Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On the new posting system and how it could affect potential prospects

So as many of you who are reading this post probably know, the NPB and MLB forged a new agreement on the posting system for Japanese players not eligible for International FA.

The main point that most of the NPB fans decry about is the fact that the posting fee has been capped at $20 million - supposedly under the guise of allowing small-market clubs the ability to go after the top NPB players.

Now, this would appear to be true.  With just a fee of $20 million, more ball clubs should be able to meet with the player and possibly get a contract done.

However, this is obviously a big hit to the NPB clubs themselves, who directly benefit from the posting fee.  It's also widely known that the Rakuten Eagles are not keen on posting Tanaka Masahiro if they can only get $20 million when just a couple of years ago, the Nippon Ham Fighters got $52 million for Darvish Yuu.

And therein lies the rub. NPB teams looking to post their superstars now will only get a pittance compared to the old system.  If that is the case, why would a NPB team be open to posting anyone - especially their better players knowing that they will only get $20 million?

They won't.  Which means that players might have to wait until getting their International FA to leave for the US.  But by that time they're past their supposed prime and might not get the big contract they would have if they left earlier.

Which then begs the question.  What's the chances now that a player from HS or college decides to forego the NPB draft and go directly to the MLB minors?

I've mentioned this before - we've had 2 HS players consider hard about going to the US.  Both wound up staying and becoming the #1 pick and max money - and will probably continue to do so as long as they perform much like Ma-kun.  But now, pending a change, they will probably have to wait 10 years before having a chance at the majors.  That being said, would they ever become comfortable enough to stake a claim in the low-cost minors?

Now look at college graduates who go to the draft, someone like Nomura Yuusuke who probably has a good career ahead of him, may not gain International FA until he passes age 30.

In other words, this new posting system could affect future drafts.

For college players, if they want to go to the US sooner, they may end up being more inclined to skip the NPB draft and sign with a US team.  For HS students, unless they decide that possibly waiting 10 years is worth it, they may also go to the US early.  Or, perhaps they go to college to polish their skills then head to the US.  If you are a top-level prospect, this may be the decision that they have to face - and it may be a decision that at perhaps one side foresaw coming.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Projected 86th Haru Koushien Field

Here is my projected field for the 86th Haru Koushien. The 21st century representatives are merely a guess given that the selection committee does not award based upon actual baseball merit.

Hokkaido (1)
  • Komadai Tomakomai
Tohoku (2)
  • Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Aomori)
  • Touryou (Miyagi)
There could theoretically be a case made for Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate), but after the questionable tactics used at Natsu Koushien, I do not expect the JHBF to pick them over the runner-up.

Kanto ex Tokyo (4 + floating bid shared w/Tokyo)
  • Hakuoudai Ashikaga (Tochigi)
  • Kiryuu Dai-ichi (Gunma
  • Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku (Yamanashi)
  • Sano Nichidai (Tochigi)
The semifinal losers probably will get in considering Yamanashi Gakuindai defeated Kendai Takasaki and Sano Nichidai defeated Yokohama. If any of the quarterfinal losers want to get in at this point, probably the only chance is for Tokyo to win the Meiji Jingu tournament pushing the floating bid back to Kanto or for Hakuoudai Ashikaga to win it themselves.

Tokyo (1+ floating bid shared w/Kanto ex Tokyo)
  • Kanto Dai-ichi
  • Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku
Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku took Kanto Dai-ichi to 10 innings and made them put in ace Abe into the game to stop the bleeding.  They're not a fluke and they will be going on as the floating bid.

Hokushinetsu (2)
  • Nihon Bunri (Niigata)
  • Toukai Dai-san (Nagano)
Toukai Dai-san had quality games against both Niigata Meikun and Nihon Bunri, resume of semifinal losers not strong enough to warrant skipping Toukai Dai-san.

Tokai (2)
  • Mie (Mie)
  • Toyokawa (Aichi)
This is all but a certainty now that Toyokawa was 6 outs away from defeating Mie for the title.

Kinki (6)
  • Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
  • Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama)
  • Riseisha (Osaka)
  • Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)
  • Chiben Gakuen (Nara)
  • Fukuchiyama Seibi (Kyoto)
  • Sanda Shousei (Hyogo)
Ryuukokudai Heian claims the title after defeating Chiben Wakayama 6-4. The top 4 should get an invite regardless of how the games played out.

Chiben Gakuen's spot is almost guaranteed now too considering they played Heian to a 1-0 loss. Fukuchiyama Seibi was the only other close quarterfinal game and they may just default into the last spot. Sanda Shousei would the the only team to challenge Fukuchiyama Seibi for the last spot, and that is because they played Riseisha fairly close despite the shutout, and Riseisha looked better in the semifinals. But that is a bit of a stretch.

Chuugoku (2 + floating bid w/Shikoku)
  • Iwakuni (Yamaguchi)
  • Hiroshima Shinjyou (Hiroshima)
Iwakuni claims just their 2nd super-regional title, and will take its place at Meiji Jingu and Koushien. Hiroshima Shinjyou put up a late rally and too should get a phone call.

The next team in line will be Takagawa Gakuen. However, their chance at being the floating bid has all but disappeared given that Kurashiki Shougyou was white-washed in the semifinals - thus highlighting the weak Okayama prefecture that they played against. Their only chance is if Imabari Nishi wins the Meiji Jingu tournament pushing the floating bid back to the Chuugoku region.

Shikoku (2 + floating bid w/Chuugoku)
  • Imabari Nishi (Ehime)
  • Ikeda (Tokushima)
  • Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi) 
Despite the score in the final, Ikeda's solid performance up until the 7th inning of the final, plus the JHBF's chance to invite one of the strongest teams of the 1980s back to Koushien is too good to pass up. Meitoku's loss to the eventual champions, plus ace Kishi may prove to be too compelling to the JHBF to not invite them as the floating bid - and while Takagawa Gakuen is their 1st alternate, their resume I do not think will compare to Meitoku to challenge for the bid.

Kyushu (4)
  • Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa)
  • Misato Kougyou (Okinawa)
  • Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima)
  • Chinzei (Kumamoto)
Okinawa will have 2 teams represented at Haru Koushien this year. As Misato Kougyou almost pulled off the victory over Okinawa Shougaku. And Okishou 1-hit a strong Chinzei team. Kamimura Gakuen should get an invite, and now it is Chinzei's status that is a bit more shaky after the 1-hit shutout loss. I do not expect them to fall out, though if they do it might be to Souseikan - especially if Misato Kougyou wins the final.

Meiji Jingu (1) - Champion - Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa)
Sadly for Chikyuu Kankyou, Nihon Bunri ace Iidzuka could only pitch 6 of the needed 9 innings.  Actually he pitched all 8, but collapsed in 7th and 8th giving up an 8-0 lead losing 9-8.

This means that the representative will be:
  • Souseikan (Nagasaki)
Chinzei can breathe a sigh of relief now as the extra bid means that even if they struggled, they are pretty much secured of a phone call come the new year.

21st Century Team (3)
  • Western Representative - Ooshima (Kagoshima)
  • Eastern Representative - Kakunodate (Akita)
  • Wild-Card Representative - Ise (Mie) or Kainan (Wakayama)

21st Century Nominations

We now have the regional nominations for the 21st century teams. Note that there will be one selected from western japan (everything west of the Kinki Super-Region), one from the eastern region (everything Kinki and east), and one wild card. Nominees are for each prefecture, then for each super-region.

These are a bit harder to project until the final teams are selected for each super-region, and even then it's difficult.

Hokkaido - Teshio
Teshio made it out of Nayoro as the regional champion, but lost in the first round of the Super-Regional to Tomakomai Chuo in the final inning 6-4.
Tohoku - Kakunodate (Akita)
  • Aomori - Aomori
  • Akita - Kakunodate
  • Yamagata - Yamamoto Gakuen
  • Iwate - Ibonai
  • Miyagi - Matsushima
  • Fukushima - Sukagawa
This might be a mulligan for Kakunodate not being able to follow through back in the Akita natsu taikai when they lost to Akita Shougyou 4-3 in the bottom of the 15th inning.  This time around, they won Akita, then defeated fellow nominee Sukagawa before losing a barnburner 13-11 to Touryou.

Kanto - Oyamadai (Tokyo)
  • Tochigi - Mooka
  • Ibaraki - Shimodate Dai-ichi
  • Gunma - Numata
  • Saitama -  Shiritsu Kawagoe
  • Chiba - Kemigawa
  • Kanagawa - Nichidai
  • Yamanashi - Yoshida
  • Tokyo - Oyamadai
It looks like Kanto perhaps went for the best baseball representative.  Oyamadai defeated both Soujitsu and Nichidai Buzan before losing to Toukaidai Takanawadai.  I personally thought they would choose Nichidai, but instead went with Tokyo.

Hokushinetsu - Nagano Nishi (Nagano)
  • Niigata - Sanjyou
  • Nagano - Nagano Nishi
  • Toyama - Toyama
  • Fukui - Kanadzu
  • Ishikawa - Hakui
Nagano Nishi baseball-wise is a bit of a stretch.  While they finished 3rd in the Nagano prefecturals, they were routed early by Toyama Dai-ichi. Compared to the rest though, they have the strongest resume.

Tokai - Ise (Mie)
  • Shizuoka - Fuji
  • Aichi - Kouzouji
  • Gifu - Gifu Kougyou
  • Mie - Ise
I'm kind of glad they chose Ise. I remember seeing them back in 2006, and wanted to see if they could somehow break through. This year they did, finishing 2nd to Mie before losing to Seki Shoukou 7-6 in the first round of the super-regionals.

Kinki - Kainan (Wakayama)
  • Shiga - Youkaichi
  • Kyoto - Nishijyouyou
  • Nara - Kashiba
  • Wakayama - Kainan
  • Osaka - Teshima
  • Hyogo - Himeji Minami
Kainan's 2 losses were narrow defeats to Chiben Wakayama and Riseisha - 2 very respectable schools.

Chuugoku - Daitou (Shimane)
  • Tottori - Kurayoshi Higashi
  • Okayama - Higashi-Okayama Kougyou
  • Shimane - Daitou
  • Hiroshima - Kamo
  • Yamaguchi - Kumage Minami
Daitou's only notable game was their first round loss in the super-regional where they hanged with Kurashiki Shougyou early before faltering late.

Shikoku - Sakaide (Kagawa)
  • Tokushima - Ikeda
  • Kagawa - Sakaide
  • Ehime - Touon
  • Kochi - Kochi Higashi
Sakaide lost in their first round matchup against Imabari Nishi in the super-regionals, but won Kagawa defeating schools such as Eimei, Jinsei Gakuen and Marugame.

