Friday, November 9, 2012

Fall Taikai Update - Super-Regional Completion

All Super-Regionals are now complete, and there are a couple of surprises mixed in with some of the usual suspects:

Tokyo (1 bid + 1 floating with Kanto)
  • Champion - Yasuda Gakuen - Sumida-ku (First title!)
  • Floating Bid - Waseda Jitsugyou
 As expected, the Yasuda Gakuen-Nittai Ebara game was an all-out war.

Nittai Ebara fired the opening salvo in the bottom of the 1st as Tomosato hit a 2-run HR to left.  Back-to-back RBI hits by the battery of Kasahara and Minami no less made it a 4-1 game.  And then ace Kasahara in his next AB would hit a home run of his own making it 5-1!

But after back-to-back walks by Kasahara, Motohashi-kantoku would replace him with Furukawa.  Much to his dismay, Furukawa would hit cleanup batter Takami Shunsuke (深見 俊介) and then give an oshidashi walk to Koyama Shinjirou (小山 新次郎).  He'd get out of the inning, but not after yielding another run to make it 5-3.

Things only got worse for Nittai Ebara as the pitching fell apart the very next inning as Yasuda would put a 5-spot on the board taking an 8-6 lead.

Nittai Ebara would mount a rally in the bottom of the 9th.  PH Seki would walk, and Tanaka would hit a double to put the tying run in scoring position with just one down.  Minami (now pitching) would hit a sac fly to make it a 1-run game.

That brought up Tomosato, who was 4-4 on the day.  But Oogane Shintarou (大金真太郎) would finally retire him with a grounder to 2nd to end the game and give his team a chance at Senbatsu!

In the other semifinal Souka ace Uchino collapsed in the 5th inning, giving up 6 runs to Soujitsu.  Those 6 runs would wind up being the final margin as they won 11-5.

So Soujitsu would be a likely candidate for the floating bid should they lose (as long as they had a good showing), while Yasuda Gakuen would in all likelihood need to win to get in.

In the 2nd inning of the final, Yasuda gets the benefit of good luck.  Takami would reach 2nd on an error by Soujitsu's LF Suzuki.  After a bunt and walk, Motomiya Keita (本宮 佳汰) would lay down a successful safety squeeze to give them the first run.  They'd continue to press the initiative as Koyama Takuya (小山 拓哉) would try to steal 3rd.  But the throw from Toshimitsu Kensaku (利光健作) would actually hit Takuya on the helmet and deflect into left, allowing him to score making it 2-0.

Toshimitsu would get a run back with a HR in the 5th, but that would be all the scoring they could muster as Oogane would shut Soujitsu down to earn Yasuda Gakuen's first ever title!

Kanto ex Tokyo (4 bids + 1 floating with Tokyo)
  • Champion - Urawa Gakuin - Saitama-shi, Saitama (3rd consecutive title!, 4th overall)
  • Runner-Up - Hanasaki Tokuharu - Kazo-shi, Saitama
  • Semifinalist - Jyousou Gakuin - Tsuchiura-shi, Ibaraki
  • Semifinalist - Utsunomiya Shougyou - Utsunomiya-shi, Tochigi
*No other teams probable to be considered

So when the draw came out, the 4 brackets were as follows (A & B, C & D)
  • A - Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki 1) vs. Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma 2)
  • A - Sano Nichidai (Tochigi 1) vs. Toukaidai Koufu (Kofu 1)
  • B - Narashino (Chiba 1) vs. Kiryuu Dai-ichi (Gunma 3)
  • B - Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama 1) vs. Yokohama Hayato (Kanagawa 2)
  • C - Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa 1) vs. Kasumigaura (Ibaraki 2)
  • C - Hikawa (Yamanashi 1) vs. Utsunomiya Shougyou (Tochigi 2)
  • D - Urawa Gakuin (Saitama 2) vs. Choushi Shougyou (Chiba 2)
  • D - Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma 1) - Bye
Right off the bat there were a couple of surprises.  Kendai had a relative poor showing against Jyousou Gakuin, losing 5-2.  Yokohama Hayato stumbled out of the blocks immediately going down 6-0.  They'd rally, but lose 7-5.

