Thursday, July 29, 2010

Only 5 more left...

From over 4,000 teams nationwide down to 47. It's amazing how the tournaments go slowly at first, then suddenly accelerate at the end.

11 more teams added their names to the list, leaving just 5 to be determined. Those who earned berths on the 28th were:

Yamagata - Yamagata Chuo (1st appearance)
Having reached the round of 16, all seeded teams are "in play". On the first day, #8 Yamagata Jyouhoku was the only team to fall, getting 3-hit by Shibata and Sakata Kougyou. Meanwhile, #4 Yamagata Minami managed only 4 hits, but eked out a 1-0 win over Yamagata Higashi.

On day 2, Nichidai Yamagata had a 3-0 lead until Tomitsuka gave up 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th to Shinjyou Kita. Unfortunately for them, they couldn't hold the lead and Itou gives back 2 runs to Nichidai for the 5-4 win.

In the quarterfinals, Yamagata Chuo's Yokoyama pitches his 2nd CG gem, 3-hitting Sakata Kougyou 2-0. All top seeds advanced, except for Haguro, who never led against Nichidai Yamagata and couldn't respond after they scored a run in the bottom of the 8th. In addition on day 2, Tsuruoka Higashi was dealing with a stubborn Sakata Minami needing a run in the top of the 9th to win.

Yokoyama continued to dominate, this time pitching a 4-hitter against Yamagata Minami for a spot in the finals. Nichidai Yamagata was making a strong bit early against Tsuruoka Higashi for the other spot, taking a 3-0 lead in the 1st. Tsuruoka didn't give up though, coming back and tying it up in the top of the 9th. They thought to have the game won in the 10th with a run, but Nichidai leveled the score. It would delay the inevitable, as Tsuruoka would score one more time in the 11th for the win.

Generally, an extra inning game like this means the team is at a disadvantage the next day.

But not in the case of Tsuruoka Higashi though. They got to Yokoyama in the early innings, getting a 1-run advantage. Yamagata Chuo would level the score in the 5th and the game would remain at 3 going into extras.

Now, 2 extra inning games in a row certainly would put them at a disadvantage, especially as each inning ticks off. Sure enough, in the 12th, Yamagata Chuo would score off of starter Watanabe for the 4-3 win and a bid to Koushien!

Saitama - Honjyou Dai-ichi (2nd appearance, 1st in 2 years)
1st day of the round of 16 games, saw the higher seeds advance with little issue, while #5 Shouhei had no answer to Seibudai. On Day 2, Urawa Gakuin had no trouble with Washinomiya, but #2 Sakado Nishi was crushed 12-5 to #9 Shiritsu Kawagoe, while the bullpen for fellow #9 Shouchi Fukaya couldn't hold off Honjyou Daiichi.

Onto the quarterfinals, and Hanasaki Tokuharu did not look good at all against Seibudai. They took a 4-0 lead after 1, managed to extend it by one after scoring 4 in the bottom of the 2nd, but after giving up 5 runs, starter Gomyou was relieved. Yamaguchi was holding onto their lead late, but after giving up 2 in the 8th and giving up two more in the 9th, he was relieved by Hashimoto who managed to shut the door, winning 11-10.

The 2nd game saw #3 Kawagoe Higashi in a pitcher's duel with Kasukabe Kyouei. The teams would go into extras, and with each passing inning the possibility of ending in a draw. But in the bottom of the 14th, C Yamada delivers a sayonara base hit to left, winning 1-0.

Urawa Gakuin had no trouble on day 2, while Honjyou Dai-ichi pulls off their 3rd upset of a seeded team in Shiritsu Kawagoe, scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th to break a 2-2 deadlock.

In the semis, Hanasaki Tokuharu never led in the game against Kawagoe Higashi. That is, until they scored in the bottom of the 10th to win 3-2.

But perhaps the biggest shock in Saitama this year was Honjyou Dai-ichi scoring 4 runs in the last 4 innings to defeat top seeded Urawa Gakuin 4-1.

And now, for Honjyou Dai-ichi to take the summer title, they'll have to defeat the other top seed in Hanasaki Tokuharu!

