Saturday, June 29, 2013

6/28 Update - To the ends of Japan!

(FYI, all updates on the brackets can be found in the opening Natsu Koushien qualifying post.)

Ok, so here's where the ends of Japan stand.  And just for kicks we'll start from the south in Okinawa.

Only one of the seeded teams played on opening weekend, and it didn't look good.  Koza may be no slouch, but they almost upset Yaeyama falling 3-2.  Yaeyama Shoukou looked good in their opening game while Urasoe Shougyou did not edging Ginowan 4-2.

We've had really exciting games as Naha scores a run in the 8th, 9th and 10th innings to bid Nanbu Nougyou sayonara 7-6.  Gushikawa looked to be in the clear with 2 in the 12th over Urasoe Kogyou but almost gave it up winning 3-2.  And in a compete barn-burner, Miyako Kougyou led Yaeyama Nougyou 11-0 after 3, then held on for dear life as they won 12-10!

Moving on to Minami Hokkaido, and there was a shocker early.  At Sapporo Maruyama, Sapporo Ryuukoku upset Hokkai thanks to a 6-run 6th and are still alive with one more game against Sapporo Okudama before reaching the 2nd stage.  Elsewhere Sapporo Dai-ichi and Sapporo Nichidai got off to a good start in their first game.

In Otaru, only Hokushou really is relevant, and they just finished their first game with no issues in a 10-0, 5 inning win over Kucchan Nougyou.

Moving south to the Muroran region, Komadai Tomakomai has advanced to their block final, but have not looked impressive and will need to get past Tomakomai Higashi to reach the 2nd stage.  Hokkaido Sakae also looks poised to advance as well.

And in Hakodate, the two top seeds - Hakodatedai Hakuryou and Hakodate LaSalle will play tomorrow to advance out of their respective blocks.  LaSalle though is in more jeopardy having survived a 3-2 14-inning game against Hakodate Shougyou, then surviving 12-7 over Hakodate Tousen.  And in the final block, both of the secondary seeds have lost, though you can't blame Hakodate Ootani as they lost to a surprisingly unseeded Hakodatedai Yuuto.

Finally, in Kita Hokkaido realistically won't begin until the 2nd stage.  Yet, you still have to get there, and Komadai Iwamizawa almost got tripped up in their very first game. Against Takigawa Kougyou, they went into extras and fell behind 4-2 in the 13th inning.  It could have been the pressure of beating a well known team but whatever the case they couldn't hold it and Komadai came back for the 5-4 win.

In the Asahikawa regionals, Asahikawa Ryuukoku breezed through their first game, while Asahikawa Jitsugyou as a seeded team were blanked in their first game 6-0.    Kitami has gone rather normally with Engaru and Kitami Hokuto looking solid to start.  And Shirakaba Gakuen just needs to get past Obihiro Sanjyou to get out of Tokachi into the 2nd stage.

So nothing really of note there I guess for the major teams.  But for those who toil and probably are longshots, winning games and getting as far as they can means something.  Furano Ryokuhou led Rumoi 5-0 after the top of the 7th.  But Rumoi found a second gear and scored 4 in the 7th, 2 in the 8th and the sayonara run in the 9th to win 7-6.  Nakashibetsu was 3 outs away from the block final but gave up 4 runs to Kushiro Koryou to lose 5-3.  Kami-Furano looked to upset Asahikawadai, but fell apart in the 12th to lose 7-3.  Shiranuka led Kushiro Hokuyou 4-3 going into the bottom of the 9th but ace Sakimoto couldn't close it out and lost 5-4.

And finally, Komadai Iwamizawa's block final opponent, Sunagawa, trailed 4-1 going into the bottom of the 9th against Iwamizawa Higashi, found a way to tie it up and then won it in the 10th.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

95th Natsu Koushien Qualifying (Updated 7/9)

So, to my surprise, the field was not expanded this year.  Not sure why not, but we're back to 49 teams once again this year.

Okinawa starts today, and I am working on the brackets.  Sadly PDF to excel conversion fails when it comes to brackets, so... no shortcuts for me.

Anyways, all brackets are completed and are up to date as of games on 7/9.

The links are here: Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Hokushinetsu, Chuubu, Kinki, Chuugoku, Shikoku, Kyushu

Friday, June 14, 2013

Haru Taikai Recap 3 - Chuugoku to Kyushu

Chuugoku Super-Regional
Shimane is the host this year, and so qualifies 4 teams while all other prefectures send 1:
  • Okayama - Okayama Ridaifuzoku
  • Hiroshima - Setouchi
  • Tottori - Yonago Kita
  • Yamaguchi - Takagawa Gakuen
  • Shimane - Kaisei, Risshoudai Shounan, Izumo Nishi, Oki
Okayama's spring taikai was in 2 stages, with 24 teams qualifying for the 2nd stage.  Perhaps the favorite, Kanzei, reached the quarterfinals before giving up the lead to Okayama Jyoutou, falling 5-3.  Kurashiki Shougyou reached the semifinals before falling flat to eventual champions Okayama Ridaifuzoku.  They weren't necessarily dominant in their title run though - including coming back to defeat Okayama-ken Kyousei 7-6 so the prefecture probably remains open to all especially since Kanzei didn't look good at Senbatsu.

