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.

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