When we last left Hokkaido, we were in the super-regional semifinals.
Hokkaido Sakae shocked Hokkai early, jumping out to a 3-0 lead. And when Hokkai tied it up in the 5th, Sakae would score a run in the 6th and 7th to re-take the lead.
It seemed that Sakae would be destined to win, but Hokkai decided to spoil the party. In the bottom of the the 7th, Hokkai would score 5 to take their first lead 8-5. Hokkaido Sakae would have no answer this time, and Hokkai would advance to the finals.
Their opponent would indeed be Komadai Iwamizawa. While Hakodatedai Yuuto had made a great run this spring, Iwamizawa's ace Ohata would throw a 2-hit shutout en route to a 2-0 win.
So the finals would be a matchup of Hokkai and ace Yokoi, and Komadai Iwamizawa's ace Ohata - and boy did neither of them disappoint. It was definitely a true pitcher's duel. Ohata in fact had not allowed a baserunner through the first 5 innings. But then in the 6th, that was broken up by #6 batter Kawagoe. And with 2 down, #9 batter Mori hits a single to left, scoring a run and breaking the deadlock.
That would be all the offense Yokoi would need as he would pitch a 4-hit shutout to give Hokkai their 9th spring title, and first in 9 years. Ohata did not do terribly either. He also gave up 4 hits, but also that lone run in the 6th.
So, remember the heavy draw? No?
Akita Shougyou, Senshuudai Kitami, Touyou, Aomori Yamada, Yamagata Chuo, Hanamaki Higashi, Higashi Nihondai Shouhei, Kousei Gakuin, AND Sendai Ikuei was on one side of the bracket.
That was one half. ALL of it.
And a little more than a week later, we're at the finals.
So, how did it all work out?
Opening game between Senshuudai Kitami (Iwate 3) vs. Touyou (Miyagi 3) ended up being a good matchup. In the span of 4 half-innings between the bottom of the 3rd and top of the 5th, the teams traded leads each time, finally resulting in a 3-3 tie. It would stay that way until the bottom of the 8th where Senshuudai Kitami scored 2. That would hold up and they would advance. Their next opponent would be Akita Shougyou (Akita 1). And in that game, all the scoring would happen in the 5th inning. Senshuudai would score 2, Akitashou scored one, and that was that.
So who would be their opponent in the quarterfinals? While Yamagata Chuo (Yamagata 1) certainly had the higher "seed", they had the unenviable task of playing Aomori Yamada (Aomori 3).
And yet, they struck first with a run in the top of the first inning. But a 3-inning stretch where Aomori Yamada scored 4 unanswered proved to be too much for Yamagata Chuo as they would fall 4-2.
So that setup a quarterfinal match between Senshuudai Kitami and Aomori Yamada. Senshuudai opened the scoring in the 2nd with a run. It would stay that way through the late innings, but Senshuudai couldn't hold off Aomori Yamada. Eventually in the 8th they would breakout for 4 runs for a 4-1 win.
On the other quadrant in the bracket of death lied Highashi Nippondai Shouhei (Fukushima 2) vs. Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate 2) and Kousei Gakuin (Aomori 2) vs. Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi 1).
In the first game, the teams were deadlocked at 0-0 for 6 innings. But unfortunately for Hanamaki Higashi, they just aren't the same team without Kikuchi Yuusei, and they would give up 3 runs in the 7th-8th innings to fall 3-0.
In the second game, Sendai Ikuei dominated Kousei Gakuin early, building a 4-0 lead through their first 5 innings. But Kousei Gakuin would reply in the 5th-7th innings rallying to tie the game. It would remain that way through regulation and extend into extras. Sendai Ikuei would finally break through in the 12th with a run and hold on the bottom of the frame to advance.
So that setup a quarterfinal of Sendai Ikuei and Higashi Nippondai Shouhei. Sendai Ikuei struck quickly with 2-runs in the top of the 1st but saw that lead dissolve with a run in the 3rd and 6th innings by Shouhei. But 2 runs late by Sendai Ikuei gave Shouhei no time to rally. While they would get a run back in the bottom of the 9th, it wouldn't be enough.
And who would emerge as the winner of that half of death?
Aomori Yamada once again had a quick strike with 2 runs in the top of the 1st, with Sendai Ikuei cutting that margin in half in their part of the frame. But a 3-run burst in the 3rd gave Sendai Ikuei the lead, and in fact took the lead for good as they advance to the finals with a 5-2 win.
Now, what about the other side? With it being as weak as it is, one would have expected the top seeds advancing.
First things first though is the opening round match between Futaba (Fukushima 3) vs. Yokote (Akita 3). Futaba hold a 2-0 lead going into the final innings, but they couldn't get the final 3 outs. Yokote would explode for 6 runs in the top of the 9th to win it 6-2.
