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.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

9 more tickets punched!

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 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 didn't.

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.


So, I'm getting really pissed off I'm not going this year.

Shizuoka's final is one that I always wanted, and now I have:

Tokoha Tachibana vs. Tokoha Kikugawa

Sure, it's almost become a monopoly in Shizuoka, but I don't care. I like both schools. Sure, only one can go, but then again one will go.

And I love the "sibling" rivalry aspect of it all too.

#%(*!@&%^( ... Stupid work...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tickets punched on the 26th

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.

Tickets punched as of July 25th

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:

July 22nd
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.

July 23rd
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.

July 24th
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.

July 25th
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.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Prefectural Qualifying Games on

To reiterate a post by a follower here, there is a channel on Justin TV that is showing qualifying games. They are primarily in the Kanto region, covering Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa.

The link is here. Games begin generally at 08:30 JST.

(and there's two more. One in the Hiroshima area. The other also in the Kanto region.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010


As mentioned in the earlier post, there was a chance that we could have a Waseda Jitsugyou-Waseda Gakuin semifinal in Nishi Tokyo.

This isn't unprecedented. There was the Nichidai-san vs. Nichidai-ni games that have happened the last two years.

But both teams are good and it can be a regular occurrence. But when it comes to Waseda, it's generally Waseda Jitsugyou, and the rest.

So when the possibility of a matchup like this exists, it's kinda interesting.

Well, it's going to happen. Waseda Jitsugyou defeated Souka 15-3 in 7 innnings. Then Wasedadai Gakuin took the field against #9 Toua Gakuen.

It was invariably a pitchers' duel as the field emitted heat as temperatures reached 90+ F. Neither team was able to really get anything started. But right before the break, a base hit up the middle scores a run for Waseda. And ace Chiba made it stand up!

So in 2 days, we're going to have an all-Waseda matchup. Prepare for a TON of Waseda jerseys and a lot of Konpeki no sora.

Nationwide update (up to 21st)

I'm still working on updating the brackets, but I'll try to give some type of recap.

Kita Hokkaido
Kita Hokkaido is in the best 4. No surprise that Komadai Iwamizawa is there, but barely survived Wakkanai Ootani 4-3. They face Asahikawa Jitsugyou, who had to score 2 in the top of the 9th to beat Asahikawa Ryuukoku by the same score. In the other semifinal, there's Bushuukan facing unlikely Engaru who actually has had little trouble in the prefectural finals (although they really haven't faced any tough competition).

Minami Hokkaido
Minami Hokkaido will also be entering the best 4 today. The first team to get there was Hakodatedai Yuuto as expected. They'll face the winner of the Sapporo Dai-ichi vs. Sapporo Shiroishi game. I'd give the nod to Dai-ichi to advance to the semis, but their game against Komadai Tomakomai in the first round makes things muddy. Both teams scored in every inning that someone scored (i.e. either neither scored, or both scored). But going into the 8th, Tomakomai led 11-7. That's when Dai-ichi scores 2 in the last 2 innings of regulation to tie the game. And in the 10th, they score the go-ahead run to complete the comeback 12-11.

Personally I'd like to see Hakodatedai Yuuto make a run at the title - if nothing else that they've always been a good team, but never have been able to win it all.

The other semifinal will between the winners of Hakodate Kougyou-Hokushou and Sapporo Nichidai-Hokkaido Sakae. Chances are that Hokushou will advance out of this side of the bracket.

Aomori is also in their best 4. In one semi, it's Aomori Kougyou vs. #1 Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi. Aomori Kougyou had the benefit of a quadrant that saw #4 Hirosaki Minami exit early. Kougyou has lasted this long, but it's almost a certainty that they'll fall to the top seed.

On the other semi, it's a clash between powerhouses #2 Kousei Gakuin and #3 Aomori Yamada. Kousei has breezed through mercy ruling 3 of their 4 opponents, while Aomori Yamada only mercy ruled their first opponent, and beat Aomori Higashi in the quarterfinals 6-3.

