Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tissue anyone?

No, it's not allergy season. But Miyagi is home to the Golden Eagles' Kleenex Stadium Miyagi - which will host the championship game (among others).

(Can you tell my attempts at jokes/puns run really bad? If it's bad now, the last couple will be really bad.)

The #1 seed in the field just so happens to be Yu Darvish's alumnus - Tohoku. Joining them are perennial Sendai Ikuei, Shiroishi Kougyou, and the upstart Rifu squad who shocked many in the spring Koshien.

There's a good gap between games for these teams early, so any competition will have to sit knowing they're playing the best. The extra rest though could also do them some good. But playing in the Rakuten home park could pose some challenges.

In the interest of getting as many of these brackets out before competition begins, I'm leaving the Tohoku region and heading back to Kyushu to finish up there.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Onsen anyone?

It'd be nice to relax in an onsen, especially at Ginzan Onsen. Man, that was a real nice couple of days when I went in '05.

But I digress. We're here to review Yamagata-ken.

3 of the top 4 teams here are no surprise. Haguro claims the #1 seed. Sakata Minami earns the #2. Nihon Yamagata who made that deep run in 2006 is #3.

The last team to make it not from this trio was Tokaidai Yamagata... back in 1995.

The other schools will have their work cut out for them. Perhaps the best chance will be in the 2nd weekend where these teams play 2 games in 3 days. But that's why they play the game, right?

Ah, it would be so nice to soak in a bath right now.

Iwate's first Natsu Koshien winner?

When it comes to looking at favorites to win the Koshien tournaments, those who live in the northern Tohoku region, or those that border the Sea of Japan know that for them it's much harder. The better players sometimes get "recruited" by other schools in metropolitan areas, or the quality of competition isn't that great.

But here in Iwate, they may have a chance - and it all rests on one man. Hanamaki Higashi's Kikuchi Yuusei. Battling toe-to-toe with Seihou's Imamura, a single run was all that separated him from the senbatsu title.

This is the summer though, and hope springs once again for the men in purple. They, along with Ichinoseki Gakuin (who was passed over for the Spring Koshien), Moriokadai Fuzoku and Iwaizumi make up the top 4 seeds.

The only other team to make it to Koshien (Iwaizumi has not), Senshuudai Kitagami, is effectively the #5 seed in the same bracket as Iwaizumi.

We all know though who's expected to advance. It's just a matter of if he can do it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Akita (bijin?)

No, we're not here to find the female beauties of Akita. No time for that. We're here to look at the contenders to make it to Koshien.

The #1 seed belongs to Akita Shougyou. They were the last team to make it past the first game at Koshien - but that was back in 1997. The other top 3 teams (in order) are Akita Chuo, Yokote and Oodate Kougyou.

As for other notable teams, Honjyou gets a first-round bye and faces the Yuzawa-Kakunodate winner. Akita gets a bad draw as they will have to face off against Akita Chuo should they defeat Oomagari. Most other schools will probably have a rough road against the favorites, but the real test will be when the winner plays their first game at Koshien. Can they finally claim victory for the first time in over a decade?

Next stop, the home of one of the heavy favorites to win it all...

...onto Aomori!

...and now 2 limited express trains takes us under the Tsugaru Strait into Aomori.

Not surprisingly, Kousei Gakuin gets the #1 seed. The other top 3 though, may not be familiar to many - Hirosaki Gakuin Seiai, Hachinohe Nishi and Goshogawara Kougyou.

And where's the team that dominated Aomori baseball? Aomori Yamada isn't even seeded in the top 8, which would guarantee them a spot in the bracket. Worse yet, their draw is pretty bad. They get to play the first game of the tournament against Itayanagi. Not only does this mean that they have to play an extra game, but their reward for winning is playing #2 seed Hirosaki Gakuin Seiai. It's not going to be easy. But if they do it, it'll be one heck of an achievement.

Well, time to hit the road again! Well, rail... but off to Akita!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

And into the country!

Ah, back in the comfortable, more temperate weather of Kita Hokkaido. Like Minami Hokkaido, their qualifications are broken into regionals although here there are more (Notable teams mentioned in ()'s:
  • Asahigawa - 3 teams (Asahigawa Minami)
  • Kitami - 3
  • Kushine - 3
  • Tokachi - 3 (Shirakaba Gakuen)
  • Sorachi - 2 (Komadai Iwamizawa)
  • Nayoro - 2
So far, only Nayoro's regionals have started. But it's already been interesting.

