Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2011 Natsu Qualifying - 1st Update

Ok, I've spend the last couple of weeks furiously trying to get the brackets translated, and as of right now all brackets are up except Niigata, Nagano and Shizuoka. Bleh.

Anyways, I've neglected games going on right now, so let's take a tour of the prefectures in progress.

The first upset of the Natsu Koushien qualifying came rather quickly. As a seeded team, Kadena lost in its very first game to Misato Shougyou 5-3! Worse yet, they actually fell behind 4-0 after just the first inning!

Neither of the other seeded teams, Urasoe Shougyou nor Okinawa Kougyou had trouble (Itoman was the lucky team drawing a first round bye).

Kounan also breezed through the first round, winning 23-0 over Chuubu Nourin in 5 innings.

We also had our first rainouts on the 25th, pushing back games a day. Okinawa is one of a few prefectures who do not release a complete schedule of games, instead optioning to release dates as each round completes. That in some ways makes sense as more often than not games are pushed back due to weather. In this case, it actually pushed back the next round on one side of the bracket to match the same weekend as the other.

Okinawa Kougyou was the next team to fall, losing in a pitcher's duel 1-0 to Yaeyama. Yaeyama Shoukou's run too ended early as they were shutout 3-0 to Mawashi.

Itoman finally kicked off their run in the beginning of July, only to have Ginoza hang in there for 9 innings before winning 2-1.

Okinawa Shogaku, always a strong team, had their second called game in as many played, defeating Hokuzan 13-4 in 7 innings. Kounan was much the same, throwing their 2nd called shutout against Haebaru 9-0 also in 7. Urasoe Shougyou meanwhile has methodically plodded on through the first two rounds winning 6-0 and 7-2.

In other games, Tomishiro scored 7 runs in an inning, but still had to protect against Naha Kokusai's furious rally. They would hold on 10-8. And Nanbu Kougyou kept their Koushien hopes alive with a sayonara run in the 9th to defeat Yaeyama Nourin 2-1.

As of today, Okinawa is in the round of 16. Teams still alive include:
  • Itoman v. Chinen
  • Okinawa Shogaku v. Yaeyama
  • Kounan v. Gushikawa
  • Urasoe Shougyou v. Chuubu Shougyou

Kagoshima was the 4th region to begin play, not sure why they start early (Okinawa and Hokkaido I understand because the regions are so big).

Anyways, the first day started with some exciting games over at Kamoike Citizens ballpark. First, Sensatsu Seishuukan down 1 in the 9th against Izumi Kougyou scores the tying run, then follows that up an inning later with the sayonara run.

Next, Ibusuki and Sendai Shoukou were scoreless for the first 7 innings before leadoff batter Horizoe breaks the deadlock in the 8th with Shimobarai adding an insurance run in the 9th for a 2-0 win.

Day 2 was highlighted by shutouts. In fact, all 6 games were shutouts:

@Prefectural Kamoike
  • Ijyuuin def. Ooshima 7-0 (7 innings)
  • Takeokadai def. Shigakukan 10-0 (5 innings)
  • Satsuma Chuo def. Kushira Shougyou 2-0
@Kamoike Citizens
  • Shoushikan def. Kagoshima Higashi 2-0
  • Tokunoshima def. Ariake 2-0
  • Kagoshima def. Ei 3-0
Apparently 2-0 was a popular score.

Games today have been completed with no real standouts per se outside of Sendai scoring 4 runs late to beat Makurazaki, and Shouyou holding off a run by Tanegashima to win 4-3.

The seeded teams will begin play starting tomorrow with last year's representative Kagoshima Jitsugyou facing Tsurumaru.

Minami Hokkaido
Both Minami Hokkaido and Kita Hokkaido have finished regional play and will take a respite before drawing their round of 16.

So, that said, let's go around the regions...

I suppose it follows that since Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido by far, that they have 7 of the 16 bids in Minami Hokkaido.

Block A started off with a bang. Towa no mori held a 5-1 lead over Sapporo Higashi. But then it all fell apart. 3 runs in the 8th pulled Sapporo Minami within 1, and then in the end 2 more would send Towa no mori home heartbroken.