Akita is in the best 4 as well. And I think we probably have our winner. In one semifinal is #1 Akita Shougyou facing #5 Takanosu. Takanosu barely survived Akita Chuo 5-4 in 10. Now, Akitasho hasn't shown a lot of offense, but they have been good in not giving up runs.

The other semifinal is Noshiro Shougyou vs. Nishisenboku. Only Noshiro has a prior Koshien appearance and that was back in 1985. Nishisenboku though, seems to have an ace in Sendou. While not a strikeout pitcher, he has carried a WHIP of 0.815 over the last 3 games, including a 4-hit shutout over #2 Oomagari Kougyou. Noshiro Shougyou has been just about impressive, defeating both last year's qualifier Meiou and #3 Kanaashi Nougyou. But the box score figures have deteriorated as they've advanced allowing either more hits, or more walks.

I wouldn't be surprised to see an Akitasho-Nishisenboku final, which should be interesting, but I think Akitasho is the frontrunner to go.

Iwate will be starting the round of 16 today. All 4 seeded teams have advanced so far. But the surprise is that top seed Kuji has only won their first two games 1-0 and 2-1. Ace Kikuchi Kazuhiro has kept his team in the games.

He's apparently found a second wind after being embarrassed in a 9-0 loss to Hanamaki Higashi last summer. Since then, he's come back to defeat Hanamaki Higashi 3-1 in the spring tournament prefectural final, and his only loss in tournament play so far in 2010 has been to Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi in the semifinals of the Tohoku Spring Tournament.

Kuji's next game will be against Mizusawa who has had little trouble in the tournament so far. Should they win that game, they'll probably have to face Ichinoseki Gakuin.

On the other side, it seems like #2 Hanamaki Higashi and #3 Senshuudai Kitami are on a collision course for the semifinals. Neither team has had too much trouble and the competition doesn't seem threatening.

Yamagata is in the round of 16. It's hard to say how the teams are doing as the top 8 have only played one game and all 8 have survived. Can't really comment on who's a favorite here. And none of the other teams have shown to be extraordinarily impressive except for perhaps Nagai who has won their 2 games via mercy rule.

Miyagi was supposed to be in the Best 8 right now, but a funny thing happened on the way there...

Sendai Shougyou tied Tohoku Gakuin 4-all after scoring 2 in the bottom of the 8th. And they stayed that way through 15 innings.

So... It's the Best 7 right now...

Now, of those 7, #1 Sendai Ikuei is the only seeded team left. But ace Kimura needed to pitch a 5-hit shutout as his team managed only one run against Shiroishi.

Good news? They're facing the Sendai Shougyou-Tohoku Gakuin game. It'll be 3 games in three days for the winner of that game, and you're asked to play the #1 seed? No chance.

Past that game, they'll face the winner of Izumi Tateyama-Rifu. Rifu we remember when they made that deep run in senbatsu last year reaching the semifinals. Izumi Tateyama seems to be the beneficiary of good timing so far, whether it be scoring 4 runs on 2 hits against Natori Kita, or coming from behind to beat Miyagi Hirose.

On the other side, we have Kesennuma Kouyou vs. Sendai Higashi and Sendai Dai-ichi vs. Tohoku. There's not much on the first matchup, but Sendai Higashi has been rather resilient in their last 2 games. Against Furukawa, they were tied at 0 when Furukawa scored 1 in the top of the 9th. Higashi comes back with 2 in the bottom of the 9th to win. Then they claw back from down 0-2 early against Kurokawa to win 4-2. But one wonders how long they can keep doing things like that.

The second matchup features last year's winner. But up until their last game, they hadn't looked all that impressive. Still, one would expect them to move on into the semifinals, and perhaps the finals.

Fukushima will have their semifinals today, and at this point, it's Seikou Gakuin's to lose. The only other participant to have an appearance is Kounan who went in 2008.