The biggest upset was in block C where Kasumigaura (while not a slouch by any means) never trailed and defeated Toukaidai Sagami 5-3!

The quarterfinals went more scratch.  Narashino, who barely got by Kiryuu Dai-ichi, suffered the same problems Yokohama Hayato faced, but were unable to rally at all, getting mercy ruled 12-0 in 6 innings! (awww....)

Sano Nichidai, down 5-0 to Jyousou Gakuin gets all of the runs back in the lucky 7 to send the game into enchousen.  However, outside of that one inning outburst, they couldn't muster any other offense and lost 6-5 in 12.  Kasumigaura tried to continue their cinderella run as it were, but after taking the 4-2 lead in the bottom of the 6th, relinquished it right back in the lucky 7 to Utusunomiya Shougyou, losing 5-4.

The games (final score-wise) were much closer, but were not competitive.  Both Saitama schools advanced wire-to-wire, setting up a rematch of the prefectural final.  In that final, a 4-run first gave Hanasaki Tokuharu all the cushion it needed.

This time around they did not get such a cushion, but did lead 2-0 going into the latter innings.  But without the cushion, Urawa Gakuin's rally allowed them to tie the game in the 8th and send it into enchousen.  One inning later, Urawa's SS Kigure Naito (木暮騎士) would hit a 2-out double to put runners at 2nd and 3rd.  After an intentional walk, C Nishikawa Genki (西川元気) would deliver the sayonara hit to give Urawa Gakuin their 3rd straight Kanto Fall title!!

With 4 bids, it seems apparent that the Best 4 participants will get the bids.  Kasumigaura, the strongest team of the quarterfinalists will probably not get in because (a) the team they would replace would probably be Utsunomiya Shougyou who defeated them and (b) even if they wanted to make Kasumigaura the 4th team that would put 2 teams from Saitama and from Ibaraki into Senbatsu, which is highly doubtful.

And with Soujitsu losing in the finals to Yasuda Gakuen, the committee will certainly pick them as the floating bid.  Had they won, the floating bid may have come back to Kanto.

As it stands, for Kasumigaura to get to Koushien, Yasuda Gakuen or Urawa Gakuin have to win the Meiji Jingu Fall Tournament (If Yasuda Gakuen wins, Soujitsu earns the Meiji Jingu bid and the floating bid shifts back to Kanto.  If Urawa Gakuin wins, Kasumigaura earns the Meiji Jingu bid outright).  But as you will see later, that will be difficult.

Tokai (3 bids)
  • Champion - Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou - Gifu-shi, Gifu (4th title, 1st in 51 years)
  • Runner-up - Komono - Komono-machi, Mie
  • 3rd Bid - Tokoha Kikugawa - Kikugawa-shi, Shizuoka
The issue of the all-Gifu Shougyou final was averted in the first game when Komono placed an 8-spot in the 4th to mercy-rule Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou 10-2 in 7 innings.

And in fact, there was a possibility that neither team would make it as Tokoha Kikugawa had tied the game at 1 in the 8th.  Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou though would guarantee that at least one team would make it, making a Tokoha-style finish in the bottom of the 9th to win 2-1.

Komono had done well to make it to the finals, but were boat-raced by Kengifushou falling quickly behind 6-0 and losing 9-3.

This normally would put Komono in a bad situation.  As the runner-up, they are first in line to receive the 2nd bid.  However, the poor showing would have given the selection committee pause.  But with 3 teams advancing, they should be safe.