That wouldn't last as Higashi's run would end the next game, getting mercy ruled 9-2 in 7 innings against Ritsumeikan Keishou.

In fact, all games in the 2nd round were mercy ruled save for Sapporo Dai-ichi who shutout Sapporo Seiryou 5-0.

That changed in the semifinals where they went a quick 5 innings against Eniwa Minami, while Ritsumeikan Keishou needed all 9 innings to win 1-0 over Chitose.

Sure enough, Sapporo Dai-ichi prevailed in Block A with a 9-1 win in 8 innings over Ritsumeikan.

Block B too started off with a bang. Sapporo Takuhoku held a 7-2 lead over Sapporo Okadama. But in the 7th and 8th innings, they would score 5 runs to level the score. That momentum continued into the 10th as they scored 3 to take a commanding 10-7 lead. All was not lost for Takuhoku as they mounted their own rally pulling within 1. However, that would be all that they would score falling 10-9 in extras.

But they too would go quickly thereafter, losing 7-0 in 8 innings to Sapporo Minami. The mercy ruled games continued at Maruyama Stadium while over in Chitose, Sapporo Yamanote holds a civil 5-2 win over Sapporo Kita.

In the semis, Sapporo Minami continued its run with yet another 7-0 win in 8 innings over Sapporo Sousei. Their opponent in the final would be Sapporo Yamanote who decided to join the mercy rule party defeating Sapporo Touun 17-4!

But it's all about what you do in the end that matters, and in the end, Sapporo Minami would advance out of Block B with a 3-1 win.

Block C continued the trend of teams not wanting to draw the extra game. Sapporo Moiwa would win that opening game, only to lose to Sapporo Ootani in the next round.

Ooasa and Sapporo Keisei had an interesting 2nd round game. Ooasa held a slim 1-0 lead late only to have Keisei score 3 in the bottom of the 8th. You'd think that Ooasa wouldn't be able to muster a quick reply, but of course you'd be wrong. Because Ooasa would score 3 of their own in the top of the 9th, regaining that one-run lead to win 4-3.

Games in Block C seemed to be at least more competitive, as there were less mercy ruled games. Once exception in round 2 was Shoushi Gakuen who routed Bunkyoudai Meisei 21-0.

In the semifinals, Ooasa tried to make a late inning rally a moot point, building a 9-3 lead over Sapporo Ootani. But the bottom of the 8th inning must be their kryptonite as Sapporo Ootani scored 8 runs. 8! And this time Ooasa had no rally in the 9th. Shoushi Gakuen would be their opponent in the finals.

And Shoushi Gakuen would prove to be too much for Sapporo Ootani as they led wire-to-wire, winning the block with a 6-3 victory.

The middle block, Block D had no extra game, so no team felt like they were screwed from the get go. Seriously though, Tokai Dai-yon announced their presence with a 10-2 win in 8 innings over Sapporo Shinoro.

Sapporo Nichidai, probably the only threat to Toukai Dai-yon, needed a 3-run 6th to defeat Sapporo Ryuukoku 4-2.

And in fact, the expected matchup of Tokai and Nichidai would happen as both won their semifinal games in similar fashion to their first game.

Now perhaps Tokai's first 2 games gave them overconfidence as in the block final it was Nichidai that started off with a 2-0 lead. Then in the 4th, everything exploded. Tokai figured it had enough of being behind and proceeded to score 6 runs to take a commanding 6-2 lead. Commanding in the sense that Nichidai had scored 4 runs in the last 2 games.

But I guess this being the block final, Nichidai had something in them, because in their half of the 4th, they scored 5! And that meant that they retook the lead 7-6.

That was only the 4th inning though, which meant that Nichidai would have to hold the lead for 5 more innings.

They couldn't.

Tokai would score a run in the next 3 innings to win 9-7 and advance.

