Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall Taikai Quick Recap (Hokkaido-Hokushinetsu)

Hokkaido (1 Team)
  • Hokushou - Otaru-shi, Hokkaido - 2nd consecutive, 5th overall)
So it's no surprise that one of the top-tier teams in Hokkaido won the Fall Taikai and an automatic invitation to Senbatsu.  What is surprising is some of the teams that advanced deep into the tournament.

First of all is a school that had faded into the background in recent years - Komadai Tomakomai.  They actually faced little opposition until the semifinals when they squared off against Hokkai.  Down 4-1, they rallied for 7 unanswered to win 8-4.  It was much the same against Hokushou rallying from down 4-0 to tie the game, but 3 runs late were too much for Komadai to overcome.

Still, it's nice to see them back in prominence.

Another surprise was the 4th semifinalist.  It was Engaru - who seemed to have lost out on their chance to advance last summer.  They had no problems in the Kitami regionals, but rallied in all their games to defeat Takigawa Nishi and Furano before falling to Hokushou.

Tohoku (2 teams)
  • Champion - Sendai Ikuei - Sendai-shi, Miyagi
  • Runner-up - Seikou Gakuin - Koori-machi, Fukushima
  • Other consideration - Moriokadai Fuzoku - Morioka-shi, Iwate
So, as you can see, we will not have our first ever chance of a school going to 4 straight calendar Koushien finals (sorry, that was a bit of a mouthful).  Kousei Gakuin did advance out of their prefecturals, though just - losing 6-5 to Aomori Yamada in the semifinals, then defeating Hirosaki Higashi 7-3 in the 3rd place game.

But in the Tohoku Super-Regionals, they fell in the quarterfinals to Sakata Minami 14-7, ruling out any chance of them being invited for the spring.

The field for the Tohoku Super-Regionals seemed rather weak, and by weak I mean littered with unfamiliar teams:

Aomori - Aomori Yamada, Aomori Kita, Kousei Gakuin
Akita - Noshiro, Nishime, Oodate Kougyou
Iwate - Moriokadai Fuzoku, Mizusawa, Ichinoseki Dai-ichi
Yamagata - Sakata Minami, Yamagata Chuo, Yonezawa Chuo
Miyagi - Sendai Ikuei, Tohoku, Ishinomaki Shougyou
Fukushima - Seikou Gakuin, Shirakawa, Kounan

That is a lot of new teams.  For Akita, it speaks to how weak the prefecture really is.  In Fukushima, it's not surprising that Seikou Gakuin continues to dominate the region - the tsunami and exodus probably has cemented them as the top team in the prefecture for years to come.

In the Super-Regional though, they were involved in close games throughout, first against Oodate Kougyou (2-0), then against Yamagata Chuo (4-2), and then Moriokadai Fuzoku (5-4).

While Seikou Gakuin has represented Fukushima at Koushien for what seems like forever, that 5-4 game against Moriokadai Fuzoku may give the selection committee pause.

That's because they played close against Seikou Gakuin and defeated Tohoku in the first round 4-2.  However, they barely beat Mizusawa for the prefectural title 3-1, and before that survived a 4-3 game against oft-spurned Ichinoseki Gakuin in the semifinals.

Sendai Ikuei won without much trouble, though they almost lost to Ishinomaki Shougyou in the semifinals, then struggled against Aomori Yamada but advanced 5-3 in the quarterfinals.

Kanto ex Tokyo (4 teams plus floating bid w/Tokyo) - Super-Regional starts 10/27
Since the Super-Regional hasn't started yet, we can at least cover who has advanced out of each prefecture:

Maebashi Ikuei dominated the Gunma prefecturals, never giving up more than 1 run except for their 2nd round game against Tatebayashi - where they gave up 2.

The 2nd team to qualify is no surprise either - Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi.  They almost certainly ran rings around the early competition, but the scoring slowed down as they advanced, defeating Kiryuu Dai-ichi 3-1 in the semis before being shutout 2-0 in the finals.

With Gunma hosting the Super-Regional, they get an extra bid.  So Kiryuu Dai-ichi and unknown Oota Kougyou battled for the final spot.  Sadly for Oota Kougyou, they couldn't advance, losing by the same 2-0 score.

