Wednesday, July 27, 2011

93rd Koshien Qualifying - Kanto Update

By the time I have come back to the Kanto region, we're pretty much approaching the finals in all prefectures. Such is the price of me trying to update every single bracket and trying to blog it while holding a regular 9-5 job. There's got to be a better way of doing it, but I need to book up on excel, access or something to figure out how...

As the rounds progressed from the 3rd (which is what they were starting last I recapped), the lower seeded teams such as #7 Maebashi Ikuei, started falling by the wayside. In their case it was a shutout to Oomama (Please, no jokes here).

Also in the 3rd round, Shiritsu Isesaki, held scoreless for 6 innings and down 8, score 11 runs in the final 3 innings for the gyakuten win over Takasaki Keizaidai Fuzoku.

But the first real shoe to drop came in the quarterfinals. Top seed Maebashi Shougyou broke out to a 6-1 lead over Maebashi Kougyou before Maekou scored 4. Then when Maeshou extended the lead back to 3, Maekou got all those runs in the 9th to send it into extras. And in 12, Maekou would score the eventual winning run for the upset!

And if that weren't enough, in the very next game Takasaki Kenkoufukushi scores a run in the 9th to break a 4-4 tie with Jyutoku (who never led), to send the #2 seed home 5-4!

In a more milder upset, #5 Takasaki Shougyou scores 7 in the 8th to defeat #4 Takasaki 7-4.

The semis were not blowouts, but you seemed to know who was in control early. Takasaki Shougyou and Takasaki Kenkoufukushi advance to the finals, with one looking for their first Natsu Koushien appearance in over 2 decades, and the other looking for their first ever.

The final got off to a roaring start. Each team scored in the first two innings. The difference however is that Takasaki Kenkoufukushi continued scoring. For each of the next 5 innings. Takasaki Shougyou couldn't keep up with the scoring and as a result Takasaki Kenkoufukushi earns their first ever appearance with a 10-6 win!

Tochigi has gone from wrapping up the 2nd round to the semifinals (which is still going).

Finishing up Round 2, we had Ashikaga Minami scores 5 in the 8th to defeat Kurubane 5-3.

Round 3 saw another seeded team fall in Oyama who lost to Ashikaga Koudai Fuzoku 3-2 in 13.

But for the most part, things have gone as "planned" with the seeded teams advancing on. So the semifinals had Sakushin Gakuin defeating Bunsei Keidai Fuzoku 5-3 to reach the finals. But their opponent is not yet determined.

That's because the last remaining unseeded team in Utsunomiya Shougyou and Kokugakuin Tochigi battled to a 4-4 draw! This after Kokugakuin had to stave off elimination twice, down 2 in the 10th and down 1 in the 12th.

In the replay, seeded Kokugakuin Tochigi struggled. Despite giving up just 7 hits, Utsunomiya Shougyou made the most of those hits scoring 5 runs en route to a 5-1 win. So it's heavily favored Sakushin Gakuin versus the underdog Utsunomiya Shougyou, whose last Natsu Koushien appearance was in 1923. That's 88 years ago!

Wrapping up the 2nd round, some of the seeded teams had trouble with their very first game. Tsuchiura Kohoku barely beat Tamataukuri Kougyou 1-0, and Mita Kiryou edging Ina 3-2 in 11.

Sadly for one of those teams, their run wouldn't last much longer. Mita Kiryou loses in the next round 6-4 to Tsukuba Shuuei.

In the round of 16 there were some close calls. #4 Fujioka almost got upset by Ishioka Dai-ichi, but won 2-1 in the bottom of 9th. Tsuchiura Kouhoku gets another scare as they were in a scoreless draw with Hasaki Yanagawa. In the 14th, Hasaki would score 2 putting a ton of pressure on the 7 seed. But I'm not sure how, but they found enough strength to rally for 3 runs and the win!

And finally there was Shimotsuma Dai-ni who had to stave off elimination in the 9th with 3 runs before defeating Tsuchiura Nichidai 8-7 in 12.