Kinki (6 bids)
  • Champion - Kyoto Shouei - Uji-shi, Kyoto (First title!)
  • Runner-up - Houtoku Gakuen - Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo
  • Semi-finalist -Ryuukokudai Heian - Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
  • Semi-finalist - Osaka Touin - Daitou-shi, Osaka
  • 5/6 selection - Riseisha - Toyonaka-shi, Osaka
  • 5/6 selection - Yamato Kouryou - Kouryou-machi, Kita-katsuragi-gun, Nara
  • Other considerations - Tenri - Tenri-shi, Nara
So Tenri and Osaka Touin finished up the 1st round with wins, though Tenri only defeated Kouyasan 2-0.  That was foretelling of the upcoming matchup between the two, won handily by Osaka Touin 8-1 in 7 innings.

In other games, Yamato Kouryou played Ryuukokudai Heian close, but couldn't get a run on the board losing 2-0.  Osaka Shoudai Sakai lasted only 5 innings against Houtoku Gakuen losing 13-0.  And finally, Riseisha was fighting for their lives against surging Kyoto Shouei down 1-0 late before tying the game in the 8th.  The game would go into enchousen when reliever Sakamoto would finally fail, giving Kyoto Shouei the 3-1 win in 12!

That setup an all-Kyoto final on one side, and a powerhouse matchup on the other.

Kyoto Shouei and Ryuukokudai Heian were up first.  Kyoto Shouei didn't have to face Heian in the prefecturals as Heian was paired with Fukuchiyama Seibi.  Early on, the teams traded runs with Kyoto Shouei emerging with a 3-2 lead.  It stayed that way until the 7th where Heian would get to Enomoto (who came in in relief) for a pair of runs to lead 4-3.  However, their reliever Minami fell apart in the next half-inning.  He hit back-to-back batters sending in a run, and then ace Enomoto would redeem himself, blasting a manrui home run to blow the game wide open.

Kyoto Shouei seemed to be in full control up 9-4, but Enomoto seemed to be out of sorts coming in relief.  He struggled with his control as Heian came back to within 1 with a 4-run 8th!  He'd somehow get in together just in time, closing the game out in the 9th to win 9-8!

In the other semi, it was a shocker in that Osaka Touin was not competitive at all against Houtoku Gakuen.  In fact they were blanked 8-0 in 7 innings!

So Houtoku Gakuen and ace Inui Youhei (乾 陽平) were the final obstacle in Kyoto Shouei and Enomoto Kazuki (榎本 和輝) bid for their first ever fall title.

There were opportunities for both teams throughout the game as Inui yielded base hits almost every inning, while Enomoto's control issues persisted as he issued free passes.  Yet the score was at 1-1 after regulation.  Eventually it would become a matter of who would make the first mistake.

And that finally was made by Inui as he yielded 2 runs in the 13th.  They still had the bottom half of the inning, and Enomoto was approaching his limit too.  He would give up one run, but again found a way to shut the door, win 3-2, and claim Kyoto Shouei's first title!!

Looking at the field for the selection of the half-dozen bids, it almost winds up being as listed above by default.  Kyoto Shouei is definitely in, as well as Houtoku Gakuen.  While Heian is in the same prefecture as Kyoto Shouei, they didn't play each other in the prefecturals and held their own in the semifinals - so they're in.  Those are the definites.

Osaka Touin was uncharacteristically blown out by Houtoku Gakuen.  And their wins prior against Kousen and Tenri do not inspire confidence.

But then you look down at the quarterfinalists.  Tenri was blown out by Osaka Touin.  Daishoudai Sakai too was annihilated.  That leaves Riseisha who played Kyoto Shouei close as well and should get in, and Yamato Kouryou who had a nondescript win over Shiga Gakuen before being shutout 2-0 to Heian.

So Osaka Touin now appears safe, as does Riseisha.  The question becomes the last bid.

And that boils down to Yamato Kouryou and Tenri.

Tenri in name had the harder opponent in Osaka Touin, but Heian can easily be considered a quality opponent for Yamato Kouryou.

If the committee wants to go by name, then Tenri will go.  But I think if they go by play, it may fall to Yamato Kouryou.

