Monday, December 17, 2012

Handicapping the field (Part 3)

This will highlight the last part of my projected field in the Chuugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu regions.  Again this is merely a projection and not the official list:

関西 - Kanzei (Chuugoku, Okayama, Okayama-shi) - 12th appearance, 3rd consecutive - B+
Kanzei two summers ago went all the way to the semifinals.  They spent a year rebuilding, but are back at Koushien for Senbatsu.

Interestingly, they got stronger as they went deeper into the Fall taikais.  In their 4 prefectural games, they won by a combined 14-9.  They then went on a 50-9 run in 6 games (including wins over both Jyosuikan and Kouryou) before losing 12-4 to Sendai Ikuei n the Meiji Jingu final.

Leading the way for Kanzei is ace Koyama Yuuto (児山 祐人), though I can't find any real information on him.  In fact, there is little information about Kanzei out there, despite being the fall runner-up.

If there is a weakness for Kanzei, it appears they live on the big inning.  In fact, if not for a 5-run 7th, they would have lost to Kouryou in the final.  They should be considered as one of the favorites, but if they win it will in all likelihood be a team effort.

広陵 - Kouryou (Chuugoku, Hiroshima, Hiroshima-shi) - 23rd appearance, 1st in 3 years - C+
Kouryou finds themselves at Koushien after several years off.  They finish 2nd overall, despite finishing 3rd in the prefectural taikai to Soutoku and Jyosuikan.

But the body of work is rather unimpressive - though it's not really their fault.  They only had the "quality loss" to Jyosuikan in the prefecturals, and wound up playing Soutoku and 2 Yamaguchi-ken schools in the Super-Regionals.  So despite finishing 2nd overall, the impression is that they won't advance far at Senbatsu.

Shimoishi Ryouta (下石 涼太) is their ace, with a low 140 fastball, and a change in the low 120s.  Oota Hajime (太田 創) is the other pitcher they use though he's their SS as well.  He throws in the high 130s with a curve, slider and fork.

岩国商 - Iwakuni Shougyou (Chuugoku, Yamaguchi, Iwakuni-shi) - 1st appearance - C+
Well, when you send 4 teams into the Super-Regional as the home team you hope one of them will advance to Senbatsu - especially since this year Chuugoku sends 3 teams.

Yamaguchi champion Iwakuni Shougyou becomes that team.  Once again though, their resume is rather weak.  They defeated Iwakuni and Hayatomo by a run apiece in the semis and finals, only to see Hayatomo lose 10-0 to Iwakuni then see them lose to Kanzei 11-1.  In other worse, those wins cannot be considered quality wins.

Futhermore, in the Super Regionals they played unknown Tamashima Shougyou (Okayama) and the other Yamaguchi school, Ube Kougyou before being shutout by Kouryou in the semis 2-0.  It wasn't just a shutout, they were 3-hit and RF Yokota was responsible for 2 of those 3 hits.

Takahashi Yuuta (高橋 由弥) is the ace of the staff, carries a mid 130s fastball and an identified slider.

高知 - Kochi (Shikoku, Kochi, Kochi-shi) - 17th appearance, 2nd consecutive -C+
Kochi once again will go to Senbatsu by way of winning the Shikoku Super-Regional.  They pretty much steamrolled the competition right up until the Super-Regional semifinal.

There they had to rally twice to defeat Tokushima Shougyou 11-7,  then has to scramble after giving up a 3-run lead to defeat Naruto in the final 8-6.

Sakamoto Yuuta (坂本 優太) at Meiji Jingu appears to throw in the low-mid 130s with a slider, and a curve and change in the 110s.  He generally does not pitch the entire game though, passing the ball off to rookie Sakai Yuuya (酒井 祐弥) who already throws in the 140s with the same repertoire, or captain and 3B Wada Ren (和田 恋) who can throw in the low 140s teams may be more concerned with with his bat and not his arm.

Despite all that though, and the narrow loss to Urawa Gakuin, they still need to prove something considering the drought they've had since the turn of the century having gone just 2-8.

鳴門 - Naruto (Shikoku, Tokushima, Naruto-shi) - 8th appearance, 2nd consecutive - C
For finishing 2nd in the Shikoku taikai, Naruto getting a C grade seems rather harsh.  Yes, they scored at least 5 runs in each of their games, but they also gave up at least 3 runs in each of those games too.  There were several blowouts along the way, but at the same time if they have to continuously outscore their opponents and in doing so barely beat Saibi and lose to Naruto that this type of game is not sustainable in a single-elimination format.

Bandou Yuugo (板東 湧梧) is the de facto ace tasked with minimizing the damage done to their team.

In effect, this makes Naruto a poor man's Osaka Touin.  No pitching, and a worse offense.  And that is not a good combination at all.

済美 - Saibi (Shikoku, Ehime, Matsuyama-shi) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 9 years - B-
Realistically, Saibi should have been in the final.  They led Naruto 4-1 with just 3 outs to go.  But ace Anraku Tomohiro (安楽 智大) just flat collapsed.

Another super-rookie, he's already passed the 150 barrier, throwing a slider, curve and cutter.  He generates over 1.3 K/inning.  Despite this though, he's still rough around the edges.

That 4-run 9th he gave up against Naruto was not the only time he's given up runs late.  Games throughout the fall taikai were closer than they needed to be (their 4 last games were all 1-run affairs).

He's still young, and there's time to grow.  But for now they're in the same level as Yamato Kouryou, and thus earns their B- ranking.

沖縄尚学 - Okinawa Shougaku (Kyushu, Okinawa, Naha-shi) - 5th appearance, 1st in 5 years - B
They're baaaaaaack....

The last time Okishou was at Koushien, they had a pitcher by the name of Higashihama.

And we all know how that went.

#12 Ura Jyun (宇良 淳) who hits low 140s, and apparent ace Higa Kenichirou (比嘉 健一朗) are the tandem used in almost all games for Okishou. Score-wise, they didn't overwhelm the opposition.  However, the tandem severely limited the opponent offenses perhaps so that the score was not indicative of the actual play.

Offensively, Chinen Yuuya (知念 佑哉) was one of the few who had success in the only game at Meiji Jingu, going 4-5.  From that one video alone, he appears to be aware of taking the ball the other way, can get on top of a fairly high pitch, and can still get around an inside pitch.  Mind you it was against Oogushi who is not a hard thrower at all, so it has to come with some skepticism.

Also, cleanup batter Shibahiki Yuuma (柴引 佑真) was 2-4 in that same game.

The loss to Hokushou at Meiji Jingu does put a damper on their run as does the loss to Ginowan in the prefectural final.  I think they can be introduced in the discussion for contenders, but not necessarily at the top of the list.

済々黌 - Seiseikou (Kyushu, Kumamoto, Kumamoto-shi) - 4th appearance, 1st in 55 years!! - C+
I rooted for Seiseikou.  I mean, they hadn't been to Koushien in 18 years, and now here they are going to back to back Koushiens (calendar-wise).

And they really didn't disappoint.  They beat Naruto, then had a respectable 6-2 loss to eventual Haru-Natsu champs Osaka Touin.

They did manage to keep the most important part of a returning staff.  Their ace Ootake Koutarou (大竹 耕太郎) returns to lead the team.  As noted this summer, he has a fastball in the low 130's, maybe a cutter in the high 120s, and a change in the high 110s.

In their 8 victories, he gave up a grand total of 5 runs including 2 shutouts against Miyazaki Nichidai and Shoushikan.  In addition, in the loss to Okinawa Shougaku Ootake flat collapsed in the 9th inning, yielding all 5 runs in the loss.

The only real blemish is the 6-0 shutout loss to Kumamoto Kougyou.  

Still though, their margin of error is rather low.  They are not a high-scoring team, and that will limit their prospects.  They'll beat the teams they should beat, and probably lose to the teams they should.  But like the Osaka Touin game, it will be competitive.

尚志館- Shoushikan (Kyushu, Kagoshima, Shibushi-shi) - 1st appearance - C-
Shoushikan makes their debut appearance at Koushien this year thanks to a semifinal appearance in the Kyushu Super-Regional.  This run was rather impressive for a team making their first appearance.

There was the sound defeat of Kagoshima Jyousai, the 3-1 upset win over Kamimura Gakuen.  And while they lost in the prefectural final to Kagoshima Jyouhou in the final, they made up for it by defeating Saga Kita and Nagasaki Nichidai before being routed by Seiseikou.

From what I can discern, the ace of the staff is Yoshikuni Takuya (吉国 拓哉), who is reported to throw in the low 130s with a slider, but not sure what else.

It'll be nice to see them at Koushien, but they'll have to work to get out of the opening round probably.

創成館 - Souseikan (Kyushu, Nagasaki, Isahaya-shi) - 1st appearance - C-
I do not believe that Souseikan will be the Ichinoseki Gakuin of the west and get passed up again for someone like Miyzaki Nichidai, though I have been wrong many times before.

Souseikan got one benefit by not having to play the 3rd place game in the prefecturals after losing to Isahaya.  Nagasaki was hosting the Super-Regionals.  And though wins against Kagoshima Jyouhou and Kurume Shougyou are not impressive, I still think the benefit of the doubt.

Oono Takuma (大野 拓麻) is their ace, a pitcher who throws in the upper 130s with an apparent curve, slider and fork.

But their fate is probably similar to Shoushikan.  Their body of work is weaker, they are in more low-scoring games, and will probably exit in the 1st round.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Handicapping the field (Part 2)

Well, we may have had one or two title contenders in the Higashi Nihon and Hokkaido areas.  Let's start heading west and seeing who else might challenge for the title.

Again, please note that these teams have not yet been invited, but this is my best estimate on who will be invited by the committee.

春江工 - Harue Kougyou (Hokushinetsu, Fukui, Sakai-shi) - 1st appearance - B-
Harue Kougyou is a bit of an enigma.  One of the better teams out of Fukui that lives in the shadow of teams such as Fukui Shougyou, Fukui Koudai Fukui, etc., Harue Kougyou survived through the prefectural final where they were annihilated by Tsuruga Kehi.  They then fought through 4 close games (their largest margin of victory was 2!) including a revenge final against Tsuruga Kehi.  A quality win against Urawa Gakuin at Meiji Jingu was a definite plus...

...until they were whitewashed by Kanzei 10-2...

Perhaps part of their success is their backstop Kurihara Ryouya (栗原 陵矢) who has a great arm to limit the running game.

Still though, the body of work outside of the Urawa Gakuin game isn't that impressive.  I do expect a close game against weaker opponents and perhaps a win.  But I do not see them making a deep run at all.

敦賀気比- Tsuruga Kehi (Hokushinetsu, Fukui, Tsuruga-shi) - 5th appearance, 2nd consecutive - C
Tsuruga Kehi isn't as much of a mystery, but might shed some light on Harue Kougyou.  You see, Tsuruga Kehi put up double digits in 4 of their 5 games (the only one was a 1-0 win over Fukui Shougyou).  But then turn the page to the Super-Regionals, and it was all 1-run games including 2 extra inning affairs.

