One down, 48 to go. We'll get our second today, and 4 more will play to determine our finalists:
Despite the fact that several seeded teams were upset earlier, it was still predominantly the familiar names that advanced forwards.
The one exception was Miyazaki Kougyou, who was actually mercy-ruled by Miyazaki Oomiya 13-2!
Otherwise, the seeded team (Houshou), or the team that defeated the seeded team (Miyazaki Minami, Miyazaki Dai-ichi) advanced.
That did not change in the quarterfinals. Miyazaki Shougyou did fall behind Miyazaki Oomiya, but got to ace Shimizu late to win 4-2. Nichinan Gakuen did get ahead with a 5-run 2nd inning, but had to hold on after Miyazaki Dai-ichi replied with 4 of their own in the bottom half. They held on to win 6-4.
On the 2nd day of quarterfinals, fellow seed Nobeoka Gakuen easily dispatched Houshou in 7 innings, while Miyazaki Minami's hearts were broken when Yoshinaga hit a running home run (to left center) in the bottom of the 13th inning giving St. Ursula the win.
So, it was the usual suspects in the semifinals. First up was Miyazaki Shougyou and St. Ursula. Miyashou got out to a 3-0 lead. But ace Matsuda couldn't hold the lead, relinquishing all 3 runs in the 7th thanks to a hits from SS Kodama and C Takahashi. Takahashi would get another chance in the top of the 9th and didn't disappoint, driving in the gyakuten run against reliever Murakami. Ace Hamauzu Yuuki (浜渦 悠樹) who came in relief closed it out sending St. Ursula to the finals!
St. Ursula will face Nobeoka Gakuen in the final as ace Yokose would come in early relief (2 outs in the 1st inning) to limit Nichinan Gakuen to just 2 runs on 4 hits in a 5-2 win.
Now in semifinal action...
Despite the apparent lack of a front-runner during regional play, the regional heavyweights still took the spotlight in the 2nd stage.
Hakodatedai Yuuto (an irrational favorite of mine), actually struggled with Sapporo Okadama but finally pulled away in the 7th with 3 runs to win 5-3. After an easy win over Hakodate Chuubu, they will face a Komadai Tomakomai team who seems to have picked it up as of late, beating Kita-Hiroshima and Sapporo Kousei 5-1 and 5-2.
I thought it would be Toukai Dai-yon's chance this year, and after a 5-1 win over Shoushi Gakuen, it looked good. However, Hakodatedai Hakuryou is trying to remind me that Yuuto isn't the only Hakodatedai school. They're also doing it in rather heart-stopping fashion, defeating Kotoni Kougyou 4-0 in 10 innings when Kotoni's ace Yamamoto fell apart, then against the aforementioned Toukai Dai-yon, trailed 4-1 in the bottom of the 8th before Yamashita delivered a 2-RBI hit, followed by one more from leadoff batter Matsumura. Fast forward to the bottom of the 10th and 1B Narita Daiki (成田 大希) would deliver the bases-loaded sayonara hit to send them to the semifinals.
It won't be an easy task today as they will face Hokushou - though their most recent game against a game Hokkaido Sakae squad, they survived a 3-1 affair despite Oogushi giving up 11 hits.
Could we see an all-Hakodatedai final? It's possible, and Oogushi is not a perfect ace by any means. But he does somehow exhibit qualities of a poor man's Oshima - and closing out a game against a well-known team is always hard. So chances are... probably not.
While we're down to our Best 4, it appears that one team so far is steamrolling their way to the title. That would be Saga Kougyou. Their only non-mercy rule game has been against Ogi, and they generally are an above average team. They will face fellow seed Arita Kougyou, who has progressively gotten by on less runs each game, winning 3-2, 2-1 and most recently 1-0 against Kanzaki Seimei.
On the other half, we had a surprise. Waseda Saga, who has been decent, but not necessarily excellent, looked strong in their first two games, then had ace Kuroiwa limit seeded Karatsu Shougyou to just 4 hits and 4 walks in 12 innings allowing his team time to drive in the sayonara run in the bottom of the 12th - by #9 batter Aoki no less.
Waseda Saga will face former Koushien participant Imari Nourin. They, like Arita Kougyou, have recently gotten by on the skin of their teeth. First against Kashima Jitsugyou when starter Okamoto gave up a 3-1 lead in the 8th inning, and then in the 12th giving up what seemed to be a game-losing run. But reliever Kitamura, in his 8th inning of work, couldn't get the final 3 outs. Imari Nourin would rally with back-to-back RBI hits giving them the 5-4 win. Then against intra-city team Imari, they would send out Shimodaira who like Okamoto couldn't hold a 2-0 lead in the later innings. But with runners at 1st and 3rd with 2 down in the bottom of the 9th, a grounder from Okamoto is missed by Oozaki giving Imari Nourin their 2nd sayonara win in as many games.
Nagasaki has wound up pretty scratch this year. Outside of Seihou and Hasami who failed to get past the 2nd round, all seeded teams advanced to the Best 8.
That doesn't mean though that their road was easy. For Souseikan it was a game against Nagasaki Sougoudai Fuzoku where ace Oono gave up the tying run in the top of the 9th. He would be bailed out one inning later by CF Yanai who delivered the sayonara hit. Compared to that, a 6-1 win in their next game over seeded Keihou (who did well in their own right) was nothing.
Nagasaki Nichidai actually trailed Oomura Kougyou by as much as 5-1 early on, but neither starter Hirano nor reliever Matsuoka could hold the lead. Nagasaki Nichidai would claw their way back and win 7-6 with the gyakuten run in the top of the 9th. And while Isahaya Nougyou did well to upset Hasami earlier, they were no match for Nagasaki Nichidai in the quarterfinals.
For Sasebo Kougyou, the loss was particularly painful. Up 4-3 against Kaisei with just one out to go. But cleanup batter Noguchi would drive in the douten and sayonara run to send them to the quarterfinals where they would pull away from Shikamachi Kougyou late to win 4-1.
The only seeded team to not have a nail-biting game so far is Sasebo Jitsugyou, which included a 5-hit shutout over Isahaya.
Okinawa too has been scratch. Well, except for Hokuzan who lost in their first game. Misato, who defeated them, would have to play intra-city opponent Misato Kougyou for the right to be in the semifinals. But after taking a 5-1 lead with just 3 innings to go, they couldn't close the deal.6 runs and 2 innings later and Misato would be done for.
Misato Kougyou will play Yaeyama for the chance to be in the finals. Despite being an unseeded team, Urasoe Shougyou worked their way through the field giving themselves a chance at Yaeyama. The pitching was not up to the task however, and they would fall 5-3.
On the other semi, Mawashi has looked fairly solid, though a slightly narrow 3-1 over Haebaru may be cause for concern. They'll need to have their A game as Okinawa Shougaku looms on the horizon. This after they received a scare against Kitanakagusugu. Down 1-0 with 3 outs to go, Nakamine cannot seal the deal giving up the douten, then the sayonara hit to pinch-hitter Uehara. That seems to have woken them up as they are back on track to claim the summer title.