Block E begins the sets of games at Sapporo Asabu stadium. Kita-Hiroshima and Sapporo Seishuu decided to christen qualifying there with a thrilling game. Both teams tallied a run in the 6th as the game would spill into extras. It wouldn't be until the 12 inning where the game would be decided as Kita-Hiroshima scores the sayonara run.

Now certainly their run would end against heavy favorite Hokkai Gakuen Sapporo. Remember, no other team had won after playing the extra game.

Apparently, Kita-Hiroshima didn't get the memo.

Staking Hokkai Gakuen a 2-0 lead right off the bat, Kita-Hiroshima didn't panic. Starting in the 3rd inning, they scored 6 unanswered runs to take a surprising 6-2 lead! But Hokkai Gakuen has the experience and with 4 innings to go with the sticks there was plenty of time.

And in the 8th, Hokkai Gakuen would score 3 runs to pull within 1.

But reliever Tsugawa would shut the door in the 9th, giving Kita-Hiroshima the amazing upset!

That game blew open the block completely, and with all other teams yet to play their first game, it gave everyone a renewed sense of hope. I mean, I know that each team has a chance to win, but you have to think in the back of some people's mind they know that their chances aren't that good.

Eniwa Kita and Sapporo Kougyou took that second wind and proceeded to mercy rule their opponents. Sapporo Hakuryou meanwhile had a ho-hum 6-3 win over Nopporo.

Oh, and if one 9-2 win in 8 innings wasn't enough for Eniwa Kita, they decided to do it again in the semifinals against Sapporo Hokuryou to setup a final with Cinderella Kita-Hiroshima.

You had the feeling though, that it was the destiny of one team to win this block. Kita-Hiroshima had no post-upset hangover facing Sapporo Kougyou. In fact the spectacled Yonegawa and his reliever Tsugawa proceeded to shutout the industrial school 5-0!

So one more game for Kita-Hiroshima and they would advance to the prefectual bracket. In their way seemed a formidable Eniwa Kita squad. But the pitching duo would continue their amazing run shutting out the Eniwa Kita boys for 9 innings. But ace Oota for Eniwa would do the same.

And bless the boys from Kita-Hiroshima, their hearts got broken in the bottom of the 10th as Eniwa Kita scores the sayonara run to advance to the round of 16...

Block F featured another heavy favorite to advance out of Minami Hokkaido - Hokkai. Already, their bretheren in Block E was eliminated, so they have to hold the flag for their schools.

Which in reality isn't hard.

So it would really come down to if there was any team that could challenge. Sapporo Keihoku Shougyou stayed with Hokkai for 7 innings trailing 2-1, but 4 runs in the 8th killed that. And the only team that seemed to have a bevy of offense, Sapporo Shinkawa, lacked sufficent pitching to make it effective as they blow a 6-3 late culminiating with 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th to give Kotoni Kougyou the sayonara win.

That basically handed the block to Hokkai as they proceeded to win 9-0 in 7 innings.

In the final Sapporo block, Block G, Hokuseidai Fuzoku made sure that Kita-Hiroshima would be the only team to play an extra game and get past the 2nd round by defeating 10-0 in 8. In fact, all 2nd round games were not really contested as Kokusai Jyouhou, Sapporo Kousei and Sapporo Teine all won easily.

Sadly for Hokuseidai, their run would end the semis as Kokusai Jyouhou stymied the offense winning 2-1. Their opponent would be Sapporo Kousei who had their 2nd called game against Sapporo Teine.

Ace Takada would try his best to keep Teine in the game, but the 2 runs he would give up in the 3rd would wind up being the final margin as Sapporo Kousei would win 4-2.

Otaru is home to Hokushou, who has had multiple Koushien appearances. They headed up Block A and well... until I find a team that can really challenge Hokushou, there really isn't much to talk about in their block. Yes, Otaru Suisan did have 2 mercy rule games, but when it came crunch time, they folded 12-0 in 5 innings. And in one other notable game, the new Yoichi Koushi almost advanced out of their first game, but the bullpen couldn't hold, giving up 5 in the 8th to lose to Otaru Meihou 10-9.

