Okay, more prefectures here below:
Ishikawa - Seiryou (16th appearance, 1st in 6 years)
In recent years, Seiryou has surged back into the discussion of teams in Ishikawa. To a bit of a surprise, I noticed that Ishikawa in 8 of the last 10 years has been represented by either Kanazawa or Yuugakukan (4 times each). Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa and Seiryou make up the other 2 appearances.
Yet, Matsui Hideki's alma mater has been on the precipice of reaching Koushien having reached the semifinals and finals the last 2 years eliminated by - yup, you guessed it, Kanazawa and Yuugakukan.
And so the big 3 started on their journey, and to Seiryou's benefit, the twin threats to their title run were on the other side of the bracket. That allowed Seiryou a straight shot to the title game - so long as they didn't trip themselves up. And for the most part they didn't. They weren't mercy-rule dominating, but they still weren't really challenged.
Surprisingly though the other two did have some difficulty. In #2 Yuugakukan's first game, they briefly held the lead after a 3-run 4th versus Komatsu, but were either tied or trailing otherwise. In fact, they were down to their last 3 outs before scoring 2 runs to advance. #3 Kanazawa looked rather mortal versus Komatsu Shougyou and #5-8 seed Komatsu Ootani. Which had to be good for Seiryou. Even better was that in the semifinal, the pair would go 13 innings with both sides emptying their bullpen before 2B Fujiguchi for Yuugakukan would decide things with a sayonara home run!
In the final, Yuugakukan's pitching staff was indeed depleted as Seiryou would take a 1-0 lead in the 2nd and never relinquish it. Seiryou would use their own trio of pitchers (Iwashita, Muroki and Hatakenaka) to secure the 5-2 win and their 16th trip to Koushien on the year that their famous player retired from baseball.
Shiga - Hikone Higashi (1st appearance)
Shiga is kind of the same way as many other rural prefectures - a handful of teams control the bids to Natsu Koushien. In this case, there are 4 repeat winners who account for 9 of the last 10 titles - Oumi (4), Kita-Ootsu (3), and Hachiman Shougyou (2) with the other being Shiga Gakuen.
So here, too many of the other schools are looking up at a select few who decide amongst themselves who goes - generally.
This year though, only Oumi was seeded out of the "Big 3". Instead, it would be Hieizan (who was better in the 2000's), Hachiman Kougyou, and Hikone Higashi.
And when both Hachiman Shougyou and Kita-Ootsu eliminated early on, and Oumi playing fairly strong, perhaps they would claim yet another title.
But out of the best 4, one seeded team did not make it. Hieizan would be ousted by unknown Oumi Kyoudaisha 3-1, behind a 10 strikeout performance by ace Sasaki. Another win put them in the semifinals to face Oumi. In that semifinal, Oumi quickly got to Sasaki for 3 runs, only to see Kyoudaisha fight back with 3 in the 3rd off Oumi ace Kikubayashi. It would stay that way until the 9th when Horii would give Oumi the 4-3 lead. Kyoudaisha though, somehow didn't get the memo that weaker teams fold at the end, because down to their last out Naka delivers the douten run with a single to right, and with the bases loaded Noguchi would single to right center for the gyakuten sayonara win!
So Oumi was gone, which was a great relief to the other semifinalists. Sadly, while Hachiman Kougyou did manage to reach the semis, they didn't look all that impressive. And paired against Hikone Higashi - who probably is one of the better 2nd tier teams in Shiga, and had defeated Kita-Ootsu earlier, it would be a disaster. A 5-inning mercy-rule win later and Hikone Higashi would be one step away from their first ever Natsu Koushien bid.
Oumi Kyoudaisha's intimidation factor continued to be 0 as they actually scored right off the bat in the top of the 1st. And while Sasaki would relinquish the lead one inning later, he performed very will. Unfortunately, Hikone Higashi got timely hits from Yamanaka and Takeda later on and would win 3-2 for their first title.
Hats off to Oumi Kyoudaisha though. I don't know if we'll ever see them again, but man it was a great run they had... just a bit short.
Kyoto - Fukuchiyama Seibi (4th appearance, 1st in 5 years)
Kyoto has been the same as Shiga. 3 teams have gone to Koushien in the last 10 years - Kyoto Gaidai Nishi (4), Ryuukokudai Heian (4, one as Heian in 2003), Fukuchiyama Seibi (2). Lately though Heian has been the representative with 3 of their 4 appearances happening in the last 4 years.
So to see another team breakthrough would be a rarity. And it would probably be prudent to see how each of the teams progressed.
Well, first my favorite powerhouse in the prefecture - Kyoto Gaidai Nishi... lost in their first game to Tounan 10-5. There goes that.
Fukuchiyama Seibi struggled in their first game against Rakutou. Despite just getting 1 run on 2 hits they somehow won 1-0. After that was smooth sailing to the Best 8. Ryuukokudai Heian had no such trouble getting to the Best 8, but was paired with the Kyoto representative in Senbatsu - Kyoto Shouei. And despite their lackluster performance at Koushien, ace Enomoto limited them to just a run on 6 hits in a 3-1 victory.
They would play a Fukuchiyama Seibi squad who survived a Kita-Saga game where they blew a 2-run lead in the bottom of the 9th, then in the 11th almost blew another 2-run lead winning 4-3.
In that blockbuster semifinal (which could have easily been a final), offense was at a premium with Enomoto and Seibi's ace Nakamura combining to give up just 9 hits. But a timely hit by Sano for Seibi would be the only run in the game as they would move to the finals.
Now, since all 3 of the powerhouses were on one side of the bracket, it was just a matter of who would try to challenge them for the title.
Kyoto Kougakkan was able to slip their way through the field, including a 4-1 win over Kyoto Subaru (I'm only mentioning them because they're my irrational cheering team) to setup a quarterfinal match versus Ritsumeikan Uji - a team that could be considered 2nd tier. A 3-run 8th would help them pull off the upset.
They'd play a Toba squad (who back in 2012 went to Senbatsu) who breezed through the field. Sadly for Kyoto Kougakkan, their run ended here in a mercy-rule loss.
So that meant Toba would be the last barrier between Fukuchiyama Seibi and their 3rd title in the last 8 years. Toba sadly would not be up to the task as 5 errors would lead to a 5-0 loss.