24 done, 23 to go. 9 more got their ticket to Koushien...
Ibaraki - Suijyou (1st appearance)
Ibaraki was quickly going through their games. And more seeded teams were left on the curb at Tsuchiura Municipal. #3 Tsuchiura Kouhoku gave up 4 runs to Fujishiro and that proved to be the winning margin. #6 Koga Dai-ichi would be shutout by Kasumigaura 2-0.
In other games, Mito Sakuranomaki (which was pointed out to me to have hats that resembled the old Mariner's "S" logo and jerseys that resemble the Mets jerseys), outlasted Ibaraki Christian 3-2 in 11. Shimotsuma Dai-ichi pulled away late from Hokota Dai-ichi 8-5, and #5 Hasaki Yanagawa rallied against Shimodate Dai-ichi, gave up the lead in the bottom of the 9th, but won 7-5 in 11.
Into the quarterfinals, #2 Mito Sakuranomaki was upset by #7 Mito Shougyou. Worse yet, they were mercy ruled 9-2 in 7! Unseeded Kasumigaura advanced to the Best 4 with a win over Fujishiro. Shimotsuma Dai-ichi gave a late run at Hasaki Yanagawa, but fell short.
The biggest game of all though was Suijyou vs. Shimotsuma Dai-ni. After Dai-ni opened the scoring in the 2nd with a run, Suijyou tied it in the 3rd, then scored 3 in the 4th to take a 4-1 lead! They would add some insurance runs late, and it ended with a convincing upset victory 6-1!
The real shockers were yet to come. In the semis, Suijyou spotted Hasaki Yanagawa 2 runs in the top of the 1st, but then scored 4 of their own. They would never look back in a 9-3 win over the #5 seed! And in the other semi, #7 Mito Shougyou was pummeled by unseeded Kasumigaura 10-0 in just 6 innings!
So we had a completely unseeded final! But instead of a close final, Suijyou made mince meat of Kasumigaura while ace Oogawa pitched a 5-hit shutout. Suijyou completes their magical run which gives them their first ever Koushien appearance!
Gunma - Maebashi Shougyou (5th appearance, 1st in 3 years)
Heading into the Best 8, the seeded schools were having a heck of a time staying in. #3 Takasaki Kenkoufukushi needed a 5-run 8th, then gave up a 4-run 9th, but managed to win 9-7. #4 Tomioka was not so lucky. The Maebashi Ikuei staff 4-hit the #4 team, winning convincingly 7-0.
Best 8 play saw top seed Maebashi Shougyou continue to roll, using a 5-run 1st inning to crush Oota Higashi's spirit early in a 6-0 win. They still hadn't given up a run up until this point. Maebashi Kougyou showed their upset 1st round win over Kiryuu Dai-ichi wasn't a fluke with a 8-1 win over Tatebayashi. Takasaki Kenkoufukushi got back on track with a 4-hit shutout of Oota Kougyou, and Maebashi advanced with a 4-3 win over Maebashi Ikuei.
Maebashi Shougyou finally gave up their first run in their semifinal game against Maebashi. But it was just one as a 7-1 win moved them one step closer. Their job was made easier as Maebashi Kougyou upset Takasaki Kenkoufukushi 1-0 in 11 innings. Maebashi had the better of it throughout the game as ace Hirai allowed just 4 hits and walked 3.
Certainly, the final appeared to be a lopsided affair with Maebashi Shougyou having the upper hand. But it actually was Kougyou that struck first, and in the top of the 1st inning. But ace Hirai made one of the few mistakes in the game, giving up a 2-run homerun in the 3rd to Sawaura. But despite giving up just 4 hits and 4 walks, Maebashi Shougyou would prevail 3-1.
Higashi Tokyo - Kanto Dai-ichi (5th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
Deanna's team to watch in top seed Shuutoku certainly looked like they deserve the bid. Momijigawa was no match, losing 8-1 in 7 innings. Meanwhile #2 Kanto Dai-ichi was heading for a collision in the final as they defeated Yasuda Gakuen 3-1.
#3 Seiritsu Gakuen was making plans of their own with an 8-2 win over Nichidai Buzan. And certainly unseeded Kokushikan was going to make it's case as they defeated Adachi Gakuen.
So it certainly was a power-filled Best 4.
But for some reason, the semifinals here disappointed to some extent. Kokushikan could not get up to the challenge of facing top seeded Shuutoku, falling 9-2 in 7. Seiritsu Gakuen actually held a lead against Kanto Dai-ichi. But Seiritsu ace Nishigata couldn't hold the lead. In fact he wouldn't make it through 5. Kanto would score 3 and reliever Iidzuka could provide none for his team. In the end, it was a 10-3 win in 7.
