Monday, November 23, 2009

82nd Spring Koshien Team Recap

With the fall regional tournaments concluded we have a good idea of who will be heading to Koshien next spring. Also, it appears that 2 of the at-large bids (non-21st century teams) have been awarded to the following regions:
  • Tokyo + Kanto
  • Chuugoku + Shikoku
In other words, they will grant a bid to a team from Tokyo or Kanto regions, and a bid to a team from the Chuugoku or Shikoku regions.

And in something I didn't realize, one bid goes to the region of the winning team in the Meiji Jingu Fall Tournament! That means that Oogaki Nichidai's win gives the Tokai region another bid!!

Giving each region the following bids:
  • Hokkaido - 1
  • Tohoku - 2
  • Kanto - 4 (+1?)
  • Tokyo - 1 (+1?)
  • Hokushinetsu - 2
  • Tokai - 3
  • Kinki - 6
  • Chuugoku - 2 (+1?)
  • Shikoku - 2 (+1?)
  • Kyushu - 4
The final three 21st century bids will go to teams from the regions not already granted an extra bid.

So let's take a look at the probable participants! Note that I'm assuming the automatic bids go in order of finish at each super-regional. This is not necessarily the case.

Hokushou (Hokkaido) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 10 years
Hokushou is led by ace Matano Tomoya (又野 知弥) who only throws around 138 km/h (~86 mph) with a curve, slider and forkball. He's probably more of an offensive ace more than anything else, manning the all-important cleanup spot. Another person to watch may be Oono Masaya (大野 雅也), a 1st-year who plays 1st and generally bats 3rd. Without a dominant ace, it'll be hard to see this team go deep into the tournament unless the offense can go on a long hot streak.

Matano Tomoya videos - Here and here

Akita Shougyou (Akita) - 6th appearance, 1st in 4 years
Akitashou gets another chance at Koshien with ace Kataoka Motoki (片岡 元気) at the helm. He throws a 140 km/h fastball with a large curve and slider. He managed to give up only 1 run in the super-regionals against the likes of Ichinoseki Gakuin, Honjyou and Moriokadai Fuzoku. Again though, coming out of a weaker region means that Kataoka will face better competition and will certainly be put to the test.

In the Meiji Jingu tournament, Akitashou was blanked by Takashou 7-0 further weakening their prospects for the spring.

Moriokadai Fuzoku (Iwate) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 7 years
Shiraishi Takehiro (白石 猛紘) inherits the #1 uniform after Kanazawa Yuusuke graduated. However, he struggled in the super-regionals against the likes of Senshuudai Kitakami and Seiai. Barring an easy matchup, they may be a one-and-done team.

Shiraishi Takehiro video - Here

Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa) - 8th appearance, 1st in 4 years
Um, have I mentioned Hifumi Shinta (一二三 慎太) enough already? Standing at 6' tall, he can throw 149 km/h (~92-93 mph) and sports a curve, slider, fork and sinker. He's already garnered the interest of the NPB ballclubs. The offense certainly looks serviceable, but at the same time the team hasn't faced a lot of tough competition except for perhaps Hanasaki Tokuharu.

The Meiji Jingu tournament may be a better indicator of the teams ability. And a commanding performance by Hifumi over Teikyou certainly bore that out. We also got a chance to see their relief pitcher Egawa Kyousuke (江川 恭介) in the finals when Hifumi was suffering from a nail issue. He held his own in the rain, but gave Oogaki many opportunities in the latter half of the finals. He can throw for a couple of innings and certainly should have a longer hook than other complimentary pitchers, but I don't think he'll be able to spell Hifumi for a full game.

Hifumi Shinta video - Here
Egawa Kyousuke video - Here

Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 7 years
Gomyou Daisuke (五明 大輔), Matsumoto Akio (松本 晃岳) and Yamaguchi Kouta (山口 昂太) make up the pitching staff of the 2nd place team out of the Tohoku regionals. Gomyou throws only about 135 km/h and appears to be able to throw a cut fastball, slider, curve, fork and curve. The lack of a dominant pitcher is a definite negative for Hanasaki Tokuharu and they may not be long for the tournament.

Toukaidai Bouyou (Chiba) - 1st appearance
Here's another pitching by committee with Nagatomo Akinori (長友 昭憲) and Ozawa Kento (尾澤 健人) comprising the pitching duo. Nagatomo can throw 145 km/h and sports a slider while Ozawa throws around 135 km/h and has a slider and curve.

Nagatomo Akinori video - Here

Maebashi Kougyou (Gunma) - 4th appearance, 1st in 15 years
Maebashi Kougyou appears to have a duo tandem on the mound in Hirai Azuma (平井 東) and Uchiyama Tetsujirou (内山 哲次郎) although Hirai seems to be the ace. He throws in the high 130's with a changeup. Don't have much more information on them other than their performance in the super-regionals, which isn't all too impressive.

Teikyou (Tokyo) - 14th appearance, 1st in 3 years
Where does one start with Teikyou? Probably rookie phenom Itou Takurou (伊藤 拓郎) who wowed the Koshien crowds throwing 148 km/h (~92 mph)! His slider and forkball comes in at around 130 km/h (~80 mph) so batters already having to deal with the fastball will have to deal with the change in speeds. He's already been given the ace position with Hirahara's departure and is certain to continue surprising the crowd.

Should he need assistance, there's Suzuki Shouta (鈴木 昇太) and Yamazaki Yasuaki (山崎 康晃). Suzuki can hit 145 kph and has a two-seam fastball and slider. Yamazaki can also hit 145 and has in addition to the two-seam and slider a cut fastball and supposedly a knuckleball.

But Teikyou has always been known for their offense, and they certainly have that. Okabe Michiori (岡部 通織) is an outfielder that can certainly provide offense. Alongside him is Sonoda Takahito (園田 崇人) who is a speedy leadoff man. And another 1st year in Matsumoto Gou (松本 剛) has earned a starting position at shortstop. He's another speedy character and hit 0.476 in the fall tournament.

Itou Takuro video - Here
Suzuki Shouta video - Here (batting)
Yamazaki Yasuaki videos - Here, here and here
Okabe Michiori video - Here (pitching??)
Matsumoto Tsuyoshi videos - Here (batting) and here (fielding)

Kanto/Tokyo At-large Bid - There's a mess here for the one at large bid. In the Kanto region, you have the quarterfinals losers in Chiba Shoudai Fuzoku (Chiba), Touin Gakuen (Kanagawa), Shiritsu Funabashi (Chiba) or Urawa Gakuin (Saitama). And from Tokyo you have the runner-up in Toukaidai Sugao.

Touin Gakuen has been on the short end lately in regards to getting to Koshien. In the fall tournament last year, they faced Yokohama in the 3rd round and lost 11-7. In the summer, they lost to Yokohama Hayato in the finals 6-5 in 11 innings. And this fall, they finish 2nd to Toukaidai Sagami losing 5-3, and make it to the quarterfinals where they lose to Toukaidai Bouyou 4-1. They use several pitchers, but the primary seems to be Ishigaki ? (石垣 永悟) with Fujioka Masatoshi (藤岡 雅俊) and Utsumi(?) Yuuta (内海裕太) as relievers.

Ishigaki ? video - Here
Fujioka Masatoshi video - Here
Utsumi(?) Yuuta video - Here

Urawa Gakuin has name recognition and has been to Koshien several times recently, albeit with not much success. There may be another knock against it as Hanasaki Tokuharu has already qualified out of the prefecture. Their primary ace is Abe Ryousuke (阿部 良亮) who throws around 135 km/h with a slider and changeup. Joining him is 196 cm (6'5"!) Minami Atsuki (南 貴樹) and Hagiwara Hiroki (萩原 大起). Minami has a father who is half-American which is the primary reason behind his tall stature. He too only throws 135 km/h and has a slider and curve. Hagiwara is primarily a SS, although he does cover as a pitcher. Not much more information is available. Although they edged out Hasaki Yanagawa in the first round of the super-regionals, they were blanked by Hifumi and Toukaidai Sagami in 8 innings which probably doesn't help their prospects.

Abe Ryousuke video - Here
Minami Atsuki video - Here
Hagiwara Hiroki video - Here

Shiritsu Funabashi is probably an outsider looking in. In qualifying, Ogawa Tetsuya (小川 達也) was their primary ace #1, followed by Kojima Masayuki (小島 昌之) at #10, and Mita Ryou (三谷 凌) at #11. The only information I could find is that Mita is a side-armer. But they lost to Hanasaki Tokuharu 14-2 in the super-regionals, so their prospects look dim.

Ogawa Tetsuya video - Here

Chiba Shoudai Fuzoku is probably in the same boat as Shiritsu Funabashi. Their ace, and apparently only pitcher is Hirabe Ryuu(?) (平部 隆) who has a 3/4 delivery, throws in the high 120 km/h range and sports a slider and cut fastball. In their only game in the super-regionals, they played a 8-8 draw in 13 innings against Maebashi Kougyou (called due to darkness), then lost 4-2 the next day. Nothing stands out in their performances, and they may just be looked over.

Finally, and strangely enough, Toukaidai Sugao for being in Tokyo ran several pitchers including Satou Katsuya (佐藤 克也), Hoshino Yasuhiro(?) (星野 靖弘), Yoshida Daiki(?) (吉田 大樹), and a one-time appearance by 1st year Mashima Takuya (真島 拓耶) in the championship game.

You'd think they'd have faced an easy schedule, but after defeating Kokugakuin Kugayama and Touyou in the first 2 rounds, take a look at who else they played...
  • def. Toritsu Yukigaya 4-2
  • def. Nichidai-ni 3-1
  • def. Toritsu Hino 9-8
...before getting blown out by Teikyou 13-1. Certainly not patty cake teams. But I can't seem to dig up any more information on the pitchers, or anyone offensively.

Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama) - 4th appearance, 1st in 4 years
Takashou also used a tandem of Nabeda Hironari (鍋田 浩成) and Shindou Shouta (新堂 将太) to win the Hokushinetsu super-regionals. Nabeda has a wide variety of pitches, including a fastball in the mid-130 km/h with a slider, cut fastball and curve.

While the region as a whole is not necessarily strong, like Akitashou (who ironically enough they faced in the first round of the Meiji Jingu tournament) they went through teams such as Kanazawa, Chuuetsu, Fukui Koudai Fukui and Tsuruga Kehi to win the super-regional.

However, while they only lost 5-2 to Toukaidai Sagami they only managed 4 hits. They may have a better shot to advance, but they'll still face the uphill battle.

Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 2 years
Tsuruga Kehi used mainly a duo of Shirazaki Wataru (白崎 航) and Ookubo Takashi (大久保 貴司) in their run through the fall tournament. Offensively, 1st year OF Yoshida Masataka (吉田 正尚) has shown good bat control and hit 0.615 in Fukui qualifying.

But the struggles of the pitching staff against Saku Chousei in the super-regional semifinals and being shutout against Takaoka Shougyou mean that they're just another team in the field.

Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years
Would you call Oogaki Nichidai the front-runner to win senbatsu? Probably not. They faced Kadena, Imabari Nishi and pretty much a Hifumi-less Toukaidai Sagami. Ace Kassai Yukiya (葛西 侑也) will take the hill, but oddly enough, I can't find any information on him. They also have Achira Takuma (阿知羅 拓馬) in relief who generally throws around 135 km/h but can hit 140.

They did have a good performance in the super-regionals defeating teams such as Tokoha Tachibana and Chuukyoudai Chuukyou. But I find it odd that I can't find any information on Kassai.

Achira Takuma video - Here

Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi) - 30th appearance, 2nd consecutive
The Natsu Koshien champions will return to Koshien yet again to try and hold both the spring and summer Koshien titles. Leading them will be Morimoto Jyunpei (森本 隼平), who helped keep the team in it when Doubayashi floundered in the finals. He can throw up to 145 km/h with a slider, curve and changeup. Asano Fumiya (浅野 文哉) has been promoted to the relief role although information on him is limited.

With the loss of their ace and a majority of the offense, it's a different team than from the summer. Making another championship bid would be different.

Morimoto Jyunpei video - Here (Natsu Koshien Final - 9th inning)
Asano Fumiya video - Here

Tokai Meiji Jingu Bid - Chuukyou (Gifu) or Mie (Mie)
Well, well! Chuukyou and Mie suddenly find themselves with a possible bid to Koshien thanks to Oogaki's win! The question is, who will be awarded the bid?

Chuukyou presents a strong case. They lost to Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou in the semifinals of the prefectural qualifying in 14 innings then hung in there against Kassai in the super-regionals losing only by a score of 3-2. Their ace is Katou Tomohiro (加藤 智弘) who throws around 130 km/h.

Mie had a good showing as well. Ace Masuda Daiki (増田 大樹) as well as RP Tamura Takuto (田村 拓土) both got experience at Koshien last year. The experience should have helped them going forward. They defeated Komono and held on against Inabe Sougou in the prefecturals, and then in the super-regionals made several rallies against Chuukyoudai Chuukyou before falling.

Masuda Taiki video - Here

Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Hyogo) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 5 years
Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku has been mired in the middle of the pack recently, making it to the prefectural qualifying stage, but getting not much further.

That changed this fall. Behind the pitching of Okamoto Ken (岡本 健) they tore through the Hyogo prefecurals, and interestingly enough avenged the regional loss to Ikuei in the finals. In the super-regionals, he fell behind Kita Ootsu and Tenri only to see his offense make a late rally. And in the championship game, he gave up only 4 hits to Osaka Touin. 4!

So who is Okamoto Ken? He's a 2nd year who throws in the low 140 km/h range with a slider and curve. He has been noted as having good control on his pitches.

Occasionally spelling him is Oogawa Kento (大川 賢人), but Okamoto is the ace of the staff. They'll go as far as his arm takes them.

Okamoto Ken video - Here

Osaka Touin (Osaka) - 4th appearance, 1st in 3 years
What's a Koshien tournament without Osaka Touin? Because they're well known, they reload each and every year and don't give any other teams in Osaka-ken a break.

This year is no different. For the prefectural qualifying and early rounds of the super-regionals, they leaned on 2nd year southpaw Fukumoto Tsubasa (福本 翼) who throws only in the high 120 km/h range with a slider and change.

In the late stages, they turned to 1st year Nakano Yuu (中野 悠佑) to start games. He throws in the low 130's with a slider and curve. Relieving him was 2nd year righty Yamanaka Kyousuke (山中 響佑).

Offensively there's Emura Naoya (江村 直也), who while being a catcher exhibits a good deal of speed and Kawahara Ukyou (河原 右京) a 3B with good bat skills. There's no power hitters that I can see this time around, so they may have to rely on their pitching even more now.

Fukumoto Tsubasa video - Here
Emura Naoya video - Here

Ritsumeikan Uji (Kyoto) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 6 years
Ritsumeikan Uji earned their spot by rallying to defeat Chiben Wakayama in the quarterfinals of the super-regionals. Their ace is 1st year Kawabe Kaita (川部 開大) with Iwami Shingo in relief (岩見 晋悟). They had one other quality win, and that was against Fukuchiyama Seibi in the prefectural finals winning convincingly 8-3.

Offensively, there's 1st year C Kozaki Hiroyuki (小嵜 裕之) who has already taken the cleanup spot in the lineup.

But the late struggles against Chiben Wakayama and the rout they incurred against Osaka Touin could signal weakness for this team.

Kawabe Kaita video - Here
Iwami Shingo video - Here

Shinkou Gakuen (Hyogo) - 5th appearance, 1st in 4 years
There isn't much information on Shinkou Gakuen other than ace Maenaka Masashi (前仲正志) who can throw up to 145 km/h. But looking at their results, it doesn't look too good. They lost against Ikuei in the semifinals of the Hyogo qualifiers 6-2, and then after edging out Oumi and Fukuchiyama Seibi were unceremoniously ousted by Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku with the help of some rain.

Maenaka Masayuki video - Here

Last 2 guaranteed Kinki Bids - Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama), Ikuei (Hyogo), Tenri (Nara) or Fukuchiyama Seibi (Kyoto)
I find it hard to believe that the committee will allow Hyogo to get a 3rd team in so Ikuei will probably be crossed out. Fairly or unfairly, I don't know.

The thing is that Ikuei has some good players. Their ace is Hotta Kengo (堀田 健吾), a lefty who can throw in the high 130 km/h with a slider and curve. Imura Noriaki (井村 展章) was Hotta's batterymate last year, and is a beast at the plate having hit 37 home runs. They went toe-to-toe with Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku in the prefectural finals, and only lost to Osaka Touin 2-0 in the super-regionals.

Hotta Kengo video - Here
Imura Noriaki video - Here

If Ikuei is eliminated from consideration because they would be the 3rd Hyogo team, that leaves 3 experienced teams vying for the last bid:

Chiben Wakayama returns with 2 offensive players in 1B Yamamoto Sadahiro (山本 定寛) and RF Nishikawa Haruki (西川 遥輝). Pitching duties have been passed to 2nd year Yoshimoto Yuu (吉元 裕) and 1st year Aoki Yuuto (青木 勇人).

Nishikawa Haruki video - Here (from 2008 Natsu Koshien)
Yoshimoto Yuu video - Here

Tenri. Seriously, I think they break my heart every year with their play. And this past summer, they had one heck of an infield both offensively and defensively. But that was last year, and this is this year.

Boy that didn't sound right...

Anyways, Tenri has reloaded with a vengeance, returning back Numata Yuuga (沼田 優雅) who performed well at Koshien. He's a lefty who throws in the low-mid 130's with a slider, curve and changeup. Joining him is another 2nd year, Nishiura Kenta (西浦 健太), who didn't join the team for Koshien. He can throw 145 km/h with a slider and curve, but has control issues. Also returning is starting 3B Yasuda Kouki (安田 紘規), who was a respectable 3-9 with a double at Koshien. Taking over duties in LF is Uchino Satoshi (内野 聡), who mans the leadoff spot. He a righty that bats left and has hit 10 HR's.

Numata Yuuga video - Here

And finally Fukuchiyama Seibi. Shimamoto Hiroya (島本 浩也) returns for Seibi as the staff ace. Tsuda Hibiki (津田 響) is the main reliever, with Kobayashi Shou (小林 将) and Yamada Masaya (山田 雅弥) seen in mop-up duties. They had quality wins against Kyoto Gaidai Nishi and Tounan in the prefecturals and lost in the 14th inning against Shinkou Gakuen in the super-regional quarterfinal.

Shimamoto Hiroya video - Here

Kaisei (Shimane) - 2nd appearance, 2nd consecutive
Kaisei reasserts itself as not only the top team out of Shimane, but the top team in the Chuugoku region. Ace Shirane Naoki (白根 尚貴) is the main reason for that. Only a 1st year, he has already hit 147 km/h, and sports a slider, curve, fork and shuuto. With him on the mound, they blew through the prefecturals, and didn't hit any turbulence until the super-regional semifinals and finals when he faced off against Kouryou and Kanzei - and he still held them to 3 runs apiece. He averages more than an K/inning! If the offense can support him, they could go far.

Helping the cause is Itohara Kento (糸原 健斗) who came onto the scene in their 4-3 loss to Minoshima in last year's senbatsu, going 3-5 and falling a HR short of the cycle!

Shirane Naoki video - Here
Itohara Kento video - Here

Kanzei (Okayama) - 10th appearance, 1st in 3 years
Kanzei is experiencing a resurgence this year, thanks in part to 1st year pitcher Katada Yuuta (堅田 裕太), who took the hill for Kanzei in the super-regionals. A southpaw who can hit 142 km/h, he has a slider, curve and screwball. He handled the competition in the super-regionals until the finals where he came in relief.

Kenta Yuuta video - Here

Imabari Nishi (Ehime) -12th appearance, 4th consecutive
Imabari Nishi took the Shikoku super-regionals with a tandem of Hino Reona (日野 玲央奈) and Hayashi Masaya (林 正也). For the most part it's a true tandem, muck like Saga Kita's Baba and Kubo, but I'll have reservations on that until I see it in person. The only exception I can find was their prefectural semis against Saibi where Hino pitched a complete game in a 3-2 victory.

As for notable players, I can't find much evidence on any particular person who stands out.

Hayashi Shouya video - Here

Kochi (Kochi) - 15th appearance, 1st in 3 years
Kochi makes yet another appearance at Koshien. Tsutsui Taichi (筒井 太智) has inherited the ace duties. He endured a 13 inning affair against Okou, then turned around to defeat Meitoku Gijyuku 8-4 in the finals. And in the super-regionals, their quality game was their finals loss against aforementioned Imabari Nishi.

