoku outlasting Sendai Ikuei in 11 innings. You might be able to give Tohoku the advantage, but given neither has shown to be that dominating, you can probably expect it to be an even matchup.

Gunma - 1800 PDT (Not streamed)
  • ① Maebashi Ikuei v ② Kendai Takasaki
I was not really expecting this final, mostly because I thought Maebashi Ikuei's #1 seed was more of a mirage than anything else.

But I have to say, they haven't lost a game in tournament play yet in 2016. That can't last, but if they want to win it all, they'll have to. And that's a big ask.

The teams they left in their wake in the spring? Yokohama, Kanto Dai-ichi, Hanasaki Tokuharu...

...and Kendai Takasaki.

Yep, these two teams faced off in the spring prefectural final where Maebashi Ikuei made a 6-0 lead stick. Barely.

Kendai Takasaki came onto the scene in 2012 by reaching the Haru Koushien semifinal, losing to Osaka Touin. They've been trying to recreate that magic, but their results have declined. Still, they're looking to get their 3rd straight Natsu title.

Maebashi Ikuei's last 4 games they have won 3-0 or 3-1 which included a win over Kiryuu Dai-ichi 3 rounds ago. Kendai Takasaki has thrown 2 shutouts, but has not defeated a major team, beat Isesaki Seimei 3-0 in the semis, and will have to pitch on no days rest as opposed to Maebashi Ikuei's 1 day due to rainouts.

As of right now, before 1st pitch Maebashi Ikuei at least is on the level, if not will start as the favorite.

Higashi Tokyo - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • Kanto Dai-ichi v Toua Gakuen
Well, that rivalry final was thrown off the rails... Nishogakushadai Fuzoku wasn't able to advance out of the semifinals as ace Ooe fell apart in the late innings allowing Toua Gakuen to rally for a 7-6 win. Unfortunately for him, his legacy may be of one unfulfilled as he fails to win the summer title.

Kanto Dai-ichi had no problems with Jyoutou, as the combo of Takei and Satou struck out 12 in a 3-0 shutout. And with their rivals eliminated, they should feel that their path to the title is clear.

Toua Gakuen though will be looking for their first title in 27 years, so you can bet they're hungry. Whether they are up to the challenge is yet to be seen.

Gifu - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Chuukyou v Oogaki Nichidai
Oogaki Nichidai looks really strong going into the final, having shutout Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou 6-0 and whose only close game was a 7-3 win over Seki Shoukou the previous round. Chukyou did defeat last year's champs Gifu Jyouhoku 6-4 and 1-hit Nagara in the semifinal. It's about as strong as a performance one could expect, even though in reality it was a no-win situation.

Oogaki Nichidai should have the advantage here, as Chuukyou is under "prove it" restrictions.

Toyama - 2100 PDT (Not streamed)
  • ⑤~⑧ Toyama Shougyou v ①~② Toyama Dai-ichi
Toyama Dai-ichi is looking for their 2nd ever Natsu Koushien appearance. Their first one went pretty well, reaching the Best 8 before losing to eventual runner-ups Nobeoka Gakuen (Jeez, that final with Maebashi Ikuei was 3 years ago already! God I feel old...). Better yet for them is that they have run circles around the competition scoring 9 runs or more in each game. Though to be honest, it wasn't all that tough.

Toyama Shougyou will look to come back after a year's hiatus. They took out last year's winner Takaoka Shougyou in the Best 8, but did struggle a bit against Nanto Fukuno in the semifinal.

Toyama Dai-ichi probably is in line to make their 2nd appearance. And who know where they will take it given their initial foray.

Mie - 2030 PDT (Not streamed)
  • (S) Inabe Sougou Gakuen v (S) Tsuda Gakuen
Two seeded teams in the final, but neither of them are Mie. Tsuda Gakuen made sure of that by defeating them 4-2 in the semifinal despite getting just 5 hits. They now sit just one game away from reaching their first ever tournament.

Inabe Sougou Gakuen is looking for their 2nd title, and was steamrolling the field until they eked out a 1-0 win against Kaisei. Tsuda Gakuen has a lot to prove, but beating Mie is a big get for their confidence.

Hyogo - 2105 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Akashi Shougyou v Shiritsu Amagasaki
Well, in a prefecture littered with good private schools, all of them have fallen by the wayside, leaving us 2 schools with just 1 combined Natsu appearance, and that was Shiritsu Amagasaki 33 years ago.

And it's not like either school got a dream run either. Akashi Shougyou needed to get past Kansei (Kwansei) Gakuin, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku and Shinkou Gakuen to get here. Shiritsu Amagasaki beat Houtoku Gakuen in the quarterfinals and that was after playing 2 games the prior 2 days because they Nishinomiya Imadzu played them to a 2-2 draw, and replayed the game the next day...

The good news for Shiritsu Amagasaki is that they appear to have 2 pitchers, Tsujii and Hirabayashi, that they seem comfortable leaning on, so the workload has at least been shared. But I'm sure recovering from 3 consecutive games has been tough...