In other words, it speaks to how weak the Fukui prefecturals were and in turn, how weak the Super-Regionals were as well.

Kishimoto Jyunki (岸本 淳希) takes over the ace position, this probably out of necessity as his 1-inning performance at Koushien last year was one he'd like to forget.  His control problems still remain (25:13 K:BB ratio), so while he can hurl it in the low 140s with a slider, curve and sinker, it won't do him much good if he walks more than his fair share of batters.

With Tsuruga Kehi struggling in the Super-Regionals, it's hard to project them to get out of the first round. They might get our of the first round thanks to their namesake, but that's about as fortunate as they will get.

県岐阜商 - Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Tokai, Gifu, Gifu-shi) - 27th appearance, 1st in 18 years! - C+
This is a bit of a surprise for me.  Not that Kengifushou has reached Senbatsu... but that they haven't been here in 18 years!  But it is actually a reminder that despite this being Kengifushou's 55th appearance in Haru-Natsu Koushiens, they aren't as strong as perhaps you or I think.

Now, they did beat Oogaki Nichidai 4-0 and defeated Tokoha Kikugawa 2-1.  But while they were able to improve on an 11-1 loss to Sendai Ikuei in the National Sports Festival, they still gave up 4 runs in the 9th to lose 6-2 in the 1st round of the Meiji Jingu Tournament.

Their ace is Fujita Ryouji (藤田 凌司), who apparently is another Oogushi (see Hokushou).  Gets to 130, but not much else, and has the slow curve.  He can hit the ball though.

I give them good odds to get past the first round, but not much else.

菰野 - Komono (Tokai, Mie, Komono-shi) - 1st appearance - C
Komono, despite being at Koushien a couple of times, this is their 1st appearance.

This despite having a secret ace in Urashima Souta (浦嶌 颯太).  He was never used in the fall, but can apparently hit 150 on the gun, with a standard slider and curve.

Instead it was ace Yamanaka Satoshi (山中 亨悟) who carried the team.  Though I can find no information on him other than the video.

Without much to go with, the body of work is a bit weak.  They happened to face Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou before facing Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou and losing.  They might have a chance to advance out of the first round, but it'll be tough.

常葉菊川 - Tokoha Kikugawa (Tokai, Shizuoka, Kikugawa-shi) - 4th appearance, 1st in 5 years - C
Man, when I first really started watching Koushien, it was when Tokoha Kikugawa seemed to make the impossible happen.

It was Senbatsu 2007, and Tokoha Kikugawa started off by defeating Sendai Ikuei 2-1.  Then they defeated Imabari Nishi (whom I had watched in person the prior summer) 10-0!  They wouldn't leave it there as down 1-0 to Osaka Touin in the quarterfinals they scored a run in the 8th and the 9th for the gyakuten win!

Oh, and then was the scrappy Kumamoto Kougyou squad.  Again down 4-3 with just 3 outs to go, they scored 3 for another comeback win.  And to put the cherry on top, down once again 5-3 in the finals to Oogaki Nichidai, they scored 3 to win their 1st title in just their 2nd attempt.

They put together 2 strong runs at Natsu Koushien after that, and cemented themselves a place in my mind and heart.

But after 2008, they disappeared.  Sure they made runs at the title (and they were even denied in the final in 2010 by their sister school Tokoha Tachibana!) but we haven't seen them since.

There are shades of that 2007 team in this team.  In the semifinals, they rallied not once but twice against Hiryuu to win 7-6.  They advanced to the Super-Regional despite a 14-1 loss in the final to Shizuoka.  And against Touhou, they let a lead slip before reasserting themselves in a 6-4 win.  This before giving up the sayonara run to Kengifushou in the semifinal.

I'll be glad when I hear their name called as one of the members in the 85th Senbatsu field.  But I'll treasure the time they're there though as I don't seem them lasting long, sadly.

Their ace is Horita Tatsuya (堀田 竜也), but I don't have much else on him other than that.

京都翔英 - Kyoto Shouei (Kinki, Kyoto, Uji-shi) - 1st appearance - B
Kyoto Shouei's ace is well, not?

Enomoto Kazuki (榎本 和輝) as seen in the first link against Ryuukokudai Heian wears the #3 jersey, yet was the predominant pitcher for the club.

But then in the 2nd clip, he starts against Hokushou in the Meiji Jingu tournament wearing #18, a number meant for relievers?!  Futhermore, he appears to have a bat to boot, so why doesn't he wear a starting number, much less the ace if he starts?

The only reason might be that he throws only in the high 130s with a curve, slider and fork.  But still, aces have been chosen on good teams for less than that.

Kyoto Shouei is a bit of an engima.  You see, the school was established in 1984, and had not experienced success as a team until 2010 when they lost to Kyoto Gaidai Nishi in the prefectural finals for Natsu Koushien.  Then they fell back into anonymity.

Then this fall, they go on a rampage, defeating the aforementioned Kyoto Gaidai Nishi, Kyoto Subaru, Fukuchiyama Seibi, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku, Riseisha, Ryuukokudai Heian and Houtoku Gakuen before losing 3-1 to Hokushou at the Meiji Jingu tournament.

The games that Kyoto Shouei have been involved in have been mostly low-scoring affairs, but to limit the majority of these teams to a handful of runs is impressive.  They may certainly have the ability to make a deep run, but being first-timers is a big wild card.

報徳学園 - Houtoku Gakuen (Kinki, Hyogo, Nishinomiya-shi) - 19th appearance, 1st in 2 years - B+
Houtoku took one year off in 2012, but has come back thanks to ace Inui Ryouhei (乾 陽平).  The gun in the video has him in the high 130s, and just touching 140.  He has the standard slider and curve.

And even though he lost out to Enomoto and Kyoto Shouei in 12 innings, he also has a list of teams he left in his wake - Touyoudai Himeji, Kansei Gakuin, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku, Fukuchiyama Seibi, and Osaka Touin (throwing a 7-inning 1-hitter no less!).

Of course, don't underestimate the power of home field advantage.  They're always a stone's throw away from Koushien Stadium, and they have a great fan base.  Combine that with the school's experience, and they stand to be one of the teams in the discussion when you talk about potential winners.

龍谷大平安 - Ryuukokudai Heian (Kinki, Kyoto, Kyoto-shi) - 37th appearance, 1st in 5 years - B-
Heian once again pokes its head into Koushien.  They've had a winning drought as of late, but get in thanks to wins against Chiben Wakayama and Yamato Kouryou.

Fukuoka Takumi (福岡 拓弥) started most of their games, outside of the game in the Super-Regional against Kyoto Shouei (perhaps to hide him for later?).  But other than that I have nothing else about him to report.

There are a lot of low scoring close affairs for Heian.  But, they've shown they can play the high scoring game if need be, which certainly helps.

But I don't have a lot to go on to analyze the team.  Given their performance at Natsu Koushien and their loss of most of their starting 9, they probably won't go far outside of a favorable draw.

大阪桐蔭 - Osaka Touin (Kinki, Osaka, Daitou-shi) - 6th appearance, 2nd consecutive - B+
Osaka Touin continues to chug along.  Yes, they lost Fujinami as the ace, but the offense continues to chug along.

How much?  In their 9 victories in the fall taikais, their combined scoring was 99-16, with their smallest margin being 5 runs against Uenomiya Taishi!

Mori Tomoya (森 友哉) returns as the lynchpin of the Touin offense.  And apparently, he hasn't missed a beat.  I'm still searching for actual statistics, but from the video, he continues to contribute on offense.  Plus, as the game caller he'll help the new aces.

3B Kasamatsu Yuuya (笠松 悠哉) also returns to help out Mori on the field.  Not necessarily a power hitter, he makes good contact and can get on base.

Joining them is new 1B Kinden Takuya (近田 拓矢) who was the backup last summer (#13), and SS Mizutani Yukiya (水谷 友生也) who was the backup middle infielder (#14).

Kuzugawa Tomoya (葛川 知哉) appears to have taken over as the ace of the staff.  Orginally given #9, he has taken over as #1 with a 145 kph fastball.  Before then, it appeared that Takanishi Ryouta (高西 涼太, formerly #18) had inherited the ace number.  He threw in the low-mid 140s with a good change, and a slider and curve.
The problem with Osaka Touin is that in their two losses, they fell to Riseisha in the Osaka final 3-1, then were 1 hit by Houtoku Gakuen 8-0 in a 7 inning game!

Those 2 games give me pause, especially the Houtoku Gakuen game.  To have the offense completely shut down, and the pitching give up 8 runs is a red flag.  However, it's only one game and perhaps it's not as serious, but at Senbatsu you cannot afford a bad game... unless you get lucky.  You cannot count them out to win their 3rd calendar Koushien title, but whenever you lose an ace it makes the job that much more difficult.

履正社 - Riseisha (Kinki, Osaka, Toyonaka-shi) - 5th appearance, 3rd consecutive - B-
Riseisha suffers from the fact that (a) they're in a big prefecture as Osaka, and (b) the road to the Osaka title goes through Osaka Touin.

That's why they're making their 3rd straight Senbatsu appearance.  They don't have to win the Osaka title to advance, which gives them a chance to receive and invitation.

This year though they did win the Osaka title, defeating Osaka Touin, and advanced to the quarterfinals where they lost to Kyoto Seishou, 3-1 in 12 innings.

Higashino Ryuuji (東野 龍二), who wore #17 at Senbatsu last year and started both games, becomes the true ace this time around.  From last spring, Higashino has a fastball that touches 130 and a slider in the high 110s and a fork in the low-mid 110s.

Riseisha's problem may be their offense.  Despite outscoring their opponents 60-5 in their games before the Osaka final, none were against established competition.  After that, in their next 3 games, they barely outscored their opposition 5-4:
  • 3-1 against Osaka Touin
  • 1-0 against Kansei Gakuin
  • 1-3 loss to Kyoto Seishou
The Osaka Touin win is definitely impressive.  But scoring 1 against Kansei Gakuin, then losing to relative unknown Kyoto Seishou (despite them winning the Super-Regional) suggests they will struggle to score runs at Senbatsu.

大和広陵 - Yamato Kouryou (Kinki, Nara, Kouryou-machi) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 28 years - B-
Yamato Kouryou will get in ahead of Tenri because they have something that Tenri hasn't had for a while... a staff ace.

Tachita Shouta (立田 将太) is a super rookie who is *pinches fingers* this close to hitting 150.  Not only that, but he apparently already has a slider, curve, and forkball to go along with it.

Here's the thing, as perhaps a strategic move for the summer, Yamato Kouryou did not start Tachita against Tenri in the prefectural final.  So he wasn't responsible for the 5-1 loss.  Furthermore, he gave up just 2 runs in a 2-0 loss to Ryuukokudai Heian.  Sure, they aren't an offensive powerhouse, but it's still solid nonetheless.

