Monday, July 28, 2014

Recap of yesterday's action

So, this will be short, mostly because I'm still disgusted about what happened yesterday (it looks like perhaps the powerhouses are not letting the cinderella teams get away anymore):

Niigata - Sekine Gakuen v. Nihon Bunri
Ishikawa - Komatsu Ootani v. Seiryou
I'm lumping these together because I don't want to dedicate time to these games.

Sekine Gakuen led Nihon Bunri 2-1 going into the bottom of the 9th.  Single, flyout, walk, 3-run gyakuten sayonara HR, Bunri wins 4-2.

Komatsu Ootani led Seiryou 8-0 going into bottom of 9th. They cannot record 3 outs as Seiryou scores 9 in a slow-motion collapse as they win 9-8.

You can see my twitter feed to see my feelings regarding this.  I may even do a post about this before the finals today.

Gunma - Kendai Takasaki v. Isesaki Seimei
The score itself was close, but the game perhaps wasn't.  Kawai, Takahashi and Matsuno combine on a no-hitter as they defeat Isesaki Seimei 1-0.

The only run was scored in the 3rd when after a double to LCF by then starter Kawai, Hoshino goes for a safety bunt with 2 out and brings the runner home.

Tochigi - Sakushin Gakuin v. Sano Nichidai
Sano Nichidai opened the scoring with a run in the first, but Sakushin Gakuin eventually wore down their opponents, scoring 7 runs in the 6th and 7th innings en route to a 7-1 win and their 4th consecutive trip to Natsu Koushien.

Saitama - Shiritsu Kawagoe v. Kasukabe Kyouei
Shiritsu Kawagoe and Kasukabe Kyouei did not have to play any powerhouse teams for the title, and avoided the pitfalls that are associated with playing in big prefectures such as this one.  Both schools had been to Koushien before, Shiritsu Kawagoe as Kawagoe Shougyou back in 1971, and Kasukabe Kyouei 4 times, the most recent being in 2005.

The game was very close with the teams trading runs in the 4th and 5th ending with Shiritsu Kawagoe leading 2-1.  It stayed that way until the 8th when Kamijyou couldn't hold the lead for Shiritsu.  Kasukabe Kyouei would score 6 in the bottom half of the frame, leaving them with almost no time to respond.  Kasukabe Kyouei would advance for the 5th time with a 7-2 win.

Nagano - Saku Chousei v. Nagano Shougyou
Nagano Shougyou had been a powerhouse back in the day, but has ceded way to the private schools such as Saku Chousei, Matsushou Gakuen and the like.

But they reached the final where they would have to exorcise the demon by defeating Saku Chousei to take the title.  And when I saw them score 6 in the 2nd, I thought perhaps the trend of upsets would continue.

Sadly it would not be.  A 4-run 7th was the key in Saku Chousei's comeback as they would win 10-9 to claim their 6th title.

Hyogo - Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku v. Sanda Shousei
Even though neither school had reached Natsu Koushien before, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku had at least gone to senbatsu.  So Sanda Shousei could have easily been called the underdog.

But the game was over early.  7 runs in the 3rd for Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku and that pretty much sealed things.  Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku would go on to win 11-1.

Tottori - Yazu v. Tottori Jyouhoku
In recent times Tottori Jyouhoku has dominated the prefecture leaving schools like Yazu who used to go to Koushien behind.  Yesterday was a chance for Yazu to perhaps claim something from past times.

Yazu would take an early lead when with the bases loaded and 2 out, Nishigaki would deliver a base hit to center scoring 2.

Kamatani for Yazu would hold off the Tottori Jyouhoku offense, but in the 5th he would cede a run due to a wild pitch.  Later on, after an intentional walk to load the bases, he would get out of the jam with a fly to center.

Kamatani wouldn't let them get any closer as he gave up just the 1 run on 6 hit to win 2-1.

Okayama - Okayama Ridai Fuzoku v. Kanzei
There would be no Cinderellas in Okayama as 2 familiar foes met up for the title - though neither had really been to Koushien in a couple of years, as Kurashiki Shougyou had stolen the show for most part.

Kaznei would score early and often against Okayama Ridai, putting up all their runs before the break.  It would be more than enough as they would win 9-4.

Hiroshima - Hiroshima Shinjyou v Kouryou
Kouryou and Jyosuikan have given up control of the prefecture to the masses the last 2 years, but Kouryou returned to the finals this year looking to reclaim the throne.

Hiroshima Shinjyou had gone to senbatsu earlier this year and was looking to perhaps make a return trip this summer.

Things looked good in the first, as Nishijima's timely triple gave them the 1-0 lead.

Kouryou would strike right back.  1 out, runners at the corners and cleanup batter Oota delivers a hit to left to tie the game.  Kita would give his team the lead right after with a single to center.

That would be all the scoring in the game as Kouryou would go on to punch their ticket with a 2-1 win.

Kagawa - Sakaide Shougyou v. Ootemae Takamatsu
We really hadn't heard from either of these schools, though both are more than decent teams within Kagawa.  Sakaide Shougyou time was in the 80s and early 90s where they went to Natsu Koushien 4 of their 5 prior times.  Ootemae Takamatsu has been forever a Tier 3 school, but with none of the current powerhouses in the final (and having survived Jinsei Gakuen 8-7 in 13 in the semifinals), they had a chance to make their first trip.

Perhaps the extra inning game though hurt Ootemae Takamatsu, because despite going out to a 3-1 lead through 6, Saji couldn't finish it off.  He would give up 2 in the 7th to tie the game, and then 2 more in the 9th giving Sakaide Shougyou the 5-3 win.

31 down, 16 to go.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

It's crunch time!

With less than 2 weeks to Natsu Koushien, we get a flurry of teams qualifying for Koushien.  Here's what happened yesterday:

Fukushima - Nichidai Tohoku v. Seikou Gakuin
In this year where it seems like the underdog is finally giving the powerhouse teams their comeuppance, Nichidai Tohoku had a similar opportunity versus the king of the prefecture, Seikou Gakuin.