They would then face Haguro (Yamagata 2). And in that matchup, one team would score in each of the first 5 innings with the result a 4-2 lead for Haguro. Yokote wouldn't give though tying the game with runs in the 7th and 9th innings. In the end though, Haguro would end it in regulation with a sayonara run in the bottom of the 9th.
Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima 1) actually found themselves down against Oosaki Chuo (Miyagi 2) 3-1 after 2 innings, and 3-2 after 3. But the game was early and there was still time. Indeed in the 7th, Seikou would take the lead with 2 runs and that would prove to be the winning margin.
The quarterfinal matchup seemed to be an evenly matched one. And when Seikou Gakuin broke the deadlock with 3 in the 5th, Haguro came right back to tie the game. But as it the case, the inferior teams will just fade in the late innings, and unfortunately for Haguro that was also the case. For Seikou Gakuin would score 2 in the 7th and 7 in the 8th to send the boys from Yamagata home early 12-3.
In the final quadrant, Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi (Aomori 1) had no trouble with Tsuruoka Higashi (Yamagata 3) winning 6-1. Kuji (Iwate 1) squeaked by Oomagari Kougyou (Akita 2) 2-1. And in that quarterfinal, Hachinohe's 3 runs in the 3rd proved to be too much of a deficit to come out of as they would fall 4-3.
Almost as expected though, Seikou Gakuin continued to show their dominance, jumping out to a 6-0 lead and defeating Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi 9-3.
So we have a final between powerhouses Sendai Ikuei and Seikou Gakuin.
Oddly enough, after 2 weeks of nothing out of the region, the entire Hokushinetsu region is completed in just 4 days!
So what happened?
- Yuugakkan (Ishikawa 2) vs. Fukui Shougyou (Fukui 2) - Winner to face Maruko Shuugakukan (Nagano 1)
Looking at the score, I for sure thought they had it switched. But no, Yuugakukan completely ran over Fukui Shougyou 8-1 in 8 innings. Yuugakukan has been a good team, but to defeat a team such as Fukui Shougyou in this manner is shocking.
But what was more shocking was their game against Maruko Shuugakukan. Given, Nagano has never had that strong of teams, but for Yuugakukan to put up a 15-spot in the top of the 1st?
Yet Maruko almost avoided the 5 inning mercy scoring 2 in the 1st and 4 in the 3rd. But another 2 runs by Yuugakukan in the 2nd did them in. 17-6 in 5. Wow.
- Tonami Kougyou (Toyama 1) vs. Saku Chosei (Nagano 4) - Winner to face Niigata Meikun (Niigata 1)
The first game was a low scoring affair as Saku Chosei eked out a 1-0 win with that lone run being scored in the 5th. Turning around to face Niigata Meikun, ace Takano would shutout Niigata's top team, winning 4-0.
- Ueda Nishi (Nagano 2) vs. Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama 2) - Winner to face Seiryou (Ishikawa 1)
Takaoka Shougyou took an early 1-0 lead in the 1st, and while Ueda Nishi tied it up in the top of the 6th, Takaoka slammed the door shut with 3 in the bottom half of the frame.
But Takashou would have no answer against Seiryou and ace Nishikawa as they would be shutout 3-0 to advance.
- Tookamachi (Niigata 2) vs. Nagano Nichidai (Nagano 3) - Winner to face Fukui Koudai Fukui (Fukui 1)
Tookamachi really got a raw deal having to face Nagano Nichidai in an opening round game. And yet in a 0-0 game in the top of the 4th, they scored 3.
That lead however lasted not even 2 innings. 2 in the 4th, 2 in the 5th gave Nagano Nichidai the lead. And for good measure they added 4 in the 7th and 1 in the 8th for a 9-3 win.
Now there was a match that could easily have been a finals match. Early on though, it was all Fukui Koudai Fukui with 2 in the 1st and 1 in the 2nd. They seemed to be on their way to inning, but Nagano Nichidai would come back with 2 in the 8th and 1 in the 9th to tie the game.
All the momentum seemed to be with Nagano as they headed into extras, but instead it was Fukui who would score a sayonara run in the 10th to advance.
That setup Yuugakukan and Saku Chosei in one semi, and Seiryou and Fukui Koudai Fukui.
Yuugakukan once again got out to an early lead on Saku Chosei, but Saku would come back to tie it up in the 3rd. Runs in the 5th-7th innings though gave Yuugakukan the 5-2 lead. And then it was Saku Chosei's turn to score runs with one in the 8th and 9th. But the quick math shows that Saku Chosei ran out of time, falling 5-4.
