Friday, January 27, 2012

84th Koushien Field

So the field has indeed been announced and it is as follows:

  • Hokushou
  • Kousei Gakuin (Aomori)
  • Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima)
  • Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate)
  • Urawa Gakuin (Saitama)
  • Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi)
  • Takasaki Kenkou Fukushi (Gunma)
  • Takasaki (Gunma)
  • Yokohama (Kanagawa) - 14th appearance, 2nd consecutive
  • Kanto Dai-ichi
  • Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui)
  • Chikyuu Kankyou (Nagano)
  • Aikoudai Meiden (Aichi)
  • Mie (Mie)
  • Chiben Gakuen (Nara)
  • Tenri (Nara)
  • Riseisha (Osaka)
  • Oumi (Shiga)
  • Osaka Touin (Osaka)
  • Toba (Kyoto)
  • Tottori Jyouhoku (Tottori)
  • Kurashiki Shougyou (Okayama)
  • Hayatomo (Yamaguchi) - 1st apperance
  • Naruto (Tokushima)
  • Kochi (Kochi)
  • Kamimura Gakuin (Kagoshima)
  • Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto)
  • Beppu Aoyama (Oita)
  • Miyazaki Nishi (Miyazaki) - 1st appearance
21st Century Bids
  • Memanbetsu (Hokkaido) - 1st appearance
  • Ishinomaki Kougyou (Miyagi) - 1st appearance
  • Sumoto (Hyogo) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 26 years

Wow.  Not what I expected.

So first of all, I was 0 for 2 on floating bids.  Yokohama, not Teikyou go the floating bid.  It could be the redemption card played by the committee to see if Yokohama can correct the debacle they had.  Or, perhaps they're expecting the debacle to happen again.  The other possibility is that no team from Chiba or Kanagawa earned a bid otherwise.  It's possible to keep interest in the surrounding area, they chose a neighboring team in Yokohama over one in Tokyo in Teikyou.

And it's not Meitoku Gijyuku, but Hayatomo who gets the bid.  Perhaps with the chalkiness of the field, they wanted to give some teams a first appearance. Or maybe they weighted that 2nd bid to Kochi more than I had thought.

(Editor's note:  After typing up my review on the Chuugoku region, I realize that Yamaguchi-ken fared better in sending representatives to Koushien, and as such their wins - especially against Yasu which I overlooked, perhaps weighed into their favor)

Souseikan getting passed over is a bit of a shame.  It's not their fault that they drew a weak bracket.  But I suppose it is their fault they were 4-hit in a 7-inning mercy game.  Combine that with Miyazaki Nishi limiting the runner-ups to 2 runs may have given them the nod.

Now as for the strength of the 21st century teams, Memanbetsu out of Hokkaido finally gets their first shot at Koushien, and gives Hokkaido a 2nd team.  They lost to Hokkai in the 2nd round of the Super-Regional 4-0, so it'll be hard to peg them for a win in the tournament unless they get an easy draw.

Ishinomaki Kougyou.  I don't know if this is a がんばれ日本! type of award given all the things that have happened to them.  They lost 8-1 to Kousei Gakuin in the Tohoku Super-Regionals, and did not have a real quality win.

Finally there's Sumoto, who was the odd team out in the Hyogo prefecutral Best 4.  They did beat Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku, but lost handily to Houtoku Gakuen and Ikuei.

One thing's for sure.  One, maybe two, of those three 21st century team will have to thank Miyazaki Nishi for receiving a bid over Souseikan and possibly Takasaki for receiving consideration.  Miyazaki Nishi was one of the finalists for the 21st century bids and if not for Souseikan's loss, they may not be going to Haru Koushien.  Takasaki was definitely more of a shoe-in for a bid than Miyazaki Nishi, and this reduced the field of possible selections from 9 to 7.

Fall Tournament and Recap and possible invitees (Meiji Jingu + Floating Bids)

In the interests of getting my projections out before the invitations are posted I am including them here before they are announced.

Meiji Jingu Tournament
With all super-regionals done, the Meiji Jingu Tournament is held to determine a champion for the fall, but more importantly determine which region will receive an important extra bid.  For those who just missed, they're rooting for their region to win.

When the draw came out, the 4 teams having to play an extra game were Tsuruga Kehi (Hokushinetsu) v. Tottori Jyouhoku (Chuugoku), and Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo) v. Aikoudai Meiden (Tokai).  While Chiben Gakuen (Kinki) and Urawa Gakuin (Kanto) were waiting respectively, opposite sides were going to war as Kamimura Gakuen (Kyushu) faced off against Natsu Koushien runner-up Kousei Gakuin (Tohoku) and Naruto (Tokushima) and Hokushou (Hokkaido) butted heads.

Day 1 was the extra games.  Tottori Jyouhoku scored a run in the 1st due to an error and tacked on a run in the 7th.  Down to their final out, Yamamoto Ryuu delivers a 2-out 2-run double to right center to tie the game.

A new rule was instituted, but I don't know if it was instituted just for the Meiji Jingu Tournament, or for all tournaments going forward.  In the event of a tie (unless it's the finals), each half inning will begin with the bases-loaded with one out.  I understand that for softball, but for baseball I don't think I like this rule...

Despite the new rules, neither team could score in the 10th.  But in the 11th, Tottori Jyouhoku would send 7 men to the plate and score 7 runs.  Tsuruga Kehi couldn't respond and lost 9-4.

The 2nd game of the day was just as exciting as aces Hamada (Aikoudai Meiden) and Nakamura (Kanto Dai-ichi) squared off.  However, all the runs were scored in the 3rd as Meiden outscored Kanto 2-1.  Hamada would give up just the 1 run on 5 hits to advance his team to the next round.

The new enchousen rules continue to show up at Meiji Jingu.  After trading a run in the first two innings, Kousei Gakuin scored 4 runs to lead 6-2 to Kamimura Gakuen.  But in the 8th, Kamimura would rally for all 4 runs to tie the game and send it to enchousen.  In the 10th Kamimura was able to score 2.  But an error in the bottom half would take back one, and cleanup hitter Houjyou would hit a sayonara manrui homerun to left to defeat Kamimura Gakuen 11-8.

In the late game, Naruto and Hokushou would score a run in back to back half innings to send the game into enchousen.  Hokushou looked to seal the game with a 2-spot in the 10th, only to see Naruto level it once again.  Finally, Hokushou would score two more in the 11th, and hold Naruto off for the win.

Day 3 saw teams perhaps wanting to avoid the roulette that was extra innings.  Tottori Jyouhoku, having survived one round of that, found themselves behind Chiben Gakuen 3-0 heading into the last innings.  They would rally for 6 runs and hold off Chiben 6-4 to setup a match with Kousei Gakuin.

Aikoudai Meiden was having their own troubles against Urawa Gakuin.  Unable to generate any offense, they were down 1-0 with 6 outs to go.  The light went off somehow, as Aikoudai Meiden would score 8 unanswered to move on to meet Hokushou.

So now we were in the semifinals.  Tottori Jyouhoku would not have a reply this time against the summer runner-ups.  Kousei's ace Kanazawa would limit them to just 4 hits in 8 innings as they move in an 8-inning 7-0 win.  Hokushou would suffer a similar fate as Aikoudai Meiden slowly built a 5-1 lead and win 6-2.

And so it was Aikouidai Meiden and Kousei Gakuin in the finals.  The teams would trade blows throughout the game.  Meiden would score the first couple of runs in the 2nd and 3rd before Kousei would strike back with one, cutting the deficit to 2-1.  They would then trade another run in the 5th.  Still up 1, Meiden's Nakano would hit a 2-run triple in the lucky 7 to lead 5-2.

That's when Kousei Gakuin would get to work...

Tamura and Houjyou lead off with back-to-back hits.  Takeda follows that up with a sac fly, making it 5-3.  Oosugi takes a full count pitch away down the 3rd base line for a RBI double, making it a 1-run game!  Kimura delivers a hit to right!  The throw comes home, but it's a little late and Nakamura can't handle it!  Kousei Gakuin managed to tie the game at 5!

They weren't done.  In the 8th, Houjyou comes up with 2 down and a runner at 2nd.  He takes a pitch to deep center, and the CF just misses it!  The ball goes all the way to the wall as Houjyou completes the comeback with an RBI triple!

The game did not end without drama.  Down to their final out, the batter swings and misses on strike 3, but the ball gets away from the C!  Everyone thinks the game is over, but Meiden's kantoku and 3rd base coach are out trying to motion his players to run.  However, the runner at first heads back to home plate for the post-game bow.

What the kantoku was referring to was the controversial game between Toukaidai Sagami and Yokohama back on July 28, 2007.  In their game, Sagami led 3-0, and had runners on 1st and 3rd with 2 outs.  The pitch to the batter was check-swung, but did not hold it in time and so was strike 3.  However, the ball bounced before the catcher caught it, so the C had to touch the batter.  Instead, they threw the ball to the mound and headed back to the dugout.

However, Toukaidai Sagami's kantoku told his players to run, and since none of them had moved, all of them ran around the bases, including the batter.  When the batter came around to touch home, the umpires counted all runs.  Despite Yokohama's protests, because the ball hadn't been fielded cleanly, it was the responsibility of the defense to tag the catcher, irregardless of where the runners are.  Since they did not, all 3 runners scored and Yokohama went on to lose 6-4.

The reason why this is important was because had the 1st base runner not walked back home, both the runner at 1st and the batter could have advanced safely.  But because the runner came back home for the bow, he would have been called out for leaving the basepath, and the game would have been over anyways.  A heads-up play by the kantoku, but not by his player.  Certainly Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou and Shigakukan will think about what might have possibly been had Meiden continued the inning.

And with that Kousei Gakuin claims their first Meiji Jingu Fall title and more importantly, Tohoku is awarded the Meiji Jingu bid.  The semifinalists were Hanamaki Higashi and Aomori Yamada.  Although Aomori Yamada has not been to Koushien in several years, Hanamaki Higashi took Kousei Gakuin to the limit in their semifinal game.  Combine that with their constant scrappiness shown during Kikuchi Yuusei's tenure and beyond, the Meiji Jingu bid will be projected to go to:

Meiji Jingu Bid - Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years

Floating Bids
We have our 2 floating bids remaining outside of the three 21st Century Bids.

Kanto/Tokyo Floating Bid
The first is shared between the Kanto and Tokyo regions.  The 4 quarterfinalists in the Kanto region were:
  • Chiba Eiwa (Chiba)
  • Koufu Kougyou (Yamanashi)
  • Yokohama (Kanagawa)
  • Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi)
The runner-up in the Tokyo region was Teikyou.

A first glance would probably have the bid awarded to Yokohama or Teikyou.  Sorry, but name matters here.  However, Yokohama lost to Sakushin Gakuin handily 6-2.  Teikyou's loss?  They were one-hit by Kanto Dai-ichi.  To me, both losses open up the bid to the other 3 teams if they deserve it.

The problem is that none of the other teams made a real strong case to be chosen over the incumbents.  Only Toukaidai Koufu had a respectable loss, but it was to Takasaki, who lost 6-3 to Sakushin Gakuin.

So with no clear standout of the 5 teams, either the committee can choose a newcomer or choose an incumbent.  I just can't see the committee handing it to any of the "no names".  They just don't have the quality wins or quality losses that might make them enticing.

And then it's hard to choose Yokohama given their collapse against Chiben Gakuen this past Natsu Koushien, and Teikyou did defeat Kokugakuin, Nishhou Gakushadai Fuzoku, and Nichidai Tsurugaoka.

So with that resume, and despite the one-hit loss, I have the bid going as follows:

Kanto/Tokyo Floating Bid - Teikyou (Tokyo) - 15th appearance, 1st in 2 years

Chuugoku/Shikoku Floating Bid

The other is shared between the Chuugoku and Shikoku.  The semifinalists in the two regions:
  • Hayatomo (Yamaguchi)
  • Taisha (Shimane)
  • Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
  • Takamatsu Shougyou (Kagawa)
The easy name that stands out is Meitoku Gigyuku.  They lost to Kochi after defeating them in the prefectural semifinals.  Losing to a team you're facing the 2nd time around probably will benefit them in the committee's eyes.

So in all probability the other 3 teams will have to present a strong case to be selected above Meitoku Gijyuku.

Takamatsu Shougyou lost to Naruto 7-1 in part due to a 6-run inning.  They did defeat Naruto Kougyou 1-0, but their only other quality wins was a 2-0 win over Sangawa in the prefectural finals.  The 5-3 win over Kannonji Chuo was a gyakuten victory with 4 in the 9th.  There doesn't seem to be enough there.

Over to the Chuugoku region, and Hayatomo lost 6-3 to Kurashiki Shougyou due to a 5-run 1st.  Outside of that game, all they have is a win against fellow entrant Nanyou Kougyou.  Playing someone from the same prefecture here hurts them given the perceived strength of Yamaguchi-ken.

That leaves Taisha.  Sadly, with a 7-0 mercy rule loss to Tottori Jyouhoku, and a down year in a super-regionals without big names, I just don't see them making it either.

