With the Osaka final on August 1, the field for the 92nd Koushien Tournament is set! The last prefectures featured some of the headliners, and one very important team.
Kanagawa - Toukaidai Sagami (8th appearance, 1st in 33 years)
From 186 to 1. That was the theme of the tournament. After the 22nd, we were down to 16. Keiou and Toukaidai Sagami were part of the 2nd 8 to advance.
At Yokohama Stadium, the Round of 16 opened up with Yokohama in a blowout of top seeded Yokohama Shoudai 15-8 in 8 innings. They'd face a strong team in Touin Gakuen.
Another top seed would fall at Sagamihara as #13 Busou would pull off the 3-2 upset. And over in Hiradzuka, another quarterfinal is set, and boy is it a doozy. Keiou and Toukaidai Sagami pull shutout wins and their matchup at Yokohama Stadium would be a must watch.
Finally at Hodogaya, Yokohama Hayato was out to repeat in this difficult setting, and moved one step closer with a 5-inning win against Nichidai. They would have to face the last remaining top seed, Yokohama Sougakukan.
Quick turnaround would be the case for Yokohama and Yokohama Hayato. For Yokohama, Touin Gakuen opened the scoring in the 4th with 2 runs, but ace Ishigaki couldn't make it through the 6th inning, giving up 3 runs. Fujioka would relieve him, but it would be too late. Yokohama would advance 6-2. As for Yokohama Hayato, a quick 1-0 lead evaporated as Sougakukan scored 4 in the 3rd. But Yokohama Hayato had a reputation to uphold. They charge back with 5 runs in the next 2 innings for the lead. Then that lead evaporated in the next 2 innings. Hayato tied it in the 8th, and would win in 10!
So the semifinal matchup would be a repeat of last year's quarterfinal where Yokohama Hayato blew a 6 run lead, but still won in 10.
The other quarterfinals saw Busou upset another higher seeded team in Koumyou Sagamihara. But if they wanted to advance to the finals, they would have to face either Keiou or Toukaidai Sagami.
And it was Keiou who would get to Hifumi Shinta right off the bat with a run in the 1st. Sannomiya for Keiou meanwhile was keeping the Sagami offense off the board. But in the 5th they would finally score a run, tying the game. And in this game where it was down to the stamina of the pitchers, Hifumi proved to be the better team. Toukaidai Sagami would finally get to Sannomiya, scoring 5 runs in the last three innings and knocking him out. A 6-2 win would help Hifumi and his team a second crack to make... well... a first impression.
Semifinals, and Yokohama Hayato jumped all over Yokohama ace Saitou for 5 runs in the top of the first! Another upset for they Hanshin dopplegangers?
Ace Imaoka couldn't keep the lead. Yokohama would score 2 runs in the 3rd, and then 2 more in each of the next 3 innings. There would be no comeback for Hayato this time, as Yokohama would advance to the finals with a 9-5 win. Meanwhile, Busou didn't get blown out by Toukaidai Sagami, but at the same time never posed a real threat.
So the final was set between Yokohama and Toukaidai Sagami.
Hifumi would not be denied though. He gave up 4 hits in a 9-3 win over Yokohama and he'll get another chance to prove himself.
Aichi - Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (26th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
Aichi's 8 block winners were finally being determined. There were some interesting storylines going into the block finals.
In Block A, it was a battle of sister schools as Aichi Sangyoudai Kougyou faced Aichi Sangyoudai Mikawa! Block C had Seijyou, who played 3 consecutive extra innings games, winning 7-6 in all of them, and in their block semifinal won 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th! And in Block F, we had what could be a final in Touhou vs. Aikoudai Meiden!
As for what happened, Sangyoudai Kougyou defeated Sangyoudai Mikawa 3-1, Seijyou gave up 6 runs in the 7th to Eitoku and wound up losing 8-6, and Aikoudai Meiden was mercy ruled by Touhou.
When the draw was done for the Best 8, Chuukyoudai Chuukyou and Touhou were on opposite sides of the bracket.
Except that idea died right off the bat. Aichi Keisei defeated Touhou 6-3. So really, that mean that Chuukyoudai Chuukyou had a clear road to try and repeat as champions.
And really, it was pretty anticlimactic. None of their opponents, not even Aichi Keisei in the finals really got close.
Hyogo - Houtoku Gakuen (14th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
Hyogo was finishing their 16 blocks as well. Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku, looking to reach both spring and summer Koushien tournaments, barely beat Ikuei 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th.
Of the 16 block seeds, only 7 advanced to the 2nd level of play (Hyogo has 3 levels - Block, Round of 16 & Quarterfinals, Semifinals & Finals)
In the 2nd level, Kansei Gakuin's attempt to go back-to-back fell short as Block 12 seed Ichikawa defeated them 2-1. Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku's run continued as Oogawa and Okamoto combined for a 2-hit shutout of Kakogawa Kita.