Chuugoku (3 bids)
  • Champion - Kanzei - Okayama-shi, Okayama (6th title, 1st in 2 years)
  • Runner-up - Kouryou - Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima
  • 3rd Bid - Iwakuni Shougyou - Iwakuni-shi, Yamaguchi
With 5 prefectures and 4 quadrants, the bracket breaks out such that the 1 & 3 seeds of each prefecture wind up in the same quadrant.  For 2 prefectures, they inhabit one quadrant:
  • A - Hamada (Shimane 2) vs. Ube Kougyou (Yamaguchi 4)
  • A - Iwakuni Shougyou (Yamaguchi 1) vs. Tamashima Shougyou (Okayama 2)
  • B - Soutoku (Hiroshima 1) vs. Tottori Jyouhoku (Tottori 3)
  • B - Yonago Kita (Tottori 1) vs. Kouryou (Hiroshima 3)
  • C - Kanzei (Okayama 1) vs. Jyosuikan (Hiroshima 2)
  • C - Yonago Shouin (Tottori 2) vs. Kurashiki Shougyou (Okayama 3)
  • D - Hayatomo (Yamaguchi 2) vs. Shimane Chuo (Shimane 3)
  • D - Masuda Shouyou (Shimane 1) vs. Iwakuni (Yamaguchi 3)
The side-effect is that prefectures can be shutout after the first round.

It turns out that not just one, but two prefectures would be eliminated!

So, all else being equal, who has the advantage?

Well, the home team.  And that happens to be Yamaguchi-ken.

In fact, all 4 entrants advanced into the second round.  Iwakuni Shougyou, Iwakuni and Ube Koujyou all won via the shutout.  Hayatomo was able to advance, but only after striking back for a pair of runs right after they gave up the lead in the 7th.

With that alone, Shimane was wiped off the board.  Who would be the other prefecture?

In B quadrant, Tottori Jyouhoku started off well against Soutoku, but fell apart in the 2nd half of the game, losing 8-4.  Yonago Kita went just 7 innings before they waved the white flag, losing 9-1.

That left 2nd place Yonago Shouin as the last representative.  But against Kurashiki Shougyou, that was a tough task.  They kept it close, even in fact tying the game at 1-1 in the top of the 5th.  Kurashou struck back with 2 in their part of the frame and held on to the 3-1 win.

A valiant effort, but both Japan Sea prefectures were eliminated.

And what appeared to be a blockbuster matchup in the first round wound up being anything but.  Jyousuikan would give up after 7 innings, losing to Kanzei 10-0!

This created a bizarre quarterfinal setup:
  • A - Ube Kougyou (Yamaguchi 4) vs. Iwakuni Shougyou (Yamaguchi 1)
  • B - Soutoku (Hiroshima 1) vs. Kouryou (Hiroshima 3)
  • C - Kanzei (Okayama 1) Kurashiki Shougyou (Okayama 3)
  • D - Hayatomo (Yamaguchi 2) vs. Iwakuni (Yamaguchi 3)
Yes, that's right, all 4 quarterfinals were intraprefectural matchups!  Interestingly though, only the Okayama matchup was a rematch of a prefectural semifinal.

In the Yamaguchi matchups, Iwakuni Shougyou proved that they were the cream of the crop, as they defeated the only Best 4 team they haven't played - Ube Kougyou, in a shutout 5-0.  Iwakuni showed that their 3rd place finish was a product of just being in the wrong half of the bracket.  The struggling Hayatomo was unceremoniously upended in a 10-0 defeat in 5 innings.

Soutoku probably wasn't happy to see Kouryou in their crosshairs.  They managed to avoid them in the prefecturals, but now when it really matters... it was all Kouryou in a 7-1 win.

That leaves the rematch of Kanzei and Kurashiki Shougyou.  Kanzei wouldn't leave anything to chance, scoring 6 runs in the 3rd en route to an 8-4 win.

