Friday, January 27, 2012

Fall Tournament Recap and possible invitees (Chuugoku & Shikoku)

In the interests of getting my projections out before the invitations are posted I am including them here before they are announced.  (The reviews are finally up.)

Chuugoku Super-Regionals (2 bids + 1 floating bid w/Shikoku)
Chuugoku with 5 prefectures award an extra bid to the super-regionals to the host prefecure.  This year, that is Hiroshima.  So all Best 4 teams will advance perhaps releasing a bit of the pressure.  Let's start there:

Hiroshima you wouldn't think would have the history of a rural prefecture such as say Nara, but with a couple of rare few exceptions it's been dominated by two schools - Jyosuikan and Kouryou, whileother schools like Onomichi and last year's senbatsu representative Hiroshima Sougou Gijyutsu look up through the ceiling.

Not a surprise then that all 4 made it out of small pool play into the prefecturals.  It also wasn't a surprise when HSG lost in the 3rd round to Hiroshima Kougyou.

It was a surprise though when Kouryou also lost in the 3rd round to 2000 Natsu representative Setouchi 8-5.

With Jyosuikan's main opponent eliminated, Jyosuikan looked to be the front-runner.  And while they struggled against Hiroshima Shinjyou 8-6 in the quarterfinals, they blew out Hiroshima Kanon 19-1!

On the other side, Onomichi took advantage of the Kouryou upset.  They made it to the finals with a defeat of Hiroshima Shougyou 10-5.  Hiroshou is interesting in that they have a pitcher by the name of Insencio Wilson.  I can't find a whole lot about him though

Doesn't matter though as Hiroshima Shougyou and Hiroshima Kanon would advance to the super-regionals.  For the record though, Wilson gives Hiroshou the 5-3 win in the consolation game.

As for Onomichi and Jyosuikan, the title would once again escape Onomichi as ace Okita would give up 4 in the 3rd which would be more than enough.

Tottori has been in a bit of a drought in recent years, having only 1 win in the last 15 years in the Natsu Koushien tournament, and one senbatsu appearance in the last 25!

And in more recent years, the head of the table has been passed around annually it seems.

I suppose if you look at the last couple of winners, you'd be looking at Tottori Shougyou, Yasu (who had that lone win), and last year's fall winner Tottori Ikuei.

The first two were in one quadrant while Tottori Ikuei was on the other quadrant in their half.  Sure enough, the two faced off in the quarterfinals, and Yasu advanced with an 8-3 win.  Next up would be Tottori Ikuei, and they came up with 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th for the 2-1 comeback win!  That would force Yasu into a loser out game.

Meanwhile, Tottori Jyouhoku (2009 Natsu representative) had no trouble at all, yielding all 3 of their runs in the run-up to 1st round opponent Yonago ShouinYonago Tousen would have to fight for their spot in the super-regionals after losing 5-0 in the semis.

Yet against Tottori Ikuei, they stumbled.  After scoring the first run, Tottori Ikuei would score 2 in the bottom of the 1st and 2 more in the 4th.  Tottori would take their 2nd consecutive title (and 2nd overall!) with a 5-1 win!

Yasu would be the prefecture's 3rd representative with an 8-3 win against Yonago Tousen.

Kanzei's run this past summer shocked me, not sure it shocked others.  Though they didn't win, I hoped it would be a re-emergence of the school in the prefecture.

And though they advanced out of pool play, they weren't as imposing as before.  Worse yet, they drew Kurashiki Shougyou, the other recent Natsu Koushien representative in the very first round.

Unlike Kanzei's games at Koushien, this was a high scoring affair, one that they would lose 11-7. With their main rival gone, Kurashiki Shougyou became the overwhelming favorite to win the prefecture.  Indeed they easily won their next 2 games to reach the finals.

On the other half, the games were much more tempered.  Konkou Gakuen reaches the semis with just a 2-1 and 1-0 win.  Meanwhile, Tamano Kounan defeats 2007 representative Okayama Ridai Fuzoku 5-2 and Koujyoukan 2-1.

After trading a run in the 1st, a 3-spot for Tamano Kounan would be the winning margin as they advanced to the finals with a 4-1 win.

With such lackluster performances, Kurashiki Shougyou seemed poised to take the title.

Except no one gave Tamano Kounan the memo.  They broke out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back, taking their 3rd ever fall title (1st in 8 years)!  Joining the pair would be Okayama Kyousei who sent Konkou Gakuen home 9-6.

With twin giants Shirane and Mori graduating from Kaisei, it would leave a void in the prefecture.  Before Kaisei, it was famed Risshoudai Shounan in 2009, and in the spring Oki back in 2003.  Indeed, Kaisei would lose their very first game 8-6 to Daitou.

Well, some of the better teams in the past included Iwamichisuikan, Taisha and last fall's winner Matsue Shougyou.  All 3 (as well as Risshoudai Shounan) advanced out of regional play, though Matsue Shougyou faced fellow Best 4 from last year Izumo and won 6-5.

In the 2nd stage, Risshoudai Shounan was next to fall, losing to Mitoya in the first round 12-11.  They in turn were blasted by Iwamichisuikan 10-3.  Taisha barely got away against Izumo Nishi 7-6 and advanced to the best 4 with a win over Oota.

Matsue Shougyou would not be joining them as they lost 7-0 to Yasugi in the first round as well.  Instead, Matsue Minami and Hamada would be joining them in the semifinals.

The semifinal draw had the two favorites facing each other, meaning that in all likelihood the winner of the Hamada-Matsue Minami game would be the one advancing.

In that crucial semifinal, Matsue Minami took a 3-0 lead early.  However, they would not be able to hold it.  Just 6 outs away from guaranteeing themselves a bid, they give up 5 unanswered runs.  They managed to scrounge up a run in the 9th, but it would not be enough - essentially sealing their fate.

Taisha would finally have a chance at a title as they ran away with a 5-1 win over Iwamichisuikan.  And they would finally get their first title in 20 years, shutting out Hamada 5-0 for their 6th fall title.  Iwamichisuikan took the 3rd bid with a 10-2 win over Matsue Minami.

Surprisingly, despite sharing the same super-regional with prefectures such as Hiroshima and Okayama, Yamaguchi sent 9 representatives to senbatsu in the aughties.  Not a bad track record.

The 2010's though have not proven to be as kind,  not yet anyways.

But despite the good track records in the fall super-regionals, the prefecture really hasn't had any school stand out.  Perhaps Nanyou Kougyou or Shimonoseki Shougyou, but it's hard to really say.

In pool play, Nanyou Kougyou did advance, though not without some tough games against Takagawa Gakuen and Iwakuni.  Shimonoseki Shougyou did not fare as well losing 5-3 in the regional final to Shimonoseki Chuo Kougyou.

Without a clear picture of the prefecture, it was up for grabs.  On one side, it was Hayatomo that clinched one bid shutting out Yamaguchi Koujyou 5-0.  The other guaranteed bid did not go to Nanyou Kougyou, but to Iwakuni Kougyou instead as they scored 2 in the bottom of the 9th for a gyakuten 4-3 win!

So we had two teams that may not have been expecting a title playing for one.  And in the early going, it was a close game, though Hayatomo built a 2-0 lead.  Iwakuni Kougyou scored 2 in the 5th to tie the game.

Sadly, after that, they would fall apart as Hayatomo scored 8 unanswered runs to take their 1st title in 45 years (and 3rd overall) with a 10-3 win!

Nanyou Kougyou had no trouble securing the final bid with a 7-1 win over Yamaguchi Koujyou.

Looking at the field as a whole, it seemed rather... lackluster.  Sure, you had teams such as Jyosuikan, Kurashiki Shougyou and perhaps Nanyou Kougyou.  But behind those teams, it felt like there was a severe dropoff.

Worse yet, Kurashiki Shouyou and Jyosuikan drew each other in the first round!  It'd be clear the winner of that game had a route to at least the semifinals.  The only other teams perhaps standing in their way would be either the aforementioned Nanyou Kougyou or perhaps Yasu.

On the other side, you might as well roll dice.  There was no clear favorite.  Maybe you could say Taisha, maybe Onomichi could surprise, but really, you could pull names out of a hat and be just as accurate.

So first we go back to the key matchup - Kurashiki Shougyou-Jyosuikan.  The game swung early as a 3-0 lead for Kurashiki Shougyou evaporated in the 3rd.  Trailing 4-3 in the 9th, they score 4 for a 7-5 gyakuten win.  Coupled with a 4-1 win over Hamada, and they had their Best 4 appearance.

But it wouldn't be against Nanyou Kougyou.  In fact, it would be against unknown Hayatomo!  They not only mercy ruled Yasu 7-0, but then defeated Nanyou Kougyou 3-1!

One bad inning though would derail Hayatomo's run.  Perhaps facing one of the more important games of their school's history, ace Aidzu would give up 5 runs in the 1st inning.  They would fight, but never recover, falling 6-3.

On the other side, teams started shaking themselves out.  Tottori Jyouhoku and Taisha advanced with easy wins, Onomichi shutout Iwamichisuikan, and Iwakuni Kougyou outlasted Okayama Kyousei.  Then in the quarters, Onomichi would be unceremoniously removed with a 9-1 loss to Taisha, while Tottori Jyouhoku just edged out Iwakuni Kougyou 2-1.

Perhaps this would be the time that Taisha, a team who has waited to break through would finally do so.  That would not the be the case though.  Tottori Jyouhoku would mercy rule them in the semifinals 7-0.

That put two eastern teams in the region in the finals.  A regular in Kurashiki Shougyou, and a Tottori Jyouhoku team that made their one and only appearance 3 years ago.

Kurashiki Shougyou's ace Nishi though would give up a 4-spot in the 2nd, and they suddenly were in trouble.  In fact, Tottori Jyouhoku's ace Nishisaka would only give up 1 run in a CG win giving his team their first ever fall title, and their first ever senbatsu apperance!

Automatic Bid - Tottori Jyouhoku (Tottori) - 1st appearance
Projected Bid - Kurashiki Shougyou (Okayama) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 22 years

Shikoku Super-Regionals (2 bids + 1 floating bid w/Chuugoku)
With 4 prefectures occupying this region, each prefecture sends 3 representatives with the winners needing just 3 games to win the super-regionals.

Kagawa has seen the good times pass it by it seems.  Despite having a winning record in both Haru and Natsu Koushien tournaments, the majority of that happened decades ago.  Recently, they have struggled to advance out of the 1st round.  Eimei has made 2 consecutive runs at it in the summer, but it's possible their time is now up.

Meanwhile, teams such as Takamatsu Shougyou, Akiyama's former team Sangawa, and Kanonji Chuo look to restore respectability to the prefecture.

But perhaps showing that there still is a long way to go, almost all those teams struggled in the tournament.  Takamatsu Shougyou's games to the semis was won by no greater than 3 runs.  Kanonji Chuo had two close games before finally getting an easy win against Takamatsu Sakurai.

Sangawa and Eimei had a bit of an easier time... that is until they faced each other in the quarterfinals.  Sangawa had the better of the matchup, but just, in a 6-5 win.  Rounding out the best 4 was Sanbonmatsu who had survived some close games.

Kanonji Chuo almost seemed to exercise their demons against Takamatsu Shougyou leading 3-1 in the 9th.  However, Takashou would break their hearts yet again, scoring 4 in the 9th for the 5-3 win.  Sanbonmatsu's run would end at Sangawa's hands as they lost 5-1.

In the finals, Takashou's ace Tanigawa would give up just 2 hits (though he walked 9), in a 2-0 shutout of Sangawa giving his team their 25th fall title (last was in 2008).  Kanonji Chuo would take the last spot with a 7-0 win over Sanbonmatsu.

Tokushima also has had a winning record at Koushien.  Of late, the 2 teams who have had the most success are Tokushima Shougyou and Naruto Kougyou.  Famed Ikeda last had success in the early 90's but has faded out of the picture in recent years.

Tokushima Shougyou bowed out in the 2nd round to Kawashima.  Ikeda and Naruto Kougyou were in the same quadrant and wound up facing each other in the quarterfinals.  Ikeda's struggles continued as they were routed 9-1.

Joining those two in the best 4 would be Tokushima Kita - who needed 2 1-run victories, and Naruto - who outscored their opponents 40-8.  However, they didn't really face anyone of note, so it's possible that offense is just a mirage.

They'd have to prove that against Naruto Kougyou though.  As for Kawashima and Tokushima Kita, it appeared that they'd have to win to get in.

The game would be one to remember.  Kawashima's ace Satou would throw a no-hitter against Tokushima Kita.  Irregardless of what happens after, that's a moment they're going to remember.  Better yet, it would give them their 2nd ever super-regional appearance (their 1st was just 2 years ago).

Their opponent in the final would indeed be Naruto.  Scoring 4 in the 3rd, they'd never look back.  Naruto Kougyou would fight back against starter Goutouda, but fall short 7-5.

Riding the wave of the no-hitter, Satou would continue his assault on the Naruto batters, throwing 7 more shutout innings.  But the tank would finally run empty, surrendering 3 in the 8th.  Meanwhile, ace Kobayashi would quiet the Kawashima bats limiting them to just 1 run.  Naruto would win their 11th title, but their 1st in 18 years.  Tokushima Kita couldn't recover from the no-hitter, losing 3-1.

Ehime continues the trend of winning prefectures.  They enjoyed success in the early aughites, but in the last several have receded a bit.  Teams such as Saibi, Kawanoe and Matsuyama Shougyou dominated the times.  But perhaps it's Imabari Nishi who has dominated the scene recently, especially in the fall tournaments, that would continue to reign.

Exiting out of pool play, it would be Imabari Nishi, along with Saibi, 2010 Natsu representative Uwajima Higashi, and Komatsu who would get favorable draws.

And yet, they didn't have an easy time.  In fact, Saibi would fall before reaching the semifinals, losing 5-3 to Kawanoishi.  For the remaining teams, only Uwajima Higashi had a margin of victory over 3.

The party crashers also had their sights on Imabari Nishi in the semis.  Scoring 3 against starter Ishigaki, it looked perhaps that they might have a chance.  But Imabari would equalize in the 5th, and score the go-ahead run on ace Yano in the 8th inning.  Kawanoishi would have to qualify in the 3rd place game after the 4-3 loss.

Komatsu and Uwajima Higashi would have their own struggle.  Tied at 1 going into the 9th, Komatsu would score the go-ahead run.  But Uwajima Higashi had their half, and managed to score one of their own, sending it to enchousen.  It would only last 2 innings though, when Komatsu would emphatically stamp their ticket to the finals with 4 runs.

In the finals, Imabari Nishi would fall behind yet again as Komatsu would score 5 unanswered runs.  This time around though, ace Nakano would not give them the opportunity to rally back as he would give up 2 runs giving his team their first ever fall title and first ever super-regional apperance!

And as for Kawanoishi, their party crashing would be over as they lost 10-3 to Uwajima Higashi in the 3rd place game.

No one beats Kochi though in terms of success.  They have a 0.615 winning percentage at Koushien.  Furthermore, since 1993 they have failed to send a representative in senbatsu just 3 times.

Most of the time, the representative has been either Kochi, Kochi Shougyou, or Meitoku Gijyuku.  Break though those three, and you've achieved something.

And so we start the Kochi prefecturals.  The aforementioned trio, along with Tosa, were the seeded teams.  Tosa represented Kochi back in the 1993 senbatsu, though they lost to Tohoku.

So it's no surprise that all 4 teams (yes, even Tosa) made the Best 4.  Kochi though, almost got upended in the first round with a 6-5 win over Ootemae.  Even with that, the big 3 gave up 10 runs in their 9 combined games.  Tosa gave up 7 in their 3.

In the semis, Kochi wound up throwing 3 pitchers at Meitoku Gijyuku to no avail.  They'd fall 4-1.

Tosa would have to win their game against Kochi Shougyou.  Losing here means having to win the 3rd place game.  But they would have no such luck.  Kochishou would beat them 7-1.

That would seal Tosa's fate.  Having to face Kochi in the 3rd place game, they folded 9-0 and would have to wait until next summer for another shot.

Kochi Shougyou would then have to face Meitoku Gijyuku for the title and the 1st round bye.  However, Meitoku Gijyuku takes their seat again at the head of the prefecture with their own 7-1 win.  Despite this being their 6th straight super-regional appearance, this was their first title in 4 years (and 15th overall).

Each of the winners (Meitoku Gijyuku, Komatsu, Naruto, and Tokushima Shougyou) would earn a bye, while the other teams slugged it out.  Once under way, only Naruto had an easy go of it.  Takamatsu Shougyou had to face Naruto Kougyou and won 1-0.  Meitoku Gijyuku survived 4-3 over Uwajima Higashi.  Komatsu?  Sadly, their run ended against Kochi 6-0.

Kochi would continue their run, exacting revenge on ace Ogata, scoring 3 in the 9th for a 7-4 win and a probable bid to senbatsu.  Naruto would join them as they continued their rampage with a 7-1over Tokushima Shougyou.

The question then would be who would get the automatic bid.  In all likelihood, Kochi's name will give them a bid, and Naruto's high powered offense would be something to see at Koushien.  But it never hurts to guarantee that phone call.

Once again, Naruto would come out firing and getting a 3-1 lead.  And though Kitashiro would tie the game in the 4th, Naruto took the lead back 4-3 in the 5th.  Kochi would just not go away, tying the game in the 9th.  And just when you'd think Naruto would fold, they didn't as Hinoshita would give his team their first super-regional title in 42 years with a bases loaded hit to right.

Automatic Bid - Naruto (Tokushima) - 7th appearance, 1st in 32 years
Projected Bid - Kochi (Kochi) - 16th appearance, 1st in 2 years

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