Things are really accelerating now as we are less than 2 weeks away from first pitch at Koushien.
So it's no surprise we're approaching the end of the prefectural tournaments.
Another 11 teams added their names into the hat yesterday. They are:
Minami Hokkaido - Hokushou (2nd appearance, 1st in 19 years)
Minami Hokkaido was finishing up their quarterfinal play. Hakodatedai Yuuto (one of the teams I was rooting for) had already advanced. Their job wasn't going to be made any easier as they would have to defeat reigning champion Sapporo Dai-ichi for a chance at the title.
Meanwhile Hokushou had their 2nd consecutive mercy rule game, defeating Hakodate Kougyou 7-0 in 7. They'd face Sapporo Nichidai who finally shook off a stubborn Hokkaido Sakae 3-2 in 12. That game included both sides scoring in the 11th inning.
The semifinals were about as anticlimactic as you could get. Hakodatedai Yuuto manhandled Sapporo Dai-ichi after Dai-ichi actually led early 4-0. Yuuto would score 10 unanswered in the 3rd and 4th innings en route to a 15-5 win in 5 innings. As for Hokushou, they had another 7-inning mercy rule game, as Matano gave up just one hit in a 7-0 win.
I wasn't sure what to expect between Matano and Yuuto's ace Tsutsumiguchi, but it ended up being a close game. Hokushou would open the scoring in the 2nd as Matano would help his own cause with a 2-run homerun. Yuuto would cut the lead in half with a run in the 3rd. But all Yuuto could do was trade runs in the 4th and 8th innings just to keep up. They were unable to take advantage of scoring opportunities, missing bunts and failing to get key sac flies.
Hokushou once again punches their ticket with a 4-3 win.
Iwate - Ichinoseki Gakuin (6th appearance, 1st in 8 years)
Iwate was in their round of 16 games, and at the time all 4 seeded teams were still alive.
That would change pretty quickly.
Top seed Kuji would be not only shutout by Mizusawa, but 5-hit. #2 seed Hanamaki Higashi was even more shocking as they mustered just 4 hits against Morioka Chuo AND they lost 8-0 in 7 innings!
With the top 2 seeds eliminated, the bracket opened up for a lot of teams. Immediate beneficiaries were the other two seeded teams. Senshuudai Kitami defeated Takada 9-7 (although they did let them come back late), and Yamada was no match for Oofunato who won 9-0 in 8 innings.
The unseeded teams also had an opportunity to seize the moment. Morioka Dai-ichi, Ichinoseki Gakuin and Moriokadai Fuzoku all won handily and hoped to keep the momentum going. Unfortunately for Morioka Dai-shi, their job was made a bit harder as they first rallied from down 5-2 to tie it at 6 with 2 runs in the 9th. The game would go down to the final out. Bottom 15, 2 outs, runner on 3rd, and Morioka would get the base hit for the sayonara win.
The brackets would be thrown fully open in the quarterfinals as the final 2 seeded teams would fall. A 5-run 6th by Moriokadai Fuzoku would shock Senshuudai Kitami 5-1, while Oofunato's 3-run lead over Morioka Dai-ichi collapsed capped by a bases loaded single in the bottom of the 9th.
Meanwhile, Ichinoseki Gakuin looked to seize this opportunity, already having been passed up several times before, with a 3-0 win over Mizusawa. Morioka Dai-shi's magical run would continue as they racked up another sayonara victory, this time against Morioka Chuo.
Once again, the semifinals would be routs as Ichinoseki Gakuin mercy ruled Morioka Dai-ichi 9-2, and Morioka Dai-shi's run would end at the hands of Moriokadai Fuzoku 7-0 in 8 innings.
In the finals it would be all Ichinoseki Gakuin as they defeated Moriokadai Fuzoku 8-2.
