Wednesday, November 20, 2013

44th Meiji Jingu Tournament - We have a champion!

So we have a champion, and perhaps in doing so endorses one of my theories about the urban super-regionals not perhaps trying as hard...

Day 3
Ryuuokudai Heian's ace Inudzuka couldn't get past the 2nd inning as he failed to record an out giving up 5 runs in the 3rd to Nihon Bunri which included a solo HR by opposing pitcher Iidzuka.  That erased an 2-0 early lead and forced Heian to chase.

That they did though as a sac fly in the 4th, followed by timely doubles from Ootani and Kawai in the 5th tied the game at 5-5!

But already on their 3rd pitcher, Tanaka was asked to go in long relief.  However, in the 7th Kodachi delivered a double to push ahead what would be the eventual winning run to end Kinki's hopes of having a 2nd bid!

The second game between Komadai Tomakomai and Okinawa Shougaku was marred by errors.  So much so that in a game that wound up 5-3, only 1 run was earned!!

In the 1st, a throwing error by 3B Tamaru with 2 outs continued the inning, and it was punished by Okishou with hits from Irabu and Fuchigami for a 3-0 lead.  Fuchigami would feel bad about scoring on the error, so he had one of his own in the top of the 2nd allowing Komadai to take 1 back.

That run would be given back to Okishou as in the 3rd SS Ogasawara would make an error of his own to make it 4-1.  Akamine Ken would get the only RBI of the game as he would get a hit to center extending the lead to 5-1.

More errors would get Komadai within 2 in the 8th, but that would be the closest they would get in the mistake-filled game.

Day 4
Day 4 was anti-climactic for semifinal matches.  Imabari Nishi and Nihon Bunri trade a run in each of the first 2 innings, but then after a run in the 3rd, Nihon Bunri blows up for 4 runs in the 4th.  Errors did not help Imabari's cause either has eventually would be mercy-ruled 10-3 in 7 innings.

It was worse for Iwakuni.  Errors put them behind 2-0 early, as Okinawa Shougaku put up runs in every inning culminating in back-to-back-to-back doubles in a 7-run 4th.  The game would only last 4.5 innings as Okishou mercy-ruled Iwakuni 11-1.

Day 5 - Championship
Nihon Bunri had the opportunity to be the first Hokushinetsu representative to win the Meiji Jingu tournament since Seiryou in 1991.  More importantly, it would mean a bid in all likelihood for Chikyuu Kankyou.

Okinawa Shougaku was looking to give Kyushu their 4th title and 1st since Yanagigaura back in 2004.  Chinzei would be able to breathe a sigh of relief as their main competitor for the final bid in Souseikan would be given the Meiji Jingu bid.

And it was one of those game you just couldn't believe, even if we told you...

Hoshi starts the game off for Nihon Bunri with a leadoff HR to right.  In the 3rd, Kamakura would hit a 2-out solo HR to left, making it 2-0!  Ace Iidzuka would blast his 2nd of the tournament to right in the 4th, extending it to 3-0!

Higa-kantoku tried to stop the bleeding as he sent in Kubo from RF to switch places with ace Yamashiro Daichi, but the power output didn't stop there. In the 5th, back-to-back doubles by Kobayashi and Kamakura were paid off by Yamaguchi's 2-run double of his own.  Even a failed send home of Yamaguchi didn't stop the inning as Iidzuka would his 2nd HR of the game to center making it a 7-0 game!!!

And cleanup batter Ikeda had had enough of everyone else going yard, and blasted one to left in the 6th giving Nihon Bunri a commanding 8-0 lead!!

Facing elimination in the bottom of the 7th, Okinawa Shougaku went to work - and made this already crazy game into a comeback for the ages.

With one down, Iidzuka would plunk Irabu.  Kaneshiro would hit for Fuchigami and hit a double to right.

And that's when ace Yamashiro Daichi (yes, he returned to the mound in the 7th) would keep his team alive with a 3-run HR to left center!  While the next 2 batters would be retired, Okishou was still in the game at 8-3...

Now the 8th inning.  Kubo starts it off with a triple to right.  Nishihira plates him with a single to center... 8-4.

Anzato booms a 2-run HR to left-center... It's now 8-6.  And still Ooi-kantoku doesn't send in someone like Kodachi, or last game's starter Fujita, instead sticking with ace Iidzuka...

Uehara flies out to right for the first out, but Irabu singles to left.  Now with 2 out, Yamashiro Daichi singles to left.

The inning looks to be over after Sunagawa hits one back to Iidzuka, but something goes horribly wrong and he throws it away allowing Irabu to score making it 8-7...

With Ooi-kantoku leaving Iidzuka on the mound even still, it sealed Nihon Bunri's fate.  He would walk Akamine Ken, sending up Kubo for his 2nd AB of the inning.