2nd game of the opening day of matches featured Esashi and their ace Ootaka and Rishiri and their pitching tandem Narita and Nakamura. Esashi took the 3-0 lead midway through, but Rishiri came back in the 6th and 7th innings to tie it up. The game goes into extras, and in the top of the 11th Rishiri scores 4 runs to take the 7-3 lead. But Esashi somehow finds a way in the bottom half of the frame and scores 4 of their own to keep the game going!! And in the 12th, Esashi finishes the deal by scoring the sayonara run!

That's it for now here from Kita Hokkaido. More brackets are coming out, so I'll start heading south through the Tohoku region and into the Kanto region as all their brackets are out.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Travelling halfway across the globe... okay, how about just across the country?

As promised, I jet off from Minami Hokkaido to the other prefectural tournament that started on the 20th - Okinawa. Given the logistics of getting teams from all over together, it's no wonder it starts early.

(Brackets with translations are in the consolidated post.)

There's only been 3 days of competition so far, with the next set of games to happen over the weekend.

The top seed going in is spring participant Kounan who is the only team to earn an opening round bye. The other top 3 are Okinawa Suisan, Itoman and Chubu Shougyou. Of the 4, Okinawa Suisan and Itoman have played their first match with Okinawa Suisan defeating Naha Nishi 10-0 in 5 while Itoman needed 7 to defeat Irabu 9-0.

Other notable teams in the field include:
  • Oomine Yuuta's Yaeyama Shoukou won their first game, defeating Futenma 5-1. Their next opponent will be Haebaru on the 4th.
  • Last year's participant Urasoe Shougyou will play their first match at Chatan Kouen versus Hentona.
  • And who could forget Higashihama's Okinawa Shougaku? They will too play their first game this weekend against Koza.
As for games already played...

Opening day at Itoman Nishizaki stadium saw Kumejima walk off againt Naha Kokusai for a 3-2 victory.

Moving over to Chatan Kouen, Misato only needed 5 innings to dispatch Miyako Kougyou. Their reward? A match with top-seeded Kounan.

Meanwhile Yaeyama's Misaki hits a home run as they defeat Nago 13-3 in 6 innings.

The 2nd day of competition saw Ginoza defeat Youmei 14-1 in 5. Youmei was only down 2-1 after 3, but Ginoza plated 9 in the 4th for the win. On the other side of the coin, Shuri scored a run in the top of the 1st, and that's all they would need as they defeated Nanbu Shougyou 1-0.

At Chatan Kouen, Okinawa Kougyou broke the scoreless game against Misato Kougyou with 2 in th 9th.

Tuesday was the weekday match day. At Chatan Kouen, the home school Chatan couldn't get on the board against Oroku. But then again, neither did Oroku. But in the first extra frame, Oroku scored twice to take the lead. Chatan got one back, but no more.

Motobu squeaked one out againt Tomoshiro Minami scoring their only run in the 4th inning.

That's it for now from Okinawa. Next, back on a flight to Hokkaido for the 3rd region to start games, Kita Hokkaido!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

...and we're off!

So, I'm furiously trying to get the prefectural brackets into spreadsheet format before tournaments begin across the country.

But for some the trek to Koshien has already begun... and for some has ended.

So we begin with Minami Hokkaido. Because Hokkaido is a large prefecture as it is, it gets two representatives. Furthermore since the 2 divisions are still fairly big, they have regional qualifiers that make up the final field of 16. This year the breakdown is as follows:
  • Sapporo - 7 teams
  • Muroran - 4 teams
  • Hakodate - 3 teams
  • Otaru - 2 teams
Notable events so far:

In Block E of Sapporo, Hokkai Gakuen Sapporo - a runner up in the fall tournament starts its run defeating Sapporo Ootani 4-0. Another participant, Tokaidai Dai-yon also advanced to the next round out of Block D, defeating Sapporo Minami 4-2 after surviving a late charge in the 9th. In the same block, Sapporo Nishi was off to a 3-0 lead when Sapporo Kiyota scored 3 to tie in the 6th. They traded runs in the 8th as they went into extras. Sapporo Nishi would not be denied saying sayonara to Kiyota in the bottom of the 12th.

