First off, Tokyo.
Tokyo Super-Regional (1 bid + 1 floating bid w/Kanto)
Tokyo once again broke up into their 24 blocks, which probably reflects in some ways the 23 wards.
Except I looked up the schools in the first bracket of the first block... and that certainly wasn't the case.
Our qualifiers from block play were as follows:
- Sundai Gakuen - An above-average team in recent years, Sundai had no trouble in their 3 games.
- Toua Gakuen - A solid team as of late, but stumbled a bit against Toritsu Kunitachi winning 6-4.
- Meisei - Much like Toua Gauen, they cruised early, but had to win a 9-7 shootout against Toritsu Matsubara to advance.
- Rikkyo Ikebukuro - Easily cleared their two matchups to advance.
- Toritsu Higashi-Yamato - Survived their first game against Senshuudai Fuzoku 9-6, but then was clear sailing afterwards.
- Toritsu Hachiouji Kita - No problems in their 2 games to advance.
- Ikubunkan - They perhaps had the upset of their school's history. Squaring off against Natsu Koushien champs Nichidai-san, their ace Tobayashi gave up 1 earned run and 5 hits, striking out 0(!) and walking 1 in a 4-2 upset of Sanko at their home field!! You can read a recap on their website here.
- Kokugakuin Kugayama - It seems that Block 4 was supposed to be the powerhouse block, but it looks like Kokugakuin Kugayama will be the only one advancing. They won their 2 games by a total of 34-1.
- Adachi Gakuen - Offensive showing on their part against Toritsu Sakuragaoka and Toritsu Mastugaya to advance to super-regional play.
- Toritsu Nerima - Nerima had a close call against Toritsu Machida Kougyou 3-2 before smoking Toritsu Musashi Murayama 12-4.
- Toritsu Adachi Nishi - Adachi Nishi was helped by a forfeit against Nihon Wellness, but then had to face Kokushikan. They were able to move on with a 2-1 win!
- Komazawa Daigaku - Komazawa University's high school shutout their 2 opponents in advancing out of block play.
- Teikyou - Teikyou as expected had no trouble in their 2 games, winning by the mercy rule each time.
- Kokugakuin - The parent school is able to join their sister school (Kugayama), though not without some difficulty. They just beat Toritsu Jyousui 2-1 in their first game, then edged out Waseda 4-3 to advance.
- Houyuu Gakuin - No issues with them, lowest margin of victory was 5 in their 3 games.
- Nittai Ebara - The home field in this block certainly helped Nittai Ebara in their 2 victories.
- Iwakura - They needed their home field advantage as they barely beat Toritsu Shouyou 5-4, then Setagaya Gakuin 4-3 to advance to super-regional play.
- Toritsu Kassai Kougyou - They needed a hard-fought win over Shiba (2-0) to advance out of their part of the block.
- Hachiouji - Combined score of 32-4 meant they breezed on through.
- Yasuda Gakuen - This part of the block all games were mercy ruled with the lowest margin of victory being 9 runs. Chuodai Suginami was the last team to fall at 10-0.
- Horikoshi - A solid team as of late, they edged out Aoyama Gakuin 4-2 in the block final.
- Toritsu Bunkyou - Bunkyou scored a minor upset when they defeated Toritsu Hino in the block final 4-3 to advance. Hino has been a perennial contender in the last couple of years, so this is a bit surprising.
- Meijidai Nakano-Hachiouji - Another solid school in Tokyo, Nakano-Hachiouji beat out Toritsu Higashi-Yamato Minami 3-1.
- Toritsu Momijigawa - Momijigawa was not threatened in any of their 3 games, defeated Tokyo Noudai Dai-ichi 6-3 in the finals.
- Oberlin - It continues to amaze me that a school more known for arts than baseball has a strong team. After starting slow against Toritsu Nagayama, they cleared their last 2 games with ease.
- Toritsu Kodaira - It was not so easy for Kodaira as they went to the limit against Ueno Gakuen in the block finals, eventually winning 7-6.
- Toukaidai Sugao - We finally see our first Toukaidai school here in block 14. A 4-2 win over Kinjyou Gakuen started their bid, then won their next 2 games 16-0 and 6-0.
- Toritsu Fuchuu Higashi - Fuchuu Higashi struggled in a 6-4 win against Shouwa Dai-ichi Gakuen before shutting out Kyouei Gakuen 4-0 in the final.
- Nichidai Buzan - No problems in their 3 games flying through block play.
- Toritsu Sougou Kouka - They had even less trouble at their home field winning all games via the mercy rule.
- Toritsu Adachi Niita - Hounan gave them a run in their first game falling 6-5, but it was much easier thereafter for Adachi Niita.
- Kousei Gakuen - Not to be confused with Kousei Gakuin, Kousei Gakuen had made a name for themselves with ace Mizoguchi. He's since moved on, and now Isozaki takes over. He wasn't worked hard in block play as his team won via mercy rule in all games.
- Nisshou Gakushidai Fuzoku - In another powerhouse block, Nishhou Gakushadai won 12-1 and 9-0 to advance.
- Kanto Dai-ichi - Joining them would be Kanto Dai-ichi who perhaps wasn't offensively dominant, but still limited opponents to 2 runs in 2 games.
- Toukaidai Takanawadai - Another Toukaidai school advances here in block 18 with a 17-0 combined score.
- Nichidai Sakuragaoka - They defeated home team Toritsu Fuchuu Kougyou on their way to super-regional play.
- Toritsu Yukigaya - Yukigaya has been one of the stronger teams in Tokyo (though never able to get over the top), and had no trouble in block 19.
- Shuutoku - Shuutoku falls in that category as well. But they almost lost to Toritsu Jyoutou 3-2.
- Seiritsu Gakuen - We see more solid teams advancing as both Seiritsu Gakuen...
- Souka - and Souka advance out of Block 20. Souka did get a scare against Nichidai-ichi but won 1-0.
- Nichidai Tsurugaoka - How did Nichidai Tsurugaoka, Meijidai Meiji and Waseda Gakuin all end up in one part of one block?? Tsurugaoka survived defeated Meiji 2-1, and then Waseda 3-2 in the final to advance.
- Toritsu Koyamadai - Koyamadai moves on with a good win over Toritsu Fujimori 5-1.
- Seisoku Gakuen - Seisoku almost didn't make it out of the first round, defeating Toritsu Arakawa Kougyou 4-3 before blitzing Seijyou 8-1.
- Toritsu Katakura - No problems for the host team here. 2 and on for them.
- Waseda Jitsugyou - Back to form in block play anyways, Soujitsu advances with ease..
- Toritsu Igusa - Igusa joins the ranks with victories similar to Soujitsu.
- Nichidai-ni - Well, Nichidai-ni once again advances into super-regional play, but still lives in the shadows of their brethren Sanko.
- Taisei - Rounding out the field is Taisei who without a field of their own, beat Tokyo and Jyuunten to move on.
The draws for the super-regionals saw the following:
- Toua Gakuen gets a quadrant mostly to themselves, but Waseda Jitsugyou and upset-minded Ikubunkan lurk in the bracket.
- Kanto Dai-ichi occupy the other quadrant on the same side. Nichidai Buzan and possibly Oberlin await, but it feels like smooth sailing to the semifinals.
- Teikyou seems to possibly have the hardest road with possible opponents along the way including Kousei Gakuen, Toukaidai Sugao, Nichidai Tsurugaoka, and Kokugakuin. To a lesser extent Toritsu Yukigaya and Nichidai-ni are present as well.
- Finally, Shuutoku and Kokugakuin Kugayama round out the last quadrant, though Nichidai Sakuragaoka and Sundai Gakuen could provide some added competition.
Their opponent in the semis would indeed be Kanto Dai-ichi. But they too were almost sent home. Their quarterfinal matchup was indeed Nichidai Buzan, who then took a 3-0 lead, and then a 4-2 lead. However, their pitching staff couldn't hold the lead and gave up 5 runs in the last 3 innings.