Another byproduct of the 1st round was that Yamaguchi pretty much guaranteed themselves a team at Senbatsu, especially since due to the 85th tournament, Chuugoku gets an extra bid.

And that would prove key this year as Iwakuni was routed 11-1 by Kanzei, and while Iwakuni Shougyou held with Kouryou, they still lost 2-0.

So we're left with Kouryou and Kanzei in the finals, two teams used to the big game.  The game was a low-scoring affair early, then blown open in the span of 2 half-innings where Kouryou scored 3 in the 6th to lead 4-2, only to give up 5 in the lucky 7 to trail 7-4.  They'd win 8-5 to take the title.

And on the basis of the semifinal matchups, expect Iwakuni Shougyou to receive the 3rd bid.

Shikoku (3 bids)
  • Champion - Kochi - Kochi-shi, Kochi (6th title, 1st in 6 years)
  • Runner-up - Naruto - Naruto-shi, Tokushima
  • 3rd Bid -  Saibi - Matsuyama-shi, Ehime
Shikoku's draw looked like this:
  • Kochi (Kochi 1) vs. Imabari Kougyou (Ehime 2)-Marugame (Kagawa 3) winner
  • Eimei (Kagawa 1) vs. Tokushima Shougyou (Tokushima 2)-Tosa (Kochi 3) winner
  • Naruto (Tokushima 1) vs. Kochi Shougyou (Kochi 2)-Matsuyama Seiryou (Ehime 3) winner
  • Saibi (Ehime 1) vs. Takamatsu Shougyou (Kagawa 2)-Ikeda (Tokushima 3) winner
Oddly, only one of the 2 seed teams would advance out of the opening round.  That would be Tokushima Shougyou who finally got to Tosa in the 6th inning with a 3 spot and would win 4-1.

In the other games, Imabari Kougyou had a chance to survive as they were deadlocked 1-1 for a long time.  Marugame though would bid sayonara to the Ehime representative 2-1.   Kochi Shougyou was having a heck of a time in their game, but at 3-3 in the 7th Matsuyama Seiryou scored 6 to pull away.  Kochishou would score 3 in the 9th, but it wasn't enough.  And Ikeda finally made progress, winning 3-1.

With so many 3 seeds advancing, it would be expected that most if not all of the 1 seeds would advance.  And in fact, all did... except for the one team that faced the only #2 seed left.

Nartuo and Kochi had no problems.  Ikeda almost got to the semifinals and rallied late, but lost to Saibi 4-3.  Tokushou was in another close game.  They and Eimei were tied at 2 when Eimei scored a run in the 7th to take the lead.  But in the bottom of the 9th they get to ace Akagawa scoring 2 runs for the gyakuten sayonara victory.

Tokushou would try to extend their run against Kochi, and early on the semifinals they held a 2-run lead, even after swapping 3-run innings.  But Kochi would put up 2 runs in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings to win 11-7.  In the other semifinal, Saibi was in full control, getting 2 insurance runs in the final 2 innings to lead 4-1.  Saibi ace Anraku though didn't get the memo that he and his team needed to close out the game.  Naruto would rally for 4 runs and win 5-4.

To the final where Kochi would try to preempt the deficit by getting ahead early.  Naruto would have none of it and came back to level the score at 6 in the 6th.  Kochi though would score 2 in the 8th giving Naruto no time to stage a rally.

The extra bid will probably go to Saibi, who had Naruto dead to rights, right until the bottom of the 9th.

Kyushu (4 bids)
  • Champion - Okinawa Shougaku - Naha-shi, Okinawa (2nd title, 1st in 15 years)
  • Runner-up - Seiseikou - Chuo-ku, Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto
  • 3rd Bid - Shoushikan - Shibushi-shi, Kagoshima
  • 4th Bid - Souseikan - Isahaya-shi, Nagasaki
  • Other Consideration - Kumamoto Kougyou, Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto
 Early on, the games were rather competitive.  In the two opening round games, Kanzaki Seimei (Sage 2) were shutout by Souseikan (Nagasaki 3) 3-0.  Sasebo Jitsugyou (Nagasaki 2) lost it late against Miyazaki Nichidai (Miyazaki 3), falling 2-1.

Now all 8 top seeds would be in play, but by the end of the first round over half would go home.  But not the half you may have thought.
  • Kagoshima Jyouhou probably lacked experience and became Souseikan's 2nd shutout, losing by the slim margin of 1-0. (who by the way is looking to get an invitation this year after being snubbed).
  • Miyazaki's Nisshou Gakuen can't be faulted for losing their game, they had to play Okinawa Shougaku.  Down 4-0, they rallied late but still lost 4-2. 
  • Saga Kita reached the Super-Regionals again, but Shoushikan picked up the flag for Kagoshima and used a 5-run 5th to advance 7-3.
  • Seiseikou wanted to prove that their appearance last year wasn't just a fluke.  To that end they struck early and pulled ahead late, defeating Oita's Youshikan 6-2.
  • And Miyazaki Nichidai would pull the upset on Okinawa's Ginoza, shutting them out 5-0!
In fact, almost all top seeds struggled.  Kumamoto Kougyou scored the only run in their game, beating Isahaya 1-0.

Nagasaki Nichidai should have been dead to rights.  Enchousen, tied at 1 in the 10th, Moji Gakuen scores 4 runs and should have the game wrapped up.  Except they don't close it out!  Nagasaki Nichidai scores 4 and extends the game further!  I'd like to see what happened in that 10th inning.  It wouldn't be until the 13th inning where Nagasaki Nichidai would score the sayonara run to win 6-5!

The only non-contested game was surprisingly Kurume Shougyou vs. Meihou.  Kurushou scored 4 in the 1st inning and cruised to a 5-2 win.

The reprieve for the top seeds though wouldn't last.  All 3 remaining would lose in the quarterfinals.  Kurume Shougyou only went 7 against Souseikan losing 9-0.  Kumamoto Kougyou had to face Okinawa Shougaku, and narrowly lost 3-2 in 10 innings.  And Shoushikan used a 4-run 4th to defeat Nagasaki Nichidai 6-2.  The fourth team to advance would indeed be Seiseikou as they shutout the last Nichidai team as Miyazaki would fall 3-0.

That put Souseikan in the crosshairs of Okinawa Shougaku, while Shoushikan and Seiseikou would square off in the other semi.

And neither game was close.

In fact, both would last just 7 innings and both due to a big inning.  For Okishou, it was a 4-run 1st in an 8-1 win.  For Seiseikou, it was a 5-run 6th in an 8-0 win.

So it'd be Okinawa Shougaku and Seiseikou in the finals, and both pretty much guaranteed a spot in Senbatsu.  It would be just a matter now of who would represent Kyushu at the Meiji Jingu Tournament.

And boy was it a pitchers' duel.  Seiseikou's Ootake Koutarou (大竹 耕太郎) versus the tandem of Ura Jyun (宇良 淳) and Higa Kenichirou (比嘉 健一朗).  Okishou certainly had more opportunities throughout the game, but the game remained scoreless through 8.  But in the top of the 9th, it all unraveled for Seiseikou.  Okinawa Shougaku would put up 5 runs in the 9th and claim just their 2nd ever fall title!

Rounding out the projected 4 bids are in all probability the two semifinalists - Souseikan and Shoushikan.  Yes, they still lost badly in the semifinals, but they had shutout their competition beforehand (though the quality of the opposition can be argued).  Shoushikan defeated both Saga Kita and Nagasaki Nichidai and despite their blowout loss, should get in.

The only other team who could make a case would be Kumamoto Kougyou, who was the only team to actually play Okinawa Shougaku close.  And bad news for Souseikan, they would probably be the team on the bubble if there were other considerations.

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