Friday, May 27, 2011

2011 Haru Taikai - Kanto Taikai

The Kanto Taikai is over, and the results are surprising (and to me, very happy).

So lets go through the recap!

So I'm beginning to get the hint that seeds in general are given to the Best 4 from the last tournament. Makes sense considering there's no leagues during the year and the only real competitions are the seasonal tournaments.

So Suijyou, Kasumigaura, Fujishiro and Shimotsuma Dai-ni were awarded seeds and an automatic bid in the prefecturals. Everyone else had to qualify out of small regional play.

Interestingly, it wasn't the top 2 seeds that advanced to the quarterfinals. Fujishiro reached thanks to close wins against Mito Sakuranomaki (which I'm sure Ken is bummed about) and Akeno. Shimotsuma Dai-ni had an early challenge against Tsuchiura Nichidai winning 1-0. That opened a straight road to the quarterfinals which they easily drove through.

Suijyou, certainly not the team from last year, did win their first 2 games via shutout. But when they faced Jyousou Gakuin, who had previously been a Koushien reprentative, they faltered. Jyousou Gakuin won the slugfest 9-8 earning a spot in the quarterfinals. Kasumigaura only made it through one game before stubbing their toe against Mito Kiryou 4-3. They continued to squeak by, winning 2-1 against Tsuchiura Kohoku.

The surprises continued in the semis. Jyousou Gakuin plastered Shimotsuma Dai-ni 13-0, certainly not helping their image (remember they were passed up for senbatsu a couple of years ago despite finishing 2nd in the Kanto super-regionals), and Mito Kiryou's ace Nagashima blanked Fujishiro 1-0.

Mito Kiryou's run was certainly nice, but in facing Jyousou Gakuin they had their hands full. And after giving up a 4-spot in the top of the 1st, it was probably too much. Jyousou Gakuin would win 6-1 for their 10th title and first in 2 years.

Tochigi too has a "regional" where all teams are paired up (3 in some cases) and winner goes to the prefecturals. Best 4 are not exempt.

A lot of the regulars naturally made it out of the winner-to-prefecturals round. Sano Nichidai, Sakushin Gakuin, Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku and Hakuoudai Ashikaga all advanced.

But to show the relative evenness in the field here in Tochigi, many of them were eliminated early.
  • Yaita Chuo upset Sano Nichidai 4-1 in the first round,
  • Sakushin Gakuin after winning their first game, lost to seeded Kokugakuin Tochigi 3-1.
  • Hakuoudai Ashikaga had the same fate, losing 5-2 to Utsunomiya Minami.
Only Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku had success breezing their way though the brackets, winning its 4 games to the finals by a score of 31-5.

Seeded Ootawara would be their opponent in the finals, and they proved to be a formidable opponent (that day at least). Bunsei Geidai couldn't come back from a 3-run 3rd inning as Ootawara would win just their 2nd spring title - their 1st being 52 years ago!

Gunma extended its seeds to the Best 8 for its spring taikai. So how would the Best 8 fair?

Fall winner Maebashi Ikuei after a strong start, started to falter barely defeating Ooizumi and Isezaki Shougyou before losing to 5-8 seed Kiryuu-shi Shougyou.

Runner-up Takasaki Shougyou seemed to be cruising along until running into Takasaki in the quarterfinals losing 6-4.

3-4 place teams Takasaki Kengoudai Takasaki and Kiryuu Dai-ichi didn't fare much better. Kengoudai after winning their first two games by a combined score of 25-0, lost to Tokyo Noudai-ni (remember them?) 5-2 while Maebashi Shougyou got the best of Kiryuu Dai-ichi 4-3 in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, Maebashi Shougyou continued their run defeating Kiryuu-shi Shougyou 2-0 while 5-8 seed Jyuutoku defeated Takasaki 9-3.

Maebashi Shougyou would win their 3rd consecutive spring title (yet only their 5th overall) thanks to 6 runs en route to a 10-5 win.

Saitama is one of the larger prefectures - in terms of population (5th overall as of 2008), and it's a bit surprising that in some ways some of the larger prefectures aren't given 2 bids much like Tokyo and Hokkaido. Back in the 90th Natsu Koushien, there were 55 teams with 2 bids given to Chiba (E/W), Hyogo (E/W), Osaka (N/S), Saitama (N/S), Aichi (E/W), Kanagawa (N/S).

Now, the big problem with this is that the extra days for games easily makes rain postponements more costly not to mention the Hanshin Tigers have to be on the road longer (it IS their stadium after all). Probably biggest of all is that it's already difficult enough for most of the smaller prefectures to compete. Throw in more powerhouses and the dream of winning it all is made that much harder.

Anyways, off to the Saitama prefecturals. The 154 teams are mostly broken into groups of 4 which whittle the field to 40 for the main tournament.

The Best 4 from the fall all made it out of group play but as a whole did not fare as well in the prefecturals. Fall winner Urawa Gakuin lost 9-7 to Shiritsu Kawaguchi in the 3rd round. Washinomiya lost to Okegawa 1-0 in the same round. Kasukabe Kyouei went one round further but lost 8-5 to Hanasaki Tokuharu. Only Urawa Jitsugyou made it to the semifinals.

Ageo, who had been a seeded team in the fall and subsequently was upset in the first round, fared much better this time reaching the semis before defeating the last vestiges of the seeded teams in Urawa Jitsugyou 5-0. They'd square up against Hanasaki Tokuharu who had no trouble with Okegawa winning 10-1 in 7 innings.