Nara - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Chiben Gakuen v (S) Tenri
Big surprise here! #sarcasm

These two teams have played each other 17 times in tournament play over the last decade, and this will be the 6th time these two teams have faced each other in the Natsu taikai. That not withstanding, these two teams account for 14 of the 16 bids since 2000.

Yet, both of these teams almost didn't make it here. For Tenri, it was a 1-0 deficit against Naradai Fuzoku until 1B Yasuhara hit a 2-run sayonara HR.

For Chiben Gakuen, it was Kooriyama (who actually had one of the 2 other Natsu bids) who jumped out to a 3-1 lead with 2 HRs. But as much as they tried to repel Chiben Gakuen's comeback, a run in 4 consecutive innings tied the game at 5. The game would go to enchousen before Chiben Gakuen plated the winning run in the 10th.

Chiben Gakuen were the Haru Koushien champs, but that last game has to give you pause because Nara is not a very strong prefecture. But Tenri struggled just as much, if not more.

Wakayama - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • Minoshima v Shiritsu Wakayama
With Chiben Wakayama possibly on their way down, it's these two schools (who represented the prefecure in 2013 & 2014) who seem to have emerged early to fill the void.

Both breezed through the field early, but Shiritsu Wakayama has slowed down a bit though they were the team to eliminate Chiben Wakayama 10-5. There may have been some hangover as they then hung on to defeat Hashimoto 3-2 to get to the finals.

Yamaguchi - 1800 PDT (Asahi)
  • Takagawa Gakuen v (S) Ube Koujyou
Both Ube Koujyou and Takagawa Gakuen have crushed the opposition underneath their feet to a combined 79-7. The only blemish is that Ube Koujyou did have a 2 game stretch where they won 5-1 and 2-1 so maybe you could say that there may be some weaknesses there, but that's about it.

Tokushima - 2130 PDT (Not streamed)
  • ① Naruto v ② Naruto Uzushio
Naruto has made their own foothold in Tokushima, winning the last 4 titles and 5 of the last 6. Naruto Uzushio hasn't won any, but its predecessors - Naruto Kougyou and Naruto Dai-ichi - have. It just hasn't seemed to come together as one entity, though that might change today.

Both schools were not dominating like you would like - no mercy rule wins to speak of. Naruto needed runs late to win their semifinal against Tomioka Nishi while Naruto Uzushio needed extras to defeat Seikou Gakuen.

This may finally be the year that Naruto is dethroned, as you can argue that Naruto Uzushio had a more than fighting chance.

Ehime - 2030 PDT (Asahi)
  • Matsuyama Shouyou v (S) Nitta
And finally in Ehime, we are guaranteed to have a first-timer to go to Natsu Koushien. Both teams have had stints of good results, only to either get tripped up or hit the wall against powerhouse teams.

This year, both teams seemed to evade such an occurrence, though Matsuyama Shouyou almost had that against Saijyou in the 3rd round, and Nitta's offense was slowed by Touon in the semifinals. At this point I would just like to see a good match between the two.

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Championship Recap (07.27)

9 finals, 7 streamed on Asahi, 3 from yesterday's postponements.

Saitama - Hanasaki Tokuharu
Takahashi Kouya (高橋 昂也) did his job, pitching a 4-hit shutout to defeat Seibou Gakuen, who was never really in it.

Nishi Tokyo - Hachiouji
Early on, Hachiouji took the game to Toukaidai Sugao, scoring a run in the first 3 innings. It seemed like they were finally ready to enter the stage at the national level.

But things stalled there, and Toukaidai Sugao was able to scratch their way back, tying the game in the 5th. The team would trade opportunities, but as regulation time ended, Hachiouji started getting more opportunities.

As a well-read colleague of mine (and I use that loosely because he's doing much more bigger things than I am career-wise), was saying, ace Itou for Toukaidai Sugao was tiring in his opinion and it would be a matter of time before Hachiouki would get a run across.

This was in the 8th, and Hachiouji instead gave Itou one of the quickest innings, which is the last thing they needed to do. But teams for some reason are reluctant to give a pitcher the rope to hang themselves. Maybe against weaker competition, but against a more competitive squad, almost never. And I don't to this day understand why.

And when a team who hasn't gone and is facing a team that has for a title, that team looking for their first title is always on the verge of collapse at the first sign of trouble. And especially so as the game reaches late stages. As I've mentioned before, it's the feeling of "Here we go again..." that overwhelms those teams. Not to say that those teams can't overcome it, but that they seem more vulnerable.

Hachiouji though managed to hold the line to enchousen, and in the 11th was able to breakthrough with a pair of runs. Though Toukaidai Sugao got a one-out hit, Hachiouji executed a 6-4-3 double play to deliver the first ever title to their school.

Shizuoka - Tokoha Kikugawa
This game went pretty much as expected. Fukuroi fell behind right off the bat, and never could get off the mat as Tokoha Kikugawa won 12-0.

Ishikawa - Seiryou
Seiryou is becoming the equivalent of Osaka Touin/Seikou Gakuin for me in that they generally have a stranglehold on the prefecture. And that they've apparently made a pact with the devil to almost always put a hex on the opposition.

How else can you say that with Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa up 4-1 that Seiryou scores 4 to take the lead, and eventually win 7-5?

Ugh.

