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
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)
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!
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
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.
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
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)
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!