In the finals, Hanasaki Tokuharu would win their 2nd consecutive spring title (3rd overall) shutting out Ageo 2-0.

So I'm biased. When it comes to Chiba, I root for one team and one team only. Well, almost (there was Narita and Nakagawa Ryou).

That team is Narashino.

Yes, a good chunk of it is their band. Their award winning band. And their cheers.

But after their poor performance in the fall (losing to seeded Senshuudai Matsudo 1-0 in the 3rd round), they weren't going to get any favors. They'd have to advance out of pool play instead of getting a free pass to the prefecturals. They did so with two mercy rule games against Kamagaya Nishi and the new Funabashi Keimei*.

*8 schools merged into 4, and one was moved
  • Funabashi Asahi and Funabashi Nishi merged into Funabashi Keimei
  • Fusa and Kohoku merged into Abiko Higashi
  • Nisshodai Shounan became Nisshodai Kashiwa
  • Ichikawa Kita and Ichikawa Nishi merged into Ichikawa Subaru
  • and Matsudo Akiyama and Matsudo Yakiri merged into Matsudo Kouyou
Sadly, none of those new teams were able to advance out of pool play.

But a lot of the good schools did and received seeded placement - Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, Kisaradzu Sougou, Senshuudai Matsudo and Toukaidai Urayasu.

Chiba Keizaidai and Senshuudai Matsudo were in the same quadrant and clashed in the quarterfinals, with the latter gaining the win 5-1.

Toukaidai Urayasu struggled in their first two games, but handled Shigakukan to reach the semis.

Neither seeded Seibudai Chiba or Narita Kokusai advanced out of their quadrant as Ryuutsuudai Kashiwa played 4 close games to join the Best 4.

The last team to qualify? Why, Narashino of course. After almost getting upset 3-2 in their first game against Narutou, they cleaned house to get to the semis (which included a 6-1 win over Kisaradzu Sougou).

With the super-regionals held in Chiba this year, all 4 teams qualified. But who would take top honors?

Narashino continued its run with a 7-0 mercy win over Toukaidai Urayasu. Ryuukeidai Kashiwa (as they're nicknamed) built a shocking 5-0 lead over Senmatsu before they struck back with 10 unanswered runs. Kashiwa would get 3 in the 9th, but the math shows that wasn't enough.

Senmatsu and Narashino in the final...

Senmatsu showed their strength early putting numbers up in 3 of the first 4 innings for a 3-0 lead. Narashino erased all of it in the 4th. The game remained a tenuous draw until the bottom of the 8th where ace Kitazawa couldn't hold on anymore. Narashino exploded for 5 runs from which Senmatsu couldn't recover. Narashino would win their 8th spring title and 2nd consecutive.

In the consolation game, Ryuukeidai Kashiwa outlasted Toukaidai Urayasu 10-7 to take 3rd.

Tokyo is where we see the first effects of the Greater Tohoku Earthquake. Because of the rolling blackouts required there apparently wasn't a way to get all the qualifying in as usual. So instead of holding block play, the teams that made it to the main prefecturals in the fall were called back for the spring. Only one school - Toritsu Chitosegaoka was unable to play because of suspensions handed down earlier in the year.

And almost immediately, many of the major teams fell by the wayside. Teikyou, Kanto Gakuin, and Waseda Gakuin both lost right off the bat. Souka and Nichidai-ni were next to go.

Shuutoku, who was mimicked as Shuuhoku in the series Moshidora, was shocked by Hachiouji 4-0 in the quarterfinals. Senbatsu participant Kokugakuin Kugayama got railroaded by Kousei Gakuen (not to be mistaken with Kousei Gakuin) 12-4.

So who does that leave?

Well, that's obvious. Nichidai-san. They reached the finals in a combined score of 44-4. They faced the aforementioned Kousei Gakuen who made a spectacular run to the finals. Kousei would rally from down 2 early to actually take the lead in the 7th. But Nichidai would obviously not let that stand and level the score in the 8th. The game went into extras briefly when Suzuki sends everyone home in spectacular fashion in the 10th with a manrui home run to left!

Nichidai-san wins their 12th title and 1st in 2 years.

But with Nichidai-san and Toukaidai Sagami receiving recommendation bids Tokyo would get one extra bid since Nichidai-san won the title. That would go to Hachiouji who defeated Nisho Gakushadai Fuzoku 6-3.

Yokohama being so big went into group play way back in March which meant that eventual winner Toukaidai Sagami would get a free pass to the prefecturals. Winning senbatsu would get even more perks to be stated later.

The Best 4 - Toukaidai Sagami, Yokohama, Tourei Fujisawa and Yokohama Shoudai all made it to the prefecturals. Quickly though, the teams would fall.

Yokohama Shoudai lost in the 3rd round to Kamakura Gakuen 8-6. One round later, Tourei Fujisawa would be upended by unseeded Keiou 9-2. Joining them would be... Toukaidai Sagami! They were upset by Totsuka 3-2! But because of their senbatsu title, they'd receive an invitational bid. How fortunate!

That left only Yokohama as the remaining last Best 4 team. But the road to the finals would have to go through Keiou. And I don't know what's happened to Yokohama in recent years, but they've just struggled. Keiou shuts out Yokohama 4-0 to go to the finals!