Meanwhile, back in Block E you have to feel bad for Sapporo Hakuryou. In their game against Sapporo Hokuryou, they gave up runs every inning capped off with a 20-run 3rd en route to a 37-0 loss. The game just isn't any fun that way. But at least you have to figure that Hakuryou's team played hard, regardless of the score.

In Block F, the opening match between Hokuseidai Fuzoku and Sapporo Okadama looked to be a blowout after Hokuseidai jumping out to a 5-0 lead after 2 innings. However the pitching couldn't hold out as Okadama got one back in the 6th and 7th before exploding for 5 runs in the 8th.

Heading over to Muroran, their qualifiers have just gotten underway. But it'll be a while before we see 2 favored teams begin their run - Mukawa out of B Block and Komadai Tomakomai out of C Block. They don't play their first game until July 1st. And their road only includes 2 games to the prefectual sweet 16.

Next is Hakodate. From the schools involved it seems like a team from this region is a relative longshot to make it. About the only thing I really could notice was that there was a Hakodate LaSalle school. I always find schools that use either hirigana or katakana to be interesting just because it's different.

Here too, there was a casualty of the large defeat. Setana Shougyou in the first game of opening day gave up 11 runs in the first before eventually falling 34-0. That's not to say there weren't good matches early though. Hakodate Suisan, who had to play an opening round match, turned around 2 days later to face Hakodate Kougyou. Tied 2-2 going into the 9th, Suisan's ace Takahashi gives up the game-winning run to Hakodate Kougyou.

In Block B, Shiriuchi scrapped together a few runs in the middle innings for a 3-0 lead on Matsumae. But they wouldn't back down, tying the game in the 9th with 2 runs. But like all good rallies, there's always the chance of a letdown. Shiriuchi made sure of that with a sayonara run in the bottom half of the 9th.

Block C must have had one heck of a game as Hakodate Shougyou faced off against Hakodate Tousen. A 2-1 game in favor of Tousen after 7, all hell broke loose. They score 2 in the top of the 8th only to see Shougyou score 4 in the bottom half. Suddenly down one with 3 outs to go they manage to get the tying run in to send it into extras. But from there the teams couldn't put anything together as they inched closer and closer to a draw and an eventual replay. Hakodate Shougyou figured they couldn't afford to do that and plated the sayonara run in the 14th.

Otaru's region is the same way. Otaru in of itself is an hour west of Sapporo if memory serves me correctly, and it's the biggest city in a very rural region. Only because I visited there will I be cheering for their representatives to the sweet 16.

And just for a friend of HS baseball, I'll be working on getting Okinawa's brackets up next.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's that time of the year again!

As the summer continues, we approach the prefectural qualifiers for the 91st Summer Koshien tournament. Games will begin as early as Saturday for North Hokkaido as well as Okinawa. South Hokkaido follows close behind. By July 12th, most prefectures will have started their qualifiers.

That's not to say teams haven't been playing in the meantime. The Spring Regional Tournaments were held recently. I'll have more information as I get to it, but here are the summaries:

  • Ristumeikan Keishou defeated Hokushou 7-2. Interestingly enough, these teams defeated the Komadai schools in the semifinals, Ritsumeikan defeating Iwamizawa 1-0, while Hokushou defeated Tomakomai 2-1 in 13 innings! Wouldn't it have been interesting if the two Komadai schools had instead faced each other in the finals!
  • Moriokadai Fuzoku continued it's strong run defeating well-known Sendai Ikuei 6-3. It wasn't as close as the score indicated as they scored 4 in the 4th and were up 6-0 in the 8th before giving up 3 late runs.
  • Senbatsu runner-ups Hanamaki Higashi surprisingly exited early as they lost in the 2nd round to Hachinohe Nishi 7-2. Interestingly, ace Kikuchi didn't pitch in the game at all.
Kanto (Including Tokyo)
  • Urawa Gakuin defeated Jyosuou Gakuin 7-3. Hey, at least it's a win for Saitama!
  • Two teams we haven't seen in a while made appearances here. Teikyou made it all the way to the semifinals before losing 3-1 to Urawa Gakuin. Meanwhile, Yokohama seems to have fallen on hard times as they lose in the quarterfinals to Fuji Gakuin 3-2 in 10 innings. Could it be that they're the ones looking up at Keio?
  • Saku Chousei defeated Chuuetsu 7-5.
  • Regional powerhouse Nihon Bunri surprisingly lost its first game in the 2nd round to Yuugakukan 3-2. Nagano Nihon lost in the semis to Chuuetsu 3-2 in 10 innings.
  • Kakegawa Nishi fell behind 2-0 early, but then went on a 7-1 run en route to a 7-5 victory over Touhou.
  • Aikodai Meiden fell in the semis to Kakegawa Nishi 9-6. They were down 5-0 after 2 innings and couldn't recover.
  • This regional was cancelled due to swine flu issues that plagued the Kansai region during that time. So by prefecture:
  • Shiga - Ayaha equalized the championship in the 8th, only to relinquish it to Oumi in the bottom half of the fram. Oumi continues to be a force in Shiga, winning 2-1.
  • Kyoto - Kyoto Ryouyou shocks Fukuchiyama Seibi outdueling them 1-0 in 14 innings! Ace Tsurui for Kyoto Ryouyou goes the distance shutting out Seibi!
  • Osaka - No surprise here. PL Gakuen easily handles Sakuranomiya 8-2. Their real test though was in the semis when they had to play Osaka Touin. Down 4-1, they tie it up in the 7th, taking the lead with a run in the 8th en route to a 7-5 win.
  • Hyogo - Ikuei blows Toyodai Himeji out of the water, winning 8-0. Kakogawa Kita fell to Toyodai Himeji in the semis, giving up the winning run in the 9th losing 3-2. Houtoku Gakuen meanwhile lost in its first game to Takigawa Dai-ni 6-5.
  • Nara - Ichijyou defated Kouriyama 3-2 in 10 innings. Chiben Gakuen lost to Yamato-Kouryou in the 2nd round 9-6, and Tenri suffered the same fate, losing in the 2nd round to Naradai Fuzoku 6-0.
  • Wakayama - Kouyou breaks a 2-2 tie in the 9th against Wakayama Shiritsu to claim the championship. Chiben Wakayama had an unusual exit, losing to Seirin 4-1 in the 3rd round. Senbatsu participant Minoshima bowed out in the first round to Wakayama Nishi 10-6.
  • Kurashiki Shougyou defeated Risshodai Shounan 5-1. Jyousuikan was in the tournament, and was tied with Kurashiki Shougyou 8-8 heading to the 9th, but gave up 4 runs. They could only muster to get one back, falling 12-9.
  • Samukawa held on early with Meitoku Gijuku, but evenutally they pulled away winning 7-3.
  • Akiyama and Saijyou went toe-to-toe with Meitoku Gijuku, but their ace Ishibashi was just one better as Akiyama yielded the winning run inth 13th falling 2-1. Saibi also had a close game against Samukawa, getting the equalizing run in the top of the 9th. However they couldn't hold it as Samukawa earned the sayonara win in regulation 3-2.
  • Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku defeated Senbatsu participant Kounan 2-1 in 10 innings for the championshp. Falling behind 1-0 early, they come back in the 9th to tie the game before winning it in extras.
  • Seihou without ace Imamura fell 12-2 to Kyukokudai Fuzoku. Kamimura Gakuen made it to the semifinals, but lost to Kounan 6-2. 21st century team Oita Uenogaoka made a much better showing here, defeating Urasoe before losing to Luther Gakuin in the quarterfinals. Finally, Meihou not using Imamiya in the quarterfinals, fell to Kounan 3-0.
Not sure what to make of these regional tournaments since it seemed like a lot of the ace pitchers were not playing.

A final note. In stumbling around the Asahi Koshien site, I found a girls high school baseball league. Their main page is here, and features 6 teams:
  • Fukuchiyama Seibi (Kyoto)
  • Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima)
  • Saitama Sakae (Saitama)
  • Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama)
  • Komazawa Gakuen Jyoshi (Tokyo)
  • Kamata Jyoshi (Tokyo)
This league may be piggybacked upon Eri Yoshida's draft into the Kobe 9 Cruise. Also, the league has been cross-marketed with the anime Cross Game in a CM for Wakasa products.