Miyagi - Sendai Ikuei (22nd appearance, 1st in 2 years)
Miyagi got it's last Best 8 team as Tohoku Gakuin would finally put away Sendai Shougyou 6-4 in the replay of the 15 inning draw.
Onto the quarterfinals, and a bit surprising, but all of them were low scoring games. And when I mean low scoring, I mean there were three 2-1 games, and one 2-0 game!
First off, Sendi Ikuei's Kimura struck out 12 and allowed just 3 hits against Tohoku Gakuin, but his team barely squeaked by 2-1.
Then Rifu squared off against Izumi Tateyama. Izumi Tateyama struck first with a run right off the bat, then tried to make it hold up. But Rifu would scrap something together in the bottom of the 9th and tie the game up. In the 10th, Rifu would get another scoring opportunity. 1 down, runner at 2nd, Miura delivers the game winning hit.
There would be one more sayonara finish, this time Kesennuma Kouyou would break the hearts of Sendai Higashi with a run in the bottom of the 9th to break a 1-1 tie that had been since the 2nd inning.
And finally, Sendai Dai-ichi's ace Oonuma would limit Tohoku to just 4 hits, but they made them count, scoring 2 runs for the 2-0 win.
In the semis, what seemed like a good game between Sendai Ikuei and Rifu instead was a bit of a dud. Kimura limited Rifu to just 7 hits in a 4-0 shutout victory. Tohoku was getting ready for their trip to the finals when Kesennuma derailed those plans, reversing a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead thanks to a gyakuten 2-run homerun by RF Koyama. Tohoku would get within 1, but would shockingly fall 6-5.
Surely, Sendai Ikuei was favored in the final against Kesennuma Kouyou, but after the actual game you had to feel bad for Kesennuma. After letting Kesennuma score the opening run in the top of the 1st, they tie it up immediately, then scores 4 and 5 runs in the 3rd and 4th innings to blow the game open.
And then it all started to unravel...
Sendai would score 3 runs in the 6th, 5 runs in the 7th, and 10 runs in the 8th... all en route to a 28-1 win.
That's just crushing to lose in such a fashion in the championship game. It feels like it would leave a sour taste in ones mouth, regardless of the fact you were the runner up...
Nishi Tokyo - Waseda Jitsugyou (28th appearance, 1st in 4 years)
We were in the Best 8. Nihon Tsurugaoka busted Oberlin's bubble with a 4-1 win. Nuts. Imagine if Oberlin managed to win it all. Unlikely, but still amusing.
Then Souka had no chance against Waseda Jitsugyou. They were hanging in there down 7-3, but Waseda exploded for 8 runs in the 7th for a 15-3 win. And finally at Meiji Jingu, Wasedadai Gakuin's ace Chiba completely shut down Toua Gakuen's offense. In the 5th inning, with a runner at 3rd, Yamakata would execute a perfect suicide squeeze to score the first run of the game. Chiba would finish the deal, eliminating the #9 seed from the tournament.
Over at Meiji Jingu No.2 Horikoshi was no match for Nichidai-san, falling 8-2.
So oddly enough, the two semifinals were an all-Nichidai and all-Waseda affair.
Nihon Tsurugaoka and Nichidai-san squared off first, and Nichidai-san looked to have the upper hand on the top seed, building a 4-0 lead. But Tsurugaoka would score 5 unanswered runs to take the lead! Nichidai-san would not give in, and tied the score in the bottom of the 8th. By this time, both starters were gone as the 90+ degree weather was certainly taking it's toll on them. The game would go into extras tied at 5. The heat continued to play a role as teams would go quickly from half-inning to half-inning. But in the 14th inning, Tsurugaoka would finally break the deadlock with a run. Relief pitcher Oka made it stand up, sending his team into the finals.
The second semi was a bit surreal. Both teams sported the famous Waseda jersey and it was interesting to watch.
