Gunma - Maebashi Ikuei (1st appearance)
Tochigi - Sakushin Gakuin (9th appearance, 3rd consecutive)
Saitama - Urawa Gakuin (12th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
Kanagawa - Yokohama (15th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
Aichi - Aikoudai Meiden (11th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
Shizuoka - Tokoha Kikugawa (4th appearance, 1st in 5 years)
Osaka - Osaka Touin (7th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
Hyogo - Nishiwaki Kougyou (1st appearance)
Oh my god. First of all, can Hyogo figure out a better way to reschedule games than the current system? Teams were reassigned to different stadiums, some who were playing before other teams originally got rescheduled for after those same teams. It can't be that hard can it?
Yet despite rain-outs and bonkers rescheduling, 75% of the 16 block seeds actually advanced out of the block. The 4 that failed was Block 4 Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (!), Block 9 Himeji Kougyou, Block 10 Houjyou, and Block 15 Kakogawa Kita (!). Of the seeds that advanced only Shiritsu Amagasaki and Yashiro actually blew through the block field. Everyone else seemed to struggle:
- Block 2 Houtoku Gakuen? They had an 11 inning affair against Shiritsu Himeji.
- Block 5 Defending Champion Takigawa Dai-ni? Ooh, not so good. Two low scoring affairs versus Ikuno and Hyogo Shougyou.
- Block 8 Touyoudai Himeji? 2-1 over Touban Kougyou in their 2nd game.
However, our first major casualty from the Round of 16 was Takigawa Dai-ni. They never led against Shiritsu Amagasaki, and despite a 2-run 8th fell 4-3. Houtoku Gakuen tossed a 4-hit shutout over Suma Shoufuu, and Touyoudai Himeji despite just 3 hits defeated Sanda Shousei 2-1 (How??!).
The other surprising things was that 3 of the 4 no-seeds to advance to the Round of 16 advanced to the Best 8. Though admittedly Block 4 Rokko Island has been an above average team.
The redraw for the Best 8 again had the powerhouse teams avoiding each other.
Mukonosou Sougou had the unfortunate draw of Houtoku Gakuen, and promptly were shutout - but not mercy ruled, which is good. Shiritsu Amagasaki's run ended at the hands of Touyoudai Himeji.
Rokko Island met fellow no-seed Ikuei... and were mercy ruled.
And then there was the curious case of Nishiwaki Kougyou. Never heard of them, never been to Koushien before.
In block play they started strong with a mercy-rule win over Aboshi. After that though, things got really hairy for them. Starting off with a 14 inning 4-3 win over Awaji Mihara, they broke a scoreless draw in the 7th over Ichikawa with 4 runs to advance out of the block. Then against Kakogawa Nishi, the fell behind 5-0, immediately clawed back to within 1, took the the lead late only to blow it in the bottom of the 9th - then won with 2 in the 10th.
If that wasn't enough, against Akashi Shougyou in the Best 8, they trailed 2-0 before rallying to win in the bottom of the 9th 3-2.
The cardiac kids decided comebacks were a bit too much, and while they gave up 2 runs in the first, quickly recovered and used a 5-run 7th to hold on for a 10-7 win. Quite nuts.
Meanwhile, Touyoudai Himeji and Houtoku Gakuen actually had a more normal game, but Houtoku Gakuen couldn't recover from a 2-run deficit falling 4-3.
So realistically, it looked like Touyoudai Himeji would ascend to the throne, because surely Nishiwaki Kougyou couldn't pull off the upset...
Not so fast there. In the 5th, Takami and Murakami would actually give Nishiwaki Kougyou a 2-0 lead. Ace Outa (翁田) would give up back-to-back timely hits to tie the game.
But bottom 9, LF Murakami starts off with a base hit to left center. He books it to 2nd and just beats the throw. After a sac bunt, Nishiwaki Kougyou has the sayonara run 90 feet away. They have no choice but to intentionally walk Nishizawa and Hieda to load the bases. That would bring up last batter Ishii. Nishiwaki would try the squeeze bunt, but Ishii popped it up and C Uraoka scampered back and made a great diving catch for two outs.
That left it up to leadoff batter Imai who was just 1-4 on the day. Two foul balls meant he was behind quickly. But on the very next pitch he'd hit a blooper to the right side. 2B Nishida would scramble back, dive.. but it would just be out of his reach! It falls in for the sayonara RBI as Nishiwaki Kougyou heads to their first Koushien tournament!