Kyushu - Ooshima (Kagoshima)
  • Fukuoka - Kokura
  • Saga - Waseda Saga
  • Nagasaki - Shimabara Nougyou
  • Miyazaki - Miyazaki Minami
  • Oita - Oita Oginodai
  • Kumamoto - Taragi
  • Kagoshima - Ooshima
  • Okinawa - Chinen
Kyushu interestingly goes with Ooshima, certainly the weakest representative out of the super-regional selections. They were eliminated in the semi-finals of the prefecturals losing 2-1 to Ibusuki Shougyou.

2 selections right now I find a bit questionable.  Tokushima nominated Ikeda despite the fact they made the final 2.  Unless for some reason they think the JHBF will pick Meitoku Gijyuku over Ikeda for the 2nd bid, I see no reason to do this.

The other is Waseda Saga.  Waseda Saga was established in 2010, so any history of something to be nominated for would be very recent.  They're already making waves in Saga, and could start dominating the prefecture sooner rather than later. Even if Waseda Saga is picked as the Kyushu nominee, I doubt the JHBF would choose them either.


With the 21st century finalists determined, I can make predictions - however, since nominations are not based upon baseball merit it's harder to predict who they will choose.

Kakunodate (Tohoku/Akita)
I believe much like Engaru, Kakunodate will be selected based upon their ability to follow-up their performance in the summer.  The only thing that would affect this would be the fact that it does seem that the JHBF seems to be a bit late in selecting teams based upon this merit (see Engaru and Tosa)

Ooshima (Kyushu/Kagoshima)
Ooshima I believe is the main reason why the JHBF perhaps made the 21st century bids in the first place. Ooshima did not do well baseball-wise, but probably has done something special in the community.  Considering they were the only school that made the final 9 that did not reach the super-regionals they may just be picked by the committee.

Ise (Tokai/Mie) / Kainan (Kinki/Wakayama)
Both would be selected for the same reason. Both are in prefectures where there are major schools that dominate the prefecture.  Both reached the finals and fared very well despite losing.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

44th Meiji Jingu Tournament - We have a champion!

So we have a champion, and perhaps in doing so endorses one of my theories about the urban super-regionals not perhaps trying as hard...

Day 3
Ryuuokudai Heian's ace Inudzuka couldn't get past the 2nd inning as he failed to record an out giving up 5 runs in the 3rd to Nihon Bunri which included a solo HR by opposing pitcher Iidzuka.  That erased an 2-0 early lead and forced Heian to chase.

That they did though as a sac fly in the 4th, followed by timely doubles from Ootani and Kawai in the 5th tied the game at 5-5!

But already on their 3rd pitcher, Tanaka was asked to go in long relief.  However, in the 7th Kodachi delivered a double to push ahead what would be the eventual winning run to end Kinki's hopes of having a 2nd bid!

The second game between Komadai Tomakomai and Okinawa Shougaku was marred by errors.  So much so that in a game that wound up 5-3, only 1 run was earned!!

In the 1st, a throwing error by 3B Tamaru with 2 outs continued the inning, and it was punished by Okishou with hits from Irabu and Fuchigami for a 3-0 lead.  Fuchigami would feel bad about scoring on the error, so he had one of his own in the top of the 2nd allowing Komadai to take 1 back.

That run would be given back to Okishou as in the 3rd SS Ogasawara would make an error of his own to make it 4-1.  Akamine Ken would get the only RBI of the game as he would get a hit to center extending the lead to 5-1.

More errors would get Komadai within 2 in the 8th, but that would be the closest they would get in the mistake-filled game.

Day 4
Day 4 was anti-climactic for semifinal matches.  Imabari Nishi and Nihon Bunri trade a run in each of the first 2 innings, but then after a run in the 3rd, Nihon Bunri blows up for 4 runs in the 4th.  Errors did not help Imabari's cause either has eventually would be mercy-ruled 10-3 in 7 innings.

It was worse for Iwakuni.  Errors put them behind 2-0 early, as Okinawa Shougaku put up runs in every inning culminating in back-to-back-to-back doubles in a 7-run 4th.  The game would only last 4.5 innings as Okishou mercy-ruled Iwakuni 11-1.

Day 5 - Championship
Nihon Bunri had the opportunity to be the first Hokushinetsu representative to win the Meiji Jingu tournament since Seiryou in 1991.  More importantly, it would mean a bid in all likelihood for Chikyuu Kankyou.

Okinawa Shougaku was looking to give Kyushu their 4th title and 1st since Yanagigaura back in 2004.  Chinzei would be able to breathe a sigh of relief as their main competitor for the final bid in Souseikan would be given the Meiji Jingu bid.

And it was one of those game you just couldn't believe, even if we told you...

Hoshi starts the game off for Nihon Bunri with a leadoff HR to right.  In the 3rd, Kamakura would hit a 2-out solo HR to left, making it 2-0!  Ace Iidzuka would blast his 2nd of the tournament to right in the 4th, extending it to 3-0!

Higa-kantoku tried to stop the bleeding as he sent in Kubo from RF to switch places with ace Yamashiro Daichi, but the power output didn't stop there. In the 5th, back-to-back doubles by Kobayashi and Kamakura were paid off by Yamaguchi's 2-run double of his own.  Even a failed send home of Yamaguchi didn't stop the inning as Iidzuka would his 2nd HR of the game to center making it a 7-0 game!!!

And cleanup batter Ikeda had had enough of everyone else going yard, and blasted one to left in the 6th giving Nihon Bunri a commanding 8-0 lead!!

Facing elimination in the bottom of the 7th, Okinawa Shougaku went to work - and made this already crazy game into a comeback for the ages.

With one down, Iidzuka would plunk Irabu.  Kaneshiro would hit for Fuchigami and hit a double to right.

And that's when ace Yamashiro Daichi (yes, he returned to the mound in the 7th) would keep his team alive with a 3-run HR to left center!  While the next 2 batters would be retired, Okishou was still in the game at 8-3...

Now the 8th inning.  Kubo starts it off with a triple to right.  Nishihira plates him with a single to center... 8-4.

Anzato booms a 2-run HR to left-center... It's now 8-6.  And still Ooi-kantoku doesn't send in someone like Kodachi, or last game's starter Fujita, instead sticking with ace Iidzuka...

Uehara flies out to right for the first out, but Irabu singles to left.  Now with 2 out, Yamashiro Daichi singles to left.

The inning looks to be over after Sunagawa hits one back to Iidzuka, but something goes horribly wrong and he throws it away allowing Irabu to score making it 8-7...

With Ooi-kantoku leaving Iidzuka on the mound even still, it sealed Nihon Bunri's fate.  He would walk Akamine Ken, sending up Kubo for his 2nd AB of the inning.

And he wouldn't miss.  Kubo would hit one to right, scoring both Daichi and Ken to complete the comeback. 9-8.  In a minor way, Okinawa Shougaku did what Nihon Bunri couldn't do in 2009.  (Sorry Nihon Bunri, but while I like you, until you can win a big game final, it will always come back to that game...)

So, with Okinawa Shougaku's victory Chinzei can rest easy.  With the Meiji Jingu bid, Souseikan will be invited and Chinzei can hold onto their last Kyushu bid (or technically vice versa).  Sadly for Chikyuu Kankyou, Nihon Bunri's collapse means that they will be on the sidelines watching senbatsu from home...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

44th Meiji Jingu Tournament - Days 1 & 2

Well, we're off in the Meiji Jingu tournament to decide the last bid to go to a region and there have been some surprises.

Day 1
Ryuukokudai Heian (Kinki) did what I though they would against Mie (Tokai).  Starting in the 3rd, Imai and Nakaguchi with back to back hits would drive in a run each to make it a 2-0 game.  That would be followed up by the Takahashi battery (C Yuuhashi & P Keiji) in the 4th for another 2 runs.  And a Mie error in the 5th would give them a 5-0 lead.

But as Mie is wont to do, they scrap their way back after the break.  Nishioka would get them on the board in the 6th with a groundout.  2 innings later, Seko would get a timely RBI, and Nishioka would follow that up with a 2-run double to make it a 1-run ballgame.

However, that would be the closest they would get.  Ootsuka would come in as Heian's 3rd pitcher and shut down Mie to secure the 5-4 win.

Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo) did not start Abe Takeshi in their game against Okinawa Shougaku (Kyushu).  But then again, he's actually wearing #10 apparently!  The ace number belongs to Haketa Akihiro, who did start the game.

And he held the Okishou offense in check as his team jumped on ace Yamashiro. Yamaguchi started things off with a timely single with runners at the corners, and then Ikeda followed that up with a double and it was 2-0 Kanto in the 1st.  Ikeda would deliver again in the 3rd, with another base hit to make it a 3-0 ballgame.  That would be it for Yamashiro as Kubo would come in from right to swap places.

The game stayed at 3-0 until post-break where Okishou finally got to Haketa. With runners at the corners, Akamine Ken delivered a base hit to score 1, and then Kubo himself would hit a double to make it a 1-run ballgame.

Haketa would give way in the 8th still holding onto the lead.  I would have expected them to go Abe, but again I would have been wrong. Instead they went to unknown Tanabe Ren. That didn't go well when Anzato would get a hit to left, tying the game.

It then went all wrong in the 9th as Tanabe would only record one out while giving up 5 runs, ensuring Okishou's advance to the next round.

Day 2
The first game of the 2nd round was a no-contest affair sadly. My supposed favorite, Hachinohe Gakuen Kousei (Tohoku) was never in the game against Imabari Nishi (Shikoku) as their #3 batter Ochi Itsuki would drive in 3 of their 5 runs en route to a 5-1 victory. Of course, it didn't help also that the team committed 4 errors in the game as well...

The second game almost seemed like the first. Hakuoudai Ashikaga (Kanto) quickly took the lead over Iwakuni (Chuugoku) with a sac fly from Ooshita in the first and a timely from Higa in the 2nd.  Kawamoto's double in the 3rd would bring Iwakuni within 1, but a pair in the 5th seemed to make the game a copy of the first.

But much like Kanto Dai-ichi, things went horribly wrong in the 8th inning for Hakuoudai.  Tsuchiya would start it off with a timely hit to center to make it a 4-2 ballgame.  With the bases loaded, Kameya would hit a grounder to short. Kamon would go home, only to throw it away... 2 runs would score and the game was tied at 4. Ace Higa would be relieved as Ooshita would come in from left to pitch. Sadly, a wild pitch would allow the gyakuten run to score.

Iwakuni would tack on one more as Yanagawa would shut the door in the 9th ensuring that Kanto would not get another bid (Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku should get the floating bid now).

The schools with some hope left may be:
  • Hokkaido - Sapporo Ootani
  • Hokushinetsu - Chikyuu Kankyou
  • Kinki - Sanda Shousei
  • Chuugoku/Shikoku - Takigawa Gakuen
  • Kyushu - Souseikan

Monday, November 4, 2013

44th Meiji Jingu Tournament Bracket

I did not know that the brackets for the Meiji Jingu tournament were predetermined. With all super-regional champions determined, the bracket is as follows (the region is stated here as that is what is important):
  • Imabari Nishi (Shikoku) vs. Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Tohoku)
  • Nihon Bunri (Hokushinetsu) vs. Ryuukokudai Heian (Kinki)-Mie (Tokai) winner
  • Komadai Tomakomai (Hokkaido) vs. Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo)-Okinawa Shougaku (Kyushu) winner
  • Hakuoudai Ashikaga (Kanto ex Tokyo) vs. Iwakuni (Chuugoku)
 And as stated earlier, here are the schools that may have something at stake:
  • Hokkaido - Sapporo Ootani
  • Tohoku - Aomori Yamada (I think the JHBF would still overlook Hanamaki Higashi)
  • Kanto/Tokyo - Narashino/Kasumigaura/Kendai Takasaki (they just need either region to win)
  • Hokushinetsu - Chikyuu Kankyou
  • Tokai - Shizuoka
  • Kinki - Sanda Shousei
  • Chuugoku/Shikoku - Takigawa Gakuen (they just need either region to win)
  • Kyushu - Souseikan
So with that in mind, let's look at the matchups:

Imabari Nishi (Shikoku) vs. Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Tohoku)
Imabari Nishi appears to be back after a year off. They did defeat Kishi and Meitoku Gijyuku, but it could be a case of where the pitcher remains but the offense is weaker. Plus, there is the 5-2 win over an unknown Sakaide team who won Kagawa as well

Kousei, as they are now called, completely annihilated the Tohoku field including wins over Sendai Ikuei, Sakata Minami and Hanamaki Higashi before handling an unknown Touryou squad to win the title.  Now, much like Meitoku Gijyuku, both Sendai Ikuei and Hanamaki Higashi had a completely new starting 9, so despite their Natsu Koushien appearance, you cannot take too much from it. But the fact that Kousei won so convincingly is a big plus (the 2-1 win over Hanamaki Higashi can be discounted because they always play tough no matter what the roster).

Advantage: Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei

Nihon Bunri (Hokushinetsu) vs. Ryuukokudai Heian (Kinki)-Mie (Tokai) winner

The opening round game between the neighboring super-regions is a tough one to handicap. Yes, Ryuukokudai Heian did win their 5th title defeating Koushien caliber teams such as Oumi, Chiben Gakuen, Riseisha and Chiben Wakayama.

But Shiga (Oumi) was weak in general, Nara (Chiben Gakuen) is apparently going through some reorganization of some sort as Tenri has fallen by the wayside and Chiben Gakuen has not taken over to dominate as one would have thought, Osaka (Riseisha) apparently has a power vacuum at the top that is waiting to be filled, and Chiben Wakayama may be on the sunset of it's run.

That's not to say Mie isn't without its own question marks. Yes, they defeated both Shizuoka Shougyou and Chuukyoudai Chuukyou, but they also had to come back to defeat unknown Toyokawa to win the final. And Chuukyoudai Chuukyou hasn't been the same since they won the title.

Advantage goes to Ryuukokudai Heian just because of the level of competition, but Kinki has performed poorly and Mie is generally up for a challenge.

The winner faces Nihon Bunri, who had an easier time against Tsuruga Kehi and Cinderella Toyama Dai-ichi before having to walk off twice versus Chikyuu Kankyou and Toukai Dai-san (both Nagano schools!!).

And therein lies the rub. Despite the early success the close victories against Nagano, who themselves are seemingly going through a low part in their cycle, means that Nihon Bunri doesn't look as good.

Advantage: Ryuukokudai Heian

Komadai Tomakomai (Hokkaido) vs. Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo)-Okinawa Shougaku (Kyushu) winner

Okinawa Shougaku won Kyushu despite having to revamp most of their roster from the summer. This after they seemingly made improvements from the spring. Thing is, their list of teams they defeated does not seemingly instill confidence in their prospects.

Kanto Dai-ichi claims the final spot after a very tight game against Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku. Oddly, Kanto did not go with ace Abe on back-to-back days. This won't be a problem for the first two games, but will be thereafter.  Abe shut down the Nisshougakusha offense once he came in, so I do expect the same against Okinawa Shougaku.

The winner faces Komadai Tomakomai, who wins Hokkaido - but once again not convincingly with 1-run victories over Toukai Dai-yon and Sapporo Ootani.

Kanto Dai-ichi may get out of this part of the bracket, but if they go to their bullpen it doesn't look too good.

Advantage: Kanto Dai-ichi

Hakuoudai Ashikaga (Kanto ex Tokyo) vs. Iwakuni (Chuugoku)

Kanto seemed to have a fair amount of parity as half of the super-regional games were decided by 2 runs or less. That and the finalists were actually the runner-ups in their prefecture!!

The names may have been "brand" names, but they weren't really anywhere to be seen in the past year. And those that were - Yokohama, Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, Jyousou Gakuin were eliminated right off the bat.

Iwakuni won a Chuugoku Super-regional that was littered with new names. Now, they did not encounter any issues up until the final where Hiroshima Shinjyou put up a late fight which is a plus.  Problem is, we don't know how big of a plus it really means considering the strength of the Chuugoku region in general.

Advantage: Hakuoudai Ashikaga

Right now, of all the qualified participants, perhaps Kousei has the best resume. Oddly enough, I actually think that Kanto/Tokyo will not win the Meiji Jingu tournament simply because it would let a brand team get an invitation - that is unless the committee picks Kasumigaura.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

86th Haru Koushien - Mie wins Tokai Super-Regional!

Our 5th Super-Regional champ has been determined, and it was almost an upset.

Toyokawa had a dream run in the super-regionals, defeating teams such as Tokoha Tachibana, Oogaki Nichidai and Shizuoka. Standing in front of them was Mie, yet another Koushien team that is known for their grittiness.

Toyokawa jumped right on Mie early as leadoff batter Nakamura would open the game with a triple to right center. 4 batters later, he would finally be driven in by Itou. Nakamura would return the favor in the 2nd with a timely hit of his own and suddenly they led 2-0.

Mie's Imai would settle down after that, while Toyokawa's Tanaka continued to keep the Mie offense off the board, despite giving up a fair share of hits.

In the 8th, Nakamura would come up clutch again, delivering another timely hit extending the lead to 3-0, and the game perhaps seemed in hand.

But Mie's captain Nagano seemed to have the answer for Tanaka's slider and with that information got to work. One run already in and now bases loaded with 2 out, a hard grounder by Yamamoto to 2B Shima caught him in-between and it would go off his glove allowing one run to score.

That error opened the gates as the next batter Sada would hit a slow roller to short. SS Takakuwa would charge and make an errant throw to 1st allowing 2 runs to score giving Mie the lead. Imai closed the door in the 9th and they claim just their 4th title and 1st in 19 years!

Given Toyokawa's performance, I do expect them along with Mie to make it to Haru Koushien.

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Entering the final stretch!

With the exception of Tokyo, all Super-Regionals will be completed this weekend:

Kanto ex Tokyo
Well, there goes Narashino again... Starter Fukada gives up 2 runs early and the offense can't get going as they lose to Hakuoudai Ashikaga 3-1.  Kendai Takasaki seemed to have Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku carrying a 3-1 lead into the final 2 innings, but a 3-spot in the 8th was their downfall.

On the other side, Yokohama starter Itou gives up 5 runs in the first inning, and while they wind up outhitting Sano Nichidai 11-9, they cannot make up the early deficit and lose 5-3. And finally, Kasumigaura gave a great fight against Kiryuu Dai-ichi and had stifled their offense. But with the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 9th, Kiryuu got runners on 1st and 2nd and #7 batter Onoda delivered the sayonara hit to center.

In the semifinals, Hakuoudai's Higa scattered 7 hits over 9 innings, giving up just 1 run in the 9th inning for a 3-1 win over Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku. In the second game, Sano Nichidai had the tables turned on them. Kiryuu Dai-ichi scored 4 in the first inning, knocking starter Inaba out of the game and would go on to win 5-0.

So it'll be Hakuoudai Ashikaga and Kiryuu Dai-ichi will battle for the title while Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku and Sano Nichidai will need to wait for the phone call.

The semifinals did not go as I expected. After the strong performance by Chinzei so far, they went out and got 1-hit by Okinawa Shougaku, losing 4-1. Admittedly, it is not a good showing.

Misato Kougyou's ace Inami struggled to keep Kamimura Gakuen's batters from reaching base as he surrendered 10 hits, but he constantly wiggled his way out of trouble as Misato would never trail, winning 5-1 to advance to the finals!

And so, just over 3 weeks to the day, Misato Kougyou and Okinawa Shougaku will do battle once again at Okinawa Cellular Stadium Naha! In the prefectural final, the teams were scoreless until the 9th when Misato scored 3 to win the title.

Monday, October 28, 2013

86th Haru Koushien - Shikoku champ determined!

The semifinal games were surprisingly not close. First, Kishi wound up giving up a 4-run 4th to Imabari Nishi (Ehime 2) as Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi 1) couldn't muster any offense losing 4-0.

On the other side, Ikeda's (Tokushima 3) offense gave Myouzai a game off as they scored early and often to defeat Seikou Gakuen (Tokushima 1) 9-3.

Perhaps though, Ikeda should have actually given Myouzai some time off because he was pulled after 6 innings trailing 1-0 to Imabari Nishi. The bullpen would give up 9 runs thereafter as Imabari Nishi claims their 5th title and first in 4 years!

Despite the loss, I do expect Ikeda to receive an invite, given they were a powerhouse in the 1980's and are seemingly experiencing a renaissance. It's not a 100% guarantee, but it looks fairly good.

The fact that Meitoku Gijyuku lost because of one inning probably bumps out Seikou Gakuen from consideration for the floating bid. It also makes things very tough for the Chuugoku region too to put up a team that could compete with them for the bid.

Aki Taikai Recap-to-Date - All Regions

Now that all Super-Regionals are in play, we can do a full recap from the weekend

Kanto ex Tokyo
Their super-regional was actually supposed to start Saturday, but was postponed due to rain. So only 3 games have been played so far, with the other 4 being played today.

It went fairly scratch with one very surprising upset. In the one game at Hitachi-Naka Municipal Stadium, Kiryuu Dai-ichi (Gunma 2) shutout Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku (Chiba 2) 3-0. Meanwhile, over at Mito Municipal, Narashino (Chiba 1) was deuces wild against Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki 2), putting up 4 2-run innings after falling behind 2-0 to win 8-2. The upset was in the 2nd game where Hakuoudai Ashikaga (Tochigi 2) pulled ahead of Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama 1) 6-1, then held off a furious rally in the final 2 innings to win 6-5.

In today's action, Kendai Takasaki (Gunma 1) held off Mito Kougyou (Ibaraki 3) 3-2, while Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi 2) couldn't get level with Sano Nichidai (Tochigi 1) falling 3-1. Afternoon action sees Nichidai (Kanagawa 2) prevents the shutout, but loses to Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku (Yamanashi 1) 5-2, and Yokohama (Kanagawa 1) shutting out Shiritsu Kawagoe (Saitama 2) 5-0.

The rainout also affected the Tokyo Super-Regionals and as a result only 2 quarterfinals games have been played. Not surprisingly, Nichidai-san and Kanto Dai-ichi shutout their opponents 8-0 and 7-0 and look poised for a finals matchup.

The other two matchups are Toukaidai Takanawadai vs. Koyamadai and Nittai Ebara vs. Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku.

Mie (Mie 1) has just annihilated their opponents, defeating Shizuoka Shougyou (Shizuoka 2) 10-0 in 6 innings to reach the finals. Their opponent will be... Toyokawa (Aichi 2)!  While they did give up an early 2-0 lead to Shizuoka (Shizuoka 1), ace Tanaka kept his school in the game and they walked off Shizuoka in the bottom of the 9th!

Given Toyokawa's performance in the Super-Regionals, even if they lose to Mie I expect them to get the 2nd bid.

Well, PL Gakuen (Osaka 2) may have made it to the super-regionals finally, but they still have work to do as their triumvirate of pitchers couldn't hold off Fukuchiyama Seibi (Kyoto 1) as they fall 3-2.  Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo 1) had a surprisingly hard time against Kansaidai Hokuyou (Osaka 3), needing 5 runs late to win 8-6.

Then in the quarterfinals, Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto 1) and Chiben Gakuen (Nara 1) were embroiled in a low-scoring affair, but the home cooking couldn't save Chiben Gakuen as could manage just 1 run on 6 hits to lose 2-1.  They will face Riseisha (Osaka 1) as Sanda Shousei (Hyogo 2) just couldn't get any traction managing just 5 hits in a 5-0 loss.

The host prefecture would be completely eliminated on Sunday as Naradai Fuzoku (Nara 2) was completely whitewashed by Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama 1) 10-0 in 5 innings.  They will play a Houtoku Gakuen squad who is probably happy to see a week off.  They and Fukuchiyama Seibi could not generate any offense in their matchup but did push the only run in in the 6th.

Games were rained out on Friday, so the first two rounds would be played on Saturday-Monday.

At Kurashiki Muscat Stadium, upsets were the story of the weekend. Okayama Ridai Fuzoku (Okayama 4) started off with a 7 inning, 3-hit shutout over Izumo Nishi (Shimane 2).  Then, Soushi Gakuen (Okayama 1) got 4 runs on just 4 hits versus Takagawa Gakuen (Yamaguchi 2), but 10 free passes helped precipitate their downfall as they were upset 7-4. On Sunday, it was an upset by seeding only as Kouryou (Hiroshima 3) defeated Tottori Jyouhoku (Tottori 1) 5-1. With Hiroshima Shinjyou's (Hiroshima 1) Yamaoka delivering a 3-hitter against Iwami (Tottori 3), it sets up a rematch of the Hiroshima semifinals.

Across town at Kurashiki Muscat Stadium, it was all scratch seed-wise. Iwakuni (Yamaguchi 1) started off by dominating Tottori Shougyou (Tottori 2) 7-1. Soutoku (Hiroshima 2) then limited Ube Shougyou (Yamaguchi 3) to just 1 run on 5 hits winning 3-1. Kurshiki Shougyou (Okayama 2) let Daitou back in the game with 4 in the 5th, but pulled away late with 5 runs to win 9-5. And Okayama-ken Kyousei made the score respectable late, but was never in it after falling behind 2-1 in the 3rd, losing 6-3.

The quarterfinals just concluded today, and in early action Takagawa Gakuen actually mercy-ruled Okayama Ridai Fuzoku 11-1, and Iwakuni had to use a 4-run 7th to defeat Soutoku 4-0.

In the late games Kouryou was actually mercy-ruled by Hiroshima Shinjyou 9-2 in 7 innings! And Taisha tried to keep up with Kurashiki Shougyou, but would fall 7-5.

Kyushu, unlike the other super-regionals are just running through their brackets with very few days off. So today they're already in the quarterfinals. As of writing the first half of those games have been completed.

On the upper left side part of the bracket, Yaeyama Shoukou (Okinawa 3) started off struggling against Ibusuki Shougyou (Kagoshima 2) finally getting on the board with a pair of runs in the 6th eventually winning 3-0. Next up was Waseda Saga (Saga 1) who has quickly entered their name into the hat in the prefecture. The game would be yet another low-scoring affair, and when they finally pulled ahead 2-1 in the 12th, all seemed well. But Baba couldn't close out the game, Waseda comes back to score 2 and send the home team packing for the winter.

You'd think that they would have faced Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Fukuoka 1), but they needed a run in the 9th just to send the game versus Chinzei (Kumamoto 2) into enchousen. And when they though they had the game won with a run in the 11th, Chinzei comes back to tie the game. 3 innings later, the pitching staff would run out of gas and Chinzei would win 3-2. Chinzei would then use a 4-run lucky 7 to defeat Waseda Saga and advance to the semifinals!

On the lower left quadrant, Hasami (Nagasaki 2) was surprisingly involved in a slugfest against Kitsuki (Oita 1) jumping out to a 7-0 lead, watching it shrivel to a 2-run lead before stabilizing for a 12-9 win. They would play an Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa 2) squad who got by Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki 1) 3-1. Hasami however, couldn't get involved with 2 straight sock 'em games as they were mercy ruled 9-1 in 7 innings.

To the other half, and Misato Kougyou (Okinawa 1) really struggled with Oita Shougyou (Oita 2) 1-0. And now they will have even more trouble with Souseikan (Nagasaki 1) who had no problems with Kashima (Saga 2). Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima 1) had surprisingly no trouble with Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku (Fukuoka 2) 7-3, and will face a Nisshou Gakuen (Miyazaki 2) squad who has defeated both Ginoza (Okinawa 4) and Taragi (Kumamoto 1).

Well, blow me down - Misato Kougyou shuts out Souseikan 1-0, and Nisshou Gakuen tried to rally a 2nd time against Kamimura Gakuen but the 9-3 deficit was too much, falling 10-6.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Kyushu Super-Regional

Finishing up prefectural play:

We had not one, but 2 upsets in the semifinals! First, Seiseikou fell behind Chinzei early and with their offense not setup to come from large deficits, 3 runs late for Chinzei was just too much. Seiseikou falls 5-1!

And in the other semifinals, Kyushu Gakuin could only manage 1 run against Taragi and they are upset as well 2-1! So we had a completely different final with Taragi guaranteeing their 1st ever super regional appearance, while Chinzei would be making their 26th appearance, but first in 15 years!

In that final, Taragi jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Chinzei started fighting back in the 5th. They would pull within 1 in the 8th, but it wouldn't be enough as Taragi claims their first ever title with a 4-3 win!

As I expected, it was Souseikan and Hasami that progressed through the field. Souseikan easily handled Obama and Sasebo Kougyou to reach the finals and a super-regional birth. As for Hasami, they as expected were involved in 2 close games. First they found a response to every Oomura Kougyou score eventually holding on 6-5. They did the same to Nagasaki Shougyou, but Nagashou mounted a late game rally scoring 4 runs in the final 2 innings. It would just fall short as Hasami would win 8-7.

You can only play so many 1-run games though, and in the final Souseikan put up a run in each of the first 5 innings and defeated Hasami 7-1.

The super-regional bracket is as follows - they start 10/26
  • Waseda Saga (Saga 1) vs. winner of Ibusuki Shougyou (Kagoshima 2)-Yaeyama Shoukou (Okinawa 3)
  • Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Kyushu 1) vs. Chinsei (Kumamoto 2)
  • Kitsuki (Oita 1) vs. Hasami (Nagasaki 2)
  • Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki 1) vs. Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa 2)
  • Misato Kougyou (Okinawa 1) vs. Oita Shougyou (Oita 2)
  • Souseikan (Nagasaki 1) vs. Kashima (Saga 2)
  • Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima 1) vs. Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku (Fukuoka 2)
  • Taragi (Kumamoto 1) vs. winner of Nisshou Gakuen (Miyazaki 2)-Ginoza (Okinawa 4)
It looks like the bracket is very lopsided on the left side.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Shikoku Super-Regional

Shikoku is already in the semifinal stages, but we need to get there first.  Kagawa wound up going to Sakaide as after Eimei pinged Sakaide for a run in the 1st and 2nd innings, Sakaide scored 3 in the 3rd and then put the game away with 5 in the 7th.

The brackets then went as follows:
  • Sakaide (Kagawa 1) vs. winner of Imabari Nishi (Ehime 2)-Kochi Ootemae (Kochi 3)
  • Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi 1) vs. winner of Komatsushima (Tokushima 2)-Takamatsu Dai-ichi (Kagawa 3)
  • Seikou Gakuen (Tokushima 1) vs. winner of Eimei (Kagawa 2)-Teikyou Dai-go (Ehime 3)
  • Saijyo (Ehime 1) vs. winner of Kochi Higashi Kougyou (Kochi 2)-Ikeda (Tokushima 3)
Imabari Nishi just made a complete mess of Kochi Ootemae scoring 11 runs in the 3rd in a 22-1 blowout. And as for Sakaide, they put up a 2-spot in the 1st against Imabari Nishi but had to watch as the veterans put up 5 unanswered runs and here they are in the semis.

Komatsushima gets to the super-regionals, but cannot parlay it into a Koushien appearance it seems. Takamatsu Dai-ichi puts up crooked numbers every inning and the game ends 14-3 in 5 innings.  But against Meitoku's ace Kishi...  let's just say they were shutout and mercy ruled in 7 innings 8-0.

What I said for Komatsushima applies for Teikyou Dai-go as well. Eimei proved to be vulnerable this year it seemed and when Teikyou took a 1-0 lead into the mid-game break it seemed they might be able to do it. But once the 2nd half started, Eimei scored 4 runs and that was that.  But against Seikou Gakuen they played catch-up the entire game.  And when they finally leveled the score at 3 in the top of the 8th, it must have taken its toll as ace Akagawa couldn't hold off Seikou anymore and a run in the bottom of the 8th put the nail in the coffin for Eimei.

Probably the team in Shikoku that has had tried the most to get back to their olden days is Ikeda. Having to fight teams like Naruto, Naruto Uzushio, Tokushima Shougyou who have emerged as the new powers has been tough. But under ace Myouzai, they may just have a chance.

First up was a solid 7-2 win over Kochi Higashi Kougyou where he struck out 9.  Then against Saijyo, he was entrenched in an ace matchup with Shimada. After each surrendered a run early, they started putting up donut after donut.  Then in the 9th, with 2 outs Kita draws a walk for Ikeda, not only steals 2nd, but 3rd as well! Myouzai would drive in the run himself with a hit to left.

