Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall Taikai Update - Tokyo

Tokyo (1 bid, plus 1 possible floating)
Two more weekends of play have completed and we're down to our semifinalists.

But let's see what happened to get there.

The 13th/14th saw the completion of the 2nd round and the whole 3rd round.  And some of the big names were involved in wild affairs.  At Akishima, Soujitsu (Waseda Jitsugyou) saw Hachiouji add an insurance run in the 9th to take a 3-1 lead.  But Hachiouji couldn't close out the game, blew the lead and headed to enchousen...  where they lost 4-3 the very next inning.

In Fuchuu, Souka gave up 2 runs in 3 consecutive innings to Toua Gakuen falling behind 6-2.  But in the 7th and 8th they would rally for 5 runs to take a 7-6 lead.  Once again, Souka would blow that lead, giving up 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th.  Somehow, Souka would reply in the top of the 9th with 3 runs and finally complete the comeback 10-9!

And finally, Nichidai Tsurugaoka and Nittai Ebara were tied at 1 until 2 in the 6th and another in the 7th seemed to give Nichidai the runs they needed.  But Nittai would respond with 3 of their own, tying the game and sending that game into extras!  And without the benefit of an extra base hit, Nittai Ebara upsets Nichidai Tsurugaoka 4-3 in 10 innings!

For the 3rd round, of the teams that played the prior day, most favorites advanced - Seiritsu Gakuen's game was easy while Soujitsu and Souka struggled a bit against Tokyo Sougou Kouka and Meijidai Nakano-Hachiouji.

As for the teams that had the week off, Hino continued to look dominant mercy-ruling St. Paul GakuenKokushikan plays catch-up the entire game and loses 4-2 to Yasuda GakuenOberlin scores 4 in the 1st, but gives up5 over next the next 3 innings and goes down 5-4 to Takashima.  And in another "what could be semifinal match", Iwakura held a slim 2-0 lead over Nichidai-san, but is outscored thereafter 5-1 and falls.

And oh boy, Nittai Ebara and Kokugakuin Kugayama were in a slugfest.  Here's how the game went:
  • Kokugakuin Kugayama 3-0 after 2,
  • Nittai Ebara 4-3 after 3,
  • Kokugakuin Kugayama 5-4 after 4,
  • Tied after 5,
  • Kokugakuin Kugayama 7-5 after 6,
Kokugakuin would add a run in the 8th and 9th to lead 9-5.  And yet that wasn't good enough!  Nittai scores 4, ties the game and sends it to extras!  It's possible first team to score wins, but with the game so far that's not a certainty!  Nittai Ebara would get the last laugh with the sayonara run in the 11th!

Here's where things get really wonky.  This past weekend, Saturday's set of games had Souka up against the scary Sanko, while Hino would have to deal with the giant killers Nittai Ebara.

Souka took a 1-0 lead in the first, but saw themselves trailing 3-1 with just 3 outs to go.  Somehow, they manage to pull a Sanko from last year as they rallied to tie the game and send it to enchousen.  Souka couldn't immediately capitalize on the momentum and so perhaps the game would be lost.  However, they do push ahead the gyakuten run in the 12th and hold on for the 4-3 win!

Then came Hino and Nittai Ebara.  After trading a run in the 1st, Hino would jump out with 3 runs in the 5th.  Nittai Ebara would pull within 1 in the 6th.  2 innings later, the game would collapse on Hino as Ebara would score 3 to take a 6-4 lead!  Hino wouldn't be able to scramble together a quick rally and thus the Cinderella run continues!

Sunday's slate of games were nowhere near as exciting.  Seiritsu Gakuen was boat-raced by Yasuda Gakuen(!) 7-0 in 7 innings, and Soujitsu never trailed defeating Takashima 6-2.

So our semifinals are set - Soujitsu and Souka will square off first, with Nittai Ebara and Yasuda Gakuen playing the matinee game.

For Nittai Ebara-Yasuda Gakuen, they will in all likelihood need to win out.  Their names alone will not guarantee them the floating bid if they lose in the finals.  On the other hand should they win, it's possible that the committee will look at Souka/Soujitsu as a viable candidate.

Fall Taikai Update - Tokai & Kinki

Tokai (2 bids)
Tokai is in the semifinal stages, and we could very well be in the same situation as in the Hokushinestu Super-Regionals!
  • Shizuoka (Shizuoka 1) vs. Winner of Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu 2)-Tsu Shougyou (Mie 3)
Tsu Shougyou was probably not very happy to face Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou right off the get-go.  They fought hard, but wound up being shutout 4-0 setting up a matchup with Shizuoka champs Shizuoka. Shizuoka got off to a quick 2-0 lead in the 1st, but couldn't make that lead stick.  Shigifushou would take the 3-2 lead in the 8th before scrambling in the bottom half to level the score.  The game would go to 12 innings before Shigifushou would advance 4-3.
  • Komono (Mie 1) vs. Winner of Toyokawa (Aichi 2)-Hiryuu (Shizuoka 3)
In a battle of unknowns to start, Toyokawa had the better of Hiryuu.  But a 4-run gyakuten 8th inning gave them the 5-3 lead.  They'd hold on to win 5-4. Komono though would put an end to that in their quadrant, mercy-ruling Hiryuu 7-0 in 7.
  • Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu 1) vs. Winner of Inabe Sougou Gakuen (Mie 2)-Aichi Keisei (Aichi 3)
Inabe Sougou Gakuen and Aichi Keisei scored a flurry of runs in the first 3 innings capped off by a 3-run 3rd to take a 4-3 lead.  That would end up being the final score.  Unfortunately they had to face the other commercial school from Gifu.  Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou dispatched them 8-0 in 7 innings.
  • Touhou (Aichi 1) vs. Winner of Tokoha Kikugawa (Shizuoka 2)-Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu 3)
This probably was the toughest all-around of the 4 brackets.  Tokoha Kikugawa and Oogaki Nichidai, two schools who are seemingly on the rebound squared off first.  But early on it was all Tokoha as they built a 4-0 lead.  They'd add on two more in the 8th to take a 6-1 lead.  But when Oogaki scored 3 in the bottom half, it was suddenly a new ballgame.  Ace Horita would barely close the game out for a 6-5 win.

