So, due to the fact that my job has prevented me from taking my Koushien trip for the 2nd straight year, needless to say I haven't been happy recently in many aspects. So I've been a bit unmotivated all-around which is why my updates have been a bit slow.
With that out of the way, at this juncture of the qualifying, I'm going to just start splitting up my coverage into tickets being punched and the rest.
When we last checked, Okinawa's Kounan (9th appearance, 1st in 2 years) and ace Shimabukuro were the first to be given their ticket.
Since then, 12 other teams have added their names to the list. They include:
Kagoshima - Kagoshima Jitsugyou (17th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
The final participants was pretty much predictable. With Kagoshima Shougyou and Kagoshima Minami the outsiders looking it, it setup for a Kagoshima Jitsugyou vs. Shounan matchup.
It almost didn't happen. Jitsugyou barely survived against Sendai winning on their last at bat 2-1. And then against Minami, they actually trailed early but tied it in the 4th. It stayed that way until the 9th where Jitsugyou would actually say sayonara to their opponents again.
In the final, Kagoshima Jitsugyou would jump on Shounan's ace Toda, scoring in the 1st and 2nd innings. It would be all they needed as the tandem of Youkai and Noda would shutout Shounan.
Kita Hokkaido - Asahikawa Jitsugyou (3rd appearance, 1st in 11 years)
Kita Hokkaido seemed to have been decided before the finals. Of the 4 teams left, only Komadai Iwamizawa had recently been to Koushien. It had been over 10 years since Asahikawa Jitsugyou had went, and neither Engaru and Bushuukan had ever been to Koshien (spring or summer).
So as long as Iwamizawa won their semi against Asahikawa Jitsugyou, it was just about a certainty that they'd make their 5th appearnce, and 3 of the last 4 years.
But it was Asahikawa who had the upper hand. They build a 3-0 lead against Iwamizawa, and seemed to cruise. But Iwamizawa would roar back with 4 in the 7th and looked to crush Asahikawa's hopes.
Not so. Asahikawa would score the tying run in the 8th, and the winning run in the 9th. Ace Suzuki would return to the mound to record the final two outs send Jitsugyou to the finals.
They would square off against Bushuukan, who had a gyakuten daida (逆転代打 - go-ahead, pinch-hit) 2-run home run to lead a 3-run 7th inning for a 3-1 win.
But the odds were stacked against them in the finals. Jitsugyou would take advantage of a tiring Ueda to score 3 runs in the 5th and 6th innings for a 7-0 lead. They would once again falter in the 7th, giving up 4 in the 7th again, but the game was still in hand. A 9-4 win given Asahikawa Jitsugyou the 2nd bid.
Fukushima - Seikou Gakuin (7th appearance, 4th consecutive)
Everyone knows Chiben Wakayama's domination in Wakayama. They've won 13 of the last 14 titles. And then there's Aomori Yamada, who's won 7 of the last 8. But do you know who may be quietly building their own dynasty?
Ok sure, since I'm talking about it here now, it can only be Seikou Gakuin in Fukushima. Since the turn of the millennia Seikou has come from almost nowhere. After making their initial Natsu Koushien appearance in 2001, they have represented Fukushima 5 of the last 6 years. The only break? Fellow best 4 participant Kounan in 2006 (I remember them! If nothing else other than Seihou annihilated them 22-3 in the first game and I was in the stands saying, "Don't do it! You'll fall flat the next game!"... and they did).
So onto the semifinals and while Odaka Kougyou had a good run to the semis, they couldn't match up with Seikou, and were mercy ruled 9-2 in 7 innings.
Kounan led Shirakawa 4-1 in the semifinals, that was until the 7th inning when, surprise!, they scored 4 runs to take the lead. What is it with 4-run 7th innings??! But Kounan would take the lead back with a run in the bottom of the 7th. Kashimura made it hold up and they made the finals.
But Seikou ace Saiuchi would not be the one to break his school's streak. He throws a 3-hit shutout, striking out 12 in a 3-0 win.
Aomori - Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi (5th appearance, 1st in 12 years)
Heading into the semifinals, it looked like the winner of the Kousei Gakuin-Aomori Yamada semifinal would advance to Koushien. Not surprising since out of the past 17 years, 14 times has either school represented the prefecture.
