So, the random draw for senbatsu is out and here is the draw (teams in same quadrant in same colors):
Day 1, Game 1 - 10:20 - Mie (Mie) v. Tottori Jyouhoku (Tottori)
Day 1, Game 2 - 12:50 - Tsuruga Kehi (Gifu) v. Urawa Gakuin (Saitama)
Day 1, Game 3 - 15:20 - Osaka Touin (Osaka) v. Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate)
Day 2, Game 1 - 09:00 - Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto) v. Memanbetsu (Hokkaido)
Osaka Touin apparently has a pitcher worthy of the ace designation. Should that really be the case, their offense can let it rip all day.
Hanamaki Higashi was my wild card going in, able to play toe-to-toe with the top tier competition and giving teams who may have overlooked them the scare of their lives.
Even still, Hanamaki Higashi has to have the worst luck recently. It was Teikyou in the summer, now it's Osaka Touin in the spring. That's gotta hurt. Interestingly, it'll be the battle of the two tallest pitchers in the tournament, 191 cm Ootani Shouhei for Hanamaki Higashi versus 197 cm Fujinami Shintarou. Should be an great game, even without the towers taking the mound.
I love Mie, because while they are not necessarily considered one of the real rural teams, they have the blue collar mentality that I love. I still think of that 3B coach/player who was not waving the runner home with one arm, but with both!
However, they get Chuugoku champion Tottori Jyouhoku. I'm not looking forward to that matchup.
The far north draws the far south. Memanbetsu is given no favors in their first appearance, drawing one of the better teams from Kyushu. I want to see Hokkaido do good so bad, you don't even know.
And overlooked is Tsuruga Kehi and Urawa Gakuin, two regulars who don't really stand out this year.
Day 2, Game 2 - 11:30 - Tenri (Nara) v. Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma)
Day 2, Game 3 - 14:00 - Ishinomaki Kougyou (Miyagi) v. Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima)
Day 3, Game 1 - 09:00 - Sumoto (Hyogo) v. Naruto (Tokushima)
Day 3, Game 2 - 11:30 - Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) v. Kurashiki Shougyou (Okayama)
Despite the two 21st Century teams here, this is still a hard bracket. Even if my team that has fallen out of favor (Tenri) advances out the first round, the likely opponent would be Kamimura Gakuen, a worthy opponent that could easily oust them from the tournament. Meanwhile, Naruto is not a front-runner to win, but should defeat Sumoto which then puts them probably against Sakushin Gakuin - one of the favorites to win it all.
Tenri's pitching I don't think is strong enough to last, and I expect a loss to Kamimura Gakuen. They in turn would probably face Sakushin Gakuin. Should be a good quarterfinal game.
Day 3, Game 3 - 14:00 - Oumi (Shiga) v. Takasaki (Gunma)
Day 4, Game 1 - 09:00 - Hokushou (Hokkaido) v. Kousei Gakuin (Aomori)
Day 4, Game 2 - 11:30 - Chikyuu Kankyou (Nagano) v. Riseisha (Osaka)
Day 4, Game 3 - 14:00 - Miyazaki Nishi (Miyazaki) v. Aikoudai Meiden (Aichi)
The big elephant in the room is that the finalists of the Meiji Jingu Tournament reside here in this quadrant. Bad news for all other teams here as they will have to get through one, if not both teams if they wish to advance to the semifinals.
Looks like neither team from Hokkaido has been given any help. Fall champ Hokushou has the unfortunate honor of being Kousei's first opponent. Meanwhile Miyazaki Nishi, who was chosen over Souseikan draws Ichiro's Aikoudai Meiden. They'll have to prove their worth immediately or be sent home after one game.
My favorite team this time around (not necessarily to win, mind you) is Chikyuu Kankyou. I can't believe they actually made it, but they're thrown immediately into the fire with a game against Riseisha. Should they survive that, it's probably Aikoudai Meiden. Fun times.
Chances are we're going to see that finals rematch in the quarterfinals. And I bet Aikoudai Meiden will be licking its chops to exact a bit of revenge in that game.
Day 5, Game 1 - 09:00 - Yokohama (Kanagawa) v. Kochi (Kochi)
Day 5, Game 2 - 11:30 - Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima) v. Toba (Kyoto)
Day 5, Game 3 - 14:00 - Hayatomo (Yamaguchi) v. Chiben Gakuen (Nara)
Day 6, Game 1 - 09:00 - Beppu Aoyama (Oita) v. Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo)
The final set of games present one more storyline - one that I was first-hand witness to.
I remember sitting in the 三塁 oen-dan with Yokohama, very happy having met Otosaka Tomo's father. Yet what people, including myself, will also remember is the collapse in the 9th inning as they lost to Chiben Gakuen.
So yes, again we could have another revenge match on our hands should Yokohama and Chiben Gakuen advance past the first two rounds. Yokohama has to get past Kochi first though, but should they do that probably face little competition against either Seikou Gakuin or Toba.
Chiben Gakuen meanwhile will face Hayatomo in the first round. I didn't even consider Hayatomo's chances of making it into the field, but a further glance once they were first accepted showed they aren't a bad team.
Beppu Aoyama must have been very happy to have finally made it to Koushien, but their draw puts them behind the 8-ball immediately as they face Kanto Dai-ichi. While perhaps not as strong as recent years, it can still be intimidating facing the sole representative from Tokyo.
We may very well see a rematch here too. And while Yokohama will look to not repeat the collapse of last summer, they'll have to prove it to me first that they can have the instinct to close the game.
No predictions of who is the favorite to win now that the draw is out, but it does look to be entertaining.