Hiroshima's taikai had 43 teams, including the prefectural stalwarts Jyosuikan and Kouryou.  But both would be upstaged by the same team - the champions Setouchi.  They defeated Kouryou first 5-2 in the quarterfinals, then blanked Jyosuikan 3-0 (striking out 14!) in the semifinals.  Both probably behind the ace Yamaoka Taisuke (山岡 泰輔), who apparently has a twitter account.  Anyways, in the final, he scattered 10 hits to Hiroshima Shinjyou en route to a 3-1 win.

What is interesting is that in those final 3 games he struck out 15, 14 and 15 batters. That's right, he struck out 15 Kouryou and 14 Jyosuikan batters!  This while having a fastball that apparently can tough 140 kph.

Tottori Jyouhoku led the field of seeded teams, but couldn't get past their first game, losing to Yazu 11-5.  Yazu isn't really a pushover so it's not that bad of a loss.  That win helped propel the team forward, where they faced another seeded team in Yonago Kita.  But the duo of Endou and Ukeshima held the Yazu squad to just 1 run, allowing their team to come back with 2 in the 6th for the 2-1 victory.

Yamaguchi is also a 2-stage spring taikai.  But from there teams such as Nanyou Kougyou, Ube Shougyou and Iwakuni all failed to advance to the Final 8.  Nanyou Kougyou coughed up a lead to Karyou, Ube Shougyou couldn't make a lead last to Ube, and Iwakuni lost to Yanai Gakuen 4-3 in 12 in their first game.

There were some familiar representatives including Ube Koujyou, the aforementioned Karyou, and Hayatomo.

Hayatomo would have one disastrous inning against Suo-Oshima giving up 7 runs in a 7-2 loss. Ube Koujyou would go through 2 close games - first a 5-4 win over Karyou, then using a 3-run Lucky 7 to get past the aforementioned Suo-Oshima 3-2 to reach the final.  Their opponent would be Takagawa Gakuen, who had no problems with Nagato and Hikari.

Surprisingly, Takagawa Gakuen's ace Hamamoto Shou (浜本 翔) limited Ube Koujyou to just 2 hits while striking out 5 and walking 1 in a 3-0 shutout!

Shimane also had a 2-stage taikai, with 15 groups and fall champ Masuda Shouyou getting a free pass to the 2nd stage.  Risshoudai Shounan and Kaisei also advanced, and both actually in workmanlike fashion got to the finals.  But Kaisei's ace Oda would somehow yield just 2 hits, but walked 8 and still managed to give up just 1 run for a 6-1 win.  Izumo Nishi would bid sayonara to the island school of Oki for 3rd place (though both advanced so Oki really didn't say "goodbye").

So with 8 teams and 4 from Shimane, they obviously would be broken up with the remaining prefectures drawing a spot against each of the teams:
  • Kaisei (Shimane 1) vs. Okayama Ridai Fuzoku (Okayama 1)
  • Oki (Shimane 4) vs. Takagawa Gakuen (Yamaguchi 1)
  • Risshoudai Shounan (Shimane 2) vs. Yonago Kita (Tottori 1)
  • Izumo Nishi (Shimane 3) vs. Setouchi (Hiroshima 1)
Not surprisingly, Shimane's 3/4 teams didn't get past the first game.  What was surprising though was that both gave their opponents a tough game.

Oki actually led Takigawa Gakuen before giving up the lead in the 8th.  They actually tied the game in the top of the 9th before losing it in sayonara fashion.  Again.  Setouchi actually led Izumo Nishi comfortably 8-3, but Izumo scored 3 in the 8th to make things interesting.

Kaisei actually blew their 8-3 lead in the 8th inning to Okayama Ridai Fuzoku, but won in the bottom of the 10th.  Only Risshoudai Shounan had an easy go with a 6 inning shutout the Tottori champs.

The good times did not roll for the hometown teams though.  Both were mercy ruled in 7 in the semifinals!!  Setouchi defeated Risshoudai Shounan 9-2, and somehow Takagawa Gakuen scored 7 runs on 4 hits (and 6 walks) to shutout Kaisei 7-0!

In the final, Takagawa Gakuen took a 3-0 lead in the 2nd on Setouchi and managed to stay one step ahead of Setouchi's rallies to win 6-5 for their first spring title!

Chuugoku Super-Regional
Each team qualified 2 for the Super-Regional so it's reach the finals and move on.
  • Kagawa - Jinsei Gakuen, Kotohira
  • Tokushima - Naruto, Seikou Gakuen
  • Ehime - Imabari Nishi, Saibi
  • Kochi - Kochi, Kochi Shougyou
With the exception of a 5-4 win over Ootemae Takamatsu and a 4-2 win over fellow seeded team Takamatsu Minami, Jinsei Gakuen had little problem winning Kagawa.  Kotohira came out of relatively nowhere to defeat Samukawa and Marugame in back-to-back games during a 4-game stretch where they won 1-run games before falling to Jinsei Gakuen.