Fukui - Hokuriku
I wasn't watching the early stages, but was shocked to see Hokuriku up 4-0 over Fukui Shougyou. What wasn't surprising was to see Fukui Shougyou come back to within 1 at the break.

Even still, Hokuriku continued to give themselves opportunities, and that manifested itself in a pair of runs in the 6th.

Fukui Shougyou would get 1 in the 7th and a second chance when on a grounder to SS with the bases loaded, the runner at 2nd collided with the SS and was ruled for interference, but since the SS was not in the action of throwing to 1st, didn't result in a double play - this despite the SS was able to complete the play (it was ruled a dead ball at the time of interference). They couldn't make good on the 2nd chance and reliever Honda was able to close out the game and give Hokuriku the title!

Shiga - Oumi
Takashima did very well to hang with Oumi, keeping the game scoreless at the break. Unfortunately I mentioned that and the very next inning Oumi scores 3. That would be all the scoring in the game and Oumi takes the title.

Tottori - Sakai
None of this makes any sense. 19-4 Sakai, as Ajito strikes out 5, walks none, while Yonago Shouin is the one with major pitching issues, striking out just 2 and walking 14!

There's no way this team makes a deep run. I just can't see it.

Kochi - Meitoku Gijyuku
Nakamura much like Takashima in Shiga did really well against the 6-time winners. Yeah, they were down 2-0 early, but it wasn't until the late inning where Meitoku put the game out of reach. At least the prevented the shutout in the 9th, but Meitoku Gijyuku can erase that 6, and write in a 7 now with their 4-2 win.

Miyazaki - Nichinan Gakuen
I may not have given Miyazaki Shougyou a chance to win, but they did make it a competitive game against Nichinan Gakuen keeping themselves behind by just 1 run heading to the break. But like Oumi, Nichinan Gakuen regrouped during the break, scored 3 runs, and that was pretty much that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Today's finals (07.27)

9 finals, 7 streamed on Asahi, 3 from yesterday's postponements.

Saitama - 2000 PDT (Asahi)
  • ⑤~⑧ Seibou Gakuen v ①~② Hanasaki Tokuharu
It's kind of ridiculous that Hanasaki Tokuharu now has gone 5 games without giving up a run, the most recent which being a 5-0 blanking of Kasukabe Kyouei.

A good part of that is ace Takahashi Kouya (高橋 昂也) who didn't even give up a hit in the 2 games prior. Now, his record at Koushien is mixed at best, but Saitama isn't all that strong it seems, so he doesn't need to be 1st round draft material. Seibou Gakuen has definitely had their struggles in recent games, so they are probably under pressure right off the get go.

Nishi Tokyo - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • ① Toukaidai Sugao v ② Hachiouji
Wow, so the top 2 seeds made it all the way. And it wasn't a cake walk either. Toukaidai Sugao defeated Nichidai Tsurugaoka, Kokugakuin Kugayama and Nichidai-san. That's not a bad who's who there.

When I looked at the brackets, I looked at Hachiouji's 2 seed and cocked my head to the side because while they have been a solid Tier 3 school, a 2 seed seemed rather high. But while their list of defeated teams isn't as impressive, it does include wins over Waseda Jitsugyou and Souka.

Even still though their status as a Tier 3 school means that they cannot be favored to win against a school like Toukaidai Sugao.

Shizuoka - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • Fukuroi v Tokoha Kikugawa
Tokoha Kikugawa has 2 year span where they were as dangerous as an Osaka Touin, reaching the finals twice and semifinals once in 2007-2008. After that though, the kinda fell off the map, re-emerging only in 2013 and reached the round of 16 both times in both tournaments. They have not really been challenged on their way to the finals, and should be considered the favorites. This especially since Fukuroi advanced while giving up 10 runs to Hamamatsu Shougyou.

Ishikawa - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Seiryou v Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa
Sadly for Komatsu Ootani, they couldn't keep up with Seiryou, and perhaps their time as a title contender is slowly passing them by. Unless they can continue to reload the ranks like a team like Seiryou can, their one chance for Koushien may have passed them by...

Yuugakukan will not be able to defend their title as they were unable to stop the Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa offense, yielding 8 runs. What they did to, was to dent the pitching for 5 runs, something none of the other schools were able to to do. And with Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa using a committee of pitchers, one wonders if it is finally hitting its limit. And Seiryou will certainly be a big test.

Fukui - 1800 PDT (Asahi)
  • Fukui Shougyou v Hokuriku
Fukui Shougyou was able to beat Okuetsu Meisei comfortably in the end, but did trail 2-0 after 4. So it wasn't a wire-to-wire win.

I thought Sakai would make things tough for Hokuriku, but instead it was the other way around as Hokuriku never trailed in their 5-1 victory.

I'm puzzled now. I think Fukui Shougyou is still the favorite, but there's a lot of question marks about Hokuriku that in the end may amount to a whole lot of bupkis.

Shiga - 2030 PDT (Asahi)
  • Oumi v Takashima
That bump in the road became a flat tire for Shiga Gakuen, as while they led 1-0 early, Oumi would score 6 unanswered runs to win 7-2.

Takashima defeated Shiga Tankidai Fuzoku 3-1 to reach the final, but it really didn't help me at all figure them out. At this point I think it's all on their ace Nishimura Tokiwa (西村 常) to hold down the fort. I don't think Takashima can win a high scoring game, so he'll need to throw donuts onto the scoreboard.

Tottori - 2100 PDT (Not streamed)
  • (S) Sakai v Yonago Shouin
Tottori Jyouhoku, who has had the most success in recent years (but not at Koushien, though no one really has), was upended by Sakai. Yet ace Ajito only struck out 1 while walking 5. In fact, the game before that they K'd 2 and BB'd 8, and the game before that struck out 0 and walked 6!

How does that make any sense?

And what's even more puzzling is that Yonago Shouin is better, but not much so. Their last 3 K/BB rates were 6/6 and 3/5 and 8/5!

How do you even pick a winner?

Kochi - 2100 PDT (Not streamed)
  • (S) Meitoku Gijyuku v Nakamura
Meitoku Gijyuku is on the verge of their 7th consecutive appearance, this after holding on to defeat rival Kochi Shougyou 2-1. That was their only tough game so far.

Standing in the way is Nakamura, who is looking for their 1st. The results for the most part have been good, including a 6-4 win over Kochi, but with Meitoku Gijyuku dominating for so long, Nakamura will have much more to fight a mental game as well.

Miyazaki - 2105 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Nichinan Gakuen v Miyazaki Shougyou
Nichinan Gakuen is looking for a spring-summer appearance and has looked for the most part dominating in each of their 4 games. This compared to Miyazaki Shougyou who does carry a win against Miyazaki Nichidai, but whose games have been much closer. There just isn't enough there though for me to tip the scales away from the favorites though.

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Championship recap (07.26)

Couple of finals rained out, but some were able to wrap up.

Ibaraki - Jyousou Gakuin
Hosokawa Seiya (細川 成也) did his best to defeat Jyousou Gakuin, giving up just 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 5 and walking none.

But the problem is that they ran into Jyousou Gakuin and their established ace Suzuki Shouta (鈴木 昭汰), who last spring kept his team close with Osaka Touin, but did not look as spectacular this year.

Even still, he recorded 11 K's, including striking out Hosokawa twice. He gave up no runs, and therefore his team makes it to Koushien.

Chiba - Kisaradzu Sougou
Well, color me surprised, Shiritsu Funabashi at least proved that it belonged in the final, not allowing Kisaradzu Sougou to run away with it.

Though in the first, Oosawa delivered a 2-out 2-run double to take an early lead. But the pitching staff by committee shutout the offense after that so that 2 runs was the extent of the damage.

But in the 6th, Kisaradzu Sougou ace Hayakawa had the bases loaded with 2 outs. C Takada delivered a 2 out, 2-run hit of his own to tie the game.

The game stayed that way until the 9th when with a runner on 3rd, Oosawa came up once again and delivered a base hit to left center to give them the lead for good 3-2.

Ishikawa - Rained out
  • (S) Seiryou v Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa
Fukui - Rained out
  • Fukui Shougyou v Hokuriku
Shiga - Rained out
  • Oumi v Takashima
Hiroshima - Hiroshima Shinjyou
One wonders if Hiroshima Shinjyou is establishing itself as a Tier 2 school. After no appearances, it has now been to Haru Koushien (2014) and will now represent Hiroshima for the 2nd straight year.

Despite their performance earlier in the tournament, it seemed like Jyosuikan was trying to manage the game, going between their two pitchers Okamoto and Fukushima several times. It worked until the 8th inning when Hiroshima Shinjyou scored 3 in the 8 to take a 5-1 lead.

But they almost blew it. Jyosuikan, as if a light finally had been lit under their feet, rallied to within 1, but that would be as close as they would get.

Kumamoto - Shuugakukan
It got ugly. Quick.

Shuugakukan scored 3 right off the bat. Kyushu Gakuin tried to respond with 2 in the bottom of the frame, but Shuugakukan scored 6 unanswered in the next 2 innings to basically make the game merely a formality. The final damage was 13-2.

Kagoshima (Replay) - Shounan
I wish I could have watched the game to see how Shounan did it, how they survived 37 innings in 4 days.

But the key seemed to be the beginning of the game. Shounan started their ace Hamaya, while Kagoshima Jitsugyou went to reliever Maruyama. Maruyama though ran into trouble right off the bat and yielded 2 runs which perhaps set the tone for the game. Kagoshima Jitsugyou would tie the game in the 3rd, but Shounan would quickly re-take the lead in the bottom half of the inning. Hamaya would hand the ball off to reliever Hatakenaka soon after, and he shut the door, giving Shounan an amazing victory.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Today's finals (07.26)

9 finals, 6 streamed on Asahi. We are slowly getting to the nitty gritty here.

Ibaraki - 1800 PDT (Not streamed)
  • (S) Jyousou Gakuin v Meishuu Hitachi
Meishuu Hitachi ace Hosokawa Seiya (細川 成也) single-handedly was defeated Kasumigaura. He hit a 3-run HR, struck out 11 and gave up just 4 hits. He's starting to get on the radar, especially since he can supposedly hit 145 on the radar gun. But there's still not much info on him.

So perhaps this won't be as clearcut as Jyousou Gakuin would have though despite soundly defeating Shimotsuma Dai-ni 6-2. If they have anything to lean on, it's that Meishuu Hitachi's offense outside of Hosokawa was basically non-existent.

Chiba - 1800 PDT (Asahi)
  • ⑨~⑯ Shiritsu Funabashi v ⑤~⑧ Kisaradzu Sougou 
My concerns with Narashino were well founded as they fell 5-1 to Shiritsu Funabashi who looks to take their first title in 9 years.

Kisaradzu Sougou came back from down 5-1 to defeat Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, passing yet another test adding to Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou and Senshuudai Matsudo.

The onus is squarely on Shiritsu Funabashi to prove it belongs in the final.

Ishikawa - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Seiryou v Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa
Sadly for Komatsu Ootani, they couldn't keep up with Seiryou, and perhaps their time as a title contender is slowly passing them by. Unless they can continue to reload the ranks like a team like Seiryou can, their one chance for Koushien may have passed them by...

Yuugakukan will not be able to defend their title as they were unable to stop the Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa offense, yielding 8 runs. What they did to, was to dent the pitching for 5 runs, something none of the other schools were able to to do. And with Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa using a committee of pitchers, one wonders if it is finally hitting its limit. And Seiryou will certainly be a big test.

Fukui - 1800 PDT (Asahi)
  • Fukui Shougyou v Hokuriku
Fukui Shougyou was able to beat Okuetsu Meisei comfortably in the end, but did trail 2-0 after 4. So it wasn't a wire-to-wire win.

I thought Sakai would make things tough for Hokuriku, but instead it was the other way around as Hokuriku never trailed in their 5-1 victory.

I'm puzzled now. I think Fukui Shougyou is still the favorite, but there's a lot of question marks about Hokuriku that in the end may amount to a whole lot of bupkis.

Shiga - 2030 PDT (Asahi)
  • Oumi v Takashima
That bump in the road became a flat tire for Shiga Gakuen, as while they led 1-0 early, Oumi would score 6 unanswered runs to win 7-2.

Takashima defeated Shiga Tankidai Fuzoku 3-1 to reach the final, but it really didn't help me at all figure them out. At this point I think it's all on their ace Nishimura Tokiwa (西村 常) to hold down the fort. I don't think Takashima can win a high scoring game, so he'll need to throw donuts onto the scoreboard.

Hiroshima - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Jyosuikan v (S) Hiroshima Shinjyou
Didn't see that one coming. Jyousuikan throws a 3-hit shutout in a 10-0 win of Kouryou. Kouryou gave up just 1 run going into that game.

Yikes.

Hiroshima Shinjyou had a somewhat comfortable win over Iwatoku 4-1, but you have to think Jyosuikan is scary at this point.

Kumamoto - 1830 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Shuugakukan v (S) Kyushu Gakuin
Shuugakukan has to have the inside track after basically eliminating Buntoku early with 3 runs in the 1st and 2nd innings to win 7-1.

Kyushu Gakuin defeated Chiharadai 3-1, but it could have easily been more given they had 12 hits and 7 walks. The lack of scoring with all those baserunners is concerning, especially when you ratchet up the competition to face Shuugakukan.

Kagoshima (Replay) - 2105 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Kagoshima Jitsugyou v (S) Shounan
There isn't much else to say other than this replay does not help Shounan at all. At this point it all hinges on whether the pitching for Shounan can hold. If it can, then they have a chance. Otherwise it may be over before it starts.

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Championship recap (07.25)

6 more champions crowned yesterday, and while there were a lot of blowouts, there was still drama to be had - and some of the not so good variety.

Akita - Oomagari Kougyou
I had basically touted Kakunodate's Kogita Atsuya (小木田 敦也) who had earlier thrown a no-hitter. But at the same time I said that he had to finish the job.

He didn't.

Kakunodate did have the lead 7-3 going into the bottom of the 8th, but the dominant pitcher perhaps had run out of gas. The bases were loaded with no outs, and as the hits accumulated, the lead shrunk. The final nail in the coffin was a chopper in front of home. Kogita threw home, but the ball bounced away from the C allowing not only the runner from 3rd to score, but the trailing runner as well. That runner made it 8-7 Oomagari Kougyou, and Kakunodate would not have an answer in the 9th. Oomagai Kougyou claims their first title.

Kyoto - Kyoto Shouei
The offense that Kyoto Shouei showed did not slow down at all in the finals against Fukuchiyama Seibi. They got up 6-0 after 3 innings and cruised to an 11-1 win to claim their first ever Natsu title.

Okayama - Soushi Gakuen
Oh, this game was hard to watch. At least the end.

Tamano Kounan was on the verge of claiming their 4th title. They were up 1-0 into the top of the 9th with one out and a runner on 1st.

The ball seems to go out to the pitcher who started the 1-6-3 double play to end the game. Tamano Kounan charged the mound celebrating, but when they lined up Soushi Gakuen was not lining up.

Something was amiss.

The umpires then conferred at home, then went to the back screen where other officials were. The delay was very long, so long in fact that Tamano Kounan recalled their players to the dugout.

When the head umpire got on the mic, he ruled the batted ball went off the batter while in the box. It was therefore a foul ball and the game was in fact not over.

And you can imagine the reaction.

Soushi Gakuen were filled with more energy while Tamano Kounan's kantoku tried to rally the team.

But it would take a very strong willed team to be able to "re-get" those 2 outs.

It didn't happen. Not even close.

Soushi Gakuen would score 4 runs, and with a routine 9th, it would be them that would charge the mound as the declared champions.

Kagawa - Jinsei Gakuen
In my attempts to get my blog updated, I could only get one game going, and when I refreshed the main page to see that Jinsei Gakuen was up 4-1.

I caught the last part of the game and Takamatsu Shougyou looked rather punchless at the plate. And as a result, the Haru Koushien runner-ups are eliminated!

Saga - Karatsu Shougyou
Karatsu Shougyou had no problems defeating Saga Shougyou, and I think the extra day rest certainly had something to do with it, though we will obviously not now to what extent. 16-5 and they are on to Koushien.

Oita - Oita
Saiki Kakujyou and Oita were trading scoring chances throughout the game, and Saiki Kakujyou was able to answer Oita's 9th inning run with one of theirs to force enchousen. But it only lasted one inning when Oita broke it open with 6 runs effectively ending the game.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Upcoming Finals (07.25)

And now for the semifnals:

Akita
  • ④ Oomagari Kougyou v Kakunodate
Kakunodate's Kogita Atsuya (小木田 敦也) threw yet another shutout, giving up just 5 hits. Oomagari Kougyou won 2-0 on just 2 hits (but 7 walks). You still have to think though that if Kogita has any gas left in the tank Kakunodate has the advantage.

Kyoto
  • Fukuchiyama Seibi v (S) Kyoto Shouei
Fukuchiyama Seibi did what they needed to, blanking the false seed in Tounan 4-0. But a big problem to them is that Kyoto Shouei got right back on track against Ritsumeikan Uji, only going 7 in a 9-2 win. If I were Seibi, I'd be concerned that the offense hasn't slowed down yet.

Okayama
  • ⑤~⑧ Soushi Gakuen v ⑤~⑧ Tamano Kounan
Well, I got the Soushi Gakuen part right, but it was Tamano Kounan's pitching that was the difference, shutting out Kurashiki Shougyou 5-0. Soushi Gakuen has been dominant all the way through, so I think it's Tamano Kounan that needs to prove something.

Kagawa
  • (S) Takamatsu Shougyou v Jinsei Gakuen
Kagawa's semifnals were blowouts, setting up this final game. I've seen Jinsei Gakuen's name on the seeded line. I've seen them go far, but as of late I have not seen them win. Both teams have been dominant. Takamatsu Shougyou has made it to the Haru Koushien final. They have to be the favorites, despite perhaps the easier road at Koushien.

Saga
  • (S) Saga Shougyou v Karatsu Shougyou
In something unprecedentd, Ryuukoku was found to have a fire in it's club room, and it was determined to be due to cigarette butts. As a result, Ryuukoku forfeited their semifinal match to Karatsu Shougyou.

I've never seen this happen during a taikai. Before sure, but during? And in the semifinals??

So now we're in a situation where Saga Shougyou had to play a game, defeated Imari 5-2, but now faces a Karatsu Shougyou team with extra rest...

The scores and competition are roughly equal but Karatsu Shougyou has more rest. And while Saga Shougyou defeated Saga Kita, it was a 9-7 game. That really sucks for Saga Shougyou. Outside circumstances have put them at a disadvantage.

Oita
  • ⑤~⑧ Saiki Kakujyou v ③~④ Oita
The differences between the two schools seemed to have been exposed in the semifinals. Oita went 7 in defeating Usuki. Saiki Kakujyou scored all 5 of their runs in the 8th to defeat Touin, with only 4 hits and 9 walks. Oita should be the favorites going into this game.

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Today's semifinals (07.25)

Weekends are obviously busy for me, so this review is a bit late as games are in progress.

Ibaraki
  • (S) Jyousou Gakuin v Shimotsuma Dai-ni
  • (S) Kasumigaura v Meishuu Hitachi
At a first glance, it looks like we're headed for a matchup between arguably 2 of the better teams in prefecture - Jyousou Gakuin and Kasumigaura. Jyousou Gakuin's only close game was their first against Tsuchiura Kohoku.

As for Kasumigaura, they recently broke through the ceiling to approach Tier 2 status after finally getting to Koushien in 2013. The only question for Kasumigaura is that their last game against Hasaki Yanagawa  they traded leads from 1-0, to 1-2, to 3-2, to 3-4 to 5-4. Now, they won, so that's the important part. But Meishuu Hitachi has a score to settle of their own. Their runs in 2013 and 2015 ended at the hands of Kasumigaura. So you bet they would like to exorcise some demons today.