Their opponent in the semis is Odaka Kougyou. They upset #4 Futaba 4-2 on the way there and have used either ace Yoshino or secondary starter Nohara. They seem to have gained momentum after the upset, but they also haven't faced that tough of competition.

In the other semi, the aforementioned Kounan faces off against Shirakawa. Now they did defeat #6 Aidzu, but never had to face #3 Nihon Tohoku. Not sure who has the advantage in this game other than maybe Kounan who has recent experience.

But in all, it's Seikou Gakuin in the pole position.

Gunma will finish setting their Best 8 today. #1 Maebashi Shougyou has already advanced while #3 Takasaki Kenkoufukushi and #4 Tomioka play today.

Maebashi will meet Oota Higashi in the quarterfinals. Oota has depended on ace Sakamoto for their games, giving up just 1 run in 27 innings, and only 14 hits and 3 walks.

The other set quarterfinal is between Tatebayashi and Maebashi Kougyou. It's a bit odd that Maebashi Kougyou wasn't a seeded team given that they were in senbatsu earlier this year. They certainly responded to the challenge by defeating #2 Kiryuu Dai-ichi in their first game and mercy ruling the rest of their opponents. There's nothing special about Tatebayashi, but they were able to rally against Shiritsu Maebashi from down 7-3 to win 8-7 in 10.

Tochigi has half of the semifinals set. And for the most part it's been chalk. 3 seeded teams were eliminated - Mooka and Yaita Chuo lost in the first round, and Nasu Seihou lost to current Best 8 Utsunomiya Minami. Last year's participant Sakushin Gakuin has been rather impressive their first 3 games and just beat fellow seed Kokugakuin Tochigi 6-1 to advance to the semis. They'll face another seed in Tochigi Kougyou for the right to play in the championship.

Today's games will have seeded teams Seiran Taito and Utsunomiya Kougyou face off. Neither team has been really challenged in their games so far and both teams represented Tochigi in the spring Kanto super-regionals. Should be a good game.

The other is the aforementioned Utsunomiya Minami versus Sano Nihon. Both had recent appearances in senbatsu although neither has had a whole lot of success since then. Again, both have not been challenged so far so it's hard to say who if any has an advantage.

Ibaraki is in the round of 16. Of the 8 seeded teams, 6 are remaining (#4 Toride Dai-ni and #8 Tsukuba Shuuei were eliminated). None of them have had been really challenged outside of perhaps #6 Koga Dai-ichi who survived a late charge by Sawa.

Saitama is in the round of 16, and the committee has seemed to have done a good job as the top 4 seeds have made it so far with little problem except for perhaps last year's champion Hanasaki Tokuharu. They were given a shock as they let Shiritsu Kawaguchi get within 1.

Other teams remaining include Tokorozawa Kita, who came back from down 4-0 in the 1st to Hanno Minami capping it with 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th winning 5-4.

Chiba is now in their best 8 My team and one of 2 top seeds still in is Narashino. They'll have to face Shiritsu Kashiwa today. The other top seed is Urayasu, but they've been involved in close games - probably closer than they'd like.

But the entire field is littered with strong teams. Should Narashino win, they'll have to face the winner of the Narita-Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku game. Urayasu faces senbatsu participant Toukaidai Bouyou while Senshuudai Matsudo will face upset-minded Chiba Keiai who has been on one heck of a run!

Nishi Tokyo
Nishi Tokyo is in the quarterfinals, and 5 of the 10 seeded teams have made it.

Top seed Nihon Tsurugaoka came back against Touhou with 2 runs in the bottom of the 7th to win 3-2. They'll face Obirin (i.e. Oberlin, yes THAT Oberlin) who has been rather impressive in its games.

In a repeat of last year's final, Nichidai-san once again beat up on Nichidai-ni to the tune of 10-0 in 6 innings. They'll face Horikoshi who beat #4 Kokugakuin Kugayama, then rallied from 7-3 to defeat Meijidai Meiji 9-8.