The problem is offense.  They will be subject to low scoring games, and in a single-elimination format, that is a big problem.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Handicapping the field (Part 1)

All right, we're approaching the end of the calendar year, and it's about time I started handicapping the projected field for the 85th Senbatsu.

北照 - Hokushou (Hokkaido, Otaru-shi) - 5th overall, 2nd consecutive - B-
Hokushou reaches Senbatsu for yet another time.  But there was no dominance throughout the prefecturals, and barely got by some of the stronger teams in the prefecture.

A hard fought 5-3 win over Sapporo Nichidai, they almost let a 7-1 lead over Engaru slip away in the semifinals, then battled with the resurging Komadai Tomakomai, barely taking the title 7-5.

Oogushi Kazuya (大串 和弥), who lead the team at Senbatsu last year, does the same again this year.  Thanks to the new video, his fastball according to the Meiji Jingu gun has reached the 130 mark, but the slider and curve still sit in the 110s and 100s respectively - which leads to a lot of contact, a lot of pulled balls, and a K every 3 innings.

Hokushou has done good to reach their 2nd straight Senbatsu, but that's all they will get.  Teams from Hokkaido do not generally fare well, and Hokushou looks like a team that is weaker then the average entrant.

仙台育英 - Sendai Ikuei (Tohoku, Miyagi, Sendai-shi) - 10th appearance, 1st in 6 years - A-
Sendai Ikuei not only won the Tohoku Super-Regional, but the Meiji Jingu tournament - giving their area 4 teams to Senbatsu this year.  And they have some unfinished business to attend to.

Last summer, in the block final, they fell to Sakushin Gakuin 3-2.

They've changed tacks, and this time around there is easily one word to describe Sendai Ikuei - offense.

In their 11 games this fall, they have outscored their opponents 88-20.  Two players to potentially watch for is CF Uebayashi Seiji (上林 誠知) and LF Hasegawa Yuta (長谷川 寛)

But offense alone cannot get you a championship title.  You need to have strong enough pitching as well to earn the title.  Even my rival Sanko in 2011 had Yoshinaga, who was wild but effective.

Sendai Ikuei doesn't have that.  They generally use a tandem of #10 Baba Kousuke (馬場 皐輔) and #1 Suzuki Takato (鈴木 天斗).

Both appear to throw in the 130's, so it'll be all down to control for them to be successful.  They don't have to be great, they just have to manage the game.

For that alone, they only get an A- instead of the A or A+ they might get as a favorite.

聖光学院 - Seikou Gakuin (Tohoku, Fukushima, Koori-machi) - 4th appearance, 2nd consecutive - B
Seikou Gakuin has been a staple of Natsu Koushien as the representative of Fukushima.  This is just their 4th Senbatsu appearance though.

1B Sonobe Satoshi (園部 聡) has to be the lynchpin of the Seikou offense.  Last summer, he was 3-6 with a HR and 4 RBIs.  Before him, Yaoita Hyuuma (八百板 飛馬) didn't fare badly himself in the Super-Regional semifinals and finals.

Seikou Gakuin's MO hasn't changed.  They take care of business when they're supposed to, but stumble when facing quality competition.  The 5-4 win over Moriokadai Fuzoku and the 8-4 loss to Sendai Ikuei (which wasn't as close) highlight this.

Chances are they'll do what they've normally done so long as they don't face a hard matchup right off the bat.  Win one, then be done.

盛岡大付属 - Moriokadai Fuzoku (Tohoku Memorial Bid, Iwate, Morioka-shi) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 2 years - C-
Moriokadai Fuzoku has done well to reach Koushien over the last decade+.  But while they have had success getting there, they are 0-9 in Koushien games (both Haru and Natsu).

Matsumoto Hiroki (松本 裕樹) is a first year who has succeeded the ace position at Moriokadai.  He throws in the low 140s with a curveball discovered as of now.

This fall, it was a bunch of low scoring games.  A 4-3 nail-biter against oft-spurned Ichinoseki Gakuin, and a 5-4 loss to Seikou Gakuin in the semis after holding a 4-1 lead are the notable games.  Yes, there was a 4-2 win over Tohoku along the way, but they don't seem to be the same team in the last couple of years.

Given their close games in the prefectural and the super-regionals, Moriokadai Fuzoku probably did just enough to get in, but will probably go to 0-10 in Koushien games.

青森山田 - Aomori Yamada (Tohoku Meiji Jingu Bid, Aomori, Aomori-shi) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 8 years - C
I expect Aomori Yamada to get the final bid out of Tohoku instead of Sakata Minami based on their mutual performances against Sendai Ikuei.

It'll be a welcome return after several years off.  Remember Kousei Gakuin had taken over as not only the best in the prefecture, but 3 times 1 game short of being the best team in the country.

This fall though, Kousei's run appears to be over.  They fell 6-5 to Aomori Yamada in the prefectural semi, then was mercy ruled by Sakata Minami.

So Aomori Yamada steps back in to fill the gap, and doesn't miss a beat earning a trip to Koushien.

Looking at the scores though, it appears that their success hides a problem - that they could possibly play to their competition.  Whether they're strong or weak, they play up or down to their level.  It'll make for close games and maybe an upset, but asking to win a lot of close games is a bit much.

浦和学院 - Urawa Gakuin (Kanto ex/Tokyo, Saitama, Saitama-shi) - 9th appearance, 3rd consecutive - B
Urawa Gakuin too got as far as Sendai Ikuei, and in fact was eliminated on the same day last summer.

And while they almost stumbled against Ageo in the Saitama quartefinals, they revenged their loss the prefectural final to Hanasaki Tokuharu and then defeated them in the Super-Regional final.

However, at Meiji Jingu, they had 2 close games against Kochi and Harue Kougyou - two teams not really known as 高校野球 powerhouses.

While Yamaguchi Rui (山口 瑠偉), a 2nd year who throws in the low 140s with a slider, curve and fork, had the inside track when he started in place of Satou last Natsu Koushien, his struggles - and #14 Ojima Kazuya's (小島 和哉) success against Tenri meant that it was Ojima, not Yamaguchi that was promoted to the ace position.  He throws a slider, change and curve but his fastball goes only in the 130s.

They will not be able to consistently overpower teams, so the pitching will have to carry them.  But given their staff, it's hard to say that they will be able to do that.

花咲徳栄 - Hanasaki Tokuharu (Kanto ex/Tokyo, Saitama, Kazo-shi) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 3 years - B-
Hanasaki Tokuharu returns to Senbatsu after a small time off.  As mentioned earlier, Hanasaki Tokuharu and Urawa Gakuin pretty much paralleled themselves as they met in the prefectural and Super-Regional final.  They did however have what appears to be quality wins against Narashino (12-0!) and Yokohama Hayato.

But in looking for players, they don't have any named pitchers out there, just a catcher named Wakatsuki Kenya (若月 健矢).

They perhaps should be on level for Urawa Gakuin, but there's probably a bit to prove still for them.

常総学院 - Jyousou Gakuin (Kanto ex/Tokyo, Ibaraki, Tsuchiura-shi) - 7th appearance, 1st in 8 years - C
宇都宮商 - Utsunomiya Shougyou (Kanto ex/Tokyo, Tochigi, Utsunomiya-shi) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 34 years - C-
I can't really find anything about Jyousou Gakuin and Utsunomiya Shougyou other than their results, and their ace pitchers Iida Harumi (飯田 晴海) for Jyousou Gakuin and some highlights of Utsunomiya Shougyou against Hikawa (see 5:15).  What's interesting about the Utsunomiya video is that it highlighted the two pitchers they predominantly used, #18 Shibayama Kauzhiro (柴山和博), and #8 Iioka Kenta (飯岡 健太). Neither is their ace number!  Instead Arai Ryou (新井 諒) plays center and bats cleanup.

And both did about the same, struggling in the Super-Regional quarterfinals before falling in the next round.

They'll both be glad to have made it to Senbatsu, but I don't imagine them getting out of the first round.

安田学園 - Yasuda Gakuen (Tokyo, Sumida-ku) - 1st appearance - B
Yasuda Gakuen earns their first ever appearance gritting out some wins against Kokushikan, Nittai Ebara and Waseda Jitsugyou.  The 3-2 loss to Kanzei in the Meiji Jingu Tournament give some credibility to their run this fall.

The only player of note is C Takami Shunsuke (深見 俊介) who apparently has gotten attention for his quick throw to 2nd base.  If he can keep that up, he can prevent teams from running and perhaps help out the offense in not having to score as many runs.

早稲田実 - Waseda Jitsugyou (Tokyo, Kokubunji-shi) - 20th appearance, 1st in 3 years - B
Soujitsu should make it now by name brand.  Though if one were to look at their road to the final, there is nothing outside of the 11-5 win over Souka before their loss to Yasuda Gakuen.

Oddly it was #12 Nishiyama Ryou (西山諒) that Soujitsu mainly depended upon to reach the final. 

Their name may get them an extra game if they face an inexperienced opponent - hence an upgrade from a B- to a B, but asking them to win it all this time around may be a bit much to ask.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sendai Ikuei wins 4th bid for Tohoku!

Sendai Ikuei defeats Kanzei 12-4 thanks to a 9-run 3rd inning, which means that Tohoku will indeed get 4 teams into Senbatsu next spring.

As I project, Moriokadai Fuzoku will be guaranteed a bid based on performance (I think the Meiji Jingu bid supersedes the Tohoku Memorial bid).

The question will be who will get the 4th and final bid.  Sakata Minami is the other semifinalist, but a 10-1 loss to Sendai Ikuei hurts.  Ironically, the great performance by Sendai Ikuei in the Meiji Jingu tournament may give Sakata Minami the benefit of the doubt.

The other team considered could be Aomori Yamada.  They actually were leading Sendai Ikuei 3-1 going into the 9th during their quarterfinal, but gave up 4 runs to lose 5-3.

It has been a while since we've seen Aomori Yamada in the tournament, so it might be possible that they skip over to select them with the Tohoku Memorial bid.

Meiji Jingu Tournament Update ~ to the finals!

The championship game of the Meiji Jingu tournament is today and while one side may be favored to win, in terms of quality of team invited due to the bid, it may be better off that the other team wins!

Day 1
Kyoto Shouei (Kinki - Kyoto) vs. Hokushou (Hokkaido - Otaru-shi)
Kyoto Shouei actually was fortunate to draw Hokushou.  While a familiar face in 高校野球, they're not a dominating force as other teams.  So they stood a chance in the opening matchup.

And in fact, they scored right off the bat in the top of the 1st!

But Hokushou ace Oogushi Kazuya (大串 和弥) would shut the door afterwards, giving up just 7 hits in a complete game effort.

Meanwhile, Domon would hit a sac fly to tie the game in the 4th and last batter Nishitani would hit a 2-run double off of Enomoto to give them the lead for good.

Urawa Gakuin (Kanto - Saitama) vs. Kochi (Shikoku - Kochi)
Though Kasumigaura's hopes took a big hit with the draw, Urawa Gakuin faced a favorable draw in Kochi.