So by default, the floating bid goes to:

Chuugoku/Shikoku Floating Bid - Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi) - 15th appearance, 2nd consecutive

There is one caveat though.  This floating bid would go to a team that already has one team going.  They may be hesitant to award a second team from the prefecture a bid, but I don't think it outweighs the lack of resume strength the other teams carry.

Fall Tournament Recap and possible invitees (Kyushu)

In the interests of getting my projections out before the invitations are posted I am including them here before they are announced.

Kyushu Super-Regionals (4 bids)
Kyushu had a lot of promise in Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku, but the battery has graduated, and the area is once again up for grabs.

Oita is the home for the tournament this time around, so they'll get an extra bid (4) this year to the super-regionals.

Oita had a resurgence at Koshien it seemed when Imamiya Kenta and Meihou made a deep run only to run into Hanamaki Higashi.  But otherwise the prefecture has struggled as a whole.

So it's really hard to peg who's strong in the region.  There's Meihou, but they lost in the 3rd round 7-4 to Oita.  For their part, Oita made it to the semifinals after defeating Oita Houfu in the next game.

There was last year's fall winner Touin, and they made it to the Best 4 which included a win against 2008 participant Hita Rinkou.

And with the prefecture weaker, other teams scrambled to try and give their school a chance at the title.  Oita Kagaku Gijyutsu was one of those teams, surviving two 1-run games including one against Youshikan.  The other would be Beppu Aoyama, 2005 Natsu reprentative.  In their 3 games they only yielded 3 runs, all against Tsukumi.

With the extra bid, all 4 teams would advance to the super-regionals.  The question was where would they be seeded.

Touin, despite winning last year, would give up a 5-spot to Oita in the top of the 1st.  That would be the winning margin as they won 10-5.  Meanwhile, Oita Kagaku Gijyutsu would continue to surprise, as they head to the finals with a 5-3 win!

And they would complete the upset by scoring the first 5 runs in an 8-4 win over Oita in the finals, giving themselves their first ever fall title!

Kyukoku without their 1-2 battery mates would have to try and repeat the feat.  And though they seemed to gain momentum as the tournament progress, they would only make it to the quarterfinals of the Hokubu region before being unceremoniously ousted 9-2 by Kurate Ryuutoku

That allowed teams that had perhaps taken a back seat to rise again (at least for now).  In the Hokubu region, that meant Iidzuka and Jiyuugaoka would advance to the semis where they would clash.  Jiyuugaoka would get the better of that matchup and never trail in a 8-4 win.  Ikutokukan would be their matchup in the regional finals, and they more than held their own.  Trailing 2-0, then later 4-3, they would rally to tie the score and send it into enchousen.  But eventually the lack of pitching depth would catch up with Ikutokukan and reliever Akiyoshi would give up a 4-spot to Jiyuugaoka, signaling their death knell.

The Nanbu region had teams such as Oomuta, Chikuyou Gakuen and Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou.  Eager to take the opportunity of regaining the seat at the head of the table, each of these teams reached the semifinals.  Of note, Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou had to defeat Higashi-Fukuoka, Yanagawa and Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku just to reach the Best 4!

Fukuoka Dai-ichi would be the 4th member of the semifinals, and though they had a great run, and held their own against Oomuta, their ace Chou would fade late yielding 5 runs in the last 4 innings to fall 7-3.

Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou meanwhile may have felt that their luck had run out as they trailed Chikuyou Gakuen 4-1 heading into the late innings.  But somehow they managed to rally for 4 runs in the top of the 8th to take a 5-4 lead!  They'd hold onto the lead and face their 5th former Koushien participant just for an automatic bid!

And boy did they ever shut the door.  With the end in sight for an automatic bid, they annihilated Oomuta 15-0 to secure a place in the super-regionals.

So in the championship, which would be done just for seeding purposes, Jiyuugaoka would jump out to a 6-1 lead en route to a 8-5 win.  This would be just their 2nd ever fall title.  Meanwhile Oomuta would claim the final spot, scoring the sayonara run over Ikutokukan 3-2.

Deanna would probably go on and on about Saga Kita if she could.  That magical run culminating in the gyakuten win over Kouryou perhaps jumpstarted something in the region.  Though they may not have returned to senbatsu, they were experiencing a slight bump much like Saga Shougyou's win back in 1994.  But Karatsu Shougyou's Kitakata has graduated to the majors, so it'll have to be another team to step up

But who?  Perhaps a recent participant such as Saga Gakuen or Saga Shougyou?  Or perhaps someone new?

Early on, it there were some new names advancing through the field.  Keitoku for instance was able to move through their quadrant after the early upset of Saga Shougyou by Kanzaki Seimei.  They'd beat the same team 5-1 for a spot in the semis.
Opposite them, 1995 Natsu representative Ryuukoku cut their way through, including a quality 3-0 win over Ogi.

On the other half, Karatsu Shougyou after a 1-0 win the first round to Karatsu Nishi, fell 1-0 to Kashima.
However, they couldn't advance past the next stage as Koushikan won a high-scoring 9-6 affair to advance to the semis.

The final spot in the Best 4 would be filled by a familiar face.  Despite one of Waseda Saga's better runs in the field, they are rejected yet again, this time a 3-1 loss to Tosu in the quarterfinals.  Don't count Waseda Saga out though, for a school that was established just in 2010, it's scary to think what might happen in future years.

For now, Tosu takes full advantage of the opportunity.  Ace Hase limits Koushikan to just 1 run in a 4-1 win, securing one of two spots for the super-regional.  Meanwhile, Keitoku threw 5 different pitchers in an attempt to stop Ryuukoku... but to no avail.  A 7-1 win would give Ryuukoku the other bid.

In the final, Ryuukoku would break a 1-1 tie in the 6th, but ace Nakano couldn't finish it out.  Tosu would score 2 in the 8th as Hase would shut the door in the 9th giving Tosu their first title in 9 years (10th overall).

I'm not sure what got me hooked on Seihou from Nagasaki.  Perhaps it was their failed run in 2006 with a 21-0 loss to Yokohama in the final that made me root for the underdog.  I got paid off 3 years later when Imamura Takeru took the same school over Kikuchi Yuusei and Hanamaki Higashi for the title.  It also doesn't mean I can't ask for more. Ne?

But there are other claimants to the head of the class.  Nagasaki Nichidai has represented the prefecture more than a couple of times.  Hasami last year upended the same Yokohama squad in a shocking upset.

In the Nagasaki Regionals, last year's Natsu representative Kaisei wanted to show they were sticking around, and while it was tough sledding in the semifinal and final, a 3-1 win over Nagasaki Shougyou gave them the win.

To the Sasebo Regionals and Hasami and Seihou marched through the brackets with no one able to stop their eventual meetup in the finals.  Seihou's timing might suggest that they'd head back to senbatsu, but they wouldn't win the region as Hasami wins 6-3.

Finally in the Naka Regionals lied Nagasaki Nichidai.  They too looked fairly strong, but their shot at winning the regionals was rejected by Souseikan in an 11-6 loss in the finals.

Like the super-regionals, winning the region matters as teams receive a bye.  Now with 3 regions and 4 byes, one 2nd place team has to be "upgraded" as it were.  That went to Seihou.

They'd reward that bid with a 3-2 win over Nagasaki Shougyou in the quarters.  Hasami and Souseikan would also advance with 1-run victories.  Kaisei though would have to face Nagasaki Nichidai, and their run ended there with a 3-0 shutout loss.

Hasami would be next on the docket for Nagasaki Nichidai.  Scrappy as they were they never led in the game, though after going down 5-1 in the bottom of the 9th they would rally for 3 runs of their own falling 5-4 and with it a chance to return to Koushien.

Souseikan and Seihou had a tight game.  After trading runs in the first two innings, things seemed to quiet down.  But as soon as the teams reached the 2nd half of the game, the offensive spigots opened wide.  After trading another pair of runs in the 6th, the lead with switch 4 times as each team scored one more run than the last.  Eventually Souseikan would score 2 in the 9th to tie the game up at 10.  And when Seihou failed to score in the bottom of the 9th, it was all over.  Souseikan tacked on 3 more in the 10th for the win and the other bid to the super-regionals.

Souseikan's late inning rallies wouldn't end there.  In the finals, down 4-1, they would start their rally again in the 6th.  They'd tie the game in the 7th, and when Nagasaki Nichidai scored 2 in the 8th, Souseikan scored 3 to take the lead and claim their first ever fall title.

Was it really that weird to ask the stalls at Meiji Jingu for former Miyazaki Shougyou's ace Akagawa Katsuki?  Okay, kinda off topic, but a year after his appearance Miyakonojyou Shougyou's team would make it to the Best 8, falling to Chuukyoudai Chuukyou.

Teams from Miyazaki of late have been able to advance past the first round, but little further than that.  Who would be the ones to try this time around?

Well, last summer's representative Nichinan Gakuen made a strong case with a semifinal run that included 3 shutouts against St. Ursula and Hyuuga Gakuin.  Despite that though, Miyakonojyou Shougyou would rudely shut the door on a super-regional bid mercy ruling them 10-3 in 8 innings.

The other half of the quadrant had Nisshou Gakuen tiptoeing through their part winning games by the margin of 3-2, 3-1 and 1-0.  Their semifinal would not be against Miyakonojyou  Izumigaoka as expected, but Miyazaki Nishi who defeated them 3-2.  Furthermore, Miyazaki Nishi would end Nisshou Gakuen's run of low-scoring victories shutting them out 2-0 and guaranteeing themselves their first ever super-regional bid.

Miyazaki Nishi wasn't done though.  They made a run at Miyakonojyou Shougyou as well.  Holding a 1-0 lead since the first, they were 2 innings away from claiming their 1st ever fall title.  However, Miyakonokyou Shougyou would score 3 in the 8th giving them their 5th fall title and first in 5 years.

Ask who are the strong teams in Kumamoto, and you'd probably get 2 responses - Kyushu Gakuin and Kumamoto Kougyou.  Of late though, some schools have been able to break through the duo including Jyouhoku and Senshuudai Tamana.  Others are still on the cusp of breaking through, but not yet - such as Luther Gakuin.

Kyushu Gakuin wanted to reaffirm their spot at the top of the prefecture, and though they were slowed down by Seiseikou and Kumamoto Shougyou, they handily defeated a Kuma Kougyou squad who surprised everyone by reaching the semifinals for a guaranteed spot.  Jyouhoku didn't get past the 2nd round, losing to the aforementioned Kumamoto Shougyou.

Meanwhile Luther Gakuin, Senshuudai Tamana and Kumamoto Kougyou were all in the same quadrant...  and they would eventually play each other.  First up was last year's summer representative Senshuudai Tamana versus Kumamoto Kougyou.  Kumamoto Kougyou won that easily 9-1.  Next up for them was Luther Gakuin.  So often Luther would fall short losing to teams like Kumamoto Kougyou.  This time though, they prevailed, outlasting them in a 5-4 win to advance to the semis.

Standing in their way to the super-regionals was Toukai Dai-ni, who had a fairly strong run of their own.  Yet, Luther Gakuin would jump out to a 4-0 lead and win by that same margin 6-2.

But while Luther Gakuin may have qualified for the super-regionals, Kyushu Gakuin decided to put them back in their place.  A 15-1 victory would give them their 19th fall prefectural title.

If you thought breaking through a ceiling of 2 teams was bad, try 4.

Since 1989, Kagoshima's representatives that have made it to senbatsu have been one of 4 teams:
  • Kagoshima Kougyou
  • Kagoshima Jitsugyou
  • Kamimura Gakuen
  • Shounan (fka Kagoshima Shoukou)
It's one thing to have to avoid one team, or defeat one team.  Try possibly having to face 2, 3, or all 4 just to make it!

So really, it's only news when one of those teams goes down - sad to say.

Interestingly though, they weren't all split up.  Kagoshima Kougyou wound up in the same bracket as Shounan.  Instead one of the seeded spots went to the team that was not one of the aforementioned 4 to make it to Koushien - Kagoshima Shougyou.

Well, that was a mistake.  First game against Fukiage... they lose 4-1.  That left Reimei to carry the flag in the quadrant... except they lost in their first game too, 7-6 to Shouyou.  Shouyou would actually reach the semifinals... only to get railroaded by Kamimura Gakuen 16-2.

Okay, well... what about Shounan and Kagoshima Kougyou?  Well, Shounan actually lasted just one game before falling to unknown Makurazaki 2-1!

That's 2 teams down.

Kagoshima Kougyou would avenge Shounan's loss by defeating Makurazaki 7-0.  Yet even they weren't immune.  In the very next round, they too would be dispatched by Sendai (that's 川内 to you) 9-2.

Lastly, there was Kagoshima Jitsugyou.  Amazingly, they too lasted just 2 games, losing to Kagoshima 1-0!  That left Kamimura Gakuen as the only one of the quartet still standing!  Taking Kajitsu's place in the Best 4 would be Kagoshima Jyousai - certainly not a slouch, but not one of the Big 4 either.