And like Imabari Nishi, I can't find any other info on any Kochi players.

Chuugoku/Shikoku At-large Bid - A choice between the semifinal losers Iwamichisuikan (Shimane), Kouryou (Hiroshima) or Okou (Kochi), Saibi (Ehime)

Ow. While Iwamichisuikan (aka Gonokawa) has not seen Koshien in a while, will the selection committee bring in a 2nd Shimane team? They're led by Tone Kazuaki (戸根 千明). However, a 4 hit effort against Kanzei in the semifinals won't impress the committee.

Name recognition could help Saibi recieve it instead. Suzuki Takuya (鈴木 貴也) is the ace of their staff, and was on the team that went to the 2008 Koshien, although he didn't enter the game.

Kouryou has the benefit of not having a Hiroshima team with an automatic bid. It also has some notable players. One is ace Arihara Kouhei (有原 航平), a righty who can throw up to 139 km/h and has a slider. The other is a 1st year by the name of Maruko Tatsuya (丸子 達也). He's has been given 1st base, however he has pitching experience and is able to throw in the 130 km/h range as well with a slider, curve and forkball. However, for now he's at 1st base.

Arihara Kouhei videos - Here, here and here

Okou would be a fresh face - but could be considered a team that would lose in the first round. Their ace Tanouchi Wataru (田内 亘) has garnered some attention. He throws up to 141 km/h with a slider and curve, and shows good stamina.

Kadena (Okinawa) - 1st appearance
Kadena leads a trio of teams out of Kyushu who will be making their first appearance at the Spring Koshien. Led by Ikehara Yuu (池原 有), Kadena beat both Urasoe Shougyou and Itoman before losing to Kounan in the prefectural finals.

And perhaps they were the beneficiary of a weak bracket in the super-regionals, although they did face Nichinan Gakuen in the first round. And in the semifinals, they elected to go to Yamashiro Seiya (山城 星也) against Jiyuugaoka, and all he did was blank them.

Ikehara Yuu video - Here
Yamashiro Seiya video - Here

Miyazaki Kougyou (Miyazaki) - 1st appearance
Perhaps the strongest resume out of Kyushu belongs to the runner-ups in Miyazaki Kougyou. They had to face Nobeoka Gakuen, St. Ursula, Miyazaki Nichidai and Nichinan Gakuen in the prefecturals. And in the super-regionals, it was Kagoshima Jitsugyou, Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou and Kounan (minus Shimabukuro to start though).

Hamada Tomohiro (浜田 智博) is their ace, and he's proven he can pitch. The question will be if he can last through the tournament and pitch when it counts.

Hamada Tomohiro video - Here

Jiyuugaoka (Fukuoka) - 1st appearance
Jiyuugaoka finally breaks through and earns their 1st ever appearance at Koshien thanks to ace Ono Gouki (小野 剛貴). He throws around 130 km/h with a slider and curve.

But they didn't have to face any of the stronger teams out of Fukuoka. And in the super-regionals, their only quality win was against Meihou where they won 2-1. While they may earn an invitation, it'll be hard to envision them getting far in the tournament.

Kounan (Okinawa) - 4th appearance, 2nd consecutive
Kounan is back yet again, and once again Shimabukuro Yousuke (島袋 洋奨) leads the team. If you don't remember him, he's hit 145 km/h with a two-seam fastball, slider, curve and forkball. Whenever he pitched, he dominated. In fact, their loss to Miyazaki Kougyou in the super-regional semifinals it was the relief pitcher Sunagawa Daiki who started the game (砂川 大樹) and was responsible for all 3 runs that Miyazaki scored.

The team as a whole was very young last summer, with only 6-3rd year players, and only 2 who were part of the starting 9. Expect them to be a strong force at Koshien... if the offense could only be bothered once it got there.

Shimabukuro Yousuke video - Here

Friday, November 20, 2009

40th Meiji Jingu Tournament - Final

And now we reach the finals where rising star Hifumi and Toukaidai Sagami out of Kanagawa faces off against Kassai and Oogaki Nichidai from Gifu.

But to do nail issues, Hifumi wouldn't take the mound to start. Instead, that would fall to their #2 starter Egawa Kyousuke (江川 恭介).

And to boot, the forecast showed rain for this championship game. Anyone remember the Kochi-Jyousuikan games at Koshien?

Right off the bat, Sagami would threaten against Kassai. Bottom of the 1st Sagami has runners at the corners with 1 out. They try to put down the squeeze but Kassai makes a fine defensive play to get the runner out at home and keep the game scoreless.

Oogaki would take that momentum into the top of the 2nd. With 1 out and a runner on 2nd, a timely hit would open the scoring, 1-0 Oogaki.

Bottom of the 2nd now, and the rain has fallen and is causing problems for Oogaki. A fielding error with 2 down costs them as Kanno would hit a double over the head of the right fielder tying the game up at 1-1.

And then things seemed to fall apart for Oogaki. Cleanup hitter Tanaka drives one to the right field fence for a triple giving Sagami the lead at 2-1. Then another error leads to a 3-1 lead...

Kassai then hits the next batter putting runners at 1st and 2nd with 2 down for Egawa. He caps off the inning by putting the ball in the right field seats for a 3-run homerun and a commanding 6-1 lead!!

Things started to look bleak for Oogaki until the 5th inning where some timely hitting would get them back in the game. They had runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 down when Morita would hit a double to left-center to cut the lead to 6-3. And then Obi(?) would deliver another hit to center making it a 2 run game at 6-4!

That seemed to give them momentum to work on. An inning later, they would have runners on 1st and 2nd with no down! However, Egawa and the defense would shut the door leaving it a 2-run margin.

Trying to extend the lead again in the bottom half of the inning Someya would lead off with a base hit bringing Egawa to the plate. It looked like a bunt-and-run, but instead Egawa pulled the bat back and swung away! But he lined it right to center and Someya was doubled off! It looked like a lost opportunity until Kassai hit the next batter, gave up a safety bunt and walked the next batter. Suddenly he was in another jam with the bases loaded! But he would slide out of it once again, and you have to wonder what could have been had they not had Egawa swing away.

And boy, did that swing momentum even more in Oogaki's favor. 7th inning now and Morita collects his 3rd RBI in the game with a solo HR off of Egawa making it a 6-5 game!! Even with 2 innings left, you had to feel that Oogaki would tie the game.

Apparently, so did Sagami. And they planned to do something about it. They would put Kassai into another pinch, getting the bases loaded with 2 down for the 2nd straight inning. This time, Sagami would not let this opportunity pass. Oogi(?) would deliver a base hit to left. But with a no doubles outfield, they were slow to get to the ball. What probably should have been a 2-run double turns into a 3-run double as a result and the lead was extended to 4 at 9-5!

But Egawa couldn't seem to make his new-found lead stick either. He gives up a leadoff walk and then a shot off of Takada's bat would go over the left fielder for a double putting the runners in scoring position. C Tokimoto would then deliver a short single to left scoring both runners and cutting the lead in half! 9-7!!

Egawa's day would end 2 batters later with runners at 1st and 2nd with 1 out. Hifumi would enter the game to get Sagami out of the jam and close the door. Sakaguchi-kantoku would gamble and bunt the runners over looking for the one shot to tie the game.

And he was looking at the right player to do it. Morita, already with a 3B and HR along with 3 RBI's completes the comeback with a double over the left fielder (again!)!! It's 9-9!!!!

But Sagami would try to strike back in the bottom of the 8th. Watanabe would lead off the inning with a single. They would once again go to the fake bunt and Watanabe would advance to 2nd on the play.

That would be it for Kassai. Sakaguchi-kantoku would pull him for Achira Takuma (阿知羅 拓馬) to try and stop the Sagami threat. He would do just that and the teams headed to the 9th all knotted at 9.

You had to wonder how strong Hifumi was with the nail issue and if this wasn't a desperate attempt by Sagami to hold the game. Because in the top of the 9th, Gotou would leadoff with a drive to left center for a triple. A hit batter thereafter would put the runners at the corners with no out.

But of all things, it would not be a base hit, or a sac fly that would get the go-ahead run across. Instead, Hifumi would be called for a balk and Oogaki would take its first lead at 10-9 in the last inning of regulation!

Sagami would mount one last rally in the bottom of the 9th. A leadoff walk would be bunted into scoring position for Hifumi. He would come through with a single to center, but they don't send the leading runner home! But it still put runners at the corners with only one down!

That would bring up Oogi who earlier delivered the timely bases clearing double. Achira though would not give in. He would strike Oogi out and Oogaki was one out away from the title. Sagami's last chance would be in Makishima. But a harmless grounder to 3rd would end the game and give Oogaki Nichidai and Sakaguchi-kantoku their 1st ever Meiji Jingu title!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

40th Meiji Jingu Tournament - Semifinals

So, we move onto our Best 4 matchups. One is an all-Kanto matchup featuring 2 probable stars on the mound, the other a matchup of fairly strong, established teams.

Semifinal 1 - Teikyou vs. Toukaidai Sagami
Things had to be getting serious now. Against Hokushou, Teikyou's Itou Takurou was nowhere to be found. But here in the all-Kanto matchup, he would take the hill.

And why not? They were after all playing against ace Hifumi.

But early on, it was Hifumi's bat - not his pitching - that was on. In the 2nd inning a timely hit against Itou would give Sagami the 1-0 lead.

Of course, that isn't to say that Hifumi wasn't unhittable on the mound. In fact, he made Teikyou's bats fall silent to the tune of just 5 hits in 9 innings. Combined with 8 K's and you have one heck of a performance.

Teikyou also did themselves no favors by committing 3 errors, a couple of which led to 3 late runs by Sagami for insurance. Hifumi and Toukaidai Sagami would advance with an impressive 4-0 win.

Semifinal 2 - Imabari Nishi vs. Oogaki Nichidai
Imabari Nishi with the tandem of Hino Reona(??) (日野 玲央奈) and Hayashi Shouya(?) (林正也) has managed to rally against Kobe Kokusaidai and Kaisei. Next up would be Kassai Yukiya (葛西侑也) and Oogaki Nichidai.

This time though, it was Imabari Nishi that would get on the board first. An error on a ball hit by Hamamoto would allow him to get on base. A timely hit by Inoue would drive in the opening run.