The game still was close.  Urawa would inch away to a 2-0 lead after their first 2 innings, only to see Kochi do the same 2 innings later to tie the game.  But back to back timely hits by Nie and Yamane would give Urawa Gakuin back the 2-run lead.

Urawa ace Kojima was not on his game today, but despite giving up 7 hits and 8 free passes he holds on for the 4-3 win.

By the way, 4 of those hits went to cleanup batter Wada Koi (和田 恋) who was 4-4 on the day with a walk.

Day 2
Sendai Ikuei (Tohoku - Miyagi) vs. Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Tokai - Gifu)
Sendai Ikuei had a good matchup in their attempt to send 4 teams to the 85th Haru Koushien.  Kengifushou is no slouch, but is no powerhouse either.

Sendai Ikuei took a 2-1 lead in the second thanks to hits by Mima and Katou.  But Kengifushou's ace Fujita would tie the game with a solo HR in the 7th.  He'd try to keep the Ikuei offense down, but in the top of the 9th with the pitch count over 100, he gave up a 3-run HR to 2B Sasaki (who actually had started the game on the bench!).  They'd add one more run as reliever Baba would shut the door in the 9th.

Kanzei (Chuugoku - Okayama) vs. Yasuda Gakuen (Tokyo - Sumida-ku)
Though they could have easily taken the Chuo-sen there, I'm pretty sure Yasuda Gakuen still bussed over to the game at Meiji Jingu.  This is home turf after all.

They'd need every ounce of it as Kanzei occupied the opposing dugout.

But Yasuda opened the scoring with a sac fly from Takami in the 1st inning.  Kanzei's #9 batter Uraki would tie the game in the 5th and it would stay that way until the 8th.  Umeno would give Kanzei the lead in the 8th, only to see Takami come through again to tie the game.

Kanzei ace Kayama would end it in regulation with his only hit in the 9th, breaking the tie then closing it out to win 3-2.

Day 3
Okinawa Shougaku (Kyushu - Okinawa) vs. Hokushou (Hokkaido - Otaru-shi)
Hokushou certainly was not looking forward to facing Okishou.  Home to former ace Higashihama, they looked really solid throughout the Kyushu Super-Regionals.

The game though played out very close.  Naka Shouji (名嘉昇司) would open the scoring for Okinawa Shougaku in the 3rd, only to have Igarashi execute a suicide squeeze in their half of the inning to tie the game.

It would stay that way as Okishou starter Higa yielded to Ura in the 7th.  Oogushi would continue to pitch for Hokushou (eventually throwing 141 pitches in all).

Instead, he'd decide to end the game himself in the bottom of the 9th in dramatic fashion, hitting a sayonara homerun off of Ura to advance his team to the semifinals.

Urawa Gakuin (Kanto - Saitama) vs. Harue Kougyou (Hokushinetsu - Fukui)
Harue Kougyou must've been thrilled that they not only advanced out of the Fukui prefecturals, but won the Super-Regionals and will go to Koushien this spring.

But there's still more work to be done in perhaps getting their region one more team into the field.

To do that, they'd have to start with a tough matchup against Urawa Gakuin.

It didn't look good early though...

Takada and Saitou for Urawa would deliver RBI hits to give them a 3-0 lead in the 1st inning.  Nie would then deliver a squeeze bunt and Yamane would hit a double to make it 5-0.

However, Urawa starter Wakumoto would collapse in the 2nd giving back all 5 runs.  Watanabe, who would relieve him wouldn't fare any better in the 3rd retiring just 1 batter but charged with 2 runs.  Itou would eventually stop the bleeding and give 2 innings of scoreless ball.

Takada would get them within 1 with a RBI triple in the 4th, but Tsuboda would settle down after that.  Seki would deliver an infield RBI hit to get to the final score of 8-6!!

Day 4 - Semifinals
Sendai Ikuei (Tohoku - Miyagi) vs. Hokushou (Hokkaido - Otaru-shi)
Oogushi would have to be called on again as their team would face a strong Sendai Ikuei squad.

Sendai Ikuei for their part decided to start Baba Kousuke (馬場 皐輔).  It was the right call as he shut down the Hokkaido representatives.

Oogushi, despite this being his 3rd game pitched very well, but wound up making 2 crucial mistakes.  First was in the 3rd, giving up a 3-run HR to Kobayashi.  Second was in the 7th when the bases would be loaded for cleanup hitter Uebayashi and he wouldn't miss, hitting a manrui homerun to effectively knock Oogushi out of the game.

That would be more than enough to advance to the finals and give Tohoku another team into Koushien.

Kanzei (Chuugoku - Okayama) vs. Harue Kougyou (Hokushinetsu - Fukui)
Harue Kougyou found themselves just one game away from the fall title and giving the Hokushinetsu region another bid.

Kanzei though would have none of it.

Thanks to an error right off the bat, Kanzei would put up 4 runs in the top of the 1st.  Harue ace Tsubota would stay in the game, but would slowly give up more runs, capped off in the 7th with another 4 runs.  Harue would be mercy ruled 10-2 in 7 innings.

Day 5 (Today) - Championship
So it'll be Tohoku champion Sendai Ikuei versus Chuugoku champ Kanzei...

In Kanzei's corner will be Iwakuni, who in all likelihood will be receiving the bid if Kanzei wins.  Sakata Minami and Aomori Yamada will be backing Sendai Ikuei as it's possible either team could receive a bid depending on the selection committee's analysis.

Kanzei probably has the inside track to the title, but I expect Sendai Ikuei to try and make it close.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Projected 85th Haru Koushien Field

With 36 teams invited, and four 21st century teams and the Meiji Jingu bid still outstanding, there are 31 bids up for grabs.  My projected field is as follows:

  • Hokushou
  • Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi)
  • Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima)
  • Moriokadai Fuzoku (Iwate)
  • Urawa Gakuin (Saitama)
  • Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama)
  • Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki)
  • Utsunomiya Shougyou (Tochigi)
  • Yasuda Gakuen
  • Waseda Jitsugyou
  • Harue Kougyou (Fukui)
  • Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui)
  • Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu)
  • Komono (Mie)
  • Tokoha Kikugawa (Shizuoka)
  • Kyoto Shouei (Kyoto)
  • Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)
  • Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
  • Osaka Touin (Osaka)
  • Riseisha (Osaka)
  • Yamato Kouryou (Nara)
  • Kanzei (Okinawa)
  • Kouryou (Hiroshima)
  • Iwakuni Shougyou (Yamaguchi)
  • Kochi (Kochi)
  • Naruto (Tokushima)
  • Saibi (Ehime)
  • Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa)
  • Seiseikou (Kumamoto)
  • Shoushikan (Kagoshima)
  • Souseikan (Nagasaki)
The field would appear to be filled with very familiar squads with a couple of newcomers sprinkled in.  Should be interesting for sure.

Over the next couple of months I will be covering key players to watch for.

Meiji Jingu Tournament and that final crucial bid

With the Super-Regional champions determined, the draw for the 43rd Meiji Jingu Tournament is out, and is as follows:
  • Sendai Ikuei (Tohoku) vs. Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Tokai)
  • Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa) vs. Hokushou (Hokkaido)-Kyoto Shouei (Kinki) winner
  • Harue Kougyou (Hokushinetsu) vs. Urawa Gakuin (Kanto)-Kochi (Shikoku) winner
  • Yasuda Gakuen (Tokyo) vs. Kanzei (Chuugoku)
Kyoto Shouei will have to prove themselves again having to come from the depths of the bracket and a matchup with Okishou in the 2nd round!

For Kasumigaura, having Urawa Gakuin and Yasuda Gakuen in the same half of the bracket is not a good thing at all.  Not to mention the fact that Kanzei resides in that half as well.  Yasuda Gakuen is immediately in danger and Urawa Gakuin would be next in the semifinals.

I would expect the winner to be between Okinawa Shougaku and Kanzei with Kyoto Shouei and Urawa Gakuin as wildcards.

And here's the list of teams that may be rooting hard for their Super-Regional representative:
  • Hokkaido - Komadai Tomakomai
  • Tohoku - Sakata Minami/Aomori Yamada (Sakata Minami went further, but their blowout loss is a negative)
  • Kanto/Tokyo - Kasumigaura (Kanto wins bid, Kasumigaura is in.  Tokyo wins it, Soujitsu takes the Meiji Jingu bid and floating bid goes to Kanto.)
  • Hokushinetsu - Ueda Nishi/Niigata Meikun (Ueda Nishi should go, but Niigata Meikun has name recognition)
  • Tokai - Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou
  • Kinki - Yamato Kouryou/Tenri (Yamato Kouryou seemed to outperform Tenri and may have earned the 6th bid, but name recognition might give it to Tenri anyways leaving Yamato Kouryou hoping for the Meiji Jingu bid.)
  • Chuugoku - Iwakuni
  • Shikoku - Tokushima Shougyou
  • Kyushu - Kumamoto Kougyou/Souseikan (Souseikan wasn't the only team blown out in the semifinals, but the lack of quality games beforehand might hurt them in the selection process.)

Fall Taikai Update - Super-Regional Completion

All Super-Regionals are now complete, and there are a couple of surprises mixed in with some of the usual suspects:

Tokyo (1 bid + 1 floating with Kanto)
  • Champion - Yasuda Gakuen - Sumida-ku (First title!)
  • Floating Bid - Waseda Jitsugyou
 As expected, the Yasuda Gakuen-Nittai Ebara game was an all-out war.

Nittai Ebara fired the opening salvo in the bottom of the 1st as Tomosato hit a 2-run HR to left.  Back-to-back RBI hits by the battery of Kasahara and Minami no less made it a 4-1 game.  And then ace Kasahara in his next AB would hit a home run of his own making it 5-1!

But after back-to-back walks by Kasahara, Motohashi-kantoku would replace him with Furukawa.  Much to his dismay, Furukawa would hit cleanup batter Takami Shunsuke (深見 俊介) and then give an oshidashi walk to Koyama Shinjirou (小山 新次郎).  He'd get out of the inning, but not after yielding another run to make it 5-3.

Things only got worse for Nittai Ebara as the pitching fell apart the very next inning as Yasuda would put a 5-spot on the board taking an 8-6 lead.

Nittai Ebara would mount a rally in the bottom of the 9th.  PH Seki would walk, and Tanaka would hit a double to put the tying run in scoring position with just one down.  Minami (now pitching) would hit a sac fly to make it a 1-run game.

That brought up Tomosato, who was 4-4 on the day.  But Oogane Shintarou (大金真太郎) would finally retire him with a grounder to 2nd to end the game and give his team a chance at Senbatsu!

In the other semifinal Souka ace Uchino collapsed in the 5th inning, giving up 6 runs to Soujitsu.  Those 6 runs would wind up being the final margin as they won 11-5.

So Soujitsu would be a likely candidate for the floating bid should they lose (as long as they had a good showing), while Yasuda Gakuen would in all likelihood need to win to get in.