Next was a game against Touhou.  A 3-run 2nd inning helped put them into the lead, but Horita would squander the lead making it 3-3 going into the final third of the game.  His offense would have his back scoring 3 runs yet again.  Horita wouldn't give it away again, and Tokoha Kikugawa would win 6-4.

So our semifinal matches are:
  • Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu 2) vs. Komono (Mie 1)
  • Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu 1) vs. Tokoha Kikugawa (Shizuoka 2)
I think you can see where the problem lies.  If Shigifushou and Kengifushou both win, we have an all Gifu final.  And there's two bids at stake...

The selection committee may full one Super-Regionals with teams from one prefecture - but two?  No way.  Never going to happen.

So if that situation arises, you better bet that both teams will pull out all the stops to win, because that would get them a guaranteed bid while the loser may not be invited at all.

Komono and Tokoha Kikugawa better be prepared for the fight of their lives this Saturday.

Kinki (6 bids)
I'm not sure why all 8 games aren't played all on the same weekend, but oddly enough this will hurt two of the possibly favored teams:
  • Shiga Gakuen (Shiga 2) vs. Yamato Kouryou (Nara 2)
Huh.  I wonder about Yamato Kouryou.  They're a combination of Kouryou and Takada Higashi in 2005.  They held their own (supposedly, who knows if Tenri gave them a break), losing to Tenri 5-1 in the final.  But there has to be something, because their super-rookie, 1st year Tatsuda Shouta gave up just one run in the 1st inning.  His offense would quickly get that run back and more as they advanced 3-1.  Things will get much harder as they will face the winner of...
  • Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama 1) vs. Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto 3)
Chiben Wakayama's struggles continue.   Despite winning the prefecture, the offense disappears yet again against Ryuukokudai Heian.  Ace Yoshikawa keeps the team in it holding them to 2 runs, but their offense could only manage 1.
  • Riseisha (Osaka 1) vs. Kansei Gakuin (Hyogo 3)
Kansei Gakuin, much like Tsu Shougyou, didn't exactly draw a great team to start. But they held tough against the Osaka champs, and have nothing to be ashamed about in a 1-0 loss.
  • Kyoto Shouei (Kyoto 1) vs. Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Hyogo 2)
This has to be the shock of the Kinki taikai so far.  Under another rookie - Enomoto Kazuki, he made 2 runs stick against the former Koushien participants.  He'll have to step up his game even more now with Riseisha up next.
  • Shiritsu Wakayama (Wakayama 2) vs. Osaka Shoudai Sakai (Osaka 3)
In a battle of relative unknowns the "other" team from Wakayama - Shiritsu Wakayama and Osaka Shoudai Sakai fought back-and-forth with the lead changing 3 times - the last one when Daishoudai Sakai scored 1 run 3 of 4 consecutive innings to win 5-4.
  • Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo 1) vs. Fukuchiyama Seibi (Kyoto 2)
Fukuchiyama Seibi is finally back in the mix after self-imposing sanctions due to violence within the club.  But they still have a long ways to go apparently as they are held to just one run in a 3-1 loss.  They should be the easy favorites to defeat Daishoudai Osaka.

As for the last 2 games, they will be played on Saturday with the winners playing the next day:
  • Tenri (Nara 1) vs. Kouyasan (Wakayama 3)
  • Kousen (Shiga 1) vs. Osaka Touin (Osaka 2)
Tenri and Osaka Touin (should they win) will play on 0 days rest.  Don't know who that will benefit.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall Taikai Update - Hokushinetsu

Hokushinetsu (2 bids)
  • Champion - Harue Kougyou - Sakai-shi, Fukui (First title)
  • Runner-up - Tsuruga Kehi - Tsuruga-shi, Fukui
  • Other Consideration - Ueda Nishi - Ueda-shi, Nagano, Niigata Meikun - Niigata-shi, Niigata
Uh oh.  The selection committee may have a problem.

So, let's go through the brackets first, and if you haven't identified the problem yet, I'll spell it out for you later.

So if you looked at the brackets, you'd think that the "right" teams won.  Though if you put rankings in, they may seem more like an "upset".
  • Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama 2) 0-3 Yuugakukan (Ishikawa 3)
  • Gosen (Niigata 3) 2-3x Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui 1) - How Tsuruga Kehi barely beat Gosen I don't know...
  • Shin-Minato (Toyama 3) 2-3x (10) Seiryou (Ishikawa) - Shin-Minato puts together a 2-run rally in the 9th to send it to enchousen, but this time can't finish the job.
  • Ueda Nishi (Nagano 2) 1-1 (15), 6-1 Niigata Kenou Kougyou (Niigata 2) -  The teams play to an exhaustive draw in their game, then have to turn around the very next day where Ueda Nishi wins easily.  Probably because Ueda Nishi used 4 pitchers for the 15 inning draw while Niigata used the same 2 pitchers for each game.
  • Nihon Bunri (Niigata 1) 0-15 (5 inn) Matsushou Gakuen (Nagano 3) - That was an uncharacteristic ass-kicking of a generally solid Nihon Bunri squad.
  • Kanazawa Gakuin Higashi (Ishikawa 2) 4-5 Harue Kougyou (Fukui 2) - Not surprising.  2 middle-of-the-road teams play a back and forth game where Harue Kougyou scores a run in the top of the 9th to advance.
  • Saku Chousei (Nagano 1) 0-3 Fukui Shougyou (Fukui 3) - Fukushou's shutout of Saku Chousei leaves Ueda Nishi as the only team left - and they needed 2 games to advance out of the 1st round!
  • Niigata Meikun (Niigata 4) 4-3 Toyama Dai-ichi (Toyama 1) - Toyama is completely eliminated from the Super-Regional as the "4th place" Niigata Meikun holds off a last minute rally from Toyama Dai-ichi to advance.
Moving to the quartefinals, Tsuruga Kehi and Yuugakukan struggled to find any offense as the teams combined for 9 total hits.  But despite drawing more walks, Yuugakukan would lose 1-0 in 10 innings.

