Saturday, July 7, 2012

Natsu Koushien Qualifying underway!

So, as I mentioned in a prior post, my coverage of Natsu Koushien will focus less on mentioning as many teams as possible and instead highlighting games and teams from each region.

With that being said, Okinawa and both Hokkaido regions are underway, and all 3 are in the round of 16/prefectural play.

And without further ado, we set off for Koushien!

Kita Hokkaido
Regional qualifying has been completed and the prefectural draw is out.

In the Asahikawa regional, Asahikawa Jitsugyou struggled through their block, barely defeating Rumoi Senbou 1-0 in their first game.  Down 3-0 to Furano in the block final, they scored 3 in the 9th to send it into extras.  But Furano would be successful, scoring the sayonara run one inning later.

Probably the best representative would be Asahikawa Kougyou, winning their two games 9-0 and 8-0.  But that may not be saying much...

In Sorachi, it's Komadai Iwamizawa that has taken the torch from famed Komadai Tomakomai and even reaching the 3rd round.  They have no trouble in their block and advance to the prefectual qualifiers.

Moving over to the Nayoro region, Wakkanai Ootani once again reaches the prefecturals, winning their two games by a total of 30-0.  Again though, the battle for them begins now.

Perhaps the most intriguing team in the field is last year's runner-up Engaru.  They got a bad deal being placed in the bracket with 2 good teams in Kitami Ryokuryou and Memanbetsu.  But Memanbetsu was upset in their first game by Monbetsu, and Engaru easily dispatched Kitami Ryokuryou 12-4 en route to advancing out of the block.  May this year be the year that Engaru makes it to Koushien?

Meanwhile in Tokachi, last year's representative continues to chug along.  They have no trouble in their two games easily making the prefecturals.

And finally in Kushine, another above average team Bushuukan has no trouble in their block, scoring double digits in each of their 3 games to advance.

In the draw, Shirakaba Gakuen and Engaru wound up on different sides of the bracket.  So we could very well see a rematch in the final.

That is of course if Shirakaba Gakuen makes it there in the first place.  You see, they drew Bushuukan in the first round.  Should they win that, a game with Komadai Iwamizawa is probably looming.  And while perhaps not as strong, they could still face Asahikawa Kougyou in the semis.  All that before facing Engaru!

What that means is that Engaru has probably one of the easiest roads to the finals.  It's possible Wakkanai Ootani might stop them, but I think they'll have to trouble at all.  But should they lose, whichever team survives the other bracket (as long as it's one of the main players), should advance.

Minami Hokkaido
If Kita Hokkaido's prefectural bracket was wacky, Minami Hokkaido's was just as bad.

First off, in the Sapporo regionals, Hokkai, Sapporo Nichidai, Toukai Dai-yon, and Sapporo Dai-ichi dismissed their opposition.

Onto Muroran and the aforementioned Komadai Tomakomai.  Despite two blowouts, they couldn't advance out of the block, losing 2-1 to Tomakomai Higashi.  It was a great 3 year run, but they're now relegated back to the realm of the forgotten.

A quick stop north puts us back in Otaru where seasoned Hokushou resides.  No troubles here advancing to the prefectural bracket.  Joining them, as usual, is Otaru Suisan.

And finally, on the last stop to the main island, my rooting interest Hakodatedai Yuuto is still alive.  Just...

You see, in the final against Hakodate LaSalle, they trailed 3-0.  Then they scored 2 in the 8th and 1 in the 9th as ace Shimizu couldn't close the door.  This time though, Yuuto completed the comeback, winning in sayonara fashion 4-3 in 12.

So the draw came out, and wouldn't you know it, it was almost completely lopsided.  You see, Hokushou, Sapporo Dai-ichi, Hokkai, Hakodatedai Yuuto (and to a lesser extent Toukai Dai-yon) all wound up on the same side of the bracket.  Not only that, but all 4 were in different matchups (Toukai drawing Yuuto).  That means after one easy game (except for Yuuto), it will be a bloodbath.

The one contender avoiding the massacre is Sapporo Nichidai.  They should have a clear path to the final, but they'll be in for the fight of their lives no matter what when they get there...

Okinawa was the first prefecture to start play, and why not considering the great weather they get (in reality I think it's because schools are separated by a good margin thanks to the islands).

Anyways, seeded teams this year were given to Okinawa Shougaku, Okinawa Suisan, Kounan and Urasoe Kougyou.  Last year's representative Itoman drew itself into the other part of Okinawa Suisan's bracket and has advanced into the round of 16 with wins over Tomoshiro Minami and Naha Kokusai.

The same however cannot be said for 3 of the 4 aforementioned seeded teams.  Okinawa Suisan were shocked by unknown Hokuzan, getting shutout 5-0!  Kounan couldn't stop the bleeding.  Facing a strong opponent in Urasoe Shougyou, they trailed 4-0 with just two innings left to go.  They then mounted a furious comeback, rallying with 3 in the 8th and 1 in the 9th to tie the game. But ace Hanasiro couldn't hold the tie as Urashou sent Kounan home 5-4.  And finally Urasoe Kougyou fell 3-1 to Maehara.

That means that Okinawa Shougaku remains as the last seeded team, though they seem poised to reach at least the semifinals at least with weak opponents remaining.  They may however face Itoman in that semifinal.

On the other half, Urashou should reach the quarterfinals where a familiar opponent in Kadena may await.  However, they have not impressed so far, and may prove little defense should they make it against Urashou.  In fact, Urashou may have a clear path to the finals as Maehara doesn't appear to be strong despite defeating Urakou.  Perhaps Chinen could provide a challenge in the semis should they make it, but they seem inconsistent at best.

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