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.