In Block B, Otaru Chouryou looked to be the favorite to advance. And after a 10-4 win over Rankoshi was poised to do so. Their opponent in the final would be Otaru Kougyou who played 2 relatively low-scoring games. However in the final, they spotted their opponents 3 runs which wound up being the final margin of victory.

Block A for Muroran had another Koushien regular, Mukawa. And after a 7-0 win over Mururan Toushou, things looked good. But then against Muroran Ootani, it went awry. First they gave up 2 quick runs in the 1st inning. Then after pulling within 1, they gave up 3 more. By the time it was over, Mukawa had fallen 6-2 and for the remaining semifinal, there a new sense of optimism.

Tomakomai Chuo decided to run through that open door, defeating Noboribetsu Ootani 8-1, and then dashed Muroran Ootani's hopes with a convincing 13-1 win in 5 innings!

Block B had Hokkaido Sakae, who perennially reaches prefectural play, but can't get any further. Their path was made easier early as Norobestu Seiryou and Abuta played a stressful game, with Abuta rallying from down 3 late to tie it up a 5, then taking the lead in the 10th, only to see Seiryou score 2 in the bottom of the 10th for the win.

Hokkaido Sakae would take full advantage scoring 12 in the 1st against Seiryou, winning 18-0 in 5. It would be smooth sailing from there as they would win the next 2 games 7-0 in 8 and 9-0 in 7 to advance to the round of 16.

And finally in Block C, are we witnessing the comeback of Komadai Tomakomai? The team that gave Hokkaido their 1st (and 2nd!) Koushien titles entered a quiet period after the departure of their ace Tanaka Masahiro to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

It wasn't as convincing as perhaps Hokkaido Sakae, but Komadai Tomakomai did advance out of Block C, though Tomakomai Higashi did have something to say about it, holding the game tied at 1 until the 13th where reliever Torikoshi couldn't hold them off any longer, giving up 3 runs.

Finally, we hit the last region down in the southernmost part of Hokkaido - Hakodate.

Block A belonged to one of my irrational favorites (well, not totally irrational - they are a good team) in Hakodatedai Yuuto.

And they basically owned Block A, winning their 3 games by a combined score of 36-0! Honorable mentions go to Matsumae who won their first two games before losing in the block final 20-3, and Hakodate LaSalle who scored 2 in the bottom of the 9th to defeat Yakumo 4-3.

In Block B, Hakodate Ryuuhoku who advanced to the prefecturals last year look to do so again. And after a 10-0 win in 5 over Kamiiso, things looked good. But then against Hakodate Chuubu, they got a flat. Chuubu would never trail in the matchup, and won 6-1. They would face Nanae who led Hakodate Suisan 3-0 after 1, but then found themselves down 6-3 with 3 innings left to go. They then scored a pair of runs in the next 2 innings to take a 7-6 lead and would win by that score.

Hakodate Chuubu would easily win the block final, winning 8-0 in 7 innings.

Finally in Block C we had two sides to this bracket. One side was filled with blowouts, the other with contested games. While Shiriuchi and Hakodate Nishi had won their games by a combined 18-3, Hakodate Shougyou rallied from down 5-2 with 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th to win 6-5 over Hakodate Shougyou and Okushiri pulled within 1 against Hakodate Ootani, only to see Ootani re-extend that lead to 3, winning 5-2.

In the semis, Shiriuchi blew out Nishi 13-1, while Shougyou shutout out Ootani 2-0.

So what type of game would we see in the finals? A blowout, or a nailbiter?

Well, the game started with Shiriuchi scoring 3 runs in the first 2 innings. After that though, Hakodate Shougyou's ace Nishimura shut them down. Meanwhile, his offense would start clawing back with a run in the 4th, and another in the 7th. Still looking for the equalizer, Shiriuchi's ace Takeuchi wouldn't given it to them. He pitches a complete game 3-2 win to send the team to the prefecturals.

I'll cover Kita Hokkaido tomorrow, just wanted to get this out now since these prefectures are already so deep into qualifying.

No comments: