Wednesday, May 18, 2011

2011 Haru Taikai - Toukai Taikai

Even with just 4 prefectures in its region, the quality of baseball here is good enough that it winds up being competitive.

Shizuoka has 3 regionals and throws in the fall tournament champion (Seisei) for a total of 25 teams.

In the Seibu regionals, Tokoha Kikugawa qualified by making it to the final although they lost to Hamamatsu Nishi 11-10. I remember Iwata Higashi being a decent team, and they qualified though they lost 7-3 to the same Hamamatsu Nishi squad.

To the Chuubu region, Tokoha Tachibana couldn't get past their 2nd game losing to Shizuoka Shougyou. Shizuoka wound up winning the region, defeating Toukaidai Bouyou (who also qualified).

And no one really of note advanced out of the Toubu regionals.

Seisei couldn't continue their run of the fall, losing 3-2 in the quarterfinals to Hiryuu. They faced Tokoha Kikugawa who had just edged Shizuoka 7-6 in their quarterfinals. Hiryuu made things interesting for Tokoha, taking a 2-0 lead early, then rallying after falling behind 3-2, then taking the lead 5-4 late! But Kikugawa would close the book with the equalizer in the 8th and the sayonara run in the 9th. Still, I'd be interested to see how Hiryuu does come summertime.

On the other side, Hamamatsu Nishi continued its strong run in the prefecturals, but for some reason or another, lost all momentum against Shizuoka Shougyou falling 5-1.

That setup a Tokoha Kikugawa-Shizuoka Shougyou final. After a closely contested first half, Kikugawa broke it open to a 6-1 lead. Surprisingly, Seishou did not just roll over. They struck back with 3 runs in the 8th to make it just a 2-run ballgame, and then pulled within one in the 9th! But Tokoha Kikugawa would hold to win their 3rd spring title, and 1st in 7 years.

Aichi's tournament structure seems all weird. Each region has round-robin play from which teams are grouped into different sections. In some of those sections those playing in the top flight, such as the Nishi-Mikawa region, all teams automatically qualify for the prefecturals although they still have a regional tournament. In other regions, such as the Higashi-Mikawa region, it's a regular bracket with 2 repechages to qualify teams.

It seems rather convoluted...

Anyways, the main 3 schools in the prefecture, Chuukyoudai Chuukyou, Aikoudai Meiden, and Touhou all qualified, but wound up on the same side of the bracket.

And so began the cannibalization of the good teams. Chuukyoudai Chuukyou and Aikoudai Meiden would meet up first. Chuukyou had struggled a bit earlier against other teams, and did so again against Aikoudai Meiden, but prevailed 6-4. Aikoudai Meiden seems to have fallen upon hard times despite still doing well in the tournament.

They then faced Touhou in the semifinals. After taking a quick 3-0 lead, Touhou scored 4 in the 2nd knocking them back a bit. But only for a bit. 2 runs in the 3rd gave Chuukyou the lead, and for good winning 8-4.

To be honest, it didn't seem to matter who it would be in from the other side, Chuukyou would win their 24th title and 1st in 3 years.

It also probably didn't help that while Aichi Keisei had blown through the brackets, they wound up getting in an extra-innings affair against Aichi going the full 15 innings before Keisei plated the sayonara run against ace Nakashima.

Chuukyoudai Chuukyou though did not elect to start their ace figuring that since Keisei also had to start with their bullpen there was no need to use their ace. However, it allowed them to hang around early to the point of actually pulling ahead twice by a run before being reeled in.

The tide swiftly turned Chuukyou's way with 6 runs in the 5th and 6th innings building an 8-3 lead. Out of nowhere, Keisei scores 5 to tie it up and by this time both aces are now in the game with just a precious inning to go.

With both teams at full strength, Chuukyou looked to neutralize the momentum gained and successfully did so. And in the bottom of the 9th Chuukyou would not give Keisei a chance to reply, scoring the sayonara run in regulation to indeed give them that title.

Gifu predominantly has been controlled by a select few schools, mainly Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou, Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou, Toki Shougyou and more recently Oogaki Nichidai. All 4 schools qualified out of regional play.

Kengishou (you can't really call them or Shigishou "Gifushou" for obvious reasons) naturally received a top tier seed, Oogaki Nichidai received a 2nd tier seed but was in the same quadrant as Kengishou, and Shigishou and Tokishou both were unseeded and on the opposite side of the bracket.

The first of the quartet to fall were both unseeded teams, with Shigishou losing a barnburner 9-8 against top-tiered Oogaki Shougyou.

Oogaki Shougyou, for being a top-tiered seed (there's not a 1-8 seed, but 4-top seeds and 4-2nd seeds), wound up playing many close games en route to the finals with their largest margin of victory a 2-0 semifinal win over Gizan.

Their opponent would more than likely be the winner of the Kengishou-Oogaki Nichidai match - as long as they kept on winning of course. They did and the matchup was set.

What was surprising was that it was a blowout and that it was Kengishou was the team blown out. 8-1 to be exact. With that result it would seem that Oogaki Nichidai would be the front-runner to win it all. But in their semis against Gifu Dai-ichi, they received a stiff challenge. Now ace Kassai wound up shutting them out, but Nichidai managed just 2 runs.

Their kantoku must have said something though because in their championship game against Oogaki Shougyou, they routed them 11-3 to win their 1st spring title (really??).

Mie has regional play with most implementing double-elimination to determine who advances. Some regions, like Muro, had only 3 teams so they wound up doing a round-robin. Others implemented a triple-elimination. This almost ensures (I say almost because freak occurrences do happen) that the established teams make it out of pool play.

That list includes teams such as Mie, Komono, Ujiyamada Shougyou, and Inabe Sougou Gakuen.

Interestingly that team that advanced out of the Muro region, Kimoto, wound up getting a seed. All the other aforementioned teams except for Mie was also awarded a seed.

Komono blew through their side of the bracket, winning their 3 games (which included Kimoto) by a total of 32-10 to reach the finals.

Mie tried to prove that leaving them unseeded was a wrong decision by defeating Yamashou 3-1. They then gave Inabe Sougou Gakuen a run for their money, however they wound up falling 7-6.

ISG then just rolled over Kogakkan 17-3 to reach the finals.

I would want to have been in that final game as I wonder how Komono was able to use 6, yes I did just say that, 6 pitchers! Using 4 in the semis was a bit odd, but to use 6 in a close game no less was rather shocking.

Yamanaka, Urashima, Nishida, Okuda, Mitani (?) and Asagawa held the 3-0 lead winning 3-2 to give Komono their 3rd title and 1st in 3 years!

The super-regional draw is out and we have the following matchups:
  • Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu 1) vs. Shizuoka Shougyou (Shizuoka 2) - Oogaki Nichidai has seemed to supplant the Gifu Shougyou schools, and had more success at Koushien in recent years.
  • Komono (Mie 1) vs. Aichi Meisei (Aichi 2) - Komono was a Koushien participant several years back, but I'd like to see what Aichi Meisei can do too...
  • Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi 1) vs. Oogaki Shougyou (Gifu 2) - If Chuukyou has been able to rebuild quickly, watch out.
  • Tokoha Kikugawa (Shizuoka) vs. Inabe Sougou Gakuen (Mie 2) - Man! I loved the Tokoha schools, and I also always thought ISG had a decent team too (plus I like their uniforms).

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