On the other side, it's possible we could have an all-Waseda semifinal. Wasedadai Gakuin squares off against #9 Toua Gakuen, while #2 Waseda Jitsugyou plays #7 Souka.

First of all, could you imagine having a field full of Waseda jerseys? And then both sides singing Konpeki no sora? It would be fun. At least that's what I would think.

Might be a 1-2 matchup in the final, the way things are split right now.

Higashi Tokyo
Since Nishi and Higashi Tokyo alternate usage of Meiji Jingu, Higashi Tokyo just finished the round of 16 games.

Deanna mentioned Shuutoku's Mitsumata as a player to watch. He's pitched in all of their games so far, but unfortunately, I don't really have much to go on. He did survive a late rally by Seijyou Gakuen who scored 2 runs in the 9th to pull within one at 4-3. Don't know if he'll start tomorrow against Momijigawa.

If they win that game, chances are they'll face Kokushikan. While not seeded, they are generally considered an top tier team and have mercy ruled their last 3 games - including a 14-6, 7 inning win against Teikyou. Before getting ahead of ourselves, they have a game against Adachi Shinden.

On the other side, we have #3 Seiritsu Gakuen and #6 Nihon Daigaku Buzan squaring off in one quarterfinal, while #2 Kanto Dai-ichi meets Yasuda Gakuen.

Seiritsu Gakuen was actually behind Ueno Gakuen 2-0, but put together 3 run-scoring innings to win 3-2. Kanto Dai-ichi has only been challenged by last year's runner-up Yukigaya winning by a score of 2-0.

Kanagawa is just about to set the field of 16.

But before we get to that, there were a few games on the 18th that were rather exciting.

The big one was Yokohama-Yokohama Sougou. Yokohama Sougou was just 3 out away from defeating the vaunted squad when perhaps nerves got to them. Yokohama would score 2 in the top of the 9th to take the lead 3-2. That would be the final margin.

After that one, top seeded Yokohama Sougakukan traied Yokosuka by one going into the bottom of the 9th. Ace Inoue Yuutarou was 3 outs away when he gives up a homerun to Nagao to tie the game at 5. And if that weren't crushing enough, in the 10th against ace Gokita(?) Yuusuke, he gives up the sayonara 2-run homerun. You can't help but feel bad for Inoue.

At Fujisawa Happe, Ebina lost a 2-run lead in the 8th to Yokosuka Gakuin. Then when they scored a run in the 10th, so did Yokosuka. But when they scored another run in the 11th, they made sure they shut the door on Yokosuka.

And over at Matano, Chigasaki Nishihama also blew a lead, this one a 3-run lead to Shirosato. But 2 runs in the 11th gave them the win.

The Round of 16 games so far are between:
  • #1 Yokohama Shokudai vs. Yokohama (should be good!)
  • #5 Touin Gakuen vs. Ebina
  • #1 Yokohama Sougakukan vs. Chigasaki Nishihama
  • Yokohama Hayato vs. #9 Nichidai
(There are more than 1 #1 seeds as they just divide them into 4 levels instead of 16 seeds.)

Niigata is entering quarterfinal play today. Of the 8 seeded teams, only half remain.

#1 Niigata Meikun squares off against a #8 Niigata squad who has a short turnaround after their round of 16 game against Hokuetsu. Hokuetsu actually held a 6-1 lead, but saw it evaporate after a 4-run 7th and a run in the 8th. The game went into extras, and Hokuetsu actually looked to have the game won after scoring a run in the top of the 13th. Niigata though wouldn't quit and scored 2 to end the game. The winner of that game will meet the winner of the #5 Chuuetsu versus Murakami Sakuragaoka.

