But without further ado... off we go!
Hokkaido Super-Regional (1 bid)So Hokkaido was back to it's block play to determine the prefectural field. Of the 19 blocks, 4 made a return after a long hiatus, and 2 were complete newcomers. Your field was as follows:
- Sapporo A - Sapporo Shinkawa (4th appearance, 1st in 5 years). Received scare from Sapporo Kaisei in the semis, but cleared otherwise.
- Sapporo B - Sapporo Ryuukoku (1st appearance) - Always appeared to be a solid team, finally broke through this year defeating such teams as Hokkai Gakuen Sapporo and Toukai Dai-yon!
- Sapporo C - Hokkai (37th appearance, 6th consecutive) - Outscored their opponents 16-2 in their 4 games which included 3 shutouts. Fairly low scoring for a team of that calibur.
- Sapporo D - Sapporo Dai-ichi (19th appearance, 3rd consecutive) - Showed more offensive output winning their 4 games 35-5
- Muroran A - Hokkaido Sakae (14th appearance, 2nd consecutive) - No issues for Hokkaido Sakae though started slow against Tomakomai Kougyou.
- Muroran B - Shizunai (1st appearance) - Shizunai earned their 1st appearance as they defeated a well-known Mukawa 8-7! Then they held on against Urakawa 5-4 to make it to the show (prefectural anyways).
- Hakodate A - Hakodate Kougyou (20th appearance, 1st in 4 years) - Hakodae Kougyou won their first 3 games 2-0, 2-0 and 1-0 before exploding for 8 runs to deny Hakodate LaSalle 8-3.
- Hakodate B - Hakodatedai Yuuto (33rd appearance, 4th consecutive) - Hakodatedai Yuuto breezed through their block in a bid to make it back once again.
- Otaru - Hokushou (33rd appearance, 11th consecutive) - Hokushou continues to dominate the town known for its canals and the anime Saishuu Heiki Kanojyou. 49-3 in their 3 games.
- Sorachi - Takikawa Nishi(16th appearance, 3rd consecutive) - With Komadai Iwamisawa eliminated at the hands of Takikawa Kougyou, it was an all-Takikawa final. Nishi would beat the industrial school 3-1.
- Asahikawa A - Asahikawa Kougyou (9th appearance, 3rd consecutive) - Asahikawa Kougyou almost didn't make it for the 3rd straight year. Asahikawa Nougyou gave them a run but fell short 6-5.
- Asahikawa B - Furano (6th appearance, 1st in 45 years) - Furano returns after 45 years having to get there the hard way winning 4 games topping it off with a 3-0 shutout of Asahikawa Jitsugyou.
- Nayoro - Teshio (3rd appearance, 1st in 23 years) - When Wakkanai Ootani fell to Shibetsu Shouun 3-2, it opened the door in the regional. Teshio had to beat out Nayoro Sangyou 2-0 before thanking Shibetsu Shouun by defeating them 10-2.
- Kitami A - Memanbetsu (2nd appearance, 2nd consecutive) - Memanbetsu earns their 2nd consecutive appearance with ease.
- Kitami B - Kitami Shougyou (2nd appearance, 1st in 28 years) - Kitami Shougyou almost stumbles right out the blocks just sliding by Abashiri Minamigaoka 4-3.
- Tokachi A - Shirakaba Gakuen (10th appearance, 7th consecutive) - Shirakaba Gakuen was tested immediately against Obihiro Ryokuryou but prevailed 3-2. After that it was a breeze winning their next 2 games by the 10-0 mercy rule.
- Tokachi B - Obihiro Hakuyou (10th appearance, 1st in 46 years) - Obihiro Hakuyou similarly had a close game against Obihiro Nougyou, but had no issues otherwise.
- Kushine A - Nayoro Kougyou (12th appearance, 2nd consecutive) - Nayoro Kougyou was challenged by Nakashibetsu in the finals, but returns to the prefectural finals 5-3.
- Kushine B - Bushuukan (5th appearance, 1st in 2 years) - Bushuukan needed 3-1 victories over Kushine Koryou and Kushine Shougyou.
