Kinki Super-Regional (6 bids)With 16 teams going to the super-regional, the prefectures rotate the extra 4 bids amongst themselves. This year Kyoto and Wakayama would be short-changed with just 2 bids.
Shiga had some excitement last summer when Hachiman Shougyou shocked Teikyou with 5 runs in the top of the 9th for an unbelievable upset.
Sadly though, they may have been a one-hit wonder (no pun intended). They'd lose in their 1st game 6-4 to Hino.
Looking elsewhere, Cinderella Shiga Gakuen looked to make another run and had the entire half to themselves once Hachiman Shougyou was eliminated. But Yasu spoiled the party defeating them 2-0 in the quarterfinals. They were one win away from a guaranteed spot in the super-regionals, but Minakuchi proved to be a more than formidable opponent. Tied at 1 in the 4th inning, the game would head into extras. But in the 11th, Minakuchi's Ikemoto would deliver the sayonara hit to punch their first ticket in 44 years to the super-regionals.
The two stalwarts in the prefecture - Oumi and Kita-Ootsu occupied the other half of the bracket. But when Kita-Ootsu lost to Ishiyama in their very first game 3-2, the path to the super-regionals was wide open. They didn't hesitate, defeating Ishiyama in the semifinals 14-4 to punch their ticket.
Minakuchi actually put up a good fight early against heavily favored Oumi, taking a 2-run lead. Oumi wiped that completely out with a 3-run 4th and would go on to win 7-2 for their 9th title and 1st in 2 years.
Yasu's good run would be spoiled by Ishiyama, who deservingly earned a spot in the super-regionals with a 2-1 victory in the 3rd place game.
Kyoto has been largely dominated by the 5-kanji schools - Ryuukokudai Heian (龍谷大平安), Fukuchiyama Seibi (福知山成美), and Kyoto Gaidai Nishi (京都外大西).
But while all 3 qualified for the prefectural finals, all 3 were eliminated in quarterfinal play. Fukuchiyama Seibi falls 8-6 to Toba, Ryuukokudai Heian lost a close one 8-7 to Ritsumeikan, and Kyoto Gaidai Nishi had the worst loss (deficit-wise anyways), 6-2 to Kyoto Ryouyou. Kyoto Shouei joins the three in the semifinals.
Now, with only 2 spots available this year, winning the semifinals becomes crucial. Toba grabs one of the two spots after breaking a 3-3 tie with Kyoto Shouei with 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th. Ritsumeikan takes the other one as ace Itou limits Kyoto Ryouyou to just 1 run in a 2-1 win.
The final was a bit nuts. Despite being the underdog, Toba breached the 0-0 deadlock with a run in the 6th. Such a slim margin would be hard to maintain against a team such as Ritsumeikan, and indeed in the 8th they scored 3 to take the lead. But in the bottom of the 9th, Toba found a way to take back every single run to win their 3rd fall title (1st in 11 years), 4-3!
Chiben Gakuen has supplanted Tenri as the premier team in the prefecture. That after Tenri has frittered away opportunity after opportunity at Koushien.
The teams though were on the same half, so you were almost guaranteed that one would take the title, and the other the 3rd place spot. So any team on that half would have little to no shot to make it. Go to the other side and if Kooriyama could be knocked off, Nara's 2nd seed could be up for grabs.
Chiben Gakuen would get the best of the rivalry yet again and in impressive fashion. Tenri would be relegated to the 3rd place match with an 8-0 mercy rule loss.
The de facto final qualifying spot would go to Naradai Fuzoku. After relinquishing an early 3-0 lead to Ichijyou, they rallied in the late innings to win 6-5.
But Naradai Fuzoku wasn't done! After giving up 2 runs in the 1st to Chiben, they immediately struck back with 4 runs Chiben would narrow the lead to 1 and keep it that way until the 8th when they successfully pulled level at 6.
Naradai Fuzoku would claim their first ever fall title in spectacular fashion as Kudou delivers a sayonara hit to right, winning 7-6!
Wakayama too would only get 2 bids, but assuming that Chiben Wakayama and Kouyou were on opposite sides of the Best 4, there may be no room for anyone else, save for maybe Minabe or Minoshima.
So apparently, Wakayama has changed their qualifying methods. Instead of grandfathering in the Best 4 from last year's they now hold a "newcomers tournament" (高校野球新人戦) right after Natsu Koushien ends, in which the best 4 from that tournament get a pass to the Best 8 of the fall prefecturals. The rest would have to play again in pool play for a spot.
The 4 teams that got a free pass were Naga, Touin, Kainan and of course Chiben Wakayama.
So the remaining 36 teams were in for another grueling single elimination bracket less than 3 weeks later.
Those that were able to endure the 2nd go around were Shiritsu Wakayama (who shut out Minabe 4-0 in the block final), Kokawa (who ended Kouyou's bid with a 2-1 victory), Kenritsu Wakayama Shougyou, and Minoshima.
Chiben Wakayama and Minoshima wound up on different sides of the bracket, so it seemed likely they would be the two entrants.
Minoshima bowed out in the very first game 3-2 to Kainan who would eventually reach the finals after a win against Touin. Chiben Wakayama, after barely beating out Shiritsu Wakayama 4-3, was blitzed by Naga to the tune of 8-1!
So it would be a newcomer in Naga, and a forgotten team (last appearance 26 years ago) in Kainan. The question would be who would take the coveted title. Both aces, Kusunoki and Fukui respectively, would be in a pitcher's duel. Naga would claim their first ever fall title with a 1-0 win.
Osaka's tourney is basically one bracket, save for a redraw in the best 4.
Block A was dominated by Riseisha. Block B was won by Natsu representative Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara thanks in part to Toukaidai Gyousei eliminating PL Gakuen 7-0 in the first round and a 3-1 win over Osaka Sangyoudai Fuzoku. Osaka Taiikudai Nami Shougyou (aka Daitoudai Namishou) took Block C after escaping with a 4-3 win over Kansai Souka. Finally, Osaka Touin blew through most of Block D though Osaka Shoudai Sakai did limit them to 3 runs in a 3-0 loss.
The semifinal draw had Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara looking to prove their trip last summer wasn't a fluke with a 5-1 over Riseisha. Meanwhile, Osaka Touin looked to regain the top spot in Osaka with a 8-3 win over Daitoudai Namishou.
Eventually, Osaka Touin would reassert themselves with a 6-0 shutout win over the summer representatives for their 3rd consecutive and 5th overall fall title.
Joining the pair would be Riseisha as they denied Daitoudai Namisho with a 5-1 win in the consolation game.
Hooray! Nishinomiya Kita made it to the prefecturals after qualifying through the repechage of the Nishi-Hanshin regionals 2-0 against Takaradzuka Kita! By the way, Kansei Gakuin would take top honors in that regional. Yay for improvement!
Joining that pair of teams would be the likes of Houtoku Gakuen, Shinkou Gakuen, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku, and Kakogawa Kita. Touyoudai Himeji immediately got a free pass to the prefecturals being the Natsu Koushien representative.
The prefectural draw had Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku in their own quadrant. But Sumoto wrecked the party, eliminating them 13-6 in the round of 16 and taking their spot in the Best 4. Houtoku Gakuen, Kakogawa Kita and Touyoudai Himeji were in the other quadrant. And despite the offensive output shown early in the brackets, Touyoudai Himeji's offense would go astray against tougher competition. Houtoku blanked them 5-0 for a spot opposite Sumoto.
Nishinomiya Kita's time in the prefecturals was cut short in a 5-1 loss to Awaji in the 1st round. Awaji would actually make a deep run before being offed by Ikuei 7-1 in the quarterfinals. So I guess it wasn't a bad loss for the fightin' Haruhi's. Maybe this summer? (No. Probably not.)
Rounding out the field would be Kansei Gakuin, who continues to have a penchant for low-scoring close affairs. Their largest margin of victory? 2.
Despite Sumoto's upset, they were no match for battle-tested Houtoku Gakuen as there were shutout to the tune of 6-0. On the other side, Kansei Gakuin and Ikuei would trade blows in the latter half of the games. Ikuei was actually 3 outs from advancing, but Kansei would tie the game with a clutch run. Ikuei tried once again to leave Kansei behind with a point in the 13th, but Kansei wound up doing one better, bidding Ikuei sayonara 6-5!
That extra inning game may have taken the air out of Kansei as in the final they could only muster 1 run as Houtoku Gakuen would go on to win 3-1 and claim their 10th title (1st in 3 years). Ikuei would be the final qualifier taking their frustrations in losing out on Sumoto 9-2.
The draw for the super-regionals put a lot of the strong teams in 1 quadrant.
On the upper left, the winner of the Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo 1) v. Riseisha (Osaka 3) would definitely reach the semifinals and a projected bid to Koushien. Same goes to the Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara (Osaka 2) v. Chiben Gakuen (Nara 2) matchup in the lower left.
The upper right was the hell draw. Tenri (Nara 3) v. Ritsumeikan (Kyoto 2) and Osaka Touin (Osaka 1) v. Kansei Gakuin (Hyogo 2). Oumi's (Shiga 1) only competition would be Ikuei (Hyogo 3) in their first game. Win that and they're pretty much guaranteed a bid.
Riseisha allowed 2 runs in junk time as they eliminated Houtoku Gakuen 9-2 and had a quick 6 inning affair against Minokuchi. Meanwhile Chiben Gakuen may be taking the flag even from Chiben Wakayama when comparing the two schools as they blank Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara 5-0 and they advance to the semis.
Tenri once again struggled in the big lights, going into extras but defeating Ritsumeikan 3-1 in 10. They'd have a familiar opponent as Kansei Gakuin couldn't keep up with Osaka Touin's offensive output lasting just 7 innings in a 9-0 loss. Tenri though was able to take advantage over Touin's eternal weakness - pitching depth as a 4-spot in the 7th proved to be the final margin of victory 8-4.
And lastly, Oumi almost squandered a 6 run lead in the 9th, but won 7-5, then got a strong challenge against a surprisingly strong Naradai Fuzoku squad 2-1.
So all 4 teams were likely to receive a bid. Question would be who would definitely get an invite. Chiben Gakuen's Ono would give up a run to open the game, but the team would come back to take the lead and never trail again winning 4-2. And it would be a grudge match final as Tenri dispatched Oumi 11-1 in 6.
In that grudge match, Chiben Gakuen emphatically put their stamp on the title with a 3-run 1st. And as to add insult to injury, despite Tenri scoring 3 in the 8th to pull within 1, Chiben Gakuen would win their first ever super-regional title not having used their ace Aoyama in the semifinal nor championship game!
Automatic Bid - Chiben Gakuen (Nara) - 8th appearance, 1st in 11 years
Projected Bid - Tenri (Nara) - 22nd appearance, 4th consecutive
Projected Bid - Riseisha (Osaka) - 4th appearance, 2nd consecutive
Projected Bid - Oumi (Shiga) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 9 years
Projected Bid - Osaka Touin (Osaka) - 5th appearance, 1st in 2 years
Projected Bid - Toba (Kyoto) - 4th appearance, 1st in 7 years
The 5th and 6th bids are best guesses. I doubt Minakuchi will earn a bid after losing 15-3 to Riseisha. And as much as Naradai Fuzoku may have earned a bid with a 2-1 loss to Oumi, (a) I doubt the committee will award 3 Nara teams a bid, and (b) Oumi went on to lose to Osaka Touin 11-1.