With Toukaidai Sagami out of the way in the other bracket, it was wide open. Atsugi Kita and Koujyou jumped on the opportunity (with a couple of close calls along the way) and faced off in the quarterfinals. But it was a one-sided affair as Koujyou routed Atsugi Kita 10-0 for a spot in the finals.

Now Koujyou against Keiou would seem like a one-sided matchup, but Koujyou instead surprised Keiou by taking a 4-0 lead after 1½ innings!

Sadly though, the surprise was short lived. 7 in the 2nd and 4 more in the 3rd meant that Keiou was up 11-4. The final score would be 13-5 as Keiou takes just their 4th title (!) and first in 4 years.

Even with just 38 teams, Yamanashi awards the Best 8 from the fall a seed in the spring taikai.

Only two of the 8 teams failed to make the quarterfinals (which requires winning 2 games really). Interestingly, both teams were in the same quadrant. Best 4 seed Teikyou Dai-san lost to Minobu 8-1, and Best 8 seed Koufu Shougyou lost to Koufu Jyousai 4-1. By the way, it would be Koufu Jyousai who would advance to the Best 4 with a 5-2 win over Minobu.

Things further went to script when the Best 4 teams got the best of the Best 8 teams. That setup Koufu Kougyou-Koufu Jyousai semi on one side, and Nihon Koukuu-Toukaidai Koufu in the other.

Koufu Jyousai couldn't break the status quo yet again, as they gave up the lead in the late innings losing 5-3. And nuts to Nihon Koukuu, the pitching coughs it up in the middle innings, losing 6-2.

So the rise of the Toukai schools seems to be happening (although it'll take a while to rival the Nichidai schools). And it was completed as ace Honda shuts out Koufu Kougyou 4-0 to give the team their 11th spring title and first in 3 years!

So it was off to the Kanto Taikai. And the draw was brutal for some teams. I mean, how in the world does Keiou and Narashino face off... in their opening game??!! Meanwhile, Hanasaki Tokuharu had the unfortunate draw to be with Nichidai-san in a quadrant, while Toukaidai Sagami got their own quadrant, while the last was up for grabs (although perhaps Jyousou Gakuin had the inside track).

Narashino would get the better of the match against Keiou, winning 3-2. But they needed 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th to pull off that victory. With that tough test out of the way, they easily reached the semis with an 8-4 win over Toukaidai Koufu. Nichidai-san would join them, having no trouble in their part of the bracket. Now, I don't know what the heck happened to Narashino in the fall, because they were on a mission it seemed. They scored 7 runs in the first 2 innings en route to a 9-1 mercy win!

On the other side, all hell broke loose when Toukaidai Sagami was upset yet again, this time by Koufu Kougyou 8-6 in their 1st game! Koufu ralled from an early 5-0 deficit to win that game too!

Well, that just opened things right up. But it was Koufu Kougyou who barged through the door to the semis. Joining them would be Jyousou Gakuin after all, but they had to survive a 13-inning affair against Tokyo's Kousei Gakuen. And their ace Mizoguchi wasn't even pitching! Kousei Gakuen actually rallied from down 3-0 to force extras, only to see it slip away 2 innings from a draw.

In the semifinal, Jyousou Gakuin would be unable to get the better of Koufu Kougyou, continuously finding the douten run only to see Koukou pull away again. The backbreaker was a pair of runs in the 7th which gave Koukou a 5-3 lead. They would win 8-4 to get to the finals.

The finals though would be over before it started. Narashino put up a 4-spot in the bottom of the 1st and never looked back as ace Oono pitched a shutout winning 7-0 giving Narashino their first ever spring title!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

2011 Haru Taikai - Hokushinetsu Taikai

Onto the Hokushinetsu Region, another rural region, but perhaps one that I wish did better. I loved being in Nagano, wished Nihon Bunri really did finish that comeback, and secretly wish that Ishikawa, Fukui and Toyama went just a little further.

The draws for the super-regionals are out, but first the prefecturals:

With games being held in Niigata this year, they earn 4 bids.

They have one big qualification, like the rest of the year. The final 4 from the fall (Nihon Bunri, Hokuetsu, Tookamachi and Sado) earned top seeds.

As usual, Nihon Bunri quickly ran through the field to the semifinals with their closest game being a 10-3 win over Sekine Gakuen in the quarterfinals.

Hokuetsu too was able to get through their quadrant, though not as easily with a notable win against Teikyou Nagaoka 7-5.

Meanwhile Nagaoka Oote, who had actually given Hokuetsu a run in the fall, finally got the better of a good team, defeating Tookamachi 8-1!

Chuuetsu, who had the unfortunate early draw with Hokuetsu, finally got a draw to themselves, and faced off with Sado in the quarterfinals. They broke through with a 2-0 win to earn a bid.

So at this point all 4 teams that will advance have been determined, but now it was a matter of who would receive the first round bye.

Nagaoka Oote couldn't stop the Nihon Bunri express, losing 7-0 in 7 innings. Chuuetsu lost to their neighbors to the north 9-0.

So it would be a rematch of the fall semifinal. And once again, Nihon Bunri showed their dominance throwing their 4th shutout of the tournament winning 7-0 for the 2nd consecutive title and 15th overall.

And in the consolation game, Nagaoka Oote defeated Chuuetsu 3-2.

Again, like Niigata, the top 4 from the fall - Shin-Minato, Sakurai, Toyama Dai-ichi, and Fukuoka all earned seeds in the spring taikai.

