Friday, January 27, 2012

Fall Tournament and Recap and possible invitees (Meiji Jingu + Floating Bids)

In the interests of getting my projections out before the invitations are posted I am including them here before they are announced.

Meiji Jingu Tournament
With all super-regionals done, the Meiji Jingu Tournament is held to determine a champion for the fall, but more importantly determine which region will receive an important extra bid.  For those who just missed, they're rooting for their region to win.

When the draw came out, the 4 teams having to play an extra game were Tsuruga Kehi (Hokushinetsu) v. Tottori Jyouhoku (Chuugoku), and Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo) v. Aikoudai Meiden (Tokai).  While Chiben Gakuen (Kinki) and Urawa Gakuin (Kanto) were waiting respectively, opposite sides were going to war as Kamimura Gakuen (Kyushu) faced off against Natsu Koushien runner-up Kousei Gakuin (Tohoku) and Naruto (Tokushima) and Hokushou (Hokkaido) butted heads.

Day 1 was the extra games.  Tottori Jyouhoku scored a run in the 1st due to an error and tacked on a run in the 7th.  Down to their final out, Yamamoto Ryuu delivers a 2-out 2-run double to right center to tie the game.

A new rule was instituted, but I don't know if it was instituted just for the Meiji Jingu Tournament, or for all tournaments going forward.  In the event of a tie (unless it's the finals), each half inning will begin with the bases-loaded with one out.  I understand that for softball, but for baseball I don't think I like this rule...

Despite the new rules, neither team could score in the 10th.  But in the 11th, Tottori Jyouhoku would send 7 men to the plate and score 7 runs.  Tsuruga Kehi couldn't respond and lost 9-4.

The 2nd game of the day was just as exciting as aces Hamada (Aikoudai Meiden) and Nakamura (Kanto Dai-ichi) squared off.  However, all the runs were scored in the 3rd as Meiden outscored Kanto 2-1.  Hamada would give up just the 1 run on 5 hits to advance his team to the next round.

The new enchousen rules continue to show up at Meiji Jingu.  After trading a run in the first two innings, Kousei Gakuin scored 4 runs to lead 6-2 to Kamimura Gakuen.  But in the 8th, Kamimura would rally for all 4 runs to tie the game and send it to enchousen.  In the 10th Kamimura was able to score 2.  But an error in the bottom half would take back one, and cleanup hitter Houjyou would hit a sayonara manrui homerun to left to defeat Kamimura Gakuen 11-8.

In the late game, Naruto and Hokushou would score a run in back to back half innings to send the game into enchousen.  Hokushou looked to seal the game with a 2-spot in the 10th, only to see Naruto level it once again.  Finally, Hokushou would score two more in the 11th, and hold Naruto off for the win.

Day 3 saw teams perhaps wanting to avoid the roulette that was extra innings.  Tottori Jyouhoku, having survived one round of that, found themselves behind Chiben Gakuen 3-0 heading into the last innings.  They would rally for 6 runs and hold off Chiben 6-4 to setup a match with Kousei Gakuin.

Aikoudai Meiden was having their own troubles against Urawa Gakuin.  Unable to generate any offense, they were down 1-0 with 6 outs to go.  The light went off somehow, as Aikoudai Meiden would score 8 unanswered to move on to meet Hokushou.

So now we were in the semifinals.  Tottori Jyouhoku would not have a reply this time against the summer runner-ups.  Kousei's ace Kanazawa would limit them to just 4 hits in 8 innings as they move in an 8-inning 7-0 win.  Hokushou would suffer a similar fate as Aikoudai Meiden slowly built a 5-1 lead and win 6-2.

And so it was Aikouidai Meiden and Kousei Gakuin in the finals.  The teams would trade blows throughout the game.  Meiden would score the first couple of runs in the 2nd and 3rd before Kousei would strike back with one, cutting the deficit to 2-1.  They would then trade another run in the 5th.  Still up 1, Meiden's Nakano would hit a 2-run triple in the lucky 7 to lead 5-2.

That's when Kousei Gakuin would get to work...

Tamura and Houjyou lead off with back-to-back hits.  Takeda follows that up with a sac fly, making it 5-3.  Oosugi takes a full count pitch away down the 3rd base line for a RBI double, making it a 1-run game!  Kimura delivers a hit to right!  The throw comes home, but it's a little late and Nakamura can't handle it!  Kousei Gakuin managed to tie the game at 5!

They weren't done.  In the 8th, Houjyou comes up with 2 down and a runner at 2nd.  He takes a pitch to deep center, and the CF just misses it!  The ball goes all the way to the wall as Houjyou completes the comeback with an RBI triple!

The game did not end without drama.  Down to their final out, the batter swings and misses on strike 3, but the ball gets away from the C!  Everyone thinks the game is over, but Meiden's kantoku and 3rd base coach are out trying to motion his players to run.  However, the runner at first heads back to home plate for the post-game bow.