In the 2nd inning of the final, Yasuda gets the benefit of good luck.  Takami would reach 2nd on an error by Soujitsu's LF Suzuki.  After a bunt and walk, Motomiya Keita (本宮 佳汰) would lay down a successful safety squeeze to give them the first run.  They'd continue to press the initiative as Koyama Takuya (小山 拓哉) would try to steal 3rd.  But the throw from Toshimitsu Kensaku (利光健作) would actually hit Takuya on the helmet and deflect into left, allowing him to score making it 2-0.

Toshimitsu would get a run back with a HR in the 5th, but that would be all the scoring they could muster as Oogane would shut Soujitsu down to earn Yasuda Gakuen's first ever title!

Kanto ex Tokyo (4 bids + 1 floating with Tokyo)
  • Champion - Urawa Gakuin - Saitama-shi, Saitama (3rd consecutive title!, 4th overall)
  • Runner-Up - Hanasaki Tokuharu - Kazo-shi, Saitama
  • Semifinalist - Jyousou Gakuin - Tsuchiura-shi, Ibaraki
  • Semifinalist - Utsunomiya Shougyou - Utsunomiya-shi, Tochigi
*No other teams probable to be considered

So when the draw came out, the 4 brackets were as follows (A & B, C & D)
  • A - Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki 1) vs. Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma 2)
  • A - Sano Nichidai (Tochigi 1) vs. Toukaidai Koufu (Kofu 1)
  • B - Narashino (Chiba 1) vs. Kiryuu Dai-ichi (Gunma 3)
  • B - Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama 1) vs. Yokohama Hayato (Kanagawa 2)
  • C - Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa 1) vs. Kasumigaura (Ibaraki 2)
  • C - Hikawa (Yamanashi 1) vs. Utsunomiya Shougyou (Tochigi 2)
  • D - Urawa Gakuin (Saitama 2) vs. Choushi Shougyou (Chiba 2)
  • D - Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma 1) - Bye
Right off the bat there were a couple of surprises.  Kendai had a relative poor showing against Jyousou Gakuin, losing 5-2.  Yokohama Hayato stumbled out of the blocks immediately going down 6-0.  They'd rally, but lose 7-5.

The biggest upset was in block C where Kasumigaura (while not a slouch by any means) never trailed and defeated Toukaidai Sagami 5-3!

The quarterfinals went more scratch.  Narashino, who barely got by Kiryuu Dai-ichi, suffered the same problems Yokohama Hayato faced, but were unable to rally at all, getting mercy ruled 12-0 in 6 innings! (awww....)

Sano Nichidai, down 5-0 to Jyousou Gakuin gets all of the runs back in the lucky 7 to send the game into enchousen.  However, outside of that one inning outburst, they couldn't muster any other offense and lost 6-5 in 12.  Kasumigaura tried to continue their cinderella run as it were, but after taking the 4-2 lead in the bottom of the 6th, relinquished it right back in the lucky 7 to Utusunomiya Shougyou, losing 5-4.

The games (final score-wise) were much closer, but were not competitive.  Both Saitama schools advanced wire-to-wire, setting up a rematch of the prefectural final.  In that final, a 4-run first gave Hanasaki Tokuharu all the cushion it needed.

This time around they did not get such a cushion, but did lead 2-0 going into the latter innings.  But without the cushion, Urawa Gakuin's rally allowed them to tie the game in the 8th and send it into enchousen.  One inning later, Urawa's SS Kigure Naito (木暮騎士) would hit a 2-out double to put runners at 2nd and 3rd.  After an intentional walk, C Nishikawa Genki (西川元気) would deliver the sayonara hit to give Urawa Gakuin their 3rd straight Kanto Fall title!!

With 4 bids, it seems apparent that the Best 4 participants will get the bids.  Kasumigaura, the strongest team of the quarterfinalists will probably not get in because (a) the team they would replace would probably be Utsunomiya Shougyou who defeated them and (b) even if they wanted to make Kasumigaura the 4th team that would put 2 teams from Saitama and from Ibaraki into Senbatsu, which is highly doubtful.

And with Soujitsu losing in the finals to Yasuda Gakuen, the committee will certainly pick them as the floating bid.  Had they won, the floating bid may have come back to Kanto.

As it stands, for Kasumigaura to get to Koushien, Yasuda Gakuen or Urawa Gakuin have to win the Meiji Jingu Fall Tournament (If Yasuda Gakuen wins, Soujitsu earns the Meiji Jingu bid and the floating bid shifts back to Kanto.  If Urawa Gakuin wins, Kasumigaura earns the Meiji Jingu bid outright).  But as you will see later, that will be difficult.

Tokai (3 bids)
  • Champion - Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou - Gifu-shi, Gifu (4th title, 1st in 51 years)
  • Runner-up - Komono - Komono-machi, Mie
  • 3rd Bid - Tokoha Kikugawa - Kikugawa-shi, Shizuoka
The issue of the all-Gifu Shougyou final was averted in the first game when Komono placed an 8-spot in the 4th to mercy-rule Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou 10-2 in 7 innings.

And in fact, there was a possibility that neither team would make it as Tokoha Kikugawa had tied the game at 1 in the 8th.  Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou though would guarantee that at least one team would make it, making a Tokoha-style finish in the bottom of the 9th to win 2-1.

Komono had done well to make it to the finals, but were boat-raced by Kengifushou falling quickly behind 6-0 and losing 9-3.

This normally would put Komono in a bad situation.  As the runner-up, they are first in line to receive the 2nd bid.  However, the poor showing would have given the selection committee pause.  But with 3 teams advancing, they should be safe.

Kinki (6 bids)
  • Champion - Kyoto Shouei - Uji-shi, Kyoto (First title!)
  • Runner-up - Houtoku Gakuen - Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo
  • Semi-finalist -Ryuukokudai Heian - Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
  • Semi-finalist - Osaka Touin - Daitou-shi, Osaka
  • 5/6 selection - Riseisha - Toyonaka-shi, Osaka
  • 5/6 selection - Yamato Kouryou - Kouryou-machi, Kita-katsuragi-gun, Nara
  • Other considerations - Tenri - Tenri-shi, Nara
So Tenri and Osaka Touin finished up the 1st round with wins, though Tenri only defeated Kouyasan 2-0.  That was foretelling of the upcoming matchup between the two, won handily by Osaka Touin 8-1 in 7 innings.

In other games, Yamato Kouryou played Ryuukokudai Heian close, but couldn't get a run on the board losing 2-0.  Osaka Shoudai Sakai lasted only 5 innings against Houtoku Gakuen losing 13-0.  And finally, Riseisha was fighting for their lives against surging Kyoto Shouei down 1-0 late before tying the game in the 8th.  The game would go into enchousen when reliever Sakamoto would finally fail, giving Kyoto Shouei the 3-1 win in 12!

That setup an all-Kyoto final on one side, and a powerhouse matchup on the other.

Kyoto Shouei and Ryuukokudai Heian were up first.  Kyoto Shouei didn't have to face Heian in the prefecturals as Heian was paired with Fukuchiyama Seibi.  Early on, the teams traded runs with Kyoto Shouei emerging with a 3-2 lead.  It stayed that way until the 7th where Heian would get to Enomoto (who came in in relief) for a pair of runs to lead 4-3.  However, their reliever Minami fell apart in the next half-inning.  He hit back-to-back batters sending in a run, and then ace Enomoto would redeem himself, blasting a manrui home run to blow the game wide open.

Kyoto Shouei seemed to be in full control up 9-4, but Enomoto seemed to be out of sorts coming in relief.  He struggled with his control as Heian came back to within 1 with a 4-run 8th!  He'd somehow get in together just in time, closing the game out in the 9th to win 9-8!

In the other semi, it was a shocker in that Osaka Touin was not competitive at all against Houtoku Gakuen.  In fact they were blanked 8-0 in 7 innings!

So Houtoku Gakuen and ace Inui Youhei (乾 陽平) were the final obstacle in Kyoto Shouei and Enomoto Kazuki (榎本 和輝) bid for their first ever fall title.

There were opportunities for both teams throughout the game as Inui yielded base hits almost every inning, while Enomoto's control issues persisted as he issued free passes.  Yet the score was at 1-1 after regulation.  Eventually it would become a matter of who would make the first mistake.

And that finally was made by Inui as he yielded 2 runs in the 13th.  They still had the bottom half of the inning, and Enomoto was approaching his limit too.  He would give up one run, but again found a way to shut the door, win 3-2, and claim Kyoto Shouei's first title!!

Looking at the field for the selection of the half-dozen bids, it almost winds up being as listed above by default.  Kyoto Shouei is definitely in, as well as Houtoku Gakuen.  While Heian is in the same prefecture as Kyoto Shouei, they didn't play each other in the prefecturals and held their own in the semifinals - so they're in.  Those are the definites.

Osaka Touin was uncharacteristically blown out by Houtoku Gakuen.  And their wins prior against Kousen and Tenri do not inspire confidence.

But then you look down at the quarterfinalists.  Tenri was blown out by Osaka Touin.  Daishoudai Sakai too was annihilated.  That leaves Riseisha who played Kyoto Shouei close as well and should get in, and Yamato Kouryou who had a nondescript win over Shiga Gakuen before being shutout 2-0 to Heian.

So Osaka Touin now appears safe, as does Riseisha.  The question becomes the last bid.

And that boils down to Yamato Kouryou and Tenri.

Tenri in name had the harder opponent in Osaka Touin, but Heian can easily be considered a quality opponent for Yamato Kouryou.

If the committee wants to go by name, then Tenri will go.  But I think if they go by play, it may fall to Yamato Kouryou.

Chuugoku (3 bids)
  • Champion - Kanzei - Okayama-shi, Okayama (6th title, 1st in 2 years)
  • Runner-up - Kouryou - Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima
  • 3rd Bid - Iwakuni Shougyou - Iwakuni-shi, Yamaguchi
With 5 prefectures and 4 quadrants, the bracket breaks out such that the 1 & 3 seeds of each prefecture wind up in the same quadrant.  For 2 prefectures, they inhabit one quadrant:
  • A - Hamada (Shimane 2) vs. Ube Kougyou (Yamaguchi 4)
  • A - Iwakuni Shougyou (Yamaguchi 1) vs. Tamashima Shougyou (Okayama 2)
  • B - Soutoku (Hiroshima 1) vs. Tottori Jyouhoku (Tottori 3)
  • B - Yonago Kita (Tottori 1) vs. Kouryou (Hiroshima 3)
  • C - Kanzei (Okayama 1) vs. Jyosuikan (Hiroshima 2)
  • C - Yonago Shouin (Tottori 2) vs. Kurashiki Shougyou (Okayama 3)
  • D - Hayatomo (Yamaguchi 2) vs. Shimane Chuo (Shimane 3)
  • D - Masuda Shouyou (Shimane 1) vs. Iwakuni (Yamaguchi 3)
The side-effect is that prefectures can be shutout after the first round.

It turns out that not just one, but two prefectures would be eliminated!