They would strike first in the bottom of the 2nd with a run, but Hanasaki quickly got it back. Then in the 6th, Hanasaki would take the lead. The run certainly looked over for Honjyou. But in the 8th they tied the score, and in the 9th with runners on 1st and 2nd with only 1 down, Tanimoto gets the sayonara hit to complete the run! Hanasaki Tokuharu defeated all the possible seeded teams they could have faced and wins the title!

Niigata - Niigata Meikun (6th appearance, 1st in 3 years)
Of the 4 seeded teams that remained, only 3 would advance. Of course, only 3 could advance as #1 Niigata Meikun faced #8 Niigata. Meikun tried to make it painless for Niigata, winning 11-1 in 6. #3 Nihon Bunri and #5 Chuuetsu also advanced with little trouble. In the battle of unseeded teams, Sanjyou Higashi edged out Muikamachi 4-3.

In the first semi, Chuuetsu came back to tie the game in the 8th after Meikun scored 3 early. But Toujyou and Chuuetsu might have used up all their energy catching up, because they give up two runs in the bottom of the 8th. And sadly for Sanjyou Higashi, being the only unseeded team facing the national runner-up does not make for a good pairing. Bunri's ace Tamura throws a 5-hit complete game shutout, striking out 9.

Scoring was fast and furious in the final as Meikun would outscore Bunri 2-1 in each of the 1st 2 innings. Bunri's gamble of saving their ace backfired and they had to go to him in the 2nd.

Bunri wasn't going to go quietly though. They knock out Meikun's ace Ikeda with a 3-run 5th. With the Bunri back on their feet, with the lead no less, it certainly did not look good for Meikun.

But this game was a tale of faltering pitchers, and it would be Bunri's turn next. Reliever Tamura would not make it out of the 5th inning as Meikun would score 6, abruptly changing the game.

Coming back once. Sure, coming back twice? And from a larger deficit? It was just too much to ask. Niigata Meikun would win by that 5-run margin, 11-6.

Toyama - Tonami Kougyou (1st appearance)
Finishing up the 2nd round on the 22nd, most games were fairly decided with the exception of Yatsuo and Takaoka Kougei where Yatsuo would win in 11.

In the round of 16, Day 1 was the day for the seeded teams. At Toyama Prefectural Fujikoshi Kougyou held a 3-0 lead over top seed Tonami Kougyou. Tonami would come back to tie it in the 7th, and score the winning run in the 8th. #3 seed Tonami Kougyou easily handled Yatsuo 12-3. Over in Takaoka Jyoukouji neither Takaoka Shougyou or Sakurai were challenged.

Day 2 were the matches for the hopefuls. However, they were all one-sided and all but one mercy ruled. Included on the winning side was Nanto Sougou Fukuno who defeated Arai Gakuen Niikawa 8-1 in 7.

In the semifinals, neither of the seeded teams had trouble at Takaoka Jyoukouji. Over at Toyama Prefectural though Toyama Dai-ichi used a 4-run 4th to defeat top seed Takaoka Shougyou, while Sakurai needed to hold on after a 5-run 7th to eliminate last year's winner Nanto Sougou Fukuno 8-6.

Sakurai couldn't hold up one more time after giving up 4 runs in the first 2 innings to Toyama Dai-ichi. Their magical would have to go through one more team, and that would be Tonami Kougyou.

At first, it looked like it was possible. Dai-ichi would score 2 in the bottom of the 1st. Tonami quickly struck back with 3 of their own in the top of the 2nd. Dai-ich would level the score in the 4th, but couldn't progress any further. Eventually Tonami would score 3 runs in the 7th, denying Dai-ichi their first ever championship.

Ishikawa - Yuugakukan (4th appearance, 1st in 5 years)
Ishikawa was one of the last prefectures to start, and by the 21st, not all teams had even taken the field yet.

Ishikawa is different in that there are no seeded teams. But you can kind of tell who they are depending on where they are in the bracket.

And those teams started to fall. First it was Komatsu Kougyou, then it was last year's participant Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa losing 8-0 to Komatsu Shougyou. And then it was Komatsu Shougyou playing the role of spoiler again by eliminating Komatsu Ootani.

So the Best 4 had 3 regulars in Yuugakukan, Kanazawa, and Touka Gakuen Oyamadai with "unseeded" Komatsu Shougyou joining them.