Probably more surprising is the fact that Harue Kogyou went and defeated Matsushou Gakuen 2-1 after the showing they had against Nihon Bunri.

Rounding out the first day of quarterfinal games, home-cooking probably helped Niigata Meikun put up a 6-spot in the 8th to reverse a 2-0 deficit and win 6-3.

The other shocker was that Ueda Nishi, playing it's 3rd game in 3 days went and defeated Seiryou 4-3.

So teams had the rest of the week off before games resumed this past Saturday.  Ueda Nishi got rest, but perhaps didn't want it.  Against Tsuruga Kehi, they fell behind in the bottom of the 8th 1-0.  Facing elimination, they found a run in the 9th to send it to enchousen (again).  This time though they couldn't find the winning run and lost 2-1 in 11 innings.

Meanwhile, the #4 seed for Niigata - Niigata Meikun was leading 3-1 over Harue Kougyou and was just about ready to punch their ticket.  But inexplicably things fell apart in the 8th inning and Harue put up 4 runs, turning a 2-run deficit into a 2-run advantage.  Niigata Meikun couldn't put together a rally that quickly and lost 5-3.

So the Hokushinetsu final is the rematch of the Fukui final!  In that first matchup, it was all Tsuruga Kehi as they blitzed Harue Kougyou 15-2.

But this time around things were much different.  Ace Tsubota limited them to just 5 hits while striking out just one.  And while they only managed just two more, they managed to turn that into one extra run, defeating Tsuruga Kehi for their first ever Hokushinetsu fall title.

Now if you haven't figured out what the problem is, it's this:

Will the selection committee give both of the bids from one Super-Regional to the same prefecture?

Harue Kougyou will definitely get one.  But what about Tsuruga Kehi?

If the committee has no problems with it, they will invite them to come.  But if they don't?  Who do they pick?

Ueda Nishi played one extra game and still defeated Seiryou and narrowly lost to Tsuruga Kehi.  Niigata Meikun actually led Harue Kougyou before giving up the lead late.

It's possible all teams are worthy for the spot, but Tsuruga Kehi must be kicking themselves right now because that final game was probably the most important one for them to win precisely because they were facing someone from their own prefecture.

Fall Taikai Quick Recap (Kyushu)

Kyushu will have their regular 4 teams for Senbatsu.  They, along with Shikoku, will be the last Super-Regional to take place.  Nagasaki will be the host, and thus will have 4 representatives for the Super-Regionals.

Fukuoka has 2 stages for their prefectural, but their 1st stage narrows the field down to 8.

In the Hokubu Regionals, no surprise that Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku advanced, same goes for Iidzuka (who defeated Jiyuugaoka 7-3 in the final).  Over down south in the Nanbu Regionals, Higashi-Fukuoka and Chikuyou Gakuen also advanced.

So onto the quarterfinals, and on Day 1, Iidzuka advanced with little issue over Nogata while Higashi-Fukuoka were upended by Kurume Shougyou.

Meanwhile, Moji Gakuen were able to rebound after Fukuokadai Oohori tied the game in the 9th to win 3-2 in 10.  But more surprising was that Chikuyou Gakuen fired a winning shot in the 9th to defeat Kyukoku 6-5!

The upsets continued into the semifinals where Iidzuka and Chikuyou Gakuen never led in their semifinal matches, thus putting Kurume Shougyou and Moji Gakuen into the finals!

Kurume Shougyou would clinch the title with a 4-0 shutout, but both teams will advance to the Super-Regionals.

Ok, for as much crap I give Saga Kita because they crushed my dear Kouryou at Natsu Koushien so mercilessly they are a private school, and as a private school generally have better odds of being a good team - and they are.

Despite not being a seeded team, they defeated Karatsu Shougyou and Saga Shougyou on their way to the finals.

On the other half, Saga Gakuen probably was one of the favorites, but Kanzaki Seimei put a stop to that with a 8-1 mercy rule win and went through the rest of the bracket to the finals.

In the finals, Saga Kita put pressure on Kanzaki Seimei all game and had never trailed.  That was until a 3-spot in the 7th gave Kanzaki the 5-4 lead.

But they couldn't close it out.  Saga Kita would tie the game in the 8th, and pull ahead in the 9th for a 6-5 win for their 2nd consecutive fall title (9th overall).

Nagasaki was a tale of two halves - of the bracket that is...

One one side, it was all chalk.  Sasebo Jitsugyou and Nagasaki Nichidai barreled towards each other in a semifinal matchup.  In that matchup, the teams just combined for 6 total hits (2 and 4 respectively).  The difference though was probably the errors.  Sasebo Jitsugyou committed 4 errors in the game as Nagasaki Nichidai went on to a 3-0 win and a spot in the Super-Regionals.

The other half saw things shaken up.  Seihou, who wasn't seeded never had to face seeded Sasebo Shougyou but wound up giving up 3 runs in the 8th and losing to Souseikan, who themselves were passed up not too long ago in the selection process due to a bad semifinal game.

Meanwhile, Hasami continues to show good strength and despite also being unseeded defeated a seeded Nagasaki Sougou Kagaku but couldn't survive a shootout against unknown Isahaya.

Isahaya continued their cinderella run, defeating Souseikan 5-3 to reach the finals.  Their dreams for a fall title would end though as Nagasaki Nichidai easily handled them 9-2 for their 12th fall title (and first since 2007).

In Oita, outside of a slow start by some teams, Oita Nishi, Meihou, Youshikan and Touin all reached the semis without much trouble.

Meihou would blank Oita Nishi 2-0, and in a bit of a shocker, Youshikan limited Touin to just 1 run in a 3-1 victory assuring them only their 3rd trip to the Super-Regionals!

