Sunday, August 4, 2013

Remaining prefectural titles recap (Part 1)

All right, for all the remaining prefecutures (well part of them anyways):

Fukushima - Seikou Gakuin (10th title, 7th consecutive)
With Chiben Wakayama's loss, the longest current consecutive streak to reach Koushien belongs to Seikou Gakuin who had 6 straight coming into this year.

The interesting thing is, despite Fukushima not necessarily being known as a strong prefecture, Seikou Gakuin has been able to hold their own at Koushien (even to my surprise).  If we looked at their last 8 appearances over the last 9 years, they have reached the Best 8 twice, and only exited after their first game just one in 2009.  They actually have a winning record (11-8) during that time span.

With that in mind, we enter the taikai.  But it so came to pass that one of the seeded teams would fail to reach the Best 8.  #7 seed Shouin Gakuen Fukushima would lose to Hobara 7-6 in their very first game.

But the remaining teams needed to see if Seikou Gakuin would falter.  And against #8 Gakkouhoujin Ishikawa it looked like they might.  Starter Ishii was rocked for 8 runs in just 1.1 innings and Seikou trailed 8-4.  The lead however would be short-lived as Seikou would respond with 5 unanswered runs to overtake.  Reliever Ima would shut the door (just) to win 10-9.

In comparison the #5 seed Odaka Kougyou was a breeze advancing to the finals yet again.

Their opponent would be #6 Nichidai Tohoku.  They had relatively little opposition in reaching the finals, including an 8-2 win over #2 Fukushima Higashi.

Seikou Gakuin would actually be in jeopardy again.  Nichidai Tohoku got out to a 2-0 lead, and then when Seikou leveled the score in the 6th, Nichidai would score a pair in the top of the 8th to perhaps seal the upset.

But as is the case when you are dealing with a dynasty of any sort in kokoyakyu, the team trying to break through has not learned how to win the big game (because if they did, well... there'd be no dynasty, right?).

And so it was that in the 8th, Seikou would claim one of those runs back.  Bottom 9, yep, you guessed it - they tied the game.

Once you lose the lead, the underdog is pretty much doomed unless they can immediately reply.

Nichidai Tohoku did not, and Seikou bid farewell to them just one inning into enchousen.

*One thing I did want to note, there has been a combined team consisting of the players from Futaba, Haramachi and Souma Nougyou borne out of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.  Referred to as Sousou Fukushima (相双福島), they successfully won their first game, a 6-4 win over Adachi Higashi.  In their next game against #5 seed Odaka Kougyou, they went 12 innings before the pitching finally gave up in the 13th as they fell 4-1.  But it was a rather great effort in my opinion and wanted to give them their due credit.

Miyagi - Sendai Ikuei (24th title, 2nd consecutive)
Sendai Ikuei felt like a disappointment in the Haru Koushien.  Having won the Meiji Jingu Tournament and earning their super-region an extra bid, they looked rather average up until their quarterfinal loss to Kochi.

Did that wake them up?  Well, they won the Spring Tohoku Super-Regional tournament, though in their Miyagi taikai , had a real close call versus Shibata, then later was in a brawl versus Rifu.

Now in the Natsu taikai, they continue to soldier forward.  Yes, there was a quick scare when they spotted Oosaki Chuo 5 runs in the 1st during their quarterfinal game, but they quickly recovered and went on to win 9-5.

Before we proceed though, I want to give credit to Kesennuma.  Considering what their city has had to deal with since the 2011 earthquake & tsunami, the fact that they got to the quarterfinals - while defeating Tohoku (yes, I know they're not as good nowadays, but still) is an accomplishment to be proud of.  I hope for future success for their school in the years to come.

Remember I mentioned Shibata earlier, in that they gave Sendai Ikuei a scare in the Haru Taikai?

Well, what do you know, they worked their way through the bracket.  An enchousen game against Tohoku Gakuin did scare them, but otherwise they reached the finals in a revenge match against Sendai Ikuei - but this time it really mattered.