Now just 3 outs away, Myouzai's defense would let him down. A leadoff error by the SS would get advanced to 2nd on a grounder, and Yanase would hit a double to tie the game. Myouzai would have to load the bases with 2 out, but he got out of the inning with no more damage, sending the game into enchousen.

2 innings later, it would be Saijyo who would return the favor. A one-out error by their 3B would put the gyakuten runner on 2nd, and with 2 out and the runner now at 3rd Fujita delivered the timely hit to put Ikeda up once again 3-2. Yanase would lead off the bottom of the 11th with a base hit and was bunted to 2nd. But he would get hung up with a grounder to short and get tagged out. Shimada, the runner at 1st now would get the douten run back in scoring position with a stolen base but Myouzai would have the final word getting Sakou to fly out to center to end the game and send Ikeda to the semifinals.

Thankfully for Myouzai and Ikeda they have a week off before hitting the mound again.

I'm pulling hard for Ikeda, but I hate to see it be at the expense of a team like Seikou Gakuen if they do win. The losing team will have to hope for the floating bid at that point, and even then remember there is the loser of the Imabari Nishi-Meitoku Gijyuku game to deal with too. If that loser just happens to be Meitoku, forget it - they have 0 chance at the floating bid and may have to be nominated as the 21st century team (if that's even possible).

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Chuugoku Super-Regional

Chuugoku's Super-Regionals start this Friday.  Brackets are as follows:

Left Side
  • Izumo Nishi (Shimane 2) vs. Okayama Ridai Fuzoku (Okayama 4)
  • Soushi Gakuen (Okayama 1) vs. Takagawa Gakuen (Yamaguchi 2)
  • Tottori Jyouhoku (Tottori 1) vs. Kouryou (Hiroshima 3)
  • Iwami (Tottori 3) vs. Hiroshima Shinjyou (Hiroshima 1)
Right Side
  • Iwakuni (Yamaguchi 1) vs. Tottori Shougyou (Tottori 2)
  • Soutoku (Hiroshima 2) vs. Ube Shougyou (Yamaguchi 3)
  • Daitou (Shimane 3) vs. Kurashiki Shougyou (Okayama 2)
  • Okayama-ken Kyouei (Okayama 3) vs. Taisha (Shimane 1)
There are not many A level teams here in the Super-Regionals, and those that are mostly seem to be playing each other!  Should make things interesting.

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Kinki Super-Regional

Ok, so the rotation doesn't do the same 2 prefectures every 3 years. This year Kyoto and Wakayama were the odd ones out.

Well, it wound up being an all-Oumi final as both Oumi and Oumi Kyoudaisha shutout their opponents soundly to reach the final.  And in the final, Oumi Kyoudaisha claimed their first fall title defeating Oumi yet again 5-3!

What was the stunner was that Youkaichi claimed the 3rd spot, defeating Hikone Higashi 3-2 in an upset!

Nishi-Jyouyou indeed was the odd team out as they were mercy-ruled 11-1 by Ryuukokudai Heian in 6 innings.  The other semifinal wound up not being competitive either as Fukuchiayama Seibi eliminated Ritsumeikan Uji 7-2.

And in the final, Fukuchiyama Seibi seemed to take control with a 5-run 5th to take a 5-1 lead, but Heian just completely wiped that out with 9 unanswered runs in the 7th & 8th innings to win 10-5 and claim their 24th title and first in 6 years.

I wonder if Chiben Gakuen read my remarks, because after I mentioned that they seemed to be struggling, they outscored their opponents 19-0 to reach the finals.  On the other side, Naradai Fuzoku also had no problems mercy-ruling Heijyou before holding on to defeat Kashihara Gakuin 4-2 to reach the finals as well.

Naradai Fuzoku appears to be making a solid bid to be the 3rd team in the prefecture, and held in there against the favorites.  Not until a 3-run 8th for Chiben Gakuen did they finally seal their title, winning 11-7.

Kashihara Gakuin at least got into the Super-regionals as they ran circles around Kashiba 9-3.

Looks like winning the first tournament does mean something it seems as only Kinkidai Shinguu was the only one who advanced from the teams that played the 2nd tournament, holding off a charge from Shinguu to win 6-4.

Shiritsu Wakayama and Kainan had no problems with their opponents, but Chiben Wakayama struggled with Arita Chuo, using a 3-run 7th to finally separate themselves for the 6-3 win.

Chiben Wakayama continued to struggle, but basically outlast their opponents.  Against Shiritsu Wakayama, they need 3 in the 9th to win 6-3 to advance to the finals.  And against Kainan (who traded runs every half-inning until the winning margin of 3-2 over Kinkidai Shinguu), they scored 4 runs in the 6-7-8th innings to overcome a 5-2 deficit to claim the title.

PL Gakuen and Riseisha continued to run roughshot over the field, though both teams had a hiccup along the way.  PL's game was against Uenomiya Taishi where they survived a 1-0 win, while Riseisha in the semifinals only defeated Kansai Hokuryou 4-1.

The final was pretty much as advertized.  Riseisha broke a 1-1 tie with 3 in the 4th, then clung on to the lead as PL launched a 9th inning rally that fell just short as they lost 4-3.

In the 3rd place game. the narrow loss by Kansai Hokuryou was not a fluke as they pulled away from the other semifinal loser Osaka Kaisei Gakuen (fka as Konohana Gakuin until 2013) outscoring them 9-3 in the final trimester to win 11-4.

Yeah, Ichikawa had no chance against Houtoku Gakuen, as back-to-back 4-run innings were all they needed to win 8-0.  The other semifinal was much closer as Sanda Shousei scored the only run of the game in the lucky 7 to defeat Yashiro.

Houtoku closed it out against Sanda Shousei, taking advantage of the free pass to outscore them 9-2 to win the title.  Meanwhile Ichikawa bounced back from the loss to Houtoku to defeat Yashiro 5-3 to claim the final spot.

3 of the 4 quadrants have played so far, and it's been not close for the most part:
  • Oumi (Shiga 2) was shutout by Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto 1) 5-0.
  • Youkaichi (Shiga 3) was also blanked by Chiben Gakuen (Nara 1) 8-0 in 7 innings.
  • Kainan (Wakayama 2) proved to be a very worthy opponent, holding Riseisha (Osaka 1) to just 2 runs. Problem was, that second run in the bottom of the 8th was the difference...
  • Sanda Shousei (Hyogo 2) showed Kashihara Gakuin (Nara 3) that they still had a ways to go. 10 unanswered runs in 4 consecutive innings meant a 7-inning 10-2 win.
  • It's hard to say who this game makes a statement for. With Oumi Kyoudaisha's (Shiga 1) 1-0 loss to Naradai Fuzoku (Nara 2). Does it mean that Shiga as a whole is down considering no representative scored even a run?  Does it mean that outside of Oumi Kyoudaisha, Shiga was very weak considering that Naradai played Chiben Gakuen close? Does it mean that both Shiga and Nara are both weak considering Kashihara's loss as well?
  • And finally Ichikawa (Hyogo 3) was just outclassed by a Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama 1) squad 10-1 in 7.
Still left to play next weekend will be PL Gakuen (Osaka 2) vs. Fukuchiyama Seibi (Kyoto 2) and Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo 1) vs. Kansai Hokuryou (Osaka 3).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Tokai Super-Regional

Finishing up the field for Aichi, Touhou took top honors defeating Toyokawa 3-1 in the championship game, while Chuukyoudai Chuukyou took out their frustration on Homare 10-0 in 5 to take the 3rd spot.

The Super-Regional bracket was as follows:
  • Touhou (Aichi 1) vs winner of Shizuoka Shougyou (Shizuoka 2)-Inabe Sougou Gakuen (Mie 3)
  • Mie (Mie 1) vs winner of Gifu Seitoku Gakuen (Gifu 2)-Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi 3)
  • Shizuoka (Shizuoka 1) vs winner of Ise (Mie 2)-Seki Shougyou (Gifu 3)
  • Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu 1) vs winner of Toyokawa (Aichi 2)-Tokoha Tachibana (Shizuoka 3)
Shizuoka Shougyou in what seemed like a tough draw, scored 12 unanswered runs after falling behind 4-0 in the first to defeat Inabe Sougou Gakuen. They showed their resilience again against Touhou, for after giving up 5 runs in the 7th to fall behind 7-3, they score 5 in the final 2 innings to win 8-7!!

So Shizuoka Shougyou will face Mie in the semifinals.  While Chuukyoudai Chuukyou handled Gifu Seitoku Gakuen with no problems, a 6-run 5th by Mie helped put the former Koushien champ out of commission 9-2.

On the other half, Seki Shoukou's sayonara victory over Ise 7-6 did not portend good things for them against Shizuoka, and while they held the early 1-0 lead, 7 runs in the middle 3 innings meant a 7-3 loss.

They will face a game Toyokawa squad who pretty much did what Shizuoka Shougyou did - advance from a tough draw.  First, they put 2 3-run innings together to defeat Tokoha Tachibana 6-4.  And then against Oogaki Nichidai they hit them early and kept them at arms length the rest of the way winning 6-3.

Once again, we could have an intra-prefectural final should Shizuoka Shougyou and Shizuoka win.  Mie and Toyokawa look game though and the games here on out should be closely fought.

86th Haru Koushien - Third Super-Regional Champ crowned, scratch so far

The all-Nagano final was not to be.  Chikyuu Kankyou (Nagano 2) gave Nihon Bunri (Niigata 1) a great fight, sent the semifinal into enchousen, but ace Hoshino couldn't hold on falling 4-3 in 10 innings.

Meanwhile, Toukai Dai-san (Nagano 1) continued their solid run leading Hokuriku (Fukui 2) wire-to-wire 5-2 to make the championship game.

The final finished up a couple of hours ago, and looking at the boxscore, it looks like Toukai Dai-san tried to take the fight to Nihon Bunri early on with a 4-0 lead, but Nihon Bunri rallied not once, but twice sending the game to enchousen tied at 5-5.

In the 11th, Hirabayashi would give it up for Toukai Dai-san, as with one out a walk, single, double steal followed by intentional walk would load the bases for 3B Ikeda who would deliver the sayonara hit to give Nihon Bunri the title.

While Toukai Dai-san's key games are both against the Niigata representatives, I expect them to be the 2nd representative out of Hokushinetsu.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Hokushinetsu Super-Regional

The draw for the Hokushinetsu Super-Regional wound up being very lopsided.  Don't believe it?