Of course, facing Meihou, there were expected to finish as the runner-up.  But instead they outscored Meihou 5-1 in the final 3 innings to win 6-3, thus claiming their 2nd ever fall title!  (Their last appearance and title were 19 years ago)

There were a lot of regulars back in the seeded ranks of the Miyazaki taikai.  Nichinan Gakuen, Nobeoka Gakuen and Nisshou Gakuen specifically.

Nichinan Gakuen though lost in the semifinals to Miyazaki Gakuen - a bit of an upset as ace Ryou failed to close the game in the bottom of the 9th, giving up 3 runs and losing 3-2.  Miyazaki Gakuen in turn would lose to familiar Miyazaki Nichidai in the quarterfinals.  Nobeoka Gakuen was able to advance despite having to play St. Ursula and Miyakonojyou Shougyou.

Unknown Houshou was the last seeded team, but couldn't get past Nobeoka Kougyou in the 3rd round.

The semifinals saw Nisshou Gakuen advance easily past Takanabe (who had advanced out of Houshou's bracket), while a 4-spot in the 6th sent Miyazaki Nichidai to the title.  Nisshou Gakuen would claim the top spot with an easy 12-5 win.

I liked the story of Seiseikou.  I had kind of wished they'd go further at Koushien, but there's not a lot you can do when you have to face Osaka Touin...

But it does look like they've been able to brunt the loss of players and outside of a 4-1 win over Kumamoto Shougyou, were able to easily reach the finals - denying Jyouhoku in the semifinals again (Hitsuyuukan did it in the Natsu taikai).

Meanwhile, Kumamoto Kougyou had to navigate a minefield to advance through the brackets.  After an uncharacteristic blowout over Shuugakukan, they played the aforementioned Hitsuyuukan, then went 10 innings against Kumamoto Kokufu and a surging Kumamoto Kita to reach the finals themselves.

Seiseikou will go to the Super-Regionals, but as the 2nd seed as Kumamoto Kougyou summits the top with an easy 6-0 win.

Kamimura Gakuen had looked to continue to prove they're still the top dog in the prefecture advancing out of their quadrant without opposition.  Things looked even better when their main blockade to the Super-Regionals, Kagoshima Jitsugyou, fell to Shoushikan 3-2 in the 3rd round.  But then they annihilated Kagoshima Jyousai in the quarterfinals and there was probably cause for concern.

Rightly so as Kamimura Gakuen would wind up losing 3-1.  Meanwhile, on the other side, Shounan and Kagoshima Jyouhou did have a hiccup along the way, but digested teams en route to a semifinal showdown.  That became a defensive affair as Kagoshima Jyouhou outscored Shounan 2-1 in the first 3 innings, then held serve the rest of the way.

In the finals, Kagoshima Jyouhou would limit Shounan to just 1 run on 5 hits and take the fall title 2-1.

I really wished Maebara had won last summer.   It seemed like a one-shot deal.

It was.  Against Misato in the first round they lost 4-1...  *sighs* oh well...

Instead, the Okinawa taikai was filled with the usual suspects - Miyako, Kadena, Ginoza, Okinawa Shougaku, Kounan, and even the aforementioned Misato.

There is little to go on outside of scores, and the final 4 consisted of 4 regulars.  Miyako scored in the top of the 1st to take the lead, but were forced to play catch-up the rest of the game.  They would fall short, losing 5-4.

Kounan and Okinawa Shougyou by name alone implied a hard-fought game, and it was.  Okinawa Shougaku took a 2-0 lead over Kounan before Uehara blasted a HR to tie the game.  The deadlock would not be decided until the 10th when Okinawa Shougyou pushed in the go-ahead run to advance to the finals.

And in the finals, it looked like the semifinal game took a lot out of Okishou as Ginoza took the lead in the 1st and won wire-to-wire 5-3 to earn their 4th ever title - their first in 10 years (it's their 8th appearance overall).

The draw for the Super-Regionals are as follows:
  • Kagoshima Jyouhou (Kagoshima 1) vs. Winner of Kanzaki Seimei (Saga 2)-Souseikan (Nagasaki 3/4)
  • Kurume Shougyou (Fukuoka 1) vs. Meihou (Oita 2)
  • Kumamoto Kougyou (Kumamoto 1) vs. Isahaya (Nagasaki 2)
  • Nisshou Gakuen (Miyazaki 1) vs. Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa 2)
  • Nagasaki Nichidai (Nagasaki 1) vs. Moji Gakuen (Fukuoka 2)
  • Saga Kita (Saga 1) vs. Soushikan (Kagoshima 2)
  • Youshikan (Oita 1) vs. Seiseikou (Kumamoto 2)
  • Ginowan (Okinawa 1) vs. Winner of Miyazaki Nichidai (Miyazaki 2)-Sasebo Jitsugyou (Nagasaki 3/4)
I like Seiseikou, but I don't like them having to face a team that is making just their 3rd ever appearance!  I hate cannibalizing teams like these!

It will be a border battle in the 3rd round probably as Saga Kita will be playing on Nagasaki Nichidai's home turf.

Okinawa Shougaku is back in the mix for Senbatsu, but Kumamoto Kougyou looms large in the pivotal 3rd round.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ootani Shouhei (大谷翔平) headed to MLB

So it's official, it looks like Ootani is headed to the states.  This will be a test case now for all future top-level HS/Daigaku talent.

I say this because now there will be a Japanese top-level talent player who will enter the MLB system at the same time as his fellow American counterparts.

NPB should be scared.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, the incentive to start in NPB then get posted to MLB has been devalued.  Teams are not willing to post top dollar now for talent unless they see something that immediately translates to the US (i.e. Darvish).  Heck, in my opinion Kuroda should have been but has been undervalued.

So with the path to maximizing dollars diminished by waiting - I thought it might increase the possibility that someone will go to try and score the big money.  And to do that they have to enter the MLB system early, whether that be out of HS or out of college.