The last team not named Aomori Yamada or Kousei Gakuin to qualify? Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi back in 1998.
Now Hachinohe fulfilled their part, but it was shaky to start. After scoring 2 runs in the top of the 1st, Aomori Kougyou scored 3 in the bottom half. After 5, it was tied at 4. But a balk call on Kougyou ace Ooba seemed to throw him off. Walks, errors, and hits culminated in a 3-run home run by Nakagawa and a 9-4 lead. Three runs in the 7th would finish Aomori Kougyou off.
In the other semi, it was shockingly all Kousei Gakuin. Kousei ace Ooeki 5-hit the reigning champs, and 2 runs in the 9th were inconsequential in a 6-2 win.
Nothing would stop the boys from Hachinohe. Ace Nakayama would completely shut down Kousei's offense, delivering a 3-hit shutout for a 3-0 win and the break of the Aomori Yamada-Kousei Gakuin hold on the prefecture!
Akita - Noshiro Shougyou (2nd appearance, 1st in 25 years)
This prefecture also appeared to be a shoe-in. Top seed Akita Shougyou had only one seeded team left in the Best 4 and that was their opponent, #5 seed Takanosu. And only Noshiro Shougyou had ever been to Koushien, and that was 25 years ago.
So all that Akitashou had to do was win that game, and their ticket would be all but assured. True to form, they won 8-1 in 8 innings.
In the other semi, Nishisenboku was doing the unimaginable. They were winning 2-1 over Noshiro Shougyou. But perhaps the nerves got to ace Shindou. Noshiro Shougyou would begin a late rally, tying the game in the 8th, and sending the Nishisenboku boys home 3-2.
Akitashou scored in the early going of the final. But up 2-0, Noshiro scores 3 to take the lead! Then they added on a run in the 6th! But Akitashou would not give up. A run in the 6th and 7th would level the game.
But in the 8th inning, with runners on the corners and 1 down, pinch hitter Hirakawa comes in and delivers a liner to left to score the go-ahead run. Hosaka would make that run stick and Noshiro Shougyou would complete the upset and earn their 2nd trip to Koushien!
Fukuoka - Nishi Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku (5th appearance, 1st in 6 years)
I think I've changed my mind on Fukuoka. While they do not necessarily have a regular representative, I'm beginning to think it's because of parity more than the lack of a strong team.
So here we were in the semifinals. Toukaidai Dai-go, coming off a big rally win squared off against Higashi-Fukuoka. They would strike first with 2 runs in the 1st and have a 3-1 lead after 4. But it would fall apart for Tanaka in the 5th and 6th innings. Higashi-Fukuoka would score 6 runs and never look back, winning 7-5.
In the other semi, Iidzuka would take an early lead, only to have Tankidai score 5 unanswered in a 5-1 win.
And in the finals, it was all Tankidai's ace Mori. He would throw a 5-hit shutout en route to a 4-0 win and their 1st appearance in 6 years.
Tochigi - Sano Nihon (6th appearance, 1st in 9 years)
The other semi was determined on the 22nd. Utsunomiya Kougyou rallied late against Seiran Taito to win 3-2. Their opponent would be unseeded Sano Nihon who shocked Utsunomiya Minami with a 5-run 2nd inning and a 5-3 win.
Onto the semis and Sakushin Gakuin would continue it's march for their 2nd straight appearance with a 4-2 win over Tochigi Kougyou. Meanwhile, Sano Nihon continued their upset streak, defeating their 3rd seeded team in Utsunomiya Kougyou. Although Kougyou would take a 1-0 lead in the top of the 3rd, Sanichi would score 2 in he bottom of the inning. They would tack on a run in the 5th for a 3-1 win.
In the finals, it would be Sanichi who would strike first with a run in the bottom of the 1st. Sakushin would tie it in the 2nd.
But the game would shift suddenly as Sanichi scores 4 in the 3rd. Sakushin would not be able to recover and Seki would lead his team to a 6-3 win and their 6th appearance.
Chiba - Narita (7th appearance, 1st in 20 years)
When we last left Chiba, they were in the best 8. In the quarterfinals, Narashino continued their repeat bid with a convincing 10-3 win in 7 over Shiritsu Kashiwa at Chiba Marine Stadium. Meanwhile, over at Chiba Prefectural, Narita and ace Nakagawa pulled off another win of a seeded team with a 7-3 win over Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku.