So, all else being equal, who has the advantage?

Well, the home team.  And that happens to be Yamaguchi-ken.

In fact, all 4 entrants advanced into the second round.  Iwakuni Shougyou, Iwakuni and Ube Koujyou all won via the shutout.  Hayatomo was able to advance, but only after striking back for a pair of runs right after they gave up the lead in the 7th.

With that alone, Shimane was wiped off the board.  Who would be the other prefecture?

In B quadrant, Tottori Jyouhoku started off well against Soutoku, but fell apart in the 2nd half of the game, losing 8-4.  Yonago Kita went just 7 innings before they waved the white flag, losing 9-1.

That left 2nd place Yonago Shouin as the last representative.  But against Kurashiki Shougyou, that was a tough task.  They kept it close, even in fact tying the game at 1-1 in the top of the 5th.  Kurashou struck back with 2 in their part of the frame and held on to the 3-1 win.

A valiant effort, but both Japan Sea prefectures were eliminated.

And what appeared to be a blockbuster matchup in the first round wound up being anything but.  Jyousuikan would give up after 7 innings, losing to Kanzei 10-0!

This created a bizarre quarterfinal setup:
  • A - Ube Kougyou (Yamaguchi 4) vs. Iwakuni Shougyou (Yamaguchi 1)
  • B - Soutoku (Hiroshima 1) vs. Kouryou (Hiroshima 3)
  • C - Kanzei (Okayama 1) Kurashiki Shougyou (Okayama 3)
  • D - Hayatomo (Yamaguchi 2) vs. Iwakuni (Yamaguchi 3)
Yes, that's right, all 4 quarterfinals were intraprefectural matchups!  Interestingly though, only the Okayama matchup was a rematch of a prefectural semifinal.

In the Yamaguchi matchups, Iwakuni Shougyou proved that they were the cream of the crop, as they defeated the only Best 4 team they haven't played - Ube Kougyou, in a shutout 5-0.  Iwakuni showed that their 3rd place finish was a product of just being in the wrong half of the bracket.  The struggling Hayatomo was unceremoniously upended in a 10-0 defeat in 5 innings.

Soutoku probably wasn't happy to see Kouryou in their crosshairs.  They managed to avoid them in the prefecturals, but now when it really matters... it was all Kouryou in a 7-1 win.

That leaves the rematch of Kanzei and Kurashiki Shougyou.  Kanzei wouldn't leave anything to chance, scoring 6 runs in the 3rd en route to an 8-4 win.

Another byproduct of the 1st round was that Yamaguchi pretty much guaranteed themselves a team at Senbatsu, especially since due to the 85th tournament, Chuugoku gets an extra bid.

And that would prove key this year as Iwakuni was routed 11-1 by Kanzei, and while Iwakuni Shougyou held with Kouryou, they still lost 2-0.

So we're left with Kouryou and Kanzei in the finals, two teams used to the big game.  The game was a low-scoring affair early, then blown open in the span of 2 half-innings where Kouryou scored 3 in the 6th to lead 4-2, only to give up 5 in the lucky 7 to trail 7-4.  They'd win 8-5 to take the title.

And on the basis of the semifinal matchups, expect Iwakuni Shougyou to receive the 3rd bid.

Shikoku (3 bids)
  • Champion - Kochi - Kochi-shi, Kochi (6th title, 1st in 6 years)
  • Runner-up - Naruto - Naruto-shi, Tokushima
  • 3rd Bid -  Saibi - Matsuyama-shi, Ehime
Shikoku's draw looked like this:
  • Kochi (Kochi 1) vs. Imabari Kougyou (Ehime 2)-Marugame (Kagawa 3) winner
  • Eimei (Kagawa 1) vs. Tokushima Shougyou (Tokushima 2)-Tosa (Kochi 3) winner
  • Naruto (Tokushima 1) vs. Kochi Shougyou (Kochi 2)-Matsuyama Seiryou (Ehime 3) winner
  • Saibi (Ehime 1) vs. Takamatsu Shougyou (Kagawa 2)-Ikeda (Tokushima 3) winner
Oddly, only one of the 2 seed teams would advance out of the opening round.  That would be Tokushima Shougyou who finally got to Tosa in the 6th inning with a 3 spot and would win 4-1.

In the other games, Imabari Kougyou had a chance to survive as they were deadlocked 1-1 for a long time.  Marugame though would bid sayonara to the Ehime representative 2-1.   Kochi Shougyou was having a heck of a time in their game, but at 3-3 in the 7th Matsuyama Seiryou scored 6 to pull away.  Kochishou would score 3 in the 9th, but it wasn't enough.  And Ikeda finally made progress, winning 3-1.

With so many 3 seeds advancing, it would be expected that most if not all of the 1 seeds would advance.  And in fact, all did... except for the one team that faced the only #2 seed left.

Nartuo and Kochi had no problems.  Ikeda almost got to the semifinals and rallied late, but lost to Saibi 4-3.  Tokushou was in another close game.  They and Eimei were tied at 2 when Eimei scored a run in the 7th to take the lead.  But in the bottom of the 9th they get to ace Akagawa scoring 2 runs for the gyakuten sayonara victory.

Tokushou would try to extend their run against Kochi, and early on the semifinals they held a 2-run lead, even after swapping 3-run innings.  But Kochi would put up 2 runs in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings to win 11-7.  In the other semifinal, Saibi was in full control, getting 2 insurance runs in the final 2 innings to lead 4-1.  Saibi ace Anraku though didn't get the memo that he and his team needed to close out the game.  Naruto would rally for 4 runs and win 5-4.

To the final where Kochi would try to preempt the deficit by getting ahead early.  Naruto would have none of it and came back to level the score at 6 in the 6th.  Kochi though would score 2 in the 8th giving Naruto no time to stage a rally.

The extra bid will probably go to Saibi, who had Naruto dead to rights, right until the bottom of the 9th.

Kyushu (4 bids)
  • Champion - Okinawa Shougaku - Naha-shi, Okinawa (2nd title, 1st in 15 years)
  • Runner-up - Seiseikou - Chuo-ku, Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto
  • 3rd Bid - Shoushikan - Shibushi-shi, Kagoshima
  • 4th Bid - Souseikan - Isahaya-shi, Nagasaki
  • Other Consideration - Kumamoto Kougyou, Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto
 Early on, the games were rather competitive.  In the two opening round games, Kanzaki Seimei (Sage 2) were shutout by Souseikan (Nagasaki 3) 3-0.  Sasebo Jitsugyou (Nagasaki 2) lost it late against Miyazaki Nichidai (Miyazaki 3), falling 2-1.

Now all 8 top seeds would be in play, but by the end of the first round over half would go home.  But not the half you may have thought.
  • Kagoshima Jyouhou probably lacked experience and became Souseikan's 2nd shutout, losing by the slim margin of 1-0. (who by the way is looking to get an invitation this year after being snubbed).
  • Miyazaki's Nisshou Gakuen can't be faulted for losing their game, they had to play Okinawa Shougaku.  Down 4-0, they rallied late but still lost 4-2. 
  • Saga Kita reached the Super-Regionals again, but Shoushikan picked up the flag for Kagoshima and used a 5-run 5th to advance 7-3.
  • Seiseikou wanted to prove that their appearance last year wasn't just a fluke.  To that end they struck early and pulled ahead late, defeating Oita's Youshikan 6-2.
  • And Miyazaki Nichidai would pull the upset on Okinawa's Ginoza, shutting them out 5-0!
In fact, almost all top seeds struggled.  Kumamoto Kougyou scored the only run in their game, beating Isahaya 1-0.

Nagasaki Nichidai should have been dead to rights.  Enchousen, tied at 1 in the 10th, Moji Gakuen scores 4 runs and should have the game wrapped up.  Except they don't close it out!  Nagasaki Nichidai scores 4 and extends the game further!  I'd like to see what happened in that 10th inning.  It wouldn't be until the 13th inning where Nagasaki Nichidai would score the sayonara run to win 6-5!

The only non-contested game was surprisingly Kurume Shougyou vs. Meihou.  Kurushou scored 4 in the 1st inning and cruised to a 5-2 win.

The reprieve for the top seeds though wouldn't last.  All 3 remaining would lose in the quarterfinals.  Kurume Shougyou only went 7 against Souseikan losing 9-0.  Kumamoto Kougyou had to face Okinawa Shougaku, and narrowly lost 3-2 in 10 innings.  And Shoushikan used a 4-run 4th to defeat Nagasaki Nichidai 6-2.  The fourth team to advance would indeed be Seiseikou as they shutout the last Nichidai team as Miyazaki would fall 3-0.

That put Souseikan in the crosshairs of Okinawa Shougaku, while Shoushikan and Seiseikou would square off in the other semi.

And neither game was close.

In fact, both would last just 7 innings and both due to a big inning.  For Okishou, it was a 4-run 1st in an 8-1 win.  For Seiseikou, it was a 5-run 6th in an 8-0 win.

So it'd be Okinawa Shougaku and Seiseikou in the finals, and both pretty much guaranteed a spot in Senbatsu.  It would be just a matter now of who would represent Kyushu at the Meiji Jingu Tournament.

And boy was it a pitchers' duel.  Seiseikou's Ootake Koutarou (大竹 耕太郎) versus the tandem of Ura Jyun (宇良 淳) and Higa Kenichirou (比嘉 健一朗).  Okishou certainly had more opportunities throughout the game, but the game remained scoreless through 8.  But in the top of the 9th, it all unraveled for Seiseikou.  Okinawa Shougaku would put up 5 runs in the 9th and claim just their 2nd ever fall title!

Rounding out the projected 4 bids are in all probability the two semifinalists - Souseikan and Shoushikan.  Yes, they still lost badly in the semifinals, but they had shutout their competition beforehand (though the quality of the opposition can be argued).  Shoushikan defeated both Saga Kita and Nagasaki Nichidai and despite their blowout loss, should get in.

The only other team who could make a case would be Kumamoto Kougyou, who was the only team to actually play Okinawa Shougaku close.  And bad news for Souseikan, they would probably be the team on the bubble if there were other considerations.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall Taikai Update - Tokyo

Tokyo (1 bid, plus 1 possible floating)
Two more weekends of play have completed and we're down to our semifinalists.

But let's see what happened to get there.

The 13th/14th saw the completion of the 2nd round and the whole 3rd round.  And some of the big names were involved in wild affairs.  At Akishima, Soujitsu (Waseda Jitsugyou) saw Hachiouji add an insurance run in the 9th to take a 3-1 lead.  But Hachiouji couldn't close out the game, blew the lead and headed to enchousen...  where they lost 4-3 the very next inning.

In Fuchuu, Souka gave up 2 runs in 3 consecutive innings to Toua Gakuen falling behind 6-2.  But in the 7th and 8th they would rally for 5 runs to take a 7-6 lead.  Once again, Souka would blow that lead, giving up 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th.  Somehow, Souka would reply in the top of the 9th with 3 runs and finally complete the comeback 10-9!