Remarkably, the entire bracket with the exception of Mito Kiryou went chalk. All higher seeds won their quarterfinal games and while not blowouts, they weren't in stressful situations either.

And yet for some reason, after going scratch for pretty much the entire tournament, it decides that the semifinals is a good time to turn everything on its head.

First, Fujishiro, despite being outhit 9-6 and committing 2 errors, find a way to upset top seed Jyousou Gakuin 2-0! Then Kasumigaura's ace Itou limits Suijyou to just 4 hits as they beat them 2-1!

So the top 2 seeds are gone, and it's the 4 and 6 seeds battling for the title! Kasumigaura had never been to Natsu Koushien (they did have a spring appearance in 1990), and Fujishiro went back in 2005 (plus 2 spring appearances in the early 2000's).

It was a back and forth battle as Kasumigaura came out to a 2-0 lead after 2, then Fujishiro came back with 2 in the next 2. Kasumigaura with 3 in the 5th retake the lead, but 2 in the 6th make the deficit 1. Fast forward to the bottom of the 9th, and Fujishiro is still down 1. #16 Yamaguchi had taken over for ace Itou on the hill and had gotten himself into some messes, including a bases loaded jam that he got out of with no damage.

3 outs to go and Fujishiro leadoff batter starts it off with a base hit. Needing only one run, they bunt the runner along. After a grounder to 1st, there were one out away. Cleanup batter Nakamura would step in. Yamaguchi gets strike 2 and gets excited. But on a full count, Nakamura walks! The sayonara run now was on base! Mitsu now stood in and once again Yamaguchi gets ahead 0-2, and again he's fired up. But then Mitsu hits one to left! The LF comes in but then pulls up! The ball falls in and Fujishiro ties the game! The LF didn't want to risk a miss on a diving catch and allowing the sayonara run to score! So it was now 5-5!

Satou up now and on any base hit they're sending the runner home...

2-0 pitch and the ball hits Satou. It's originally called a strike, but the umpire has to go over and call it a ball.

So 3-0 now and the risk of a manrui situation...

But Satou takes the pitch the other way into the right center field gap! Neither of the outfielders can get to it and it falls in! Nakamura scores as Yamaguchi falls to the ground. What was on the verge of excitement and joy was completely reversed for Yamaguchi and Kasumigaura... Whether it may have been the extra delay to get the count right, or the excitement that Yamaguchi may have felt being just 1 pitch away, it slipped away. And as much as we should congratulate Fujishiro for not giving up, Kasumigaura and more importantly Yamaguchi should be consoled for their loss.

We were wrapping up the 3rd round in Saitama, and today are the finals.

Rounding up the 3rd round, Honjyou Dai-ichi down 3 scores 4 in the bottom of the 9th for the win over Fukaya Dai-ichi. They continued it in the next round winning in 10 over C seed (5-8) Shiritsu Kawagoe 3-2.

Kawagoe Higashi scores 4 in 9th reverse 2-run deficit to crush Kawagoe Nishi's hopes 4-2.

Just to show how hard it can be to win a prefecture, of the 16 seeds (2 A, 2 B, 4 C, 8 D), 8 advanced to the round of 16. 1 B seed , 2 C seeds and 5 D seeds all fell before then.

And just because you got here, doesn't mean you're there yet. Ageo though reaching the round of 16 was upset by Sayamagaoka 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th! Oomiya Higashi and Washimiya were fall here as well - along with powerhouse Seibou Gakuin who were defeated by Kasukabe Kyouei 4-2.

In the quarterfinals, all teams were in play on the 24th instead of on 2 separate days. Hanasaki Tokuharu, the only A seed remaining left, advanced without issue, much like the other games. Kasukabe Kyouei, thanks Sayamagaoka for defeating Ageo by letting them enjoy their summer with a 4-1 win. Urawa Gakuin, a faux D Seed mercy rules C Seed Oomiya Higashi. And unseeded Honjyou Dai-ichi upsets their 2nd seeded team in B seed Urawa Jitsugyou 4-2!