Left Side
  • Ishikawa-ken Kougyou (Ishikawa 2) vs. Chikyuu Kankyou (Nagano 2)
  • Fukui Koudai Fukui (Fukui 1) vs. Shin-Minato (Toyama 3)
  • Nagano Nishi (Nagano 3) vs. Toyama Dai-ichi (Toyama 1)
  • Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui 4) vs. Nihon Bunri (Niigata 1)
Right Side
  • Tsubata (Ishikawa 1) vs. Chuuetsu (Niigata 3)
  • Toyama Shougyou (Toyama 2) vs. Hokuriku (Fukui 2)
  • Komatsu Ootani (Ishikawa 3) vs. Toukai Dai-san (Nagano 1)
  • Niigata Meikun (Niigata 2) vs. Harue Kougyou (Fukui 3)
And the left side of the bracket appears to be more stacked than the right side.

Well, oddly enough the games on the left side were mostly lopsided.  Chikyuu Kankyou, Toyama Dai-ichi and Nihon Bunri were not challenged by their opponents.  In the other game, Shin-Minato used a 5-run 3rd to take a 5-2 lead, but could not hold it the remainder of the game. They pulled within 1 in the 9th, but fell 7-6.

On the other half, it was a little better.  We won't see Harue Kougyou though as they were mercy ruled by Niigata Meikun 12-2 in 8 innings.  And as for Tsubata, they won the prefecture, but didn't get any further losing to Chuuestu 6-0.  But Toyama Shougyou forced enchousen after scoring a run in the final 3 innings.  Sadly in the 11th, the pitching would fall apart giving Hokuriku a 9-3 win.  And Toukai Dai-san made a run in the 1st and 2nd innings hold up in a 2-0 win over Komasu Ootani.

In the quarterfinals, Chikyuu Kankyou and Fukui Koudai Fukui played into enchousen - but just for 1 inning as back-to-back doubles gave Chikyuu Kankyou the win in the bottom of the 10th.  They will face a game Nihon Bunri squad as Toyama Dai-ichi couldn't repeat their performance of the summer as they were shutout 4-0.

We actually have a chance to have the 2nd straight year of Hokushinetsu representatives coming from the same prefecture (Nagano) because Toukai Dai-san pulled off a stunning upset of Niigata Meikun, taking a 7-0 lead before holding on to win 7-5.  They will play Hokuriku who scored a run in the 9th to defeat Chuuetsu 2-1.

86th Haru Koushien - Second ticket punched!

Well, we have our second "automatic" invitation for next year's Haru Koushien!

We had a possibility for an all-Aomori final with Aomori Yamada and (Hachinohe Gakuin) Kousei in the semifnals.

However, in the first semifinal, Touryou actually took hold of the game with a 3-run 2nd inning and eliminated Aomori Yamada 4-1!  So that intra-prefectual final was not possible anymore.

Of course, attention was really focused on the 2nd semifinal with Kousei facing Hanamaki Higashi.  True to form, it was a pitching duel between Hosokawa for Hanamaki Higashi and Nakagawa/Baba for Kousei.  Though Hanamaki Higashi took a 1-0 lead in the 1st, a wild pitch from Hosokawa in the 3rd tied the game.  Then in the 5th, Fukue delivered a timely hit to score the gyakuten run.  Kousei would hold Hanamaki Higashi off to win 2-1.

With that out of the way, they went to their bullpen for the finals against Touryou and easily won 13-2 to claim their 4th title and first in 2 years.  This all but guarantees that Kousei will go to Haru Koushien in the spring.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Tokyo Super-Regional

We are halfway done with the 2nd round of the super-regionals and here's where we stand:

No surprise, Nichidai-san has just rolled through their two games so far, defeating Tokyo Sougou Kouka and (sadly the small island school) Oshima by a combined score of 35-0.  At least both schools played 6 innings...  Shouwa will look to slow down the behemoth next.

But some schools are already eliminated.  Teikyou in a shocker was actually mercy-ruled 13-3 in 6 innings to Nichidai-ni.  They will play Shiba next.

Nichidai Tsurugaoka was also mercy ruled in the first round, though it was against a known opponent Nisshou Gakushadai Fuzoku 10-3 in 8 innings.  They barely beat Sundai Gakuen 4-3 in their 2nd round game and will face Toukaidai Sugao for a spot in the quarterfinals. 

Kokushikan?  Well, they lost to Houyuu Gakuin 2-1 in 11 innings in the first round.  Houyuu will be challeneged yet again facing Kousei Gakuen.

Obirin (aka Oberlin) barely got by Higashi-Yamato Minami 2-1, but then lost to St. Paulo Gakuen 4-3.  They will face Toukaidai Takanawadai next.

Hachiouji found a reply to every score that Shuutoku put up, but just fell as short as you can get, falling 7-6.  Shuutoku faces Adachi Nishi next who have racked up 2 wins in the Super-Regionals so far.

Kanto Dai-ichi almost was eliminated in the first round, trailing Komagome 3-1 going into the bottom of the 9th before scoring 3 runs to advance and face Ouji Sougou.

Nittai Ebara had a good first test in Hiro-o, shutting them out 3-0.  Shibaura Koudai will be on their docket next.

The notable team still yet to play is Waseda Jitsugyou whose first opponent will be Koyamadai.

In other areas of the bracket, Taisei outlasted Edogawa and will play Ooizumi next. Nichidai Buzan got past Rikkyo Ikebukuro and will play newcomer Seikei.  And Musashi Murayama will play a Jyouhoku squad who led Komadai wire-to-wire.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Kanto ex Tokyo Super-Regional

The draw for the Kanto (ex Tokyo) Super-Regional is out, but we need to clean up some loose ends in the prefecturals first.

Jyousou Gakuin, who represented Ibaraki in the summer, continued their success here in the fall, but it was slow going in the prefecturals.  First, they let a 4-0 lead against Kagaku Gijyutsu Hitachi slip away, winning it 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th.  Then, against Shimodate Dai-ichi they actually trailed 4-2 before scoring 2 in the bottom of the 9th again and one more in the 10th to advance again 5-4.  And in the semis, they could only muster 1 run against Mito Kougyou, but it was enough to reach the finals.

Opposing them would be Kasumigaura - a C level team who has been on the verge of breaking that barrier.  They had a bit of an easier time, but still edged out Katsuta Kougyou in the 2nd round 5-4 and Tsuchiura Kohoku 3-1 in the semifinals.

And so we had a rematch of the summer final for the fall final.  And in almost a repeat of the final, Kasumigaura could not hold a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 9th and allowed Jyousou to level the score.  But unlike the final, Kasumigaura held on as each inning passed, eventually playing to an exhaustive 15-inning draw with the score still level at 3.

And so the teams came back one day later, and much like enchousen neither team could score.  Jyousou Gakuin broke the deadlock in the 6th with a run, but this time it was Kasumigaura who rallied with 2 in the lucky 7 and this time held on for the 2-1 win!

With Ibaraki hosting, the 3rd place game matters as they get an extra bid.  Mito Kougyou would tally the only run in the top of the 9th to advance past Tsuchiura Kohoku into the Super-Regionals.

Sakushin Gakuin, perhaps the favorite wound up having their bid ground to a halt as they couldn't rally late down 3-0, falling 3-2 to Hakuoudai Ashikaga 3-2!  It wouldn't be the only upset as their opponent wouldn't be Bunseigeidai Fuzoku, but instead Kokugakuin Tochigi!  They led wire-to-wire 7-3 to reach the semifinals!  On the other side, Sano Nichidai kept on rolling, shutting out fellow seed Utsunomiya Minami 5-0, setting up a matchup with Seiran Taito who scored 8 runs in the final 3 innings to upset Mooka 8-3.

It would be heartbreak from the non-powerhouses - especially Kokugakuin Tochigi.  Leading Hakuoudai Ashikaga 3-0 with just 3 outs to go, they gave up the lead - and then the game 1 inning later...

As for Seiran Taito, after responding to Sano's 2 runs in the 4th with 3 of their own in the top of the 5th, Sano Nichidai would score in the next 4 innings putting Seiran's dreams on ice.

Sano Nichidai would limit their runs given up in the fall taikai to just those 3 runs in the semifinals as they blanked Hakuoudai Ashikaga 5-0 to claim the 2nd straight title and 5th overall.  Surprisingly, this is just Hakuoudai's 2nd trip to the Super-Regionals.

Once again, it's a case of the lower-level schools unable to close out games against the powerhouse schools.

Takasaki Shoudai Fuzoku could not get the final 3 outs, giving up 3 runs to fall 3-2 to Kiryuu Dai-ichi in the first semifinal.  In the second semi, Kitoku couldn't make a 4-2 lead stick in the 9th as Kendai Takasaki tied the game and sent it to enchousen.  But due to Kendai's style, Kitoku was allowed several chances to try and get back the lead.  Eventually though, Kendai would push in the sayonara run in the 13th inning to advance to the finals.

In the final, Kendai Takasaki would hold off Kiryuu Dai-ichi in the top of the 9th, winning 3-2 to claim the prefectural title.

AUGH!!  Kasukabe Kyouei falls short yet again!!  After a struggling 3-2 win over Matsuyama, they fell in the semifinals to Shiritsu Kawagoe 1-0...

Hanasaki Tokuharu had no problems with Saitama Sakae and then Honjyou Dai-ichi (who earlier upset Urawa Gakuin) to reach the finals.  And then in the final, they pitched their 2nd straight shutout, blanking Shiritsu Kawagoe 4-0 to claim their 2nd straight title and 4th overall.

Well, after Narashino's apparent slow start they got 2 pass-through games over Kashiwa Minami and Kemigawa to reach the semifinals.  Their opponent probably should have been Senshuudai Matsudo, but after outlasting Narita 4-3 they had nothing left for Shiritsu Funabashi getting shutout 2-0.  Shiritsu Funabashi would give Narashino a good fight in the semifinal but too would fall 3-1 guaranteeing Narashino a spot in the Super-Regional.

On the other half, Kashiwa Nittai did move on to the quarterfinals with a mercy-rule win over Shiritsu Kashiwa, but then couldn't keep up with Chiba Reimei losing 4-3.

Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku after the tough start, had two easy games much like Narashino to reach the semifinals.  Chiba Reimei gave them all they could handle but much like Shiritsu Funabashi they too lost 3-1.

In the final, Narashino jumped out to a 5-0 lead early over Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku only to see it evaporate in the 5th as 10 batters would come up to the plate.  The game would head to enchousen where Narashino would score a run in the 11th to claim their 2nd straight title and 8th overall.

Well, there goes Toukou Gakuen.  What I thought would be an easy matchup against Nichidai turned out to be anything but.  Nichidai puts up 5 runs in the 3rd and holds off Toukou Gakuen 7-5.

In the other semifinal, Yokohama blanked Toukaidai Sagami 4-0 to reach the finals to secure their spot in the Super-Regionals.

Nichidai would not be able to pull off another upset as a late game rally couldn't erase a 4-0 deficit as Yokohama claimed the title with a 4-2 win.

Well, it would be the usual suspects in the semifinals.  Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku would face Hikawa in the first semi while Toukaidai Koufu and Nihon Koukuu would meet in the other semi.