And in the battle for the other super-regional spot, it would be Kagoshima Jyousai who would shutout Sendai 4-0.

So the finals are actually a rematch of last year's fall final - Kagoshima Jyousai v. Kamimura Gakuen.

And much like last year, Kamimura Gakuen wins again 4-1 for their 6th title.

Okinawa surprisingly has had a lot of success since the end of the last millennia.  Starting with Okinawa Shougaku winning the 1999 senbatsu, Okinawa has won 3 Haru Koushien titles, Urasoe Shougyou reached the Best 4, and Kounan achieved the Haru-Natsu renzoku yuushou.

Itoman and Kadena have carried the flag for the prefecture since Shimabukuro's departure for Chuo Daigaku, though Urasoe Shougyou and Okinawa Shougaku lie in wait as well.

This year though, Okinawa Shogaku would not participate.  Due to violence within the club, they withdrew from the tournament despite being given a seed.

Taking their place was Chinen.  Given the free pass over Okishou, they took it to the semifinals with a 6-5 win over Shuri.  There they would face Kadena, who had to defeat former participants such as Yaeyama Shoukou, and Okinawa Suisan.  Yet even those wouldn't be enough to defeat Chinen.  Chinen would grab a spot in the super-regionals with a 4-1 win.

On the other half, seeded Urasoe Shougyou unassumingly went about its business reaching the semifinals.  Itoman would be right there to meet them, having worked their way through the bracket and defeated seeded Mawashi 3-0.  In the semifinal, Itoman would prevail in a high scoring 8-6 game.

And interestingly, Itoman would manage to defeat Chinen 4-3 to claim their first ever fall title!

So with all prefectures accounted for, the draw for the super-regionals took place.  Kyushu Gakuin and Jiyuugaoka may have been placed in the same quadrant, but there was no noticeable competition in the adjacent quadrant (Oita Kagaku Gijyutsu, Chinen, Souseikan, Ryuukoku... really?), thereby almost guaranteeing one of them a spot at senbatsu. 

Meanwhile, Kamimura Gakuen probably will face their toughest test should Nagasaki Nichidai defeat Oomuta (which they should).  Outside of that though, they should breeze through to the semifinals.

Finally, the last quadrant is actually a pretty tough one.  Itoman and Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou would have to square off, then possibly face Miyakonojyou Shougyou or perhaps Luther Gakuin.

As the tournament kicked off, the first shock was that Oomuta and Nagasaki Nichidai wound up playing to a 2-2 draw!  That meant they'd have to play again, and while Nagasaki Nichidai won the rematch 7-2, playing an extra game certainly couldn't have helped them.

The second was that Luther Gakuin, despite finally making it to the super-regionals, was dispatched by Beppu Aoyama 4-1!  I certainly didn't see that one coming.

The surprises kept on coming.  2nd round action saw Jiyuugaoka having to force extra innings against Miyazaki Nishi, only to lose 5-4 in the 11th!  Next was the Ryuukoku-Souseikan game which saw both teams go the full 15 before Souseikan would win 2-1 in the last half-inning!  And Beppu Aoyama continued to shock the field scoring the first 6 runs in an 11-6 win over Miyakonojyou Shougyou!

Onto the quarterfinals and Kyushu Gakuin finally got a challenge, but it was from Miyazaki Nishi!  Kyushu Gakuin would win 2-0, but it was a strong showing from a Miyazaki Nishi squad who was probably not expected to even be here.

Even more teams would struggle.  Kamimura Gakuen, perhaps one of the shoe-ins to head to senbatsu actually trailed against Oita!  First in the 3rd at 3-0, then in the 8th at 6-5.  Both times though they were immediately able to rally back and take the lead - perhaps showing a bit of maturity.  However, give credit to Oita for giving one of the stronger teams in the region a run for their money.

Still, Oita's game pales in comparison to Beppu Aoyama.  Facing yet another strong team in Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou, they don't let a 1-run deficit deter them.  They score 2 in the 6th to take a 3-2 lead!  And the trio of Nakamura-Yasuo-Ishida shut the door on the game almost giving the committee no reason not to invite them to senbatsu!

To the semis and Souseikan's run now would get much tougher against Kyushu Gakuin.  So much so they would be mercy ruled 9-0 in 7 innings.

As for Beppu Aoyama, they certainly had a great run, but it would not be able to continue against Kamimura Gakuen.  Though they held them scoreless the first 4 innings, eventually Kamimura broke through with 4 in the 5th en route to a 6-2 win.

Kamimura Gakuen would finally put their stamp on the region in the finals, scoring 8 runs in the first inning against Kyushu Gakuin to claim their first ever (!!) super-regional title, and an automatic invitation to Haru Koushien!

And despite Souseikan's bad loss in the quarterfinals, I expect the Best 4 to receive a phone call come January.

Automatic Bid - Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 3 years
Projected Bid - Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto) - 5th appearance, 2nd consecutive
Projected Bid - Souseikan (Nagasaki) - 1st appearance
Projected Bid - Beppu Aoyama (Oita) - 1st appearance

Fall Tournament Recap and possible invitees (Chuugoku & Shikoku)

In the interests of getting my projections out before the invitations are posted I am including them here before they are announced.  (The reviews are finally up.)

Chuugoku Super-Regionals (2 bids + 1 floating bid w/Shikoku)
Chuugoku with 5 prefectures award an extra bid to the super-regionals to the host prefecure.  This year, that is Hiroshima.  So all Best 4 teams will advance perhaps releasing a bit of the pressure.  Let's start there:

Hiroshima you wouldn't think would have the history of a rural prefecture such as say Nara, but with a couple of rare few exceptions it's been dominated by two schools - Jyosuikan and Kouryou, whileother schools like Onomichi and last year's senbatsu representative Hiroshima Sougou Gijyutsu look up through the ceiling.

Not a surprise then that all 4 made it out of small pool play into the prefecturals.  It also wasn't a surprise when HSG lost in the 3rd round to Hiroshima Kougyou.

It was a surprise though when Kouryou also lost in the 3rd round to 2000 Natsu representative Setouchi 8-5.

With Jyosuikan's main opponent eliminated, Jyosuikan looked to be the front-runner.  And while they struggled against Hiroshima Shinjyou 8-6 in the quarterfinals, they blew out Hiroshima Kanon 19-1!

On the other side, Onomichi took advantage of the Kouryou upset.  They made it to the finals with a defeat of Hiroshima Shougyou 10-5.  Hiroshou is interesting in that they have a pitcher by the name of Insencio Wilson.  I can't find a whole lot about him though

Doesn't matter though as Hiroshima Shougyou and Hiroshima Kanon would advance to the super-regionals.  For the record though, Wilson gives Hiroshou the 5-3 win in the consolation game.

As for Onomichi and Jyosuikan, the title would once again escape Onomichi as ace Okita would give up 4 in the 3rd which would be more than enough.

Tottori has been in a bit of a drought in recent years, having only 1 win in the last 15 years in the Natsu Koushien tournament, and one senbatsu appearance in the last 25!

And in more recent years, the head of the table has been passed around annually it seems.

I suppose if you look at the last couple of winners, you'd be looking at Tottori Shougyou, Yasu (who had that lone win), and last year's fall winner Tottori Ikuei.

The first two were in one quadrant while Tottori Ikuei was on the other quadrant in their half.  Sure enough, the two faced off in the quarterfinals, and Yasu advanced with an 8-3 win.  Next up would be Tottori Ikuei, and they came up with 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th for the 2-1 comeback win!  That would force Yasu into a loser out game.

Meanwhile, Tottori Jyouhoku (2009 Natsu representative) had no trouble at all, yielding all 3 of their runs in the run-up to 1st round opponent Yonago ShouinYonago Tousen would have to fight for their spot in the super-regionals after losing 5-0 in the semis.

Yet against Tottori Ikuei, they stumbled.  After scoring the first run, Tottori Ikuei would score 2 in the bottom of the 1st and 2 more in the 4th.  Tottori would take their 2nd consecutive title (and 2nd overall!) with a 5-1 win!

Yasu would be the prefecture's 3rd representative with an 8-3 win against Yonago Tousen.

Kanzei's run this past summer shocked me, not sure it shocked others.  Though they didn't win, I hoped it would be a re-emergence of the school in the prefecture.

And though they advanced out of pool play, they weren't as imposing as before.  Worse yet, they drew Kurashiki Shougyou, the other recent Natsu Koushien representative in the very first round.

Unlike Kanzei's games at Koushien, this was a high scoring affair, one that they would lose 11-7. With their main rival gone, Kurashiki Shougyou became the overwhelming favorite to win the prefecture.  Indeed they easily won their next 2 games to reach the finals.

On the other half, the games were much more tempered.  Konkou Gakuen reaches the semis with just a 2-1 and 1-0 win.  Meanwhile, Tamano Kounan defeats 2007 representative Okayama Ridai Fuzoku 5-2 and Koujyoukan 2-1.

After trading a run in the 1st, a 3-spot for Tamano Kounan would be the winning margin as they advanced to the finals with a 4-1 win.

With such lackluster performances, Kurashiki Shougyou seemed poised to take the title.

Except no one gave Tamano Kounan the memo.  They broke out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back, taking their 3rd ever fall title (1st in 8 years)!  Joining the pair would be Okayama Kyousei who sent Konkou Gakuen home 9-6.

With twin giants Shirane and Mori graduating from Kaisei, it would leave a void in the prefecture.  Before Kaisei, it was famed Risshoudai Shounan in 2009, and in the spring Oki back in 2003.  Indeed, Kaisei would lose their very first game 8-6 to Daitou.

Well, some of the better teams in the past included Iwamichisuikan, Taisha and last fall's winner Matsue Shougyou.  All 3 (as well as Risshoudai Shounan) advanced out of regional play, though Matsue Shougyou faced fellow Best 4 from last year Izumo and won 6-5.

In the 2nd stage, Risshoudai Shounan was next to fall, losing to Mitoya in the first round 12-11.  They in turn were blasted by Iwamichisuikan 10-3.  Taisha barely got away against Izumo Nishi 7-6 and advanced to the best 4 with a win over Oota.

Matsue Shougyou would not be joining them as they lost 7-0 to Yasugi in the first round as well.  Instead, Matsue Minami and Hamada would be joining them in the semifinals.

The semifinal draw had the two favorites facing each other, meaning that in all likelihood the winner of the Hamada-Matsue Minami game would be the one advancing.

In that crucial semifinal, Matsue Minami took a 3-0 lead early.  However, they would not be able to hold it.  Just 6 outs away from guaranteeing themselves a bid, they give up 5 unanswered runs.  They managed to scrounge up a run in the 9th, but it would not be enough - essentially sealing their fate.

Taisha would finally have a chance at a title as they ran away with a 5-1 win over Iwamichisuikan.  And they would finally get their first title in 20 years, shutting out Hamada 5-0 for their 6th fall title.  Iwamichisuikan took the 3rd bid with a 10-2 win over Matsue Minami.

Surprisingly, despite sharing the same super-regional with prefectures such as Hiroshima and Okayama, Yamaguchi sent 9 representatives to senbatsu in the aughties.  Not a bad track record.

The 2010's though have not proven to be as kind,  not yet anyways.

But despite the good track records in the fall super-regionals, the prefecture really hasn't had any school stand out.  Perhaps Nanyou Kougyou or Shimonoseki Shougyou, but it's hard to really say.

In pool play, Nanyou Kougyou did advance, though not without some tough games against Takagawa Gakuen and Iwakuni.  Shimonoseki Shougyou did not fare as well losing 5-3 in the regional final to Shimonoseki Chuo Kougyou.

Without a clear picture of the prefecture, it was up for grabs.  On one side, it was Hayatomo that clinched one bid shutting out Yamaguchi Koujyou 5-0.  The other guaranteed bid did not go to Nanyou Kougyou, but to Iwakuni Kougyou instead as they scored 2 in the bottom of the 9th for a gyakuten 4-3 win!

So we had two teams that may not have been expecting a title playing for one.  And in the early going, it was a close game, though Hayatomo built a 2-0 lead.  Iwakuni Kougyou scored 2 in the 5th to tie the game.

Sadly, after that, they would fall apart as Hayatomo scored 8 unanswered runs to take their 1st title in 45 years (and 3rd overall) with a 10-3 win!

Nanyou Kougyou had no trouble securing the final bid with a 7-1 win over Yamaguchi Koujyou.

Looking at the field as a whole, it seemed rather... lackluster.  Sure, you had teams such as Jyosuikan, Kurashiki Shougyou and perhaps Nanyou Kougyou.  But behind those teams, it felt like there was a severe dropoff.

Worse yet, Kurashiki Shouyou and Jyosuikan drew each other in the first round!  It'd be clear the winner of that game had a route to at least the semifinals.  The only other teams perhaps standing in their way would be either the aforementioned Nanyou Kougyou or perhaps Yasu.

On the other side, you might as well roll dice.  There was no clear favorite.  Maybe you could say Taisha, maybe Onomichi could surprise, but really, you could pull names out of a hat and be just as accurate.