In the afternoon games, Urayasu's luck finally ran out. They had been holding on as the top seed, but finally Toukaidai Bouyou would send them home 3-2 in 10 innings. Chiba Keiai had one hell of a run in the tournament, but their time too had run out. Senshuudai Matsudo would score the go-ahead run in the 6th for a 3-2 win of their own.
In the semifinals, Narita's Nakagawa dominated Narashino - but Narashino made the most of their opportunities. In fact, they jumped out in front with a run in the 3rd. But Narita would score 2 in the bottom of the frame to take the lead. And then in the bottom of the 6th, they chased ace Suematsu with 2 more runs. Narashino looked dead to rights, but came back with two runs in the 7th to once again make it a one run game. There would be one more chance for Narashino. Top 9, 2 outs, runner on 2nd. Narashino sends in pinch hitter Watanabe. But he becomes Nakagawa's 12th strikeout to end the game, and Narashino's season (wah!).
Toukaidai Bouyou used a lot of timely hitting in their semifinal win over Senshuudai Matsudo. While they struck out 12 times and only got 7 hits, they were the beneficiary of 7 walks and scored 6 runs in a 6-2 win.
That setup an unseeded final between Narita and Toukaidai Bouyou, two strong teams out of Chiba. And it would be a real pitching battle between Narita's Nakagawa and Bouyou's Nagatomo.
But it would be Nakagawa who would prove the superior pitcher that day. Bouyou's batters would strike out 11 times and manage only one hit against him. Nagatomo on the other hand flirted with danger throughout the game. Finally in the 6th, with one down and a runner on 2nd, #3 batter Kaneko would deliver a base hit to score Nakagawa.
It would prove to be the only run in the game.
Nagano - Matsumoto Kougyou (1st appearance)
Nagano was halfway through their quarterfinals. Maruko Shuugakukan was awaiting the winner of the Saku Chousei-Toukaidai Dai-san game, while unlikely Ueda Chikuma was waiting for the Nagano Nichidai-Matsumoto Kougyou winner.
In the first game, Nichidai jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the 1st inning. But Matsumoto had time to catch up. They started with a pair of runs in the 2nd, another in the 4th, and closed the deficit with a run in the 7th. It would stay that way going into extras. Both aces, Katou for Nichidai and Kakita for Matsumoto would not leave the mound.
Finally Matsumoto would break through with a sayonara run in the 12th to end Nichidai's hopes of a repeat.
The 2nd game was almost never in doubt as Saku Chousei down 2-0 after 1, scored 6 unanswered runs in a 9-3 win.
In the semis, Matsushou Gakuen would win a low scoring affair 2-1 over Saku Chousei. Ueda Chikuma's cinderella run would end thanks in part to a 3-run 8th inning by Matsumoto Kougyou.
With a Matsushou Gakuen-Matsumoto Kougyou final, it seemed like it would be one-sided.
It was anything but.
In fact, Matsukou scored 2 in the 3rd inning to open the game. But Matsushou would pull even, then take a 6-3 lead late. Somehow though, Matsukou would get to ace Hirama, scoring 1 in the 8th and 2 more in the 9th to tie the game! The run would be complete as they would score one final run in the 10th inning, and Kakita would make it stick for their school's first ever Koshien appearance.
Yamanashi - Hikawa (3rd appearance, 1st in 30 years)
The last 3 days of the Yamanashi tournament were just nuts. They, like Nagano, were in the middle of their quarterfinals.
In the first quarterfinal of the 22nd, Katsura led Fuji Gakuen 6-2. Fuji Gakuen somehow mounts a big rally. 4 runs in the 8th and the game was all tied. They would keep their hopes alive with a sayonara run in the 10th.
The second quarterfinal was the battle of Koufu as Kougyou beat Shougyou 4-2.
The semifinals were nuts. Hikawa vs. Nichidai Meisei was tied at 2 going into extras. Again both aces, Suzuki for Meisei and Furuya for Hikawa continued to pitch into the 12th, 13th, 14th innings. We hit the 15th and final inning. Meisei can't score, so all they can hope for is a draw.
But Hikawa starts something. Fukushima singles to center to put the sayonara runner on. Then Okuwaki hit a liner to left that goes to the wall. Fukushima makes a break for home all the way from 1st, and successfully scores to crush Meisei's hopes at the last possible moment.