In Tokushima the format was a little different.  Naruto got a free pass, and it would just be the winner of the prefectural tournament that would advance along with them to the Super-Regional.  The 4 seeded teams, Seikou Gakuen, Ikeda, Tokushima Shougyou and Kawashima all advanced to the quarterfinals with relative ease though the former 2 had to survive a 1-run game in the quarterfinals (and in Ikeda's case a 12-inning affair).

For Ikeda, the enchousen matchup proved to be costly as they went into extra innings again against Seikou Gakuen.  They cried uncle in the 14th, losing 3-2.  Meanwhile Kawashima waited until the bottom of the 9th to tie the game at 1-1 before finally winning in 12.

With both teams having played extra inning affairs, it would undoubtedly have an effect on the pitching staffs.  Yet it was Kawashima's pitching that would suffer a critical failure.  Seikou Gakuin would score in the final 5 innings for a 10-3 win.  But with 10 days off to rest the arms, perhaps they lost the momentum of the tournament as Naruto had an easy 8-3 win in the position round.

Ehime is a 2-stage taikai, and with Saibi participating at Senbatsu, they too would only qualify the winner (along with Saibi) for the Super-Regionals.

There were quite a few casualties in the 1st stage.  Saijyou was eliminated by Imabari Nishi in their first game.  Uwajima Higashi lost to Uwajima Minami in the block final.

There would be no stopping Imabari Nishi through the prefecturals, including a 4-1 over Matsuyama Seiryou in the final and an easy 6-4 win over Saibi in the position round.

And finally in Kochi, with 2 teams making it to Senbatsu, it would be a 2-stage affair.  The winner of the prefectural taikai would face the winner of Kochi and Tosa (the two Senbatsu participants) for seeding.

With those teams out of the way, Kochi Shougyou and Meitoku Gijyuku had relatively little trouble advancing through the bracket.  But Kochi Shougyou, despite eking out a 5-4 win over Okou, defeated Meitoku Gijyuku 7-5 to advance for seeding.

In the Senbatsu game, Tosa actually took an early 3-0 lead, but a pair of 2-run innings would give favorite Kochi the lead.  Tosa wouldn't give up easy though tying the game in the top of the 9th sending it to enchousen.  Alas, Kochi's experience would prevail in the 11th.  So it would be Kochi and Kochi Shougyou once again.  And despite playing in an extra inning game the day before, Kochi once again bests Kochi Shougyou 3-1 to take 1st in the prefecture.

Onto the Super-Regionals and almost all top seeds advanced.  The only casualty oddly enough was Kochi who let a 3-0 lead slip with 4 in the 8th losing 4-3.  In other games, Jinsei Gakuen survived a 9th inning rally from Seikou Gakuen to win 3-2, Kotohira was no match for Imabari Nishi, and Naruto had to scramble after giving up a pair in the bottom of the 8th to Kochi Shougyou, managed to tie the game at 2, then close it out with a 3-spot in the 10th.

Naruto and Jinsei Gakuen then had no issues in the semifinals setting up the title game.

Naruto took the early 1-0 and 3-1 lead.  But with just 3 outs to go for the title, they give up 3 runs to Jinsei Gakuen who proceeded to shut the door for just their 3rd title and 1st in 15 years.

Kyushu Super-Regionals
Like Shikoku, Senbatsu participants get a free pass.  Unlike Shikoku, they get a free pass to the Super-Regionals instead of the seeding game within their prefecture.  For this spring Super-Regional, Fukuoka qualifies 3, Kagoshima qualifies 2, host Miyazaki qualifies 4, and all other prefectures 1.
  • Fukuoka - Toukai Dai-go, Kashii, Kurume Shougyou
  • Kagoshima - Shoushikan, Kanoya Chuo, Kagoshima Jyouhou
  • Nagasaki - Souseikan, Sasebo Jitsugyou
  • Kumamoto - Seiseikou, Buntoku
  • Okinawa - Okinawa Shougaku, Hokuzan
  • Saga - Saga Kougyou
  • Oita - Kitsuki
  • Miyazaki - Nisshou Gakuen, Miyazaki Nichidai, Houshou, Miyakonojyou Higashi
Fukuoka had two regionals, each separated into 4 blocks.  Interestingly only one seeded team qualified out of block play.  Kurume Shougyou though needed to survive a one run game against Itoshima.  Yes, Moji Gakuen, Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku, Iidzuka, Higashi-Fukuoka, and Chikuyou Gakuen failed to advance to the Best 8.  The only other well-known teams to advance were Jiyuugaoka and Toukai Dai-go.

The teams from the Hokubu/Nanbu regionals were redrawn for the quarterfinals.  Kurume Shougyou thought to have an easy game, but had to survive another 1-run affair against Yuusei.  Toukai Dai-go and Jiyuugaoka wound up drawing each other, and the game did not disappoint.  The lead changed 3 times in the span of 3 half-innings before the game would be tied up at 4-4.  Toukai Dai-go scored 2 in the top of the 11th, and then held off a rally from Jiyuugaoka to win 6-5.  In other games, Kashii shutout Fukushima 2-0, Seirin blanked Ikutokukan 8-0.

And with the way the bracket was drawn, once again the mainstays faced off, but it was Toukai Dai-go who dominated the game, mercy-ruling Kurume Shougyou in the minimum 5 innings!  They'd face Kashii, who had no trouble with Seirin.

Interestingly, Kashii made a game out of the final, only holding Toukai Dai-go to just 2 runs in a 2-0 loss.  Kurume Shougyou easily made mince meat of Seirin to lock down the last spot for the Super-Regionals.

Kanoya Chuo and Kagoshima Jyouhou both struggled a bit out of the blocks, but pretty much ran over the prefectural taikai after that.  It also helped that teams like Kagoshima Jyousai and more importantly Kamimura Gakuen were eliminated in earlier stages, while Shounan lost to Kagoshima Jitsugyou (who then lost to Kanoya Chuo).

Nagasaki was pretty much scratch as 5 of the 7 seeded teams (plus one team who occupied what would have been the 8th seeded team in Oomura Kougyou) advanced to the Best 8.  In the quarterfinals, Sasebo Jitsugyou had no problems with no-seed Nagasaki Nishi while sadly (for me anyways) Seihou was blanked by Kaisei 5-0.  Interestingly, Nagasaki Nichidai and Hasami both advanced by the unconvincing score of 1-0.

Those games did wind up being a bellweather of sorts as both of those teams would lose in the semifinals, but in close affairs.  Kaisei got by Nagasaki Nichidai 5-3, and Hasami narrowly lost to Sasebo Jitsugyou 4-3.  In the final, Sasebo Jitsugyou led wire-to-wire 4-1 to advance to the Super-Regional.

Kumamoto's taikai looked a bit weird.  Weird in that the "seeded teams" were not really well-known to me except for Kumamoto Kougyou and perhaps Kumamoto Kokufu and Jyouhoku.   Yashiro, Chinzei, Kumamoto Kita, and Yashiro Higashi all were seeded teams as well.  With so many well-known teams relegated to the ranks of the ordinary, the haru taikai was pretty much thrown into disarray.

Yet 5 of the 7 seeded teams did make it to the semifinals.  Kumamoto Kougyou and Kumamoto Kokufu amongst the regulars and Chinzei, Kumamoto Kita and Yashiro Higashi out of the unknowns.  But of those, only Kumamoto Kougyou and Yashiro Higashi advanced out of the quarterfinals.  Kumamoto Kita was blanked by the aforementioned Yashiro Higashi, Kumamoto Kokufu tapped out in the 15th losing 4-3 to Toukaidai Seishou and Chinzei lost to Buntoku 5-1.

Yashiro Higashi's run would end surprisingly at the hands of Buntoku despite a late game rally.  Kumamoto Kougyou on the other hand would successfully make a rally with 3 in the 7th to defeat Toukaidai Seishou 7-6.  In the final surprisingly it was Buntoku who dominated the game defeating Kumamoto Kougyou soundly 5-2 to take the title.

Okinawa, without Okinawa Shougaku still had major teams left to duke it out for the spot in the super-regionals.  Above-average teams such as Miyako and Ginowan were seeded, as well as perhaps the best known school - Kounan.

Kounan though would not make it past the quarterfinals, losing to a name we haven't really heard in a while - Yaeyama Shoukou.  Miyako and Ginowan couldn't even get past their first game, so things really were in flux (with perhaps the exception of the aforementioned Yaeyama Shoukou).

Itoman tried their best, but despite flipping between their two pitchers, they lost 1-0 to Hokuzan.  Mawashi and Yaeyama would be the other two teams advancing to the semifinals. The surprising bit is that Yaeyama Shoukou would actually lose to Hokuzan 4-1 in the semis.  Mawashi would tie the game in the 9th and then win in 11 against Yaeyama.

In the final, Hokuzan ace Taira Kentarou (平良 拳太郎) would strike out 15 in a 2-hitter against Mawashi for the 2-1 win.

Saga prefecture seems to not have a front-runner as of the 4 seeded teams - Saga Kita, Tosu Shougyou, Kanzaki Seimei and Kashima - only Kashima advanced to the quarterfinals.  And even then, they lost in their next game 6-1 to Saga Kougyou.  The only other recently successful team to advance into the semifinals was Saga Shougyou who took the lead late against Saga Gakuen to advance.  The remaining semifinalists were Koushien participants back in the day - Ryuukoku and Shiota Kougyou.

The semifinals were low-scoring affairs as both Saga Kougyou and Ryuukoku won by the narrow margin of 1-0 and in the final, Saga Kougyou would lead wire-to-wire rebuffing repeated rallies (including one in the bottom of the 9th) by Ryuukoku to win 5-4.

Oita's prefecturals went pretty much scratch to the semifinals, with the only exception being interestingly Jyouhou Kagaku (which translated is Computer Science!) who were mercy ruled in 7 by Kitsuki.  Meihou completely swept the floor with their opponents, Youshikan did much the same (though not double digits), and Oita was the weakest of the bunch surviving 2 1-run games.