So first we go back to the key matchup - Kurashiki Shougyou-Jyosuikan.  The game swung early as a 3-0 lead for Kurashiki Shougyou evaporated in the 3rd.  Trailing 4-3 in the 9th, they score 4 for a 7-5 gyakuten win.  Coupled with a 4-1 win over Hamada, and they had their Best 4 appearance.

But it wouldn't be against Nanyou Kougyou.  In fact, it would be against unknown Hayatomo!  They not only mercy ruled Yasu 7-0, but then defeated Nanyou Kougyou 3-1!

One bad inning though would derail Hayatomo's run.  Perhaps facing one of the more important games of their school's history, ace Aidzu would give up 5 runs in the 1st inning.  They would fight, but never recover, falling 6-3.

On the other side, teams started shaking themselves out.  Tottori Jyouhoku and Taisha advanced with easy wins, Onomichi shutout Iwamichisuikan, and Iwakuni Kougyou outlasted Okayama Kyousei.  Then in the quarters, Onomichi would be unceremoniously removed with a 9-1 loss to Taisha, while Tottori Jyouhoku just edged out Iwakuni Kougyou 2-1.

Perhaps this would be the time that Taisha, a team who has waited to break through would finally do so.  That would not the be the case though.  Tottori Jyouhoku would mercy rule them in the semifinals 7-0.

That put two eastern teams in the region in the finals.  A regular in Kurashiki Shougyou, and a Tottori Jyouhoku team that made their one and only appearance 3 years ago.

Kurashiki Shougyou's ace Nishi though would give up a 4-spot in the 2nd, and they suddenly were in trouble.  In fact, Tottori Jyouhoku's ace Nishisaka would only give up 1 run in a CG win giving his team their first ever fall title, and their first ever senbatsu apperance!

Automatic Bid - Tottori Jyouhoku (Tottori) - 1st appearance
Projected Bid - Kurashiki Shougyou (Okayama) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 22 years

Shikoku Super-Regionals (2 bids + 1 floating bid w/Chuugoku)
With 4 prefectures occupying this region, each prefecture sends 3 representatives with the winners needing just 3 games to win the super-regionals.

Kagawa has seen the good times pass it by it seems.  Despite having a winning record in both Haru and Natsu Koushien tournaments, the majority of that happened decades ago.  Recently, they have struggled to advance out of the 1st round.  Eimei has made 2 consecutive runs at it in the summer, but it's possible their time is now up.

Meanwhile, teams such as Takamatsu Shougyou, Akiyama's former team Sangawa, and Kanonji Chuo look to restore respectability to the prefecture.

But perhaps showing that there still is a long way to go, almost all those teams struggled in the tournament.  Takamatsu Shougyou's games to the semis was won by no greater than 3 runs.  Kanonji Chuo had two close games before finally getting an easy win against Takamatsu Sakurai.

Sangawa and Eimei had a bit of an easier time... that is until they faced each other in the quarterfinals.  Sangawa had the better of the matchup, but just, in a 6-5 win.  Rounding out the best 4 was Sanbonmatsu who had survived some close games.

Kanonji Chuo almost seemed to exercise their demons against Takamatsu Shougyou leading 3-1 in the 9th.  However, Takashou would break their hearts yet again, scoring 4 in the 9th for the 5-3 win.  Sanbonmatsu's run would end at Sangawa's hands as they lost 5-1.

In the finals, Takashou's ace Tanigawa would give up just 2 hits (though he walked 9), in a 2-0 shutout of Sangawa giving his team their 25th fall title (last was in 2008).  Kanonji Chuo would take the last spot with a 7-0 win over Sanbonmatsu.

Tokushima also has had a winning record at Koushien.  Of late, the 2 teams who have had the most success are Tokushima Shougyou and Naruto Kougyou.  Famed Ikeda last had success in the early 90's but has faded out of the picture in recent years.

Tokushima Shougyou bowed out in the 2nd round to Kawashima.  Ikeda and Naruto Kougyou were in the same quadrant and wound up facing each other in the quarterfinals.  Ikeda's struggles continued as they were routed 9-1.

Joining those two in the best 4 would be Tokushima Kita - who needed 2 1-run victories, and Naruto - who outscored their opponents 40-8.  However, they didn't really face anyone of note, so it's possible that offense is just a mirage.

They'd have to prove that against Naruto Kougyou though.  As for Kawashima and Tokushima Kita, it appeared that they'd have to win to get in.

The game would be one to remember.  Kawashima's ace Satou would throw a no-hitter against Tokushima Kita.  Irregardless of what happens after, that's a moment they're going to remember.  Better yet, it would give them their 2nd ever super-regional appearance (their 1st was just 2 years ago).

Their opponent in the final would indeed be Naruto.  Scoring 4 in the 3rd, they'd never look back.  Naruto Kougyou would fight back against starter Goutouda, but fall short 7-5.

Riding the wave of the no-hitter, Satou would continue his assault on the Naruto batters, throwing 7 more shutout innings.  But the tank would finally run empty, surrendering 3 in the 8th.  Meanwhile, ace Kobayashi would quiet the Kawashima bats limiting them to just 1 run.  Naruto would win their 11th title, but their 1st in 18 years.  Tokushima Kita couldn't recover from the no-hitter, losing 3-1.

Ehime continues the trend of winning prefectures.  They enjoyed success in the early aughites, but in the last several have receded a bit.  Teams such as Saibi, Kawanoe and Matsuyama Shougyou dominated the times.  But perhaps it's Imabari Nishi who has dominated the scene recently, especially in the fall tournaments, that would continue to reign.

Exiting out of pool play, it would be Imabari Nishi, along with Saibi, 2010 Natsu representative Uwajima Higashi, and Komatsu who would get favorable draws.

And yet, they didn't have an easy time.  In fact, Saibi would fall before reaching the semifinals, losing 5-3 to Kawanoishi.  For the remaining teams, only Uwajima Higashi had a margin of victory over 3.

The party crashers also had their sights on Imabari Nishi in the semis.  Scoring 3 against starter Ishigaki, it looked perhaps that they might have a chance.  But Imabari would equalize in the 5th, and score the go-ahead run on ace Yano in the 8th inning.  Kawanoishi would have to qualify in the 3rd place game after the 4-3 loss.

Komatsu and Uwajima Higashi would have their own struggle.  Tied at 1 going into the 9th, Komatsu would score the go-ahead run.  But Uwajima Higashi had their half, and managed to score one of their own, sending it to enchousen.  It would only last 2 innings though, when Komatsu would emphatically stamp their ticket to the finals with 4 runs.

In the finals, Imabari Nishi would fall behind yet again as Komatsu would score 5 unanswered runs.  This time around though, ace Nakano would not give them the opportunity to rally back as he would give up 2 runs giving his team their first ever fall title and first ever super-regional apperance!

And as for Kawanoishi, their party crashing would be over as they lost 10-3 to Uwajima Higashi in the 3rd place game.

No one beats Kochi though in terms of success.  They have a 0.615 winning percentage at Koushien.  Furthermore, since 1993 they have failed to send a representative in senbatsu just 3 times.

Most of the time, the representative has been either Kochi, Kochi Shougyou, or Meitoku Gijyuku.  Break though those three, and you've achieved something.

And so we start the Kochi prefecturals.  The aforementioned trio, along with Tosa, were the seeded teams.  Tosa represented Kochi back in the 1993 senbatsu, though they lost to Tohoku.

So it's no surprise that all 4 teams (yes, even Tosa) made the Best 4.  Kochi though, almost got upended in the first round with a 6-5 win over Ootemae.  Even with that, the big 3 gave up 10 runs in their 9 combined games.  Tosa gave up 7 in their 3.

In the semis, Kochi wound up throwing 3 pitchers at Meitoku Gijyuku to no avail.  They'd fall 4-1.

Tosa would have to win their game against Kochi Shougyou.  Losing here means having to win the 3rd place game.  But they would have no such luck.  Kochishou would beat them 7-1.

That would seal Tosa's fate.  Having to face Kochi in the 3rd place game, they folded 9-0 and would have to wait until next summer for another shot.

Kochi Shougyou would then have to face Meitoku Gijyuku for the title and the 1st round bye.  However, Meitoku Gijyuku takes their seat again at the head of the prefecture with their own 7-1 win.  Despite this being their 6th straight super-regional appearance, this was their first title in 4 years (and 15th overall).

Each of the winners (Meitoku Gijyuku, Komatsu, Naruto, and Tokushima Shougyou) would earn a bye, while the other teams slugged it out.  Once under way, only Naruto had an easy go of it.  Takamatsu Shougyou had to face Naruto Kougyou and won 1-0.  Meitoku Gijyuku survived 4-3 over Uwajima Higashi.  Komatsu?  Sadly, their run ended against Kochi 6-0.

Kochi would continue their run, exacting revenge on ace Ogata, scoring 3 in the 9th for a 7-4 win and a probable bid to senbatsu.  Naruto would join them as they continued their rampage with a 7-1over Tokushima Shougyou.

The question then would be who would get the automatic bid.  In all likelihood, Kochi's name will give them a bid, and Naruto's high powered offense would be something to see at Koushien.  But it never hurts to guarantee that phone call.

Once again, Naruto would come out firing and getting a 3-1 lead.  And though Kitashiro would tie the game in the 4th, Naruto took the lead back 4-3 in the 5th.  Kochi would just not go away, tying the game in the 9th.  And just when you'd think Naruto would fold, they didn't as Hinoshita would give his team their first super-regional title in 42 years with a bases loaded hit to right.

Automatic Bid - Naruto (Tokushima) - 7th appearance, 1st in 32 years
Projected Bid - Kochi (Kochi) - 16th appearance, 1st in 2 years

Fall Tournament Recap and possible invitees (Kinki)

The Kinki region is so big, and with 6 bids at stake, probably deserve their own post (though I'll be having to blow through these to get the rest of the recaps done)

Kinki Super-Regional (6 bids)
With 16 teams going to the super-regional, the prefectures rotate the extra 4 bids amongst themselves.  This year Kyoto and Wakayama would be short-changed with just 2 bids.

Shiga had some excitement last summer when Hachiman Shougyou shocked Teikyou with 5 runs in the top of the 9th for an unbelievable upset.

Sadly though, they may have been a one-hit wonder (no pun intended).  They'd lose in their 1st game 6-4 to Hino.

Looking elsewhere, Cinderella Shiga Gakuen looked to make another run and had the entire half to themselves once Hachiman Shougyou was eliminated.  But Yasu spoiled the party defeating them 2-0 in the quarterfinals.  They were one win away from a guaranteed spot in the super-regionals, but Minakuchi proved to be a more than formidable opponent.  Tied at 1 in the 4th inning, the game would head into extras.  But in the 11th, Minakuchi's Ikemoto would deliver the sayonara hit to punch their first ticket in 44 years to the super-regionals.

The two stalwarts in the prefecture - Oumi and Kita-Ootsu occupied the other half of the bracket.  But when Kita-Ootsu lost to Ishiyama in their very first game 3-2, the path to the super-regionals was wide open.  They didn't hesitate, defeating Ishiyama in the semifinals 14-4 to punch their ticket.

Minakuchi actually put up a good fight early against heavily favored Oumi, taking a 2-run lead.  Oumi wiped that completely out with a 3-run 4th and would go on to win 7-2 for their 9th title and 1st in 2 years.

Yasu's good run would be spoiled by Ishiyama, who deservingly earned a spot in the super-regionals with a 2-1 victory in the 3rd place game.

Kyoto has been largely dominated by the 5-kanji schools - Ryuukokudai Heian (龍谷大平安), Fukuchiyama Seibi (福知山成美), and Kyoto Gaidai Nishi (京都外大西).

But while all 3 qualified for the prefectural finals, all 3 were eliminated in quarterfinal play.  Fukuchiyama Seibi falls 8-6 to Toba, Ryuukokudai Heian lost a close one 8-7 to Ritsumeikan, and Kyoto Gaidai Nishi had the worst loss (deficit-wise anyways), 6-2 to Kyoto RyouyouKyoto Shouei joins the three in the semifinals.

Now, with only 2 spots available this year, winning the semifinals becomes crucial.  Toba grabs one of the two spots after breaking a 3-3 tie with Kyoto Shouei with 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th.  Ritsumeikan takes the other one as ace Itou limits Kyoto Ryouyou to just 1 run in a 2-1 win.

The final was a bit nuts.  Despite being the underdog, Toba breached the 0-0 deadlock with a run in the 6th.  Such a slim margin would be hard to maintain against a team such as Ritsumeikan, and indeed in the 8th they scored 3 to take the lead.  But in the bottom of the 9th, Toba found a way to take back every single run to win their 3rd fall title (1st in 11 years), 4-3!

Chiben Gakuen has supplanted Tenri as the premier team in the prefecture.  That after Tenri has frittered away opportunity after opportunity at Koushien.

The teams though were on the same half, so you were almost guaranteed that one would take the title, and the other the 3rd place spot.  So any team on that half would have little to no shot to make it.  Go to the other side and if Kooriyama could be knocked off, Nara's 2nd seed could be up for grabs.