Remember when I said that I was expecting Hikawa and Nihon Koukuu to clash?  Well, I wasn't expecting it to be in the consolation game...  Hikawa actually got mercy-ruled by Yamanashi Gakuin 9-2 in 8 innings, and then Nihon Koukouu was never in it losing to Toukaidai Koufu 7-1 eliminating both teams from the super-regionals.  That game doesn't matter, but Nihon Koukuu won it 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th 5-4.

As for the finals, it belonged to Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku as Toukaidai Koufu was never in it, losing 8-2.  For Yamanashi Gakuindai it is their 5th title and first in 6 years.

The super-regionals will commence on the 26th and the opening game is a doozy.  Narashino and Jyousou Gakuin will clash in one heck of a battle.  The brackets are as follows:

Left Side
  • Narashino (Chiba 1) vs. Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki 2)
  • Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama 1) vs. Hakuoudai Ashikaga (Tochigi 2)
  • Kendai Takasaki (Gunma 1) vs. Mito Kougyou (Ibaraki 3)
  • Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku (Yamanashi 1) vs. Nichidai (Kanagawa 2)
Right Side
  • Sano Nichidai (Tochigi 1) vs. Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi 2)
  • Yokohama (Kanagawa 1) vs. Shiritsu Kawagoe (Saitama 2)
  • Kiryuu Dai-ichi (Gunma 2) vs. Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku (Chiba 2)
  • Kasumigaura (Ibaraki 1) - Bye
The bracket feels a bit left heavy, which could be a blessing for Yokohama.  I'd say the same for Kasumigaura, but they have to play Yokohama to reach the finals...

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Tohoku Super-Regionals

We are in the final stages of the Tohoku Super-Regionals and for one school, they are fighting to break a triumvirate of powerhouse teams to take the title.  More importantly though is to win the next game and perhaps secure a spot in the haru koushien.

First of all, the results of the prefecturals.

Aomori wound up being very competitive... as long as you were one of the upper-level teams in the prefecture.  Aomori Yamada, Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (fka as Kousei Gakuin) and (Hirosaki Gakuin) Seiai all advanced through the field without much resistance.  Unfortunately for Seiai, they had to face Aomori Yamada in the semifinals and lost soundly 9-3.  That put them in the consolation game where they just outlasted Aomori 6-4 to claim the final spot in the Super-Regionals.  Aomori Yamada couldn't be stopped as they beat Kousei 8-3 to claim the title.

Iwate predominantly belonged to the powerhouses... sort of.

Hanamaki Higashi, embroiled in some controversy at Natsu Koushien, seemed to have little ill effect come the fall.  They started off a bit slow early on with a 7-5 win over Takada in the first round, then followed that up with a 5-3 win over Morioka Dai-san.  After that though they gained momentum, defeating Morioka Dai-yon and Ichinoseki Gakuin (again) without difficulty.

The stage would have been set for familiar foes to match up as Moriokadai Fuzoku were on the other half of the bracket.  But in the semifinals, Kuji Kougyou gave them a surprising challenge.  The game would in fact go into extras tied at 1 until Kuji Kougyou would actually prevail in the 13th inning 2-1!!

That meant that just to get to the super-regionals, Ichinoseki Gakuin would have to defeat Moriokadai Fuzoku.  And in 10 innings... they lost 1-0.  Yet another disappointing run for the school.

In the finals, Kuji Kougyou once again proved to be a stubborn opponent to Hanamaki Higashi.  However, Hanamaki Higashi would win 2-0 to claim yet another fall title.

Well, I wanted Kakunodate to reach the super-regionals, I had no idea they'd decide to go all the way!  The semifinals were both mercy-rule games with Kakunodate winning 8-1 over Oomagari in 7 innings, and Oomagari Kougyou defeating Akita Chuo in the exact same manner.

And in the final, Kakunodate would defeat Oomagari Kougyou 7-5 to claim the fall title!!

Sadly for Oomagari, they couldn't join their sister school in the super-regionals as they were narrowly defeated by Akita Chuo 4-3.

Well, there's a shocker for you!  Yamamoto Gakuen, who defeated Sakata Minami 3-2 in the semifinals, went on versus Nichidai Yamagata in the finals with 4 in the 9th to seemingly put the game away at 5-2!  And when Nichidai rallied back to send it into enchousen, they would not give in scoring one more in the 10th and hold off this time around to win their first title!

Sakata Minami would move on to the super-regionals as expected with a mercy-rule win over Sakata Kouryou 8-1 in 7 innings.

Tohoku Super-Regionals
And now to the super-regionals...

How was this for a quadrant?
  • Aomori Yamada (Aomori 1) vs. Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima 3)-Moriokadai Fuzoku (Morioka 3) winner
  • Seiai (Aomori 3) vs. Yamamoto Gakuen (Yamamoto 1)
Seikou Gakuin put up a fight against Moriokadai Fuzoku, but was walked off in the bottom of the 9th 2-1.  They in turn gave up a 1-1 tie in the 9th to Aomori Yamada, and lost 3-2.

Seiai would get a rematch with Aomori Yamada after easily disposing of Yamamoto Gakuen 8-2.  The saying goes that it's hard to defeat a team twice in the same season, and Seiai got a 6-2 lead over Aomori Yamada.  However, it's also said that for a lower-level team, the hardest thing to do is to close out a game against a powerhouse school.  And in the final 3 innings, Aomori Yamada rallied to tie the game at 7.  Two innings later, Seiai would fall 8-7 in the bottom of the 11th.

Their opponent would be a complete surprise.  With no powerhouse teams in the other quadrant, there were some opportunities for unknown teams to perhaps put themselves in contention for a bid.

Kakunodate (Akita 1), who made a great run to the title, immediately ran into difficulty in their first game against Sukugawa (Fukushima 2) winning 3-1 in 10 innings.  Meanwhile Kuji Kougyou (Iwate 2) who defeated Moriokadai Fuzoku and limited Hanamaki Higashi had a disappointing showing against Touryou (Miyagi 2) and a 5-run 4th was the difference in a 9-4 loss.

And then in a bizarre quarterfinal game, what was a 4-2 game after 6 went completely bonkers as the teams combined for 16 runs in the final 3 innings of regulation sending the game tied at 11 into enchousen.  Touryou would regain the advantage in the 10th and win 13-11 and will now face Aomori Yamada.

On the other half, new fall champ Nichidai Tohoku (Fukushima 1) gave Koushien regular Sakata Minami (Yamagata 3) a good run, but gave up the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 8th to fall 2-1.  But the big matchup of this quadrant was Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi 1) facing Kousei (Aomori 2).  It wound up being another wild game as Kousei led 4-1, then gave up 6 to Sendai in the 3rd.  They would then score 6 unanswered runs to come back to win 10-7.  I think for Sendai Ikuei's sake, they need to have some mundane games or else they'll have a heart attack.  With that game out of the way, Kousei would need just 8 innings to defeat Sakata Minami 9-2.

Sakata Minami will play Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate 1) in the other semifinal, but it wasn't easy.  First, Oomagari Kougyou (Akita 2) sent them into enchousen tied at 2 before they could put up a 4 spot in the 10th to win.  Then after the battle of 3 seeds which Shibata (Miyagi 3) bid sayonara to Akita Chuo (Akita 3) 7-6, Nichidai Yamagata (Yamagata 2) would do the same to Shibata 2-1 to face Hanamaki Higashi.

And wouldn't you know it, but Hanamaki Higashi then turned the tables one more time, coming back from down 3-0 to say sayonara to Nichidai Yamagata 4-3!

Monday, October 14, 2013

86th Haru Koushien - First ticket punched!

And that ticket goes to the Hokkaido Super-Regional champion...

...Komadai Tomakomai!

Yes, they will return to haru koushien for the first time in 8 years.  After advancing past the first two rounds without trouble against Kushiro Meiki and Asahikawadai, they were snared in a low-scoring affair against Toukai Dai-yon - a very strong C level team in the semifinals.  12 innings later and they finally got to Toukai ace Nishijima to score the only run in the game moving them into the finals.

With schools like Hakodatedai Yuuto and Hokushou on the same side of the bracket and eliminated early, there was little competition left it would seem.  But Shirakaba Gakuen drew the other half of the bracket and would appear to be on a collision course for a powerhouse final.

Indeed, after 2 mercy rule wins over Bushuukan and Hakodate Shougyou, then a shutout of Tomakomai Chuo, they were just one game away from that matchup.  Standing in the way was an unknown Sapporo Ootani squad whose only notable win was their first game in a 6-4 win over Kitami Hokuto.

And yet when the final horn sounded, Ootani 1st year ace Okamoto Rinden (岡本 凛典) had pitched a complete game shutout and upset the favorites 4-0 and now were one game away from punching their own ticket to not only the Meiji Jingu tournament, but to Haru Koushien!

In the final, Okamoto gave Komadai Tomakomai all they could handle, keeping his underdog team in the game long enough to allow his offense to tie it up in the top of the 8th.

But a costly error allowed the go-ahead run to reach 3rd base for Komadai, and with one out and runners at the corners, Niiyama would hit the sac fly to left regaining the lead at 3-2 as reliever Itou closed it out for the victory.

So Komadai Tomakomai will head down to Tokyo and more importantly will be headed to Haru Koushien.  I don't think this is the last we'll see of Sapporo Ootani either.

Other taikais are underway, and I'll have those updates in the next couple of days.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Kyushu

Okinawa will host the Super-Regionals this year (very nice weather hopefully) for the participants.

It also means that Okinawa will receive 4 bids while all other schools get 2.

Okinawa Shougaku, the team that perhaps improved a bit in the summer, may have needed to start over after losing their seniors.  It couldn't be all that bad though, when you beat Kounan 2-0 in your first game.  And while not dominating offensively, they did not allow a run in their trip to the championship game:
  • def. Yokatsu 7-0 (8 inn)
  • def. Mawashi 2-0
  • def. Ginowan 10-0 (5 inn)
On the other side, one team was offensively dominating - Misato Kougyou.  They outscored Urasoe Kougyou, Maehara and Kadena 32-5!  But then they showed they could play the close game, defeating Yaeyama Shoukou 1-0.

That semifinal game paid dividends for Misato Kougyou as they played Okinawa Shougaku to a 0-0 tie in regulation, then scored 3 in the 10th to outlast them for their 2nd ever title (their only other one was 21 years ago!)!

That game followed a 3rd place game that went the full 15 before Yaeyama Shoukou beat Ginowan 1-0!

Shounan struggled to repeat their summer performance, winning some close games early before finally falling to Ooshima 8-7 in the quarterfinals.

The school filling the gap is a familiar one - Kamimura Gakuen.  They were not without their own close calls, defeating Kagoshima Jitsugyou 5-4 in the quarterfinals, then barely getting by unknown Ibusuki Shougyou in the finals 3-2!  The thing is... Ibusuki's only game of note was a 2-0 win over Shoushikan, otherwise they played no one special.

So what does that say about the prefecture?  Or does that say something about Ibusuki Shougyou instead?

Ah, Nobeoka Gakuen we hardly knew ye.  After that almost magical run in the summer, it was an unceremonious dismount as they fall in the 2nd round to Sadowara 7-5.  Hopefully we see them sooner rather than later.

It seems to be the right timing for Nichinan Gakuen though.  They were not challenged at all until the finals.

On the other side, it was not as clear.  Nisshou Gakuen and Miyazaki Minami were dominating teams a good team should be dominating until their matchup in the semifinals.  Miyazaki Minami's ace Sakai would limit Nisshou's offense to just 5 hits.  However, he would give up 3 runs in all, which would be all they needed in a 3-2 win, sending the hopefuls home...

Nisshou Gakuen would finally give Nichinan Gakuen a tough time, but it would not be enough as they would be shutout 2-0 giving Nichinan their 6th title.

Oita Shougyou looked to show their appearance at Natsu Koushien wasn't just a fluky thing - and with a fair amount of regulars returning, it seemed possible.

There were a couple of scares - a 2nd round win over Beppu Shougyou 2-0 and then later a 2-1 win over Nakatsu Higashi in 10 in the semifinals, but they managed to claim a spot in the super-regionals.

However, they would not win the title.  Just 1 year after they represented Oita at Natsu Koushien, Kitsuki marched through the field, yielding just 3 runs (all three against Meihou in the semifinals) and claiming their 2nd straight (and 2nd overall!) fall title!

Kumamoto is not yet finished, but are in the semifinal stage.  Kumamoto Kougyou is not part of that group though, as they fell to Chinzei 6-5 in the 3rd round.  In fact, Chinzei is still in the field and with one more win can advance to the super regionals.  But to do so they will have to defeat new powerhouse Seiseikou in the semifinals.

On the other half, Kyushu Gakuin looks to be back up and running with quality wins against Hitsuyuukan and BuntokuTaragi will have their hands full if they want to head to the super-regionals.

Sasebo Jitsugyou will not be repeating for Nagasaki.  In fact, they look to be in a rebuilding state after falling early to Nagasaki Higashi 3-1.

Seihou seems to have fallen back more permanently towards the rest of the field.  They could only muster the 3rd round before falling to Sasebo Kougyou 6-3.

Looks like the two candidates to become the Nagasaki representatives (they're in the quarterfinal stages) are two B level schools who have made more noise recently - Hasami (who defeated Yokohama several years back) and Souseikan (who finally got to Koushien this spring).  The road for all other schools will have to go through one of these two teams.

Arita Kougyou's time in the sun has apparently passed as they lost in their first game to Ryuukoku 6-0.  The runner up in the summer - Waseda Saga, took advantage of the opportunity to claim their first fall title (one of many probably as the school was established in 2010).

It'll be fresh faces for Saga's representatives as Kashima defeated Saga Kita and Ryuukoku to reach the finals before narrowly losing 6-5 to the aforementioned Waseda Saga.  While this is Kashima's 8th trip to the super-regionals, it is their first in 91 years!

Jiyuugaoka will have to go back to the drawing board, though they did manage to reach their block final before losing to Yahata 9-5.

The usual suspects have emerged out of block play - Higashi-Fukuoka, Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku, Kurume Shougyou, Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku, Chikuyou Gakuen and Kokura.

In fact, only Yahata and Orio Aishin (who became a co-ed school 11 years ago) were the only newcomers to come out of block play.  Sadly for both schools, they couldn't get past the blockade of powerhouse teams as they both fell in the quarterfinal round.

And so Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku and Kurume Shougyou will play each other in one semifinal, and Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku and Kokura will play in the other for the right to advance to the super-regionals.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Shikoku

Two more to go...

Kagawa may still be in a down cycle.  Natsu representative Marugame couldn't get out of the first game, falling to Sakaide 12-3. Interestingly, this is a case where the team defeating the summer representative actually delivers.  They edged by both Tonoshou (9-8 in 10), then Jinsei Gakuen (7-6) before getting an "easy win" over Takamatsu Dai-ichi 7-3 to secure their appearance in the super-regionals.

They will play Eimei in the finals for fall bragging rights.  Eimei did not concede a run until their quarterfinal game against Marugame Jyousai, then outlasted Kagawa Nishi 7-6 in 12 innings.

As noted, Takamatsu Dai-ichi and Kagawa Nishi will play for the 3rd spot.

Naruto may be back on the rebuilding path as they can only get to the quarterfinals before falling to Ikeda in 12 innings after rallying from down 4-1.

Naruto Uzushio, a possible candidate to replace them, actually had fallen a round earlier to Itano 3-2.  And with Tokushima Shougyou failing late to Kaifu 10-7 also in the quarterfinals, it opened things up for the final 4 with no main threat.

Ikeda may be building back up to being a Tokushima powerhouse, but they haven't gotten there yet it seems. They fell behind unknown Seikou Gakuen 3-0 early and couldn't recover falling 3-2 and being sent to the 3rd place game.

The other team looking to break through in recent years is Komatsushima.  And it seemed like they would have a great opportunity to win the fall with the other major competitors gone.  And after outlasting Kaifu 5-4 they guaranteed themselves at least a spot in the Super-regionals.

With Ikeda going to the consolation game, the prospects looked bleak for Kaifu.  Indeed, Ikeda's ace (Myouzai?) pitched a complete game no-hitter sending Ikeda to a spot in the super-regionals.

In the final it was all Komatsushima going out to a 7-0 lead.  And it would have been all theirs if the game lasted 7 innings.  Because ace Matori completely fell apart in the final 2 innings, giving up 2 in the 8th and then 5 in the 9th sending the game into enchousen.

Apparently there would be no relief for the ace, and that would prove costly because in the 12th Seikou Gakuen would complete the comeback claiming their 2nd fall title!

Anraku didn't look right at Natsu Koushien, and after Saibi's loss in the first round of the prefecturals to Saijyou 4-2, something had to be up.  Now we know that Anraku probably had an injury that finally was reported (which I'm sure the MLB teams are all up at arms about because after all he'll end up being their property...)

Anyways, that opened the prefecture to the rest of the field who may have thought that there was no hope at all.

Sadly though, even though it opened up it only really did for the other powerhouses.  Saijyou and Imabari Nishi were not challenged to the title game.  In that final, Saijyou had a 5-1 lead late, allowed Imabari to tie the game with 4 in the 8th before avoiding extras with 3 in the 9th to claim their 15th title.

Touon would battle Teikyou Dai-go for the final spot, but sadly couldn't compete. They would give up runs in just 2 innings, but were mercy ruled 7-0 in 8 innings.

Kochi belonged to Meitoku Gijyuku, by a wide margin.  Despite losing a majority of their natsu roster, they still had ace Kishi - and that's a big plus.  Kishi's closest game was a 5-2 win over Ootemae in the semifinals.  That would be before a 17-3 win over Kochi Higashi Kougyou in the finals.

Where was Kochi and Kochi Shougyou? Kochi was actually shutout by Kochi Higashi Kougyou 4-0 in the quarterfinals.  Kochi Shougyou actually lost 3-2 to Kochi Higashi in the 2nd round.  Kochi Higashi actually made it to the semifinals before losing to Kochi Higashi Kougyou.  They could not however reach the super-regionals as Ootemae would defeat them 7-3 to claim the last spot.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Aki Taikai Recap-to-date - Chuugoku

Couple more Super-regionals to go...

Kanzei apparently was a one-shot deal and they're back to rebuilding as they lost in their first game in the prefecturals to Okayama Ridai Fuzoku 8-0...

Filling the gap is a familiar name - Soushi Gakuen.  They dominated the prefecturals with their closest game being the final against Kurashiki Shougyou 8-4.  And with Okayama hosting, it might be some good home cooking and a 2nd straight fall champion coming from Okayama.

Okayama Ridai Fuzoku made it to the semifinals, narrowly losing to Kurashiki Shougyou, and because Okayama is hosting they sneak in as the 4th team despite losing the consolation game to Okayama-ken Kyouei 9-6.

Setouchi, whose ace Yamaoka Daisuke carried the team to their first Koushien, couldn't repeat the feat without him as they suffered a mercy rule loss in the 3rd round of the prefecturals to Hiroshima Shougyou.

Kouryou and Jyousuikan somehow drew each other in the first round with Kouryou winning easily 7-1.  Interestingly, run prevention - not run scoring was the MO for Kouryou, but they couldn't keep it up losing in the semifinals to Hiroshima Shinjyou 6-2.  Hiroshima Shinjyou would win the title, defeating fellow C Team Soutoku 6-2.

Kouryou being sent to the consolation game almost guaranteed that they would go as the final team. And sadly (for me anyways) it came at the expense of Onomichi. They narrowly lost to Soutoku 5-4 in the semifinals and then got blown out 8-2, missing out on the super-regionals.

Man, just 23 schools participating in the Aki Taikai...

Tottori Jyouhoku, the natsu representative, after a slow start in a 3-2 win over Tottori Ikuei blew through the rest of the field, defeating Tottori Shougyou 9-3 in the finals.

Iwami claims the 3rd spot, defeating Kurayoshi Higashi 5-3.

Iwami Chisuikan, who finally made it to Koushien after a long hiatus, will not be coming back for the fall.  They advanced out of the 1st stage, but was soundly defeated 10-4 to Izumo Nishi in the first game of the 2nd stage.

Kaisei didn't even get out of the 1st stage, and Risshoudai Shounan lost to Yasugi in the quarterfinals, meaning that there was an opportunity for 3 new schools to reach the super-regionals.

Sadly, Yasugi actually wound up being the odd team out!  They were narrowly defeated by Taisha 3-2 in the semifinals and then were shutout by Daitou 2-0 in the 3rd place game!  As for Taisha, they would defeat the aforementioned Izumo Nishi 4-3 (their 3rd straight 1-run game) to claim the title.

Tottori would wind up being the only prefecture to send their natsu representative to the super-regionals as Iwakuni Shougyou would not get past the 2nd round of the regionals.

Filling the void would be fellow school Iwakuni.  They did struggle with a 1-0 win over Hikari in the quarterfinals, then allowed Takagawa Gakuen to almost come back from a 6-0 deficit before winning the title 8-6.  Takagawa Gakuen is an enigma, having used a 7-spot in the 8th to pull away from Tokuyama Shoukou then turning around to defeat Nanyou Kougyou 4-3.

Joining the two in the super-regionals will be Ube Shougyou.  They almost let Saikyou come back in their first game, did not look too impressive, but reversed a 6-0 loss to Takagawa Gakuen and defeated Sakuragaoka to advance.