Shibata made a statement right off the bat, battering relief starter Baba for 5 runs in the 1st inning.  I was watching other games, but thought that perhaps Sendai Ikuei were getting their just desserts. But when I checked the score again it was 5-3 after 6 and now we were in the danger zone where the underdog could collapse due to the pressure. (see Fukushima)

Next thing I know I see that Uebayashi has hit a HR, I switch to the game just to see Sendai Ikuei tying the game in the bottom of the 8th.

Shibata ace Iwasa looked done.  But after a scoreless top of the 9th, he'd be sent out again for the 9th.

Leadoff batter Kumagai would get on base.  Kikuna would bunt him along, but in a complete lapse of judgement there was no one covering 3rd and Kumagai would take it outright.

Iwasa and Shibata had no choice but to put Kikuna and Uebayashi on to create the force.  Any successful sac fly or squeeze would end the game.  PH Abe would come in, but Iwasa induced a foul fly up the 1st base line that would be caught for the 2nd out.

That would bring up C Kobayashi Ryou.  Iwasa would fight, but the count would run full.  The payoff pitch... would be thrown high.

An oshidashi sayonara walk would end Shibata's season - perhaps one of the saddest, most heartbreaking ways to lose.

Nishi Tokyo - Nichidai-san (16th title, 4th consecutive)
Ugh, I refuse to recap in detail this taikai.  Nichidai-san outscores their opponents 75-9 and are not contested.


Hino reached the finals looking really good, and had a statement game in the semfinals.  In the same manner as Nichidai Tohoku, Hino blows a 6-1 lead in the final 2 innings, but unlike Nichidai Tohoku scores 3 in the 10th to defeat Kokushikan.  But they get 2-hit in the finals, and it's all for naught.


Nagano - Ueda Nishi (1st appearance)
Nagano is another random place where I have an interest in.  Now, they're not known for their baseball.  In the last decade, representatives from Nagano have won a total of 3 games - Matsushiro one in 2009, and a pair for Nagano Nichidai in 2009.

But I take an interest because I've traveled there several time thanks to anime.  As a result of being there and how beautiful it is, I root for the area.  Specifically, I root for both Ueda-Chikuma and Ueda Nishi because they're near where my friends runs a ryokan.  Both are actually above average teams, but neither have been to Koushien despite the fact that only Matsushou Gakuen has been the only team in the past decade to have gone to Natsu Koushien more than once.

Nonetheless, Ueda Nishi was the #1 seed, while Ueda-Chikuma was a 5-8 seed.

Now, despite the fact that there has been generally a lot of flux in the Nagano representative, of the 8 seeded teams, only 5-8 seeds Ina Yayoigaoka and Nagano Higashi would fall before the Best 8 to Tagawa and Iida OIDE Osahime respectively.

However, the roads for almost all of the seeded teams were not without some games a bit too close for comfort.  Ueda Nishi almost lost in their first game against Matsumoto Dai-ichi if not for a 3-run 9th.  After that was a 1-0 nail-biter against Anan.  Interestingly, after that the games were actually a little easier for him, even against #4 Chikyuu Kankyou in the semifinals - and they probably looked like one of the more impressive teams up until the loss.

Interestingly their finals opponent would be someone they would be very familiar with.  Defending champs and #3 seed Saku Chousei actually was scheduled to be the game after Ueda Nishi up until the quarterfinals.  As Ueda Nishi progressed, so did Saku Chousei, which included a mercy rule win over Ueda-Chikuma.  Yet in the semifinals, against unknown Nagano Shougyou, they somehow managed to win despite scoring just 1 run on 4 hits.

The finals would be just as offense starved.  However, Ueda Nishi would make the most of their 6 hits, scoring 3 runs while the tandem of Yanagaizawa and Urano combine for a 4-hit shutout - thus securing their first ever title!