Chiba
  • Narashino v ⑨~⑯Shiritsu Funabashi
  • ⑤~⑧ Kisaradzu Sougou v ①~④ Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku
Narashino is making a run as an unseeded team no less. beating both Narita and Tokyo Gakkan Urayasu. That's impressive, but given their runs as of late it doesn't feel all that genuine yet. It may not until they win the title. Shiritsu Funabashi hasn't played anyone of note, and the win against top seed Chiba Reimei is a bit hollow. But the unknown factor can't be ignored.

The other semifinal matchup are two well-known schools. Kisaradzu Sougou has passed some tough tests, defeating both last year's winner Senshuudai Matsudo, and borderline Tier 2 school Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou (they seemed to have added the Ichihara bit).

Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku is another borderline Tier 2 school, though recently have just been making deep runs without finishing. Their schedule seems the easiest of the 4, but they have won their games with relative ease. Kisaradzu Sougou will be their biggest test.

Nishi Tokyo
  • ① Toukaidai Sugao vs. ③~⑦ Nichidai-san
  • ③~⑦ Souka vs. ② Hachiouji
Well, this looks scratch, but teams are missing. Waseda Jitsugyou? Gone. Nichidai Tsurugaoka? Also gone. Instead, there are 3 other brand names, and one outsider that seems to be stronger than ever looking for their first bid!

The first game you could see as a final. Both schools have been making solid runs, with perhaps a blip in the road for Nichidai-san in their 2-0 win over Meisei. While Toukaidai Sugao has had the tougher competition, Nichidai-san outranks them in terms of brand name.

Souka has been a solid Tier 3 school, as noted by their losses to teams like Toukaidai Sugao, Nishogakushadai Fuzoku and Nichidai-san. They can make deeps runs, but can't seem to get over the hump.

Hachiouji has been bordering on Tier 3 status recently, losing to teams like Waseda Jitsugyou, Toukaidai Sugao and Nishogakushadai Fuzoku.

Well, Hachiouji exorcised one of those demons 2 days ago when they sent the fighting Kiyomiya's (Waseda Jitsugyou) home with a 6-4 win. It's a start, and Souka should be a better challenge for them, but the finals would still await against a major school...

Ishikawa
  • (S) Seiryou v Komatsu Ootani
  • (S) Yuugakukan v Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa

Fate likes to play tricks it seems. For the 3rd year in a row, Seiryou and Komatsu Ootani fight. But the scales still fall Seiryou's way. After all, their 9 runs in the 9th was for the title. Komatsu Ootani's 4 runs in 9th was just to get to the finals (where they lost).

Karma would say that Komatsu Ootani should still get some payback. But the scores so far indicate otherwise. Komatsu Ootani has had to work for just about every win. Seiryou has not lost by less than 6 runs. The math seems clear.

In the other semi, defending champs Yuugakukan have not had any peace, moving on by the skin of their teeth against Komatsu and Kanazawa. This compared to Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa who has scored 9 or more runs in each of their game, but have not faced anyone of note. Yuugakukan has been able to fight the close game, so they might have an edge if they do keep it close (which it seems like it might).

Fukui
  • Fukui Shougyou v Okuetsu Meisei
  • Hokuriku v Sakai
What? Only Fukui Shougyou is left?

Yep. Fukui Shougyou ousted Fukui Koudai Fukui, and of all teams Sakai sent home Tsuruga Kehi.

Fukui Shougyou certainly has the inside line of the 4 schools by brand name and scores.

Both Okuetsu Meisei and Hokuriku's runs are odd. Neither have done much of anything and then recently both have had unexpected success. Weird, and I have no explanation.

Sakai is a new school, but comes from familiar roots. It's a combination of Sakai Nougyou...

... and Harue Kougyou.

Well, that explains it. And weirdly, the merger wasn't complete in 2016, so in last year's natsu taikai, Sakai lost in the first round... to Harue Kougyou. That's not awkward at all.

But after a 1st round spring taikai loss, they've come back and made their mark, upsetting Tsuruga Kehi 4-2.in 15 innings. It will yet to be seen how quickly this school competes for the title. It's almost there now.

Shiga
  • Shiga Gakuen v Oumi
  • Takashima v Shiga Tankidai Fuzoku
No Kita-Ootsu? None of the burgeoning Oumi Kyoudaisha? Nope.

Instead we have Shiga Gakuen and Oumi, but facing off in the semifinals. Both were fortunate to not have drawn into the zones fo the 2 aforementioned teams. And both ran roughshod over the field to get to this point. The only difference is that Shiga Gakuen survived a 12-9 game against Kousen - a possible bump in the road right when they face one of the prefectural powerhouses.

Both teams in the other semifinal were responsible for ousting the seeded teams, but again it's weird. For Shiga Tankidai Fuzoku, their last win before this Natsu taikai was the Natsu 2nd round...

...in 2014.

For Takashima, if we ignore spring (because it doesn't directly lead to Koushien), their last win was the 2nd round of the Aki taikai...

...in 2014.

I really don't know what to make of it other than that Shiga Tankidai Fuzoku has had the smoother run of the two. But that doesn't mean anything. So the best I can do is shrug my shoulders. You've got me on this one.

Kochi
(As this was rained out, this will be covered in tomorrow's post.)

