As expected (and as Deanna mentioned in the comments), Nichidai-san had no trouble at all with Shouwa. 3 in the 1st, 6th in the 6th and 3 in the 7th mean a 12-0 called game.
Kokugakuin Kugayama jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Hachiouji. Hachiouji did not let Kokugakuin intimidate them and scored 2 in the 4th and 6th innings to take the lead!
Kokugakuin struck right back with 3 runs in the 7th, but yet again Hachiouji would rally. They immediately claimed one back in the bottom of the 7th, and in the bottom of the 9th Masuzawa would deliver a bases-loaded single to right to tie it up!
But in the 10th, Kokugakuin would deliver the final blow. Kawaguchi would hit a 2-run homerun to center, and then with runners at 1st and 2nd Kameya would hit a double to right-center clearing the bases and giving them a 10-6 lead. Kikuchi would get one back for Hachiouji with a double to left, but that's all they would get.
So it was Nichidai-san versus Kokugakuin Kugayama for the final. Right off the bat in the bottom of the 1st leadoff batter Takayama hits a homerun to immediately give the favorites a 1-0 lead.
The score would remain at 1-0, but in the top of the 6th with a runner on 1st and 2 down for Kokugakuin, Shinkyo lines a ball down the right field line. The runner is sent around 3rd for home! But a great relay throw guns down the runner and keeps the lead for Nichidai-san!
That seemed to deflate Kokugakuin as Nichidai would extend the lead to 2 in the bottom of the 6th. Then in the 7th, Nichidai would get two hits with the bases loaded to make it 4-0. Nichidai ace Yoshinaga would not put a runner in scoring position after the 4th, scattering 5 hits and striking out 10, giving Nichidai-san their 12th Kanto title, and first in 9 years.
Things went as planned in the first round. Fukui Shougyou defeated Sakurai 2-1, although they needed to score a sayonara run in the bottom of the 9th to do it. The team from the island of Sado couldn't hold off Saku Chousei and lost 6-0 to setup the quarterfinal match I expected. Except that in that quarterfinal Saku Chousei mercy-ruled Fukui Shougyou 9-0 in 7 innings. Certainly a surprise to me.
Meanwhile, Kanazawa mercy ruled Fukuoka 9-0 in 7 innings, and Tsuruga Kehi held off a 9th inning rally from Hokuetsu to win 7-5. In this quarterfinal, the tables would be turned on Tsuruga Kehi, Kanazawa built up an 8-1 lead and had to hold off a late charge from the boys from Tsuruga, advancing with an 8-5 win.
On the other side, Shin-Minato did not let an early run from Fukui Koudai Fukui stop them as they pulled off a 3-1 upset! Sadly for Nagano champions Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri, Yuugakugan showed them no mercy, dispatching them 12-0 in just 5 innings. In the semifinal, surely Yuugakukan was the favorite. Yet it was Shin-Minato scoring 2 in the top of the 1st! Ace Hakaymaya would be tasked with maintaining the lead. With the full game to go for Yuugakukan, that would be difficult. Right off the bat, they would pull within 1. Two innings later, they tied the game. And finally, in the 6th inning, Yuugakukan would pull ahead with one more run. Shin-Minato was unable to gather any momentum after the 1st, and would fall 3-2.
And in the last section, Nihon Bunri was relentless on Toyama Dai-ichi, scoring in 4 out of 6 innings in a 11-1 win. Matsushou Gakuen actually trailed Kanazawa Sakuragaoka 2-0 after 5 innings! That seemed to wake the team up and they went on a 9-2 run to win 9-4.
Matsushou Gakuen would prove to be the challenge I expected them to be against Nihon Bunri. After Nihon Bunri takes a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 2nd, Matsushou would level it in the 4th. The game would remain knotted at 1 into extras, and Kumagaya couldn't hold on. In the 11th, Nihon Bunri would break the tie with a sayonara run.
The semifinals would determine the 2 front-runners to receive a bid.