Chiben Gakuen would get the best of the rivalry yet again and in impressive fashion.  Tenri would be relegated to the 3rd place match with an 8-0 mercy rule loss.

The de facto final qualifying spot would go to Naradai Fuzoku.  After relinquishing an early 3-0 lead to Ichijyou, they rallied in the late innings to win 6-5.

But Naradai Fuzoku wasn't done!  After giving up 2 runs in the 1st to Chiben, they immediately struck back with 4 runs Chiben would narrow the lead to 1 and keep it that way until the 8th when they successfully pulled level at 6.

Naradai Fuzoku would claim their first ever fall title in spectacular fashion as Kudou delivers a sayonara hit to right, winning 7-6!

Wakayama too would only get 2 bids, but assuming that Chiben Wakayama and Kouyou were on opposite sides of the Best 4, there may be no room for anyone else, save for maybe Minabe or Minoshima.

So apparently, Wakayama has changed their qualifying methods.  Instead of grandfathering in the Best 4 from last year's they now hold a "newcomers tournament" (高校野球新人戦) right after Natsu Koushien ends, in which the best 4 from that tournament get a pass to the Best 8 of the fall prefecturals.  The rest would have to play again in pool play for a spot.

The 4 teams that got a free pass were Naga, Touin, Kainan and of course Chiben Wakayama.

So the remaining 36 teams were in for another grueling single elimination bracket less than 3 weeks later.

Those that were able to endure the 2nd go around were Shiritsu Wakayama (who shut out Minabe 4-0 in the block final), Kokawa (who ended Kouyou's bid with a 2-1 victory), Kenritsu Wakayama Shougyou, and Minoshima.

Chiben Wakayama and Minoshima wound up on different sides of the bracket, so it seemed likely they would be the two entrants.


Minoshima bowed out in the very first game 3-2 to Kainan who would eventually reach the finals after a win against Touin.  Chiben Wakayama, after barely beating out Shiritsu Wakayama 4-3, was blitzed by Naga to the tune of 8-1!

So it would be a newcomer in Naga, and a forgotten team (last appearance 26 years ago) in Kainan.  The question would be who would take the coveted title.  Both aces, Kusunoki and Fukui respectively, would be in a pitcher's duel.  Naga would claim their first ever fall title with a 1-0 win.

Osaka's tourney is basically one bracket, save for a redraw in the best 4.

Block A was dominated by Riseisha.  Block B was won by Natsu representative Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara thanks in part to Toukaidai Gyousei eliminating PL Gakuen 7-0 in the first round and a 3-1 win over Osaka Sangyoudai FuzokuOsaka Taiikudai Nami Shougyou (aka Daitoudai Namishou) took Block C after escaping with a 4-3 win over Kansai Souka.  Finally, Osaka Touin blew through most of Block D though Osaka Shoudai Sakai did limit them to 3 runs in a 3-0 loss.

The semifinal draw had Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara looking to prove their trip last summer wasn't a fluke with a 5-1 over Riseisha.  Meanwhile, Osaka Touin looked to regain the top spot in Osaka with a 8-3 win over Daitoudai Namishou.

Eventually, Osaka Touin would reassert themselves with a 6-0 shutout win over the summer representatives for their 3rd consecutive and 5th overall fall title.

Joining the pair would be Riseisha as they denied Daitoudai Namisho with a 5-1 win in the consolation game.

Hooray!  Nishinomiya Kita made it to the prefecturals after qualifying through the repechage of the Nishi-Hanshin regionals 2-0 against Takaradzuka Kita!  By the way, Kansei Gakuin would take top honors in that regional.  Yay for improvement!

Joining that pair of teams would be the likes of Houtoku Gakuen, Shinkou Gakuen, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku, and Kakogawa KitaTouyoudai Himeji immediately got a free pass to the prefecturals being the Natsu Koushien representative.

The prefectural draw had Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku in their own quadrant.  But Sumoto wrecked the party, eliminating them 13-6 in the round of 16 and taking their spot in the Best 4.  Houtoku Gakuen, Kakogawa Kita and Touyoudai Himeji were in the other quadrant.  And despite the offensive output shown early in the brackets, Touyoudai Himeji's offense would go astray against tougher competition.  Houtoku blanked them 5-0 for a spot opposite Sumoto.

Nishinomiya Kita's time in the prefecturals was cut short in a 5-1 loss to Awaji in the 1st round.  Awaji would actually make a deep run before being offed by Ikuei 7-1 in the quarterfinals.  So I guess it wasn't a bad loss for the fightin' Haruhi's.  Maybe this summer?  (No.  Probably not.)

Rounding out the field would be Kansei Gakuin, who continues to have a penchant for low-scoring close affairs.  Their largest margin of victory?  2.

Despite Sumoto's upset, they were no match for battle-tested Houtoku Gakuen as there were shutout to the tune of 6-0.  On the other side, Kansei Gakuin and Ikuei would trade blows in the latter half of the games.  Ikuei was actually 3 outs from advancing, but Kansei would tie the game with a clutch run.  Ikuei tried once again to leave Kansei behind with a point in the 13th, but Kansei wound up doing one better, bidding Ikuei sayonara 6-5!

That extra inning game may have taken the air out of Kansei as in the final they could only muster 1 run as Houtoku Gakuen would go on to win 3-1 and claim their 10th title (1st in 3 years).  Ikuei would be the final qualifier taking their frustrations in losing out on Sumoto 9-2.

The draw for the super-regionals put a lot of the strong teams in 1 quadrant.

On the upper left, the winner of the Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo 1) v. Riseisha (Osaka 3) would definitely reach the semifinals and a projected bid to Koushien.  Same goes to the Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara (Osaka 2) v. Chiben Gakuen (Nara 2) matchup in the lower left.

The upper right was the hell draw.  Tenri (Nara 3) v. Ritsumeikan (Kyoto 2) and Osaka Touin (Osaka 1) v. Kansei Gakuin (Hyogo 2).  Oumi's (Shiga 1) only competition would be Ikuei (Hyogo 3) in their first game.  Win that and they're pretty much guaranteed a bid.

Riseisha allowed 2 runs in junk time as they eliminated Houtoku Gakuen 9-2 and had a quick 6 inning affair against Minokuchi.  Meanwhile Chiben Gakuen may be taking the flag even from Chiben Wakayama when comparing the two schools as they blank Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara 5-0 and they advance to the semis.

Tenri once again struggled in the big lights, going into extras but defeating Ritsumeikan 3-1 in 10.  They'd have a familiar opponent as Kansei Gakuin couldn't keep up with Osaka Touin's offensive output lasting just 7 innings in a 9-0 loss.  Tenri though was able to take advantage over Touin's eternal weakness - pitching depth as a 4-spot in the 7th proved to be the final margin of victory 8-4.

And lastly, Oumi almost squandered a 6 run lead in the 9th, but won 7-5, then got a strong challenge against a surprisingly strong Naradai Fuzoku squad 2-1.

So all 4 teams were likely to receive a bid.  Question would be who would definitely get an invite.  Chiben Gakuen's Ono would give up a run to open the game, but the team would come back to take the lead and never trail again winning 4-2.  And it would be a grudge match final as Tenri dispatched Oumi 11-1 in 6.

In that grudge match, Chiben Gakuen emphatically put their stamp on the title with a 3-run 1st.  And as to add insult to injury, despite Tenri scoring 3 in the 8th to pull within 1, Chiben Gakuen would win their first ever super-regional title not having used their ace Aoyama in the semifinal nor championship game!

Automatic Bid - Chiben Gakuen (Nara) - 8th appearance, 1st in 11 years
Projected Bid - Tenri (Nara) - 22nd appearance, 4th consecutive
Projected Bid - Riseisha (Osaka) - 4th appearance, 2nd consecutive
Projected Bid - Oumi (Shiga) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 9 years
Projected Bid - Osaka Touin (Osaka) - 5th appearance, 1st in 2 years
Projected Bid - Toba (Kyoto) - 4th appearance, 1st in 7 years

The 5th and 6th bids are best guesses.  I doubt Minakuchi will earn a bid after losing 15-3 to Riseisha.  And as much as Naradai Fuzoku may have earned a bid with a 2-1 loss to Oumi, (a) I doubt the committee will award 3 Nara teams a bid, and (b) Oumi went on to lose to Osaka Touin 11-1.

Fall tournament recap and possible invitees (Hokushinetsu and Toukai)

Gotta start flying through these, we're 2 days away from the announcement of the field!

Hokushinetsu Super-Regionals (2 bids)
This year, the Hokushinetsu Super-Regionals were held in Nagano, so they received the extra bid as the host prefecture.  So once again, let's begin with the hosts!

The regional qualifiers saw Matsushiro and Nagano Nichidai advance from the north... but in the 3rd and 4th positions, Ueda Nishi taking the eastern region in a close game against Chikyuu Kankyou, Matsumoto Dai-ichi and Matsushou Gakuen take the central region as expected while last year's representative Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri just making it, and Toukai Dai-san heading up the weaker southern region.

The prefectural draw saw 3 quadrants with pairs of known teams - Ueda Nishi and Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri in the upper left (they drew each other), Matsushou Gakuen and Nagano Nichidai in the lower left (they also draw each other), and Matsushiro and Matsumoto Dai-ichi in the upper right (yes, they too drew each other).  Only the lower left quadrant had no real notable names outside of Chikyuu Kankyou, but while they've been above average in the prefecture as of late, they still haven't proven anything.

And almost as expected, the winners of each of the pairs would advance to the semifinals.  Ueda Nishi outlasted Tokyo Shidai 8-6, then Nagano 8-5.  Matsushou Gakuen just beat out Nagano Nichidai 6-5 before handling Toukai Dai-san 6-1.  Matsushiro continues to fade into the background with a 10-0 loss to Matsumoto Dai-ichi who in turn handled Komoro Shougyou.  And in the final quadrant, Chikyuu Kankyou at least did perhaps what was expected with two wins over Tagawa and Iiyama Kita.

What happened next was shocking.  In looking at the recent history of the prefecture, one would have expected an all-Matsumoto final.

You would be dead wrong.

Ueda Nishi was up first, taking the game to Matsushou Gakuen as ace Shiba would pitch a complete game shutout winning 3-0!

Next was Chikyuu Kankyou.  Having been unable to break the ceiling the last couple of years, they finally put their stamp on the prefecture as their ace Shitsudo pitches his own shutout against Matsumoto Dai-ichi!

So both Matsumoto schools go down (though they both qualify this year) and 2 teams desperate for a title get a chance at it!

In the final, both go to their bullpens.  Chikyuu Kankyou to Sakai, and Ueda Nishi to Urano.  Turns out that perhaps Ueda had the deeper bullpen.  Chikyuu Kankyou gives up 10 runs in the 2nd-4th innings and that was all she wrote.  Ueda Nishi clinched their 3rd title and 1st in 11 years.  Meanwhile, Chikyuu Kankyou (a secret pet favorite of mine) earns their 1st ever birth to the super-regionals!  And in a bit of formality, Matsumoto Dai-ichi bests Matsushou Gakuen in their re-match (they played in the regional final) 5-4.

In the large draw for the Niigata prefecturals, Hokuetsu, Chuuetsu, and Nihon Bunri occupied one quadrant setting the "directional schools" up for a quarterfinal match, Niigata Meikun had a quadrant to themselves, and Niigata Kenou Kougyou having a full half to themselves save for maybe Jyouetsu.

It would indeed be Nihon Bunri and Hokuetsu in the quarterfinals.  Despite mowing down the previous competition Hokuetsu would fight back, and hard.  Nihon Bunri would score 8 runs, but it wasn't enough as they would be eliminated 9-8.

Niigata Meikun and Niigata Kenou Kougyou also had no trouble reaching the semis.  The final team to round out the quartet was Takada.

Hokuetsu looked to make a run for their 1st Koushien bid and this put Niigata Meikun away 8-4 in the semifinals.  Takada indeed was the odd man out in the foursome, falling 7-1.

In the finals, Hokuetsu would not be stopped.  They defeat Niigata Kenou Kougyou 3-1 for their 3rd title, and 1st in 61 years!

Joining the twosome would be Niigata Meikun.  They dispatched Takada 7-0.

Toyama has been a muddy mess as of late.  Toyama Shougyou has been the regular entrant from the prefecture, but you had to love the story of Shin-Minato this past summer.  I'm not sure I'll ever see such a large contingent dressed up in the school's colors ever again at Koushien.

Both teams could be found on the same half of the bracket.

That left the other half up for grabs.  Toyama Dai-ichi and Fujikoshi Kougyou reached the semifinals, and thanks to a 4-run 3rd, Fujikoshi advanced to the finals.

Meanwhile, Shin-Minato looked good in it's first two games, but then had to face Tonami Kougyou.  Unfortunately, their offense suffered a power outage at the wrong time as they lost 2-1.  While strong, they posed a lesser threat to Toyama Shougyou as they were mercy ruled 7-0 in 7 innings. Toyama Shougyou would take their 18th title (1st in 3 years) with ease demolishing Fujikoshi Kougyou 15-3.  Tonami Kougyou defeated Toyama Dai-ichi 10-6 in the 3rd place match to advance.

Ishikawa perhaps has a void now that Kamata has left KanazawaYuugakukan had challenged for a couple of years so it's possible they may fill the gap.  Or perhaps it's finally the time of the cycle where Matsui's alma mater Seiryou to rise to the top again.

Or, it's quite possible the prefecture becomes up for grabs.

Of the three, Yuugakukan is the first to fall losing 2-0 to Kanazawa Shougyou.  Next to go was Seiryou who lost in a barn-burner 8-7 to Kanazawa Gakuin Higashi.

That left Kanazawa as the last remaining team.  But they too would fall.  In a disastrous 6-run inning, the aforementioned Kanazawa Gakuin Higashi forced Kanazawa to fight for their bid as they fell 9-3.

Who would be KG Higashi's opponent?  Turns out it would be Kanazawa Nishi.  After almost stumbling in the first 2 games, they managed to right the ship culminating in a 13 inning nailbiter against Kanazawa Shougyou which included a swap of runs in the 10th and both aces going all 13 innings!

You'd think then that Kanazawa Gakuin Higashi would have the upper hand, especially since Kanzawa Nishi sent out ace Tsuji once again.  And in fact, KG Higashi built a 5-0 lead and the title seemed all but secure.

But perhaps in a twist of irony, KG Higashi suffers their own 6-run disaster in the 7th inning.  Trailing 6-5, KG Higashi couldn't find a reply.  One more insurance run in the 8th sealed the deal.  Kanazawa Nishi would win just their 2nd title (their first was in 2004).

Kanazawa would eventually get their ticket to the super-regional with a 5-1 win over Kanazawa Shougyou.

For as long as the schools can remember, 3 teams dominate the small ~30 school prefecutre.  Fukui Koudai Fukui (fka Fukui), Fukui Shougyou, and Tsuruga Kehi.

Not surprisingly, the trio along with Hokuriku were the 4 seeded teams.  Also not surprisingly, all 4 made the semifinals.

Now unfortunately I don't have information on the games, but if the scores are an indication, perhaps the other schools are finally catching up.  All 4 teams experienced at least 1 close game en route to the semis.  Schools like Usui or Nyuu had been seeded teams in years past, so perhaps there's some parity coming along in the future.

But that's for the future.  For now, it would seem that the usual trio would make yet another appearance in the super-regional.  It would just be a matter of order.

For Tsuruga Kehi, their time to reign over the prefecture doesn't seem to be over yet.  Though in their semifinal game, they fell behind Fukui Koudai, managed to rally with 2 in the lucky 7 to tie the game at 4, and eventually win it in 10 on a sayonara walkoff.

Their opponent however would not be Fukui Shougyou.  No, Hokuriku schocked Fukushou by replying to a 1st inning 2-run deficit with 4 runs of their own.  And when Fukushou pulled within 2, Hokuriku re-extended the lead to 5.  Fukushou would mount one last comeback in the last 2 innings, but fall 1 run short at 10-9!  That meant that one of the powerhouses wouldn't receive an invite to the super-regionals!

That odd team out would be Fukui Shougyou.  Perhaps as a punishment for failing to keep the trio together, Fukui Koudai Fukui embarrassed them to the tune of 23-3!

As for the final, Hokuriku actually struck first, going out to a 2-0 lead after 5.  But a 3 spot in the 6th for Tsuruga Kehi left Hokuriku playing catch-up to which they could never recover.  Tsuruga Kehi wins 8-3 to claim their 3rd consecutive fall title and 24th overall.

Now that we had our representatives, the draw would come out and well, it looked odd.
  • Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui 1) oddly would get a first round match against Matsumoto Dai-ichi, but only because they were Nagano 3.
  • Fukui Koudai Fukui would actually get a easy draw despite being Fukui 3, with only Niigata Meikun (Niigata 3) perhaps a challenger.
  • Even stranger, Matsushou Gakuen, Nagano's 4-seed, was put in a draw with Kanazawa, who was Ishikawa's 3-seed!
  • And Tonami Kougyou, despite being Toyama's 3-seed seemed to get an easy draw, with perhaps the breakthrough team of the super-regionals Chikyuu Kankyou (Nagano 2) in the way.
Tsuruga Kehi would get past Matsumoto Dai-ichi 7-2, and thus breezed to the semifinals.  Meanwhile, with Niigata Meikun's complete collapse in the late innings to Kanazawa Gakuin Higashi (9 runs in the last 3 innings!), Fukui Koudai's path to the semis was complete.

On the other half, Matsushou Gakuen had no trouble with Hokuetsu, and then proceeded to blank the rebuilding Kanazawa team 3-0 for their spot in the semis.  And finally, Tonami Kougyou would actually be embarassed with a 15-5, 5-inning mercy rule game to Kanazawa Nishi.  That opened the door for Chikyuu Kankyou who beat Hokuriku 8-1, then turned around and mercy-ruled Kanazawa Nishi in the minimum 5 innings.

Onto the semis then, and a rematch of the Fukui prefectural semifinals between Tsuruga Kehi and Fukui Koudai Fukui.  This time around, this would not be a close match.  Instead, ace Yamamoto for Tsuruga Kehi pitches a complete game shutout against their rivals, slotting them into a probable automatic bid.

The other semi had Chikyuu Kankyou facing another demon in Matsushou Gakuen.  They didn't meet in the prefecturals, but it was like they were being tested once again to prove that they belonged.  A loss now meant that they would fall short yet again, despite advancing to the super-regionals for the first time.

Instead, Shitsudo goes out and limits Matsushou's offense to just 7 hits in a 4-0 shutout!

So the finals would be Tsuruga Kehi and Chikyuu Kankyou.  Pretty much a no-brainer here.

But once again, Chikyuu Kankyou rose to the occasion.  Shitsudo takes the hill once again, and throws blanks onto the scoreboard!  He continues to keep his team in it as the innings turn to the 8th, 9th, and onto the 10th!  Would it be possible that a first time qualifier to the super-regionals actually wins the title?

Sadly no.  Bottom 13, 2 outs for Tsuruga Kehi and runners at the corners.  Chikyuu elects to walk reliever Yamamoto Shou to get to Yamamoto Ryuu.  But in that AB, Shitsudo hits Ryuu, forcing in the sayonara run.

Shitsudo would set records for the longest scoreless innings streak in the super-regional (32), and longest scoreless innings streak in a championship game (12), but in the end his team would fall short as Tsuruga Kehi claims their 1st title in 24 years (5th overall).  However, I think despite Chikyuu Kankyou's loss, they will receive their 1st ever bid to Koushien in their 1st ever opportunity.

Automatic Bid - Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui) - 4th appearance, 1st in 2 years
Projected Bid - Chikyuu Kankyou (Nagano) - 1st appearance

By the way, if you were to translate Chikyuu Kankyou's name (地球環境), you'd get "Global Environment".  Yep, it's an environmental school.  You gotta dig their uniforms, and they even have the word Earth on their hats!  And now you know why I root for them.

Toukai Super-Regional (2 bids)

Now to one of the more all-around competitive regions.  Of course, there's only 4 prefectures in this region (yes, I know Shikoku has 4 as well) but the teams are generally competitive.

No additional bids are awarded to host teams (prefectural winners got a 1st round bye).

Shizuoka too has a form of pool play with repechages that get us to our 25 prefectural qualifiers.

Included in the teams that qualified were both Tokoha Tachibana and Tokoha Kikugawa (though we haven't really heard from them recently), Shizuoka (who's come on as of late), and yet another Toukai school - Toukaidai Shouyou.

The teams were almost separated into different parts of the bracket, but Tokoha Kikugawa and Shizuoka drew the same region.

Of the 4 teams, only 2 advanced to the semifinals.  Tokoha Tachibana advanced with little problem, and Shizuoka blanked Tokoha Kikugawa 6-0 to reach the semis.  Toukaidai Shouyou lost in their first game to Kakegawa Higashi who in turn lost to semifinalist Fuji Shiritsu while Shizuoka Shougyou advanced from the final quadrant.

Fuji Shiritsu continued to play the role of spoiler in the semifinals, using a 2-spot in the lucky 7 and a great performance by ace Tsukamoto on the mound to send Shizuoka to the 3rd place match.  The other semi was not as close.  Shizuoka Shougyou put up their own 2-run inning in the 1st and never looked back against Tokoha Tachibana, winning 4-1!

In the final, experience would win out as Shizuoka Shougyou would score in 3 of the first 4 innings as ace Nakamoto gives up just one run in a CG effort.  The 3-1 victory would give Shizuoka Shougyou their 12th fall title and first in 2 years.  Fuji Shiritsu should still be happy about their efforts as they earned their first trip to the super-regionals, and the Tokoha schools are shutout again as Shizuoka eliminates them in the 3rd place game 3-1.

When you talk Aichi, there's really only 2 schools you talk about - and they're about 20 minutes trip from each other - Aikoudai Meiden and Chuukyoudai ChuukyouTouhou and Shigakukan can be inluded in the conversation in recent years, but they still play second fiddle.

All 4 teams advanced out of round-robin play though, and drew 3 parts of the bracket (Meiden had the upper left, Shigakukan and Chuukyoudai the lower left, and Touhou had the entire right half to themselves).

Fast-forward to the quarterfinal matches, and Aikoudai Meiden pitches yet another shutout, but only in a 2-0 win over Sakuragaoka.  Shigakukan continues to try and establish a foothold with an 11-3 win over Chuukyoudai Chuukyou, who perhaps doesn't look the same after the retirement of Oofuji-kantoku.  And Touhou does indeed own their half of the bracket, defeating semifinalist Aichi Sangyoudai Kougyou 6-3.

Touhou would face Aikoudai Meiden as they force Shigakukan into a loser-out match with a 6-0 shutout.  Meiden would then win their 2nd consecutive title, and 5th overall(!) with a handy 9-6 win.  Shigakukan would join them with a 7-0 shutout in the 3rd place game.

Gifu has their own triumvirate of Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou, Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou and Oogaki Nichidai. All 3 advanced out of round-robin play, however Ken Gifushou and Oogaki Nichidai wound up drawing the same quadrant.  Shi Gifushou were on the other half.

Ken Gifushou and Oogaki Nichidai would meet in the quarterfinals with Nichidai being blanked 3-0.  They then perhaps relaxed a bit against Oogaki Nishi because they needed a run in both the bottom of the 8th and 9th innings to reach the finals 2-1!

Shi Gifushou didn't have such trouble, with an average margin of victory of a little over 7 runs, advanced to the finals with a 12-0 win over Oogaki Shougyou.

So it was a battle of business schools in the finals.  And in a pitcher's duel, the city school (Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou) outlasted the prefectural school 1-0 for just their 2nd ever fall title!  (Their 1st was back in 1974)

And despite being blown out in the semis, Oogaki Shougyou is the 3rd team to advance with a 7-4 win in the 3rd place game.

Mie also has a soft spot for me, not sure why, perhaps it's because I visited Ise back in 2006 and loved it.  And perhaps they're not any different than other rural prefectures, but there was a clip I watched with Mie's 3rd base coach emphatically waving around a runner that seemed to connect with me.  So I root for Mie, both the team and the prefecture, though they've only won 1 Haru and Natsu title, and that was almost 50 years ago.

Nowadays, Mie has had to share the spotlight with teams like Komono, Inabe Sougou Gakuen (love their hats) and Uji-Yamada Shougyou.

Uji-Yamada and Komono wound up drawing the same quadrant setting up a quarterfinal match that would in all likelihood determine a qualifier, while Mie and ISG should guarantee themselves a bid should they both reach the semis.

And indeed, after Komono defeated Uji-Yamada Shougyou 8-4, they dispatched Kinkidai Tousen 7-0 in 7 innings.  Flipping to the other half, Mie and ISG were in a dogfight of a semifinal with the teams exchanging blows.  In the end though, Mie would be victorious 4-3.

Despite having not been to Natsu Koushien in several years, Mie continues to make the super-regionals, winning their 5th straight fall title (and 17th overall) with a 3-1 win over Komono.  Joining the pair would be ISG with a 3-2 heart-stopper against Kinkidai Tousen.

So the nice thing about being in a 4-prefecture super-regional is that as a prefectural champion, you get a first-round bye, and you only need to win 3 games to get an automatic bid to Haru Koushien.  So it behooves teams to get a first-round bye.

Mie got perhaps the easiest possible 2nd round opponent before possibly facing Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou (though Touhou or Inabe Sougou Gakuen might have something to say about it).

On the other side, the winner of the Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou-Shigakukan match might advance to the semis because that's where Shizuoka winner Shizuoka Shougyou resides.  Finally, Aikoudai Meiden might have the hardest 2nd round matchup as they will either face Komono or Shizuoka.

