And now for Kita Hokkaido, the last region to have qualifying games so far.
Kitami block play overall was dominated for the most part by 3 teams - Engaru, Memanbetsu and Kitami Hakuyou though Kitami Hakuyou did need a 5-run 5th to hold off Kitami Kougyou
9-6 in the Block C final.
The Asahikawa region has actually had quite a few Koushien participants - Asahikawadai, Asahikawa Jitsugyou, and Asahikawa Kougyou. The former team wound up in Block B, the latter 2 in Block C.
So Block A was a bit open for all, and the block started out with some nice games. Asahikawa Touei scored the only run in the top of the 9th to defeat Kami-Furano. Haboro led Rumoi Senbou 4-1 before Rumoi clawed back to level in the 8th. Haboro closed the door though with 2 in their half of the 8th inning for the win.
In round 2, Asahikawa Nishi finally got their turn on the field and proceeded to dispatch Kamikawa 10-3 in 7 innings. Their opponent in the final would be Asahikawa Touei who defeated Haboro 4-1.
And in the block final, Asahikawa Nishi pulled out to a 2-0 lead. When they scored 4 in the 5th, it looked all but over. Touei though wanted to make a game out of it and scored 4 of their own also in the 5th. But outside of that one offensive outburst, they could manage no more, falling 6-4.
Asahikawadai in Block B started off with a slim 1-0 win over Asahikawa Tousen. In fact, all 1st round games in Block B were relatively low scoring. That changed when Asahikawa Minami played their 1st game in round 2. They mercy ruled Asahikawa Ryuukoku 7-0 in 7 innings perhaps putting themselves in the driver's seat to advance. Their opponent would be Asahikawadai as the offense picked up ace Nozawa after he blew a 3-0 lead late scoring the sayonara run in the bottom of the 9th.
In the block final, Asahikawadai would send up reliever Sasaki to start the game... which ended disastrously. Asahikawa Minami was spotted 3 runs from the 1st inning, and never recovered. 3 runs in the 8th inning ended the game 9-2 in favor of Minami.
Finally, in Block C Asahikawa Kougyou and Asahikawa Jitsugyou were on an immediate collision course after winning their 1st round games. In that matchup, Jitsugyou came out to an early 2-0 lead. Kougyou would tie it up quickly in the 3rd and then blew it open with 5 runs between the 6th & 7th innings. Last year's representative had no answer to the offensive outburst and fell 7-3.
Their opponent in the final would be Furano Ryokuhou who edged out Asahikawa Higashi 3-2 in the semifinal. But Asahikawa Kougyou ace Miyano would throw a 1-hit shutout to send his team to the prefecturals.
And in looking at Miyano, I'll be interested to see how he does. Why?
He throws a knuckleball.
The Tokachi draw this year was unfortunate in that the two main teams from this region, Shirakaba Gakuen and Obihiro Ootani were put in the same block. So the winner of that matchup in the semifinals would in all likelihood would be the Block A winner.
Shirakaba would jump out to a 3-0 1st inning lead. But by the 3rd, Ootani would tie the score. Shirakaba once again scored 3, this time in the 5th. And when Ootani tried to claw back, they scored 4 more to make it a 10-4 game.
There was no quit though from the Obihiro squad, and a 4-spot in the 8th made it 11-8. However, that would be the final margin giving Shirakaba Gakuen the keys to the prefecturals.
All that was left was a formality against Obihiro Nougyou. Except that Obihiro ace Murosaki wouldn't let them get away that easy, yielding just 1 run in the 5th early on. However, his offense couldn't score for him, and when Shirakaba added an insurance run in the top of the 9th, it was too much. Obihiro Nougyou would get back that run, but only that run, falling 2-1.
Block B was full of blowouts save for the first game between Obihiro Ryokuyou and Obihiro Sanjyou. That game saw respective aces Oowada and Hirayama pitch 9 shutout innings. Then 10... 11... 12... and 13 innings! With the game so close to the 15 inning limit, I'm sure both teams couldn't afford a replay.
And so Ryokuyou concludes things by scoring 3 in the top of the 14th for the win.