However. the teams here were not as able to defend their ranking. Sakurai immediately got into a 2-2 draw against Takaoka Minami, and won the replay 3-1. But that result immediately did not bode well as they lost to Kosugi 4-2 in the next round.

Fukuoka started off well with a 14-2 win over Toyama Kousenmon Hongou, but then was routed 7-0 by Namerikawa.

Shin-Minato got the quarterfinal stage, but then was upset by Toyama Kokusaidai Fuzoku 3-1.

Only Toyama Dai-ichi made it to the semifinals, and that was despite a 12-11 win over Toyama Shougyou. Even then though, they were eliminated by the aforementioned Toyama Kokusaidai Fuzoku 12-0 in 6 thanks to 2 6-run innings.

On the other side, the teams who upset the seeded teams were not able advance any further. Kosugi lost 6-1 to Toyama Higashi, while Namerikawa lost to Takaoka Shougyou 5-3. Those two teams faced off in the semis where Takaoka Shougyou won 6-1.

That setup an interesting final which wound up being a pitchers duel. The teams were scoreless through 7 with Toyama Kokusaidai breaking through in the top of the 8th. With little time left, Takashou managed a 9th inning rally to tie it and send into extras. When Kokusaidai scored in the 11th, ace Gotou couldn't slam the door again as Takashou was able to find an equalizer. But when Kokusaidai scored yet another run in the 12, Gotou wouldn't let them extend the game any further. Toyama Kokusaidai Fuzoku wins 3-2 in 12 innings for their 1st ever spring title!

There are no seeds in the Ishikawa spring taikai, however the Best 4 in the fall did find themselves in separate quadrants.

More notably though, the 2 powerhouse schools in Ishikawa (although they don't have a death grip) in Kanazawa and Yuugakukan were placed in opposite sides of the bracket.

So in all likelihood it would be those two in the finals, although last year's spring winner Seiryou wanted to have a say in it. They squared off against Yuugakukan and used a trio of pitchers - Oono, Moriyama and Nishikawa. Combined, they held Yuugakukan to just 2 runs.

Unfortunately, they only managed to score 1. So in fact it was Kanazawa and Yuugakukan in the finals.

In the championship game, Yuugakukan got to ace Kamata early taking a 2-0 lead. However Kanazawa would take the lead in the middle innings thanks in part to a HR by Kamata himself. Leading 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th, Kanazawa looked to close it out...

... except leadoff batter Kobayashi had other plans. He hits a ball off the right field pole to tie the game at 3 sending it into extras. But neither team could score a run thereafter meaning that the teams would have to replay the game.

Yuugakukan's ace Kurohagi would take the hill again, while Kamata who had thrown over 180 pitches in the draw would not come out. With both staffs short or fatigued, there was bound to be more scoring.

In fact there was, with the lead changing several times. After Yuugakukan took a 1-0 lead in the top of the 2nd, Kanazawa sniped right back with 2 in the bottom half. When Yuugakukan scored 2 in the 4th to retake it, 2 from Kanazawa in the 5th took it right back... and then 2 more from Yuugakukan in the 6th gave them the lead once again at 5-4. Got that?

Kanazawa would again score, this time finding an equalizer in the bottom of the 6th. And right back, Yuugakukan scored one in the 7th to re-take that slim 1-run margin.

And that's how it would end. Kurohagi would pitch a complete game to give Yuugakukan their 8th title and first in 3 years.

Fukui too is primarily dominated by 3 schools - Fukui Shougyou, Tsuruga Kehi, and Fukui Koudai Fukui. Joining them for this go-around is Nyuu.

All 4 were given seeds for the spring taikai, and all 4 made it to the semifinals with ease - except for Nyuu who won 1-0, 2-0 and 2-1.

Sadly Nyuu's pretender status was confirmed as they lost 9-0 in 7 innings to Tsuruga Kehi. Fukui Koudai Fukui used a flurry of runs in the middle innings for a 6-2 win over Fukushou.

So it was Tsuruga Kehi and Fukui Koudai Fukui in the finals. After scoring 4 runs in the 3rd, Koudai Fukui would rally to with 1. But after an insurance run in the 6th, things looked a bit bleak.

Instead, the pitching for Tsuruga Kehi would collapse in a big way. Koudai Fukui would put up a 6 spot in the bottom of the 8th to take a 10-6 lead. That deficit that late would be too much for Tsuruga Kehi as Fukui Koudai Fukui would win their 11th title and 1st in 2 years.

Nagano is the only prefecture in the region that uses regional play to determine their final participants.

Notably missing from the final 16 was Matsushou Gakuen, who actually lost in their 1st game inthe Chuushin regionals 4-1 to Matsumoto Arigasaki!

All the other regulars however did make it - Matsumoto Dai-ichi, Saku Chousei and Nagano Nichidai.

A local team that I root for, Ueda Chikuma, also made it but wound up paired against Matsumoto Dai-ichi and lost 10-4. :(

Nagano Nichidai was the first of the three teams to fall, losing to Tokyo-to Shidai Shiojiri 6-2. They would get involved in a shootout against Ina Yayoigaoka for a spot in the finals rallying with 6 runs late for a 10-8 win.

Their opponent would either be Matsumoto Dai-ichi or Saku Chousei. While Matsumoto Dai-ichi scored 3 runs to take a lead, Saku Chousei's bookended pairs of runs proved to be enough for a 4-3 win and more importantly a spot in the Hokushinetsu super-regionals.