When the draw came out, Hokkai had a quadrant mostly to themselves. Joining them in the same half was Hokushou, Shirakaba Gakuen and Asahikawa Kougyou. On the other side, Hakodatedai Yuuto had a quadrant to themselves with Sapporo Dai-ichi and Bushuukan on the other quadrant.
As the games played out, Hokkai advanced, but still seemed a bit lackluster on offense. Asahikawa Kougyou soundly defeated Shirakaba Gakuen, but fell to Hokushou... who then mercy ruled Hokkai 9-1!
Their opponent in the finals became clearer as Hakodatedai Yuuto lost 1-0 to the hungry Furano squad. They almost made the semifinals, but fell to Sappporo Shinkawa. It would be an all-Sapporo semifinal as Sapporo Dai-ichi had no problems with Bushuukan. And while Sapporo Shinkawa has done better as of late - the powerhouse Dai-ichi moved to the finals.
In that final, it was as expected hotly contested. Sapporo Dai-ichi took a 2-1 lead early only to see it slip away in the later innings. But in the bottom of the 9th, with 2 out and a runner on 3rd, Sapporo Dai-ichi managed to tie the game, sending it into extras and the chance to earn their 1st title.
But it was not to be. In the first extra frame Hokushou's #9 batter Takayama delivered a 2-out single to center to break the tie. Ace Oogushi Kazuya closed out the frame and earned Hokushou their 4th title, 1st in 2 years. More importantly, they will receive an invitation to Haru Koushien.
Automatic Bid - Hokushou - 4th appearance, 1st in 2 years
Tohoku Super-Regional (2 bids)Tohoku at least baseball-wise is getting back to some normalcy. Now it will never be the same for schools that were say in places such as Minami-Sanriku or Iwaki, but it probably helps them cope with the events of the past year.
Each prefecture would receive 3 bids for the super-regionals. They were awarded as follows:
Because of their summer qualification, Kousei Gakuin got an automatic pass to the prefectural finals. Everyone else had to go through block play.
Of the ones that qualified, the most notables were Aomori Yamada, Touou Gijyuku, Hachinohekoudai-ichi, and Oominato.
Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately depending on who you were), the major players were split up into the different quadrants. Oominato and Touou Gijyuku were on one side while the more prominent teams in Kousei Gakuin and Aomori Yamada on the other. Hachinohekou Dai-ichi drew the short straw and was stuck with Kousei Gakuin.
The tournament though wasn't close. At least for the title anyways. Kousei Gakuin's lowest margin of victory was 6 (7-1 against both Hachinohekoudai-ichi and Aomori Yamada), and they demolished Oominato 21-3 in the final earning their 4th consecutive fall title and 13th overall. Joining the pair would be Aomori Yamada, who defeated Touou Gijyuku 5-2.
Similar to Kousei Gakuin, Noshiro Shougyou also got a free pass to the fall prefectural. Always nice to get a free pass when you can in single elim tournaments. On the other side, Akita Chuo and Oodate Houmei were in one quadrant while Akita Kougou held the other quadrant down.
The draw was not as kind though as both Akita Shougyou and Meiou both were drawn into the same quadrant. Thankfully for them they'd have to face only one of the 2 teams. Honjyou did not make out of pool play, losing immediately to Akita Shougyou and Akita.
It seemed apparent that it was a matter of who could stop Noshiro Shougyou. Akita Shougyou almost pulled off the feat, but fell 5-4. Otherwise, it was a breeze for the Natsu Koushien representative shutting out Akita Kougyou in the finals 9-0. Akita Chuo would shutout Oomagari 3-0 for the final spot.
Hanamaki Higashi had no such help - they'd have to qualify like everyone else. Not that it was hard, mind you. Other notable teams joining them were Moriokadai Fuzoku, Ichinoseki Gakuin, and Kuji.
The tournament itself was barely a challenge. Hanamaki Higashi did get a small challenge against Moriokadai Fuzoku, but won 5-2. Ichinoseki Gakuin, despite their continued futility in the super-regionals made it to the finals despite a challenge from Fukuoka Kougyou.
The final was all Hanamaki Higashi, shutting out Ichinoseki Gakuin 6-0. Meanwhile in the battle of Morioka schools Morioka Dai-san, who had defeated Kuji, defeated Morioka Dai-yon 7-1 for the final bid.
Yamagata saw a lot of the prefecture's main players make it out of pool play. Nichidai Yamagata, Sakata Minami both advanced along with secondary players Haguro, Yamagata Chuo and Tsuruoka Higashi.
The team though that surprised the field was Toukaidai Yamagata. They not only shutout Yamagata Chuo, but then broke a 4-4 deadlock in the 9th with 7 runs against Nichidai Yamagata guaranteeing themselves a spot in the super-regionals.
Now, to win the title, they would have to face Sakata Minami, who uncharacteristically had close games against Yamamoto Gakuen and Yonezawa Chuo.
Toukaidai more than held their own against Sakata Minami, but couldn't form a reply to a 2-spot in the 6th - right after they had tied the game at 1. Sakata Minami would earn their 7th title and 2nd consecutive fall title.
Joining the pair would be Nichidai Yamagata, who denied Yonezawa Chuo 8-3.
By the way, I would almost like to see Toukaidai Yamagata make it because of their pitcher's last names:
- 飯屋崎 - Iyazaki
- 勅使河原 - Deshigawara
Looking at who qualified out of block play, we found new powerhouse Rifu as well as Sendai Ikuei. Cinderella story Furukawa Kougyou's road ended in double defeat to Furukawa Gakuen and Iwagasaki.
Missing from the picture was Tohoku. They were sent immediately into the repechage with a 5-0 loss to Sendai Shougyou. And after working their way up through, they were finally sent home by Seiwa Gakuen 5-4.
In the prefecturals, once Sendai Ikuei was laid to the roadside by Ishinomaki Shougyou 3-2, the title was Rifu's to lose.
They almost did.
In the semifinals, down to their last 3 against Furukawa Gakuen, Rifu's Sasaki hits a sayonara 3-run homerun to guarantee them a spot in the super-regionals. Only Ishinomaki Kougyou stood in their way to the title. In an 11-6 shootout, they claimed their 2nd title in 3 years.
Furukawa Gakuen then outlasted the aforementioned Ishinomaki Shougyou 13-7 for the 3rd spot.
As muddled as Fukushima's baseball picture is, there is apparently one shining light when it comes to the fall tournament.
That team would be Seikou Gakuin. Advancing straight to the prefectural finals, they had just one hiccup when Kounan limited them to 2 runs. Too bad they only managed 1. And while Shouin Gakuin Fukushima also limited the Seikou offense, they were still shutout 3-0. It would be Kousei's 6th consecutive fall title.
Fukushima Shougyou, who was mercy ruled by Seikou, edged out fellow mercy ruled opponent Tajima 4-3 to fill out the field.
The super-regional draw split up the 4 main contenders into each quadrant. Kousei Gakuin (Aomori) and Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate) on one side, Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima) and Aomori Yamada (Aomori) on the other.
All 4 teams managed to advance to the semifinals with ease except for Hanamaki Higashi. In usual fashion, they came from behind to defeat Nichidai Yamagata (3 runs in the bottom of the 9th), and Shouin Gakuin Fukushima (a run in the 8th and 9th innings) to advance.
In the semifinals, Hanamaki Higashi found the tables turned on them as they went up on Kousei early only to watch them rally for 2 in the 8th and 1 more in the 9th to pull off the 9-8 win. Kousei's Tanaka Tatsuhiro went 3-4 with 2 HR's in the effort.
Joining them would be Seikou Gakuin who led wire-to-wire against Aomori Yamada 6-2. None of Aomori's 5 pitchers could stop Seikou from a rematch.
Seikou looked to claim the title early after Saitou hit a solo HR in the 1st. But there after, Kousei's ace Kanazawa would limit them to just one more hit in the game. That allowed many opportunities to equalize the score - which Kimura did in the 4th with a 2-out 2-run double. Another insurance run the next inning mean that Kousei Gakuin would claim the Tohoku title (3rd overall, 1st in 3 years)!
Automatic Bid - Kousei Gakuin (Aomori) - 5th appearance, 2nd consecutive
Projected Bid - Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 4 years