And in the Koufu Kougyou-Fuji Gakuen game, it was a finish to remember.
Koufu held a 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the 9th.
#8 batter Itou begins the inning, and singles up the middle for a leadoff hit. Next up was 2B Furuya. He was used a pinch hitter earlier and hit a double. He lines one over the infield into right center for a base hit.
That brought it back to the top of the order and Amano. And he grounds a ball past a diving 3B Watanabe into left field! It's manrui for Fuij Gakuen!
Naitou steps in, 1-1 with 2 walks. Koufu calls a conference and things have gotten very tense all of a sudden.
And then the unthinkable happened...
Naitou takes a 1-1 pitch to deep left center. Kubota runs back to the wall, looks up and...
It's gone! It's a sayonara manrui homerun! Fuji Gakuen has comeback in the most spectacular fashion! And it's undoubtably a crushing defeat for Koufu Kougyou.
So that meant a Hikawa-Fuji Gakuen final. One would wonder if there would be a letdown for Fuji Gakuen.
It seemed like it early on. Hikawa jumped on Yamamoto early with 3 runs in the 2nd. And while Fuji would score a run in the 4th, the lead was brought back up to 3 after a run in the 6th.
Undeterred, Fuji Gakuen would indeed mount a comeback. They would score 2 runs in the 7th to pull within 1. But their magical run would end there as Hikawa would win 4-3 and go to Koushien for the first time in 30 years.
Tottori - Yazu (7th appearance, 1st time in 7 years)
The games were pretty pedestrian in the quarterfinals, as Yazu and Yonago Kita advanced by scores of 7-2. Tottori Jyouhoku's chance for a repeat ended at the hands of Kurayoshi Higashi 4-3. But in the most interesting game by far, Yonago Nishi built a 7-4 lead against Tottori Shougyou, but in the 7th Tottori scored 7 runs to take the lead 11-7 and win 11-8.
In the semifinals, Yazu scored 2 quick runs in the 1st against Kurayoshi Higashi's Kitada, and that would be all the runs in the game. In fact, all their 4 hits happened in the 1st five batters of the game!
Yonago Kita never trailed in their semifinal game against Tottori Shougyou, winning 4-2.
In the final, Yazu would again score 2 runs in the top of the 1st, and while Yonago Kita would pull within 1 in the 3rd, it would be as close as they would get. Just to make sure, Yazu added a couple of insurance runs late to win 4-2.
Kochi - Meitoku Gijuku (12th appearance, 1st in 6 years)
Kochi was in the semifinal stage when last we saw them. All 4 seeded teams had made it, but not all seeded teams are created equal. Okou has never made it to Koushien, while Kochi Shougyou has only represented them 3 times in the last 15 years. The rest is Meitoku Gijuku and Kochi.
It's not to say thought that either underdog did poorly though.
In the first semi, Kochi Shougyou and Kochi were deadlocked at 1. Both teams had gone to their bullpen and relieved their starters.
It was the bottom of the 9th, still tied at 1 with Kochi Shougyou to bat. Cleanup hitter Morimoto steps in, 0-2 on the day. Tsutsui tries to challenge him with a fastball, but Morimoto hits it into the left center field gap for a triple. With the winning run 90 feet away, Kochi has no choice but to walk Hirase and Higashide to load the bases and create a force play. But Satou would deliver a base hit to score the winning run and send Kochi home.
In the 2nd semi, Meitoku's leadoff batter Shouji would get a base hit to center, and be bunted along to 2nd. With 2 down, Kitagawa would hit a double down the left field line and score the opening run.
Okou's Tanouchi would shut down the Meitoku's offense after that, keeping his team in the game thanks to a fastball that touches 145, and a good curve and slider to boot.
They would have two real opportunities in the game. In the 6th, Abe would get a hit to center and advance to 3rd with 2 outs. In the 8th, an error would get a runner on 2nd with one out. But in both cases, they failed to convert. Alas, they would lose 1-0.
And in the final, Kochi Shougyou was unfortunately no match for Meitoku Gijuku. They could only muster 4 hits while Meitoku scored a run in 5 consecutive innings for a 5-0 win and a ticket to Koushien.
Kochi Shougyou will have to wait until the fall for another chance to head to Koushien, even if it's just the invitational.