The final, between Shuutoku and Kanto Dai-ichi, is something I have to find time to watch if the people over at Justin.tv have it archived, because it must have been one hell of a game. Because for 6 innings, the two squads scuffled to try and score a run. Kanto held a 1-0 lead.
But in the top of the 7th, Kanto ace Shirai just fell apart... to the tune of 5 runs. At this point it seemed that Shuutoku was on it's way to a win.
Those 5 runs though, seemed to also wake up Kanto. They took back a run in the 7th, then another in the 8th. Somewhere along the line, with 2 down in the 8th, they decided to pull ace Mitsumata for Takahashi, who ended the inning.
Fast forward to the bottom of the 9th, and without seeing what happened and looking at the boxscore, here's what I can gathere happened:
Leadoff batter Itou gets on base. PH Funakoshi comes in for reliever Ide and gets a single. Top batter Yamashita blasts a ball for a triple, scoring both Itou and Funakoshi, tying the game at 5. With still no one out, the Shuutoku manager has Takahashi issue 2 intentional walks to create a force play at home. Takahashi woudn't stay around as Sugou(?) would come in to face cleanup batter Miyashita, who delivered a hit to center for the comeback win.
That is just nuts. I know the warm weather has been an issue. Temperatures at Meiji Jingu were in the mid-90's and add about 10-15 degrees with the artificial turf. Perhaps Mitsumata was fatigued from the heat and the prior games. Without seeing what happened, it's hard to tell if the right decision at the time was made. But right or wrong, it is Kanto Dai-ichi, not Shuutoku, who will head west to Koushien.
Shizuoka - Tokoha Tachibana (2nd appearance, 2nd consecutive)
A funny thing happened on the way to the Best 8..
Half of the seeded teams would be ousted from the tournament...
Mishima perhaps had the most crushing, if not at least curious defeat. Ace Sawada gave up just 1 hit, walked 3... and lost 1-0 in 10 to Shiritsu Shizuoka Shougyou. Shizuoka's 7-2 win over Shizuoka Gakuen looks good until you notice that they scored 6 in the 8th... Hamamatsu Shougyou jumped all over Seisei to a 5-0 lead en route to a 7-4 upset. And finally Kakegawa Nishi saw Atami score 4 in the 5th and that would be game set match in a 6-1 loss.
The Tokoha schools advanced, Tachibana convincingly, and Kikugawa thanks to some late runs.
In the quarterfinals, it was a low scoring affair for Kikugawa against Shizuoka Shiritsu Shougyou, as the teams combined for just 8 hits, but Kikugawa prevailed 1-0. Earlier in the day Shizuoka continued to try and wreck the Tokoha party with a 7-3 win over Hamamatsu Shougyou. Tachibana continued to cruise in a 9-2 win over Fujinomiya Kita, while Hamamatsu Kougyou outscored Atami 6-3.
The roles were reversed for the Tokoha schools in the semis. This time it was Kikugawa who cruised over Hamamatsu Kougyou, while Tachibana trailed by one going into the bottom of the 9th against Shizuoka, but found a way to rally for the win 5-4.
So that setup the Tokoha final that I secretly wanted. And Kikugawa opened the scoring in the top of the 1st with 2 runs, and still had a one run lead after 3.
But for whatever reason, perhaps that starter Nakamura was giving up too many hits, he was relieved after 3 innings. Morita came in and with Tachibana's ace Hasegawa, there was a lull.
Bottom of the 6th comes, and Morita began to crack. While he gives up just 3 hits and 3 walks, they ended up hurting Kikugawa as Tachibana scores 3 to take a 5-3 lead. Iwamoto would relieve him for the last 2 innings, but it would be too late. Hasegawa hold Kikugawa scoreless for the rest of the game as Tachibana goes back for the 2nd straight year.
Wakayama - Chiben Wakayama (18th appearance, 6th consecutive)
Sadly, it seems that when it comes to Wakayama, the only news that is newsworthy is if Chiben Wakayama loses.
For a short summary, Chiben Wakayama did have a hiccup. In the semi against Shiritsu Wakayama, they actually fell behind 2-0 early. Chiben took back the lead, but Shiritsu Wakayama stayed in step, staying within 1 until the end. They lost 9-7.
The final was one I was hoping for, Chiben Wakayama vs. Kouyou. I liked Kouyou from senbatsu. They were an all-around solid squad that I somehow hoped would find a way to Koushien.
But the storyline here says the same. Chiben scores 2 in the top of the 1st and never relinquishes the lead. A 6-3 win gives them their 6th consecutive appearance.
Just so we don't forget that there are other good schools here, I'm going to mention notable performances.