We had quite the semifinal battle early between Hanasaki Tokuharu and Urawa Gakuin. But tied at 2-2 after 5, Hanasaki pulls away with 4 runs in the next 3 innings for the 6-2 win. Battling them for the title would be Kasukabe Kyouei who had no trouble with Honjyou Dai-ichi 5-2.

The finals were set, and it slated to be a great matchup. And it was. The game was scoreless for the first 3 innings before C seed Kasukabe opened the scoring with a run. But an inning later, Hanasaki Tokuharu would respond with 2 runs to take the lead! It would be up to ace Kitagawa to hold it down for the top seed, and in the end he would, shutting down the Kasukabe offense and given Hanasaki Tokuharu their 2nd Natsu Koshien appearance, and 1st in 10 years!

As Chiba was going into the Round of 16, when in theory all seeded teams could be remaining, we had our biggest upset of this tournament this year when Senshuudai Matsudo, an A seed, was upset by unseeded Tokyo Gakkan Urayasu 3-2!

More C & D seeds fell going into the round of 16, but in some cases it was unseeded vs. unseeded. Such was the case between Chiba Kokusai versus Chiba Shougyoudai Fuzoku. Shougyoudai had a 1-0 lead early, but the pitching couldn't hold Kokusai scoreless forever. As they started scoring from the 7th inning on, it seemed like Shougyoudai was lost. But they scored 4 in the 8th to comeback and win the game 5-4!

In another unseeded match last year's representative Narita went the distance against Tateyama Sougou before losing 3-2 in the bottom of the 15th.

Needless to say though, that the 2nd day of action to determine the round of 16 was much more kinder to the very top seeds. All in all, only 1 A seed (1-4) and 1 B seed (5-8), were lost.

In the round of 16, Tokyo Gakkan Urayasu in another unseeded game, fell behind 5-0 in the 1st 3 innings then came back to score a pair of runs in each of the next 3. Add an insurance run in the 9th and they were in the quarterfinals with a 7-5 win. Other than that everything went as expected though B seed Shigakukan was blitzed by C seed Kashiwa Nittai 6-1.

The quarterfinals began with an scare for A seed Narashino. Up 2 in the 9th against Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, reliever Kimura squandered the lead allowing Keizaidai to tie the game! Luckily for Narashino though, they were able to regroup one inning later and score the sayonara run.

Toukaidai Urayasu though wasn't as fortunate. Takushokudai Kouryou would score 6 in the middle innings and take a commanding 6-0 lead. The A seed would try to make a comeback late, but there just wasn't enough time. 3 runs in the 9th were not enough as they fell 6-4!

And finally, Tokyo Gakkan Urayasu would upset their 2nd seeded team in Awa by a comfortable margin of 5-1!

The semifinals saw more of the usual with Narashino as Takushokudai Kounan was mercy ruled in 7. But the 2nd semifinal was another shocker in the making. Right out of the gate, Tokyo Gakkan Urayasu would build a 5-0 lead on the A seed Ryuukeidai Kashiwa. Ryuukeidai would score 4 in the 4th to pull within 1. They kept the deficit at 1 after trading a pair of runs later on. And then in the 9th, they'd finally pull level with Tokyo Gakkan Urayasu. It seemed like perhaps the tide was changing.

But in the bottom of the 9th, TGU would open the inning with a ball over the outfielder's head for a leadoff triple! Instead of loading the bases, they elect to pitch to the next batter... who hits a single for the sayonara walk-off! Unseeded Tokyo Gakkan Urayasu upsets their 2nd A seed this tournament and 3rd seeded team overall and found themselves in the finals!

In the finals though, stood a stout and formidable Narashino squad, who mercilessly opened the game with runs in the first 3 innings to get a 4-0 lead. TGU was unable to get any timely hits to narrow the deficit. While the relief staff was able to stop the bleeding, the offense was unable to make any ground.