And it really looked like Nichidai would be able to pull off the upset.  Seikou went from pitcher to pitcher to stem the tide, but couldn't as Nichidai Tohoku put run after another on the board to build a 6-2 lead.  By the time the game hit the 9th, I was dead certain they would be able to do it.

And they were just one out away from doing it.  But with runners on the corners and 2 out, Seikou put 3 hits together, and that 6-2 lead turned into a 6-6 ballgame.

Any time you have the underdog giving up a lead like that, especially in the final, usually the collapse is complete in regulation, or even if they survive into enchousen they can't regain momentum.

2 innings later, Seikou got runners on 1st and 2nd with no out, #3 batter Yananuma delivered the final blow to send Seikou to Koushien for another year.

Chiba - Toukaidai Bouyou v. Senshuudai Matsudo
After the melee in Chiba, 2 Tier 3 schools found themselves in the finals.  As one of my twitter follows is wont to mention, Senshuudai Matsudo in prior years kept on losing late in the tournament in enchousen.

But in the round of 16, perhaps they exorcised the demons when they won a 3-2 win in 10 against Shiritsu Funabashi. That seemed to give them momentum as they put away Kisaradzu Sougou early, and then scored 5 early against Kashiwa Nittai to reach the finals.

Toukaidai Bouyou was the forgotten Toukai school in the prefecture - to Toukaidai Urayasu (they had defeated Narashino earlier).  But they were always a respectable squad and always made a modest run.

This year was different.  This time around they got some breaks.  In their 2nd game, they had to walkoff Seibudai Chiba 3-2.  Then was a very uncharacteristic 2-0 win over Sodegaura.  And instead of facing Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, they faced Kokubun instead and shut them out 5-0.

Wouldn't you know it, they would have to face sister school Toukaidai Urayasu in the semifinals.  And you had to think that Bouyou's run would end here.

Nope, not even close.

In fact the scoreline would have you believe Bouyou was the dominant Toukai school.  12-2 in 5 innings!!

And holy crap, it's like Toukaidai Bouyou was just saving themselves for the stretch run, because in the final, Senshuudai Matsudo was absolutely no match. 6 runs in the 2nd to demoralize them, and the 6 in the 8th for the finishing blow, and they punch their first ever ticket to Natsu Koushien with authority in a 13-2 win.

Toyama - Toyama Shougyou v. Takaoka Shougyou
Sadly for those of us who loved Toyama Dai-ichi's run last year (the prefecture's deepest in 30 years), they showed some cracks early, and went down in the semifinals to Takaoka Shougyou.  And outside of a 2-0 win in their 1st game over Toyama Kougyou, the run looked rather solid.

The same could not be said for Toyama Shougyou.  Yes, they had some easy games to start, but then in the quarterfinals against Takaoka, they would go scoreless through regulation before wining in 10.  And the semifinals against Fujikoshi Kougyou, they managed to keep them at arms length, but an 8-5 win going into the finals doesn't necessarily portend great things.

And early on, it looked like they would be had.  After a couple scoreless, Takaoka Shougyou built a 3-0 lead.  But that completely collapsed when Toyama Shougyou scored 6 in the 6th.  And just for good measure they added 3 more in the 9th to avoid possible drama, and Toyama Shougyou makes their 1st trip in 10 years with a 9-3 win!

Gifu - Oogaki Nichidai v. Gifu Kougyou
Gifu Kougyou admittedly got some help to reach the finals.  No Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou to deal with, and the other main players were on the other half of the bracket.

But they had earned their finals appearance with their performance, soundly defeating those in front of them with the exception of the semifinals where they had to use all 9 innings to defeat Gifu Sougou Gakuen 3-2.

But the prefecture was Oogaki Nichidai's to lose.  Despite a narrow 3-0 win over Motoshi Shouyou, they easily manhandled their opponents up until defeating Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou 3-1.

The finals were no match. Oogaki Nichidai claimed their 2nd consecutive title with an 11-2 win.

Kyoto - Kyoto Subaru v. Ryuukokudai Heian
I thought maybe this might be Kyoto Subaru's year.  Fukuchiyama Seibi fell, Kyoto Gaidai Nishi too.  They almost didn't make the finals after coming back to defeat Katsura 8-7 after falling behind 5-0 after the first inning.  A 10-0 win the semifinal over Yamashiro perhaps meant good momentum going into the finals.

But on the other side loomed the senbatsu champs Ryuukokudai Heian...

And let's just say that it wasn't pretty. 2 in the 1st and 3 in the 2nd and the rout was on.  When it was all said and done, Heian will have a chance to go haru-natsu with a 10-0 win over Kyoto Subaru.  Maybe next year guys...

Wakayama - Chiben Wakayama v. Shiritsu Wakayama
Chiben Wakayama has dominated the prefecture for a long time now.  In the last 27 years, they have relinquished the natsu title just 7 times.  For all the other schools in the prefecture that's rather frustrating knowing that the road to Koushien goes through them.

So it seemed this year too.  Outside of a 4-1 win over Touin, it was double digit runs the rest of the way to the finals.

The team to try and slay the monster this year was Shiritsu Wakayama.  They almost didn't even make it out of their first game, giving up a 2-0 lead to Wakayama Tousen before winning in 10.  It got easier after that, culminating in a 4-1 over Wakayama Shougyou to reach the finals.

Still, it's not like they were lighting the world on fire, and it was Chiben Wakayama after all.

But in the finals, Shiritsu kept Chiben off the board after giving up a run in the 1st.  That kept them in the game until the 7th, where it did indeed prove to be lucky for them.  Ooshima would deliver the game-tying RBI and the game would remain tied at 1 into enchousen.

In the 11th, Chiben would take the lead again 2-1, but Shiritsu found a response in PH Abe who hit another clutch single to center.

The unbelievable happened one inning later, when with runners on 1st and 2nd, Setoguchi would drive a ball to left center, scoring the sayonara run giving Shiritsu Wakayama the 3-2 victory!!