What the kantoku was referring to was the controversial game between Toukaidai Sagami and Yokohama back on July 28, 2007.  In their game, Sagami led 3-0, and had runners on 1st and 3rd with 2 outs.  The pitch to the batter was check-swung, but did not hold it in time and so was strike 3.  However, the ball bounced before the catcher caught it, so the C had to touch the batter.  Instead, they threw the ball to the mound and headed back to the dugout.

However, Toukaidai Sagami's kantoku told his players to run, and since none of them had moved, all of them ran around the bases, including the batter.  When the batter came around to touch home, the umpires counted all runs.  Despite Yokohama's protests, because the ball hadn't been fielded cleanly, it was the responsibility of the defense to tag the catcher, irregardless of where the runners are.  Since they did not, all 3 runners scored and Yokohama went on to lose 6-4.

The reason why this is important was because had the 1st base runner not walked back home, both the runner at 1st and the batter could have advanced safely.  But because the runner came back home for the bow, he would have been called out for leaving the basepath, and the game would have been over anyways.  A heads-up play by the kantoku, but not by his player.  Certainly Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou and Shigakukan will think about what might have possibly been had Meiden continued the inning.

And with that Kousei Gakuin claims their first Meiji Jingu Fall title and more importantly, Tohoku is awarded the Meiji Jingu bid.  The semifinalists were Hanamaki Higashi and Aomori Yamada.  Although Aomori Yamada has not been to Koushien in several years, Hanamaki Higashi took Kousei Gakuin to the limit in their semifinal game.  Combine that with their constant scrappiness shown during Kikuchi Yuusei's tenure and beyond, the Meiji Jingu bid will be projected to go to:

Meiji Jingu Bid - Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years

Floating Bids
We have our 2 floating bids remaining outside of the three 21st Century Bids.

Kanto/Tokyo Floating Bid
The first is shared between the Kanto and Tokyo regions.  The 4 quarterfinalists in the Kanto region were:
  • Chiba Eiwa (Chiba)
  • Koufu Kougyou (Yamanashi)
  • Yokohama (Kanagawa)
  • Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi)
The runner-up in the Tokyo region was Teikyou.

A first glance would probably have the bid awarded to Yokohama or Teikyou.  Sorry, but name matters here.  However, Yokohama lost to Sakushin Gakuin handily 6-2.  Teikyou's loss?  They were one-hit by Kanto Dai-ichi.  To me, both losses open up the bid to the other 3 teams if they deserve it.

The problem is that none of the other teams made a real strong case to be chosen over the incumbents.  Only Toukaidai Koufu had a respectable loss, but it was to Takasaki, who lost 6-3 to Sakushin Gakuin.

So with no clear standout of the 5 teams, either the committee can choose a newcomer or choose an incumbent.  I just can't see the committee handing it to any of the "no names".  They just don't have the quality wins or quality losses that might make them enticing.

And then it's hard to choose Yokohama given their collapse against Chiben Gakuen this past Natsu Koushien, and Teikyou did defeat Kokugakuin, Nishhou Gakushadai Fuzoku, and Nichidai Tsurugaoka.

So with that resume, and despite the one-hit loss, I have the bid going as follows:

Kanto/Tokyo Floating Bid - Teikyou (Tokyo) - 15th appearance, 1st in 2 years

Chuugoku/Shikoku Floating Bid

The other is shared between the Chuugoku and Shikoku.  The semifinalists in the two regions:
  • Hayatomo (Yamaguchi)
  • Taisha (Shimane)
  • Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
  • Takamatsu Shougyou (Kagawa)
The easy name that stands out is Meitoku Gigyuku.  They lost to Kochi after defeating them in the prefectural semifinals.  Losing to a team you're facing the 2nd time around probably will benefit them in the committee's eyes.

So in all probability the other 3 teams will have to present a strong case to be selected above Meitoku Gijyuku.

Takamatsu Shougyou lost to Naruto 7-1 in part due to a 6-run inning.  They did defeat Naruto Kougyou 1-0, but their only other quality wins was a 2-0 win over Sangawa in the prefectural finals.  The 5-3 win over Kannonji Chuo was a gyakuten victory with 4 in the 9th.  There doesn't seem to be enough there.

Over to the Chuugoku region, and Hayatomo lost 6-3 to Kurashiki Shougyou due to a 5-run 1st.  Outside of that game, all they have is a win against fellow entrant Nanyou Kougyou.  Playing someone from the same prefecture here hurts them given the perceived strength of Yamaguchi-ken.

That leaves Taisha.  Sadly, with a 7-0 mercy rule loss to Tottori Jyouhoku, and a down year in a super-regionals without big names, I just don't see them making it either.

So by default, the floating bid goes to:

Chuugoku/Shikoku Floating Bid - Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi) - 15th appearance, 2nd consecutive

There is one caveat though.  This floating bid would go to a team that already has one team going.  They may be hesitant to award a second team from the prefecture a bid, but I don't think it outweighs the lack of resume strength the other teams carry.

No comments: