With less than 2 weeks to Natsu Koushien, we get a flurry of teams qualifying for Koushien. Here's what happened yesterday:
Fukushima - Nichidai Tohoku v. Seikou Gakuin
In this year where it seems like the underdog is finally giving the powerhouse teams their comeuppance, Nichidai Tohoku had a similar opportunity versus the king of the prefecture, Seikou Gakuin.
And it really looked like Nichidai would be able to pull off the upset. Seikou went from pitcher to pitcher to stem the tide, but couldn't as Nichidai Tohoku put run after another on the board to build a 6-2 lead. By the time the game hit the 9th, I was dead certain they would be able to do it.
And they were just one out away from doing it. But with runners on the corners and 2 out, Seikou put 3 hits together, and that 6-2 lead turned into a 6-6 ballgame.
Any time you have the underdog giving up a lead like that, especially in the final, usually the collapse is complete in regulation, or even if they survive into enchousen they can't regain momentum.
2 innings later, Seikou got runners on 1st and 2nd with no out, #3 batter Yananuma delivered the final blow to send Seikou to Koushien for another year.
Chiba - Toukaidai Bouyou v. Senshuudai Matsudo
After the melee in Chiba, 2 Tier 3 schools found themselves in the finals. As one of my twitter follows is wont to mention, Senshuudai Matsudo in prior years kept on losing late in the tournament in enchousen.
But in the round of 16, perhaps they exorcised the demons when they won a 3-2 win in 10 against Shiritsu Funabashi. That seemed to give them momentum as they put away Kisaradzu Sougou early, and then scored 5 early against Kashiwa Nittai to reach the finals.
Toukaidai Bouyou was the forgotten Toukai school in the prefecture - to Toukaidai Urayasu (they had defeated Narashino earlier). But they were always a respectable squad and always made a modest run.
This year was different. This time around they got some breaks. In their 2nd game, they had to walkoff Seibudai Chiba 3-2. Then was a very uncharacteristic 2-0 win over Sodegaura. And instead of facing Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, they faced Kokubun instead and shut them out 5-0.
Wouldn't you know it, they would have to face sister school Toukaidai Urayasu in the semifinals. And you had to think that Bouyou's run would end here.
Nope, not even close.
In fact the scoreline would have you believe Bouyou was the dominant Toukai school. 12-2 in 5 innings!!
And holy crap, it's like Toukaidai Bouyou was just saving themselves for the stretch run, because in the final, Senshuudai Matsudo was absolutely no match. 6 runs in the 2nd to demoralize them, and the 6 in the 8th for the finishing blow, and they punch their first ever ticket to Natsu Koushien with authority in a 13-2 win.
Toyama - Toyama Shougyou v. Takaoka Shougyou
Sadly for those of us who loved Toyama Dai-ichi's run last year (the prefecture's deepest in 30 years), they showed some cracks early, and went down in the semifinals to Takaoka Shougyou. And outside of a 2-0 win in their 1st game over Toyama Kougyou, the run looked rather solid.
The same could not be said for Toyama Shougyou. Yes, they had some easy games to start, but then in the quarterfinals against Takaoka, they would go scoreless through regulation before wining in 10. And the semifinals against Fujikoshi Kougyou, they managed to keep them at arms length, but an 8-5 win going into the finals doesn't necessarily portend great things.
And early on, it looked like they would be had. After a couple scoreless, Takaoka Shougyou built a 3-0 lead. But that completely collapsed when Toyama Shougyou scored 6 in the 6th. And just for good measure they added 3 more in the 9th to avoid possible drama, and Toyama Shougyou makes their 1st trip in 10 years with a 9-3 win!
Gifu - Oogaki Nichidai v. Gifu Kougyou
Gifu Kougyou admittedly got some help to reach the finals. No Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou to deal with, and the other main players were on the other half of the bracket.
But they had earned their finals appearance with their performance, soundly defeating those in front of them with the exception of the semifinals where they had to use all 9 innings to defeat Gifu Sougou Gakuen 3-2.
But the prefecture was Oogaki Nichidai's to lose. Despite a narrow 3-0 win over Motoshi Shouyou, they easily manhandled their opponents up until defeating Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou 3-1.
The finals were no match. Oogaki Nichidai claimed their 2nd consecutive title with an 11-2 win.
Kyoto - Kyoto Subaru v. Ryuukokudai Heian
I thought maybe this might be Kyoto Subaru's year. Fukuchiyama Seibi fell, Kyoto Gaidai Nishi too. They almost didn't make the finals after coming back to defeat Katsura 8-7 after falling behind 5-0 after the first inning. A 10-0 win the semifinal over Yamashiro perhaps meant good momentum going into the finals.
But on the other side loomed the senbatsu champs Ryuukokudai Heian...
And let's just say that it wasn't pretty. 2 in the 1st and 3 in the 2nd and the rout was on. When it was all said and done, Heian will have a chance to go haru-natsu with a 10-0 win over Kyoto Subaru. Maybe next year guys...
Wakayama - Chiben Wakayama v. Shiritsu Wakayama
Chiben Wakayama has dominated the prefecture for a long time now. In the last 27 years, they have relinquished the natsu title just 7 times. For all the other schools in the prefecture that's rather frustrating knowing that the road to Koushien goes through them.
So it seemed this year too. Outside of a 4-1 win over Touin, it was double digit runs the rest of the way to the finals.
The team to try and slay the monster this year was Shiritsu Wakayama. They almost didn't even make it out of their first game, giving up a 2-0 lead to Wakayama Tousen before winning in 10. It got easier after that, culminating in a 4-1 over Wakayama Shougyou to reach the finals.
Still, it's not like they were lighting the world on fire, and it was Chiben Wakayama after all.
But in the finals, Shiritsu kept Chiben off the board after giving up a run in the 1st. That kept them in the game until the 7th, where it did indeed prove to be lucky for them. Ooshima would deliver the game-tying RBI and the game would remain tied at 1 into enchousen.
In the 11th, Chiben would take the lead again 2-1, but Shiritsu found a response in PH Abe who hit another clutch single to center.
The unbelievable happened one inning later, when with runners on 1st and 2nd, Setoguchi would drive a ball to left center, scoring the sayonara run giving Shiritsu Wakayama the 3-2 victory!!
Shimane - Taisha v. Kaisei
Taisha has been that model Tier 3 school in Shimane. Always good, never great. This year though was completely different, scoring double digits against all opponents until the semifinals where they trailed Yasugi 4-0 going into the bottom of the 9th. Yasugi's ace Saneshige couldn't close out the gae, and Taisha rallied for 4 in the 9th to tie the game. And in the 10th, Shimizu's base hit would complete the comeback to reach the finals.
Kaisei's road was a bit more rockier, but then again it was a bit more difficult as well. First was a 4-2 win over Risshoudai Shounan. Then down 6-0 to Iwamichisuikan, they scored 11 unanswered runs to advance to the semifinals. And then against unknown Daitou, they were in an old-fashioned brawl where after a scoreless 2 innings there were multiple ties and lead changes and 4 ties, but the decisive blow was a 5-run 6th by Kaisei to take a 10-7 lead. They would hold off a final charge by Taisei in the 9th, but they could only score 2 of the 3 runs needed to extend the game, falling 12-11.
In the final, Taisha would fight their best, but in the end another big inning by Kaisei would do them in. Kaisei wins 9-4 and heads back to Koushien.