Tokyo-to Shidai Shiojiri tried its best to stay with the Nagano powerhouse, but to no avail. They fell behind 2-0 in the first and was eventually shutout 4-0 giving Saku Chousei their 11th title and 1st in 4 years.

So onto the draw. With 5 prefectures, one representative would get the short end of the stick and have to play an extra game. That would go to Saku Chousei.

Yuugakukan (Ishikawa 1) vs. Chuuetsu (Niigata 4)-Saku Chousei (Nagano 1) winner
Yuugakukan will have their hands full with Saku Chousei. As much as I like Nagano, Yuugakukan may advance.

Toyama Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Toyama 1) vs. Hokuetsu (Niigata 2)-Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui 2) winner
Toyama Kokusaidai Fuzoku is probably not the favorite here. Rather it may be Tsuruga Kehi.

Nihon Bunri (Niigata 1) vs. Tokyo-to Shidai Shiojiri (Nagano 2)-Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama 2) winner
Nihon Bunri shouldn't have too much trouble, though I'd like see how the transplanted Tokyo school does.

Fukui Koudai Fukui (Fukui 1) vs. Nagaoka Oote (Niigata 4)-Kanazawa (Ishikawa 2) winner
Fukui Koudai Fukui, while a powerhouse in its own prefecture, will not be the favorite. Instead it will be Kamata and Kanazawa that will be expected to advance.

2011 Haru Taikai - Kinki Taikai Update

All prefectures have completed play and the draw has been determined for the super-regionals. But before that, let's go see what happened:

In the semis, Tounan actually got off to a quick start against Fukuchiyama Seibi, getting 2 runs in the top of the 1st. However, in the next 3 innings, Seibi went 1-3-1 to take a 5-2 lead and won 6-3. Their opponent in the finals would end up being Ritsumeikan Uji as Kyoto Gaidai Nishi collapsed in the 2nd inning, giving up 6 runs en route to a 9-2 loss.

In the final, Ritsumeikan and Seibi would be wrapped in a closely contested match. No team ever led by 1 run, and while Ritsumeikan Uji led 1-0 and 2-1, Fukuchiyama Seibi scored a pair to take a 3-2 lead late. It all collapsed in the 9th though as the bullpen couldn't hold it down. Uji scores 2 to win their 3rd title and first in 29 years.

The 4th team joining the Big 3 would be Kansai Chuo who defeated Ikoma (I remember passing by that station quite often) 3-2.

Kooriyama found themselves with their hands full against the "outsider" and could only manage 1 run. That was 1 run more than Kansai Chuo could manage though, and Kooriyama was in the final.

Now Chiben Gakuen and Tenri also had a close game... kinda...

After trading a pair of runs in the 1st, Tenri would score 7 unanswered to take a commanding 9-2 lead.

And then the pitching staff proceed to blow all of it. Facing a called game in the 7th, Chiben Gakuen scores 4 in the 7th and 8th innings to take a 1-run lead!

Tenri, suddenly finding themselves behind, manages something they haven't been able to do at Koushien.


They score a run in the 8th, and a sayonara run in the 9th to send Chiben Gakuen home.

Even with that high-stress game just to show that Kooriyama, while a Top 3 team, is still miles behind the Top 2, Tenri scores 8 runs in the first 5 innings of the final and run away with it 8-3 for their 23rd title, and 2nd consecutive.

Sadly for Han-ai, they were not able to keep up with Osaka Touin, although perhaps most thought that they didn't have a chance anyways. Osaka Touin wins 8-1 for just their 6th title and first in 3 years.

In the more important 3rd place game, Osaka Shoudai Sakai edges out fellow university school Osaka Gakuindai 3-2 to win the last spot.

Kouyou indeed did Chiben Wakayama fits in their game, hopefully indicating that there may be a chance that they're in some ways here to stay in the prefecture.

For now though, Chiben Wakayama scores 3 in the top of the 9th to break a 2-2 tie to advance to the finals. Minoshima would be their opponents as Minabe had no chance losing 11-2 (no mercy rules here).

Minoshima has also been another team that has cracked the ceiling recently, and they did so once again scoring 4 runs between the 2nd and 3rd innings to take a 4-2 lead. Chiben got a run back in the 4th, but perhaps the pitching-minded tack now has hurt Chiben Wakayama as they couldn't find that equalizer. Minoshima wins 4-3 and earns their 10th title and 1st in 19 years!

So the draw for the prefecturals go as follows:

Akashi Shougyou (Hyogo) vs. Han-ai (Osaka 2)
Oumi (Shiga) vs. Tenri (Nara)


Osaka Shoudai Sakai (Osaka 3) vs. Minoshima (Wakayama)
Osaka Touin (Osaka 1) vs. Ritsumeikan Uji (Hyogo)

I think all of the game should be competitive with perhaps the exception of the Minoshima game. I like Minoshima and I hope they have a resurgence (not to take anything away from Kouyou which I like too).

Tenri and Osaka Touin should have the inside track to the title, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that someone else takes it as well.

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).

2011 Haru Taikai - Chuugoku Taikai Update

The draws are out, and it really was just a matter of which team would face which Okayama team:

Sakuyou (Okayama 1) vs. Hiroshima Sougou Gijyutsu (Hiroshima) - Boy I really hope Hiroshima wins this one...
Kurashiki Shougyou (Okayama 4) vs. Iwamichisuikan (Shimane) - It's about time the former Gonokawa school got here. Rooting for them too.