Eventually the relief corps would break down, first with a run in the 7th, then 5 in the 8th and 4 in the 9th. And while Tokyo Gakkan Urayasu would prevent the shutout in the bottom of the 9th, Narashino would win their 8th summer title and go to Koushien for the first time in 10 years with a 14-2 win!

Nishi Tokyo
When it comes to prefectures, or in case part of a prefecture, where there are a lot of teams, it takes a while for the good teams to emerge. I always wonder if it's worth it to mention those teams that will in all likelihood never make it, but pull off comeback victories and the like because at that time it continues their summer.

For instance, Eimeikan versus Kodaira Minami down 3-1 tie the game in the 8th and go into extras. Threatened with elimination again in the 12th, they score a run to extend the game. Then in the final inning, the bottom of the 15th, they score the winning run to advance.

But as we approached the Best 8 is when the good teams (or perhaps lucky) started to shake out. 2 instances were Kokugakuin Kugayama blowing a 4-run lead in the 9th to Toukaidai Sugao before winning 6-4 in the 11th on a 2-run HR by ace Kawaguchi. The 2nd was Horikoshi who down 1 in the bottom of the 9th tied, then scored the sayonara run with 2 down.

Meanwhile Oberlin, despite 2 HRs from 3B Yamaguchi, were only able to hold the lead of a half-inning before Eimeikan took the lead for good winning 7-5. On a similar note, Shouwa, who may not be long for the tournament after this game (as they're facing Waseda Jitsugyou aka Soujitsu), down 1 in the 9th to Meijidai Meiji, scores 2 for the walkoff win.

And while I could say, "and so it was" since Soujitsu did indeed beat them, but despite getting 10 hits and 6 free passes, they managed just a 2-1 win. Nichidai-san (aka Sanko), had some trouble with Hino... for a while. Up 7-0, Hino started chipping into the lead. 2 in the 4th, 3 in the 5th, and one more in the 7th off Yoshinaga (who came in part-way through the 5th), meant that Sanko's lead was just 1!

Then Sanko decided to floor it. 8 runs later and Hino was threatened with the mercy rule. 3 runs against ace Yoshinaga in 1 inning was too much to ask, and that was that. Waseda Gakuin reached the round of 8 again, with a 9-7 win over Kougakuindai Fuzoku that was less competitive than the score indicated, and Kousei Gakuen who has submariner Mizoguchi.

In an odd turn, and I'm not sure if it was to prevent games possibly running late, or of it was due to not wanting both Waseda schools at the stadium, but Waseda Gakuin's game versus Nichidai Tsurugaoka was moved to Hachiouji Municipal. The game was close early, as Waseda quickly closed a 2-run deficit early. But Tsurugaoka started pulling away late, capped off with 4 in the 9th for an 8-2 win.

The other quarterfinals, were just not competitive at all. In fact, Soujitsu, Sanko and Kousei combined shut out their opponents to the tune of 34-0, and all but Kousei went 5 (Kousei played just 1 inning more).

Higashi Tokyo
Higashi Tokyo, also had similar stories. For instance, Nittai Ebara bids sayonara to Sumida Kougyou right after Sumida scored a run in the 9th to tie the game up. Nichidai Buzan rallied with 2 in the the 8th and 9th innings to wipe out a 3-run deficit incurred after giving up 7 in the 7th to Sundai Gakuen.

In what could be considered a quarterfinal-type matchup, Kanto Dai-ichi survives against Yukigaya in the 3rd round 3-2.

And in perhaps an example of needing those extra vowels, Shutoku wins their game over Tokyo Shidai Todoroki and will play Shuutoku (the more well-known school) who shut-out Shouin.

Going to the round of 16 we had teams like Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku who scored 3 in the top of the 9th to defeat Tokyo Jitsugyou 4-2 interdispersed with quite a few regulars.

I think what's been surprising about the Tokyo tournaments is that the quarterfinals have been so lopsided. All 4 games ended via the mercy rule. That leaves us Teikyou v. Seiritsu Gakuen, and Nishogakushadai Fuzoku v. Kanto Dai-ichi.

Kanagawa had some good stories in the beginning. Yamakita scored 3 in the bottom of the 9th to defeat Seya 7-6. Course, they faced Yokohama next. But they put a good fight against Yokohama. In fact, ace Dotemoto limited Yokohama to just 3 hits. 3! And Yamakita out-hit Yohohama 5-3! But it's the final score that matters, and that was 2-0 Yokohama.

Keiou oddly had trouble with their 3rd round opponent Yurigaoka. The final score was 3-2 and they managed just 7 hits. Nichidai Fujisawa would be next. And in that game, Keiou just didn't look the same. No offense, no pitching, and no win. Nichidai Fujisawa moves on with a 5-2 win.

Chigasaki Nishihama had a sayonara homerun from no other than their ace Furumura to win 6-3! And in the next round they almost did the same thing against Touin Gakuen. Down 3-0 in the bottom of the 9th they once again made their push. But it fell one run short as they lost 3-2.

In a bit of a surprise, Hosei Dai-ni advances to the round of 16 with a 4-0 win over Kamakura Gakuen. I don't think I can recall a time when I really mentioned a Hosei team.

The round of 16 saw my dream of a back-to-back haru-natsu renzoku yuushou disappear. An early HR from Usuda wasn't enough for them as Yokohama scores 3 to end Toukaidai Sagami's bid. Next up would be Tachibana Gakuen (立花学園 - that one) who handled Nichidai 5-0.

Koujyou would have to wait one more day to figure out their opponent. Yokohama Sougakukan and Yokohama Ouyou both scored a run in the 6th, both aces - Sueyoshi and Sawada went the full distance, and the teams combined for just 11 hits in a 1-1 draw. Possible note for the replay, Ouyou batters struck out 19 times.

So onto the next day of games, and I don't think I had talked about Toukou Gakuen in years past, but here they are in the round of 16 beating Nichidai Fujisawa 2-1! Next up would be Hosei Dai-ni and ace Asano who shutout Sagamihara Sougou 1-0.

Touin Gakuen is looking to make a deep run yet again, and perhaps not get disappointed as in years past. They draw Busou next.

And finally, in the replay of the 1-1 tie, Yokohama Ouyou did indeed have problems, though they only struck out twice. Yokohama Sougakukan alone had 14 hits, more than the 1st game in total. And it would be Yokohama Sougakukan who would advance with a 3-0 win.

To the quarterfinals and Tachibana Gakuen gave Yokohama yet another challenge. Behind 3-0 they score 3 in the 7th to tie the game! Yokohama though would eventually win the game with a run in the 8th. But they've had some very close calls throughout the tournament. Yokohama Sougakukan would give it a crack next as Koujyou fell to them 5-1.

On the other side, Hosei Dai-ni's run ended rather flat against Toukou Gakuen 10-3 in 7. Touin Gakuen would be their opponent, though it required 12 innings to do so. One letter kanji difference between the two schools. Just a random observation.

To the semifinals and yet again, Yokohama gets a scare. Scoreless for the first 5 innings, they score 4 in the 6th. Despite that, Yokohama Sougakukan would start a comeback. Down 0-4, to 1-4, 1-5, 2-5, then 2 in the bottom of the 8th to make it just a 1 run ball game! Ace Souma retakes the hill in the 9th for the win, and they're in the finals - though perhaps not necessarily in the manner perhaps we were expecting.

And the other semifinal was a tug of war between Toukou and Touin, with neither side really able to break free from the other. That was until Kubota hit a 2-run HR in the 6th to give Toukou a 5-3 lead. But that wouldn't last either as Touin brought the deficit to 1 again. Though they had their chaces, Touin couldn't get that equalizer and as such Toukou advances to meet Yokohama!

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