But perhaps this reversal of roles for Imabari Nishi would not be so good...

Top of the 3rd, manrui with 2 down. Gotou up to bat and he delivers a timely 2-RBI hit.

Kassai would be on his game after the 1st marking his membership on Team Shut-it-down giving up only 4 hits thereafter. And for insurance, timely hits by Gotou and Takada would drive in 2 more runs in a 4-1 win and a spot in the finals. When all was said and done, Kassai would give up 5 hits and strike out 12.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

40th Meiji Jingu Tournament - Day 3 Recap

So we had half of the Best 4 set the other day, who would join them?

Day 3 - Game 1 - Toukaidai Sagami vs. Takaoka Shougyou
Yeah, it's the debut of Hifumi at Meiji.

But he was uncharacteristically shaky to start. After being given the 1-0 lead in the top of the first, he gives up the lead immediately thereafter. 2 innings later, he gives up the lead and Takashou led 2-1.

His team would come to his aid. In the 5th, 2-batter Usuda hits a solo homerun to tie it up. An inning later, and his team would retake the lead. 2 more runs in the 7th sealed the deal.

Of course, it also helped that Hifumi settled down and retired the next 18 batters in order after the 3rd.

So Hifumi and Toukaidai Sagami will face Teikyou.

Day 3 - Game 2 - Kaisei vs. Imabari Nishi
After Imabari Nishi's comeback win against Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku, they'd have to step it up against Kaisei to advance to play Oogaki Nichidai.

But once again, it would be their opponents who would get on the board first. A squeeze play by Mori followed by a timely hit by Oka would give Kaisei the 2-0 lead early.

Imabari Nishi would rally back in the 3rd with 2 runs of their own to tie the game.

It would stay tied until the 7th where Imabari ace Hino would help his own cause. A 2-run double would break the deadlock. And behind his pitching, which was perfect from the 7th on, Imabari would indeed advance to face Oogaki Nichidai.

Monday, November 16, 2009

40th Meiji Jingu Tournament - Days 1 & 2

And now for a recap of Days 1 & 2 of the Meiji Jingu Tournament

Day 1 - Game 1 - Akita Shougyou vs. Takaoka Shougyou
The battle of Tohoku and Hokushinetsu looked good to start with Kataoka from Akitashou and Nabeda from Takashou keeping their opponents off the board.

But a walk given up by Kataoka comes in to score in the 4th on an error. 2 innings later he would give up one more.

However, it would all be over one inning later in the 7th when Kataoka had runners on 2nd and 3rd with no out. A successful safety squeeze would open the flood gates for 4 runs. The year would end for Akitashou in the 8th when Takashou would score the sayonara run.

Day 1 - Game 2 - Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku vs. Imabari Nishi
So the upstart Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku gets to face one of the well-steeped tradition teams in Imabari Nishi.

And yet in the 3rd, they showed no fear scoring the opening run. That would be the only run scored for a while. And when I say a while, I mean until the 9th.

And when I mean the 9th, I mean the bottom of the 9th - 2 out...

RP Oogawa had come on the mound in the 6th in relief of Okamoto. With 2 down, Imabari Nishi sends up PH Sasaki and manages to earn a walk. And then Hayashi hits one to right for a game-tying triple.

And then one batter later... Minori singles to left, and just like that the game is over.

I'd say that there may have been nerves, but I wonder if there was any time to have it. One out away from victory and 3 batters later, the game is over.

But if nothing else, I wonder if the loss could be good for hardening the team come senbatsu. They'll face teams like this and they'll need to be able to close games.

Day 2 - Game 1 - Teikyou vs. Hokushou
Hokushou sure had their work cut out for them against powerhouse Teikyou. Matano would take the hill for Hokushou while Suzuki Shouta, not Itou was taking the hill for Teikyou.

And Matano and his 138 km/h fastball was able to hold up against the Teikyou offense, and keep them scoreless.

But it takes a special effort to keep them off the board for the entire game. This wasn't one of them.

In the 5th Suzuki decides to take matters into his own hands hitting a 2-run home run to take the lead. Hokushou would cut that lead in half in the top of the 6th, only to see Teikyou retake the 2 run advantage in the bottom of the inning.

It would all seem to be over in the bottom of the 8th when Teikyou would score 3. However, Hokushou would make a show of it scoring 2 in the 9th. While they would fall 6-3, it shows hope for the spring.

Day 2 - Game 2 - Kadena vs. Oogaki Nichidai
Kadena had certainly shown its meddle in the Kyushu Super-Regionals, but here was probably their first real test against Oogaki Nichidai.

And they seemed up to the challenge. A solo HR in the 2nd and a 2-run triple by Nohara(?) gave them a 3-0 advantage!

Wonder if that gave Oogaki a wake-up call...

Because in the 6th with the score 3-1, Oogaki puts 3 walks and 4 hits together to score 6 runs and wrest the game away from Kadena.

Shocked but not deterred, Kadena gets back a run in the 8th. And then in the 9th they get one run back with no out, and one more with one down. Suddenly, it's a 1-run ballgame!

But Yamagi would close out the game for Oogaki as they advance to the Best 4 with a 7-6 win.

Kadena could possibly be one to watch in the spring...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

40th Meiji Jingu Tournament

With the super-regionals over and the majority of the bids determined, the champions of each super-regional get to compete in one last major tournament of the year at Meiji Jingu.

And it's definitely an interesting field.

I'm not exactly sure how they determine the field, whether it's by draw or the weaker teams are pushed into the early rounds. From the last couple of years it seems like it's the latter.

The "play-in" games are a matchup between commericial schools as Takaoka Shougyou out of the Hokushinetsu region versus Akita Shougyou out of the Tohoku region, and the upstarts of Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku from the Kinki region versus well-known Imabari Nishi out of Shikoku.

Now the winner of the commercial school matchup gets a meeting with my new favorite pitcher Hifumi Shinta (一二三 慎太) from Toukaidai Sagami (Kanto). Along with them is Teikyou (Tokyo) and new phenom ace Itou Takuro versus Hokushou (Hokkaido) and offensive ace Matano Tomoya.

On the other side, the winner of the Kinki-Shikoku matchup gets Kaisei (Chuugoku) who has certainly flexed its muscles as of late. The other matchup is Kyushu surprise winner Kadena versus Oogaki Nichidai out of Tokai.

This will be a good test for some of the teams in this tournament, but with all the paranoia regarding giving information away, I wonder how much the teams will show here.

Next up... Spring Koshien team reviews!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Super-regional wrap-up (Part 2)

Okay, we start the wheels again and hit the remaining super-regionals.

The final day of 1st round games featured a big upset. Shinkou Gakuen, Hyogo's #3 seed jumped on Shiga's champion Oumi 3-0 before Oumi got on the board with a run in the 5th and went on to win 4-1! Meanwhile there was a titanic matchup between Fukuchiyama Seibi and PL Gakuen to conclude 1st round play. Seibi jumped on PL with 2 runs in the first and played hang-on the rest of the way. PL managed to pull within 1 in the 8th, but couldn't push the douten run across.

Sunday would have possibly 2 possible blowouts. First off was Chiben Wakayama against Ritsumeikan Uji. But after taking the lead 1-0 in the 1st, a run in the 2nd and 3rd for Uji meant that Ritsumeikan had the lead! Chiben fires right back with runs in the 4th and 5th and they pulled back in front!

And then it all went wrong. 2 innings later, Uji explodes for 5 runs and takes a commanding 7-3 lead.

That seemed to wake up the Chiben squad though. But there wouldn't be much time left. A run in the 8th would cut the deficit to 3. Then in the 9th, they score 1 run... then 2! Chiben was within 1! But ace Kawabe would be able to record the final out eliminating the formidable powerhouse from the tournament and a place at senbatsu.

The 2nd game was also much closer than expected as well. Osaka Touin faced off against Ikuei (Hyogo 3) and ace Fukumoto shutout the Ikuei squad. However, Ikuei's ace Horita(?) only allowed 2 runs to the powerhouse in the loss. While they won't get an automatic bid, he sure looked good.

(Here's a video of Horita. 3/4 delivery it seems, a bit of control issues in the video)

Now the other quarterfinal games wouldn't be played until the following weekend, and that meant for those teams they would have to play 3 games in 5 days to win the super-regional. They'd get a day off in between each game, but still.

First off was one of my favorite teams Tenri against Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku.

While Kobe Kokusaidai had taken the 1-0 lead in the 5th, Tenri asserted itself with 3 in the 6th. But then in the bottom of the 7th Kobe Kokusaidai takes out ace Nishiguchi with 4 runs of their own. Down 5-3 doesn't seem like a lot for Tenri, but they were unable to recover and fall to Okamoto and Kobe Kokusaidai.

Then there was Shinkou Gakuen versus Fukuchiyama Seibi. Shinkou gets the jump again, taking a 2-0 lead in the 2nd inning! But in the 4th, Seibi manages to equalize. And then nothing happens. We head into extras and still nothing from either team. The 13th inning comes and goes and now there's a real possibility that we could have a tie game. But in the end, Shinkou would break through with the sayonara run in the 14th inning to send Fukuchiyama Seibi home and secure a spot at senbatsu!!

Now while the semifinalists are almost assuredly guaranteed a spot in senbatsu, it wouldn't hurt to have a good showing. Unfortunately for Ritsumeikan Uji, ace Kawabe just wasn't on his game, giving up 2 runs in the 1st and 2nd and another 5 in the 5th en route to a 9-1 7-inning loss to Osaka Touin.

And as for Shinkou Gakuen, Kobe Kokusaidai's Okamoto completely shut down their offense. Add sloppy conditions late and an 8-run 8th (and still going) gives the umpires a reason to shut down the game mercifully for Shinkou.

That meant it was down to Osaka Touin and Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku. And in a reversal, it was Osaka Touin that was blanked. Okamoto finishes out the run by his team with a 3-0 shutout. In the fall, Okamoto pitched 78.1 innings with an ERA of 1.15 and we'll see a lot more of him come the spring.

We had a high quality Best 4 field, but things certainly didn't turn out as exciting as perhaps people though. In the first semi, Kanzei wound up having no trouble with Iwamichisuikan shutting them out 5-0. Meanwhile a 5-spot in the 3rd inning helped Kaisei beat Kouryou 5-3.

So it will be Kanzei and Kaisei who will probably get the bids. But there was the final and a spot in the Meiji Jingu tournament to be had.