Soushi Gakuen (Okayama 2) vs. Ube Koujyou (Yamaguchi) - Go new team!
Okayama Gakugeikan (Okayama 3) vs. Tottori Nishi (Tottori) - I guess this is the only time I'm rooting for an Okayaman team.

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!

Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Haru Taikai - Chuugoku Taikai

So it looks like I'm doing reviews in reverse order of how I normally do it, probably because the Kyushu region is always the first to start.

Anyways, off to the Chuugoku region!

Chuugoku is much like Kyushu in that the location of the Haru Taikai rotates between the prefectures and the host prefecture gets 4 teams while all other prefectures get 1. This year, Okayama will be hosting at Kurashiki Muscat Stadium.

It amazes me how few schools are in some rural prefectures. Tottori for instance has only 32 high schools, of which 25 are participating.

4 seeded teams plus 3 other unseeded teams received 1st round byes. The 4 seeds went to Tottori Ikuei, Yonago Higashi, Tottori Shougyou, and Yazu.

With only 25 teams, the tournament advanced quickly. Notable teams advancing out of the first round were Tottori Jyouhoku and Sakae.

When the 2nd round came about, all 4 seeds struggled to advance with all 4 only advancing by no more than 2 runs in low scoring affairs. Sakae was one of those casualties losing 3-1 to Yazu.

In fact, Yazu would be the only seeded team advancing out of the quarterfinals defeating Yonago Nishi 8-4. Tottori Ikuei couldn't stop the offensive train of Tottori Jyouhoku and lost 7-1. Yonago Higashi fell in a tight one 6-5 to Kurayoshi Higashi while Tottori Shougyou lost to Tottori Nishi 4-2.

Moving to the semifinals, Tottori Jyouhoku seemed to have the inside track to the finals, but it was actually Kurayoshi Higashi that displayed the offense in the middle innings building a 6-1 lead. Tottori Jyouhoku would stage a late-inning rally, but would fall short 7-5.

The other semi had Yazu and Tottori Nishi in a pitcher's duel. Tottori Nishi actually held a 1-0 lead late before Yazu leveled the score in the 8th. The game would head to enchousen, but only for 1 inning where Tottori Nishi bid sayonara to the last seeded team left in the field.

So it was Tottori Nishi and Kurayoshi Higashi battling for the prefectural title.

The game was close early, with Tottori Nishi holding a slim 1-0 lead. After Kurayoshi Higashi tied the game in the 5th, Tottori Nishi blew the game open with 5 in the 6th, eventually winning 6-2 giving them their 12th spring title and first in 4 years.

Okayama is the only prefecture along with Hiroshima that I can recall using pool play to determine participants in the prefecturals. All other prefectures that do small pools do single-elimination. This year though since they are hosting, all the teams need to do is reach the semifinals and they're in the Chuugoku Taikai.

Seeding for the prefecturals seemed logical enough, newcomer Soushi Gakuen joined Kounan (no not that Kounan - this is why having the kanji helps although with Kounan in particular I think there are two that share the same kanji writing), Kurashiki Kougyou, Okayama Gakugeikan, Kyouei, Sakuyou, Kanzei and Mizushima Kougyou.

All seeded teams received a first round bye, and all advanced to the best 8 save for one team...

And if you know my history with teams, you should know who it was...

Yep, it was Kanzei. But to be fair, they faced an unseeded (!) Kurashiki Shougyou, the same team that has represented Okayama the last 3 Natsu Koushien tournaments.

Now while all the other teams advanced, it was not without some difficulty. Soushi Gakuen, who is a bit offensively challenged, squeaked a 1-0 win over Kasaoka Shougyou. Kounan did the same against a perennial above-average Okayama Ridai Fuzoku. Kyouei was in a barnburner against Tamano, and Mizushima Kougyou edged Okayama Higashi Shougyou.

Soushi Gakuen continued their low-scoring games shutting out Kounan 2-0 for a spot in the semis. Their opponent would be Okayama Gakugeikan who beat a good Kurashiki Kougyou squad 6-3.

On the other side, Kyouei must've spent their energy in their first game, because Sakuyou wound up beating them soundly 7-2. And Kurashiki Shougyou continued to take the snubbing personally by shutting out Mizushima Kougyou 4-0.

In the semis, Soushi Gakuen and Okayama Gakugeikan were deadlocked at 0 until the 7th when the teams got tired of being scoreless and tied, and so decided to exit in the inning tied at 1 instead. Soushi's continued attrition paid off in the top of the 9th as they pushed ahead the winning run to advance to the finals.

Surely their opponent would be Kurashiki Shougyou, as Sakuyou was just another team in the way...

Except that they fought back.

A 4-run 2nd by Kurashiki Shougyou helped put Sakuyou down 5-1 early. Yet they fought back with 3 in the 5th and 1 in the 7th to level the score. And when Kurashiki broke the tie in their half of the lucky 7th, they leveled it again the next half inning.

Then in the 9th, Sakuyou exploded for 5 runs, taking a 11-6 lead! Kurashiki Shougyou would furiously attempt a comeback in the bottom of the 9th, but to no avail. They got only 3 back to fall 11-9.

So it was a Soushi Gakuen-Sakuyou final. While Soushi Gakuen's low-scoring style has proven to be very effective, it also has the drawback of inadvertently keeping opponents in games.