In the end, the teams that advanced to the best 4 were for the most part the best of the best. Shinkou Gakuen, Houtoku Gakuen, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku and Ichikawa.
The semifinals though, were a bit of a shock. Ichikawa takes a lead on Shinkou Gakuen, loses it late, but comes back to win 4-3 in 10! And as for Okamoto Ken, he was actually pulled after just 3.2 innings against Houtoku Gakuen. It seemed to work... until the 8th. Houtoku scores 6 off of Oogawa and Kobe Kokusaidai falls 8-4.
Houtoku Gakuen handles Ichikawa 4-0 in the final, and earn their 14th appearance.
Miyazaki - Nobeoka Gakuen (6th appearance, 1st in 4 years)
We had our second major upset of the tournament on the 22nd when Miyazaki Dai-ichi's Imaoka threw a 4-hitter against seeded Hyuuga Gakuin.
Outside of that, and Miyakonojyou Shougyou's early exit, all other top seeds made the Best 8.
The quarterfinals started with a bang as unseeded Sadowara upset their 2nd seeded team, managing 2 runs on just 3 hits, thanks in part to 7 walks, while the tandem of Kuroda and Kashiwada limited Nichinan Gakuen to just 5 hits. Sadowara moved one step closer to their 2nd ever appearance with a 2-1 win.
That game would set a precedent for games that day as they were low scoring, and low on offense. In game 3 of the day the other unseeded team, Miyazaki Dai-ichi, knocked out starter Nakano in the 4th inning, and would go on to win 4-2. That victory brought them to the Best 4, just 2 games away from their first ever Koushien.
The number would become 1 as they came back from a 3-0 deficit against Sadowara to take a 5-4 lead in the top of the 8th. The nerves may have gotten to Imaoka though, as he allowed the tying run to cross in the bottom of the 9th. But the offense would have his back, scoring the winning run in the top of the 10th.
In order to get to Koushien though, they would have to get past Nobeoka Gakuen, who mercy ruled Miyazaki Shougyou 8-0...
Sadly, it was not to be. Imaoka could not stop Nobeoka's offense as he gave up 4 runs in 8 innings. Nobeoka Gakuen would win the title with a 6-2 win.
Osaka - Riseisha (2nd appearance, 1st in 13 years)
Osaka, like Hyogo, has 3 levels. Theirs is regional play, followed by the rounds of 32 and 16, and then the Best 8 on.
As we got to the field of 32, one game to note was another sister school matchup. Minamichi Regionals, Nankou Chuo, Block 5, Kinkidai Fuzoku faced Kinkidai Senshuu and won 11-3 in 8.
Even in field of 32, there were boxscores that were just interesting to see. Osaka Shougyoudai led Yao 5-1 until Yao scored 6 in the 6th. Shougyoudai would actually come back to win the game with 3 runs in the top of the 9th. Riseisha who drew PL Gakuen, had one heck of a last couple of innings. Down 4-2 after PL scores 2 in the bottom of the 7th, they score 3 to take the lead, only to see PL score 3 to get back their 2-run lead... which they then took back with 2 in the top of the 9th! In the end, Riseisha would defeat Perfect Liberty with a run in the top of the 10th.
(For those that were wondering, "What does PL in PL Gakuen stand for?", it stands for Perfect Liberty, a religion founded after WWII.)
Anyways, going on to the final part of the 2nd stage, there were still games that didn't disappoint.
Osaka Taiikudai Namishou and Uenomiya Taishi had 4 and 6 hits respectively. Furthermore the game was scoreless going into extras. Yet the final score was 3-2 for Osaka Taiiku! Unfortunately, I can't recreate the inning, so I don't know if Uenomiya's ace Nakao had pitched a 1-hitter until the 10th.
With the remaining participants lacking some of the more recent names, it seemed like the tournament was Konkou Osaka's to lose. And they looked fairly strong defeating Minoo Higashi 9-1. But Riseisha dismantled Katano 10-3, 2008 representative Kinkidai Fuzoku came back to defeat Sakuradzuka 7-5, and Osaka Taiikudai Namishou continued on with a 1-0 win over Sakuranomiya.
But it would not be Konkou Osaka's year. Osaka Taiikudai's Kitabatake managed to keep the offense in check, while the bats made use of their 6 lone hits. Konkou made a late push, tying the game at 2 in the top of the 8th, but Konkou's Koreeda(?) couldn't hold serve. Osaka Taiikudai completes the 3-2 upset.
Meanwhile, Riseisha uncharacteristically annihilated Kinkidai Fuzoku 10-0 in 5 innings as Kinkidai managed just one hit off of Iidzuka. I say uncharacteristically because in a prefecture such as Osaka, it's odd to see such a blowout game in the semifinals.
In the finals, Iidzuka would continue to work his magic, throwing another shutout against Taiikudai. Riseisha would score 1 in the top of the first to open, then score 2 in the 9th for insurance as they earn only their 2nd ever appearance.