And he wouldn't miss.  Kubo would hit one to right, scoring both Daichi and Ken to complete the comeback. 9-8.  In a minor way, Okinawa Shougaku did what Nihon Bunri couldn't do in 2009.  (Sorry Nihon Bunri, but while I like you, until you can win a big game final, it will always come back to that game...)

So, with Okinawa Shougaku's victory Chinzei can rest easy.  With the Meiji Jingu bid, Souseikan will be invited and Chinzei can hold onto their last Kyushu bid (or technically vice versa).  Sadly for Chikyuu Kankyou, Nihon Bunri's collapse means that they will be on the sidelines watching senbatsu from home...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

44th Meiji Jingu Tournament - Days 1 & 2

Well, we're off in the Meiji Jingu tournament to decide the last bid to go to a region and there have been some surprises.

Day 1
Ryuukokudai Heian (Kinki) did what I though they would against Mie (Tokai).  Starting in the 3rd, Imai and Nakaguchi with back to back hits would drive in a run each to make it a 2-0 game.  That would be followed up by the Takahashi battery (C Yuuhashi & P Keiji) in the 4th for another 2 runs.  And a Mie error in the 5th would give them a 5-0 lead.

But as Mie is wont to do, they scrap their way back after the break.  Nishioka would get them on the board in the 6th with a groundout.  2 innings later, Seko would get a timely RBI, and Nishioka would follow that up with a 2-run double to make it a 1-run ballgame.

However, that would be the closest they would get.  Ootsuka would come in as Heian's 3rd pitcher and shut down Mie to secure the 5-4 win.

Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo) did not start Abe Takeshi in their game against Okinawa Shougaku (Kyushu).  But then again, he's actually wearing #10 apparently!  The ace number belongs to Haketa Akihiro, who did start the game.

And he held the Okishou offense in check as his team jumped on ace Yamashiro. Yamaguchi started things off with a timely single with runners at the corners, and then Ikeda followed that up with a double and it was 2-0 Kanto in the 1st.  Ikeda would deliver again in the 3rd, with another base hit to make it a 3-0 ballgame.  That would be it for Yamashiro as Kubo would come in from right to swap places.

The game stayed at 3-0 until post-break where Okishou finally got to Haketa. With runners at the corners, Akamine Ken delivered a base hit to score 1, and then Kubo himself would hit a double to make it a 1-run ballgame.

Haketa would give way in the 8th still holding onto the lead.  I would have expected them to go Abe, but again I would have been wrong. Instead they went to unknown Tanabe Ren. That didn't go well when Anzato would get a hit to left, tying the game.

It then went all wrong in the 9th as Tanabe would only record one out while giving up 5 runs, ensuring Okishou's advance to the next round.

Day 2
The first game of the 2nd round was a no-contest affair sadly. My supposed favorite, Hachinohe Gakuen Kousei (Tohoku) was never in the game against Imabari Nishi (Shikoku) as their #3 batter Ochi Itsuki would drive in 3 of their 5 runs en route to a 5-1 victory. Of course, it didn't help also that the team committed 4 errors in the game as well...

The second game almost seemed like the first. Hakuoudai Ashikaga (Kanto) quickly took the lead over Iwakuni (Chuugoku) with a sac fly from Ooshita in the first and a timely from Higa in the 2nd.  Kawamoto's double in the 3rd would bring Iwakuni within 1, but a pair in the 5th seemed to make the game a copy of the first.

But much like Kanto Dai-ichi, things went horribly wrong in the 8th inning for Hakuoudai.  Tsuchiya would start it off with a timely hit to center to make it a 4-2 ballgame.  With the bases loaded, Kameya would hit a grounder to short. Kamon would go home, only to throw it away... 2 runs would score and the game was tied at 4. Ace Higa would be relieved as Ooshita would come in from left to pitch. Sadly, a wild pitch would allow the gyakuten run to score.

Iwakuni would tack on one more as Yanagawa would shut the door in the 9th ensuring that Kanto would not get another bid (Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku should get the floating bid now).

The schools with some hope left may be:
  • Hokkaido - Sapporo Ootani
  • Hokushinetsu - Chikyuu Kankyou
  • Kinki - Sanda Shousei
  • Chuugoku/Shikoku - Takigawa Gakuen
  • Kyushu - Souseikan

Monday, November 4, 2013

44th Meiji Jingu Tournament Bracket

I did not know that the brackets for the Meiji Jingu tournament were predetermined. With all super-regional champions determined, the bracket is as follows (the region is stated here as that is what is important):
  • Imabari Nishi (Shikoku) vs. Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Tohoku)
  • Nihon Bunri (Hokushinetsu) vs. Ryuukokudai Heian (Kinki)-Mie (Tokai) winner
  • Komadai Tomakomai (Hokkaido) vs. Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo)-Okinawa Shougaku (Kyushu) winner
  • Hakuoudai Ashikaga (Kanto ex Tokyo) vs. Iwakuni (Chuugoku)
 And as stated earlier, here are the schools that may have something at stake:
  • Hokkaido - Sapporo Ootani
  • Tohoku - Aomori Yamada (I think the JHBF would still overlook Hanamaki Higashi)
  • Kanto/Tokyo - Narashino/Kasumigaura/Kendai Takasaki (they just need either region to win)
  • Hokushinetsu - Chikyuu Kankyou
  • Tokai - Shizuoka
  • Kinki - Sanda Shousei
  • Chuugoku/Shikoku - Takigawa Gakuen (they just need either region to win)
  • Kyushu - Souseikan
So with that in mind, let's look at the matchups:

Imabari Nishi (Shikoku) vs. Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Tohoku)
Imabari Nishi appears to be back after a year off. They did defeat Kishi and Meitoku Gijyuku, but it could be a case of where the pitcher remains but the offense is weaker. Plus, there is the 5-2 win over an unknown Sakaide team who won Kagawa as well

Kousei, as they are now called, completely annihilated the Tohoku field including wins over Sendai Ikuei, Sakata Minami and Hanamaki Higashi before handling an unknown Touryou squad to win the title.  Now, much like Meitoku Gijyuku, both Sendai Ikuei and Hanamaki Higashi had a completely new starting 9, so despite their Natsu Koushien appearance, you cannot take too much from it. But the fact that Kousei won so convincingly is a big plus (the 2-1 win over Hanamaki Higashi can be discounted because they always play tough no matter what the roster).

Advantage: Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei

Nihon Bunri (Hokushinetsu) vs. Ryuukokudai Heian (Kinki)-Mie (Tokai) winner

The opening round game between the neighboring super-regions is a tough one to handicap. Yes, Ryuukokudai Heian did win their 5th title defeating Koushien caliber teams such as Oumi, Chiben Gakuen, Riseisha and Chiben Wakayama.

But Shiga (Oumi) was weak in general, Nara (Chiben Gakuen) is apparently going through some reorganization of some sort as Tenri has fallen by the wayside and Chiben Gakuen has not taken over to dominate as one would have thought, Osaka (Riseisha) apparently has a power vacuum at the top that is waiting to be filled, and Chiben Wakayama may be on the sunset of it's run.

That's not to say Mie isn't without its own question marks. Yes, they defeated both Shizuoka Shougyou and Chuukyoudai Chuukyou, but they also had to come back to defeat unknown Toyokawa to win the final. And Chuukyoudai Chuukyou hasn't been the same since they won the title.

Advantage goes to Ryuukokudai Heian just because of the level of competition, but Kinki has performed poorly and Mie is generally up for a challenge.

The winner faces Nihon Bunri, who had an easier time against Tsuruga Kehi and Cinderella Toyama Dai-ichi before having to walk off twice versus Chikyuu Kankyou and Toukai Dai-san (both Nagano schools!!).

And therein lies the rub. Despite the early success the close victories against Nagano, who themselves are seemingly going through a low part in their cycle, means that Nihon Bunri doesn't look as good.

Advantage: Ryuukokudai Heian

Komadai Tomakomai (Hokkaido) vs. Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo)-Okinawa Shougaku (Kyushu) winner

Okinawa Shougaku won Kyushu despite having to revamp most of their roster from the summer. This after they seemingly made improvements from the spring. Thing is, their list of teams they defeated does not seemingly instill confidence in their prospects.

Kanto Dai-ichi claims the final spot after a very tight game against Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku. Oddly, Kanto did not go with ace Abe on back-to-back days. This won't be a problem for the first two games, but will be thereafter.  Abe shut down the Nisshougakusha offense once he came in, so I do expect the same against Okinawa Shougaku.

The winner faces Komadai Tomakomai, who wins Hokkaido - but once again not convincingly with 1-run victories over Toukai Dai-yon and Sapporo Ootani.

Kanto Dai-ichi may get out of this part of the bracket, but if they go to their bullpen it doesn't look too good.

Advantage: Kanto Dai-ichi

Hakuoudai Ashikaga (Kanto ex Tokyo) vs. Iwakuni (Chuugoku)

Kanto seemed to have a fair amount of parity as half of the super-regional games were decided by 2 runs or less. That and the finalists were actually the runner-ups in their prefecture!!

The names may have been "brand" names, but they weren't really anywhere to be seen in the past year. And those that were - Yokohama, Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, Jyousou Gakuin were eliminated right off the bat.

Iwakuni won a Chuugoku Super-regional that was littered with new names. Now, they did not encounter any issues up until the final where Hiroshima Shinjyou put up a late fight which is a plus.  Problem is, we don't know how big of a plus it really means considering the strength of the Chuugoku region in general.

Advantage: Hakuoudai Ashikaga

Right now, of all the qualified participants, perhaps Kousei has the best resume. Oddly enough, I actually think that Kanto/Tokyo will not win the Meiji Jingu tournament simply because it would let a brand team get an invitation - that is unless the committee picks Kasumigaura.