Such was the case in the finals when again the teams were scoreless heading into the middle innings. Sakuyou would be the first to break the deadlock with a run in the bottom of the 5th...

... and that would eventually be the only run scored in the game!

Soushi Gakuen could never get that critical run across against ace Kataoka and the Sakuyou defense, thus giving them their 1st ever spring title!

Shimane has 38 teams participating in the spring taikais, and they do an abbreviated regional play with groups of 2 or 3 teams to get down to the draw of 16 teams.

There are no seeded teams in the main draw, so it's possible that the better teams in the prefecture wind up in the same draw.

The most notable team (both good and bad in recent years) Kaisei, had no trouble in their first game of the prefecturals against Goutsu Kougyou, winning 10-0. They then had a bit of trouble against Izumo Nishi, but manage to slide through with a 1-0 win.

They then faced off against the Cinderella team of 2 years ago - Risshoudai Shounan, who had wins over Oota and Masuda Higashi. Risshoudai couldn't recreate that magic as Kaisei scored 3 runs in the middle innings for a 3-1 win.

And on the other side of the bracket, Iwamichisuikan (fka Gonokawa) handled Taishi 7-0 in the quarterfinals and looked to easily reach the finals as they were facing unknown Yakami.

In fact, Yakami struck first in the top of the 1st with 2 runs, then after Iwamichisuikan scored 3 in the 2nd, they came back to tie it in the 3rd. However, Iwamichisuikan would take the lead again in the bottom of the 3rd and interestingly that would be the end of the scoring! Iwamichisuikan would escape with a 4-3 win and face Kaisei.

The finals proved to be a hotly contested affair with flurries of punches being thrown on both sides. Iwamichisuikan took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, then after going down 2-1 the next half inning, scored 3 to re-take the lead at 4-2. After trading a run in the 4th, Kaisei scored 3 in the 7th to take a 1-run lead going into the late innings.

Iwamichisuikan would then find the equalizer in the 9th inning to send it into extras, and pushed ahead the winning run in the 10th, giving them their 1st title.

Hiroshima is another prefecture who does pool play to determine their final draw.

The only exception is Hiroshima Sougou Gijyutsu who gets a free pass thanks to their senbatsu appearance.

As expected, the usual suspects advanced out of pool play - Kouryou, Jyousuikan Onomichi, and the lesser known Hiroshima Shougyou.

When the draw came out, the big 3 of Hiroshima Sougou, Kouryou and Jyousuikan all were on the same side, leaving Onomichi and Hiroshima Shougyou an open side of the bracket.

Onomichi's run the last couple of years may have come to an end as evidenced by their 2nd round loss 0-1 to Sanyou. By the way, if you're wondering why I write about Onomichi so much it's because I visited there in 2006 thanks to the anime series Kamichu! and would up liking the place. It's much like my liking of Tenri among other schools.

Sanyou actually came from nowhere on that side on the bracket. But when you slide through against Hiroshima Shinjyou and Hiroshima Kokusai Gakuin, you'd think their run would have to end sometime.

But after outlasting Hiroshima Shougyou 8-3 with 7 runs in the 2nd half, Sanyou found themselves in the finals!

So who would they face?

Well, Hiroshima Sougou Gijyutsu handled their business throughout their games although there was 2-run victories versus Kamo and Onomichi Shougyou.

That left Kouryou and Jyousuikan to battle it out, which they did in the quarterfinals. Kouryou prevailed this time around with a 2-0 shutout to set up a date with Sougyou Gijyutsu in the semi-finals.

And Hiroshima Sougyou Gijyutsu must have something going, because they were in a close affair with Kouryou, and instead of fading in the late innings, they turned it up and defeated Kouryou 5-3!

So it was Hiroshima Sougyou Gijyutsu and Sanyou in the finals.

Sanyou yielded runs in the 1st and 5th to fall behind 2-0 before striking back in the 6th to pull within 1. But an insurance run in the 9th inning proved to be too much despite getting that run back in the bottom of the 9th giving Hiroshima Sougou Gijyutsu their first spring title!

Yamaguchi's 59 teams are divided up into 4 regions of 2 pools each to determine the final 8.

Nanyou Kougyou had no trouble advancing out of their particular pool (防徳 - can someone translate that for me?) along with Sakuragaoka who defeated Iwakuni soundly and edged Iwakuni Kougyou.

Karyou too had no trouble in the Ganryuu region with Yanai Gakuen advancing as well.

In the
山宇萩 region, Ube Koujyou and Saikyou advanced. And finally in the Shimonoseki region, Shimonoseki Kougyou was upset in the pool final against Shimonoseki Shougyou 6-5! The other team to advance was Onoda who had 2 close games before shutting out Shimonoseki Chuo Kougyou to advance.

Interestingly, the draw put the upper-tiered teams on separate sides. And yet, all 4 games were for the most part tightly contested. Nanyou Kougyou and Sakuragaoka edged Saikyou and Onoda respectively. Meanwhile Shimonoseki Shougyou couldn't keep up their early success and fell to Yanai Gakuen 4-1.

And perhaps the surprising result of all, Karyou wound up being shutout by Ube Koujyou!

Ube Koujyou followed that up with getting in a shootout against Sakuragaoka. Flurries of scoring both at the beginning and at the end meant the lead changed hands frequently before settling down into a tie after regulation. However, enchousen lasted just one inning as Ube Koujyou continued their run with a 7-6 win. They'd face Nanyo Kougyou as they schooled Yanai Gakuen in a 2-0 shutout.