We know about Kouyou and their run. But then there's Shiritsu Wakayama, whose record since 2007 is 24-9, is probably the most consistent team that's not Chiben Wakayama. Probably explains why they were the last team that wasn't Chiben to actually represent Wakayama at Koushien.
Minoshima was a good story when they went to senbatsu, but have struggled to be consistent in the summer.
Having only 40 high schools certainly means a small talent pool to draw from, and it certainly explains how Chiben can be as dominant as they are.
Yamaguchi - Nanyou Kougyou (3rd appearance, 1st in 4 years)
As we headed into the round of 16, it wasn't a good day to be a seeded team at Busicom Yanai Stadium. Hikari lost in the bottom of the 9th against Yanai Shoukou 2-1. Yanai Gakuen was annihilated 11-0 in 5 innings to Nanyou Kougyou.
Over at Ube Municipal, seeded Ube Koujyou and Saikyou advanced after a bit of a stumble early.
And at Shuunan Muncipal, Houfu headed into extras against Tokuyama, and was on the verge of losing as Tokuyama scored one in the 10th, but Houfu scores 2 in the bottom half for the win.
In the quarterfinals, Yanai Shoukou got an insurance run in the bottom of the 8 versus Shimonoseki Kougyou. The thing is, insurance runs are only called that if you hold up.
They give up 2 runs in the top of the 9th, then in the 12th, give up 2 more. They'd take back 1 in the bottom half, but that would be it.
Nanyou Kougyou continued their strong run, upsetting the 2nd seeded team in a row with a 7-1 win over Shimonoseki Chuo Kougyou. They made it 3 in a row with a convincing 11-1 win over Takagawa Gakuen.
They had a chance at defeating 4 seeded teams as Houfu beat Shimonoseki Kougyou 5-2.
Houfu though built a 2-0 lead of Nanyou despite having only 3 hits. Nanyou would finally strike back in the 6th, tying it at 2. The game would go into extras, where Nanyou would immediately score, and hold on for the 3-2 win in extras.
Tokushima - Naruto (6th appearance, 1st in 15 years)
As the tournament progressed, the seeded teams continued to advance. Jyounan kept up with Komatsushima, eventually taking a tenuous 1-run lead. But Komatsushima scores 2 in the bottom of the 8th to keep the team's run going.
In the end, it would be 2 seeded teams in Komatsushima and Naruto facing off for the title. While Komatsushima would open the scoring with 2 in the top of the 1st, Naruto would score 6 unanswered to take a commanding lead. Ace Yoshida though started to falter late. He would give up a run in the 8th, and 3 in the 9th to pull within one with a runner in scoring position, but that would be it. A grounder to 2nd ends the game and gives Naruto the title.
Nagasaki - Nagasaki Nichidai (9th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
The committee here did a pretty good job here evaluating the teams as Keihou was the only seeded team not to advance to the Best 8. Their ouster, Nagasaki Nishi, gave Kaisei a good run in the quarterfinals, but would eventually fall 8-5.
We finally had exciting semifinal games all the way over here in Nagasaki. Nagasaki Nichidai was clear of Sasebo Kitsugyou 4-0, but then ace Nakamura suddenly hit a wall, giving up a pair of runs in the 8th and 9th innings, blowing the lead. Fortunately (for them at least), relief pitcher Hirakura tired in the 10th giving up the sayonara run.
Kaisei and Nagasaki Shougyou also went into extras but in Takeno's 9th inning of work, he would give up 4 runs, sealing Nagasaki Shougyou's fate.
The final was, well... anti-climactic. Nagae would give up 3 quick runs to Nagasaki Nichidai and his team would never recover, losing 4-1.
Oita - Oita Kougyou (3rd appearance, 1st since 1993)
In the round of 16, senbatsu team Oita Uenogaoka fell to Oita Shougyou 8-1 in 7 innings. Hita Rinkou advanced with little issue, and Usa continued their run after their shocker over Oita.
Usa's run would finally end in the quarterfinals after being unable to get a timely hit against Beppu Shougyou's Yanagimoto. Hita Rinkou managed just 4 hits, but were able to score 2 runs winning 2-0. Meihou finally started to show cracks against Oita Oginodai as they were able to score 4 runs off ace Yamano. Meihou still advanced 6-4, but it certainly was a warning sign. Even more telling was their 4-0 win over Hita Rinkou in the semis where they managed just 5 hits.
This while Oita Kougyou was gaining more momentum, rolling Beppu Shougyou 13-5 in 7 innings.
In the final, Oita Kougyou would get on the scoreboard, building a 3-0 lead, and while ace Tanaka faltered a bit in the 9th letting Meihou back with 2 runs, it was enough to give his team their first berth since 1993.