Mie - Mie (11th appearance, 1st in 4 years)
Mie has been a rather chaotic prefecture over the past decade.  No school has claimed the title more than twice (Mie, Komono, Uji-yamada Shougyou), and as a result of no team dominating has done rather poorly at Natsu Koushien.  Ujiyamada Shougyou would be the only team to not initially lose to Saga Kita (they played to a 4-4 draw), and Mie had defeated Kumamoto Kougyou in extras back in 2009 before being wiped out by Miyakonojyou Shougyou.

And yet even still, the 3 schools that had the most success wound up in the Best 4.  Mie went off to a slow start in a 2-0 win over Matsusaka Shougyou, then were able to upset seeded Inabe Sougou Gakuen 2-1 in the very next round.  It was smooth sailing after that to the semifinals.  Komono had a similar stumble edging Yokkaichi Minami 4-3, but was fine otherwise.  Uji-yamada Shougyou had no such hiccups, incurring 4 mercy rule wins - even one against seeded Kinkidai Koutousen.

The final team to make it was seeded Tsu Shougyou.  They wound up playing one less games after Ishiyakushi forfeited to them in the first round, then broke ties in the 9th against Shiroko and Kaisei to get to the semis.

Mie's Wakabayashi would shut down Uji-yamada Shougyou in their game cruising to a 6-0 win.  Komono would score 5 straight unanswered runs in the middle innings to reverse a 3-0 deficit as Yamanaka made the lead stick winning 5-4.

The final however would be a bit of a letdown.  Mie scored 5 in the 4th to put the game into an eventuality as they would win 7-1.

Nara - Sakurai (1st appearance)
So I'll just remind you anyways that in Nara, Tenri (7) and Chiben Gakuen (5) have claimed the title the last 12 years.  Being a school from Nara looking up at these two behemoths must be rather discouraging.

But if there seemed to be a chink in the twin towers, it was this year.  It was Yamato Kouryou, not either of the stalwarts, who represented Nara in senbatsu, and Tenri wasn't even seeded for the natsu taikai! So the rest of Nara probably had one eye on their game and another to see if the two would fall and finally open the gates for someone else to walk through.

Tenri would be the first to fall, losing 12-4 to Naradai Fuzoku in the 3rd round.  Only Chiben Gakuen remained, and perhaps in a bit of irony, lost in sayonara fashion to senbatsu representative Yamato Kouryou 4-3 in the quarterfinals!

Which meant that the spell would be broken and all would be up for grabs!  But by the time Chiben Gakuen lost, just 3 other teams would remain - Sakurai and Yamato Kouryou who already advanced, and soon thereafter the only seeded team left in Naradai Fuzoku, and Nara Suzaku who soundly defeated seeded Kashihara 7-2.

You'd think that Yamato Kouryou would be the favorite now -they did go to Senbatsu after all.  But before that Chiben Gakuen upset, they had endured two 11 inning games.  And so it was against Sakurai that C Shimada would deliver the sayonara hit in the 10th inning to send them home.  In the other semifinal, Naradai Fuzoku would keep Nara Suzaku at bay long enough to wear out Suzaku's ace Iwaki to score 6 runs late winning 11-6, guaranteeing that we would have a first time winner out of Nara.

The final would not be dominated by Sakurai as the triumvirate of Takeno, Kinoshita and Kaji would clamp down the 4-1 and claim their first title!

Hiroshima - Setouchi (2nd appearance, 1st in 13 years)
Hiroshima, for most of the past decade has been dominated by either Jyosuikan or Kouryou.  They account for 7 of the last 10 titles.  It's not to the level of say a Chiben Wakayama or a Tenri/Chiben Gakuen, but it's pretty impressive nonetheless.

Last year Hiroshima Kougyou was able to break through.  Could a team breach the twin towers for the 2nd straight year?

Well, both were one of the 8 seeded teams assigned by the baseball federation.  And once we had reached the Best 8 where if all went scratch it would be populated by seeded teams, they were still around.  Jyosuikan did need late runs to defeat Shiritsu Kure in their first game, while Gion Kita kept the game close against Kouryou in the 2nd round.

There were 3 casualties.  Onomichi (who I'm guessing will need to reload now to make another run at Koushien), Kouyou Higashi, and Hiroshima Kokusai Gakuin.  The former 2 were eliminated in their very first game.

Replacing the three were (in order), Eishin (who isn't a bad team at all), Kinkidai Fukuyama (which is out of my friend's city, but he's teaching in Daimon), and Gokou.

Oddly enough, while Gokou looked the best score-wise getting to the Best 8, they were the worst routed, losing 12-0 in 5 to Hiroshima Kougyou.  Eishin didn't play bad, but lost 4-1 to Hiroshima Shinjyou.  And Kinkidai Fukuyama did best of all, actually holding a 6-4 lead over Jyosuikan... until they scored 5 in the 6th to take the lead for good.

The only fully seeded matchup was Setouchi and Kouryou.  Kouryou was having a devil's of a time, and when Setouchi took a 3-1 lead with a pair in the top of the 8th, Kouryou was done for!  They'd fall 3-2 and one of the pillars had fallen.

The 2nd pillar would fall unceremoniously as Jyosuikan went through 7 (yes 7!) pitchers as they flailed for 7 runs in a 7-2 loss to Hiroshima Shinjyou!  In fact, only 2 pitchers actually went over 1 inning, and 3 of them actually just recorded 1 out!

So we would have a first time winner in Hiroshima Shinjyou, or Setouchi going for just their 2nd time.

But something happened on the way to the title.  Setouchi's Yamaoka would pitch a one-hit shutout, striking out 15 batters while walking 3.  Hiroshima Shinjyou's ace Taguchi would give up 13 hits while striking out 19.

The only problem?  He also gave up no runs!

That's right, somehow with all the opportunites Setouchi had, and the performance their ace gave them, the teams actually played to a 0-0 draw!  And so the game would have to be replayed - though the game was not scheduled for the next day, but the day after.

Certainly, in the replay the pitchers would not be as sharp, and they werent.  Both aces did take the hill to start the game, and Yamaoka struck out just 6 while Taguchi only 3.  Both aces gave up just 5 hits, though Yamaoka offered 3 free passes to Taguchi's 0. And as the game progressed, I bet the attendees were wondering if they were watching the same game - because the game was again deadlocked at 0 through 7!

In the bottom of the 8th though C Oomachi would actually drive in a run with his only hit of the game.  Yamaoka managed to record the final 3 outs to finally claim the title.

Yamaguchi - Iwakuni Shougyou (4th appearance, 1st in 27 years)
For as few teams as there are in Yamaguchi, the top teams dominated the field once again (well, almost).

1-4 seeds Hayatomo, Iwakuni Shougyou and Takagawa Gakuen all advanced to the semifinals without much resistance.  The only exception was Ube Kougyou who had played several low scoring affairs before being unable to rally against 5-8 seed Iwakuni falling 3-2.

Iwakuni would try to give Takagawa Gakuen a run for their money with a 5-run 3rd.  However, ace Azuma would soon fritter that lead away, and with their own 5-run inning, Takagawa would take a 9-5 lead and never relinquish it. That would actually be the close game of the bunch as Hayatomo was completely railroaded by Iwakuni Shougyou.  10 runs, and a 3-hit shutout later, Iwakuni Shougyou was in the finals.

The final was delayed a day due to rain, but Takagawa Gakuen, looking for their first Natsu title, surely gave Iwakuni Shougyou a run for their money.  Ace Hamamoto struck out 11, and only gave up a pair of runs in the 4th.  However, his offense could fare no better as they could just claim back one of those runs 2 innings later.  Iwakuni Shougyou would be able to follow up their senbatsu appearance with a return here in the summer.

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