  • Champion - Sano Nichidai - 4th title, 1st in 2 years, 7th overall appearance
  • Runner-up - Utsunomiya Shougyou - 9th appearance, 1st in 34 years(!)
In Tochigi, Sano Nichidai and Utsunomiya Shougyou breezed through most of the bracket.  Utsunomiya Shougyou was only challenged prior in the semis against Mooka, but still led wire-to-wire and scored 4 in the 9th to win 8-3.  Sano Nichidai on the other hand spotted Seiran Taitou 6 runs in the top of the first, then proceeded to get 5 of them back in the next 2 innings, then 4 more in the 4th.  That would be all the scoring in the game to win 9-6 as they used a patchwork of 4 pitchers to survive to the finals.

In those finals, Utsunomiya Shougyou and Sano Nichidai were neck and neck the entire game.  Utsunomiya Shougyou led 3-2 going into the bottom of the 9th, but Sano Nichidai would find a way to rally for 2 and win 4-3.

  • Champion - Jyousou Gakuin
  • Runner-up - Kasumigaura
Jyousou Gakuin was not challenged at all in the Ibaraki prefectural, only briefly scared by Moriya in the 2nd round as they scored 4 in the 6th inning to pull within 1. 2 runs in the 7th though for Jyousou gave then breathing room.  Kasumigaura was much the same, save for their quarterfinal game where they barely made a 3-0 lead stick, winning 3-2 over Hitachi Dai-ichi.

The final was no contest as Jyousou Gakuin routed Kasumigaura 7-0.

  • Champion - Hanasaki Tokuharu (3rd title, 1st in 4 years)
  • Runner-up - Urawa Gakuin
Hanasaki Tokuharu also didn't have much issues en route to their title, with the exception of the semifinal game against Kawagoe Higashi.  They led wire-to-wire, but nursed a 3-1 lead for the final 6 innings to advance to the finals.

Urawa Gakuin's road was not as smooth.  In the quarterfinals, they had to win in sayonara style 7-6 over Ageo, then needed 3 in the 8th in the semifinals to defeat Seibou Gakuen 4-1.  And while they advance to the Super-Regionals, an 8-2 thud in the finals does not bode well.  Also, my beloved Kasukabe Kyouei lost 2-1 in the quarterfinals to Kawagoe Higashi.  Boo.

  • Champion - Narashino - 7th title, 1st in 4 years
  • Runner-up - Choushou Shougyou
Hooray!  Narashino advances to the Super-Regional!  But it took a herculean effort to secure the top seed as they went 12 innings against Choushou Shougyou to win 1-0 in sayonara fashion.  Furthermore, despite 21 combined hits, there was only one extra base hit by 3B Matsushima for Narashino (a double in the 12th).  That is a pitcher's duel to be sure.

But Narashino almost didn't even get out of their first game in the 2nd round against Kemigawa.  Down 1-0, they managed to score 2 in the 7th for the win.  So it was smooth sailing book-ended by very tough games.  Choushou Shougyou, despite their status as a top tier team in Chiba, did not fare as well through the bracket.  They too struggled in their 2nd round game, defeating Sawara by the same 2-1 score, then in the quarterfinals shutting out Chiba Eiwa but only by the score of 2-0, and in the semis 3-1 against Senshuudai Matsudo.

  • Champion - Toukaidai Sagami (4th consecutive appearance!)
  • Runner-up - Yokohama Hayato
WHAT??!!  Where is Toukou Gakuen and ace Saitou??... what you might be asking.  Well, that's why perhaps you saw that outpouring of emotion when they finally lost.  Even with a great pitcher, a great team - in a prefecture as large as Kanagawa, it is a tough road to the title.

And for Toukou Gakuen, it ended in the quarterfinals as their offense could only manage just 3 hits against Hiratsuka Gakuen as they fell 2-1.

So the one man that set last year's Koushien on fire will not be present at all this spring.

However, it's not to say that Toukou Gakuen got unlucky.  Hiratsuka Gakuen was a seeded team and actually built a good body of work.  Prior to defeating Toukou Gakuen, they had defeated Yokohama 4-3.

And in the semifinals they held a tenuous 1-0 lead over Yokohama Hayato.  But in the final 2 innings, the teams combined for 7 runs, 2 of which were in the bottom of the 9th by Hiratsuka Gakuen to extend the game.  It would be 2 innings later where Yokohama Hayato would pull away to win 6-4.

