Friday, January 27, 2012

Fall Tournament Recap and possible invitees (Kyushu)

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

Kyushu Super-Regionals (4 bids)
Kyushu had a lot of promise in Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku, but the battery has graduated, and the area is once again up for grabs.

Oita is the home for the tournament this time around, so they'll get an extra bid (4) this year to the super-regionals.

Oita had a resurgence at Koshien it seemed when Imamiya Kenta and Meihou made a deep run only to run into Hanamaki Higashi.  But otherwise the prefecture has struggled as a whole.

So it's really hard to peg who's strong in the region.  There's Meihou, but they lost in the 3rd round 7-4 to Oita.  For their part, Oita made it to the semifinals after defeating Oita Houfu in the next game.

There was last year's fall winner Touin, and they made it to the Best 4 which included a win against 2008 participant Hita Rinkou.

And with the prefecture weaker, other teams scrambled to try and give their school a chance at the title.  Oita Kagaku Gijyutsu was one of those teams, surviving two 1-run games including one against Youshikan.  The other would be Beppu Aoyama, 2005 Natsu reprentative.  In their 3 games they only yielded 3 runs, all against Tsukumi.

With the extra bid, all 4 teams would advance to the super-regionals.  The question was where would they be seeded.

Touin, despite winning last year, would give up a 5-spot to Oita in the top of the 1st.  That would be the winning margin as they won 10-5.  Meanwhile, Oita Kagaku Gijyutsu would continue to surprise, as they head to the finals with a 5-3 win!

And they would complete the upset by scoring the first 5 runs in an 8-4 win over Oita in the finals, giving themselves their first ever fall title!

Kyukoku without their 1-2 battery mates would have to try and repeat the feat.  And though they seemed to gain momentum as the tournament progress, they would only make it to the quarterfinals of the Hokubu region before being unceremoniously ousted 9-2 by Kurate Ryuutoku

That allowed teams that had perhaps taken a back seat to rise again (at least for now).  In the Hokubu region, that meant Iidzuka and Jiyuugaoka would advance to the semis where they would clash.  Jiyuugaoka would get the better of that matchup and never trail in a 8-4 win.  Ikutokukan would be their matchup in the regional finals, and they more than held their own.  Trailing 2-0, then later 4-3, they would rally to tie the score and send it into enchousen.  But eventually the lack of pitching depth would catch up with Ikutokukan and reliever Akiyoshi would give up a 4-spot to Jiyuugaoka, signaling their death knell.

The Nanbu region had teams such as Oomuta, Chikuyou Gakuen and Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou.  Eager to take the opportunity of regaining the seat at the head of the table, each of these teams reached the semifinals.  Of note, Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou had to defeat Higashi-Fukuoka, Yanagawa and Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku just to reach the Best 4!

Fukuoka Dai-ichi would be the 4th member of the semifinals, and though they had a great run, and held their own against Oomuta, their ace Chou would fade late yielding 5 runs in the last 4 innings to fall 7-3.

Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou meanwhile may have felt that their luck had run out as they trailed Chikuyou Gakuen 4-1 heading into the late innings.  But somehow they managed to rally for 4 runs in the top of the 8th to take a 5-4 lead!  They'd hold onto the lead and face their 5th former Koushien participant just for an automatic bid!

And boy did they ever shut the door.  With the end in sight for an automatic bid, they annihilated Oomuta 15-0 to secure a place in the super-regionals.

So in the championship, which would be done just for seeding purposes, Jiyuugaoka would jump out to a 6-1 lead en route to a 8-5 win.  This would be just their 2nd ever fall title.  Meanwhile Oomuta would claim the final spot, scoring the sayonara run over Ikutokukan 3-2.

Deanna would probably go on and on about Saga Kita if she could.  That magical run culminating in the gyakuten win over Kouryou perhaps jumpstarted something in the region.  Though they may not have returned to senbatsu, they were experiencing a slight bump much like Saga Shougyou's win back in 1994.  But Karatsu Shougyou's Kitakata has graduated to the majors, so it'll have to be another team to step up

But who?  Perhaps a recent participant such as Saga Gakuen or Saga Shougyou?  Or perhaps someone new?

Early on, it there were some new names advancing through the field.  Keitoku for instance was able to move through their quadrant after the early upset of Saga Shougyou by Kanzaki Seimei.  They'd beat the same team 5-1 for a spot in the semis.
Opposite them, 1995 Natsu representative Ryuukoku cut their way through, including a quality 3-0 win over Ogi.