Ootani is now that person.

NPB hopes Ootani fails and returns tails between his legs back to Japan.  Why?  Because if he succeeds, that means he has overcome the deeper farm system, but more importantly overcome the language barrier and the culture shock - the two major things that would deter any young person from coming over.

And if he does, then that will give more confidence to other players who may consider - "Should I go to MLB?".

And that means that the faces of the franchises will not be in Japan, but in the US instead.

It was OK to let veteran players go - sure they were useful, but you could always restock with younger talent.  But if you lose the younger talent - what is left?

Sure, it's not going to be as extreme as that - but I'm pretty sure NPB teams will feel the effect of it for decades to come if Ootani is successful unless they find another way to keep talent at home.

Ootani may not realize it, but there's a lot more than just his career riding on this decision.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fall Taikai Quick Recap (Chuugoku & Shikoku)

Chuugoku (3 bids)
With an extra bid this year at stake, teams are more than ever focusing on this fall taikai for a chance to get to Koushien.  The tournament is being held in Yamaguchi-ken this year, so they will get the 4th bid this time around.

Tottori Jyouhoku, looking for a return ticket to Koushien, looked strong in its first couple of games, but wound up falling behind to Yonago Kita right off the get-go in the semifinals, and never recovered, falling 4-3.

Meanwhile, Yonago Shouin was working from the depths of the bracket (relatively speaking as there are just 24 teams) barely getting by Yonago Higashi and Tottori Nishi to reach the finals.

In those finals, they were outs away from upsetting Yonago Kita for the title, but surrendered a 2-0 lead in the 9th and would have to win it in extras. They almost did in the 12th when they plated a run, but once again the defense couldn't close out the game.  Alas, in the 14th inning Yonago Kita scored the sayonara run and claimed the title.

Tottori Jyouhoku would claim the final spot, needing a 3-spot in the 9th inning to defeat Tottori Nishi 5-2.

Okayama's prefectural taikai wound up being a predominantly low-scoring affair.  Kurashiki Shougyou, Okayama's natsu representative, looked to reload for the new season.  But after a 3-2 sayonara quarterfinal win over Okayama Ridai Fuzoku in 11 innings, it didn't look too good.  And in fact it was as they fell to Kanzei (who themselves were reloading from a very successful 2011) 3-1.

Kanzei themselves though were facing very close games.  In fact, that 3-1 win over Kurashiki Shougyou was their largest margin of victory, defeating Tamano Kounan 3-2, then walking off on Okayama Higashi Shougyou 2-1.

Their eventual opponent in the finals, Tamashima Shougyou, had it no better - not necessarily in the margin of victory, but that all their games prior to the final were enchousen affairs:
  • 4-3 in 11 innings over Okayama Shoudai Fuzoku
  • 2x-1 in 10 innings over Soushi Gakuen
  • 3-0 in 11 innings over Koujyoukan
In the finals against Kanzei, Tamashou found themselves in an familiar position - in the lead.  However, like the prior games, they have been unable to hold a lead.  Tied at 2, they doubled their run total to take the lead.  Kanzei though struck back to level the score.   Tamashou tried again in the 8th with another run, but Kanzei took it back with interest, winning 6-5.

Koujyoukan almost took the 3rd spot, but let Kurashiki Shougyou rally late for the 4-3 win.

Last year's Risshoudai Shounan appears to have been yet another 1-year wonder as the reached the 2nd stage, but fell 2-0 to Matsue ShougyouKaisei, the main elephant in the prefecture, only got one round further, losing in the 2nd stage final (by mercy rule!) to Shimane Chuo 8-0 in 7 innings!  And Iwamichisuikan, who had made a deep run last year fell in the same round 2-0 to Hamada. Joining them in the semifinals would be Masuda Higashi and Masuda Shouyou.

From here on out, all the games wound up being decided by one run.  Hamada would score the only run in the ballgame in the 4th to defeat Shimane Chuo.  Masuda Shouyou had to rally twice to defeat Masuda Higashi 6-5 to secure a spot in the Super-Regionals.  And in the finals they again rallied, this time in the final 3 innings of regulation as Hamada struggled to find someone to close the game.  Hamada looked to close it out again, scoring a run over reliever Terado in the 12th, but their own reliever Ogose couldn't seal the deal, giving the run back.  One inning later, Masuda Shouyou would score the sayonara run to win the title.  Meanwhile, Masuda Higashi couldn't recover from the semfinal loss and failed to qualify, giving the spot to Shimane Chuo 2-1.

In Hiroshima, once again Kouryou and Jyosuikan were placed in the same half of the bracket, meaning that there was yet another guaranteed spot as long as you reach the finals.

That spot would be taken by Soutoku who broke a scoreless deadlock against Setouchi in the 12th with a pair of runs, then had to hold off a counter-attack to win 2-1.

Meanwhile, Kouryou looked to have the championship in hand, leading Jyousuikan 4-1 going into the bottom of the 9th.  But Shimoishi collapsed with just 3 outs to go, losing the game 5-4.  Kouryou managed to turn the tables on Setouchi in the 3rd place game, scoring 3 in the 8th to reverse a 3-2 deficit to win 5-3.

Jyosuikan though must have taken the finals against Soutoku lightly as they never led, using 6 different pitchers in a 5-2 loss - almost guaranteeing that the two stalwarts of the prefecture will fall to opposite sides of the Super-Regionals.

Feel good story Ube Koujyou would have liked to gotten back to Koushien, but found themselves with an early matchup against young Hayatomo, and lost 7-4.

The road got no easier for Hayatomo.  After a brief respite against Hagi, they rallied against Nanyou Kougyou, winning 6-5 in 11.  Then they held off Ube Kougyou winning 6-4 to reach the finals.

Their opponent would be the unlikely Iwakuni Shougyou who pulled off the 3-2 upset of Iwakuni.  They used that momentum 2 days later to defeat Hayatomo to claim only their 2nd ever fall title! (Their other one was in 1981!).

Iwakuni and Ube Kougyou thankfully would not have to fight for the final bid as they qualify 4 this year.  But placement still may matter, and to that end Iwakuni led wire-to-wire - but still had to hold off a late charge to win 6-5.

Shikoku (3 bids)
Looks like Naruto has emerged as the dominant team in Tokushima.  They completely blew through the brackets and never trailed in the prefecturals.  They were challenged by Tokushima Shougyou in the finals when they scored 3 in the 8th to tie the game in the 8th.  Naruto reclaimed the lead with a run in the bottom half and won 6-5.

Tokushima Shougyou actually had a tougher road, having to face Naruto Uzushio and Komatsushima on their road to the finals.

Rounding out the field is an Ikeda squad looking to give it's school relevance in the 2000s.  They defeated Seikou Gakuen 11-4.

Kagawa went pretty much scratch, even though some of those teams struggled a bit advancing in the fall taikai. For instance, Takamatsu Shougyou barely beat Ootemae Takamatsu 7-6 in their very first game.

Joining Takashou would be Marugame and Jinsei Gakuen who had a much easier time of advancing to the semifinals.

The final team would be Eimei, who this time around wasn't ranked and had the benefit of a weaker road to the semifinals.  They, along with Takashou would advance to the finals as each would handily defeat the two teams that had cruised to this point.

And in the finals, it would be the unseeded Eimei who would win, scoring 2 in the 10th inning as their ace Akagawa throws a shutout for the win.

In the battle for 3rd, Marugame allowed Jinsei Gakuen to rally twice, but somehow still managed to score 2 in the bottom of the 9th for the sayonara 6-5 win.

There were several usual subjects who advanced to the Ehime prefecturals.  Saibi, Uwajima Higahi, Imabari Nishi, Nitta, Teikyou Dai-go and Kawanoe all advanced.  Saijyou was not as fortunate, but that was because they were in the same sub-bracket with Imabari Nishi.

Kawanoe had to face Saibi in the first round, and lost - along with Imabari Nishi (to Imabari Kougyou no less) and Teikyou Dai-go.  Imabari Kougyou would take down another named team in Nitta.  Uwajima Higashi fell to Matsuyama Seiryou, which meant that only Saibi was the only favored team left.

And Saibi would have to face the very same Matsuyama Seiryou for a spot in the finals...

In that game, Matsuyama Seiryou had an answer for every Saibi score matching them run for run in three consecutive innings, forcing the game into enchousen tied at 4.  In the 12th, Matsuyama Seiryou scored a run and actually threatened to upset the last major team remaining.  But Saibi found a way to level the score yet again.  Finally, in the 14th inning, Saibi would score the sayonara run to advance to the finals.

Their opponent would be the other giant killer - Imabari Kougyou.  They dispatched Tanbara 8-1.

Imabari Kouyou would again give Saibi all it could handle taking the lead in the 4th with a run before Saibi tied it up in the bottom half of the inning.  It would stay at 1 until the 9th when Imabari Kougyou score yet another run, and was on the precipice of winning the tournament.  But ace Itou and his team perhaps let the moment get to them as Saibi rallied for 2 to claim only their 3rd ever fall title (and first since 2005).

As for the 3rd place game, Matsuyama Seiryou would have to play catch-up against Tanbara.  This time around though, they took the lead earlier on with a 3-spot in the 6th, and held on for the 6-4 win and the last spot.

Kochi completely destroyed the field this fall taikai.  How much?  How about a run differential of 60 in just 5 games, and the narrowest margin of victory of 4 runs (against Tosa).

Is it also not surprising that the team that would finish 2nd would be Kochi Shougyou?  They only had a run differential of 22, which included -6 from the final against Kochi.

So the battle was for 3rd place.  The aforementioned Tosa would have to face a Kochi Minami team which had upset Meitoku Gijyuku earlier in the taikai 3-2 in 13 innings.  Kochi Minami took the lead early, but Tosa kept it close and would up tying and pulling away late for a 10-6 win.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Taikai Quick Recap (Tokai & Kinki)

Tokai (3 bids)
There were a lot of familiar players in the Shizuoka prefecturals.  The natsu representative, Tokoha Tachibana reached the prefecturals, but but fell 4-3 to Hiryuu.  I don't know much about them, but they worked their way from almost the bottom of one of the losers' brackets in the Toubu Regionals to qualify, then defeated the aforementioned Tokoha Tachibana, and narrowly lost to Tokoha Kikugawa 7-6 in the semifinals.

However, they kept their Koushien hopes alive with an 8-4 win in the consolation game over Shizoka Gakuen.

That was unfortunate for them as they were the 2nd team to give Shizuoka difficulty in the prefecturals, losing by the score of 2-1.  Numadzu Higashi gave them a big headache right off the bat, holding them to just 1 run in a 1-0 loss.

Otherwise they had little difficulty, especially in the championship game against Tokoha Kikugawa, routing them 14-1.

Aichi appears to be undergoing a bit of change this year.  Aikoudai Meiden without their ace Hamada falls in the 3rd round 1-0 to Yatomi.  That opened the door for Touhou to breeze through their quadrant.  And Shigakukan's 4-0 loss to Nagoya Kokusai in the quarterfinals almost assured them of a spot in the Super-Regional.  Still, Nagoya Kokusai gave them a great fight losing 7-5.

On the other half, Chuukyoudai Chuukyou looked to start a revival of their prior success posting two double-digit run totals, but was stymied in the quarterfinals against Toyokawa, losing 2-1.  Toyokawa in fact looked really good reaching the finals, but falling 9-0 to Touhou.

And in the consolation game Aichi Keisei, who lost to Toyokawa, took the final bid with an 11-7 win over Nagoya Kokusai.

In Gifu, there are almost 3 certainties - Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou, Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou and Oogaki Nichidai.

And who advanced?  Yep, Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou, Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou and Oogaki Nichidai.