The first upset occurred when Shigakukan usurped Ken Gifushou 3-1.  After that, 3 of the 4 top seeds advanced to the semis with the only exception being the aforementioned Shizuoka Shougyou who put up a good fight, but fell 4-3 to Shigakukan.

In the semis, Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou couldn't hit Mie's ace Miura.  He would scatter 5-hits in a complete game 5-0 shutout.  Aikoudai Meiden found themselves in a rematch against Shigakukan, and the results were about the same.  Meiden advances to the final with a 4-1 win over their in-prefecture rival.

And in the super-regional championship, Mie's Hamada would spot the Aichi champions 3 runs in the opening innings.  Despite making a furious late-inning rally, Mie would come up just a run short losing 4-3 and giving Ichiro's alma mater just their 5th ever super-regional title (their first in 7 years)

Automatic Bid - Aikoudai Meiden (Aichi) - 9th appearance, 1st in 7 years
Projected Bid - Mie (Mie) - 11th appearance, 1st in 2 years

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fall tournament recap and possible invitees (Kanto & Tokyo)

Moving on south, we hit the Kanto region where 4 bids are at stake, and Tokyo where they get a single bid.

First off, Tokyo.

Tokyo Super-Regional (1 bid + 1 floating bid w/Kanto)

Tokyo once again broke up into their 24 blocks, which probably reflects in some ways the 23 wards.

Except I looked up the schools in the first bracket of the first block... and that certainly wasn't the case.

Our qualifiers from block play were as follows:

Block 1
  • Sundai Gakuen - An above-average team in recent years, Sundai had no trouble in their 3 games.
  • Toua Gakuen - A solid team as of late, but stumbled a bit against Toritsu Kunitachi winning 6-4.
 Block 2
  • Meisei - Much like Toua Gauen, they cruised early, but had to win a 9-7 shootout against Toritsu Matsubara to advance.
  • Rikkyo Ikebukuro - Easily cleared their two matchups to advance.
 Block 3
  • Toritsu Higashi-Yamato - Survived their first game against Senshuudai Fuzoku 9-6, but then was clear sailing afterwards.
  • Toritsu Hachiouji Kita - No problems in their 2 games to advance.
 Block 4
  • Ikubunkan - They perhaps had the upset of their school's history.  Squaring off against Natsu Koushien champs Nichidai-san, their ace Tobayashi gave up 1 earned run and 5 hits, striking out 0(!) and walking 1 in a 4-2 upset of Sanko at their home field!!  You can read a recap on their website here.
  • Kokugakuin Kugayama - It seems that Block 4 was supposed to be the powerhouse block, but it looks like Kokugakuin Kugayama will be the only one advancing.  They won their 2 games by a total of 34-1.
Block 5
  • Adachi Gakuen - Offensive showing on their part against Toritsu Sakuragaoka and Toritsu Mastugaya to advance to super-regional play.
  • Toritsu Nerima - Nerima had a close call against Toritsu Machida Kougyou 3-2 before smoking Toritsu Musashi Murayama 12-4.
Block 6
  • Toritsu Adachi Nishi - Adachi Nishi was helped by a forfeit against Nihon Wellness, but then had to face Kokushikan.  They were able to move on with a 2-1 win!
  • Komazawa Daigaku - Komazawa University's high school shutout their 2 opponents in advancing out of block play.
Block 7
  • Teikyou - Teikyou as expected had no trouble in their 2 games, winning by the mercy rule each time.
  • Kokugakuin - The parent school is able to join their sister school (Kugayama), though not without some difficulty.  They just beat Toritsu Jyousui 2-1 in their first game, then edged out Waseda 4-3 to advance.
Block 8
  • Houyuu Gakuin - No issues with them, lowest margin of victory was 5 in their 3 games.
  • Nittai Ebara - The home field in this block certainly helped Nittai Ebara in their 2 victories.
Block 9
  • Iwakura - They needed their home field advantage as they barely beat Toritsu Shouyou 5-4, then Setagaya Gakuin 4-3 to advance to super-regional play.
  • Toritsu Kassai Kougyou - They needed a hard-fought win over Shiba (2-0) to advance out of their part of the block.
Block 10
  • Hachiouji - Combined score of 32-4 meant they breezed on through.
  • Yasuda Gakuen - This part of the block all games were mercy ruled with the lowest margin of victory being 9 runs.  Chuodai Suginami was the last team to fall at 10-0.
Block 11
  • Horikoshi - A solid team as of late, they edged out Aoyama Gakuin 4-2 in the block final.
  • Toritsu Bunkyou - Bunkyou scored a minor upset when they defeated Toritsu Hino in the block final 4-3 to advance.  Hino has been a perennial contender in the last couple of years, so this is a bit surprising.
Block 12
  • Meijidai Nakano-Hachiouji - Another solid school in Tokyo, Nakano-Hachiouji beat out Toritsu Higashi-Yamato Minami 3-1.
  • Toritsu Momijigawa - Momijigawa was not threatened in any of their 3 games, defeated Tokyo Noudai Dai-ichi 6-3 in the finals.
Block 13
  • Oberlin - It continues to amaze me that a school more known for arts than baseball has a strong team.  After starting slow against Toritsu Nagayama, they cleared their last 2 games with ease.
  • Toritsu Kodaira - It was not so easy for Kodaira as they went to the limit against Ueno Gakuen in the block finals, eventually winning 7-6.
Block 14
  • Toukaidai Sugao - We finally see our first Toukaidai school here in block 14.  A 4-2 win over Kinjyou Gakuen started their bid, then won their next 2 games 16-0 and 6-0.
  • Toritsu Fuchuu Higashi - Fuchuu Higashi struggled in a 6-4 win against Shouwa Dai-ichi Gakuen before shutting out Kyouei Gakuen 4-0 in the final.
Block 15
  • Nichidai Buzan - No problems in their 3 games flying through block play.
  • Toritsu Sougou Kouka - They had even less trouble at their home field winning all games via the mercy rule.
Block 16
  • Toritsu Adachi Niita - Hounan gave them a run in their first game falling 6-5, but it was much easier thereafter for Adachi Niita.
  • Kousei Gakuen - Not to be confused with Kousei Gakuin, Kousei Gakuen had made a name for themselves with ace Mizoguchi.  He's since moved on, and now Isozaki takes over.  He wasn't worked hard in block play as his team won via mercy rule in all games.
Block 17
  • Nisshou Gakushidai Fuzoku - In another powerhouse block, Nishhou Gakushadai won 12-1 and 9-0 to advance.
  • Kanto Dai-ichi - Joining them would be Kanto Dai-ichi who perhaps wasn't offensively dominant, but still limited opponents to 2 runs in 2 games.
Block 18
  • Toukaidai Takanawadai - Another Toukaidai school advances here in block 18 with a 17-0 combined score.
  • Nichidai Sakuragaoka - They defeated home team Toritsu Fuchuu Kougyou on their way to super-regional play.
Block 19
  • Toritsu Yukigaya - Yukigaya has been one of the stronger teams in Tokyo (though never able to get over the top), and had no trouble in block 19.
  • Shuutoku - Shuutoku falls in that category as well.  But they almost lost to Toritsu Jyoutou 3-2.
Block 20
  • Seiritsu Gakuen - We see more solid teams advancing as both Seiritsu Gakuen...
  • Souka - and Souka advance out of Block 20.  Souka did get a scare against Nichidai-ichi but won 1-0.
Block 21
  • Nichidai Tsurugaoka - How did Nichidai Tsurugaoka, Meijidai Meiji and Waseda Gakuin all end up in one part of one block??  Tsurugaoka survived defeated Meiji 2-1, and then Waseda 3-2 in the final to advance.
  • Toritsu Koyamadai - Koyamadai moves on with a good win over Toritsu Fujimori 5-1.
Block 22
  • Seisoku Gakuen - Seisoku almost didn't make it out of the first round, defeating Toritsu Arakawa Kougyou 4-3 before blitzing Seijyou 8-1.
  • Toritsu Katakura - No problems for the host team here.  2 and on for them.
Block 23
  • Waseda Jitsugyou - Back to form in block play anyways, Soujitsu advances with ease..
  • Toritsu Igusa - Igusa joins the ranks with victories similar to Soujitsu.
Block 24
  • Nichidai-ni - Well, Nichidai-ni once again advances into super-regional play, but still lives in the shadows of their brethren Sanko.
  • Taisei - Rounding out the field is Taisei who without a field of their own, beat Tokyo and Jyuunten to move on.
The draws for the super-regionals saw the following:
  • Toua Gakuen gets a quadrant mostly to themselves, but Waseda Jitsugyou and upset-minded Ikubunkan lurk in the bracket.
  • Kanto Dai-ichi occupy the other quadrant on the same side.  Nichidai Buzan and possibly Oberlin await, but it feels like smooth sailing to the semifinals.
  • Teikyou seems to possibly have the hardest road with possible opponents along the way including Kousei Gakuen, Toukaidai Sugao, Nichidai Tsurugaoka, and Kokugakuin.  To a lesser extent Toritsu Yukigaya and Nichidai-ni are present as well.
  • Finally, Shuutoku and Kokugakuin Kugayama round out the last quadrant, though Nichidai Sakuragaoka and Sundai Gakuen could provide some added competition.
 In quadrant 1, Toua Gakuen got an immediate scare against Toritsu Adachi Nishi (who had actually defeated Souka 6-2).  They fell behind 3-1 early, but was able to scratch runs in the later innings to come back and win 4-3.  Afterwards, they flew through to the semifinals, including a 7-0 mercy win over aforementioned Ikubunkan.

Their opponent in the semis would indeed be Kanto Dai-ichi.  But they too were almost sent home.  Their quarterfinal matchup was indeed Nichidai Buzan, who then took a 3-0 lead, and then a 4-2 lead.  However, their pitching staff couldn't hold the lead and gave up 5 runs in the last 3 innings.

Teikyou, for all the good teams in the bracket, actually had trouble against Houyuu Gakuin in the 2nd round - scratching together just 3 runs in an uncharacteristic 3-1 victory.  Otherwise, they defeated Kokugakuin, Nisshou Gakushadai Fuzoku and Nichidai Tsurugaoka with little trouble.

Finally, the two incumbents in the final quadrant both fell in the round of 16.  Toritsu Fuchuu Higashi outlasted Kokugakuin Kugayama scoring 4 runs in the last 2 innings to win 4-2, while Shuutoku was blitzed by Sundai Gakuen 9-0 in 7 innings.  And in the matchup for a spot in the semis, Sundai was able to recover after relinquishing a 2-0 lead with a run in the bottom of the 8th.  Ace Kitagawa was able to shut the door in the 9th for the win.

The semis though went scratch.  Toua Gakuen still cannot break the ceiling into the realm of the contenders as Kanto Dai-ichi put them out of their misery winning 13-0 in 7.  Meanwhile, Teikyou put Sundai Gakuen behind the 8-ball early with 4 runs on their way to a 6-1 win.

That put two familiar faces in the finals with Kanto Dai-ichi and Teikyou.  Yet in the championship game, Teikyou experienced a power outage unseen for such a team.  Ace Kitagawa held the offensive-minded team to just 1 hit in a CG shutout!  That means that the Tokyo representative is:

Automatic Bid - Kanto Dai-ichi (2nd title, 1st in 3 years) - 4th appearance, 1st in 4 years

Kanto Super-Regional (4 bids + 1 floating bid with Tokyo)
Kanto's Super-Regional this year is being held in Yamanashi.  As such, they will receive one extra bid to the Super-Regional this time around.

So, let's go backwards from Yamanashi and head northeast!

My favorite team here is no secret, it's Nihon Koukuu (i.e. Japan Aviation Academy).  I mean how often is it you have an aviation school actually decent in baseball?  Ok, that's an obvious question, but you get my point.

Sadly, those days seem to be behind them.  They fell 4-1 to Fuji Kawaguchiko in the quarterfinals.

The vacuum in the prefecture has been fought over in recent years.  Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku laid claim to it for a while, but also lost in the quarters to Kofu Kougyou.  The same fate (and same score) befell Fuji Gakuen as well to Kofu Nishi.

The team to carry the flag (for now anyways), is Toukaidai Kofu.  They blanked Kofu Nishi 7-0 to claim their 7th title and 1st in 6 years.

Joining Toukaidai Kofu and Kofu Nishi would be Kofu Kougyou.  They edged out Fuji Kawaguchiko 4-3 in the 3rd place game.

Kanagawa has small round-robin play that sends players to the prefecturals.  89 teams plus the Natsu Koushien representative Yokohama would advance.

A lot of the usual subjects advanced into prefectural play, so let's head straight there.

The draw saw Yokohama occupied the upper left hand corner of the bracket.  The only notable name in their bracket is Toukou Gakuen. Their only other competition in the other quadrant to Yokohama could be Yokohama Shoudai and Touin Gakuen.  That meant a lot of the well known names drew themselves on the other half.  And in the upper right quadrant, there were quite a few of them.  Toukaidai Sagami, Nichidai Fujisawa and Yokohama Hayato. Finally, Keiou occupies the lower right part of the bracket.