Itohara for Kaisei opened the scoring in the top of the 1st with a solo homerun. Kanzei would quickly tie it back up in the bottom half of the frame. Then in the 3rd, Itohara gets another timely hit to put them ahead 2-1. And if that wasn't enough, he induces an error while stealing 2nd scoring 2 runs and extending the lead to 4-1.

But Kanzei would take one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning. And in the 5th Yamaguchi gets an inside-the-park homerun for Kanzei pulling within 1. But ace Shirane would not let Kanzei equalize and Kaisei would take the Chuugoku super-regionals with a 4-3 win!

So we hit the semifinals with bids at senbatsu at stake.

Okou certainly was an underdog against Kochi. But they were the ones to open the scoring with a run in the 2nd. However, 6 unanswered runs in the next 3 innings by Kochi pretty much ended the game right then and there.

In the matchup between Ehime teams Saibi also got the jump on the top seeded team Imabari Nishi with a run in the 3rd. Imabari though would tie it up in the 5th and 2 more in the 6th and that would be the end of that.

Kochi and Imabari Nishi will be familiar faces at Koshien, but which one will advance to the national tournament?

Early on, it looked like Kochi would run away with it, building a 3-run lead. However, Imabari Nishi would turn the tables in the 4th, scoring 4 runs. Kochi would equalize in the 5th and it would stay that way, meaning extra innings in the championship game. In the 11th, ace Tsutsui would try to end it right there as his 2-out double put Kochi ahead 5-4.

Imabari Nishi though had other plans. With no out, Tsutsui would hit Nagai. A sac bunt would move him to 2nd, and in a bold move, he steals 3rd! With the tying run only 90 feet away, Sasaki singles to left tying the game! After another sac bunt to put the winning run in scoring position, Aida delivers the sayonara hit to right as Sasaki scores sending the Ehime team to the nationals!

Whoops. I never got around in the other update to cover what had happened to get to the Best 4. Well, now you'll get a recap of everything!

First up are the 3 1st round games that the #3 and #4 seeded teams from Fukuoka and Miyazaki were awarded. And perhaps surprisingly, they held up pretty well. Miyazaki Nichidai (Miyazaki 4) got the lead against Kagoshima Jyousei (Kagoshima 2). But after equalizing in the 6th, Jyousei would put 2 together in the 8th for a late-inning win. The new Imari representative, Imari Shougyou (Saga 2), couldn't keep up with Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou falling 7-0 in 8 innings. The same went for Oita (Oita 2), who gave up 10 runs in the 4th to Miyazaki Shougyou (Miyzaki 3), and were eliminated one inning later.

With those game completed, it was time for the top seeds to take the field. But instead of showing their dominance they instead muddied up the waters even more.

Jiyuugaoka (Fukuoka 1) had no trouble with Kagoshima Jyousei, shutting them out 4-0. Jyouhoku's (Kumamoto 2) ace Nogata gave up a first inning run to Meihou (Oita 1) and new ace Yamano (who struggled against Hanamaki Higashi) made it stick.

But in the bottom half of this side, things were different. Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki 1) had a 1-0 lead on Kadena (Okinawa 2), but Nakazaki would not be able to hold it. He would relinquish the lead in the 6th giving up 2 runs, and his team would never recover. And Sasebo Jitsugyou (Nagasaki 2) would get a jump on Saga Shouygou (Saga 1) scoring 2 in the 3rd and another 2 in the 7th while ace Hirakura would yield only 1 run in a complete game effort.

In the other side of the super-regionals, more 1 seeds would fall. Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto 1) would trail from wire-to-wire against Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou losing 6-2. Kagoshima Jitsugyou (Kagoshima 1) would suffer the same fate against Miyazaki Kougyou (Miyazaki 2) as Hamada would yield 1 run.

As for the last 2 games, Kounan's (Okinawa 1) Shimabukuro would continue to lead his team to Koshien yet again with a 3-1 win over Toukai Dai-go, while in the battle of commericial schools Nagasaki (Nagasaki 1) would slip through with a 1-0 win over Miyazaki.

So heading to the crucial quarterfinals, Saga and Kumamoto were already eliminated.

And the first probable bid would go to Jiyuugaoka as they were able to score 2 runs off of Yamano while their ace Ono made it interesting yielding a run in the 9th, but nothing more. Their opponent in the semis would be Kadena, who held a 5-0 lead against Sasebo Jitsugyou but allowed them to make it close with 4 in the bottom of the 9th.

Things were just as close on the other side as well. Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou and Miyazaki Kougyou were tied at 2 for most of the game until Miyazaki put up 3 in the 7th to take the lead for good. And Shimabukuro would continue to dominate in a 2-0 win over Nagashou.

This means that we'll see 2 Okinawa teams at Koshien! I know someone who'll like that!

But back to the super-regionals. Kadena continued to impress, this time against Jiyuugaoka. They shut out the Fukuoka squad 4-0 and secure a spot in the finals! Could it be an all-Okinawa final?

Sure looked like it early! Kounan would score 2 quick runs in the top of the 1st, but Miyazaki would come back with a run of their own against not Shimabukuro, but Sunagawa.

The decision to hold back Shimabukuro would prove costly though as Miyazaki would score 2 runs in the 3rd. Shimabukuro would enter the game, but the damage had been done. Miyazaki's ace Hamada would shut down the Kounan offense and advance to the finals with a 3-2 win.

So it would be a (relieved) Kadena facing not Kounan, but Miyazaki Kougyou. But the home field advantage would not be enough for them. Kadena would get 2 runs in the 3rd against Hamada and then extend that lead to 4. And while Ikehara for Kadena would give up 2 runs in the 7th, he cruised to victory giving his team its first ever Kyushu super-regional win!

Well, the majority of our field for the Spring Koshien is set, as well as our participants for the Meiji Jingu tournament. I'll recap that later today.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Super-regional wrap-up (Part 1)

So, all the super-regionals are completed and we have the probable senbatsu participants for next year. Let's take a stroll before the Meiji Jingu tournament this upcoming weekend.

Perhaps the sad thing about the super-regionals is that disparity is made readily apparent. We know that in the Natsu Koshien tournament, there are certain prefectures that are generally weaker than others. The super-regionals for the senbatsu is no different.

In the first round alone, 3 prefectures were eliminated.
  • Ibaraki - Mito Sakuranomaki, Hasaki Yanagawa
  • Tochigi - Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku, Yaita Chuo
  • Yamanashi - Fuji Gakuen, Koufu Shougyou
That's not to say they didn't put up a fight though. Hasaki Yanagawa after giving up 3 in the 1st to Urawa Gakuin, pulled within 1 but could never equalize. Yaita Chuo down 2 in the 9th rallied to tie the game, but lost in the first extra frame.

That left Chiba, Saitama, Gunma and Kanagawa in the quarterfinals.

At Ichihara Rinkai Toukaidai Bouyou had no trouble with Touin Gakuen sending them home empty again 4-1. Meanwhile Hanasaki Tokuharu was making Saitama proud with a 14-2 5-inning win against Shiritsu Funabashi.

Over at Chiba Prefectural, another Toukaidai Sagami (yes, another Toukaidai school) with the counting ace Hifumi sent Urawa Gakuin away with a 7-0 win in 7 innings. The afternoon game between Maebashi Shougyou and Chiba Shoudai Fuzoku featured a lot of scoring. Tied 4-4, Maebashi broke it in the 7th with 3 runs, only to see Shoudai score 4 in the bottom of the frame and take the lead. Fortunately, they would tie it back up in the 8th. The game would go into extras... and keep going... Neither team could break the deadlock. And when the 13th inning ended, the game was called due to darkness.

Which meant a 9 inning replay the next day, and a severe disadvantage going forward. Fortunately, being in the Best 4 would pretty much guarantee a spot at senbatsu.

In the replay, both aces would come out - Hirai for Maebashi, and Hirabe for Shoudai. A 4-run 4th for Maebashi would be the difference in a 4-2 win.

Onward to the semis and Hanasaki Tokuharu continued its great run eliminating Toukaidai Bouyou 4-1. They'd have to face the other Toukaidai school in the finals as Hifumi had no trouble with the fatigued Maebashi squad 8-0.

Hifumi would not be denied. And he backed it up with a 2 run homer in the 2nd inning. They would never relinquish the lead winning 6-3 giving them their 5th title, and first in 5 years.

It looks like we'll be seeing a little more of Hifumi, and that's not a bad thing. So our probable representatives are:
  • Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa)
  • Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama)
  • Toukaidai Bouyou (Chiba)
  • Chiba Shoudai Fuzoku (Chiba)

We were in the Best 4 here in Tokyo. And with only one guaranteed bid, it's a race to the finish.

Torisu Hino got off to a great start against Toukaidai Sugao. After falling behind 2-0 in the top of the 1st, a 2-run homer helped Hino take a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the frame. After Sugao leveled the score in the 3rd, a grand slam home run by Hino looked to shut the door.

But if there's anything we've seen, it's that a Toukaidai school is never easy to beat.

And in the 8th inning, Sugao would get to ace Matsumoto and score 4 to take the lead.

Hino would fight back. Bottom of the 8th, bases loaded with one down, they put the squeeze on and was successful. But that would be the only run they would score.

And perhaps not taking advantage of the opportunity and playing it "safe" with the squeeze was fatal. Sugao would retake the lead on a Sakai sac fly. That would prove to be the difference.

Who would be their opponent though?

Ace Itou would do everything in his power to make sure it was Teikyou. Like Hifumi, he would hit a 2-run home run in the 2nd in a 3 run inning.

After adding a run in the 6th, Nichidai-san would finally show signs of life. Aided by a solo HR by Ogiwara, they would score 3 in the 7th and pull within 1. Teikyou though would score one more run in the bottom half of that inning and it would prove to be just enough. Nichidai-san would just manage 1 run in the 9th and Teikyou would advance in the battle of Natsu Koshien participants.

So it would be Teikyou and Toukaidai Sugao in the finals. And Itou wasn't starting the game?!

Questionable at first, but then in the 2nd, Teikyou sends 13 batters to the plate and that's never good. 9 runs later, it was pretty much settled and Itou could rest easy as Teikyou takes the automatic bid 13-1.

Oddly, as the lower seeds were battling it out, only one 2-seed managed to escape - Toukaidai Shouyou, Shizuoka's 2nd seed (natch). And handily by the way.