Kanazawa vs. Saku Chousei turned out to be a one-sided affair. While ace Kamata did give up 10 hits to Saku Chousei, he still shut them out 7-0 in 7. In the 2nd semifinal, Yuugakukan's sent reliever Kurohaga to the mound. But in the 2nd, he would walk the bases loaded - never a good sign. Sure enough, Nihon Bunri's Noguchi would deliver a bases-clearing double to given them a 3-0 lead. Ace Togura would come in to relieve Kurohaga, and give up just 2 hits. In the 8th inning, with time running out, a walk and a base hit would put runners at the corners for Yuugakukan. An infield grounder would plate one run, and after another hit Yuugakukan looked for more. But a double play would end the threat. Tamura would give up just that one run on 4 hits and Nihon Bunri may have earned a bid.
But to definitively earn a bid, all Kanazawa or Nihon Bunri has to do is to win the final. Nihon Bunri would send up reliever Hatano in place of Tamura, and just like their opponents in the semifinals, it backfired as Kanazawa scores 2 in the top of the 1st. Nihon Bunri would play catchup the entire game against ace Kamata, but never got closer than 1 run, losing 4-2 giving Kanazawa their 8th Hokushinetsu title (and 1st in 7 years).
So Round 1 of the super-regional was jockeying for position between the lower seeds.
Shizuoka led Kyouei 2-0 going into the bottom of the 9th when it all fell apart for ace Iwasaki and Shizuoka. Kyouei would score 3 runs to send a shocked Shizuoka home.
Komono faced off against Gifu Dai-ichi, and while Komono would take the lead, Gifu Dai-ichi would fight back and tie the game sending it into extras. And the game went into the 10th... the 11th... and the 12th with both aces still on the mound. Finally, in the 13th Komono would score a run against ace Sakada taking a 4-3 lead. Komono's ace Houda would make that stick giving them a hard fought win.
On the other side, Iwata Higashi dispatched Chuukyou 8-1. while Toyota Nishi did the same to Matsusaka 10-1.
In the quarterfinals, Kyouei led Mie 4-0 with a pair of runs in the 4th and 5th innings. Things looked bleak, but Mie would score one in the 8th, and then 3 in the 9th to level the score! An inning later, and they would score 2 more to defeate Kyouei 6-4. Seisei and Komono would be scoreless through 5. Seisei would break the draw with a run in the 6th, only to see Komono take it away with 2 in the bottom of the inning. Seisei would level the score once again in the 6th, and that game would also go into extras. The Shizuoka champions would do the same as Mie, scoring 2 in the top of the 10th for a 4-2 win.
Oogaki Nichidai would have the easiest quarterfinal of all the schools, defeating Toyota Nishi 8-2. They will play Aikoudai Meiden who scored 4 runs in the late stages to win 4-2.
So in the end, all top seeds advanced to the semifinals.
The draw for the super-regional ended up being rather interesting.
In the upper left bracket, Houtoku Gakuen seem destined for a Best 4 appearance with an opening round game against surprise Kyoto champion Tounan, and a possible matchup against Chiben Gakuen.
Below them, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku and Riseisha would clash in what probably will be a Best 4 bid as they're opposed by Murayama and Wakayama Kougyou.
On the other side, Hachiman Shougyou gets Tenri. Tenri has the better of it, but will have to face Kakogawa Kita or Osaka Touin. Not easy.
And in the lower right, Perfect Liberty Gakuen gets Wakayama Shougyou, but then could face "big brother" Chiben Wakayama, or perhaps Kyoto Gaidai Nishi.
All but the lower right have completed their first games, and there are some surprises.
Tounan held in there against Houtoku Gakuen. After falling behind 3-1 after the 1st inning, they tied the game up in the 5th. Perhaps Houtoku took exception to that and scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 5th, and then 7 one inning later to invoke the mercy rule.
Kyoto Seishou held in there against Nara champion Chiben Gakuen. They traded a run in the 4th, and actually took the lead the next inning. Chiben would level the game back at 2 in the top of the 6th, but Seishou would take it once again with a run in the 7th - and won by that margin!
Murayama and Wakayama Kougyou were involved in a slugfest as the teams scored runs often. Murayama mostly had the better of it, and a run in the top of the 9th would give them a 6-4 lead. But that wouldn't be enough as Wakayama tied the game and sent it into extras. In the end, Murayama would prevail with a run in the top of the 10th.