As expected, Toukou Gakuen gave Yokohama a good run for their money, but Yokohama prevailed 4-3.  They then breezed through to the semis.  Also as expected Yokohama Shoudai advanced without issue, as Touin Gakuen fell 9-0 to Tachibana Gakuen (立花学園).

Toukaidai Sagami only had to face Nichidai Fujisawa and defeated them 6-2.  Shounan Gakuen was the last line of defense before the semis, but they were shutout 4-0.  Their opponent though would not be Keiou,  They were breezing through the quadrant until they faced Busou.  Someone actually put the game up here.  Busou managed to pull off the upset 4-2 and advance to the semis!

However, their run would end there.  Toukaidai Sagami would jump out to an early lead and not relinquish it.  Busou fought back to make the score respectable, but they lost 8-6.

Their fellow finalist would be no surprise as Yokohama won 5-1 over Yokohama Shoudai.  In that final, Yokohama would once again build an early lead, and almost like their game against Chiben Gakuen, almost gave it up.  Sagami scored 2 runs before reliever Souma would record the final out to preserve Yokohama's back-to-back fall titles (15th overall).

Summer representative Narashino would get a free pass to the prefectural brackets.  Everyone else would have to qualify in pool play (Chiba has 1 round of pool play, and then a repechage between all pool non-winners).

Notable teams to advance in the 1st stage were Chiba Meitoku, Kei-ai Gakuen, Shiritsu Funabashi, Senshuudai Matsudo, Chiba Eiwa, Narita, and Kisaradzu Sougou.

Teams that advanced out of the 2nd stage included Shigakukan, Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, Toukaidai Urayasu, Seibudai Chiba, Toukaidai Bouyou, and Chiba Kei-ai.

The draw for the prefecturals left some pretty barren areas.  The only name in the upper left quadrant was Kisaradzu Sougou.  Joining them in the lower left quadrant was Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, Kei-ai Gakuen, Toukaidai Urayasu, Chiba Eiwa and Seibudai Chiba.

On the other side, Narashino would have to take the long road to the title, one that would have to include a 2nd round match with Narita.  But if they were able to survive that, the road would get much easier.

Furthermore, only Toukaidai Bouyou and Senshuudai Matsudo remained in the final quadrant.

Despite having the quadrant all to themselves, Kisaradzu Sougou was unable to advance to the quarterfinals after losing to Matsudo Kokusai 12-7.  That opened the door in the quadrant and Kashiwa Nittai flew right through leveling the aforementioned Matsudo Kokusai 10-0 to advance to the semis.  Their opponent would be Chiba Eiwa who just got by Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku 3-2.

Unfortunately for Kashiwa Nittai, Chiba Eiwa's been looking for this moment to get to the finals for a while now and Nittai would never lead in the game, falling 6-1.

Meanwhile, Narashino indeed was in a dogfight with Narita but prevailed 5-4.  However in the quarterfinals they struggled against Shiritsu Kashiwa.  While apparently there is video of this game, I haven't watched it, but Narashino would wind up falling 4-3!  Toukaidai Bouyou and Senshuudai Matsudo did meet in the quarterfinals and while Senshuudai appeared score-wise to be better, Toukaidai Bouyou won the game 4-2.

And in the semis, Toukaidai Bouyou continued their run with a slim 1-0 win over the upstart Kashiwa squad.

So the finals were between 2 teams that had been close before, but had been unable to break through in recent years.  The game was scoreless for the first couple of innings, but Bouyou finally opened the scoring in the 5th and added an insurance run in the 6th.  Satou was holding Chiba Eiwa scoreless, but when he gave up a 1-out double to Kimura, the ball would be handed to Noma who had helped in the 1-0 shutout.

That's when it went horribly wrong.

His first batter, Sekimoto, would single to left scoring Kimura to make it 2-1. Nemoto then singled back to Noma and Ogino would reach on an error to load the bases. Noma would only get out of the mess by getting the next 2 batters to ground out.

The 9th wouldn't give Noma any respite either.  After retiring the first batter, he would give up a walk and 2 consecutive hits to load the bases.  Sekimoto would once again be Noma's worst enemy, delivering yet another single scoring 2 and giving Chiba Eiwa the lead.

Noma would be eventually charged with 5 runs and Chiba Eiwa would win their 2nd fall title, and 1st in 18 years.

Saitama still amazes me in that they seem to be a metropolitian prefecture, and yet they cannot for some reason produce a Koushien championship-type team.  They give average teams, but not the calibur that we might think. Hanasaki Tokuharu, Urawa Gakuin, and Seibou Gakuen dominate the scene, only Seibou's championship run in the 2008 Haru Koushien stands out (which when I look back at it, they defeated Riseisha, Ryuukokudai Heian and Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku before losing to Higashihama's Okinawa Shoukagu.

So it's no surprise that all three made it out of pool play (Natsu Koushien representative Hanasaki Tokuharu has to qualify like everyone else).  Joining them would be Kasukabe Kyouei, home of Lucky Star and a good baseball team that just can't get past the Big 3.

It's also no surprise that all 4 made it to the quarterfinals (being seeded and all).  Only Urawa Gakuin though had no trouble in their games leading up to the Final 4 - Seibou Gakuin beat Oomiya Higashi 1-0 in their first game, Kasukabe Kyouei defeated Shouhei 1-0 in the quarterfinals, and Hanasaki Tokuharu beat Oomiya Nishi 3-2 also in the 1st round.

In the semis, Seibou Gakuen rallied in the 7th and 8th innings to take a 1-run lead over Urawa Gakuin.  It looked like perhaps Urawa Gakuin's hard game may prove fatal.

But in the bottom of the 9th Urawa would come from behind and rally for a 5-4 sayonara win.

In the other semi, Kasukabe Kyouei's struggles continue.  They spot 6 runs right off the bat to Hanasaki Tokuharu, and while they rally to within 1 in the 5th inning, it's wiped away in one fell swoop when Tokuharu scores 5 in the 6th.  They'll have to wait for the summer once again falling 12-10.

The finals started out to be a closely contested match as Urawa would go up 3-0 only to see Tokuharu tie it up shortly thereafter.  However, the pitching would fail them late as Urawa Gakuin claims their 3rd consecutive fall title and 12th overall with an 11-3 win.

As much as I lament about Saitama, I think the same thing about Gunma as well.  Taking it further I can only remember Kiryuu Dai-ichi and this past summer's representative Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi.  Only after going back I am reminded that Tokyo Noudai-ni was from Gunma too (when an agricultural school makes it I tend to root for them as again, when do you see a school for agriculture developing a good baseball team?).

But outside of those 3, I couldn't name any other team without looking (Maebashi Ikuei for instance).

So when Kiryuu Dai-ichi lost to Maebashi Ikuei 9-0, who in turn lost to Takasaki 4-3 in the quarterfinals, it seemeed all but secured for Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi.

And in fact, with a 7-2 win over the aforementioned Takasaki, Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi secured their first ever fall title!

It's funny to think that I remember more teams from Tochigi than Gunma and Saitama, and yet I don't recall outside of Sakushin Gakuin this past summer any team really making any significant run once they reach Koushien.  In fact when I looked it up, it was Kokugakuin Tochigi that made the last type of run in 2000 making it to the semifinals losing to Chiben Wakayama.

As of late, the teams competing for the prefecture include the aforementioned Sakushin Gakuin, Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku and Hakuoudai Ashikaga.

Now both Sakushin and Hakuoudai both breezed through the early stages setting up a semifinal match between the two.  Meanwhile Bunsei Geidai had 3 tough games against Yaita Chuo, Oyama Minami and Utsunomiya Kita - not especially strong teams.  They'd draw Utsunomiya Kougyou, a team that's been to Koushien before - just not in a while.

In that semifinal, Utsunomiya Kougyou was able to stifle Bunsei's offense early, but as they headed into the late innings, Bunsei Geidai was finally able to pull away in the 6th for a 6-1 win guaranteeing a spot in the Super-Regionals.

Meanwhile, Sakushin was getting all they could handle from Hakuoudai Ashikaga.  After trailing 3-0 in the first, they quickly rally to take a 5-3 lead... only to see that evaporate just as quickly.  And when they tried to pull away with a run in the 4th and 5th, Hakuoudai pulled within one again in the 6th.  Finally Sakushin would close the door with a pair of runs late to reach the finals.

Now, despite the struggles for Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku, they proved to be a formidable opponent in the final.  The teams continued to throw donuts onto the scoreboard inning after inning.  It soon looked like we'd be headed into extras.

But in the top of the 9th, Takayama for Sakushin finally had enough.  He blasts a 2-run homerun giving them the lead and most probably the win.  Ootani would throw one more shutout inning his team's 15th victory and 1st since 2002.

Despite having just 98 teams, Ibaraki elects to put their teams through pool play.

And until recently, the prefecture was dominated by Jyousou Gakuin.  Fun fact, going through the history of Ibaraki's representatives, they actually had won a spring and summer title early in the 'aughties.  I randomly picked the 2003 title and wouldn't you know, they defeated Darvish and Tohoku for the title!

What's happened since then to the prefecture?  Jyousou has relinquished their place at the top to teams such as Shimotsuma Dai-ni and Suijyou (who showed so much promise, but now appears to have been a one-hit wonder despite continuing to be at the top of the prefecture).

Now all 3 teams made it out of pool play and were seeded along with Mito Shougyou.  Other notable teams to have advanced included Kasumigaura (home to the Hiiragi shrine from Lucky Star, though their baseball team has gotten better in recent years - how come Nishinomiya Kita hasn't??), Tsuchiura Nichidai and Mito Sakuranomaki (that's Ken's team due to their uniforms).  The latter two drew each other in the first round.

Not surprisingly, all 4 seeded teams advanced to the semifinals.  Kasumigaura gave Jyousou Gakuin a scare in the quarterfinals, but ultimately fell 3-2 in 10 innings.

The semifinals though, were not as contested as I expected.  Suijyou, despite not giving up a run to this point was instead shutout 5-0 to Jyousou Gakuin.  On the other side, Mito Shougyou was outclassed by Shimotsuma Dai-ni 4-2.  Despite the score, they were never in it.

So 2 chalk teams advance to the Super-Regionals.  Questioin was, who would claim the title.  Though Shimotsuma would make the first strike, it was Jyousou Gakuin who had the final laugh, winning 3-1.  Interestingly enough, despite dominating the Natsu qualifying, it has been 11 years since they have won the fall title (5th overall).

So we had our teams, now came the draw.  And again, the randomness comes into play.  Upper left quadrant has teams the likes of Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma 1), Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku (Tochigi 2), Chiba Eiwa (Chiba 1) and Kofu Nishi (Yamanashi 2).  Not exactly a list of champions.

Meanwhile in the lower left, Urawa Gakuin (Saitama 1), Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa 2), Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki 1) and Kofu Kougyou (Yamanashi 3) filled in the half.  Much harder.

It got worse.  Occupying the upper right was Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi 1), Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama 2), Yokohama (Kanagawa 1) and Shimotsuma Dai-ni (Ibaraki 2).

Finally, rounding out the field was Toukaidai Bouyou (Chiba 2), Takasaki (Gunma 2), and Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi 1).  Certainly a weak quadrant that was already short of teams.

Unsurprisingly, quadrant 1 saw three shutouts.  The winner was the team who was a summer representative, Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi as ace Miki threw back-to-back complete games.

Ibaraki's futility continues as Jyousou Gakuin was not competitive against the weakest team in the bracket, Kofu Kougyou losing 5-3.  Toukaidai Sagami's offensive appears to have left them as Urawa Gakuin beats them in the middle innings 3-1.

Sakushin Gakuin successfully proved that their run in the summer was not a fluke as they not only defeated Hanasaki Tokuharu handily, but also defeated Yokohama 6-2!  6-2!  Yokohama's troubles at the end of games continues as they gave up a pair of runs in the 8th and 9th innings in the loss.

Finally, Takasaki manages to defeat both Toukai schools, both by a score of 4-2, and both in the latter half of the game!  Though they're not of the caliber as Sagami, it's still a good feat.

Semifinal action saw Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi unable to keep up with Urawa Gakuin, despite scoring 2 quick runs in the 1st.  Urawa would score 7 unanswered runs and cruise from there winning 11-7.  Takasaki too was outmatched by Best 4 Sakushin Gakuin.  They lost 6-3.

This almost all but guaranteed that Urawa Gakuin and Sakushin Gakuin would earn Haru Koushien invites.  But to guarantee themselves one, they had to win one more game.

The winner would be Urawa Gakuin.  Though Sakushin's 4 different pitchers limited damage to 3 innings, they were not able to record a run against Urawa's triumvirate of pitchers.  Urawa Gakuin would win their 2nd consecutive title (3rd overall) and another bid to Koushien!

Automatic Bid - Urawa Gakuin (Saitama) - 8th appearance, 2nd consecutive
Projected Bid - Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) - 9th appearance, 1st in 8 years

Projected Bid - Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma) - 9th appearance, 1st in 8 years
Projected Bid - Takasaki (Gunma) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 31 years