Kengifushou pretty much dominated the prefecturals, allowing just one run to Fujimi Kougyou in their opening game all the way to the finals where they faced their city counterpart.  Shigifushou did not have as easy a road taking 13 innings to defeat Teikyoudai Fujimi in the semifinals, edging Nagara 2-1 before that and a 2-0 win over Gifu Kakamino.

Despite all that though, they apparently get up for the rivalry matchup of commercial schools going 11 innings before falling 4-3.

Oogaki Nichidai slides into the 3rd and final bid after barely getting by Minokamo in the quarterfinals, and then doing the same to Teikyoudai Fujimi in the 3rd place game holding off a late surge.

It looks like Mie is in one of those rebuilding phases at this point which means it opens the prefecture up to the rest of the field.  For the record, Mie wound up losing in the quarterfinals to Inabe Sougou Gakuen 7-0.

In fact, Inabe Sougou Gakuen didn't yield a run until the 7th inning of championship game, which was somewhat unfortunate as they wound up not giving up 1, but 4 runs to Komono losing 4-3.  Komono had only been challenged one other game, and that was a 1-0 nailbiter against Ujiyamada Shougyou.

Tsu Shougyou would claim the last bid with a dominating 10-2 win over Hisai.

The draw for the Super-Regional is out and games will commence on the 20th:
  • Shizuoka (Shizuoka 1) vs. Winner of Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu 2)-Tsu Shougyou (Mie 3)
  • Komono (Mie 1) vs. Winner of Toyokawa (Aichi 2)-Hiryuu (Shizuoka 3)
  • Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu 1) vs. Winner of Inabe Sougou Gakuen (Mie 2)-Aichi Keisei (Aichi 3)
  • Touhou (Aichi 1) vs. Winner of Tokoha Kikugawa (Shizuoka 2)-Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu 3)
The last quadrant by far is the toughest of the 4.  Oogaki Nichidai plays 3rd fiddle to the Shougyou schools from Gifu and winds up against Tokoha Kikugawa and Touhou.

Conversely, the easiest is the Komono-Toyokawa-Hiryuu matchup.  Komono is probably the weakest of the 4 top seeds and the other 2 teams are relative unknowns.

With an extra bid at stake, getting to the semifinals is key, having good performances up until that point is also vital to receive the bid.

Kinki (6 bids)
With 16 teams in the Super-Regionals to even it out and 6 prefectures, 2 prefectures will be shorted a team each year.  This time around, one of them is Shiga.

Kita-Ootsu and Hachiman Shougyou were on opposite sides of the bracket, so perhaps it would setup a finals matchup.

Except that Hachiman Shougyou lost to Youkaichi Minami 4-3 in their first game, and Kita-Ootsu lost to Youkaichi 6-5 in the quarterfinals!  So the two Youkaichi schools were responsible for knocking out some of the perennial powerhouses!

So who was left?  Well, Kousen remained as the only seeded team left in the bracket and would face Youkaichi.  Shiga Gakuen, who not too long ago got to Natsu Koushien, would be the 4th team, defeating Hikone Higashi along the way.

Both of the Youkaichi schools actually lose in the semifinals (actually, they're both shutout!).  So Shiga Gakuen and Kousen would represent Shiga in the Super-Regionals.  But the title still matters (as well as possibly a favorable matchup), and Kousen would take their first ever fall title with a 9-6 win!

In Kyoto, the 3 major programs - Fukuchiyama Seibi, Ryuukokudai Heian and Ritsumeikan Uji all qualified for the prefecturals, but all wound up in the same half of the bracket!  So it'd be guaranteed that one of the 3 wouldn't advance to the Super-Regionals.  Heian caught a break and wouldn't have to face another strong team until the semifinals.

Fukuchiyama Seibi managed to win the first matchup of school 3-1, then proceeded to overpower Heian 5-1 to guarantee a spot in the Super-Regionals.

But they would be denied the title!  Kyoto Shouei pretty much ran laps around the field save for a 9-7 win over Nissei.  And in the final, they annihilated Seibi 22-3 for their first ever title!

The 3rd place game had my 2nd favorite team from Kyoto - Kyoto Subaru, looking for a spot at the table, would have to get past Heian.  And while they kept the game close, they still lost 2-1 and will have to wait for the summer like all the other teams that failed this fall.

Nara is the other school to get just 2 bids.  Fortunately for the field, Tenri and Chiben Gakuen would have to meet in the quarterfinals, meaning that at minimum one bid from the other half of the bracket would be up for grabs.

Tenri would win that battle of the Nara titans 4-2, pretty much clinching the #1 seed.  They faced a very game Yamato Kouryou squad, who did not yield a run until they faced Tenri - which they proceeded to lose 5-1.

  • Champion - Chiben Wakayama (12th title, 1st in 2 years, 19th appearance overall)
  • Runner-Up - Shiritsu Wakayama (9th appearance, 1st in 8 years)
  • 3rd Place - Kouyasan (3rd appearance, 1st in 23 years)
With Wakayama, it is still assumed that Chiben Wakayama will win the prefecture.  Unless they somehow don't (like last year).

But the world was put back in order as outside of a 2-1 game over Minoshima, cruised to the title.

On the other half, Wakayama Shougyou and Shiritsu Wakayama, two of the above-average teams worked their way into a semifinal matchup.  With a guaranteed spot at stake, the teams treated this like a final.  Shiritsu Wakayama would prevail 5-4.

Wakayama Shougyou couldn't get up for the 3rd place game, falling to Kouyasan 3-1.

Despite the loss of ace Fujinami, Osaka Touin still has offense for days against their opponents.  They slashed their way through the prefecturals and into the finals where they faced a Riseisha squad who had equal success against their opponents.

But in the finals, the bats fell silent against ace Higashino.  They could only watch as Riseisha put up a pair of runs in the 7th, which would prove to be the winning runs as Riseisha won 3-1.

The 3rd place game would be between Osaka Shougyoudai Sakai and Uenomiya Taishi.  The game was close until the 7th inning where Sakai would plate 7 en route to a mercy rule win and a spot in the Super-Regionals.