In the semifinals, Oyamadai shocked Kanazawa, tying the game at 1 in the 8th and saying sayonara in the 9th. Meanwhile, Yuugakukan beat Komatsu Shougyou, but only by a margin of 3-1.

Without Kanazawa, was the road wide open for Yuugakukan?

The answer at first was yes. 3 runs in the top of the 1st sure looked that way. But Oyamadai clawed back to within 1 after 4 innings. But Kinoshita couldn't keep Oyamadai in it. 3 late runs give Yuugakukan the comfortable victory.

Shiga - Kita-Ootsu (2nd appearance, 1st since 2004)
In Shiga, last year's winner Shiga Gakuen wasn't seeded, but was still progressing through the brackets. In fact, they were out to prove last year wasn't a fluke, defeating Oumi 3-1!

Bellweather team Hikone Higashi and favorite Kita-Ootsu also were advancing as expected.

By the time we hit the Best 4, the above 3 plus seeded Oumi Kyoudaisha were ready to square off.

(Not to say they didn't have issues. Shiga Gakuen barely beat Minaguchi 4-3 in 10, while Hikone Higashi fell behind seeded Hieizan 4-0, but scores 6 runs in the 5-7 innings for a gyakuten victory.)

In the semis, Shiga Gakuen's repeat bid would end against Kita-Ootsu as they couldn't figure out their ace Okamoto. It became a predictable finals pairing after Hikone Higashi had to hold off a pesky Oumi Kyoudaisha. Kyoudaisha ralled from down 4-0 to take the lead, then down 6-4 with 2 runs in the 9th. But Kyoudaisha's 4th pitcher, Naka, couldn't send the game into extras.

Hikone Higashi looked to complete the run, and had ample opportunities, but could never capitalize. Meanwhile, ace Imai gave up only 4 hits and walked 3, but those were timely enough to score 3 runs and win the title 3-1.

Mie - Inabe Sougyou (1st appearance)
Mie's tournament also progressed fairly quickly. And apparently it was not a good day to be a school from Ise or Tsu as all teams who participated lost. It was particularly bad for Ise as Ise lost to Akeno 5-3 in 10, while Nissei Gakuen Dai-ni decided to wait until the last possible moment to defeat Ise Kougyou. Yeah 4-3 in 15 innings. Boo.

They even had home-field advantage!!

A bizarre game happened between Tsuda Gakuen and Hisai. With a 2-1 lead, Hisai scores 6 in the bottom of the 5th... only to see Tsuda score 7 in the top of the 6th! Tsuda would win it with a run in the 9th.

In the round of 16, all the remaining seeded teams advanced. In other games, Tsuda Gakuen once again had a big inning, scoring 5 against Ouka, but barely made it stand up, winning 8-7. Yokkaichi rallies from down 3 to send the game into extras against Kinkidai Tousen, then winning it 9-7 in 10.

Moving on to the quarterfinals, my favorite team Mie fell 1-0 in 10 innings. But at least it was to a good team such as Komono. Yokkaichi found themselves on the other side of the extra inning affair blowing a 7-2 lead, losing 10-7 in 11. The earlier scare for Inabe Sougou seemed to have jolted them as they used 2 mercy win victories to advance to the Best 4.

They wouldn't be able to keep that up against a team such as Komono though. It would be a pitcher's duel between Komono's Seki and Inabe's Okabe. Okabe would prove to be the better pitcher that day, tossing a 3-hit shutout as his team would win it in the bottom of the 9th inning, 1-0.

In the other semi, Ueno, down 3-0 to Shiroko in the bottom of the 9th found a way to tie the game. Sadly, Machii would give those runs right back to Shiroko in the 10th...

The championship game would be a back and forth, with the lead changing hands early, and scoring in almost every inning. But after the 3rd lead change which gave Inabe Sougou the 4-3 lead, Shiroko would have no answer, especially against ace Okabe. ISG as their hat says wins their first ever title.

And I'm not there to see them! Bah!

Nara - Tenri (24th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
The 22nd was the end of the round of 16, and thankfully Tenri was able to defeat Ouji Kougyou 5-4. It was pretty scary though as until they scored the go-ahead run in the 8th, all they had was a 4-run 4th.

Now, there are times when we speak of teams dominating prefectures. Biggest example is Chiben Wakayama. But if you want a prefecture where teams dominate, look no further than Nara.