On the other half, Karatsu Shougyou after a 1-0 win the first round to Karatsu Nishi, fell 1-0 to Kashima.
However, they couldn't advance past the next stage as Koushikan won a high-scoring 9-6 affair to advance to the semis.

The final spot in the Best 4 would be filled by a familiar face.  Despite one of Waseda Saga's better runs in the field, they are rejected yet again, this time a 3-1 loss to Tosu in the quarterfinals.  Don't count Waseda Saga out though, for a school that was established just in 2010, it's scary to think what might happen in future years.

For now, Tosu takes full advantage of the opportunity.  Ace Hase limits Koushikan to just 1 run in a 4-1 win, securing one of two spots for the super-regional.  Meanwhile, Keitoku threw 5 different pitchers in an attempt to stop Ryuukoku... but to no avail.  A 7-1 win would give Ryuukoku the other bid.

In the final, Ryuukoku would break a 1-1 tie in the 6th, but ace Nakano couldn't finish it out.  Tosu would score 2 in the 8th as Hase would shut the door in the 9th giving Tosu their first title in 9 years (10th overall).

I'm not sure what got me hooked on Seihou from Nagasaki.  Perhaps it was their failed run in 2006 with a 21-0 loss to Yokohama in the final that made me root for the underdog.  I got paid off 3 years later when Imamura Takeru took the same school over Kikuchi Yuusei and Hanamaki Higashi for the title.  It also doesn't mean I can't ask for more. Ne?

But there are other claimants to the head of the class.  Nagasaki Nichidai has represented the prefecture more than a couple of times.  Hasami last year upended the same Yokohama squad in a shocking upset.

In the Nagasaki Regionals, last year's Natsu representative Kaisei wanted to show they were sticking around, and while it was tough sledding in the semifinal and final, a 3-1 win over Nagasaki Shougyou gave them the win.

To the Sasebo Regionals and Hasami and Seihou marched through the brackets with no one able to stop their eventual meetup in the finals.  Seihou's timing might suggest that they'd head back to senbatsu, but they wouldn't win the region as Hasami wins 6-3.

Finally in the Naka Regionals lied Nagasaki Nichidai.  They too looked fairly strong, but their shot at winning the regionals was rejected by Souseikan in an 11-6 loss in the finals.

Like the super-regionals, winning the region matters as teams receive a bye.  Now with 3 regions and 4 byes, one 2nd place team has to be "upgraded" as it were.  That went to Seihou.

They'd reward that bid with a 3-2 win over Nagasaki Shougyou in the quarters.  Hasami and Souseikan would also advance with 1-run victories.  Kaisei though would have to face Nagasaki Nichidai, and their run ended there with a 3-0 shutout loss.

Hasami would be next on the docket for Nagasaki Nichidai.  Scrappy as they were they never led in the game, though after going down 5-1 in the bottom of the 9th they would rally for 3 runs of their own falling 5-4 and with it a chance to return to Koushien.

Souseikan and Seihou had a tight game.  After trading runs in the first two innings, things seemed to quiet down.  But as soon as the teams reached the 2nd half of the game, the offensive spigots opened wide.  After trading another pair of runs in the 6th, the lead with switch 4 times as each team scored one more run than the last.  Eventually Souseikan would score 2 in the 9th to tie the game up at 10.  And when Seihou failed to score in the bottom of the 9th, it was all over.  Souseikan tacked on 3 more in the 10th for the win and the other bid to the super-regionals.

Souseikan's late inning rallies wouldn't end there.  In the finals, down 4-1, they would start their rally again in the 6th.  They'd tie the game in the 7th, and when Nagasaki Nichidai scored 2 in the 8th, Souseikan scored 3 to take the lead and claim their first ever fall title.

Was it really that weird to ask the stalls at Meiji Jingu for former Miyazaki Shougyou's ace Akagawa Katsuki?  Okay, kinda off topic, but a year after his appearance Miyakonojyou Shougyou's team would make it to the Best 8, falling to Chuukyoudai Chuukyou.

Teams from Miyazaki of late have been able to advance past the first round, but little further than that.  Who would be the ones to try this time around?

Well, last summer's representative Nichinan Gakuen made a strong case with a semifinal run that included 3 shutouts against St. Ursula and Hyuuga Gakuin.  Despite that though, Miyakonojyou Shougyou would rudely shut the door on a super-regional bid mercy ruling them 10-3 in 8 innings.

