Seiritsu Gakuen (Higashi Tokyo)
Seiritsu Gakuen qualified out of Higashi Tokyo in what had to be one of the toughest runs ever. Not necessarily in teams played, but the margin by which they won:
- Momijigawa - 2x-1 in 10 innings
- Kanto Dai-ichi - 6x-5 taking the lead in the 7th, losing it in the 8th, then tying and winning it.
- Hiro-o - 3-2 in 10 innings
- Nisshou Gakushadai Fuzoku - 8-6, scored 4 runs in bottom of 8th
- Iwakura - 5-1, scoreless through 5 before breaking through
- Kokushikan - Up 3-1 going to top 9th, cannot close out, recovers in bottom of 9th for sayonara win.
The team offensively batted 0.268 in the Higashi Tokyo taikai, so that will definitely be an issue, especially since they do not steal bases.
Interesting note - Sugasawa(?) Gou (菅沢剛), Seiritsu's kantoku, is an alumni of Iwakura - the team he defeated in the semifinals!
Matsusaka finally broke through after years of being above average. However, they also did not have to face any of the real strong teams until the finals where they held off Inabe Sougou Gakuen 3-2.
The key cog in Matsusaka's run was ace Takeuchi Ryou (竹内諒). He throws in the high 140's, and supposedly features a slider and curve. Kantoku Matsuba Kenji (松葉健司) doesn't have many options outside of Takeuchi, though he did start Matsue in the 2nd round game against Tsu.
The team batted 0.293, and averaged slightly less than 4 runs a game. They'll be hard-pressed to win their first round game.
Toyama Kougyou (Toyama)
Outside of a comeback 5-4 win against Fujikoshi Kougyou in the 3rd round, Toyama Kougyou ran roughshot through the field, including semifinal and final drubbings of Takaoka Shougyou and Toyama Shougyou - who combined have 31 Toyama summer titles. The smallest margin of victory outside of that same game? 7.
But, this is Toyama, they have never won a Koushien title (spring or summer) and they've never gotten past the 3rd round since 1973. Shin-Minato gave hope to the prefecture with a win against a quality Ryuukokudai Heian (who is back again this year), and man to see the fans take up not only the oen-dan, but the stands all the way to the dugout was a sight to see.
So the torch is passed to Toyama Kougyou, who makes their first ever appearance. And up until this point, they hadn't had sustained success in the prefecture, so this is a big surprise.
There's little information on their pitching staff who appears to consist of ace Kamezawa (亀沢) and reliever Murobayashi (室林). Offensively, the team batted an impressive 0.428. But again, this was in Toyama.
Ube Koujyou (Yamaguchi)
In looking at the Yamaguchi final, Ube Koujyou was facing Yamaguchi Koujyou. I'd never seen Koujyou repeated like that before, so I looked for translation. From what I can tell, it probably means "vast castle". Either that or "swan castle".
Anyways, I was actually hoping that Hayatomo would qualify out of the region, partially because outside of a 5-run inning against Chiben Gakuen, they looked really good against one of the better teams at Senbatsu.
Alas that was not to be as they ran into the eventual Ube Koujyou and couldn't get to ace Sasanaga Minori(??) (笹永弥則) . Actually, Ube Koujyou's game against Hayatomo was actually their easiest game outside of the 1st round matchup against Hagi Shoukou. All their other games were decided by 1 or 2 runs. Sasanaga pitched all games, and while CF Kanemaru was used in early stages, he was nowhere to be found in the final games.
The team as a whole batter 0.352, and scored just a shade under 6 runs a game, with very little variability. But the one statistic that completely floors me is that the team struck out 8 times in the taikai.
Yes, you heard me right - they struck out 8 times in 6 games. Better yet, they did not strike out more than twice in any game. It may be Yamaguchi prefecture, but you can't just luck into that - that is a remarkable contact rate.
I am very curious to see if that contact rate continues once they hit the hallowed grounds of Koushien.
Unlike Engaru, who almost made it to Koushien from Kita Hokkaido, Kitsuki actually did it. Kitsuki is a city with a population of just over 30,000.
It has to be said though that while Kitsuki did win their first ever Oita title, their path only included one team that had previously won a summer title, and that was in the final against Touin (they went in 1990). Looking at it that way, it has to be one of the more easier fields a team has faced.
To their credit, they did face Oita Jyouhou Kagaku and the aforementioned Touin, who both went to last fall's Kyushu Super-Regionals. So in that sense, they did beat some of the stronger teams this year. And they never failed to score at least 5 runs in any of their games.
Kitsuki uses primarily a tandem of 2 pitchers, Nagano Daisuke (永野大輔) and Shiotani Yuusuke (塩谷優祐). The team as a whole batted 0.362, but once again, I'll be curious to see what happens when they face competition out of prefecture.