Sojitsu as expected broke out to a 3-0 lead. What wasn't expected was Soudai scoring two in the bottom of the 4th to pull within 1. That kind of woke up the #2 seed, as they got back those two runs and shut down the Soudai offense, winning 7-3. Certainly not the blowout one was expecting, but I think that was a good thing.
In the final, Sojitsu's ace Suzuki would shut down Tsurugaoka, allowing just 5 hits. But he also allowed 8 walks giving them multiple opportunities. Tsurugaoka was not able to capitalize on any of them, getting shutout 3-0.
So Soujitsu finally makes it back to Koushien, their first since 2006. That was the last time I saw them! And I can't seem them this year... (%#^*(!^&(@(^*)()...
Fukui - Fukui Shougyou (19th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
Fukui's tournament ended in a blink of an eye. The round of 16 finished on the 22nd with Tsuruga Kehi squeaking by Nyuu 1-0, and Tsuruga doing the same to Takefu Kougyou while there were 4 lead changes in the Fujishima-Mikuni game. In each lead change, the team taking the lead scored at least 2 runs. It culminated when Mikuni scored 3 in the bottom of the 8th only to see Fujishima score 3 in the top of the 9th for a 9-8 win.
In the quarterfinals, the seeded teams all advances, althogh Tsuruga Kehi kept Fukui Shougyou's hands full. Fukushou would take the lead for good with a run in the 7th.
The semifinals would be no contest. Fukui Koudai Fukui handled Tsuruga Kougyou in 5 innings, while Fukushou defeated Oono 7-3.
And in the finals, while Fukui Koudai Fukui would score the opening run in the 2rd, the lead would be short lived. Fukushou would tie the game in the 4th, and score 2 in the 7th. One more insurance run would seal the deal as Hasegawa Yousuke would pitch a 2 hitter in a 4-1 win.
Gifu - Toki Shougyou (3rd appearance, 1st in 5 years)
Gifu was just about to finish their block finals when last we saw them. In the block finals, Oogaki Shougyou surprisingly gave Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou but a 3-run 5th put enough distance for a 10-6 win. Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou though couldn't handle Oogaki Nichidai losing 10-0 in 6.
Tajimi with an easy road so far, defeats Yamagata 10-2 in 8 innings. They haven't had to face a seeded team yet. And finally, Toki Shougyou advances with a 9-1 mercy win over fellow seed Teikyou Kani.
In the semis, Toki Shougyou had no trouble with unseeded Tajimi, winning 7-2. In the other semi (and what could be considered a final), Oogaki Nichidai and Kenritsu Gifushou were entrenched in a pitching duel. The deadlock would finally be broken by Gifushou in the bottom of the 8th.
Final chance for Oogaki, They had runners at 1st and 2nd with no outs. They tried to put a bunt down, but when that failed, they changed to a hit-and-run. But Tomita missed on a pitch outside and they had the leading runner dead to rights. That would eventually be the deathknell for Oogaki.
And in the final, Toki Shougyou would jump on ace Sakurada. They would score two runs in the 1st. Gifushou would pull within 1 in the 5th, but every time they tried to pull close, Tokishou would pull away again. In the end, Gifushou would get only as close as one run, giving Toki Shougyou the Gifu championship.
Kyoto - Kyoto Gaidai Nishi (9th appearance, 1st in 5 years)
Kyoto was in the round of 16 16. A pet team of mine, can't really say why, Kyoto Subaru, was ousted by Higashiyama 1-0, while last year's champion Ryuukokudai Heian advanced 2-1 over Tounan. One quadrant was going to have an underdog team as Kita-Saga and Kyoto Shouei would face off.
Meanwhile, Kyoto Gaidai Nishi advanced over Nishi-Jyouyou, although it certainly wasn't a convincing win. But nobody else established themselves either. Kyoto Seishou had to score late to beat Otokuni, Ryuukokudai Heian needed the same to defeat Higashiyama, and while Kyoto Shouei won 6-0 over Kita Saga, it's hard not to discount their chances against Heian.