And finally, Nichidai Tsurugaoka and Nittai Ebara were tied at 1 until 2 in the 6th and another in the 7th seemed to give Nichidai the runs they needed.  But Nittai would respond with 3 of their own, tying the game and sending that game into extras!  And without the benefit of an extra base hit, Nittai Ebara upsets Nichidai Tsurugaoka 4-3 in 10 innings!

For the 3rd round, of the teams that played the prior day, most favorites advanced - Seiritsu Gakuen's game was easy while Soujitsu and Souka struggled a bit against Tokyo Sougou Kouka and Meijidai Nakano-Hachiouji.

As for the teams that had the week off, Hino continued to look dominant mercy-ruling St. Paul GakuenKokushikan plays catch-up the entire game and loses 4-2 to Yasuda GakuenOberlin scores 4 in the 1st, but gives up5 over next the next 3 innings and goes down 5-4 to Takashima.  And in another "what could be semifinal match", Iwakura held a slim 2-0 lead over Nichidai-san, but is outscored thereafter 5-1 and falls.

And oh boy, Nittai Ebara and Kokugakuin Kugayama were in a slugfest.  Here's how the game went:
  • Kokugakuin Kugayama 3-0 after 2,
  • Nittai Ebara 4-3 after 3,
  • Kokugakuin Kugayama 5-4 after 4,
  • Tied after 5,
  • Kokugakuin Kugayama 7-5 after 6,
Kokugakuin would add a run in the 8th and 9th to lead 9-5.  And yet that wasn't good enough!  Nittai scores 4, ties the game and sends it to extras!  It's possible first team to score wins, but with the game so far that's not a certainty!  Nittai Ebara would get the last laugh with the sayonara run in the 11th!

Here's where things get really wonky.  This past weekend, Saturday's set of games had Souka up against the scary Sanko, while Hino would have to deal with the giant killers Nittai Ebara.

Souka took a 1-0 lead in the first, but saw themselves trailing 3-1 with just 3 outs to go.  Somehow, they manage to pull a Sanko from last year as they rallied to tie the game and send it to enchousen.  Souka couldn't immediately capitalize on the momentum and so perhaps the game would be lost.  However, they do push ahead the gyakuten run in the 12th and hold on for the 4-3 win!

Then came Hino and Nittai Ebara.  After trading a run in the 1st, Hino would jump out with 3 runs in the 5th.  Nittai Ebara would pull within 1 in the 6th.  2 innings later, the game would collapse on Hino as Ebara would score 3 to take a 6-4 lead!  Hino wouldn't be able to scramble together a quick rally and thus the Cinderella run continues!

Sunday's slate of games were nowhere near as exciting.  Seiritsu Gakuen was boat-raced by Yasuda Gakuen(!) 7-0 in 7 innings, and Soujitsu never trailed defeating Takashima 6-2.

So our semifinals are set - Soujitsu and Souka will square off first, with Nittai Ebara and Yasuda Gakuen playing the matinee game.

For Nittai Ebara-Yasuda Gakuen, they will in all likelihood need to win out.  Their names alone will not guarantee them the floating bid if they lose in the finals.  On the other hand should they win, it's possible that the committee will look at Souka/Soujitsu as a viable candidate.

Fall Taikai Update - Tokai & Kinki

Tokai (2 bids)
Tokai is in the semifinal stages, and we could very well be in the same situation as in the Hokushinestu Super-Regionals!
  • Shizuoka (Shizuoka 1) vs. Winner of Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu 2)-Tsu Shougyou (Mie 3)
Tsu Shougyou was probably not very happy to face Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou right off the get-go.  They fought hard, but wound up being shutout 4-0 setting up a matchup with Shizuoka champs Shizuoka. Shizuoka got off to a quick 2-0 lead in the 1st, but couldn't make that lead stick.  Shigifushou would take the 3-2 lead in the 8th before scrambling in the bottom half to level the score.  The game would go to 12 innings before Shigifushou would advance 4-3.
  • Komono (Mie 1) vs. Winner of Toyokawa (Aichi 2)-Hiryuu (Shizuoka 3)
In a battle of unknowns to start, Toyokawa had the better of Hiryuu.  But a 4-run gyakuten 8th inning gave them the 5-3 lead.  They'd hold on to win 5-4. Komono though would put an end to that in their quadrant, mercy-ruling Hiryuu 7-0 in 7.
  • Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu 1) vs. Winner of Inabe Sougou Gakuen (Mie 2)-Aichi Keisei (Aichi 3)
Inabe Sougou Gakuen and Aichi Keisei scored a flurry of runs in the first 3 innings capped off by a 3-run 3rd to take a 4-3 lead.  That would end up being the final score.  Unfortunately they had to face the other commercial school from Gifu.  Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou dispatched them 8-0 in 7 innings.
  • Touhou (Aichi 1) vs. Winner of Tokoha Kikugawa (Shizuoka 2)-Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu 3)
This probably was the toughest all-around of the 4 brackets.  Tokoha Kikugawa and Oogaki Nichidai, two schools who are seemingly on the rebound squared off first.  But early on it was all Tokoha as they built a 4-0 lead.  They'd add on two more in the 8th to take a 6-1 lead.  But when Oogaki scored 3 in the bottom half, it was suddenly a new ballgame.  Ace Horita would barely close the game out for a 6-5 win.

Next was a game against Touhou.  A 3-run 2nd inning helped put them into the lead, but Horita would squander the lead making it 3-3 going into the final third of the game.  His offense would have his back scoring 3 runs yet again.  Horita wouldn't give it away again, and Tokoha Kikugawa would win 6-4.

So our semifinal matches are:
  • Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu 2) vs. Komono (Mie 1)
  • Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu 1) vs. Tokoha Kikugawa (Shizuoka 2)
I think you can see where the problem lies.  If Shigifushou and Kengifushou both win, we have an all Gifu final.  And there's two bids at stake...

The selection committee may full one Super-Regionals with teams from one prefecture - but two?  No way.  Never going to happen.

So if that situation arises, you better bet that both teams will pull out all the stops to win, because that would get them a guaranteed bid while the loser may not be invited at all.

Komono and Tokoha Kikugawa better be prepared for the fight of their lives this Saturday.

Kinki (6 bids)
I'm not sure why all 8 games aren't played all on the same weekend, but oddly enough this will hurt two of the possibly favored teams:
  • Shiga Gakuen (Shiga 2) vs. Yamato Kouryou (Nara 2)
Huh.  I wonder about Yamato Kouryou.  They're a combination of Kouryou and Takada Higashi in 2005.  They held their own (supposedly, who knows if Tenri gave them a break), losing to Tenri 5-1 in the final.  But there has to be something, because their super-rookie, 1st year Tatsuda Shouta gave up just one run in the 1st inning.  His offense would quickly get that run back and more as they advanced 3-1.  Things will get much harder as they will face the winner of...
  • Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama 1) vs. Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto 3)
Chiben Wakayama's struggles continue.   Despite winning the prefecture, the offense disappears yet again against Ryuukokudai Heian.  Ace Yoshikawa keeps the team in it holding them to 2 runs, but their offense could only manage 1.
  • Riseisha (Osaka 1) vs. Kansei Gakuin (Hyogo 3)
Kansei Gakuin, much like Tsu Shougyou, didn't exactly draw a great team to start. But they held tough against the Osaka champs, and have nothing to be ashamed about in a 1-0 loss.
  • Kyoto Shouei (Kyoto 1) vs. Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Hyogo 2)
This has to be the shock of the Kinki taikai so far.  Under another rookie - Enomoto Kazuki, he made 2 runs stick against the former Koushien participants.  He'll have to step up his game even more now with Riseisha up next.
  • Shiritsu Wakayama (Wakayama 2) vs. Osaka Shoudai Sakai (Osaka 3)
In a battle of relative unknowns the "other" team from Wakayama - Shiritsu Wakayama and Osaka Shoudai Sakai fought back-and-forth with the lead changing 3 times - the last one when Daishoudai Sakai scored 1 run 3 of 4 consecutive innings to win 5-4.
  • Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo 1) vs. Fukuchiyama Seibi (Kyoto 2)
Fukuchiyama Seibi is finally back in the mix after self-imposing sanctions due to violence within the club.  But they still have a long ways to go apparently as they are held to just one run in a 3-1 loss.  They should be the easy favorites to defeat Daishoudai Osaka.

As for the last 2 games, they will be played on Saturday with the winners playing the next day:
  • Tenri (Nara 1) vs. Kouyasan (Wakayama 3)
  • Kousen (Shiga 1) vs. Osaka Touin (Osaka 2)
Tenri and Osaka Touin (should they win) will play on 0 days rest.  Don't know who that will benefit.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall Taikai Update - Hokushinetsu

Hokushinetsu (2 bids)
  • Champion - Harue Kougyou - Sakai-shi, Fukui (First title)
  • Runner-up - Tsuruga Kehi - Tsuruga-shi, Fukui
  • Other Consideration - Ueda Nishi - Ueda-shi, Nagano, Niigata Meikun - Niigata-shi, Niigata
Uh oh.  The selection committee may have a problem.

So, let's go through the brackets first, and if you haven't identified the problem yet, I'll spell it out for you later.

So if you looked at the brackets, you'd think that the "right" teams won.  Though if you put rankings in, they may seem more like an "upset".
  • Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama 2) 0-3 Yuugakukan (Ishikawa 3)
  • Gosen (Niigata 3) 2-3x Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui 1) - How Tsuruga Kehi barely beat Gosen I don't know...
  • Shin-Minato (Toyama 3) 2-3x (10) Seiryou (Ishikawa) - Shin-Minato puts together a 2-run rally in the 9th to send it to enchousen, but this time can't finish the job.
  • Ueda Nishi (Nagano 2) 1-1 (15), 6-1 Niigata Kenou Kougyou (Niigata 2) -  The teams play to an exhaustive draw in their game, then have to turn around the very next day where Ueda Nishi wins easily.  Probably because Ueda Nishi used 4 pitchers for the 15 inning draw while Niigata used the same 2 pitchers for each game.
  • Nihon Bunri (Niigata 1) 0-15 (5 inn) Matsushou Gakuen (Nagano 3) - That was an uncharacteristic ass-kicking of a generally solid Nihon Bunri squad.
  • Kanazawa Gakuin Higashi (Ishikawa 2) 4-5 Harue Kougyou (Fukui 2) - Not surprising.  2 middle-of-the-road teams play a back and forth game where Harue Kougyou scores a run in the top of the 9th to advance.
  • Saku Chousei (Nagano 1) 0-3 Fukui Shougyou (Fukui 3) - Fukushou's shutout of Saku Chousei leaves Ueda Nishi as the only team left - and they needed 2 games to advance out of the 1st round!
  • Niigata Meikun (Niigata 4) 4-3 Toyama Dai-ichi (Toyama 1) - Toyama is completely eliminated from the Super-Regional as the "4th place" Niigata Meikun holds off a last minute rally from Toyama Dai-ichi to advance.
Moving to the quartefinals, Tsuruga Kehi and Yuugakukan struggled to find any offense as the teams combined for 9 total hits.  But despite drawing more walks, Yuugakukan would lose 1-0 in 10 innings.