Of course the more important game was the Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku-Riseisha matchup. And Riseisha with 3 runs in the first 2 innings jumped ahea. Kobe would pull within one in the 4th, but couldn't get any closer, falling 3-2!
Tenri did ineed have no problem against Hachishou winning 9-1 in 8 innings. And in perhaps one of the bigger surprises, Kakogawa Kita shuts down, and shuts out Osaka Touin 2-0!
5 of the 8 first round games ended via the mercy rule. Of those 5, two were upsets. Summer representative, and Tottori #2 seed Yazu was defeated 9-0 by Okayama #3 seed Okayama Gakugeikan. An 11-run 5th by Hiroshima Sougou Gijyutsu (Hiroshima #3) dispatched Shimane #2 seed Taisha 17-2.
In the other 3 games, Hiroshima Kokusai Gakuin defeats Yasugi 6-1. A 3-run 1st inning by Tottori Ikuei gets them past Ube Koujyou 4-2. In the final game, Matsue Shougyou scores 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th to tie the game at 2 against Soushi Gakuen. The game would go into extras where Soushi Gakuen would score a run in the 11th to win 3-2.
Moving into the quarterfinals, Soushi Gakuen jumps ahead of Hiroshima Kokusai 2-0 in the first inning and with the help of 4 pitchers, defeated them 2-1.
I had high hopes in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi's champion - and they even took a 2-1 lead over Tottori Ikuei. But Tottori scores 5 runs between the 4th and 5th innings to take the lead for good, winning 8-4.
Kanzei continued to look strong shutting out their prefecture's #3 finisher Okayama Gakugeikan 3-0, and Hiroshima's #3 seed Hiroshima Sougou Gijyutsu exacts revenge from their 16-6 defeat, using a 2-run 8th to break a 2-2 tie to beat Onomichi (drat!).
Soushi Gakuen squared off against Tottori Ikuei in the first semifinal, and after scoring a run in the top of the 1st, made Tottori play catchup the entire game. They were up to the task, tying the game 1-1 in the 4th, and again 2-2 in the 6th. But after Soushi scored a run in both the 8th and the 9th innings, it would be just too much for them. Tottori Ikuei gets back only one run like the other times, and fall 4-3.
In the other semifinal, Hiroshima Sougou Gijyutsu surprisingly hung in there against Kanzei. Kanzei's run in the 3rd inning would be the only run scored in the game though, as they advance to the finals with a 1-0 win.
So it's a rematch of the Okayama championship game as Kanzei will square off against Soushi Gakuen for the fall title. With 2 automatic bids for the region, it seems as though Okayama will have 2 representatives (although that isn't a given).
Shikoku's draw went like this:
- Kochi (Kochi 1) vs. winner of Imabari Nishi (Ehime 2)-Komatsushima (Tokushima 3)
- Jyounan (Tokushima 1) vs. winner of Kagawa Nishi (Kagawa 2)-Tosa (Kochi 3)
- Sangawa (Kagawa 1) vs. winner of Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi 2)-Matsuyama Shougyou (Ehime 3)
- Niita (Ehime 1) vs. Tokushima Shougyou (Tokushima 2)-Marugame Jyousai (Kagawa 3)
The bigger test would be the quarterfinals, and all games were 1-run affairs except for the aforementioned Imabari Nishi who couldn't keep up with Kochi losing 7-0 in 7 innings.
Kagawa Nishi, after falling behind 1-0, turned around and built a 4-1 lead only to see Jyounan score 4 to retake that slim 1-run margin. They were unfazed as they score 3 unanswered runs to take back the lead, and a 7-5 margin. Jyounan would make things interesting pulling within 1, but that's all they could get.
On the other side, Sangawa and Meitoku Gijyuku were locked at 1 until runs in the 6th and 7th gave Meitoku a 3-1 lead. Sangawa quickly leveled the score in the next half inning...
...only to see Meitoku score 3 in the bottom of the 8th. Once again, Sangawa would give Meitoku a scare, scoring 2 in the top of the 9th to pull within 1, but that's as close as they would get.
Finally, Niita was holding its own building a 4-2 lead on Tokushima Shougyou. But Tokushou would tie the game in the bottom of the 6th. Niita would waste no time reclaiming the lead with a run in the lucky 7, and that proved to be the winning margin as they advanced with a 5-4 win.
