Tuesday, May 10, 2011

2011 Haru Taikai - Kinki Taikai

As we head eastward, there are still prefectures with games going on, but by this time most have concluded.

Shiga had no seeded teams, yet most of the well-known teams were split up across the board.

The last senbatsu team from Shiga, Hikone Higashi, and Hachiman Shougyou were in one quadrant, Kita-Ootsu and Oumi found themselves in their own quadrants, and Shiga Gakuen (2009 surprise natsu representative) and Hieizan (who came on in the late 90's) were in the final quadrant.

Perhaps expectedly, the first two notable teams to fall were the last two mentioned. Both Shiga Gakuen and Hieizan lost in the 3rd round by the score of 3-1 to Zeze and Ayaha respectively. All other teams continued to advance without incident in their respective brackets until they started to face each other.

That began when Hachiman Shougyou and Hikone Higashi faced off in the quarterfinals. That battle wound up being won by Hasshou 2-1 which set them up for a match against Kita-Ootsu in the semis. That unfortunately did not go as well for Hasshou as they wound up being mercy-ruled 7-0 in 7 innings.

Oumi wound up facing Ayaha in the semifinals, and while Ayaha took a 1-0 lead after 1, they ground their way to a 4-1 win.

And in the final, it was all Oumi (I love their powder blue unis by the way). They jumped out to a 7-1 lead before winning 7-4 giving them their 8th title and first in 2 years.

Kyoto plays their spring taikais in 2 stages, with pool play determining who advances to the main bracket. Kyoto Seishou got a free pass to the 2nd stage with their senbatsu appearance.

As is the case, the usual suspects advanced out of pool play - Kyoto Gaidai Nishi, Ritsumeikan Uji, Ryuukokudai Heian, Ritsumeikan and Fukuchiyama Seibi advanced along with some other known schools such as Otokuni and Tounan. An irrational favorite of mine - Kyoto Subaru had the unfortunate draw with Ritsumeikan and lost 2-1 in the pool final.

Tounan got their own quadrant and promptly handled Doushisha and Ootani to advance to the Best 4. Otokuni was the odd team out in a quadrant with Fukuchiyama Seibi and Ryuukokudai Heian. Those two then squared up against each other. Interestingly, Fukuchiyama Seibi took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, then had both sides put up a 3-spot before Heian came back with 2 runs to tie the game. However, after 2 runs in the bottom of the 4th by Seibi would be the final difference in a 7-5 victory. So Tounan will have their hands full (it would have been either way really) with Fukuchiyama Seibi who is probably itching to get back into things after being suspended by the JHBF.

Ritsumeikan wound up being railroaded by Nishi-Jyouyou 8-0 who in turn got into a shootout against Kyoto Gaidai Nishi. That wound up being won by KGN 10-8. Kyoto Seishou wound up facing Ritsumeikan Uji and while they held their own, it wasn't enough as they lost 6-5.

Nara is in their Best 8, but in reality it's all about 3 schools - Tenri, Chiben Gakuen and Kooriyama. I'll let you know when something surprising happens or when these teams face each other.

In Wakayama, it's pretty much the same. Chiben Wakayama dominates the scene, although there are secondary players now such as Kouyou, Minoshima and Minabe, all of whom have joined Chiben Wakayama in the Best 4. Kouyou gets the first crack while the winner of Minoshima-Minabe will get the second one assuming Kouyou can't get the job done.

Osaka maintains its 4 regional sets with the 4 winners being put into semifinal play.

Region A didn't have any major players which left the field wide open. Han-ai and Daishoudai both advanced to the final with ease with Han-ai advancing with a 11-4 win.

Region B had PL Gakuen, who stumbled but survived against Kinkidai Senshuu 5-4 then faced Daishoudai's cousin Daishoudai Sakai in the final. Sakai had 1-run games against Hatsushiba Ritsumeikan and Uenomiya Taishi. And perhaps that first game that PL had was a warning of hidden problems because they resurfaced again against Daishoudai Sakai, and they actually wound up getting mercy-ruled 7-0 in 7 innings!

Region C was dominated by Osaka Touin. Their closest games were in the semis and finals where they won 6-3 against Taishi Gakuindai and Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara.

Region D was wide open as well, leaving Osaka Gakuindai to reach the final although they did have a close game against Kansai Souka. Joining them was Yao Suishou who only had one close game against Osaka Taiikudai Nami Shougyou aka Daitaidai Namishou. The final itself was not close as Osaka Gakuindai won 10-3.

Osaka Touin should be the favorite and that was shown in their 9-1 win against Osaka Gakuindai. Han-ai defeated Daishoudai Sakai in the semifinals 7-4 and will get a crack at the vaunted squad. Han-ai has shown some promise before, and I think it's nice they have a chance to win a title.

Hyogo breaks up its prefecturals into 17 regionals with each winner advancing to prefectural play with Houtoku Gakuen and Kakogawa Kita, senbatsu representatives this year, joining them.

Kansei Gakuin, the darlings in 2009, advanced from the Nishi-Hanshin region. Other notable teams joining them was Shinkou Gakuen, Ikuei (who upset Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku 8-6!), and Touyoudai Himeji.

(By the way, Haruhi's Nishinomiya Kita lost in the first round of the Nishi-Hanshin Region to Takara Higashi 10-3. When will the draw of Haruhi make a team that will get to Koushien??! Just kidding.)

Once we reached prefectural play though, all hell broke loose...

Houtoku Gakuen was shocked by Yashiro 3-1 in their first game...

Kansei Gakuin lost in their first game as well to Ichikawa 6-3... (see a pattern?)

and Shinkou Gakuen lost to Takigawa Dai-ni 6-1 in their first game.

The only major team left was Toyoudai Himeji and while not an upset, they defeated Kakogawa Kita 4-1.

With Toyoudai Himeji left, who admittedly hasn't been the same recently, the field became wide open. Yashiro shut out an already offensively-starved Mukonosou Sougou 4-0 to reach the finals while Akashi Shougyou used a 2-run 5th to defeat Touyoudai Himeji to reach the final.

In this improbable final, Akashi Shougyou used a 3-run 4th inning to get ahead of Yashiro. They would never look back as they would take their first ever spring title with a 5-3 win!

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