For Fukui Koudai Fukui, it seemed like they were on their way to the finals, hold a 2-0 lead. But in the 9th, ace Morimoto could not close the door. With 2 outs, he gives up a walk and 3 straight hits to tie the game. But he would be bailed out by his offense in the bottom of the 9th. A walk and an error put runners at 1st and 2nd. Fujimoto would be called upon to pinch-hit and he hits a single to center to score the sayonara run.
In the super-regional final, it would be Fukui Koudai Fukui who would strike early. #3 batter Morioka would hit a 2-run homerun against Kanai in the 1st. Then in the 4th, they would score another 4 runs, essentially putting the game out of reach. Yuugakukan would make the score respectable, but Fukui Koudai Fukui wins the super-regional 8-4.
WOW! I never would've seen this coming.
So when we last left this super-regional, they were in the semifinal games.
Kita-Ootsu and Riseisha squared off in the 1st semifinal, and it was Riseisha who just took Kita-Ootsu to task, scoring runs in each of the first 4 innings en route to a 9-2 win in 8 innings.
It shaped up to be a good battle between Chiben Wakayama and Houtoku Gakuen. It ended up being anything but. They would score 4 in the 1st and 6 in the 3rd, and that was all she wrote for Chiben Wakayama. Final score was 10-1 in 7 innings.
That means that we had an unusual final in Riseisha and Houtoku Gakuen. In the end though, it was all Houtoku Gakuen as Tamura would throw a shutout as his team wins their 1st ever spring title by the score of 6-0.
Much like the Hokushinetsu super-regional, the Chuugoku region also was done in just 3 days.
Yanai Shoukou (Yamaguchi 4) had no trouble against Yazu (Tottori) as Shinohara and Yamamoto combined to shut out the Tottori squad.
Takagawa Gakuen (Yamaguchi 1) and Izumo (Shimane) were deadlocked at 1 going into extras, but the top seed from Yamaguchi advanced with a sayonara run in the 11th.
Nanyou Kougyou (Yamaguchi 2) was shocked by Hiroshima Kougyou (Hiroshima) as ace Ishida would shutout the Nanyou squad 1-0.
Hikari (Yamaguchi 3) was set to oust Okayama Higashi Shougyou (Okayama) from the tournament, holding a 1-0 lead late into their matchup. But Okayama would tie it up in the 8th and would quickly end it in extras with a run in the 10th.
In a cruel twist of fate, Yanai Shoukou and Takagawa Gakuen would face off again in a semifinal. Their first matchup in the prefecural final saw Takagawa Gakuen come back late and win 5-4. This time around, Takagawa Gakuen never trailed, but found Yanai Gakuen rallying twice to tie the game, tying the game in the top of the 9th. But Takagawa would prevail with a sayonara run in the 9th.
The other semifinal saw Hiroshima Kougou lead from start to finish eliminating Okayama Highashi Shougyou 4-2.
Hiroshima Kougyou versus Takagawa Gakuen. A bit of an unlikely final. Hiroshima Kougyou would snipe runs early on to build a 3-0 lead. It would be all washed away in the 6th as Takagawa leveled the score. The teams would head into extras deadlocked, but again it would take only one extra inning as Hiroshima would score 2 to take their first ever spring title.
So, the spring tournaments are almost over. And wouldn't you know it, prefectures are getting ready for the Natsu Koshien qualifying. In fact, 4 prefectures already have their brackets ready:
- Nishi Tokyo
- Higashi Tokyo
- In Okinawa, it isn't Kounan who has the top seed. It's Oroku! Kounan holds the #2 seed, while Kadena and Itoman round out the top 4.
- In Nishi Tokyo, it's Nihon Tsurugaoka who leads the field, but Waseda Jitsugyou is back once again as the #2 seed. Kokugakuindai Kugayama and Hachiouji round out the top 4. Other seeded teams include Nichidai-ni, Oubirin (Oberlin), Souka, Toua Gakuen, Toritsu Hino, and Nichidai-san.
- In Higashi Tokyo, there's no surprise. Teikyou is awarded the #1 seed with Kanto Dai-ichi receiving the 2nd seed. Seiritsu Gakuen, and Toritsu Miyako Higashi round out the top 4. The other seeded teams are Toritsu Sougou Kouka and Nihon Buzan.
- Kanagawa is a special case. With 186 teams participating, there are actually 4 seeded teams in each quadrant. Top seeds are Toukou Gakuen, Yokohama Sougakukan, Yokohama Shoudai, and Tachibana Gakuen (橘学苑 - there are actually 2 Tachibana Gakuens, different kanji). #2 seeds are Touin Gakuen, Koumyou Gakuen, Kawasaki Kita, and Toukaidai Sagami. Oh, how the team has fallen since the hype of the spring. #3 seeds are Yokohama Ouyou, Souyou, Nichidai and Hiratsuka Gakuen. And finally the #4 seeds are Chigasaki Nishihama, Busou, Yaei, and Keiou.