And that ticket goes to the Hokkaido Super-Regional champion...
Yes, they will return to haru koushien for the first time in 8 years. After advancing past the first two rounds without trouble against Kushiro Meiki and Asahikawadai, they were snared in a low-scoring affair against Toukai Dai-yon - a very strong C level team in the semifinals. 12 innings later and they finally got to Toukai ace Nishijima to score the only run in the game moving them into the finals.
With schools like Hakodatedai Yuuto and Hokushou on the same side of the bracket and eliminated early, there was little competition left it would seem. But Shirakaba Gakuen drew the other half of the bracket and would appear to be on a collision course for a powerhouse final.
Indeed, after 2 mercy rule wins over Bushuukan and Hakodate Shougyou, then a shutout of Tomakomai Chuo, they were just one game away from that matchup. Standing in the way was an unknown Sapporo Ootani squad whose only notable win was their first game in a 6-4 win over Kitami Hokuto.
And yet when the final horn sounded, Ootani 1st year ace Okamoto Rinden (岡本 凛典) had pitched a complete game shutout and upset the favorites 4-0 and now were one game away from punching their own ticket to not only the Meiji Jingu tournament, but to Haru Koushien!
In the final, Okamoto gave Komadai Tomakomai all they could handle, keeping his underdog team in the game long enough to allow his offense to tie it up in the top of the 8th.
But a costly error allowed the go-ahead run to reach 3rd base for Komadai, and with one out and runners at the corners, Niiyama would hit the sac fly to left regaining the lead at 3-2 as reliever Itou closed it out for the victory.
So Komadai Tomakomai will head down to Tokyo and more importantly will be headed to Haru Koushien. I don't think this is the last we'll see of Sapporo Ootani either.
Other taikais are underway, and I'll have those updates in the next couple of days.