Chiben Gakuen and Tenri have represented Nara for all but 4 times since 1971. That's 36 out of the last 40! And the other 4 times, they were represented by Kooriyama! The last representative not one of the aforementioned 3? Gose Kougyou in 1969!

So it seems like it's only worth mentioning when these teams DON'T make the finals.

It almost happened. Chiben Gakuen had to rally from down 5-2 to Naradai Fuzoku to send it into extras. They eventually won it in 13, 6-5.

With Chiben Gakuen struggling, and Tenri apparently in top form, the final wound up disappointing. If you were looking for a good game that is. Tenri's batters pounded out 17 hits and worked 9 walks in a 14-1 rout for their 2nd straight appearance.

Hiroshima - Kouryou (19th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
Hiroshima in recent years have awarded their bids predominantly to either Jyousuikan or Kouryou. Personally, I'd like to see a team from Onomichi get a bid one time, and for the 2nd straight year, Onomichi held a seeded position.

So everyone else scrambles to try and get as far as possible, hoping that someone upsets the big 2.

Hiroshima Kanon, down 8-1 to Gion Kita, score 3 in the 7th, 2 in the 8th, and 3 in the bottom of the 9th for an amazing gyakuten victory.

In the next round, my guys from Onomichi were mercy ruled by Hiroshima Shougyou 8-0 in 7... ouch... But Onomichi Shougyou picks up the flag and marches on, defeating Sougou Gijyutsu 5-1.

Interestingly, from the 3rd round on, Jyousuikan and Kouryou played at the same stadiums on the same days... and what they saw was a lot of dominating baseball as each team marched to the Best 4. Joining them was Onomichi Shougyou (who avenged Onomichi's loss by defeating Onomichi Shougyou), and surprise Hiroshima Kanon, who scored a bunch of late runs on seeded Hiroshima Kougyou to win 11-6.

Onomichi Shougyou proved to be no challenge to Jyousuikan, as they lost 16-1. Hiroshima Kanon on the other hand shocked Kouryou early by jumping on Ueno who was in instead of Arihara. Kouryou would eventually tie it up in the 4th, but couldn't take the lead until the 8th off of Tsukazaki.

So it ended up being a Jyousuikan-Kouryou final. And while Kouryou struggled at times throughout the tournament, like the champions they are, they know when to shine. Ace Arihara throws a 4-hit shutout, striking out 9 as Kouryou heads back to Koushien.

Kagawa - Eimei (1st appearance)
When Sangawa was eliminated by Kagawa Nishi, there would be no repeat winner here. In addition, it advanced Nishi's possibility of going back as well. Combined with Marugame's loss, Kagawa Nishi seemed to be in the driver's seat to take it all.

Except that Eimei decided to play spoiler. Game tied at 4 going into extras, Eimei scores 6 in the top of the 10th! Now the remaining teams are licking their chops. The bracket is really wide open now! Joining Eimei in the Best 4 would be the last seeded team remaining (Takamatsu Shougyou), Kanonji Chuo and Marugame Jyousei.

In the semis, Eimei would take a 2-0 lead on Takashou in the top of the 1st. But after they score 4 on ace Hirai, it looked pretty grim.

No one told Eimei to lay down though, as they took back the lead immediately with 3 runs in the top of the 6th and added an insurance run in the 9th for a 6-4 upset. Their opponent would be Kanonji Chuo who outscored Marugame 7-5.

The championship would be all Eimei. Kanonji Chuo would get only 4 hits as Eimei circled the bases in all but 3 innings. Final score? 17-0.

Ehime - Uwajima Higashi (7th appearance, 1st in 11 years)
With Nomura's exit in the 3rd round to Niita, and Imabari Nishi losing in the first round, the remaining seeds Saibi and Saijyou looked to be poised to take the title. And both would continue marching onto the Best 4.

Funny thing happened on the way to the final though. Saijyou would be dominated by Uwajima Higashi as they fell behind 4-0. Losing 4-1, it appeared that the title was Saibi's to lose.

But Uwajima would not go down quietly. In fact, they took the lead against Saibi 2-0. And in a game of surprisingly few opportunities, Saibi tied the game up.

The final laugh would go to Uwajima Higashi. They would get to Saibi's ace Suzuki one more time, scoring a run in the bottom of the 9th for the sayonara victory.

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