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 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.
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)
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.
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)