Over at Toyota Undou Kouen, Touhou (Aichi 2) went up 3-0 in the top of the 1st against Tokoha Tachibana (Shizuoka 3). But Tachibana would score 2 runs in the 6th, and then take the lead with 2 in the 8th sending Touhou home.

In the 2nd game, Inabe Sougou (Mie 2) was down against Chuukyou (Gifu 3) late when they scored 3 to tie it up in the bottom of the 8th. They would fall though in the 11th when Chuukyou broke through with a run.

At Okazaki Municipal, Toyokawa (Aichi 3) met up with Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu 2). While Toyokawa took the early lead and fought Gifushou hard, 5 unanswered runs in the 3rd and 4th to take a 6-2 lead was more like it for Kenritsu Gifushou. Toyokawa wouldn't go away. They scored 3 in the 5th to pull within 1 to which Gifushou added an insurance run. Another 2 runs tied the game in the 6th, but Gifushou would retake the lead with another run in the bottom of the inning. And finally in the 8th they scored 2 to actually take the lead! And once again Gifushou would add a run, this time to tie the game.

Gifushou would manage to keep Toyokawa at bay, but couldn't stop them. In the 13th Toyokawa would score another 2 runs, and this time Gifushou would have no answer.

Now it was the top seeds' turn in the quarterfinals to step up. At Toyota, Shizuoka Shougyou (Shizuoka 1) had their hands full with Chuukyou. After trading runs in the 1st, Chuukyou would score in the 2nd. Shizuoka Shougyou would tie it up at 2 in the 4th and it would remain that way. That is until the bottom of the 9th. That would be where Chuukyou would score the sayonara run and send the top seed home.

In the matinee game, Tokoha Tachibana had no answer to Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu 1) and were shut out 2-0.

For Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi 1), they depend on a pitching tandem of Asano and Morimoto. It seemed to work well against Toukaidai Shouyou but the offense couldn't get going either. The game was tied at 1 after Shouyou managed to tie the game in the 4th. It would stay that way until the 8th when Chuukyou would come through against Shouyou. And the Toukai school would fall 2-1.

And in the late game, Toyokawa wouldn't be able to hold against Mie (Mie 1), going down quickly 7-1 and unable to recover.

Interestingly, one semifinal featured 2 teams from Gifu - Oogaki Nichidai and Chuukyou. But they didn't play each other in the prefectural tournament. The teams were evenly matched though, trading a run in the 2nd. But a well-executed squeeze and a triple in the top of the 8th would give Oogaki Nichidai the 3-1 lead. While Chuukyou would pull within 1 in the bottom of the inning, they would never equalize.

In the Chuukyoudai Chuukyou-Mie game, a Mie error in the 5th would lead to 3 runs. And while Mie would get within 1 with 2 runs in the 7th that would be as close as they would get falling 5-3.

While both teams are certainly going to senbatsu, who gets the bragging rights? Oogaki Nichidai would jump on starter Asano scoring 5 in the first 3 innings. Morimoto would shut the Oogaki offense afterwards, but it was too late. The 5 runs would just be enough as they would win 5-4 giving them their 1st championship.

Kinki, Chuugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu wrap-ups will come next.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kyushu Super-Regional Recap

Kyushu was one of the last areas to begin their prefectural qualifying. In fact some prefectures hadn't even started their tournaments when I recapped the country a month ago. It probably helps that the weather is better there than in other areas of the country.

So, this will be a full recap. But for those just wanting to see who's left, the Best 4 is rather interesting.

BTW, the format for the super-regionals appears to be that Fukuoka gets 3 teams, all other prefectures get 2 except for the host prefecture (this year it's Miyazaki) who gets 4.

I mentioned this before, but Fukuoka is an interesting case. One of the more populous prefectures in the country, Fukuoka doesn't really have a set of dominating teams within the prefecture. This makes looking for favorites very difficult.

In the northern qualifiers for instance, out of the 4 seeded teams, 2 lost in the 1st round and another lost in the 2nd round. The only seeded team to make a deep run was Jiyuugaoka and even then they almost were slipped up by Tobata in the round of 16 winning by a score of 2-0.

Recent Koshien participant Iidzuka was making a good run in the qualifiers as well, giving up a grand total of 2 runs before reaching the Best 4. They were on a collision course with Orio who after soundly defeating seeded Kurate Yuutoku won by a collective margin of 28-9 in their next 3 games.

Orio's offensive output was stifled by Iidzuka, but not enough as they advanced to the regional final 2-0. Jiyuugaoka continued to play the role of big dog eliminating Kurate 5-0 to face Orio. The tougher competition would be too much for the upstarts as Jiyuugaoka would secure one of the 2 guaranteed bids 5-1.

To the southern regionals, and the seeded teams fared a little better. Oomuta and Yuusei both were eliminated after winning their first game leaving Higashi Fukuoka and 2006 Natsu Koshien participant Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou. Higashi Fukuoka, like Jiyuugaoka, had little trouble but had to edge out Fukuoka Dai-ichi 4-3 in the round of 16. Fukuoka Kodai Jyoutou on the other side of the bracket was leaving their opponents by the wayside left and right, reaching the semifinals with a combined score of 38-1:
  • def. Chikushi Chuo 7-0 (8 inn)
  • def. Hakata 16-1 (5 inn)
  • def. Chikushi 8-0 (7 inn)
  • def. Fukuoka Nougyou 7-0 (7 inn)
Elsewhere, a non-seeded team in Toukai Dai-go was making its way through the brackets. They faced an early challenge in Kyushu Sangyoudai Fuzoku Kyushu, and escaped with a 4-3 win. Then in the quarterfinals against Nishi Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku they managed to outscore them 7-5 to create a meetup with Higashi Fukuoka.

Kodai Jyoutou's opponent in the semis would be Kasuga, who squeaked through many of their games, and possibly had some help when one part of their bracket suffered a double-forfeit shooting a team (Fukuoka) directly into their path. Nevertheless, they survived that game along with the quarterfinal against Yame Kougyou to become Kodai Jyoutou's opponent.

In those semi's Toukai Dai-go shocked Higashi Fukuoka shutting them out 5-0. Kasuga's run was finally put to an end when Jyoutou mercy ruled them in 5. Jyoutou seemed to have the 2nd bid in hand, but Toukai Dai-go finally gave the university school a run for it's money. For whatever the reason Jyoutou was not able to rise up to the challenge and gave up the automatic bid losing 4-2.

So the championship game (for seeding purposes only) was between Jiyuugaoka and Toukai Dai-go. The teams traded a pair of runs in the 6th and it would stay that way to the 13th inning. That was where Jiyuugaoka broke the deadlock with a sayonara run to claim the top seed.

In the more important consolation game, Orio led out against Fukuoka Kodai Jyoutou with 2 runs in the 2nd. Jyoutou would be relentless though against their ace Kawakami putting runners on early and often. They would potshot the Orio squad for 5 runs and take the final bid with a 5-3 win.

So not only did Saga Kita lose in their first game, the cinderella team of Imari Nourin also fell in their first game to Ryuukoku Gakuen.

Speaking of Ryuukoku Gakuen, they seemed to go on a tear through the bracket after that win. Kanzaki would fall 6-3 and then Saga Higashi was obliterated 17-3 giving them a spot in the semis. Their opponent would be none other than perennial Saga Shougyou who outside of a slight stumble against Keitoku in the 3rd round pretty much walked into the semifinals. Ryuukoku stayed in the game against Sasho until the 6th where they scored 4 to distance themselves for a 6-3 win.

So who would be Sasho's opponent? Well, Tosu Kougyou was making a good run from the furthest depths of the brackets but were involved in low-scoring affairs. Imari Shougyou had defeated the Taku squad who had earlier defeated Saga Kita. On the bottom half Tosu, like their industrial counterpart was involved in close low-scoring games, but found ways to advance. Meanwhile, Karatsu Minami appeared to be gaining steam as the games progressed.

The trend would continue for Karatsu Minami who blew out Tosu 10-3. It would be a sweep for the Tosu school (and not in a good way) when Imari Shougyou kicked them from the field with a 4-2 win. They then put an abrupt halt to the Karatsu steamroller unceremoniously booting them with a 9-2 win in 7 innings.

That meant that Imari Shougyou would earn the other bid, and it would be the 2nd bid as Sasho scored 3 in the 1st and never looked back in the finals.

Things in Nagasaki pretty much went about as chalk as expected. Outside of the Seihou loss to Sasebo Tousen, Chinzei Gakuin was mercied by Obama 10-2. In addition, those teams pretty much took the place of the seeded teams reaching the semis where all the other seeded teams were. And with 4 teams from each region advancing, all of them would make the prefectural bracket. The only important thing was which teams would win the region and earn a bye. Those would go to Kaisei (Nagasaki regional), Souseikan (Naka regional) and Shikamachi Kougyou (Sasebo regional). Iki Shougyou, Sasebo's #2 seed would draw the final bye.

Oddly enough, none of the top seeds would take advantage of the bye as they all would fall in their first game! Only Iki Shougyou was able to advance. This left 2 semifinals between the 2nd and 3rd place teams from the Nagasaki and Sasebo regions.

Now, Nagasaki Shougyou and Keihou was actually a rematch of their regional semifinal. There Nagasho prevailed 4-2. In the rematch it was surprisingly a blowout as Keihou lost 11-0. As for Sasebo Jitsugyou and Iki Shougyou, Sasebo Jitsugyou fell behind 2-1 early but scored 6 unanswered en route to a 9-3 win.

Bragging rights to the prefecture would go to Nagasho as they won 5-3 against Sasebo Jitsugyou.

The one thing about having draws to determine the field, the one thing that can invariably happen is that the strong teams can sometimes get put in the same area causing "quadrants of death". While not an extreme example, Kumamoto Kougyou and Jyouhoku would meet in the 3rd round if they continued winning. This meant that 3 others would make the semis and give the other schools a chance.

2 possible opponents to the front-runners in the semis were Luther Gakuin and Hitsuyuukan. After winning their first 2 games by a combined 25-5, they would fall to Senshuudai Tamana 3-2. Luther Gakuin would make it to the Best 8, but they too would lose to Senshuudai Tamana 4-3. As for which favorite would advance to meet them, Kumamoto Kougyou and Jyouhoku would indeed breeze through to meet, and in that game Jyouhoku would come out victorious 5-1 and continue cruising to the semis.