Both semifinal games would head to enchousen.  While I have been unable to pull details, Oita broke a scoreless draw against Youshikan to win 1-0 in 10, and Kitsuki is making perhaps another case to make it's 2nd straight Natsu Koushien by upsetting Meihou 3-2 in 12 innings.  Kitsuki would dominate the final, defeating Oita 5-0.

Finally, with 4 bids and home-field advantage at stake in Miyazaki, this would be the year the average team would have the best chance of reaching the Super-Regional.

And it showed.  Each of the seeded teams got their opponent's best shot.  Takanabe made it just though one round before losing to Miyakonojyou Higashi.  Nobeoka Gakuen had to play Nichinan Gakuen in their first game, but would lose in the quarterfinals to Houshou.

The two that made it were Nisshou Gakuen (who had an opening game scare against Miyazaki Oomiya) and Miyazaki Nichidai who survived 2 straight 1-run games against St. Ursula and Miyakonojyou Izumigaoka.

Miyazaki Nichidai had another heart-stopper as they fell behind 3-0 to Miyakonojyou Higashi, came back to lead 6-4 only to blow the lead in the top of the 9th before finally winning in the 10th inning.  Houshou would give Nisshou Gakuen all they could handle, but it would not be enough falling 3-2.

All that would be left is seeding.  Houshou breezed through Miyakonojyou Higashi 6-2, while Miyazaki Nichidai and Nisshou Gakuen were involved in one heck of a final.  After falling behind 1-0 in the 1st, Miyazaki Nichidai would score 5 unanswered runs to take a dominating lead.  That is, until the final 3 innings.  Several pitchers would be called, but none could answer as Nisshou Gakuen scored 5 unanswered runs, the final one in the bottom of the 9th for the sayonara win.

The draw for the super-regional made sure that all top seeds and the Senbatsu participants did not have to play the extra game.  Two 2-seeds would also get the benefit of not playing an extra game:
  • Kitsuki (Oita 1) vs. Winner of Kurume Shougyou (Fukuoka 3)-Miyakonojyou Higahi (Miyazaki 4)
  • Souseikan (Nagasaki Senbatsu) vs. Hokuzan (Okayama 1)
  • Kanoya Chuo (Kagoshima 1) vs. Seiseikou (Kumamoto Senbatsu)
  • Toukai Dai-go (Fukuoka 1) vs. Nisshou Gakuen (Miyazaki 1)
  • Kashii (Fukuoka 2) vs. Buntoku (Kumamoto 1)
  • Miyazaki Nichidai (Miyazaki 2) vs. Shoushikan (Kagoshima Senbatsu)
  • Saga Kougyou (Saga 1) vs. Sasebo Jitsugyou (Nagasaki 1)
  • Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa Senbatsu) vs. Winner of Kagoshima Jyouhou (Kagoshima 2)-Houshou (Miyazaki 3)
Not surprisingly, Kurume Shougyou has no trouble in the opening game.  Houshou give Kagoshima Jyouhou a hard time, but is unable to reach home losing 1-0.

Kurume Shougyou continued to benefit for a relatively easy draw as they handle Kitsuki 7-2.  They would not face Souseikan though.  Instead Hokuzan's 2-run 7th inning was all they needed to advance.  Seiseikou would face Toukai Dai-go (who needed runs in the 8th and 9th to pull off the victory) in the other quarterfinal in their half.

On the opposite side, Buntoku would outlast Kashii in 10 setting up a game with Miyazaki Nichidai who surprisingly had no trouble against Kagoshima's Senbatsu representative.  And finally, Sasebo Jitsugyou would easily advance to face an Okinawa Shougaku squad who did not look impressive once again in a 2-0 win over Kagoshima Jyouhou.

Now, at the time, I didn't know if this was more an indictment of Sasebo Jitsugyou than Okishou being mediocre, but they had to scramble against Okinawa Shougaku to send it into extras and win in 12.  But it wound up being the former as after Buntoku edged out Miyazaki Nichidai 1-0, they took care of Sasebo Jitsugyou to reach the finals.

Back to the other half and both Kurume Shougyou and Seiseikou shutout their opponents setting up what looked like a great semifinal.  And it was.  Kurume Shougyou took a 2-0 lead in the middle innings and held off a Seiseikou charge late to win 2-1 to reach the finals.

Surprsingly Kurume Shougyou, the 3 seed out of Fukuoka, would actually take a 4-0 lead over Buntoku early.  But Buntoku would chip away at the lead pulling within 1 and then tying it in the bottom of the 9th.  It would remain tied at 5 until the 13th when Seki would pull through for Kurume Shougyou with the go-ahead hit.  Imamura, who started the game, closed it our for Kurume Shougyou giving them their first ever spring title.


Well, that's it for the spring tournaments.  But don't look now, natsu taikais are out for Kita and Minami Hokkaido, Kanagawa, Kumamoto and Okinawa.