Shimane - Taisha v. Kaisei
Taisha has been that model Tier 3 school in Shimane.  Always good, never great.  This year though was completely different, scoring double digits against all opponents until the semifinals where they trailed Yasugi 4-0 going into the bottom of the 9th.  Yasugi's ace Saneshige couldn't close out the gae, and Taisha rallied for 4 in the 9th to tie the game.  And in the 10th, Shimizu's base hit would complete the comeback to reach the finals.

Kaisei's road was a bit more rockier, but then again it was a bit more difficult as well.  First was a 4-2 win over Risshoudai Shounan.  Then down 6-0 to Iwamichisuikan, they scored 11 unanswered runs to advance to the semifinals. And then against unknown Daitou, they were in an old-fashioned brawl where after a scoreless 2 innings there were multiple ties and lead changes and 4 ties, but the decisive blow was a 5-run 6th by Kaisei to take a 10-7 lead.  They would hold off a final charge by Taisei in the 9th, but they could only score 2 of the 3 runs needed to extend the game, falling 12-11.

In the final, Taisha would fight their best, but in the end another big inning by Kaisei would do them in.  Kaisei wins 9-4 and heads back to Koushien.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

8 more tickets punched last two days...

And you guys may be better off following my twitter (see the left side of the page) to get relatively real-time coverage on the games, because work has been too busy to allow me to catch-up on the prior day's games.

So what happened on Thursday:
Kita Hokkaido - Kushiro Kougyou v. Bushuukan
Like many other prefectures, it seems like this is the year for the tier 3 schools to make hay.

FYI, when I say tier 3, I mean the following:

  • Tier 1 - Schools that regularly make Koushien (Chiben Wakayama, Nichidai-san, Houtoku Gakuen, Ryuukokudai Heian, Osaka Touin, etc,)
  • Tier 2 - Schools that have made it to Koushien, but generally run into the upper tier (Yokohama Hayato, Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, Nihon Koukuu)
  • Tier 3 - Schools that regularly do well, but rarely, if ever reach Koushien (Bushuukan, Toukai Dai-yon, Kyoto Subaru, Kasukabe Kyouei, St. Ursula, Oberlin, etc.)

And so this final was a chance for both schools to get to Koushien.  And actually Kushiro Kougyou had made it once before back in 1979, but lost in the first round to Hieizan.

But the game wasn't close, Bushuukan put up 3 runs in the first inning and never really looked back.  Kushiro Kougyou made it close with a pair of runs in the 9th, but an 8-5 win means that they're making their first ever appearance at Natsu Koushien!

Aomori - Aomori v. Hachinohe Gakuen Kousei
Aomori had a magical run, defeating both Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi and Aomori Yamada to reach the final.  But then they had to face Kousei, and you would think that the run would end.

Thankfully for everyone (except Kousei) they didn't get the memo.  In fact, they were the ones to strike first, with 3 runs in the second no less.  And when Kousei replied with 3 of their own the 3rd, they scored another in the 4th.  But after Kousei tied it yet again in the 5th, you had to wonder if Aomori was going to have another burst in them.

The answer seemed to come 2 innings later when Kousei would score 4 in the 7th to seemingly take a commanding 8-4 lead.  Aomori made one final push in the 9th, but it would fall short as Kousei goes yet again to Koushien with a 8-6 win.  Now if only they could win Koushien itself...

Iwate - Hanamaki Higashi v. Moriokadai Fuzoku
If there is one name that you need to know from this matchup, it is ace Matsumoto Yuuki.

No, not Hanamaki Higashi, but Moriokadai Fuzoku!

Because in the 1st inning, he blasted a 2-run HR to deep right to the 2nd fence (the one actually bordering the entire ballpark!).

Now, it was obviously still early, and Hanamaki as they are wont to do, started scrapping runs together, first with a run in the 2nd, and then 3 more in the 4th.  You had to wonder if Moriokadai would be able to mount another charge against the vaunted squad.

Fast forward 1 inning later, and Moriokadai had managed to score a run to cut the lead to 4-3.  And wouldn't you know it, Matsumoto stepped in once again, this time with runners at the corners.  After a SB, a base hit could give the team back the lead.

Matsumoto drives a ball to deep center, and somehow over the fielder's head yet again!  2 runs do score and Moriokadai Fuzoku took the 5-4 lead!

The rest of the game was hang on time.  Matsumoto was by no means dominant on the hill, but he was doing just enough to get by, with some help from Hanamaki at times.  For instance in the 6th runner on 2nd, bunt is placed, but right to Matsumoto who wheels to 3rd for the tag.  They get a 2-out double in the 7th, but a great diving catch by Moriokadai's LF saved the game.

Once that catch was made, I think the rally in Hanamaki Higashi was dashed.  The last 6 outs went by without a whimper and Moriokadai Fuzoku (or rather Matusmoto Yuuki) claims the Iwate title!

Yamagata - Sakata Minami v. Yamagata Chuo
Yamagata Chuo had claimed their only title 4 years ago, and if you go back and look at the records, it wasn't against the top competition the prefecture had to offer (Sakata Minami, Nichidai Yamagata, Tsuruoka Higashi, etc.).  So while they were here in the finals, it was against the aforementioned Sakata Minami, and you had to think that they would fall short again...

It certainly looked that way.  Despite ace Ishikawa eventually recording 12 K's, it was Sakata Minami who held the 2-0 lead going into the 9th.

But in that 9th, Okuyama would start off with a double,  couple of batters later Aoki would hit a 2-RBI double to tie the game.  And Nagai and Takahashi would complete the comeback with timely hitting on their own.  5-runs later and Sakata Minami and their supporters were shocked to see themselves down 5-2 with just 3 outs to go!

There would be no rally as Yamagata Chuo would truly break their curse of Koushien and punch their second ticked with a 5-2 win!

Oita - Oita v. Meihou
Here was another prefecture where a potential first timer (Oita) had a prefectural powerhouse standing in their way (Meihou).

Once again, Oita actually opened the scoring with a run in the 2nd.  They continued to be the aggressor in the 7th, breaking the 1-1 tie with a pair of runs.

But late game, and Meihou seemed to flex their powerhouse muscles with 4 unanswered runs to lead 5-3 going into Oita's 9th.  There was a flicker of hope as Oita had runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 out.  But whether or not Meihou forgot to play no doubles defense, #8 batter Ishimoto hit a ball to center over the fielder's head for that key double to tie the game!