On the other side resided Kyushu Gakuin. After a warmup 5-1 win over Kumamoto Nougyou, the offensive spigots were turned on full leaving teams such as Yatsushiro Higashi and Touryou in its wake. Their opponent in the semis would be Buntoku as they defeated a Kumamoto Kokufu squad whose offense was going in the opposite direction.

In the semis, Buntoku held its ground against Kyushu Gakuin until the 8th inning where Kyushu Gakuin scored 2 runs to pull away 4-2. As for Senshuudai Tamana, they gave up runs each inning to Jyouhoku as they were mercied 10-1 in 7 innings.

So Jyouhoku and Kyushu Gakuin had the guaranteed spots, but the top seed would surprisingly go to Kyushu Gakuin as they scored 4 runs in the 3rd and won 7-0!

In Oita, the more recent participants were located on one side of the bracket. Meihou, even without star Imamiya was given one of the seeded positions. Along with them, but in the opposite quadrant sat Hita Rinkou and 21st century team Oita Uenogaoka although neither of them had the other seed in that half (that went to Beppu Aoyama).

On the other half, Oita and Oita Kougyou took the other seeded positions.

New ace Yamano helped Meihou sail through their quadrant, racking up 3 shutouts. Oita Uenogaoka won their first game and faced seeded Beppu Aoyama. And perhaps Oita Uenogaoka's senbatsu appearance has aided them a bit as they upset Beppu Aoyama creating a quarterfinal matchup with Hita Rinkou. In that matchup though, Hita Rinkou dominated the game and sent Uenogaoka home 11-1.

Meanwhile, Oita and Oita Kougyou both were proving their seeds by having little trouble through the field. And then whoops... Oita Kougyou ran into Oita Nishi. Oita Nishi had to come from the furthest part of the bracket. And then in its 2nd game against Taketa they played to a 3-3 draw, came back the next day and barely won 5-4. So by the time they ran into Oita Kougyou, they had played 4 games. And it didn't bother them as they oust Oita Kougyou from the ranks with a 5-3 win.

That setup a semifinal between Oita and Oita Nishi. And Oita Nishi looked to continue to play the role of spoiler. They opened the scoring with a run in the top of the 5th, but Oita tied it right back up. That would be the only scoring in regulation though, and Oita Nishi was looking at yet another long game. But they would break through in the 11th plating a run. 3 outs away from advancing to the finals, Oita Nishi couldn't hold the lead once again and Oita ties it up to keep the game alive. And perhaps the games got to the Nishi players as Oita takes the first and final lead in the game, scoring the sayonara run in the 13th.

And what about Meihou-Hita Rinkou? Well, Hita Rinkou couldn't hold up to Meihou and fell by a score of 6-0.

So Meihou and Oita would get the bids. But getting the #1 seed perhaps was more important. Oita would actually get the jump on Meihou in the top of the 1st, scoring 2. Meihou would fire right back with 3 to take the lead. Undaunted, Oita ties it in the 3rd then scores 4 in the 4th to take what seemed like a commanding 7-3 lead. Then in the 6th, Meihou roars right back with 4 runs to tie the game! And 1 inning later, they retake the lead with another run! Oita would have little time to rally, and indeed they couldn't as Meihou takes the title with an 8-7 come-from-behind win.

Miyazaki is in a nice position this year. Hosting the tournament, they're awarded 4 bids for the super-regional.

For the draw, 4 schools were awarded seeds. Top seed was Hyuuga Gakuin, then Nobeoka Gakuen, Miyazaki Nichidai and Nichinan Gakuen.

But the top seed for Hyuuga Gakuin was a double edged sword as their opponent was none other than Miyzaki Shougyou. Not exactly the cake walk one would have hoped for. And indeed, it would trip them up as they were upset 2-1 in their opening game. And apparently, 2nd seed Nobeoka Gakuen fared little better. After an unimpressive 7-5 win over Takaharu, they fell to Miyazaki Kougyou 4-3.

In fact, the teams that defeated the top 2 seeds played like they were awarded the seeds. Miyazaki Shougyou would go on to win their next 2 games by a margin of 26-1 to advance to the Best 4. Meanwhile Miyazaki Kougyou soundly defeated 2005 Natsu Koshien participant St. Ursula 5-0 to advance to the Best 4.

#3 seed Miyazaki Nichidai was faring much better. After a 13-0 trouncing of Iino, they handled Nobeoka 5-2. Standing in their way to the Best 4 though was Miyazaki Oomiya. They had just come off a 12-0 victory over Takajyou and were looking to spoil the party. But that victory appeared to be a mirage as Nichidai had no trouble winning 10-0.

And finally #4 Nichinan Gakuen didn't have it easy either. First on their docket was Miyakonojyou Shougyou who got all the way to the quarterfinals earlier in the year at senbatsu. But they got the better of them, squeaking by 6-5. Again they had a tough game against Nisshou Gakuen, but pulled that one out 2-1. That brought them out against Hyuuga Kougyou for a spot in the semifinals. Nichinan was up to the task though clearing with a 6-0 win.

So Nichinan Gakuen and Miyzaki Shougyou would face off in one semi. It could easily be a finals matchup. The teams traded a run in the 3rd, then in the 5th Miyashou scored 2 runs in the 5th to take a 2 run lead. 3 outs from advancing to the finals, Miyashou still led by 2. Somehow, Nichinan would mount a last desperate rally and tie the game up in the bottom of the 9th! While it did not break Miyashou back, it severely crippled them and Nichinan dealt the final blow in the 10th. In the other semifinal, Miayzaki Kougyou overwhelmed Miyazaki Nichidai early and often, building a 6-1 lead after 4 innings and dominating 9-4.

In the finals, Nichinan Gakuen would get up 3-1 after 2 innings, and both teams would be unable to score the rest of the way. As for the 3rd place game, Miyashou handled Miyazaki Nichidai 9-2.

Kagoshima's 3 main teams, Kagoshima Jitsugyou, Kamimura Gakuen and Shounan all drew on the same side of the brackets with only Kamimura Gakuen earning a seeded spot. Shounan would have a little bit of trouble against Kagoshima Kougyou in their first game winning 3-2, and Kagoshima Jitsugyou had issues against Kanoya and Ijyuuin, but all advanced through the brackets. Of course this meant that there would be one pairing before the semis, and that would be between Shounan and Kamimura Gakuen. And in that quarterfinal, Shounan would deny Kamimura Gakuen a return appearance to senbatsu with a 7-1 win. Then in the semifinals, runs were scored early and often. After Kagoshima Jitsugyou took a 3-1 lead, Shounan would score 3 in the 4th only to see Jitsugyou fire right back with 4 runs. Shounan would pull within one in the 5th, but that's as close as they'd get as Kagoshima Jitsugyou would secure one of the 2 bids.

On the other side, teams were scrambling for that other bid. 4 teams, Kagoshima Shougyou, Kawabe, Satsuma Chuo and Kagoshima Jyousei all were annihilating the field eventually setting up quarterfinal matchups against each other. When all was said and done, it would be Kagoshima Jyousei versus Satsuma Chuo for a spot in the super-regionals. Satsuma would open the scoring in the top of the 1st with a run, but Jyousei would quickly equalize and take the lead with 2 in the bottom half of the frame. After that, the teams would remain scoreless until the top of the 9th where Satsuma would tie the game. However, their hearts would be broken when Jyousei would come back and score the sayonara run.

Kagoshima Jyousei while they would like to have taken the #1 seed, was probably happy to get a spot in the super-regionals and while they fought hard, they would lose in the finals 3-0.

And finally in Okinawa the top seeds continued to advance through the brackets and into the Best 4. Okinawa Suisan was no match for Shimabukuro and fell to Kounan 7-0. And Kadena shocked Itoman with a 3-2 victory giving them a spot in the super-regionals! They continued to fight hard against Kounan in the finals, but Kounan would pull away in the 8th with 4 runs for a 6-0 win.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shikoku Super-Regional Recap

You know when I mentioned that 2 prefectures were eliminated in the first round over in the Chuugoku super-regionals?

Well, over in Shikoku not only are 2 prefectures remaining in the Best 4, but they are also rematches of the semifinals in the respective prefectures!!

So Jinsei Gakuin and Takamatsu Shougyou had their quarterfinal match-up, but Jinsei dominated the game winning 5-1. Indeed, they would meet Sangawa in the semifinals who blanked Tonoshou 8-0.

Certainly these 2 would probably get the 1st and 3rd seeds, so it would be a matter of who would be runner-up. Takamatsu and Takamatsu Kougei slid by their quarterfinals matchups 4-3 and would meet for the right to probably finish 2nd.

Sangawa asserted itself in the 3rd inning plating 4. The teams traded a run 1 inning later, and it seemed like they would cruise. But then Jinsei scored 2 runs in back-to-back innings tying it up and sending it into extras. Eventually though Sangawa would be victorious, scoring the sayonara run in the 12th. In the other semi, Takamatsu scored 2 runs in the top of the 1st to take the early lead. While Kougei would pull within 1 in the 3rd, Takamatsu would pull away late to win 6-3.

And sure enough, Sangawa and Jinsei Gakuin would win their respective games by a combined 11-1 to secure the 1st and 3rd seeds respectively with Takamatsu taking the 2nd.

Well, Tokushima Kita's plans blew up in smoke after I posted the recap earlier. Anan Tousen avenged Anan Kougyou's loss, defeating them 4-2. That opened the door for Naruto Kougyou... except they lost to Naruto in a barnburner 9-8.

At least one team though delivered, and that was Komatsushima. They just flew through the brackets, scoring double digits in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

So yeah... they won the prefecture and earned the #1 seed. Naruto earned the #2 seed after defeating Anan Tousen in 8 innings and Kawashima, after giving up 9 runs in the 1st to Komatsushima en route to a 11-1 loss in 5 innings, edged Anan Tousen 3-2 for the last bid.

Well, there were a lot of good teams in the prefectural bracket, but when the draw came out, it was going to be a bloodbath. Imabari Nishi and Teikyou Dai-go were to meet in the first round. The winner of that game could face Saijyou, and then after that Saibi.

So what happened in the bracket of death?