Surprisingly, despite being a x5 year (95th), the field isn't expanding.  That seems odd, but guess we'll have to go with it.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Haru Taikai Recap 2 - All regions complete (Hokkaido to Kinki)

Hokkaido Super-Regional
Finishing up the first round, Hakodatedai Hakuryou edged out Obihiro Kita 2-1, while Towa no Mori San-ai continues to struggle on the big stage, mercy ruled by Hokushou.

The quarterfinals went almost as quietly.  Komadai Tomakomai mercy rules Hakodate LaSalle 8-1 in 8, Kushiro Kouryou was shutout 3-0 by Sapporo Nichidai, and so was the aforementioned Hakodatedai Hakuryou against Hokushou.

The only team tested was Komadai Iwamizawa, who trailed early 2-0, then 6-3 against Kitami Hokuto.  But even in weaker prefectures, either the teams who have been there before exert their experience or the teams facing them cave under pressure.  Komadai Iwamizawa rallies for 4 late to defeat Kitami Hokuto 7-6.

This left the possibility of an all-Komadai final.  Tomakomai obliged, keeping Sapporo Nichidai at arms length in a 7-4 win.  However, while Iwamizawa was able to take an early 3-1 lead, Hokushou would score in 5 of the final 6 innings to run away with a 10-4 win.

So the final once again featured two well-known teams.  Komadai Tomakomai took the first advantage with a 2-0 lead, Hokushou would level the score eventually in the 4th.  Tomakomai would pull away soon thereafter, scoring 5 unanswered runs to win 7-2 for their 4th spring title.

Tohoku Super-Regional
Tohoku perhaps went as planned, but perhaps questions still remain.

In Noshiro Shouyou's (Akita 1) fka Noshiro Shougyou's bracket, they easily handled a Morioka Dai-yon (Iwate 3) squad who earlier managed just two hits but defeated Sendai Dai-san (Miyagi 3) 1-0.  That set them up against a Fukushima Higashi (Fukushima 2) squad who surprisingly upset Rifu (Miyagi 2) 6-3.

And in a bigger surprise, Fukushima Higashi scores 3 in the first after giving up 2.  They'd score one more and held on to defeat Noshiro Shouyou 4-3!!

In Moriokadai Fuzoku (Iwate 1)/Aomori Yamada (Aomori 1) quadrant, both teams easily advanced via mercy rule over their opponents - Odaka Kougyou (Fukushima 3) and Kunori Gakuen (Yamagata 2).  But when push came to shove, Aomori Yamada once again falls flat, mercy ruled themselves 8-1 in 7 innings.

The only 1 seed to not advance past their first game?  My boys from Haguro (Yamagata 1).  In fact Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi (Aomori 2) dispatched them easily 8-2.  I won't make excuses, but to be fair, Haguro had the hardest 1st game.

Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi would face the dreaded Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima 1).  Apparently Honjyou (Akita 2) just can't catch a break.  Seikou Gakuin would easily pass through the Aomori squad with a 7-0 mercy win.

And finally, in Sendai Ikuei's bracket (Miyagi 1), they had no issues with Akita Chuo (Akita 3) with a 9-1 victory.  Their quarterfinal game would be against none other than Sakata Minami (Yamagata 3) who had no problems with Hachinohe Kougyou (Aomori 3) 8-2, then against Senshuudai Kitakami (Iwate 2) trailing 6-1, scored 9 answered runs then survived a 3-run 9th to win 10-9.

Sakata Minami couldn't pull one more upset, and was mercy ruled 9-1 in 8 innings.

So while we had a possibility of an all-Fukushima final, the chances were slim as Fukushima Higashi needed to upset Moriokadai Fuzoku, while Seikou Gakuin must face Sendai Ikuei - who is in all likelihood trying to redouble their efforts after a poor Haru Koushien showing.

Since we're all familiar with the other schools, I tried to find something on Fukushima Higashi.  All I could find were videos on their oen-dan, which aren't bad.

Indeed, both Fukushima teams lost rather handily.  Fukushima Higashi did score the first run against Moriokadai Fuzoku, but couldn't make it last after the 5th inning break as Moriokadai scored 6 runs afterwards.  Sendai Ikuei led wire-to-wire in a 6-2 win over Seikou Gakuin.

And in the final Sendai Ikuei had no trouble with Moriokadai Fuzoku, cruising to a 5-1 win for their 11th title - and 1st in 14 years.

So Sendai Ikuei wins another Super-Regional.  But the poor showing at Senbatsu still raises questions on their abilities outside of the Tohoku region.  It also could raise questions on the Tohoku region as a whole come time for Natsu Koushien.

Hokushinetsu Super-Regionals
In the Hokushinetsu Super-Region things did, and didn't go as planned.  Big statement, I know.