The game would eventually head to enchousen, but not for long.  Once again there were 2 outs for Oita and a runner on 3rd.  Cleanup batter, and ace Sano, delivers a single to center for the go-ahead run!

Sano would go on to shut down the Meihou batters in the bottom of the 10th and Oita gets to celebrate their first ever natsu title!

Kagoshima - Kanoya Chuo v. Kamimura Gakuen
We've heard this story a lot, and it happened here yet again.  Kanoya Chuo, a better-than-average squad squaring up against top tiered Kamimura Gakuen for the Kagoshima title.

But the game was rather close throughout.  Kamimura Gakuen scored a run in the 5th thanks to two doubles.

It stayed that way until the 7th where Kanoya Chuo manufactured a run the old-fashioned way - base hit, bunt, base hit, beat throw home.

Kamimura would continue to put pressure on Kanoya Chuo ace Nanashima, and almost came through when a ball just went foul down the 3B line in their half of the 7th.  Eventually though, the game would head to enchousen.

There, Kanoya got a leadoff double, and when they tried to bunt the runner over, Kamimura's 3B muffed on the ball an everyone was safe.  And after the trailing runner took 2nd, Kanoya's 1B delivered a single to center scoring 2.  That would prove to be more than enough as the game ends on a great diving catch by Kanoya Chuo's LF and they too will make their first trip to Koushien!

_______________________________________________________________

And for yesterday it was a quiet day as most prefectures had a day off in anticipation of championship games (there are 7 today!):
Ibaraki - Fujishiro v. Kasumigaura
Like Kakunodate, I was happy that Kasumigaura made it back to the finals.  The one fear that I have regarding schools like these was that even though they got back, their best chance was behind them.

Sadly that was the case with Kasumigaura.  Fujishiro scored 5 in the first inning and it was all downhill from there.  They would go on to win 12-3.

Kumamoto - Jyouhoku v. Buntoku
Jyouhoku and Buntoku have both been to Koushien before, but they are more like a Tier 3 school in that they continuously run into the top teams.  Yet this year, here they sit facing each other with a golden chance to return.

The teams played under pressure the entire game, with both teams playing desperate.  It remained scoreless until the 8th inning.

There, Jyouhoku gets a leadoff single to the SS.  He had to range over, but the throw wasn't in time.  It looked like Buntoku would get out of the inning as Jyouhoku not once but twice failed to bunt the runner over.

Yet, Jyouhoku got another base hit to the same gap in short and the next thing you knew, Jyouhoku's LF doubled off the wall in LF and suddenly they were up 2-1!

Buntoku wasn't able to do anything until the 9th when their cleanup batter Shiga hits a HR to narrow the margin to 1.  Jyouhoku brought in ace number Morotomi to close the game.

First thing he did though was hit the batter on the very first pitch.  A base hit later, and suddenly it looked like they were going to fall apart.

But a fly ball to center ended the game, and Jyouhoku heads to Natsu Koushien!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

4 more champions crowned and what's on deck today

So here's what happened yesterday as all 4 title games started together:

Minami Hokkaido
Man, I had wanted Otaru Chouryou to win the title. And they had a dream matchup in the final in Toukai Dai-yon who is a good team, but not top echelon.

The game absolutely flew by.  Toukai Dai-yon scored a run in the first, and then it was a sprint to the finish, with both sides attacking early and often.

The game lasted 83 minutes.  83!  And Otaru Chouryou was just out-matched, or you could say that they kinda played themselves out of the game with how quickly they played.  Either way, Toukai Dai-yon takes advantage of the opportunity with the open bracket and they will book their flights.

Akita
When I saw that Kakunodate had advanced to the final, I was so happy for them. Last year ended in heartbreak versus Akita Shougyou in the 15th inning.  I wanted them so badly to get to Koushien.

But they were playing Noshiro Shouyou (fka Noshiro Shougyou), and it was pouring down rain.  For the underdog, perhaps things weren't in their favor again.

Yet it was Kakunodate who had put pressure on Noshiro Shouyou early, finally breaking through in the 3rd with a run, and then adding a pair after that.  But with the elements making things miserable, ace Souma would give chances for Noshiro to get back in the game.  But time and time again they got out of the jam.

One final pinch in the 9th, runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs, Noshiro gets a base hit.  Inexplicably, the runner from 2nd tries to take home on the shallow ball, and is easily thrown out at home to end the game and give Kakunodate the title!

Saga
Saga Kita was out on a mission to return to Koushien and found themselves just 1 game away and Saga Kougyou left in their way.

Kita took the lead right off the bat, and perhaps one thought that they could run away with it.

Not so much, and actually Kougyou would score in the 4th and another in the 5th to actually take the lead!  Didn't last long though as Kita would tie it immediately thereafter.  Kita would continue to make chances, but were unable to capitalize.  And so the game went to enchousen.

And unfortunately, it would appear that an error would decide the game.  A SS error from Kougyou would give Kita the 3-2 lead in the 10th.

Undaunted, somehow with 2 outs, Kougyou would load the bases!  And a tweet I saw had a picture of a 3-1 count.  Yet reliever Fukui found a way to get a K to end the game and send Saga Kita back to Koushien.

Miyazaki
Nisshou Gakuen would have to get past Nichinan Gakuen to win the Miyazaki title.  I don't have much information regarding the game, except that Nichinan Gakuen held Nisshou Gakuen to just 4 hits.  Nichinan got only 5 themselves, but made the most of it, scoring a pair of runs in the 2nd and made that stick to take the title for the 7th time.