On the other side, it's Koshien runner-up and #3 seed Nihon Bunri playing against Shibata Nougyou who upset #6 Shibata Chuo in one game, and unseeded teams Sanjyou Higashi and Muikamachi in the other game.

Nihon Bunri has a good chance of trying to return to win it all this year, so long as they can get past Niigata Meikun.

Nagano has half of their Best 4 field set, and I couldn't be more happier. Mainly because a school representing an area a friend lives in is in the best 4! That would be unseeded Ueda Chikuma who admittedly has not had to face a seeded team this entire tournament. Of the 4 games, 3 had winning margins of just 1 (the other had 2), and 2 games go into extras. So they certainly have had to work hard. Their most recent game was against Nagano, where the game went scoreless into extras. There, in the 13th Hoshina led off with a double down the 3rd base line. After a sacrifice and two walks, Onuma hits a double down the right field line scoring 2! Nagano would get a run back with 2 down, but could not extend the game.

The other Best 4 qualifier so far is Matsushou Gakuen. Shockingly (or perhaps not given their scores), they mercy ruled fellow seeded team Maruko Shuugakukan 7-0 in 7 innings!

The quarterfinal games to be played today include seeded teams Nagano Nichidai vs. Matsumoto Kougyou and Toukai Dai-san vs. Saku Chousei.

So perhaps it's more impressive that Ueda Chikuma survived this long considering that all the other teams were seeded.

Toyama is still in the early stages of the tournament. They'll be wrapping up the 2nd round today to get to the round of 16.

So far, quite a few mercy rule games.

Fukui is wrapping up the round of 16 today.

And it's been an interesting tournament so far. Out of the 16 games played so far, there have been 5 extra inning affairs. Oddly enough, all of them happened at Fukui Prefectural.

First, there was Usui vs. Koshi. Tied at 3, Koshi scored a run in the top of the 9th to take the lead. Usui managed to tie it up to send it to extras. Then in the 11th, with 2 outs, Tanaka Nao hits the sayonara home run to right field.

Later in the day, Tsuruga Kougyou would score 3 in the top of the 10th to defeat Takefu 5-2.

Then on the 19th, Fukui Nourin and Hokuriku were scoreless going into extras. Both teams having gone to their relief staff, it would be Nourin's Masunari who would crack. Hokuriku would score the winning run in the bottom of the 12th.

The very next game, Tsuruga Kehi and Wakasa went into extras! Wakasa sent it into enchousen after tying it at 2 in the bottom of the 8th. The game would go all the way to the 15th and final inning. Just when Wakasa looked to pull out a draw at best, ace Sumiyoshi could not close the deal. Tsuruga Kehi scores 2 in the top of the 15th and holds on to win 4-2.

And finally on the 21st, Fukui Koudai Fukui was actually trailing Takefu Shougyou 1-0! They were able to tie the score in the 8th and win it in the 11th!

Ishikawa has such few teams that they start late, but quickly go through the brackets. They'll have the field of 16 set after today. All the top tier teams only need 1 game to get there so it's hard to gauge. But teams like Yuugakukan, Kanazawa and Seiryou have won their first game. Last year's participant Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa will play today.

Shiga is pretty much caught up now in it's games. All 4 seeds have advanced through their first games into the round of 16. Last year's participant Shiga Gakuen also has advanced through their first game. They'll have a date with Oumi if they defeat Nagahama Hokusei.

Yamanashi will have their Best 4 determined today. One semi is already determined. Top seed Hikawa will face second seed Nichidai Meisei. Hikawa defeated one of my favorite teams in Nihon Koukuu (i.e. Japan Aviation Academy), while Nichidai Meisei defeated last year's winner Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku 6-5 thanks to a run in the bottom of the 8th, and a sayonara run in the bottom of the 9th.

The quarterfinal games today include Fuji Gakuen vs. Katsura and top seeded Koufu Shougyou vs. Koufu Kougyou.

Interestingly for Gifu, they decide to do block play even though they don't have a lot of schools.