The draw for the super-regionals wound up as follows and did not necessarily play favorites:
  • Seiryou (Ishikawa 1) vs. Winner of Harue Kougyou (Fukui 2)-Shibata Chuo (Niigata 2)
  • Toyama Dai-ichi (Toyama 1) vs. Winner of Kanazawa Gakuin Higashi (Ishikawa 3/4)-Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri (Nagano 2)
  • Ueda Nishi (Nagano 1) vs. Winner of Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui 1)-Kanazawa (Ishikawa 3/4)
  • Murakami Sakuragaoka (Niigata 1) vs. Winner of Yuugakukan (Ishikawa 2)-Toyama Shougyou (Toyama 2)
That's right, Tsuruga Kehi got the short end of the stick, and drew Kanazawa - who isn't a powerhouse per se, but is definitely one of the upper level teams in the region.

In the opening round, Harue Kougyou continued to disappoint.  After taking a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 3rd, they quickly let Shibata Chuo level the score in the 4th, then a bases loaded walk in the 6th opening a 3-run inning from which they could not recover, falling 5-3.  Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri with the help of a 3rd inning, 3-run homerun by RF Ishihara.  Tsuruga Kehi went all out against Kanazawa, sending out ace Kishimoto.  CF Mine then helped out with a leadoff HR.  And while Kanazawa would tie the game in the 1st, hits by Asai, Hiranuma and Iwata gave the cushion they needed as Kishimoto struck out 10 in a 4-1 win.  And finally, Yuugakukan did what it normally does, mercy ruling Toyama Shougyou 10-1 in 7 innings.

Onto the quarterfinals where all 1 seeds are in play, and it was a mixed bag.  Seiryou expectedly had no trouble with Shibata Chuo mercy ruling them in 7 innings.  Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri tried a 9th inning rally, but could only cut the deficit in half, losing 5-3.  I truly wanted Ueda Nishi to succeed, but it will have to wait for the summer.  After fighting back to tie the game at 2 in the 7th, they would play 7 more as Tsuruga Kehi scored one in the 14th for the 3-2 win.  Also of note is that Kishimoto was not used in the game at all - which sadly may be a bigger notch against Ueda Nishi.  And while Murakami Sakuragaoka may have won Niigata, they were no match for the veteran Yuugakukan mercy ruled in 7.

So the semifinalists were well-known names.  Results though, were a bit surprising.  Seiryou continues to hit a ceiling, losing to Toyama Dai-ichi.  After taking a 2-0 lead, they give up the lead, only to fight back in the bottom of the 8th to tie it at 3... only to have Toyama score 5 in the 9th to wipe out the Ishikawa champions.

And Tsuruga Kehi?  Let's just say it wasn't a good day for Kishimoto.  He gives up 5 runs early, and while the team pulls within one, reliever Mosome couldn't keep his team in it, giving up a 3-spot in the 8th as Yuugakukan moves on with the 9-5 win.

Yuugakukan looked to be the favorite in the super-regional final, but it was Toyama Dai-ichi who scored first with a pair in the opening frame.  They couldn't hold the lead though for long as Yuugakukan struck back with 3 in the 3rd, and opened the lead to 5-2.  Toyama could only manage one run the rest of the game as Yuugakukan takes just their 3rd title, but first in two years.

Kinki Super-Regional
The Kinki Super-Regional is rather small given the prefectures involved.  Only host prefecture Nara qualifies more than just 1 team.  So it really is win and advance for most teams in the spring.

Oumi advances out of Shiga, but had to survive many close games against not so well known teams such as Oumi Kyoudaisha and Yasu, and some we have heard of such as Shiga Gakuen before rallying in the bottom of the 9th against Hachiman Kougyou for a gyakuten sayonara 3-2 victory.

In Kyoto, there were no surprises in the 1st stage of play as teams such as Kyoto Subaru, Ritsumeikan Uji, Kyoto Gaidai Nishi, Kyoto Seishou, Toba, and Fukuchiyama Seibi joined Senbatsu participants Ryuukokudai Heian and Kyoto Shouei.

It was almost amazing then that the aforementioned 8 teams were almost all separated.  The only exception was Kyoto Shouei and Kyoto Gaidai Nishi.  In that matchup, the Kinki fall champions routed Kyoto Gaidai Nishi 13-3 in 7 innings.  Other than that, all other teams had relatively little problems, except for Kyoto Seishou who gave up a 4-spot to Kita-Saga in the 3rd inning in a 5-3 loss.

Kita-Saga continued their run, and in rather shocking fashion.  I need to go back and see if I can't pull up particulars, but the game was tied 1-1 going into extras.  Kyoto Shouei scored 4 in the 13th and seemed to have the game in hand.  But much like the White Sox-Mariners game, Kita-Saga mounted a comeback.  Instead of tying the game though they score 5 to completely shock the fall champions 6-5!!

Elsewhere, Ryuukokudai Heian had no problems with Otokuni 6-4, Fukuchiyama Seibi surprisingly was nowhere to be seen against Toba, and Ritsumeikan Uji routed Kyoto Subaru in 7.

It would be a surprise for the finals as Toba defeated Ryuukokudai Heian 4-1, while Kita-Saga continued their surprising run, once again rallying late after giving up the lead in the bottom of the 8th for a gyakuten win against Ritsumeikan Uji.

In the final, Kita-Saga held a lead against Toba, but Toba would tie it up in the 6th at 3.  The game would go into enchousen, but not for long as Toba scores one in the 10th.  There would be no rally this time though as Toba would take it 4-3.  I would say though that Kita-Saga has surprised me here in the spring.  All I know so far is their pitchers are Katabuchi Wataru(?) (潟淵 亘) and Komori Naoki (小森 直己).

In Osaka, despite the large field, it was predominantly business as usual.  Despite 172 teams in the field, the Best 4 were all well-known names - Riseisha squaring off against Osaka Touin, and Konkou Osaka versus Daishoudai (aka Osaka Shougyoudai).  In the blockbuster semi, Riseisha had led right from the get-go until Osaka Touin's lucky 7 where they scored 3 to tie the game at 5.  The game would head to enchousen, but for just one inning as Riseisha scored 4 on starter Amimoto for the win.  They would play Konkou Osaka, who had little difficulty with Daishoudai.  And in the final, Konkou Osaka would give Riseisha all they could handle as Sakashita and Honno would limit them to a 1st inning run by Okita.  Unfortunately, that's all Riseisha would need as ace Higashino would spread out 9 hits in a complete game shutout to take the title.

Moving on to Hyogo, they only sent in 36 teams - no Nishinomiya Kita for me (sorry Haruhi).

Anyways, the main players were there, but the first to fall is the always precarious Touyoudai Himeji.  After uncharacteristically getting through their first game easily, they lost another low-scoring affair to Shiritsu Amagasaki 3-2.  Amagasaki's run didn't last much longer sadly as they found themselves on the wrong end of the 3-2 score in the next game versus Yashiro.  Looking back, they've gone to just one Koushien, the 2004 Haru where they got to the semifinal game, losing to Aikoudai Meiden.  Interestingly, they used a two pitcher system in Oomae and Tsuboi.  This time around, it looks like the same thing, with dual aces Niimi and Hirauchi.

Joining Yashiro would be Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku and Houtoku Gakuen - though Houtoku had to come back against Takigawa Dai-ni.  The final semifinalist would be Akashi Shougyou, who literally outlasted Suma Shoufuu (who apparently has a radio station) with 5 runs in the 15th for a 7-2 victory.

What was more interesting was that both semifinal games would head to enchousen.  For Akashi Shougyou, that would be bad news - especially against Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku.  After fighting back to tie the game in the 8th, they would lose 4-3 in 11.

As for Yashiro, they and Houtoku Gakuen would go 15 innings without a winner.  In the replay the next day, Yashiro's kantoku would go into their bullpen and started Nagao (永尾).  That didn't work out as Houtoku would score 3.  Another Nagao (長尾) and Niimi held down the fort, but the offense couldn't muster a run as they fell in the replay 3-0.

To add insult to injury perhaps, while the game didn't count for qualification for the super-regional, the 3rd place game between Akashi Shougyou and Yashiro would also go into enchousen.  14 innings in fact before Akashi Shougyou finally ended it 4-3.

As for the final, Houtoku Gakuen's 4th game in 4 days took its toll against Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku as they fell behind quickly and lost 8-2.

Chiben Wakayama's hold on Wakayama prefecture may be waning.  Despite breezing through to the semifinals, Minoshima's triumvirate of Ueshiba, Takagawa and Susami defeated them 2-1.  They would go on to defeat Kinkidai Shinguu in the final despite blowing a 6-0 lead 11-7.

And as for host Nara, the prefectural tournament was a mess - if you were a big name.  Tenri was unceremoniously ousted 5-2 by Nara Suzaku in the first round.  Haru Koushien participant Yamato Kouryou had the unfortunate task of playing Chiben Gakuen right off the bat, and were routed 10-1 in 7 innings.

So Chiben Gakuen remained the big name remaining and their title to lose.

And they did.

In uncharacteristic fashion, they let Naradai Fuzoku score in 5 consecutive innings with the nail in the coffin a 5-run 7th which led to them winning 11-10!  In the 3rd place game, Kashihara Gakuin defeated Kashihara 4-3 to take the final spot in the super-regionals.

Onto the Super-Regionals, and it's no surprise that of the 3 Nara teams that qualified, only veteran Chiben Gakuen advanced to the semifinals.  However, they blew a 4-1 lead to Minoshima in the top of the 9th before Nakanishi delievered the sayonara manrui hit to win 5-4.  Naradai Fuzoku actually gave Riseisha a challenge though tying the game a 2-2 in the 8th before Okita delivered the sayonara hit for Riseisha.  Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku and Toba had no problems in their games.

The semifinals were no-contests as both Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku and Riseisha breezed through Chiben Gakuen and Toba respectively.

The finals were a completely different story.  After taking a 3-0 lead early, Kobe Kokusaidai yielded 5 runs in the 3rd, only to claw back in the 5th.  The teams traded a run in the 8th, and then Takahashi for Kobe would blast his 2nd HR of the game, giving his team the 7-6 lead.  But like the 8th they couldn't hold it as Inoue delivered the sayonara 2-run double with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th for the sayonara gyakuten victory.  Interestingly, this is Riseisha's 1st ever Haru title.

(Chuugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu recaps to come shortly)