The other half of the quadrant had Nisshou Gakuen tiptoeing through their part winning games by the margin of 3-2, 3-1 and 1-0.  Their semifinal would not be against Miyakonojyou  Izumigaoka as expected, but Miyazaki Nishi who defeated them 3-2.  Furthermore, Miyazaki Nishi would end Nisshou Gakuen's run of low-scoring victories shutting them out 2-0 and guaranteeing themselves their first ever super-regional bid.

Miyazaki Nishi wasn't done though.  They made a run at Miyakonojyou Shougyou as well.  Holding a 1-0 lead since the first, they were 2 innings away from claiming their 1st ever fall title.  However, Miyakonokyou Shougyou would score 3 in the 8th giving them their 5th fall title and first in 5 years.

Ask who are the strong teams in Kumamoto, and you'd probably get 2 responses - Kyushu Gakuin and Kumamoto Kougyou.  Of late though, some schools have been able to break through the duo including Jyouhoku and Senshuudai Tamana.  Others are still on the cusp of breaking through, but not yet - such as Luther Gakuin.

Kyushu Gakuin wanted to reaffirm their spot at the top of the prefecture, and though they were slowed down by Seiseikou and Kumamoto Shougyou, they handily defeated a Kuma Kougyou squad who surprised everyone by reaching the semifinals for a guaranteed spot.  Jyouhoku didn't get past the 2nd round, losing to the aforementioned Kumamoto Shougyou.

Meanwhile Luther Gakuin, Senshuudai Tamana and Kumamoto Kougyou were all in the same quadrant...  and they would eventually play each other.  First up was last year's summer representative Senshuudai Tamana versus Kumamoto Kougyou.  Kumamoto Kougyou won that easily 9-1.  Next up for them was Luther Gakuin.  So often Luther would fall short losing to teams like Kumamoto Kougyou.  This time though, they prevailed, outlasting them in a 5-4 win to advance to the semis.

Standing in their way to the super-regionals was Toukai Dai-ni, who had a fairly strong run of their own.  Yet, Luther Gakuin would jump out to a 4-0 lead and win by that same margin 6-2.

But while Luther Gakuin may have qualified for the super-regionals, Kyushu Gakuin decided to put them back in their place.  A 15-1 victory would give them their 19th fall prefectural title.

If you thought breaking through a ceiling of 2 teams was bad, try 4.

Since 1989, Kagoshima's representatives that have made it to senbatsu have been one of 4 teams:
  • Kagoshima Kougyou
  • Kagoshima Jitsugyou
  • Kamimura Gakuen
  • Shounan (fka Kagoshima Shoukou)
It's one thing to have to avoid one team, or defeat one team.  Try possibly having to face 2, 3, or all 4 just to make it!

So really, it's only news when one of those teams goes down - sad to say.

Interestingly though, they weren't all split up.  Kagoshima Kougyou wound up in the same bracket as Shounan.  Instead one of the seeded spots went to the team that was not one of the aforementioned 4 to make it to Koushien - Kagoshima Shougyou.

Well, that was a mistake.  First game against Fukiage... they lose 4-1.  That left Reimei to carry the flag in the quadrant... except they lost in their first game too, 7-6 to Shouyou.  Shouyou would actually reach the semifinals... only to get railroaded by Kamimura Gakuen 16-2.

Okay, well... what about Shounan and Kagoshima Kougyou?  Well, Shounan actually lasted just one game before falling to unknown Makurazaki 2-1!

That's 2 teams down.

Kagoshima Kougyou would avenge Shounan's loss by defeating Makurazaki 7-0.  Yet even they weren't immune.  In the very next round, they too would be dispatched by Sendai (that's 川内 to you) 9-2.

Lastly, there was Kagoshima Jitsugyou.  Amazingly, they too lasted just 2 games, losing to Kagoshima 1-0!  That left Kamimura Gakuen as the only one of the quartet still standing!  Taking Kajitsu's place in the Best 4 would be Kagoshima Jyousai - certainly not a slouch, but not one of the Big 4 either.

And in the battle for the other super-regional spot, it would be Kagoshima Jyousai who would shutout Sendai 4-0.

So the finals are actually a rematch of last year's fall final - Kagoshima Jyousai v. Kamimura Gakuen.

And much like last year, Kamimura Gakuen wins again 4-1 for their 6th title.

Okinawa surprisingly has had a lot of success since the end of the last millennia.  Starting with Okinawa Shougaku winning the 1999 senbatsu, Okinawa has won 3 Haru Koushien titles, Urasoe Shougyou reached the Best 4, and Kounan achieved the Haru-Natsu renzoku yuushou.