Teikyou, for all the good teams in the bracket, actually had trouble against Houyuu Gakuin in the 2nd round - scratching together just 3 runs in an uncharacteristic 3-1 victory. Otherwise, they defeated Kokugakuin, Nisshou Gakushadai Fuzoku and Nichidai Tsurugaoka with little trouble.
Finally, the two incumbents in the final quadrant both fell in the round of 16. Toritsu Fuchuu Higashi outlasted Kokugakuin Kugayama scoring 4 runs in the last 2 innings to win 4-2, while Shuutoku was blitzed by Sundai Gakuen 9-0 in 7 innings. And in the matchup for a spot in the semis, Sundai was able to recover after relinquishing a 2-0 lead with a run in the bottom of the 8th. Ace Kitagawa was able to shut the door in the 9th for the win.
The semis though went scratch. Toua Gakuen still cannot break the ceiling into the realm of the contenders as Kanto Dai-ichi put them out of their misery winning 13-0 in 7. Meanwhile, Teikyou put Sundai Gakuen behind the 8-ball early with 4 runs on their way to a 6-1 win.
That put two familiar faces in the finals with Kanto Dai-ichi and Teikyou. Yet in the championship game, Teikyou experienced a power outage unseen for such a team. Ace Kitagawa held the offensive-minded team to just 1 hit in a CG shutout! That means that the Tokyo representative is:
Automatic Bid - Kanto Dai-ichi (2nd title, 1st in 3 years) - 4th appearance, 1st in 4 years
Kanto Super-Regional (4 bids + 1 floating bid with Tokyo)
Kanto's Super-Regional this year is being held in Yamanashi. As such, they will receive one extra bid to the Super-Regional this time around.
So, let's go backwards from Yamanashi and head northeast!
My favorite team here is no secret, it's Nihon Koukuu (i.e. Japan Aviation Academy). I mean how often is it you have an aviation school actually decent in baseball? Ok, that's an obvious question, but you get my point.
Sadly, those days seem to be behind them. They fell 4-1 to Fuji Kawaguchiko in the quarterfinals.
The vacuum in the prefecture has been fought over in recent years. Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku laid claim to it for a while, but also lost in the quarters to Kofu Kougyou. The same fate (and same score) befell Fuji Gakuen as well to Kofu Nishi.
The team to carry the flag (for now anyways), is Toukaidai Kofu. They blanked Kofu Nishi 7-0 to claim their 7th title and 1st in 6 years.
Joining Toukaidai Kofu and Kofu Nishi would be Kofu Kougyou. They edged out Fuji Kawaguchiko 4-3 in the 3rd place game.
Kanagawa has small round-robin play that sends players to the prefecturals. 89 teams plus the Natsu Koushien representative Yokohama would advance.
A lot of the usual subjects advanced into prefectural play, so let's head straight there.
The draw saw Yokohama occupied the upper left hand corner of the bracket. The only notable name in their bracket is Toukou Gakuen. Their only other competition in the other quadrant to Yokohama could be Yokohama Shoudai and Touin Gakuen. That meant a lot of the well known names drew themselves on the other half. And in the upper right quadrant, there were quite a few of them. Toukaidai Sagami, Nichidai Fujisawa and Yokohama Hayato. Finally, Keiou occupies the lower right part of the bracket.
As expected, Toukou Gakuen gave Yokohama a good run for their money, but Yokohama prevailed 4-3. They then breezed through to the semis. Also as expected Yokohama Shoudai advanced without issue, as Touin Gakuen fell 9-0 to Tachibana Gakuen (立花学園).
Toukaidai Sagami only had to face Nichidai Fujisawa and defeated them 6-2. Shounan Gakuen was the last line of defense before the semis, but they were shutout 4-0. Their opponent though would not be Keiou, They were breezing through the quadrant until they faced Busou. Someone actually put the game up here. Busou managed to pull off the upset 4-2 and advance to the semis!
However, their run would end there. Toukaidai Sagami would jump out to an early lead and not relinquish it. Busou fought back to make the score respectable, but they lost 8-6.
Their fellow finalist would be no surprise as Yokohama won 5-1 over Yokohama Shoudai. In that final, Yokohama would once again build an early lead, and almost like their game against Chiben Gakuen, almost gave it up. Sagami scored 2 runs before reliever Souma would record the final out to preserve Yokohama's back-to-back fall titles (15th overall).
Summer representative Narashino would get a free pass to the prefectural brackets. Everyone else would have to qualify in pool play (Chiba has 1 round of pool play, and then a repechage between all pool non-winners).
Notable teams to advance in the 1st stage were Chiba Meitoku, Kei-ai Gakuen, Shiritsu Funabashi, Senshuudai Matsudo, Chiba Eiwa, Narita, and Kisaradzu Sougou.
Teams that advanced out of the 2nd stage included Shigakukan, Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, Toukaidai Urayasu, Seibudai Chiba, Toukaidai Bouyou, and Chiba Kei-ai.
The draw for the prefecturals left some pretty barren areas. The only name in the upper left quadrant was Kisaradzu Sougou. Joining them in the lower left quadrant was Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, Kei-ai Gakuen, Toukaidai Urayasu, Chiba Eiwa and Seibudai Chiba.
On the other side, Narashino would have to take the long road to the title, one that would have to include a 2nd round match with Narita. But if they were able to survive that, the road would get much easier.
Furthermore, only Toukaidai Bouyou and Senshuudai Matsudo remained in the final quadrant.
Despite having the quadrant all to themselves, Kisaradzu Sougou was unable to advance to the quarterfinals after losing to Matsudo Kokusai 12-7. That opened the door in the quadrant and Kashiwa Nittai flew right through leveling the aforementioned Matsudo Kokusai 10-0 to advance to the semis. Their opponent would be Chiba Eiwa who just got by Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku 3-2.
Unfortunately for Kashiwa Nittai, Chiba Eiwa's been looking for this moment to get to the finals for a while now and Nittai would never lead in the game, falling 6-1.
Meanwhile, Narashino indeed was in a dogfight with Narita but prevailed 5-4. However in the quarterfinals they struggled against Shiritsu Kashiwa. While apparently there is video of this game, I haven't watched it, but Narashino would wind up falling 4-3! Toukaidai Bouyou and Senshuudai Matsudo did meet in the quarterfinals and while Senshuudai appeared score-wise to be better, Toukaidai Bouyou won the game 4-2.
And in the semis, Toukaidai Bouyou continued their run with a slim 1-0 win over the upstart Kashiwa squad.
So the finals were between 2 teams that had been close before, but had been unable to break through in recent years. The game was scoreless for the first couple of innings, but Bouyou finally opened the scoring in the 5th and added an insurance run in the 6th. Satou was holding Chiba Eiwa scoreless, but when he gave up a 1-out double to Kimura, the ball would be handed to Noma who had helped in the 1-0 shutout.
That's when it went horribly wrong.
His first batter, Sekimoto, would single to left scoring Kimura to make it 2-1. Nemoto then singled back to Noma and Ogino would reach on an error to load the bases. Noma would only get out of the mess by getting the next 2 batters to ground out.
The 9th wouldn't give Noma any respite either. After retiring the first batter, he would give up a walk and 2 consecutive hits to load the bases. Sekimoto would once again be Noma's worst enemy, delivering yet another single scoring 2 and giving Chiba Eiwa the lead.
Noma would be eventually charged with 5 runs and Chiba Eiwa would win their 2nd fall title, and 1st in 18 years.
Saitama still amazes me in that they seem to be a metropolitian prefecture, and yet they cannot for some reason produce a Koushien championship-type team. They give average teams, but not the calibur that we might think. Hanasaki Tokuharu, Urawa Gakuin, and Seibou Gakuen dominate the scene, only Seibou's championship run in the 2008 Haru Koushien stands out (which when I look back at it, they defeated Riseisha, Ryuukokudai Heian and Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku before losing to Higashihama's Okinawa Shoukagu.
So it's no surprise that all three made it out of pool play (Natsu Koushien representative Hanasaki Tokuharu has to qualify like everyone else). Joining them would be Kasukabe Kyouei, home of Lucky Star and a good baseball team that just can't get past the Big 3.
It's also no surprise that all 4 made it to the quarterfinals (being seeded and all). Only Urawa Gakuin though had no trouble in their games leading up to the Final 4 - Seibou Gakuin beat Oomiya Higashi 1-0 in their first game, Kasukabe Kyouei defeated Shouhei 1-0 in the quarterfinals, and Hanasaki Tokuharu beat Oomiya Nishi 3-2 also in the 1st round.
In the semis, Seibou Gakuen rallied in the 7th and 8th innings to take a 1-run lead over Urawa Gakuin. It looked like perhaps Urawa Gakuin's hard game may prove fatal.
But in the bottom of the 9th Urawa would come from behind and rally for a 5-4 sayonara win.
In the other semi, Kasukabe Kyouei's struggles continue. They spot 6 runs right off the bat to Hanasaki Tokuharu, and while they rally to within 1 in the 5th inning, it's wiped away in one fell swoop when Tokuharu scores 5 in the 6th. They'll have to wait for the summer once again falling 12-10.
The finals started out to be a closely contested match as Urawa would go up 3-0 only to see Tokuharu tie it up shortly thereafter. However, the pitching would fail them late as Urawa Gakuin claims their 3rd consecutive fall title and 12th overall with an 11-3 win.
As much as I lament about Saitama, I think the same thing about Gunma as well. Taking it further I can only remember Kiryuu Dai-ichi and this past summer's representative Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi. Only after going back I am reminded that Tokyo Noudai-ni was from Gunma too (when an agricultural school makes it I tend to root for them as again, when do you see a school for agriculture developing a good baseball team?).
But outside of those 3, I couldn't name any other team without looking (Maebashi Ikuei for instance).
So when Kiryuu Dai-ichi lost to Maebashi Ikuei 9-0, who in turn lost to Takasaki 4-3 in the quarterfinals, it seemeed all but secured for Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi.
And in fact, with a 7-2 win over the aforementioned Takasaki, Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi secured their first ever fall title!
It's funny to think that I remember more teams from Tochigi than Gunma and Saitama, and yet I don't recall outside of Sakushin Gakuin this past summer any team really making any significant run once they reach Koushien. In fact when I looked it up, it was Kokugakuin Tochigi that made the last type of run in 2000 making it to the semifinals losing to Chiben Wakayama.
As of late, the teams competing for the prefecture include the aforementioned Sakushin Gakuin, Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku and Hakuoudai Ashikaga.
Now both Sakushin and Hakuoudai both breezed through the early stages setting up a semifinal match between the two. Meanwhile Bunsei Geidai had 3 tough games against Yaita Chuo, Oyama Minami and Utsunomiya Kita - not especially strong teams. They'd draw Utsunomiya Kougyou, a team that's been to Koushien before - just not in a while.
In that semifinal, Utsunomiya Kougyou was able to stifle Bunsei's offense early, but as they headed into the late innings, Bunsei Geidai was finally able to pull away in the 6th for a 6-1 win guaranteeing a spot in the Super-Regionals.
Meanwhile, Sakushin was getting all they could handle from Hakuoudai Ashikaga. After trailing 3-0 in the first, they quickly rally to take a 5-3 lead... only to see that evaporate just as quickly. And when they tried to pull away with a run in the 4th and 5th, Hakuoudai pulled within one again in the 6th. Finally Sakushin would close the door with a pair of runs late to reach the finals.
Now, despite the struggles for Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku, they proved to be a formidable opponent in the final. The teams continued to throw donuts onto the scoreboard inning after inning. It soon looked like we'd be headed into extras.
But in the top of the 9th, Takayama for Sakushin finally had enough. He blasts a 2-run homerun giving them the lead and most probably the win. Ootani would throw one more shutout inning his team's 15th victory and 1st since 2002.
Despite having just 98 teams, Ibaraki elects to put their teams through pool play.
And until recently, the prefecture was dominated by Jyousou Gakuin. Fun fact, going through the history of Ibaraki's representatives, they actually had won a spring and summer title early in the 'aughties. I randomly picked the 2003 title and wouldn't you know, they defeated Darvish and Tohoku for the title!
What's happened since then to the prefecture? Jyousou has relinquished their place at the top to teams such as Shimotsuma Dai-ni and Suijyou (who showed so much promise, but now appears to have been a one-hit wonder despite continuing to be at the top of the prefecture).
Now all 3 teams made it out of pool play and were seeded along with Mito Shougyou. Other notable teams to have advanced included Kasumigaura (home to the Hiiragi shrine from Lucky Star, though their baseball team has gotten better in recent years - how come Nishinomiya Kita hasn't??), Tsuchiura Nichidai and Mito Sakuranomaki (that's Ken's team due to their uniforms). The latter two drew each other in the first round.
Not surprisingly, all 4 seeded teams advanced to the semifinals. Kasumigaura gave Jyousou Gakuin a scare in the quarterfinals, but ultimately fell 3-2 in 10 innings.
The semifinals though, were not as contested as I expected. Suijyou, despite not giving up a run to this point was instead shutout 5-0 to Jyousou Gakuin. On the other side, Mito Shougyou was outclassed by Shimotsuma Dai-ni 4-2. Despite the score, they were never in it.
So 2 chalk teams advance to the Super-Regionals. Questioin was, who would claim the title. Though Shimotsuma would make the first strike, it was Jyousou Gakuin who had the final laugh, winning 3-1. Interestingly enough, despite dominating the Natsu qualifying, it has been 11 years since they have won the fall title (5th overall).
So we had our teams, now came the draw. And again, the randomness comes into play. Upper left quadrant has teams the likes of Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma 1), Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku (Tochigi 2), Chiba Eiwa (Chiba 1) and Kofu Nishi (Yamanashi 2). Not exactly a list of champions.
Meanwhile in the lower left, Urawa Gakuin (Saitama 1), Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa 2), Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki 1) and Kofu Kougyou (Yamanashi 3) filled in the half. Much harder.
It got worse. Occupying the upper right was Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi 1), Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama 2), Yokohama (Kanagawa 1) and Shimotsuma Dai-ni (Ibaraki 2).
Finally, rounding out the field was Toukaidai Bouyou (Chiba 2), Takasaki (Gunma 2), and Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi 1). Certainly a weak quadrant that was already short of teams.
Unsurprisingly, quadrant 1 saw three shutouts. The winner was the team who was a summer representative, Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi as ace Miki threw back-to-back complete games.
Ibaraki's futility continues as Jyousou Gakuin was not competitive against the weakest team in the bracket, Kofu Kougyou losing 5-3. Toukaidai Sagami's offensive appears to have left them as Urawa Gakuin beats them in the middle innings 3-1.
Sakushin Gakuin successfully proved that their run in the summer was not a fluke as they not only defeated Hanasaki Tokuharu handily, but also defeated Yokohama 6-2! 6-2! Yokohama's troubles at the end of games continues as they gave up a pair of runs in the 8th and 9th innings in the loss.
Finally, Takasaki manages to defeat both Toukai schools, both by a score of 4-2, and both in the latter half of the game! Though they're not of the caliber as Sagami, it's still a good feat.
Semifinal action saw Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi unable to keep up with Urawa Gakuin, despite scoring 2 quick runs in the 1st. Urawa would score 7 unanswered runs and cruise from there winning 11-7. Takasaki too was outmatched by Best 4 Sakushin Gakuin. They lost 6-3.
This almost all but guaranteed that Urawa Gakuin and Sakushin Gakuin would earn Haru Koushien invites. But to guarantee themselves one, they had to win one more game.
The winner would be Urawa Gakuin. Though Sakushin's 4 different pitchers limited damage to 3 innings, they were not able to record a run against Urawa's triumvirate of pitchers. Urawa Gakuin would win their 2nd consecutive title (3rd overall) and another bid to Koushien!
Automatic Bid - Urawa Gakuin (Saitama) - 8th appearance, 2nd consecutive
Projected Bid - Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) - 9th appearance, 1st in 8 years
Projected Bid - Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma) - 9th appearance, 1st in 8 years
Projected Bid - Takasaki (Gunma) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 31 years