And in the semifinals, Kochi was shutdown by Kagawa Nishi ace Utsunomiya as they fall 3-1. As for Niita, their run ends at the hands of Meitoku Gijyutsu 9-2 in 7 innings.
So 2 seasoned teams will face off for the fall title and an automatic bid.
The first round wound up being favorable to the home teams as both Kumamoto Kokufu and Senshuudai Tamana won their games against Kagoshima Shougyou and Kurume Shougyou while in the other game Souseikan had no problems with Chikuyou Gakuen.
Surprisingly, the 2nd round involved a lot of parity with close games in all but 3.
Those 3 matchups were Senshuudai Tamana falling to Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku 5-0, Kounan beating Souseikan 5-1, and Touin dispatching Saito Shougyou 9-2.
In the other games, Okinawa Shogaku yielded a run to Nobeoka Gakuen in the 1st, but they tied it in the 3rd and scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 8th. Ryuukoku edged Shuugakukan also by a score of 2-1. Hasami never trailed against Oita, but Oita made it close pulling within 1 at 3-2 in the top of the 9th, but that's as close as they would get.
On the other side of the bracket, Kyushu Gakuin's offense was surprisingly stifled by Karatsu Shougyou winning just by the score of 2-0.
But perhaps the most surprising game was between Kagoshima Jitsugyou and Kumamoto's 3-seed Kumamoto Kokufu. After scoring 7 in the first inning, Kajitsu led 11-2 after 6. Then in the 7th Kokufu scores 3, and in the 8th they somehow score 5, making it an 11-10 ballgame!! The momentum was certainly on their side, yet ace Noda who was left in the game managed to compose himself and shutdown Kumamoto Kokufu to hang on in what turned out to be a scare.
Quarterfinal action began with Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku and Okinawa Shogaku. Early on it was all Kyukoku leading 6-1. But 2 runs in the 5th and 4 in the 7th would give Okishou the lead! Kyukoku would have an answer to the tune of 3 runs in the 7th and 8th innings to put the game away 12-7. Their opponent would be Nagasaki champion Hasami, who replied to Ryuukoku's 2-run 5th with 3 of their own and never looked back winning 6-4.
On the other side, Haru-natsu renzoku yuusho Kounan found themselves in trouble with Kyushu Gakuin scoring 3 runs in the top of the 1st. Kounan would quickly cut that deficit to 1 in 2 innings, but then allowed Kyushu Gakuin to extend that lead to 4. Kounan would once again pull within 1 with 3 in the 7th, but could never find the equalizer and would fall 6-5!
That certainly was welcome news for Kajitsu who took no chances against Touin, scoring in all but one inning winning 12-3 in 7 innings.
So it would be Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku vs. Hasami in one semi, while Kyushu Gakuin squares off against Kagoshima Jitsugyou.
Hasami certainly was the underdog in their game, yet they strung together 3 hits in the bottom of the 2nd to take a 2-0 lead! However, in the next half inning, a dead ball and two hits would immediately get Kyukoku within 1. Then with 2 down and a runner on 2nd, ace Miyoshi delivers a hit to center, tying the game. The pressure must have gotten to Hasami ace Matsuda as he throws a wild pitch, giving the lead to Kyukoku at 3-2. Miyoshi would not waste a second chance as he would give up just 2 hits afterwards, sending the team to the finals with a 4-2 victory.
In the other semi, Kajitsu would open up the scoring in the 3rd with a timely double by Sugiyama down the left field line. After Kyushu Gakuin tied the game in the 4th, Toyosumi would deliver another timely hit for Kajitsu, this time to center, to retake the 1-run lead. Toyosumi would add another insurance run for Kajitsu as Noda gives up just 5 hits in an 3-1 win.
Kyukoku had certainly given themselves an invitation to senbatsu, but wanted the Kyushu title. They jumped to a 1-0 lead in the 1st, but a timely hit by Hirayama for Kajitsu ties the game. Then in the 8th, Kuroki would give Kajitsu the lead! Noda would give a strong effort in the final, giving up just one run on 7 hits to give Kajitsu their 13th fall title and first in 17 years!