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 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.