Anyways, they're having the block finals today and tomorrow.

Of the 8 possible seeded teams, 5 made it to the Best 8. That includes last year's participant Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou as well as past participants Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou and Oogaki Nichidai. Another Teikyou school in Teikyou Kani is here as well.

Aichi has caught up from the prior rainouts. Block play is approaching the semifinals. Of the 8 block seeds, only D Block's Homare has been eliminated. That means that last year's winner Chuukyoudai Chuukyou is still in it as well as Touhou. Aikoudai Meiden is trying to advance from the unseeded ranks, but they're in the same block as Touhou.

There was a bit of irony in the tournament, and it comes at the expense of Anjyou Gakuen. In their first round game against Shinshiro Higashi they were down 9-4 going into the top of the 9th when they scored 6 runs and won 10-9. 8 days later, they play Tojyaku and they led them 9-4 going into the bottom of the 9th. And I'm sure you know what happens next...

Yep. Tojyaku scores 6 in the bottom of the 9th to defeat Anjyou Gakuen. Karma's a... well, you know...

Shizuoka is having their round of 16 games today.

Of the seeded teams, Nichidai Mishima and Yaidzu Chuo are the only ones eliminated.

The Tokoha schools are both still in it - last year's Tokoha Tachibana and former senbatsu winner (and 2008 runner-up) Tokoha Kikugawa.

I (not so secretly now) want an all Tokoha final.

Mie will be getting the second half of the round of 16 determined today. Last year's Koshien participant Mie is still in it. Other notable teams such as Komono is still in it, but remember that with such a small field, teams have played 1 or 2 games.

Kyoto will be setting the rest of the Best 8 today. The two participants already there are Nishi-Jyouyou and one of "my teams" in Kyoto Gaidai Nishi. Of course, they survived their recent game against Ootani. They scored 2 in the top of the 9th to tie the game, then scored the winning run in the 13th.

The rest of the field includes last year's participant Ryuukokudai Heian, and another random team I like in Kyoto Subaru.

Outside of those teams, it's hard to see anyone else really challenging for the Kyoto bid. There's teams that have been impressive, such as Kyoto Seishou, Otokuni, and Kita-Saga. But against what level of competition I don't really know.

Nara is really a two horse race - Tenri and Chiben Gakuen. They have represent Nara since 2001. And since they're on opposite sides of the bracket, it seems likely that it could be the finals matchup.

But there are some interesting stories. Ikoma has had two walkoff games so far. That in and of itself isn't necessarily all that great, but considering they haven't won a tournament game since 2007 makes it more impressive. Sadly, they're running into the Chiben engine in the Best 8.

And it must be frustrating to be Takada Shougyou. Probably the best team not named Tenri or Chiben Gakuen, they are fairly successful in tournament play, but just can't break that ceiling.

Speaking of a ceiling, is there no bigger ceiling to break than Chiben Wakayama?

But perhaps there's some chinks in the armor. Kaseda, who had outlasted Taikyuu 2-1 in 11 innings in their first game was going into the bottom of the 9th with a 2-run lead. Ayame(?) couldn't close the door though and Chiben slammed through with 2 runs. The ball was given to Hirata for extras, but he could only go 1.1 before giving up the sayonara run.

I was impressed by Kouyou at senbatsu, and they looked good in their first game against Tanabe Kougyou, but again, they'll have to face Chiben Wakayama.

So teams will have to mostly focus on the small things, like getting as far as one can. Hatsushiba Hashimoto against Tanabe scored 5 runs in the bottom of the 8th to win 7-6 on the 18th.

Oooo~saka~~~ (sorry, been reading Azumanga Daioh again)
Osaka will be wrapping up block play in the next couple of days.

No upsets on the big name teams so far. Couple of good games though. Takaishi, down to their last 3 outs and down 3, find a way to tie the game against Kaidzuka Minami. They score the sayonara run one inning later.

Ikuno Kounan, facing the Rinku Shounan combined squad, thought they had the game won with a run in the bottom of the 8th. But Rinku fought back and leveled the score. Worse yet, Rinku scores 2 in the top of the 11th and all seems lost. But Ikuno comes back with 3 runs to win the game!

Sano blew a 3-run lead against Midori Seihou, but manages to put through the winning run in the 12th. Osaka Shougyoudai trailed Tondabayashi 4-3 going into the 9th, but rallies for 3 runs to win 6-4. Senriseiun scores 2 in the bottom of the 8th and the bottom of the 9th to beat Osaka Kyouikudai Ikeda 6-5.

Finally, Hirakata Tsuda has their 2nd consecutive walkoff as they rally from down 3-1, capping it with 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th for the sayonara victory over Ougimachi Sougyou. It's their second 4-3 win.

Hyogo is a couple of days behind but will have their 16 block winners in the next 2 days. Only 7 of the 16 seeded teams are still around, including Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku and ace Okamoto Ken. Joining them are Kansei Gakuin (who I think captured quite a few fans with their C/P ace), Houtoku Gakuen and Shinkou Gakuen.

Tottori's tournament goes in the blink of an eye (8 days to be exact), so outside of looking at the seeded teams, it's hard to gauge who's a front runner. There have been a handful of mercy rule games, and more predominantly low scoring affairs.

About the only thing I can say is that it's probable the representative from here is a one-and-done team.

Okayama is in their Best 8. Two top seeds and one second seed have been upset, but recent participants such as Kurayoshi Shougyou and Okayama Rikadai Fuzoku are still around. In addition there are no leaders in the clubhouse to take it all right now.

I'm not sure how to explain it, but when I see prefectures like Tottori and Shimane with less than 50 high schools, then compare it to others which have quite a few more, it reminds me about the continued aging of Japanese society and the movement of people to the metropolitan areas.

So Shimane is already in the Best 8 after just 5 days of games. Of those 8, they include Kaisei and Iwamichisuikan (fka Gonokawa).

Hiroshima while a day behind, just about has their round of 16 set. Front runners Kouryou and Jyousuikan are both still alive in the tournament and on opposite sides of the bracket.

Doesn't mean there aren't other strong teams remaining. Soutoku, Hiroshima Kougyou, Kure Shougyou, and one team that I'd like to see break through - Onomichi.

Yamaguchi is entering the round of 16 without last year's winner Karyou who lost to Takagawa Gakuen 8-4. Hayatomo is the only seeded team eliminated, but I'm not too familiar with the seeded teams.

Kagawa is a couple of days behind, but they're progressing. Sangawa is still around, as well as Takamatsu Shougyou. Interesting though that they're on the same side of the bracket.

Tokushima is just about in the best 8. Most seeded teams are still remaining with the exception of Anan Tousen who lost in the first round. Last year's participant Tokushima Kita also was eliminated in the first round, so the field is wide open to all including Komatsushima and Tokushima Shougyou.

With Imabari Nishi being upset in the first round (yes, they lost to Kawanoishi 4-2), the brackets open wide for Saijyou and Saibi to meet in the finals. I'm sure #2 seed Nomura will have something to say about that, but having never played at Koshien, they'll have to prove that they can get over that hump.

Kochi is down to their Best 4. And, it's all the seeded teams. Kochi and Kochi Shougyou, Meitoku Gijuku and Okou. Kochi and Meitoku Gijuku look to be the stronger teams so far. No surprise really given they have represented Kochi 9 of the last 10 years (Kochi Shougyou was the other). Okou is the biggest longshot. They just happen to be a good team in a prefecture with 2 strong ones.

Fukuoka has also reached the best 4 stage. Interestingly enough, 3 of the 4 participants had to play the extra game. Higashi-Fukuoka, Iidzuka and Nishi Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku all played 3 games to get to the semis.

Higashi-Fukuoka after an easy first game against Kaho Higashi, barely edged out Kyushu Sangyoudai Fuzoku and Kokura, Nishi Nippon Tankidai was involved in 3 low scoring affairs against Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou, Fukushou and Itoshima. Meanwhile, Iidzuka bookeneded a 7-5 game against Chikuyou Gakuen with 2 blowouts.

The final team is Toukaidai Dai-go. After edging Kurate 5-2, they saw their lead against Tobata disappear. Worse, Tobata scores a run in the top of the 10th, putting the team in jeopardy. Sure enough though, Toukai scores 2 in the bottom of the 10th for the sayonara win.

Saga just wrapped up the round of 16 play. 3 of the top 4 seeds (Saga Shougyou, Taku, Saga Gakuen) are still alive. The 4th was Saga Kita, but they were defeated by Ryuukoku handily in the first round 8-2 and are still alive in the tournament. Ryuukoku also defeated a Tosu squad that had won their 2 games in extras. Their next test will be a Arita Kougyou team that has come on as of late.

Nagasaki is in their best 8 - and almost all 8 seeds made it. The only exception was Keihou, who lost to Nagasaki Nishi 5-4. That was after they scored 4 in the 9th to defeat Seiryou 5-3 two days earlier.

Shikimachi Kougyou almost didn't make it either. They were in an extra inning affair against Shimabara Nougyou when they managed to win 2-1 in 14. Same goes for Kaisei. They were having fits against Kuwatana who they couldn't shake off. Worse, Kuwatana scored 2 in the 8th to take a 4-3 lead. But Kaisei would score 2 in the bottom of the 9th for the win.

The leader in the clubhouse has to be Sasebo Jitsugyou, who has looked impressive in it's 3 games so far.

The Best 8 is about to be set, and so far Buntoku is the only seeded team eliminated. Last year's participant Kumamoto Kougyou is still in it, as well as recent representatives Jyouhoku and Yatsushiro Higashi (who defeated the aforementioned Buntoku).

However, 2 of the seeds almost fell on the same day with Buntoku. Senshuudai Tamana trailed Luther Gakuin 5-3 when Tamana scored 3 in the bottom of the 8th. Amakusa Kougyou was upset-minded when they had a 5-run 5th to take the lead 6-5 over Hitsuyuukan. However, reliever Hayazaki couldn't hold the lead, giving up a run in the bottom of the 7th and 8th innings for the loss.

Oita is currently in their round of 16 games. Last summer's darlings Meihou is still in, and as strong as ever. Who isn't around is fellow top seed Oita. And their disappearance is by far the most shocking. Up 5-1 going into the 8th inning against Usa, they seemed to have the game in hand. Then in the bottom of the 8th, it all went to hell in a handbasket. Errors, misplays, and a loss of control led to 11 runs with only 1 out and a mercy rule 12-5 win.

In other games, Nihon Bunridai Fuzoku won their first game against Oita Higashi 4-3 in 11, then lost to Oita Minami 4-3 in 10 (both sayonara endings).

Miyazaki's schedule is a bit messed up, and it probably doesn't help that they're suffering from the whole Foot and Mouth disease in the prefecture.

All seeded teams have played one game, and Miyakonojyou Shougyou is the only team eliminated so far. But they lost because Sadowara was able to put together a 7-run lucky 7 when they were down 6-0!

However there were other seeded teams that almost bit the bullet too. Down 3-2 against Takachiho, Miyazaki Oomiya score 2 in the bottom of the 9th. Miyazaki Nichidai let Nobeoka Kougyou tie it up in the 7th. Then after getting a go-ahead run in the 10th, they give it right back. Finally, they score a run in the 11th and hold off Nobeoka for the win.

And in other games, Nisshou Gakuen outlasts Miyazaki Minami 2-0 in 13 innings, while St. Ursula score the gyakuten run against Miyakonojyou Higashi in the top of the 9th.