Teikyou Dai-go couldn't keep up with Imabari Nishi, falling 10-3. Saijyou couldn't get out of the first round to face Imabari Nishi losing to Matsuyama Kougyou 8-1. But Matsuyama was no match and was mercied 11-1. Saibi fulfilled it's part by defeating Niita 7-0 and Tanbara 14-4 to make the anticipated semifinal matchup. In that game, Imabari Nishi's 3 runs in the 5th inning was sufficient enough to hold off Saibi 3-2 and advance to the finals.

Of course with the bracket of death that meant that for any team on the other side, a guaranteed bid was to be had. Matsuyama Seiryou, Nomura and Kawanoe all advanced easily while Uwajima Higashi needed all 7 runs to beat Matsuyama Shougyou. Eventually, Nomura and Uwajima Higashi would meet in the semifinals, and it was anything but a pitcher's duel. After Nomura fell behind 7-2, they rallied back to tie the game in the 6th. But Uwajima Higashi would go on a 6-0 run in the next 3 innings to win 13-7.

Imabari Nishi was expected to run away with it, but Uwajima more than held it's own and in fact scored 2 runs in the 6th to take a 3-2 lead! But ace Akamatsu couldn't hold the lead and Imabari equalized in the 8th and it went into extras. And the experience of Imabari Nishi seemed to make the difference as they scored the winning run in the 11th.

Saibi also had its hands full against Nomura as well, but they too won their game by a score of 3-2.

Well, the triumvirate of Kochi, Kochi Shougyou and Meitoku Gijuku was broken up in the Best 8 when Kochi Shougyou lost to Tosa 6-2. And with that, it meant Tosa and Okou's probable consolation game would be of great importance.

Okou didn't seem to get that memo (or do the TPS reports either), as behind ace Tanouchi(?) they held Kochi scoreless in their semifinal. But they couldn't push a run in either and it went into extras scoreless. While it was certainly to Okou's advantage that they were still in the game, Kochi might regain it the longer the game went into extras. Sure enough in the 13th, Kochi would breakthrough with the sayonara run.

Kochi would win the top seed pulling ahead in the late innings against Meitoku Gijuku for an 8-4 win.

As for Okou, they didn't let the 13 inning affair get to them as they handled Tosa easily 8-1 to take that final spot.

The brackets for the super-regionals are pretty neat and clean as all the top seeds get a first-round bye.

For the aforementioned Okou they were in yet another battle, this time with Uwajima Higashi (Ehime #2), but they pulled ahead in the 8th inning for a 2-1 win. Then against Komatsushima (Tokushima #1), they were even more impressive winning 7-0 in 8 innings!

And their opponent in the semifinals? It's none other than their semifinal opponent in the prefecturals Kochi. They had to rally after falling behind 2-0 to Kawashima (Tokushima #3)! They tied it up in the 6th, then broke Kawashima's heart by scoring the sayonara run in the 9th.

On the other side, Saibi (Ehime #3) dealt with Naruto (Tokushima #2) 4-1, then slaughtered Kagawa's #1 seed Sangawa 12-2.

Their opponent? None other than their prefectural semifinal opponent Imabari Nishi!!

First Meitoku Gijuku (Kochi #2) and Jinsei Gakuin (Kagawa #3) had to play their game, and it was interesting for sure! After trading a run in the 1st, Meitoku would score 4 in the 3rd. But that lead didn't last as Jinsei would score 4 in the 5th! Meitoku would retake the lead in the 6th, but Jinsei would once again tie it up in the 7th! It wouldn't be until the top of the 9th where Meitoku would put it away with 2 runs to win 8-6.

Then came Meitoku's game against Imabari Nishi. This time it was Meitoku who would be rallying from behind. Imabari pinged Meitoku for a run in the 2nd and the 3rd for a 2-0 lead. Meitoku fired right back with runs in the 4th and 6th, but with an Imabari run sandwiched in the middle, they still led 3-2.

That was until the 9th where Meitoku would equalize. Trying to hold on for extras, ace Yamaguchi couldn't do it as Imabari Nishi would win it with a sayonara run.

So we have 2 prefectural semifinal rematches in the super-regionals. I wonder if those teams that lost earlier will have revenge on their minds here.

Chuugoku Super-Regional Recap

Chuugoku is in their Best 4 going into the weekend, and what a field it is with Shimane's Iwamichisuikan facing Okayama's Kanzei while another team from Shimane in Kaisei faces Kouryou from Hiroshima. But we'll go back to see how we got here.

Yazu certainly gave Kurayoshi Kita a good game, but a 3-run 5th for the team from North Kurayoshi was too much for them as they lost 5-2.

Their brethren to the east were having as just a hard time. Tottori Ikuei had jumped out early to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st, but Higashi rallied to tie right thereafter. It wouldn't be until the 7th where Higashi broke the tie with a run, then broke it open with 3 in the 8th to advance to the finals.

And in that all Kurayoshi final Higashi would open the scoring in the 3rd with a run, but Kita would level it in the 5th. The score would stay at 1-1 into extras, but Higashi would take it all quickly with a sayonara run in the 10th.

Because Tottori is hosting the super-regionals, they receive the extra bid, so both Yazu and Tottori Ikuei would advance. Yazu would win the consolation game 6-1.

When the main draw was completed, Kanzei and Okayama Rikadai Fuzoku found themselves on the same bracket while Kurashiki Kougyou had the other side all to itself.

Of course, Okayama Gakukeikan would oust Kurashiki Kougyou from the list of contenders with a 5-4 win in the opening round.

Kanzei and Okayama Rikadai managed to advance, but only just so with 1-run victories. After that scare, both fared better in the quarterfinals advancing with relative ease meaning they would indeed clash in the semifinals. But what about the other side? Who was going to emerge as the front-runner?

Tamano Kounan appeared to be that candidate, advancing with large margin victories over Okayama Shoudai Fuzoku and Okayama Minami. Okayama Gakukeikan who had defeated Kurashiki Kougyou, couldn't maintain the momentum losing to Okayama Higashi Shougyou 1-0 setting up the other semifinal.

Oddly enough, it was the 2nd semifinal that made for compelling drama. Kanzei put up crooked numbers each inning routing Okayama Rikadai 11-0 in 5 innings. Tamano Kounan jumped on Okayama Higashi Shougyou leading 5-0 after 3 innings and looked in control.

That was until the 5th inning where Higashisho scored 3 to make the game more interesting. One inning later, they would pull even with 2 more runs! Certainly momentum was with them and they indeed completed the comeback scoring 3 more runs in the 7th inning to lead 8-5. Tamano, reeling from the rally couldn't come back and lost 8-6.

If nothing else, it guaranteed that Higashisho would have a place in the super-regionals as Kanzei would not let them win the prefecture. Higashisho would find themselves down 5-0 again but this time couldn't find the rally losing 5-1.

As for Tamano Kounan, the loss certainly deflated them, but they fought hard against Okayama Rikadai. It would fall just short as they would not advance to the super-regionals suffering a 4-3 loss.

We were already in the semifinals with some familiar faces.

Iwamichisuikan (fka Gonokawa) facing Izumo Shougyou jumped in front with 2 runs in the top of the 1st. Izumo would take one of those back in the 2nd, but that's as close as they'd get. Meanwhile Hamada just had no shot against Kaisei losing 11-2 setting up a great final.

Or so I thought. Kaisei seemed determined to get back to Koshien and it showed beating Iwamichisuikan 7-1. And poor Hamada was shutout in the consolation game falling to Izumo Shougyou 2-0.

I mentioned that Kouryou was really the only notable team left in the Best 8. Regardless, you'd think that the games at this point would still be competitive. But they weren't. Outside of Gion Kita edging Hiroshima Kougyou 8-6 in the quarterfinals, the lowest margin of victory was 7 runs:

  • Kouryou def. Kure 8-1
  • Hiroshima Shinjyou def. Kouyou Higashi 7-0
  • Soutoku def. Onomichi (darn) 10-0
  • Kouryou def. Gion Kita 9-1
  • Hiroshima Shinjyou def. Soutoku 11-3 (although Soutoku did have a 3-2 lead after 4 beore Shinjyou scored 8 unanswered in the next 2 innings)
Finals - Kouryou def. Hiroshima Shinjyou 12-2
3rd Place - Soutoku def. Gion Kita 9-0

I don't think I've ever seen so many lopsided games that late in a bracket.

Oh yeah, Kouryou did indeed rout the field to take the top seed.

With all the major players eliminated, Yamaguchi's 3 bids were for the taking.

With no real front-runner, it was more of a wait and see to see who emerges. In the quarterfinals, one side of the brackets had blowout games. Houfu dispatched Shimonoseki Chuo Kougyou 10-2 while Yanai Gakuen sent Ube Koujyou packing 11-4. Kumage Minami and Tokuyama advanced on the other side.

Kumage Minami had little trouble with Tokuyama 4-1, and after the blowouts Houfu and Yanai Gakuen found themselves in a low-scoring affair, going into extras still at 0's. It would only go 1 inning though as Houfu scores the sayonara run.

In the final, Houfu would score early on Kumage Minami and while runs would be traded later, Houfu would emerge unscathed with the 8-5 win.

The final bid would go to Yanai Gakuen as they defeated Tokuyama 4-3.

When the draws came out for the super-regionals, it was interesting that 2 of Okayama and Yamaguchi's teams were in one quadrant while Hiroshima and Tottori's teams were likewise in another quadrant.

As the 1st round of games began, it was apparent that Yamaguchi's representatives were not up to the task with all 3 teams losing. Only the #1 seed Houfu had a close game, but were still shutout by Okayama's #3 Okayama Rikadai Fuzoku 2-0.

Shockingly, the home field advantage didn't help Tottori at all as all 4 representatives also lost in the first round. #1 Kurayoshi Higashi kept Iwamichisuikan scoreless for 7 innings, but a run in the 8th was all they needed. Hiroshima Shinjyou scored a run in the 1st and 3rd innings to defeat #4 Tottori Ikuei.

The only other team to lose was Shimane's Izumo Shougyou who lost 6-2 to Okayama Higashi Shougyou. So after 1 round, 2 prefectures were already eliminated!

In the quarterfinals, the perennial teams started to hit their stride. Kaisei and Kouryou mercy-ruled their opponents to set up one semifinal while Iwamichisuikan and Kanzei kept their opponent's offenses at bay to advance for the other semi.

Should make for a good weekend of finals to determine the 2 guaranteed bids.