So that covers yesterday.  Today we have the following
  • Kita Hokkaido - Kushiro Kougyou v. Bushuukan
  • Aomori - Aomori v. Hachinohe Gakuen Kousei
  • Iwate - Hanamaki Higashi v. Moriokadai Fuzoku
  • Yamagata - Sakata Minami v. Yamagata Chuo
  • Oita - Oita 6x-5 Meihou (10 inn) *This will be covered later
  • Kagoshima - Kanoya Chuo v. Kamimura Gakuen

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Upcoming finals matchups

5 finals matchups are set now, let’s see who will be playing for the title:

Minami Hokkaido
Things got turned upside down in the quarterfinals. First, in the second half of the quarterfinals, Toukai Dai-yon never trailed against Sapporo Dai-ichi, pulling away to an 11-5 win. Sapporo Nichidai also never trailed in their matchup, sending Komadai Tomakomai home with a 5-1 victory. This meant there was no real top level powerhouse left. It also meant that the winner of the first semifinal stood a better chance of claiming the title.

In that semi Otaru Chouryou, continuing their run long after defeating Hokushou in the regionals, built a 8-4 lead over Urakawa. But much like Nihon Koukuu yesterday in Yamanashi, they couldn’t record the final 3 outs. Urakawa would score 5 runs to take a 9-8 lead. But unlike Nihon Koukuu, Otaru Chouryou didn’t know the meaning of give up. They came back and scored 2 runs to win the game 10-9 to reach the finals! The other semifinal was not as climactic. Toukai Dai-yon scored a pair of runs early, but it was the 6-run 5th that put the game away. 2 more in the 6th and it was all over for Sapporo Nichidai.

So it’ll be the Cinderella Otaru Chouryou and the always decent, but never good enough Toukai Dai-yon who will play for the Minami Hokkaido title.

Aomori
The third quarterfinal was a shocker.  Aomori scored in only one inning against Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi, but they scored 6 in that frame.  They made it hold up in a 6-4 victory to advance to the semis.  Their opponent would be as expected Aomori Yamada, who blanked Goshogawara Shougyou 4-0.

The first semifinal was as expected, but not in the manner we expected.  First Seiai slowly built a 4-0 lead through the middle innings. That was completely wiped out by a 4-run 7th from Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei. An inning later, Kousei would push through the gyakuten run, and with 3 outs to go, Seiai couldn't find a response.  Kousei prevails 5-4 and is one step away from yet another trip to Koushien.

Meanwhile on the other semifinal, Aomori Yamada, who has been trying to return back to their glory years, also built up a 3-0 lead over Aomori.  But for some reason, despite being the more "experienced" team, they could not record the final 3 outs.  Aomori puts together 7 hits and 5 runs in the top of the 9th and completely crushes Aomori Yamada's spirit, winning 5-3!

So Aomori will need to put another performance like that against Kousei if they want to reach Koushien.

Akita
Just about all of the quarterfinal matchups were in doubt.  In fact 3 were mercy ruled (though Noshiro Shouyou was tied 2-2 until a 6-run 4th) and the 4th (Kakunodate) was a 6-0 shutout.

So it would be Oomagari Kougyou v. Noshiro Shouyou and Yuri Kougyou v. Kakunodate in the semifinals.

Kakunodate's semi (the 2nd of the 2) was no contest sadly for Yuri Kougyou.  Kakunodate scored a pair in the first, then twisted the screws in the middle innings, winning 7-0 in 7 innings.  Things were a little different in the first semifinal however.

You see, Oomagari Kougyou had managed to keep Noshiro Shouyou off the scoreboard until the 5th and even then it was just a run.  That kept them in the game long enough to come through with a 4-run 7th to take the lead.  Of course, closing games seem to be a bit of trouble for schools this year, and this game was no exception.  Noshiro Shouyou scored 3 in the bottom of the 8th to tie the game and send it into enchousen.

Right off the bat, Oomagari managed to manufacture a run, putting Noshiro immediately on its heels.  But the bugaboo of defeating a strong team got to Oomagari.  2 walks and an error led to the tying run.  And with 2 outs and the bases loaded, reliever Tashiro would give up the oshidashi, sayonara walk to give Noshiro Shouyou the victory.

And so Kakunodate will get a second chance to get to Koushien.  This time however, Noshiro Shouyou stands in the way.

Saga
Saga's semifinals were much closer than what we've seen so far.  Perhaps because all 4 schools are in Saga city.

In the first semifinal, Saga Kougyou had managed to keep Saga Gakuen off the board for 7 innings.  Then in the 8th they were able to break the scoreless deadlock with a pair of runs.  Saga Gakuen would make the standard rally, but unlike some other teams, Saga Kougyou did not break.  They would hold on for the 2-1 win and earn a spot in the finals.

Saga Shougyou put up a similar fight against Saga Kita and in fact took a 2-1 lead with a pair of runs in the 6th.  Saga Kita would immediately tie the game in the bottom half, and the game would wind up in enchousen.  In the 11th, with a runner on 1st and 2 out, top batter Kinoshita would hit a ball to right center for the sayonara RBI triple to give Saga Kita the 3-2 win and a chance to return to Koushien

Miyazaki
Miyazaki will be the battle of the Gakuen's for the title.  Nichinan Gakuen got the tougher test against Miyazaki Nichidai as the teams were knotted up at 1 from the first inning before a pair of runs in the lucky 7 for Nichinan was all they needed to move to the finals.

Meanwhile, Nobeoka Kougyou proved to be no match for Nisshou Gakuen.  Despite lasting the full 9 innings, they would be shutout 6-0.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Two more titles determined (ugh...)

I'm going to make this short because the results depress me.

In Miyagi, Sanuma gives their best effort at Rakuten Kobo Stadium against Rifu, and actually rally to tie the game at 2 in the 5th.  But Rifu edges ahead with a run in the 6th, and Sanuma can't find the equalizer.  They fall just short 3-2.

Yamanashi was more heartbreaking for me.  Trailing 3-1 in the 7th, Nihon Koukuu scores 7 runs to lead 8-3.  But they can't hold it.  2 in the 8th makes it a 8-5 game.  Then an error by their 2B extended the game, and allowed Toukaidai Koufu to not only tie the game, but take the 9-8 lead.  Nihon Koukuu winds up the bridesmaids yet again, falling this time to Toukaidai Koufu 9-8...

I get to go to bed depressed.

Where we stand (Part 3 - Shikoku/Kyushu)

Trying to catch up as best I can today...

Kagawa - Best 8 (en route)
Kagawa is the first Shikoku prefecture to enter the round of 16 and already have some quarterfinalists.