Kumamoto

  • (S) Shuugakukan v (S) Buntoku
  • (S) Chiharadai v (S) Kyushu Gakuin
Augh, I hate my computer, I had this done, and then blogger f'd up somehow and posted like 5 copies of the entry and I deleted the copies only to have this one not actually have what I wrote.

But here the basic gist was that all 4 teams were seeded, 3 of which are known names, with Chiharadai being the only "outsider" as a Tier 3 school. Shuugakukan and Buntoku have been tested facing former Koushien participants, but Shuugakukan played Seiseikou and Kumamoto Kougyou as opposed to Buntoku defeating Jyouhoku.

Chiharadai and Kyushu Gakuin have not had such testing, and Chiharadai's games have been much closer than the rest. So you have to expect Kyushu Gakuin to have the edge here.

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Championship Recap (07.24)

Alright, a lot of tickets punched yesterday, but not for 1 prefecture...
So, here's what's on tap for today (7/24 in Japan). If it says it's on Asahi, the link to the stream can be found on their site (http://www.asahi.com/koshien/)

Iwate - Moriokadai Fuzoku
Ichinoseki Gakuin fared better than I thought though I didn't watch the final. It was scoreless until the 8th when with 1 out and the bases loaded, their #3 batter Ueda hits a sac fly to score the only run of the game. As a result, Moriokadai Fuzoku gets to return to Natsu Koushien for the 3rd time in 5 years.

Fukushima - Seikou Gakuin
Kounan was so close, oh so close to defeating Seikou Gakuin to break up the 9 year run. But dangit if that curse of finally beating the team that has beaten you down came right in. Single, double, single, sac fly, single, double, and just like that a 4-2 lead for Kounan was a 6-4 deficit...

*sighs*

Tochigi - Sakushin Gakuin
There isn't much to say here, it was a rematch of the finals from last year and Kokugakuin Tochigi gave up 7 runs in the first. 15-6 and they have their 6th consecutive appearance.

Yamanashi - Yamanashi Gakuin
For two teams who gave up a combined 7 runs in 8 games, this game was shocking. Not just because of the high scoring, but because the defending champs seemed to have no answers - especially on the mound. Yes, they did take the lead with 4 runs in the 4th, but Yamanashi Gakuin fired right back taking those runs away. In the end it was a laugher with Yamanashi Gakuin winning 12-5!

Niigata - Chuuetsu
Boy, I kinda wished I had not grabbed dinner when I did because it went from a 2-1 Niigata Meikun lead to a 10-2 Chuuetsu blowout. It perhaps was coming with the troubles they had against Maki, but to the extent that Chuuetsu scored 7 in the lucky 7 is shocking.

Nagano - Saku Chousei
All Matsushou Gakuen was able to prove was that at best they are a Tier 3 school. They had no answers for Saku Chousei (who was lower seeded), and the team was not crisp on defense. There's a long way to go for the former powerhouse...

Shimane - Izumo(!)
Sure, it's not like either team could be heavily favored, but at least Risshoudai Shounan could say they've been here before. But the manner in which Izumo controlled the game start to finish was shocking. Ace Hara Satoru (原 暁) pitched a 3-hitter, though walking 5 in a 6-1 dismantling of Risshoudai Shounan. They get their first ever Koushien appearance. Good for them.

Nagasaki - Nagasaki Shougyou
This was the game I was focused on.

Nagasaki Shougyou would open the scoring with a timely 2-out single to left by Inoue. Little did we know that that would end up being the only run of the game.

That's because Oomura Kougyou had many good chances to tie the game, but couldn't get the runner home. Their last chance was in the 8th with runners at the corners and 1 down, but even then they couldn't get as little as a sac fly. So Nagasaki Shougyou goes to Koushien instead with a hard earned win.

Kagoshima - TBD
Huh? What happened here?

Well, a lot and nothing at the same time. The teams were deadlocked at 1-1 since the 4th, but as the 9th inning approached, the advantage seemingly was with Shounan. But despite getting a runner to 3rd, and Kagoshima Jitsugyou loading the bases to create a force at every bag, they couldn't get the run home.

And as enchousen progressed, it was Shounan who kept on threatening with a runner in scoring position:

  • 11th inning - 1st/2nd, 2 out - flyout to left.
  • 12th inning - Leadoff double, failed bunt, intentional walk, bunt, intentional walk - K looking
After that, the teams entered what I call the march to the 15th. Both teams are no doubt tired, and are pressing to try and end the game before the tie in the 15th. But the pressing leads to quick outs and the result neither are wanting.

The 13th and 14th go without issue, but in the bottom of the 15th, Shounan gets one last chance. With one down, there's a base hit past the diving SS. Shounan plays for one final hit, bunting the runner over.

After another intentional walk, Shounan pulls all the tricks out of the bag as #14 Miyashita Shouji comes to bat. On the 2-1 pitch he singles a ball to left! The 3B coach is sending the runner home! The throw comes in...

OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kagoshima Jitsugyou denies Shounan once again, and the game ends in a 1-1 draw! And that means after a day's rest, the teams will take the field to replay the title game.

And this has to be devastating for Shounan. For ace Hamaya, it's been 13 innings, 15 innings (and 190 pitches) on two consecutive days, and then tomorrow another 9. I cannot see how they are going to take the title now.