Come the final though, it was a bit of a shock as it was Ube Koujyou who jumped out to a lead! And then proceeded to extend it out! A single run in the 7th was the only scoring for Nanyo Kougyou as Ube Koujyou earned their 1st ever spring title!

2011 Haru Taikai - Shikoku Update Final

We have our champion in the Shikoku super-region, and it went pretty much as expected.

Kawanoe wasn't able to do much against Meitoku Gijyuku as ace Oonishi gave up just 6 hits while striking out 9 in a complete game shutout.

Over at the other semi, scrappy Mishima dug in against Kagawa Nishi. After a scoreless first 5 innings, Mishima tried in the 6th and 7th to get ahead of Kagawa with a singleton in each frame. But each time, Kagawa fought right back to level the score. And so it was until the 9th frame tied at 2-2 when last batter Yano delivered the sayonara hit to set up a rematch of the fall final against Meitoku.

In that original matchup, Kagawa Nishi was steamrolled by Meitoku Gijyuku 15-1.

And when it comes to the 2nd time around, especially with established teams, it's never as easy. Meitoku Gijyuku also decided to send their relief pitcher Fukunaga instead of their ace Omatsu.

While he was effective for the first 4 innings, he struggled in the 5th allowing 2 runners to reach. That prompted Mabuchi-kantoku to send up their ace Omatsu to try and shut things down.

However, cleanup batter Kobayashi would have none of it, delivering a timely 2-RBI hit in a 3-run inning.

Kagawa Nishi ace Utsunomiya would not let the opportunity slip by them and while he surrendered a run in the 6th inning, that would be all that he would give up. This was Kagawa Nishi's first ever spring title!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2011 Haru Taikai - Shikoku Update 2

Shikoku's tournament is short (just 7 games in total), and the first round (which is the quarterfinals) are done.

Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi 2) - which really isn't fair if you ask me - mercy-ruled Jyounan (Tokushima 1) 8-1 in 7 innings.

They'll face off against Kawanoe (Ehime 1), who rallied to beat Sangawa (Kagawa 2). After jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st, Sangawa struck back with 5 runs in the next half inning and it seemed like all momentum was lost. But after a run in the 4th, they would retake the lead with a pair in the 5th. An insurance run in the 7th proved to be the difference as Sangawa would get a run in the 9th, but fall short 7-6.

Kagawa Nishi (Kagawa 1) used a 3-run 1st inning to advance against a late-inning charge from Jyoutou (Tokushima 2) 4-2.

And in the surprise of the tournament (which again isn't saying too much, but in this case is really surprising), Kochi (Kochi 1) was out-dueled by Mishima (Ehime 2)! They were not phased after falling behind 2-0 in the top of the 1st, immediately got one of the runs back, took the lead with a pair in the 5th, and for good measure added a run in the 8th!

Realistically, this should be a Meitoku Gijyuku-Kagawa Nishi final, but there's still the semifinals to be had.

2011 Haru Taikai - Kyushu Update Final

Well, the Kyushu Taikais have completed, and while the winner won't be a big surprise, there were some surprises.

The opening game saw Kanoya Chuo (Kagoshima 4) easily handle Jiyuugaoka (Fukuoka 3). Then in their 2nd round game jumped out quickly to a 7-0 lead against surprise team Hasami (Nagasaki Senbatsu) and cruised to a 10-4 win!

That would be as far as they would get though as Iidzuka (Fukuoka 2) outlasted them 5-1 to reach the Best 4.

Joining them would be Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima 1). After having no problems with Chiharadai (Kumamoto), they wound up in a rematch against Kanoya (Kagoshima 3). This is notable because Kanoya actually upset Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Fukuoka Senbatsu) 5-4! Sadly for Kanoya, they fared little better the 2nd time around, losing 5-1 instead of 7-1.

In the semis, it was a one-sided affair. After Kamimura Gakuen scored 4 in the top of the 1st, Iidzuka would score 11 unanswered runs to call the game in 7 innings.

So Iiduzka would be one of the finals participants. What about the other side?

Kagoshima Jitsugyou (Kagoshima Senbatsu) would have a bit of trouble against Itoman (Okinawa), but advance 8-5 which set them up with a quarterfinal against one of the few good teams not from Fukuoka or Kagoshima, Nobeoka Gakuen (Miyazaki). After pulling ahead 3-0 in the top of the 5th, Nobeoka would claw back to within 1 in the bottom of the inning, but that would be as close as they would get.

Meanwhile, Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou (Fukuoka 1) had no troubles in their 1st round game and squared off against Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto Senbatsu). Kyushu Gakuin had struggled against Sasebo Kougyou (Nagasaki 1) falling behind in the mid-game 3-2 before tying the game in the 7th and pulling ahead in the top of the 9th to win 6-3.

Kyushu Gakuin's struggles would continue against Jyoutou falling 5-1.

And then Jyoutou would get steamrolled by Kajitsu 13-0 in 5 innings...

So it would be Iidzuka and Kajitsu for the title - and if I mentioned that the winner wasn't a surprise, you can guess who won.

Kajitsu pulled out to a 2-0 lead late, and to remove any doubt, they scored 3 runs in the last 2 innings to win 5-0. This is Kajitsu's 14th spring title, and 2nd consecutive.