Probably more surprising is the fact that Harue Kogyou went and defeated Matsushou Gakuen 2-1 after the showing they had against Nihon Bunri.

Rounding out the first day of quarterfinal games, home-cooking probably helped Niigata Meikun put up a 6-spot in the 8th to reverse a 2-0 deficit and win 6-3.

The other shocker was that Ueda Nishi, playing it's 3rd game in 3 days went and defeated Seiryou 4-3.

So teams had the rest of the week off before games resumed this past Saturday.  Ueda Nishi got rest, but perhaps didn't want it.  Against Tsuruga Kehi, they fell behind in the bottom of the 8th 1-0.  Facing elimination, they found a run in the 9th to send it to enchousen (again).  This time though they couldn't find the winning run and lost 2-1 in 11 innings.

Meanwhile, the #4 seed for Niigata - Niigata Meikun was leading 3-1 over Harue Kougyou and was just about ready to punch their ticket.  But inexplicably things fell apart in the 8th inning and Harue put up 4 runs, turning a 2-run deficit into a 2-run advantage.  Niigata Meikun couldn't put together a rally that quickly and lost 5-3.

So the Hokushinetsu final is the rematch of the Fukui final!  In that first matchup, it was all Tsuruga Kehi as they blitzed Harue Kougyou 15-2.

But this time around things were much different.  Ace Tsubota limited them to just 5 hits while striking out just one.  And while they only managed just two more, they managed to turn that into one extra run, defeating Tsuruga Kehi for their first ever Hokushinetsu fall title.

Now if you haven't figured out what the problem is, it's this:

Will the selection committee give both of the bids from one Super-Regional to the same prefecture?

Harue Kougyou will definitely get one.  But what about Tsuruga Kehi?

If the committee has no problems with it, they will invite them to come.  But if they don't?  Who do they pick?

Ueda Nishi played one extra game and still defeated Seiryou and narrowly lost to Tsuruga Kehi.  Niigata Meikun actually led Harue Kougyou before giving up the lead late.

It's possible all teams are worthy for the spot, but Tsuruga Kehi must be kicking themselves right now because that final game was probably the most important one for them to win precisely because they were facing someone from their own prefecture.

Fall Taikai Quick Recap (Kyushu)

Kyushu will have their regular 4 teams for Senbatsu.  They, along with Shikoku, will be the last Super-Regional to take place.  Nagasaki will be the host, and thus will have 4 representatives for the Super-Regionals.

Fukuoka has 2 stages for their prefectural, but their 1st stage narrows the field down to 8.

In the Hokubu Regionals, no surprise that Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku advanced, same goes for Iidzuka (who defeated Jiyuugaoka 7-3 in the final).  Over down south in the Nanbu Regionals, Higashi-Fukuoka and Chikuyou Gakuen also advanced.

So onto the quarterfinals, and on Day 1, Iidzuka advanced with little issue over Nogata while Higashi-Fukuoka were upended by Kurume Shougyou.

Meanwhile, Moji Gakuen were able to rebound after Fukuokadai Oohori tied the game in the 9th to win 3-2 in 10.  But more surprising was that Chikuyou Gakuen fired a winning shot in the 9th to defeat Kyukoku 6-5!

The upsets continued into the semifinals where Iidzuka and Chikuyou Gakuen never led in their semifinal matches, thus putting Kurume Shougyou and Moji Gakuen into the finals!

Kurume Shougyou would clinch the title with a 4-0 shutout, but both teams will advance to the Super-Regionals.

Ok, for as much crap I give Saga Kita because they crushed my dear Kouryou at Natsu Koushien so mercilessly they are a private school, and as a private school generally have better odds of being a good team - and they are.

Despite not being a seeded team, they defeated Karatsu Shougyou and Saga Shougyou on their way to the finals.

On the other half, Saga Gakuen probably was one of the favorites, but Kanzaki Seimei put a stop to that with a 8-1 mercy rule win and went through the rest of the bracket to the finals.

In the finals, Saga Kita put pressure on Kanzaki Seimei all game and had never trailed.  That was until a 3-spot in the 7th gave Kanzaki the 5-4 lead.

But they couldn't close it out.  Saga Kita would tie the game in the 8th, and pull ahead in the 9th for a 6-5 win for their 2nd consecutive fall title (9th overall).

Nagasaki was a tale of two halves - of the bracket that is...

One one side, it was all chalk.  Sasebo Jitsugyou and Nagasaki Nichidai barreled towards each other in a semifinal matchup.  In that matchup, the teams just combined for 6 total hits (2 and 4 respectively).  The difference though was probably the errors.  Sasebo Jitsugyou committed 4 errors in the game as Nagasaki Nichidai went on to a 3-0 win and a spot in the Super-Regionals.

The other half saw things shaken up.  Seihou, who wasn't seeded never had to face seeded Sasebo Shougyou but wound up giving up 3 runs in the 8th and losing to Souseikan, who themselves were passed up not too long ago in the selection process due to a bad semifinal game.

Meanwhile, Hasami continues to show good strength and despite also being unseeded defeated a seeded Nagasaki Sougou Kagaku but couldn't survive a shootout against unknown Isahaya.

Isahaya continued their cinderella run, defeating Souseikan 5-3 to reach the finals.  Their dreams for a fall title would end though as Nagasaki Nichidai easily handled them 9-2 for their 12th fall title (and first since 2007).

In Oita, outside of a slow start by some teams, Oita Nishi, Meihou, Youshikan and Touin all reached the semis without much trouble.

Meihou would blank Oita Nishi 2-0, and in a bit of a shocker, Youshikan limited Touin to just 1 run in a 3-1 victory assuring them only their 3rd trip to the Super-Regionals!

Of course, facing Meihou, there were expected to finish as the runner-up.  But instead they outscored Meihou 5-1 in the final 3 innings to win 6-3, thus claiming their 2nd ever fall title!  (Their last appearance and title were 19 years ago)

There were a lot of regulars back in the seeded ranks of the Miyazaki taikai.  Nichinan Gakuen, Nobeoka Gakuen and Nisshou Gakuen specifically.

Nichinan Gakuen though lost in the semifinals to Miyazaki Gakuen - a bit of an upset as ace Ryou failed to close the game in the bottom of the 9th, giving up 3 runs and losing 3-2.  Miyazaki Gakuen in turn would lose to familiar Miyazaki Nichidai in the quarterfinals.  Nobeoka Gakuen was able to advance despite having to play St. Ursula and Miyakonojyou Shougyou.

Unknown Houshou was the last seeded team, but couldn't get past Nobeoka Kougyou in the 3rd round.

The semifinals saw Nisshou Gakuen advance easily past Takanabe (who had advanced out of Houshou's bracket), while a 4-spot in the 6th sent Miyazaki Nichidai to the title.  Nisshou Gakuen would claim the top spot with an easy 12-5 win.

I liked the story of Seiseikou.  I had kind of wished they'd go further at Koushien, but there's not a lot you can do when you have to face Osaka Touin...

But it does look like they've been able to brunt the loss of players and outside of a 4-1 win over Kumamoto Shougyou, were able to easily reach the finals - denying Jyouhoku in the semifinals again (Hitsuyuukan did it in the Natsu taikai).

Meanwhile, Kumamoto Kougyou had to navigate a minefield to advance through the brackets.  After an uncharacteristic blowout over Shuugakukan, they played the aforementioned Hitsuyuukan, then went 10 innings against Kumamoto Kokufu and a surging Kumamoto Kita to reach the finals themselves.

Seiseikou will go to the Super-Regionals, but as the 2nd seed as Kumamoto Kougyou summits the top with an easy 6-0 win.

Kamimura Gakuen had looked to continue to prove they're still the top dog in the prefecture advancing out of their quadrant without opposition.  Things looked even better when their main blockade to the Super-Regionals, Kagoshima Jitsugyou, fell to Shoushikan 3-2 in the 3rd round.  But then they annihilated Kagoshima Jyousai in the quarterfinals and there was probably cause for concern.

Rightly so as Kamimura Gakuen would wind up losing 3-1.  Meanwhile, on the other side, Shounan and Kagoshima Jyouhou did have a hiccup along the way, but digested teams en route to a semifinal showdown.  That became a defensive affair as Kagoshima Jyouhou outscored Shounan 2-1 in the first 3 innings, then held serve the rest of the way.

In the finals, Kagoshima Jyouhou would limit Shounan to just 1 run on 5 hits and take the fall title 2-1.

I really wished Maebara had won last summer.   It seemed like a one-shot deal.

It was.  Against Misato in the first round they lost 4-1...  *sighs* oh well...

Instead, the Okinawa taikai was filled with the usual suspects - Miyako, Kadena, Ginoza, Okinawa Shougaku, Kounan, and even the aforementioned Misato.

There is little to go on outside of scores, and the final 4 consisted of 4 regulars.  Miyako scored in the top of the 1st to take the lead, but were forced to play catch-up the rest of the game.  They would fall short, losing 5-4.

Kounan and Okinawa Shougyou by name alone implied a hard-fought game, and it was.  Okinawa Shougaku took a 2-0 lead over Kounan before Uehara blasted a HR to tie the game.  The deadlock would not be decided until the 10th when Okinawa Shougyou pushed in the go-ahead run to advance to the finals.

And in the finals, it looked like the semifinal game took a lot out of Okishou as Ginoza took the lead in the 1st and won wire-to-wire 5-3 to earn their 4th ever title - their first in 10 years (it's their 8th appearance overall).

The draw for the Super-Regionals are as follows:
  • Kagoshima Jyouhou (Kagoshima 1) vs. Winner of Kanzaki Seimei (Saga 2)-Souseikan (Nagasaki 3/4)
  • Kurume Shougyou (Fukuoka 1) vs. Meihou (Oita 2)
  • Kumamoto Kougyou (Kumamoto 1) vs. Isahaya (Nagasaki 2)
  • Nisshou Gakuen (Miyazaki 1) vs. Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa 2)
  • Nagasaki Nichidai (Nagasaki 1) vs. Moji Gakuen (Fukuoka 2)
  • Saga Kita (Saga 1) vs. Soushikan (Kagoshima 2)
  • Youshikan (Oita 1) vs. Seiseikou (Kumamoto 2)
  • Ginowan (Okinawa 1) vs. Winner of Miyazaki Nichidai (Miyazaki 2)-Sasebo Jitsugyou (Nagasaki 3/4)
I like Seiseikou, but I don't like them having to face a team that is making just their 3rd ever appearance!  I hate cannibalizing teams like these!

It will be a border battle in the 3rd round probably as Saga Kita will be playing on Nagasaki Nichidai's home turf.

Okinawa Shougaku is back in the mix for Senbatsu, but Kumamoto Kougyou looms large in the pivotal 3rd round.