Except a 5-run 5th against Heian kinda throws that out the window, doesn't it? They win 5-3 and setup a finals matchup against Gaidai Nishi, who while recording just 4 hits, scored 2 runs in a 2-0 win over Seishou.
But Kyoto Shouei's luck would finally run out against Kyoto Gaidai Nishi. They would be jumped on early to the tune of 4 runs and didn't really challenge them. KGN advances with a 8-0 win for their first appearance in 3 years...
Them making it makes me more pissed off I can't go!
Okayama - Kurashiki Shougyou (9th appearance, 3rd consecutive)
Okayama was entering the quarterfinal stage. Last year's participant, and secondary seed Kurashiki Shougyou eked out a win against Konkou Gakuen with 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th. And their luck would continue as Okayama Gakugeikan defeated top seed Okayama Higashi Shougyou.
More seeded teams would fall the next day. Tamano's offense would fail them against Koujyoukan, managing just 4 hits in 10 innings, losing 2-0, and then after Okayama Rikaidai Fuzoku finally tied the game in the 7th, Tamano Kounan scores 4 in the top of the 8th pulling off the upset 9-5.
Kurashou took the opportunity and ran with it. They defeated Okayama Gakugeikan 4-2 in the semis and dominated Tamano Kounan as ace Shimada limited them to 4 hits in a 6-1 championship win and a repeat trip to Koushien.
Shimane - Kaisei (7th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
Kaisei's run to Koushien opened up significantly after the only other seeded team left, Iwamichisuikan, was upset by Matsue Kougyou 5-4 in 11 innings. And that was after they had to come back from down 4-0 in the first inning.
But unseeded Oota seemed to be emerging as a possible threat to Kaisei, throwing a 3-hit shutout against Izumo Nishi, then annihilating the aforementioned Matsue Kougyou 13-1.
Kaisei would not be denied though. In the finals against Oota, Shirane would throw a 2-hit shutout, and Kaisei would punch their ticket to Koushien with a 4-0 win.
Saga - Saga Gakuen (6th appearance, 1st in 6 years)
Saga was already in the semifinal stages. With 2 big names such as Saga Shougyou and Saga Gakuen, it seemed like we were fated for such a final. And sure enough, with relatively easy victories, that's the final we got.
But in the final, Saga Gakuen got to Sashou's ace Oota for 3 runs early. In the end, Saga Gakuen cruises to a 7-2 win.
Kumamoto - Kyushu Gakuin (7th appearance, 1st in 10 years)
The status quo seemed to be upheld in the round of 16 games as most of the seeded teams advanced.
But it wasn't necessarily easy.
First of all, Shuugakukan didn't get past their game, falling flat against Toukaidai Dai-ni 4-2. Jyouhoku trailed Tamana Kougyou late until they scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th. Kyushu Gakuin trailed Touryou 2-0, but tied it up in the 7th, winning in 11. The only easy game was Kumamoto Kokufu, who handled Seiseiko 10-1 in 7.
In the quarterfinals, Kumamoto Kougyou continued to roll, shutting out Senshuudai Tamana 5-0 - although they managed those runs on just 5 hits. Yatsushiro Higashi pulled off their 2nd straight upset, 4-hitting Hitsuyuukan 3-1. Toukaidai Fuzoku Dai-ni did the exact same thing, defeating Jyouhoku 2-1. The final Best 4 team would be Kyushu Gakuin, who had no side effects from the 11 inning game the day before.
And in fact momentum continued to build for Kyushu as they rolled over unseeded Toukai 9-1 in 7 innings for a spot in the finals. And shockingly, Yatsushiro Higashi's Motomura and Masuda combined for a 5-hit shutout against their 3rd seeded team in Kumamoto Kougyou!
In the finals though, Kyushu Gakuin would score early on the cinderella team, getting ahead 6-0 as they would cruise to a 7-3 win and a spot in Koushien.