Hyogo for the most part was also pretty routine.  Houtoku Gakuen and Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku had relatively little trouble going through the brackets.

Kansei Gakuin appears to be the new Touyoudai Himeji (who btw lost to Houtoku Gakuen), surviving their first 4 games by the scores of 2-1, 2-0, 1-0 and 2-0 to reach the semifinals.  There, they faced Houtoku Gakuen and doubled their run output scoring 4 runs.  Only problem was that they gave up 8 and would have to qualify through the 3rd place game.

That game would be played against relative unknown Houjyou who had been blanked by Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku 7-0.  True to form, Kansei reverted back to their low-scoring affairs, winning 1-0 and earning a spot in the Super-Regional.

As for the final, the game turned out to be a pitchers affair instead of an offensive showdown, and Houtoku Gakuen would prevail by the score of 2-1.

The Super-Regionals begin on the 20th, and the draw is as follows:
  • Shiga Gakuen (Shiga 2) vs. Yamato Kouryou (Nara 2)
  • Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama 1) vs. Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto 3)
  • Riseisha (Osaka 1) vs. Kansei Gakuin (Hyogo 3)
  • Kyoto Shouei (Kyoto 1) vs. Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Hyogo 2)
  • Shiritsu Wakayama (Wakayama 2) vs. Osaka Shoudai Sakai (Osaka 3)
  • Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo 1) vs. Fukuchiyama Seibi (Kyoto 2)
  • Tenri (Nara 1) vs. Kouyasan (Wakayama 3)
  • Kousen (Shiga 1) vs. Osaka Touin (Osaka 2)
Ugh, a matchup between Tenri and Osaka Touin in the quarterfinals.  That had better be a good game if the loser is to get one of the final 2 bids.

Chiben Wakayama, should they survive a low scoring game against Heian should be a shoe-in for Senbatsu.

Kyoto Shouei's prize for winning Kyoto?  A matchup against Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku.  Not really what they were hoping for, I bet.  The other matchup looks interesting, but if Kansei Gakuin needs to be in a game where you have to take the under on 3.5 runs it's hard to pick them to go far...

Houtoku Gakuen may be in the same spot Chiben Wakayama is, but how hungry will Fukuchiyama Seibi be after losing so badly to Kousen?

And to bring it full circle, that hopeful weaker pairing after winning Shiga doesn't look so easy now.  I bet after the draw came out, their first thought was "マジで??”.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

85th National Invitational Tournament Changes

With this being a tournament with a multiple of 5, there are changes being made to the field - namely that the field is expanding to 36.

Each super-region gets the following bids:
  • Hokkaido - 1
  • Tohoku - 2
  • Kanto - 4 (+1 floating w/Tokyo)
  • Tokyo - 1 (+1 floating w/Kanto)
  • Hokushinetsu - 2
  • Tokai - 3
  • Kinki - 6
  • Chuugoku - 3
  • Shikoku - 3
  • Kyushu - 4
For a total of 30 instead of the normal 28.  Here Chuugoku and Shikoku get an extra bid each instead of a shared floating bid (net +1), and Tokai gets an extra bid (+1).

In addition, there is a special memorial bid to be awarded to the Tohoku Region, though if that is through normal selection methods I am not certain.

The Super-Region of the winning school of the Meiji Jingu Fall Tournament will also receive the customary extra bid.

And finally, there will be 4-21st century teams selected to round out the field of 36.

I would image the 4 extra games may go directly to the 21st century teams, but who knows, it could still be a pure draw.

Fall Taikai Quick Recap (Hokkaido-Hokushinetsu)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still a lot of baseball to be played.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 5, 2012

高校野球 and MLB

I'll have fall tournament updates shortly, but in talking with some Japanese baseball fans at an M's game recently, the topic of HS players coming to the states came up.

For the 2nd time, a Hanamaki Higashi pitcher is considering coming to the states.  First was Kikuchi Yuusei, now it's Ootani Shouhei.

Kikuchi passed up the MLB and was the #1 pick in the NPB draft.  Ootani may not be the overwhelming #1, but he should go in the initial lottery.

I figure he'll pass up going to the states too, but the dynamics may be changing.

See, when the posting process was at its peak, veteran players fetched a fortune for both themselves and their team (remember Daisuke?).  So elite players right out of HS and college were better off going under the control of NPB teams where they would get max contracts.  Then later on, they could be posted, make the team some money and then also get a big contract in the majors.

Better that than trying to toil in the MLB minors making a pittance of a salary with the hopes of making it up to the major league ballclub.

But now the exuberance of NPB players has been muted.  Players such as Tsuyoshi Wada, Wei-Yin Chen, Hisashi Iwakuma and Norachika Aoki came over for very little compared to their prior counterparts.  Only Darvish was the one to make out like a bandit - though rightly so.

So the big payday that had been present isn't there anymore.  So I suppose if one wanted to come to the states to challenge themselves, and wasn't worried about the money - this dynamic change doesn't matter.

But, here's something to consider.  Currently, I suppose the culture plus the low salary and the rough minor leagues make it hard for HS/Daigaku players to come over after graduation.  But while NPB has a high starting salary for elite players with a lower ceiling, MLB starts off cheap but if you can prove yourself, the sky's the limit (just ask the Yankees or the Dodgers it seems) as to how much you can be paid.

So, does the prospect of a lower salary when being posted/international FA mean that players may consider coming to the US with a little more seriousness?

Maybe, but the cultural transition plus the deeper minors may still scare most people from trying.  That and the 2 year ban from returning to NPB.  For a young player, that's two years of income earning that they would miss (sure, there's the industrial and independent leagues, but they won't make money there).

Eventually, there will be a player that will not care and try and strike their claim in the US.  Personally, I thought Yuusei would be that person - his on-the-field personality seemed to suggest that.  We'll have to wait and see if Ootani winds up being that person.  But the Dodgers and Rangers seem to be pursuing him hard.