Oddly, Yokohama Hayato and fellow quarterfinalist Yokohama Shoudai Fuzoku had the easier of the roads.  Their only speed bump was their 3rd round game against Nichidai Fujisawa where they trailed 2-1 before scoring 3 late to advance.

They couldn't however summit the mountain this fall as Toukaidai Sagami wins their 2nd fall title in 4 years.  A 5-run second inning was just too much for Yokohama Hayato to overcome.

Toukaidai Sagami though earned the victory as they had to go through Keio Gijyuku, Tachibana Gakuen (橘学苑) and Touin Gakuen before the finals.

  • Champion - Hikawa - 5th title, 1st in 36 years
  • Runner-up - Toukaidai Koufu
Finally there's Yamanashi.  Toukaidai Koufu stays alive in their quest to return to Koushien.  While their road to the Super-Regionals started off easy, it started getting rough in the quarterfinals.  First, they held onto a slim 4-2 lead to defeat Fuji Gakuen.  Next, they gave up a 1-run lead late against Teikyou Dai-san before bidding them sayonara in 11.

But it was in the finals against Hikawa (who were not challenged all tournament), that really tested them.  Hikawa pressed the initiative early, and never trailed.  But Toukaidai Koufu managed to tie it in the 7th at 5 all and force it into extras.  But again, Hikawa with a run in the 12th threatened to end it, only to give it up in the bottom half.  Hikawa tried again with 3 runs in the 13th, and almost gave up that lead as well.  However, they somehow held on for the 9-8 win and hopefully a favorable pairing in the Super-Regional.

Teams will have plenty of time to rest before the Super-Regional which starts on the 27th.

Tokyo (1 bid, plus 1 possible floating)
Tokyo has just started their prefecturals after finishing block play.  Many familiar teams are present such as Hino, Teikyou, Kokugakuin Kugayama, Kanto Dai-ichi and Nichidai Tsurugaoka (who played each other),  the strange Seiritsu Gakuen, Kousei Gakuen, Kokushikan, Oberlin, Toukaidai Sugao, Shuutoku, Toua Gakuen, Nichidai-san and Iwakura.

So far, Nichidai Tsurugaoka defeated Kanto Dai-ichi 5-3, Kousei Gakuen survived Fujimori 5-4, while Seiritsu Gakuen lost to Toritsu Sougou Kouka in a slow 2:13.

St. Paulo Gakuen and Oberlin had good showings early, but it is yet to be seen if it means anything.  Toua Gakuen pinged Shouwa Dai-ichi Gakuen for 1 run in 3 straight innings for a 4-1 win.  Shuutoku seemed to have it in the bag against Hachiouji leading 2-0 going to the top of the 9th, but they couldn't hold the lead, giving up 4 runs and falling right off the bat.

Kokugakuin Kugayama had no trouble in their first games.  Hino did one better, upsetting Teikyou 4-2 in 10 innings - this after letting them tie the game in the bottom of the 9th.  Same goes for Kokushikan.

Sanko certainly showed they're ready early, defeating Ueno Gakuen 7-0 in 8 innings.

Still a lot of baseball to be played.

Hokushinetsu (2 bids)
With Niigata hosting the Super-Regional this time around, Niigata gets the benefit of 4 bids.  That means all you have to do is reach the semifinals, and you're in.

But oddly enough, the prefecture went as expected as all seeded teams advanced to the Best 8.  The two favorites, Niigata Meikun and Nihon Bunri, were placed on the same side of the bracket and wound up facing each other in the semifinals.  Before that, Nihon Bunri had struggled only against Teikyou Nagaoka, winning 4-1 by pulling away in the 2nd half of the game.  Niigata Meikun though struggled throughout.  In their first game in the 2nd round, he gave up 2 2-run leads before winning in the bottom of the 9th.  Next was a barnburner against Bunsui, eventually winning 10-7.  They couldn't get any offense against Murakami Sakuragaoka until late advancing by just a score of 3-1.  And finally, the offensive woes continued against Hokuetsu, but fortunately, ace Murayama pitched a shutout.

It finally caught up to them against Nihon Bunri as they fell behind 5-0 in the first.  Well, that's what it seemed anyways.  A 5-run inning of their own in the 6th gave them a 7-6 lead.  That was short-lived though as they promptly gave up 3 runs and eventually fell 11-7.

With the hard part out of the way, Nihon Bunri defeated Niigata Kenou Kougyou 9-1 for their 17th fall title and 2nd consecutive.

And in the 3rd place game, Niigata Meikun's struggles continue, giving up 7 runs in 2 innings to fall to Gosen 7-5.  All teams advance though, so Niigata Meikun is still safe.. and perhaps in a better position??

  • Champion - Toyama Dai-ichi - 4th title, 1st in 9 years (12th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
  • Runner-up - Takaoka Shougyou - 46th appearance, 1st in 3 years
  • 3rd Place - Shin-Minato - 18th appearance, 1st in 4 years
In Toyama, preliminary block play did not eliminate teams, but determined seeding for the bracket. 7 teams along with Natsu Koushien representative Toyama Kougyou received automatic 1st round byes (or rather, were placed in a part of the bracket that did not have a 1st round game - there are 46 teams in all, split into 7 brackets of 6 where the seeded team is paired against one other team in the 2nd round while the remaining 4 have to play 2 games to get to the same point, and one bracket of 4).
All 8 seeded teams, with the exception of Fujikoshi Kougyou, advanced to the quarterfinals (they lost 8-7 in 12 innings to Tonami Kougyou - certainly no slouch in the prefecture).  Tonami Kougyou continued their run by defeating Nanto Sougou Fukuno in a rout 13-3 in 6 innings.

Toyama Kougyou meanwhile wouldn't be able to follow up on their success in the summer as they fell to Toyama Dai-ichi 6-2.  Toyama Dai-ichi would end Tonami Kougyou's bid for the title with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 8th to advance 2-1.

On the other side, Shin-Minato had another charmed run as they survived several close games to reach the semifinals.  But they'd have to fight for the 3rd bid after losing 7-3 to Takaoka Shougyou.  Fortunately, they would find a way to prevail 3-2 in 10 innings vs. Tonami Kougyou.  And in the final, Toyama Dai-ichi used a 3-run first to hold on for a 4-3 win.

  • Champion - Saku Chousei - 13th title, 2nd consecutive (25th appearance)
  • Runner-up - Ueda Nishi - 13th appearance, 1st in 2 years
  • 3rd Place - Matsushou Gakuen - 48th appearance, 1st in 2 years
It's actually amazing how the more I delve into the prefectural federation webpages that I find new things.
For instance, in Nagano, there is regional play that determines the field for the prefecturals.  But before the regionals - during Koushien, each region has it's own qualifier to determine the seeded teams in each region!  So you can win up to 3 games in the qualifier to play one less game in the actual regionals to advance into the prefectural?!  How worth it is that?

So to the regionals where 6 teams advance from each.  In the Hokushin Region, only Nagano Nichidai appeared to separate themselves from the field, but even then it was tempered with a 2-1 win over Iiyama Kita.  In the Nanshin Region, Suwa Seiryou won back-to-back 3-2 games to win the region, while doesn't speak well for the region as a whole.  The Toushin Region probably has more good schools within it than any other region.  Chikyuu Kankyou still has some remnants from their senbatsu squad from last year, but were annihilated by Saku Chousei in the semis 10-2 in 7 innings.  They in turn were soundly defeated in the regional final 6-1 by Ueda NishiUeda Chikuma, who generally does well in the region, advanced to the semis as well before losing to the aforementioned Ueda Nishi.  And Maruko Shuugakukan snuck in with a win in the 5/6 set of games vs Komoro.  Finally, the Chuushin Region saw Matsushou Gakuen gaining momentum throughout the bracket, easily winning it all by the end.  Only other notable team was Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri who lost to Matsushou in the semifinals.

To the prefecturals where with 24 teams, the top finalists from each region got an opening round bye, meaning that they only needed one game to reach the quarterfinals.  All but two of those teams advanced - the two losing being the #2 seeds from Hokushin and Chuushin regions.

By the semifinals it was clear that the top 2 teams in the prefecture were from the Toushin Region.  Ueda Nishi and Saku Chousei would once again meet in the prefectural finals, this time to try and receive a favorable spot in the Super-Regional.  And much like a rematch, the finals ended with a 1-0 victory for Saku Chousei.  In the crucial consolation game, Nagano Nichidai couldn't get up for the game against Matsushou Gakuen and fell 5-1.

  • Champion - Seiryou - 27th appearance, 1st in 3 years
  • Runner-up - Kanazawa Gakuin Higashi - 3rd appearance, 2nd consecutive
  • 3rd Place - Yuugakukan - 9th appearance, 1st in 2 years
Ishikawa's bracket was unfortunate for the prefecture as teams were blocked together.  Yuugakukan and Kanazawa were in the same quadrant, which was in the same half as resurgent Seiryou.  That meant that all 3 teams wouldn't advance out of the prefecture.  It also meant that one entire half was open for all.

My friend's JET school, Komatsu Meihou did well last year, but this time around was routed 10-1 in 7 innings versus Komatsu in the 2nd round.

As for the main participants, the all important matchup between Yuugakukan and Kanazawa was handily won by Yuugakukan 8-2, so it was readily assumed that they and Seiryou would advance.

Seiryou though almost didn't get past their first game.  In their 2nd round matchup against Rokusei they couldn't gain any separation throughout the game, and in fact lost the lead when Rokusei scored 3 in the 7th.  But a 3-spot of their own in their half of the lucky 7 put them back out in front, and Murayama blasted a solo HR in the 8th to finally win 7-6.

In that semifinal, Seiryou never led until the bottom of the 9th when they scored 2 for the sayonara 4-3 victory over Yuugakukan.

The final was a formality as Seiyou blanked Kanazawa Gakuin Higashi 9-4 to secure the victory.  Yuugakukan's victory in the consolation game was also a formality as they won 7-0 in 7 innings over Daishouji.

The draw for the Fukui prefectural placed both Tsuruga Kehi and Fukui Shougyou in the same half.  That left Fukui Koudai Fukui as the only real notable name on the other half.  But they lost to Keishin in the quarterfinals, who in turn lost to Harue Kougyou 1-0 thus securing them their 1st ever Super-Regional appearance.

Tsuruga Kehi and Fukui Shougyou faced off in the other semi and in another 1-0 score, Tsuruga Kehi advanced.  The final was one more formality as they won 15-2 to secure their 18th title.  As for the 3rd place game, Keishin and Fukui Shougyou traded a run in the 7th, and went into enchousen with that 1-1 score.  Fukui Shougyou would end it one inning later in sayonara fashion.

The draw for the Super-Regional is out, and it's as follows:
  • Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama 2) vs. Yuugakukan (Ishikawa 3)
  • Gosen (Niigata 3) vs. Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui 1)
  • Shin-Minato (Toyama 3) vs. Seiryou (Ishikawa 1)
  • Ueda Nishi (Nagano 2) vs. Niigata Kenou Kougyou (Niigata 2)
  • Nihon Bunri (Niigata 1) vs. Matsushou Gakuen (Nagano 3)
  • Kanazawa Gakuin Higashi (Ishikawa 2) vs. Harue Kougyou (Fukui 2)
  • Saku Chousei (Nagano 1) vs. Fukui Shougyou (Fukui 3)
  • Niigata Meikun (Niigata 4) vs. Toyama Dai-ichi (Toyama 1)
This is odd, and perhaps planned.  Niigata Meikun, after losing to Nihon Bunri, didn't appear to try as hard for the win against Gosen and lost 7-5.

With no pressure to win the 3rd place game, I wonder if this was a gamble by Niigata Meikun.  I don't know if there is more of a methodology to the draw, but if in fact the 4 seed of the host prefecture faces the "weakest" #1 seed, then punting the 3rd place game may be a good thing as they now host Toyama Dai-ichi.

And better yet, with Nihon Bunri winning the Niigata prefectural, it can setup a rematch of the Niigata semifinal in the Super-Regional semifinal!  That is, as long as no one else has a say about it.

Elsewhere, Shin-Minato and their traveling masses are set to make their bid to return to Koushien.  However, it is running into a buzzsaw in Seiryou.  Good luck to you.

I have a soft spot for Ueda Nishi, and they may have a chance against Niigata Kenou Kougyou, but next up would be the winner of the aforementioned matchup.  Oy.

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