Just to show how useless seeding can be, top seed Sanbonmatsu were mercy ruled in their round of 16 game 10-3 by Sakaide Shougyou.  They will face Kannonji Chuo who briefly trailed against Takamatsu Kita but went on to win 7-4.  And Eimei, a 3-4 seed, was blanked in their first game by Takamatsu Sakurai 2-0, so they didn't even make the round of 16.

The remaining games to be played for the right to be in the Best 8 are:
  • Takamatsu Sakurai v. Takamatsu Higashi
  • Kagawa Nishi v. Kasada
  • Ootemae Takamatsu v. Takamatsu
  • Iiyama v. Sakaide Kougyou
  • Marugame Jyousai v. Kagawa Chuo
  • Takamatsu Shougyou v. Jinsei Gakuen
With some of the upper tier schools have been eliminated, it means that the remaining ones have a better shot at punching their ticket - such as Kagawa Nishi, Marugame Jyousai and Jinsei Gakuen.

Tokushima - Round of 16
With 31 teams, one game gets you to the round of 16 in Tokushima.  Ikeda as the top seed actually got a bye.  Interestingly it doesn't get easy for them to start out, they draw Komatsushima!
  • Ikeda v. Komatsushima
  • Tomioka Nishi v. Tokushima Shougyou
  • Tokushima Kita v. Naruto
  • Jyoutou v. Anabuki
  • Seikou Gakuen (no there are many of them) v. Tokushima Kagaku Gijyutsu
  • Jyouhoku v. Aratano
  • Naruto Uzushio v. Kaifu
  • Anan Tousen v. Anan Kougyou
While many will be happy that Ikeda and Komatsushima will be beating each other up, the fact that Naruto Uzushio is on the other half means there is no easy road to the title.

Fukuoka - Best 8 (en route)
For as much as the school that winds up representing Fukuoka surprisingly doesn't seem to fare too well, the teams that do go generally seem to be from a big group of schools.  A lot of them are here in the round of 16:
  • Kyushu Kokudaisai Fuzoku v. Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou
  • Toukai Dai-go v. Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku
  • Jiyuugaoka v. Yuusei
  • Seirin v. Chikuyou Gakuen
  • Orio Aishin v. Yanagawa
  • Hokuchiku v. Kurume Gakuen
  • Touchiku v. Higashi-Fukuoka
  • Seihou v. Chikushi
Only thing is, quite a few of them are facing each other, so at least there will be some attrition for the other schools.  It isn't much solace considering that all but 2 matchups include of the upper level teams.

Interestingly, so far it is the non-powerhouse matchups that were close.   Jiyuugaoka spotted Yuusei 3 runs before coming back to win 5-3.  Chikuyou Gakuen went scoreless for 5 innings before finally breaking through for 8 runs.  And it was Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku and Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku who scored double digit wins in blowout wins (though for Tankidai, they scored 10 of their 12 runs late).

Saga - Best 4
Saga Kita did indeed win their game 3-1 over Kashima.  Waseda Saga won yesterday over Toumeikan 8-0 perhaps giving pause to the rest of the field.  The quarterfinals were as follows:
  • Ryuukoku v. Saga Gakuen
  • Saga Kougyou v. Kanzaki Seimei
  • Saga Kita v. Shiota Kougyou
  • Saga Shougyou v. Waseda Saga
Saga Gakuen finally had their first close game against Ryuukoku, scoring the only run, but still advancing.  And instead of facing Kanzaki Seimei like I thought they might, Saga Kougyou shuts them out 2-0!

In fact 3 of the quarterfinal games were shutouts as Saga Kita put away Shiota Kougyou 2-0 to reach the semis.  Finally, it looks like the rest of the prefecture has a little more time.  Despite Waseda Saga coming back from down 2-0, Saga Shougyou puts up deuces in the 6th and 7th for a 6-2 win.

Nagasaki - Round of 16
With 57 schools, most of the seeded teams have to play just one game to get to the round of 16.  The only exception was Hasami, and unlike prior years, they are scoring runs!  They have defeated Nagasaki Nanzan 6-3 and then Kouka 9-2 in 8 innings!

All seeded teams have advanced, though some perhaps closer than others:
  • Souseikan v. Nagasaki Higashi
  • Nagasaki Nishi v. Hasami
  • Seihou v. Kyushu Bunka Gakuen
  • Nagasaki Kagakudai Fuzoku v, Shimabara Nougyou
  • Sasebo Kougyou v. Shikimachi Kougyou
  • Sasebo Shougyou v. Nagasaki Shougyou
  • Keihou v. Obama
  • Seiryou v. Kaisei
Kaisei barely beat Iki late 2-1 and Keihou responded a 3-run inning by Sasebo Jitsugyou with 3 of their own to win 5-4.

Oita - Best 4 (en route)
Wow, I leave Oita alone for a couple of days and they have powered through and will reach the Best 4 today!

One semifinal is set and that is Oita Uenogaoka v. Meihou.  Oita Uenogaoka several years back was a 21st century selection and kinda played like one in their only game.  This time around though they have put their stamp on the field.  Despite a 4-3 win over Usa to start the tournament, they have beat both Nihon Bunridai Fuzoku and Oita Shougyou to advance to the best 4.  Meihou has yet to yield a run in their 3 games so far.

Today, Oita shuts out Touin 2-0 to be the 3rd team to advance to the Best 4, and Kitsuki will play Nakatsu Higashi for the final spot later today.
Miyazaki - Best 4
There was a mild upset in the last day of Round of 16 play.  Nobeoka Kougyou upset Miyakonojyou Shougyou 3-2 creating the following quarterfinal matchups:
  • Nichinan Gakuen v. Miyazaki Oomiya
  • Nobeoka Seiun v. Miyazaki Nichidai
  • Nobeoka Shougyou v. Nisshou Gakuen
  • Nobeoka Kougyou v. Sadowara
For Nichinan Gakuen, they needed the late innings to put away Miyazaki Oomiya 10-0 in the full 9 innings.  They will play Miyazaki Nichidai who responded to a 3 run inning by Nobeoka Seiun with 3 of their own to win 6-3.

