Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tohoku Super-Regional Recap

The Tohoku Super-regionals are completed, and we do have our 2 probable bids determined. But before we head there, let's see how we got to this point.

Prefectural Qualifiers
Aomori - Aomori Yamada looked to advance to the super-regionals as the favorite, but was shot down by Kousei Gakuin 5-3 in the semifinals. But in a rematch of the summer quarterfinals against Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi, they took the final spot winning 5-3. Seiai and Kousei Gakuin secured the first two bids with Kousei Gakuin pinging Seiai in just about every inning in an 8-1 win.

Akita - Certainly Meiou wanted to return to Koshien to get the bad taste of that wild throw out of their mouths, but while they advanced to the prefectural tournament, they would fall in the quarterfinals to Oga Kaiyou.

Summer runner-up and perennial tough-luck team Honjyou looked to be the favorite, but struggled as the tournament progressed. In the semifinals against Akita Shougyou, they led 6-1 going into the bottom of the 9th, only to see Akisho score 4 to pull within 1 before they were able to end the game. And in the finals against Kanaashi Nougyou, they trailed 6-1 early before scoring 8 in the 5th to pull off the victory.

Iwate - Certainly Hanamaki Higashi was not a great team without their ace Kikuchi, and while they advanced out of the local regionals and won their first 2 games in the prefecturals, they eventually fell to Senshuudai Kitami 4-2.

As a result, the old guard of Iwate showed up again. Moriokadai Fuzoku and Ichinoseki Gakuin both made it to the finals, and while Moriokadai fought hard, their 15 inning affair against the aforementioned Senshuudai Kitami certainly had a toll on the pitching staff as they fell 7-5.

Yamagata - While there were many notable teams in the prefectural field including Haguro, and summer participant Sakata Minami, it was Nihon Yamagata who swept through the field to earn the #1 bid. Yamagata Chuo made a great run, even defeating Sakata Minami to earn the #2 spot. The summer participant still had a shot to make it to the super-regionals in the 3rd place match, but they lost the game to Yamagata Jyouhoku 8-1.

Miyagi - It was all about the new squads as the established teams fell by the wayside. Summer representative Tohoku fell to Izumi Shouryou. Sendai Ikuei was smashed by Furukawa Gakuen 10-3. And in the end it was that same Furukawa Gakuen that earned the top spot for the prefecture defeating Ishimaki Shougyou 6-1. As for Izumi Shouryou, they lost to Ishimaki Shougyou in the semifinals, and then was edged by Touryou 4-3 in the 3rd place game.

Fukushima - Fukushima unfortunately is not a strong prefecture. However, it is generally dominated by one team, Seikou Gakuin. And this fall is no different. It wasn't easy near the end, but they take the #1 spot. Nihon Tohoku, one of the only other teams to make it to the summer Koshien, wound up as the runner-up. And joining them is Higashi Nippon Kokusaidai Shouhei.

So now that the prefectural participants are determined, the super-regionals begin.

And sadly for the Fukushima teams, they all fall in the first round. Seikou couldn't hold a large lead against Senshuudai Kitami, Nihon Tohoku was blanked by Kousei Gakuin and it was 3rd place Higashi Nippon Kokusaidai Shouhei with the best showing, going 11 innings before falling 4-3 to Furukawa Gakuen.

And as if to extend the misery further, all those teams that eliminated Fukushima from the super-regionals all lost in the next round.

As with the case, generally the better teams rise to the top, and the Best 4 was no different. One semifinal was actually a rematch of Akita's prefectural semifinal, pitting Honjyou once again against Akita Shougyou. Unlike the scoring in the first meetup, only one run was scored - and that was by Akita Shougyou in the bottom of the first.

The other semifinal was between Aomori's 2nd seed Seiai and Iwate's 2nd seed Moriokadai Fuzoku. Responding to Morioka's run the top of the 1st, Seiai doubled that in the bottom half of the frame and then added two more in the 4th for a 4-1 lead. But Morioka would charge right back in the 5th, capped with a 2-run hit by Sakai to tie the game. It would remain tied until the 8th where Morioka would plate what would end up being the winning run on a two-out base hit with runners at the corners.

So Honjyou and Seiai will have to wait to see if they are called to participate. Akita Shougyou and Moriokadai Fuzoku more than likely have locked up spots, but a victory in the championship would guarantee them a bid.

And boy did they ever play like it. Neither side budged right from the get go, with the offenses not able to do anything against the other's starters. It wouldn't be until the 11th inning that someone would finally break through, and that team was Akita Shougyou scoring the sayonara run to win 1-0.

What makes this even more amazing for Akita Shougyou was that 8 of their 20 players (teams are allowed to have 20 on their roster for qualifiers) were diagnosed with the influenza back on the 11th, meaning that they would have to play with 12 in the semifinals and finals! Kinda reminds you of Risshoudai Shounan's run in the summer Koshien.

But here, with only 3 bench players, Akita Shougyou punches it's ticket to the fall nationwide tournament and the spring Koshien! おめでとう!

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