After that, the blowouts started. Honbetsu, Shimizu and Obihiro Minami Shougyou all shutout their opponents to the tune of a combined 28-0.
In the semis, the extended inning game didn't seem to phase Ryokuyou at all as Honbetsu was outplayed 9-2 in 8 innings. Their opponent would be Shimizu who won their semi 10-1 in 7 innings.
However, the Sasaki duo from Shimizu couldn't hold off Obihiro Ryokuyou as they advanced with a 8-0 win in 7 innings.
The sister school of Komadai Tomakomai, Komadai Iwamizawa has had more success reaching Koushien as of late. They headlined Block A in Sorachi and had absolutely no stressful games as the pitching staff throws 3 shutouts of 10-0, 15-0 and 6-0 to advance to the prefecturals.
Takikawa Nishi was looking for yet another prefectural appearance in Block B, but stumbled a bit coming out of the gate against Iwamizawa Ryokuryou. Ace Iwasaki couldn't stop their offense from pinging them with single runs. He was unable to hold a 2-run lead and in fact gave Ryokuryou a 5-4 lead. But the offense picked him up, scoring 2 in the bottom of the 8th and he was able to hold that for a 6-5 win.
In the semis, they had a much easier time, mercy ruling Ashibetsu 15-5 in 6 innings. That setup a matchup in the block final against Iwamizawa Higashi whose semi had a flurry of runs but when the dust cleared, had a 9-5 win.
Takikawa Nishi would send out their relief corps to start the game, but that didn't go well. Much like Asahikawa, Takikawa would give Iwamizawa 3 runs to start the game. However, unlike that game, Takikawa would get all those runs back in the 3rd.
And when Iwamizawa scored a run in the 5th, Takikawa leveled it again in the 6th.
However, when they were asked to come back for a 3rd time after Iwamizawa scored 3 the next inning, there was nothing left for Takikawa. Iwamizawa Higashi advances with a 7-4 win.
Nayoro was the first region to start and finish in the Kita Hokkaido region, and the games pretty much went without much excitement. Teshio did give Wakkanai a good run in the Block A final, tying the game at 1 in the 5th, but when Wakkanai scored 2 in the bottom of the 8th Teshio couldn't scramble a quick response.
In Block B, Wakkanai Ootani didn't have any problems in their 2 games, mercy ruling Wakkanai Shoukou and yielding just a run in the 9th to Hamatonbetsu in a 5-1 win to advance to prefectural play.
Kushine is home to Bushuukan, who perennially seems to be in the prefectural brackets had some competition in Block C. Kushiro Shougyou blew out their first 2 opponents 28-7 and looked to play spoiler.
Bushuukan did get out to a 2-0 lead after 2 innings. But a run in the 2nd pulled Kushiro within 1, and another run in the 5th tied things up. Ace Ookubo couldn't keep the game tied, giving up a run in the 7th and 8th innings, falling 4-2.
Block A started off uneventful except for the Betsukai-Kushiro Koryou game where Betsukai scored 2 in the 7th to pull out a 4-3 win. And after 2 7-inning mercy ruled games, we had Kushiro Hokuyou and Kushiro Kounan in the block finals.
Kounan jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 1st only to see Hokuyou score 3 in the next half inning to take the lead. Ace Oota though couldn't hold it for long, giving up the douten run in the 3rd. Two innings later he would give up the go-ahead run, and that's where it ended with Kushiro Kounan advancing with a 4-3 win.
And finally in Block B, after a blowout to start the block, Kushiro Meiki shuts out Shibecha 3-0 in the middle game while Shibetsu and Teshikaga decided to do all their scoring in the 2nd half of their game. Teshikaga led 3-0, then Shibetsu led 4-3 the next half inning, and then it was tied the half-inning after that. 5 in the 8th for Shibetsu ended things though.
Two more blowouts in the semis meant that Kushiro Kougyou and Shibetsu would play for a spot in the prefecturals.
The game though was anti-climatic though as Kushiro Kougyou had their 3rd mercy-ruled game, winning 10-3 in 7 innings.