Nisshou Gakuen actually trailed Nobeoka Shougyou twice, but 3 unanswered runs post-break allowed them to move on 6-4.  And finally Sadowara put up a great fight against Nobeoka Kougyou, but like many other schools, broke down late falling 8-4.

Kumamoto - Best 4 (en route)
Unlike other prefectures, while there are 8 seeded teams, they are not drawn into the edges of the bracket.  Instead they are put in pools and drawn into a section of a bracket.

And not all of them survived into the best 8 (in order of the brackets):
  • #8 Kyushu Gakuin - 3 strong games put them into the Best 8, but...
  • #1 Taragi - They had the unfortunate luck to have to replay their first game when rain made their first attempt against Yuushinkan.  They eventually won, but it was an extra 5 innings of work to be put on the team.  The pitching would fall apart against Jyouhoku in the round of 16 giving up 4 runs late to fall 7-4.  There would be more to come...
  • #4 Shuugakukan - They couldn't even reach the round of 16.  Against Toukaidai Seishou, they threw 5 different pitchers at them, but it was the offense that failed to deliver.  They would fall 1-0 in 11.
  • #5 Kumamoto Kougyou - They almost blew a 6-0 lead against Kumamoto Kokufu with 5 runs in the 7th, but pulled away to win 11-6.
  • #3 Buntoku - They have yet to yield a run in their games so far.  They may look the strongest.
  • #6 Seiseikou - They have uncharacteristically scored a lot of runs in their games so far, their last being a more normal 6-2 win over Kumamoto Dai-ichi.
  • #7 Senshuudai Tamana - In their 2nd game against Chiharadai, they rallied from behind to take a 5-3 lead, but 2 HRs from Chiharadai were too much as they lost 8-5.
  • #2 Chinzei - Chinzei went from a defensive low scoring team, to a complete offensive one it seems.  Problem is, you have to outhit your pitching and survive a possible power outage.  It worked for the first couple of games, but against Kumamoto Kokusaidai Fuzoku in the round of 16, their pitching faltered, giving up 3 runs in the final 2 innings, and then the sayonara run in the 11th to fall 5-4.
Earlier today, Jyouhoku led Kyushu Gakuin 4-0, blew the lead in the 8th and 9th, but managed to stem the momentum, walking them off in the bottom of the 9th!

Kagoshima - Best 4 (en route)
Their PDF don't show any seeds, but the strong teams do occupy the normal seeded spots.

Kanoya Chuo didn't give up a run until their 3rd game vs. Tsurumaru in the round of 16.  Still, they have kept their opponents at arms length, defeating Sendai 4-2 for a spot in the semifinals. (Sendai had upset seeded Reimei earlier 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th).

Kokubun Chuo and Kagoshima Jyouhou are playing right now for the final spot in the best 4, both upsetting seeded teams in the prior round (Shounan and Kagoshima Jyousai respectively).  Kokubun Chuo leads 2-0 after their half of the 4th.

Ooshima couldn't keep the momentum from the spring, much like last year.  They fell in the round of 16 3-1.  That opened the door for Kanoya, who upset Kagoshima Gyokuryuu with 7 runs in the final 4 innings to win 7-6.

Kamimura Gakuen had a close game against Kounan in the 2nd round 2-1, but have defeated the rest in decent fashion.  Kanoya should prove to be a good challenge.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

First ticket punched!

Well, it's all over in Okinawa, and Okinawa Shougaku successfully defends their title!  Their closest game was their very first in a 1-0 win over Okinawa Suisan, then ran the table 36-3 to win the title.

The game versus Itoman was a bit close early, but they finally broke through late with 6 runs in the final 3 innings to claim the title.  This is their 2nd consecutive and 7th natsu title!

One down, 48 to go!

Where we stand (Part 3 - Central)

Gotta keep going, we're going to crown our first qualifier today...

Wakayama - Best 8 (en route)
Regardless of the fact that Minoshima won last year, it's still Chiben Wakayama's prefecture. Despite the slow start in their first game, Kishigawa took the brunt of the damage in a 10-0 win.  Ito will be up next for the monarchs of the prefecture.

Minoshima was in some trouble today versus Wakayama Higashi, but 7 runs in the late stages helped push them to a 8-6 win.  They may not be the ones to take on Chiben this year.  Minabe and Wakayama Shougyou will play for the right to take on Minoshima next.

The rest of the games in the Best 16 are:
  • Shiritsu Wakayama v. Tanabe Kougyou
  • Kouyasan v. Kouyou
  • Kioukan v. Seirin
  • Tanabe v. Naga
Kyoto - Best 8 (en route)
Wow, I can't even recognize a lot of the teams that have made the Round of 16.
  • Kita-Saga v. Ayabe - Nishio and Kuroda make a single run stick today for the win
  • Ryuukokudai Heian v. Kyoto Kokusai
  • Higashiyama v. Nishi-Jyouyou
  • Otokuni v. Fukuchiyama Seibi
  • Seizan v. Yamashiro
  • Hokuryou v. Higashi-Uji
  • Rakutou v. Kyoto Subaru
  • Kumiyama v. Katsura
Wow, outside of the normal schools (plus Kyoto Subaru and Otokuni), I don't really recognize the teams.

And then there's the fact that Ryuukokudai Heian continues to play low-scoring games in advancing (though they just put up 5 runs to perhaps put Kyoto Kokusai in their place).

Fukuchiyama Seibi started slow, but did record a mercy rule win last over Horikawa. It will not get any easier as Otokuni defeated Kyoto Seishou, and Kyoto Shouei.  Not bad.

The bottom half is filled with unknowns because there were some upsets.  Ritsumeikan Uji? Gone yesterday at the hands of Hokuryou 2-1.  Kyoto Gaidai Nishi? Gone as well, having trailed Rakutou 3-1 in their opening game before finding a way to tie it in the 9th but eventually lost 4-3 in 11.  Might be a change for Kyoto Subaru to finally make some hay.

Tottori - Best 8 (en route)
They just started the Round of 16 play yesterday (they can take their time with just 24 schools).

Tottori Nishi could find the equalizer, but not the go-ahead as they fell to Kurayoshi Higashi 3-2 in 10.  Yazu continued to increase their run production each inning in a 19-0 win over Kurayoshi Nougyou.

Today Tottori Jyouhoku never trailed but played the full 9 against Yonago Shouin in a 5-2 win.  Yonago Kita meanwhile put crooked numbers up early and won 9-2 over Iwami 9-2 in 7.

Shimane - Round of 16
Shimane with just 39 teams means that for many, just 1 win gets you to the round of 16:
  • Taisha v. Matsue Kougyou
  • Matsue Nourin v. Matsue Higashi
  • Yasu v. Gotsu
  • Hamada v. Izumo Nishi
  • Kaisei v. Risshoudai Shounan
  • Izumo v. Iwamichisuikan
  • Shimane Chuo v. Izumo Shougyou
  • Meisei v. Daitou
 Many teams will breathe a sigh of relief as at least two of the strong schools will be eliminated (Kaisei, Risshoudai Shounan, Iwamichisuikan).

Where we stand (Part 3 - Kanto)

There is a lot to go through, and I have less time to cover it all:

Ibaraki - Round of 16
Ibaraki has quickly whittled the field from 100 to 16, and while there are some familiar faces, there are a lot of unfamiliar schools here too:
  • Jyousou Gakuin (#1) v. Moriya
  • Mito Sakuranomaki (#8) v. Ushiku
  • Tsuchiura Kohoku (#4) v. Satake
  • Fujishiro (#5) v. Asou
  • Kasumigaura (#2) v. Mito Shougyou
  • Ishioka Dai-ichi v. Kashima Gakuen (#10)
  • Toride Shouyou v. Iwase Nichidai
  • Ryuugasaki Dai-ichi v. Tsukuba Shouei
Jyouso Gakuin is an easy spot.  Kasumigaura was oh so close last year.  Mito Sakuranomaki is familar because they're often seeded.  Fujishiro I believe went to senbatsu several years back.  I remember Tsukuba Shouei and Ushiku for some reason but right now can't remember why.

With so few familiar teams, it could be quite possible that we could see a rematch of last year's finals.  Jyousou Gakuin has not yielded a run in 2 games, while Kasumigaura did have a hiccup against Tsukuba Kokusai holding off a 9th inning rally to win 4-3.

Nishi Tokyo - Best 8 (en route)
There were a lot of familiar faces that came from the field of 128 to the round of 16, and some have already advanced to the Best 8.

Those include Nichidai Tsurugaoka and Kodaira in the left half who won by double digits and will face each other and then Hachiouji and Toukaidai Sugao (who put Waseda Jitsugyou behind 4-0 early en route to a 6-3 win) in the right half and too will play each other.

More powerhouses will be on deck today.  Today's schedule is as follows:
  • Shouwa v. Komaba Gakuen
  • Nichidai Sakuragaoka v. Kokugakuin Kugayama
  • Nichidai-san v. Seikou Gakuen
  • Meijidai Nakano-Hachiouji v. Kokushikan
Higashi Tokyo - Best 8 (en route)
All 4 top seeds - Seiritsu Gakuen, Kanto Dai-ichi, Teikyou and Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku, have won their first 2 games to reach the round of 16.  Considering that I thought Nisshougakushadai was robbed, it's good to see them progress.  However, they were a 5-3 win over Jyousai and a 3-2 win over Toukaidai Takanawadai.  Shuutoku, the #5 seed couldn't even get past their 2nd game, falling behind 6-0 to Iwakura eventually losing 6-4.  And of the #6-9 seeds, the familiar Toua Gakuen, Adachi Niita and Yukigaya have advanced.  So we've only lost 2 seeded teams so far.
  • Seiritsu Gakuen v. Momijigawa - Seiritsu Gakuen needed to earlier to advance!
  • Tokyo v. Adachi Niita
  • Iwakura v. Toua Gakuen
  • Jyoutou v. Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku
  • Teikyou v. Nichidai-ichi
  • Houyuu Gakuin v. Koyamadai
  • Yukigaya v. Nichidai Buzan - Yukigaya obliterated Nichidai Buzan going the minimum 5
  • Horikoshi v. Kanto Dai-ichi - Kanto Dai-ichi led 2-1 after 4, but while Horikoshi is no pushover Kanto plates 2 more and Horikoshi may be on their way out.
Tokyo has been good in recent years, have have posted 4 quality victories.  Next up will be the seeded Adachi Niita, who had some slight trouble versus Shinozaki before steadying the ship versus Tamadai Meguro.  Iwakura will be facing their 2nd seeded team in Toua Gakuen who have not had any issues so far.  Nisshougakushadai maybe gets a game to right the ship as Jyoutou barely survived rallying from a 6-run 7th from Musashigaoka with 4 runs to win 7-6.

Teikyou has looked okay so far, with their last game a 6-1 win over Komagome Gakuen.  And let's give Nichidai-ichi some credit before facing Teikyou.  Perhaps the lost school of the 3 Nichidai numbered schools (we all know about Nichidai-san and Nichidai-ni is consistently in the tier below the Koushien contenders).  They've won 4 games from the deepest part of the bracket to reach the Round of 16.  It will probably end here, but Teikyou, so you never know.

Koyamadai is a well-respected team, and have also gone from the deepest part of the bracket to win 4 straight, including the upset over Sundai Gakuen.  As for Houyuu, they had 2 mercy-rule wins before a 3-run 4 capped by a HR from Ishiyama would be enough to defeat Seisoku Gakuen 3-1.


Yamanashi - Finals
The quarterfinal games went as expected, with Hikawa, Toukaidai Koufu, Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku and Nihon Koukuu all won with relative ease.

The semifinals wound up being blowouts.  Despite Hikawa taking a 2-1 lead in the middle innings, Toukaidai Koufu scored 8 unanswered to win 9-2.  Nihon Koukuu didn't give Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku a chance, as they blew them out 9-1 to set up

So it'll be Toukaidai Koufu and Nihon Koukuu will play for the title (go Nihon Koukuu!)