Anyways, in having discussions with a fellow kokoyakyu fan, his last team he was rooting for which was still alive, Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo), was eliminated today.
I've seen my fair share of teams eliminated - Narashino (Chiba), Seihou (Nagasaki) and Kanzei (Okayama) just to name a few. And even if some of our teams make it, their chances of winning it all are very small.
So, just how hard is it to win Natsu Koushien?
Well, it all depends. First, you have to get there, which means winning the prefectural title. As with Koushien itself, it's a single-elimination tournament. But not all tournaments are created equal.
If you're in a metropolitan prefecture such as Nishi/Higashi Tokyo, or Osaka, or Kanagawa, you're one team in a field easily over 100. That means you're going to have to win 7, even 8 games just to win the title. In that time, if you're not one of the established schools in the region, you're going to face at least one of them en route to the title. Rarely if ever you do you not. Even if you're one of the more than above-average teams, this statement still applies. Imagine having to face Kokushikan, then later Teikyou. It's enough to make any team want to quit.
And even if you're one of the established teams, you're probably going to wind up butting heads with another established team. Or, you could get tripped up in a random game on the way there. Or a key player could get injured/sick. Such is the life of single-elimination.
You'd think it might be better to go to a rural prefecture where the competition may not be that strong and create a super team. Deanna argued that Risshoudai Shounan from Shimane was that way, and she was right.
However, you may want to choose your schools wisely. For instance, in Nara the duo of Chiben Gakuen and Tenri account for just about 80% of the prefecture's bids (16 and 25 respectively out of a possible 52). And only 5 different schools have won the title.
And if you take the top 3 schools (adding Kooriyama), the last time a school not aforementioned won... was 1969.
That's a long time.
Wakayama is worse. Counting from Chiben Wakayama's first Natsu Koushien appearance back in 1987, out of the 25 years the title was awarded, Chiben Wakayama has won 19 of them.
By themselves they have won almost 80% of the past quarter century's bids from Wakayama.
In other words, in more rural areas, there are generally a select few schools who create roadblocks to all other schools trying to qualify.
But the biggest problem in say moving to a rural region to try and qualify for Koushien is that in general, rural prefectures don't win Koushien.
If we take say the Heisei Era, 1989 to present, and count the regions where schools won, you'd find the following:
- Hokkaido - 2 (Minami Hokkaido)
- Tohoku - 0
- Kanto (ex Tokyo) - 3 (Kanagawa, Gunma, Ibaraki)
- Tokyo - 5
- Hokushinetsu - 0
- Chuubu - 1 (Aichi)
- Kinki - 6 (Wakayama & Osaka - 2, Hyogo, Nara)
- Chuugoku - 0
- Shikoku - 2 (Kochi & Ehime)
- Kyushu - 3 (Saga - 2, Fukuoka)
- Okinawa - 1
That means that 25 of the 47 regions have not won a title since 1962. That's just about 50 years of futility by over half of the prefectures.
The hill is indeed very hard to climb. And in just under 2 weeks time, they'll all start their trek to the top. For some, it may be easy. For most, it will be unattainable. But like all other sports it's why we play the games - because hopefully, anything can happen.