Itoman and Kadena have carried the flag for the prefecture since Shimabukuro's departure for Chuo Daigaku, though Urasoe Shougyou and Okinawa Shougaku lie in wait as well.

This year though, Okinawa Shogaku would not participate.  Due to violence within the club, they withdrew from the tournament despite being given a seed.

Taking their place was Chinen.  Given the free pass over Okishou, they took it to the semifinals with a 6-5 win over Shuri.  There they would face Kadena, who had to defeat former participants such as Yaeyama Shoukou, and Okinawa Suisan.  Yet even those wouldn't be enough to defeat Chinen.  Chinen would grab a spot in the super-regionals with a 4-1 win.

On the other half, seeded Urasoe Shougyou unassumingly went about its business reaching the semifinals.  Itoman would be right there to meet them, having worked their way through the bracket and defeated seeded Mawashi 3-0.  In the semifinal, Itoman would prevail in a high scoring 8-6 game.

And interestingly, Itoman would manage to defeat Chinen 4-3 to claim their first ever fall title!

So with all prefectures accounted for, the draw for the super-regionals took place.  Kyushu Gakuin and Jiyuugaoka may have been placed in the same quadrant, but there was no noticeable competition in the adjacent quadrant (Oita Kagaku Gijyutsu, Chinen, Souseikan, Ryuukoku... really?), thereby almost guaranteeing one of them a spot at senbatsu. 

Meanwhile, Kamimura Gakuen probably will face their toughest test should Nagasaki Nichidai defeat Oomuta (which they should).  Outside of that though, they should breeze through to the semifinals.

Finally, the last quadrant is actually a pretty tough one.  Itoman and Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou would have to square off, then possibly face Miyakonojyou Shougyou or perhaps Luther Gakuin.

As the tournament kicked off, the first shock was that Oomuta and Nagasaki Nichidai wound up playing to a 2-2 draw!  That meant they'd have to play again, and while Nagasaki Nichidai won the rematch 7-2, playing an extra game certainly couldn't have helped them.

The second was that Luther Gakuin, despite finally making it to the super-regionals, was dispatched by Beppu Aoyama 4-1!  I certainly didn't see that one coming.

The surprises kept on coming.  2nd round action saw Jiyuugaoka having to force extra innings against Miyazaki Nishi, only to lose 5-4 in the 11th!  Next was the Ryuukoku-Souseikan game which saw both teams go the full 15 before Souseikan would win 2-1 in the last half-inning!  And Beppu Aoyama continued to shock the field scoring the first 6 runs in an 11-6 win over Miyakonojyou Shougyou!

Onto the quarterfinals and Kyushu Gakuin finally got a challenge, but it was from Miyazaki Nishi!  Kyushu Gakuin would win 2-0, but it was a strong showing from a Miyazaki Nishi squad who was probably not expected to even be here.

Even more teams would struggle.  Kamimura Gakuen, perhaps one of the shoe-ins to head to senbatsu actually trailed against Oita!  First in the 3rd at 3-0, then in the 8th at 6-5.  Both times though they were immediately able to rally back and take the lead - perhaps showing a bit of maturity.  However, give credit to Oita for giving one of the stronger teams in the region a run for their money.

Still, Oita's game pales in comparison to Beppu Aoyama.  Facing yet another strong team in Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou, they don't let a 1-run deficit deter them.  They score 2 in the 6th to take a 3-2 lead!  And the trio of Nakamura-Yasuo-Ishida shut the door on the game almost giving the committee no reason not to invite them to senbatsu!

To the semis and Souseikan's run now would get much tougher against Kyushu Gakuin.  So much so they would be mercy ruled 9-0 in 7 innings.

As for Beppu Aoyama, they certainly had a great run, but it would not be able to continue against Kamimura Gakuen.  Though they held them scoreless the first 4 innings, eventually Kamimura broke through with 4 in the 5th en route to a 6-2 win.

Kamimura Gakuen would finally put their stamp on the region in the finals, scoring 8 runs in the first inning against Kyushu Gakuin to claim their first ever (!!) super-regional title, and an automatic invitation to Haru Koushien!

And despite Souseikan's bad loss in the quarterfinals, I expect the Best 4 to receive a phone call come January.

Automatic Bid - Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 3 years
Projected Bid - Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto) - 5th appearance, 2nd consecutive
Projected Bid - Souseikan (Nagasaki) - 1st appearance
Projected Bid - Beppu Aoyama (Oita) - 1st appearance

No comments: