To carry my thoughts on the final to my final thoughts on this Koushien...
I for one was happy so many powerhouses were left out of Koushien this year. If I had my way, Komatsu Ootani and Sekine Gakuen would have been here instead of Seiryou and Nihon Bunri respectively. I root for the underdog whenever I can because I think 甲子園 should not be reserved for the top schools who can recruit and bring in talent. There is so much being made about that there are 3917 schools that compete for the right to get to Koushien every spring and summer.
But realistically, only a fraction of those realistically has a chance. Maybe around 200-300, or about 2.5% of the schools realistically have a chance at just getting to Koushien. Once you get here, the chances of winning it are even slimmer - remember, just by location alone, 20 prefectures have not yet even won 1 Natsu Koushien title.
And so if you're talented ballplayer, what do you think when you live in say Tottori, where no one has won a title, and you aspire to win one?
Of course, you go to a school that has a track record of winning titles - and an already weakened prefecture gets even more so.
You want an immediate example? Ace Fukushima, 3B Katsuki and LF Nakamura all hail from... Fukuoka - where the last title won from there was back in 1992 with Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku.
And so the stronger get stronger, and the rest, well... who cares because they're not winners.
It's why I now almost despise the powerhouses with a passion. Their brand name carries them so far, from recruiting all the way to in-game play where the no-names have to fight the constant whipping they receive just to have a chance. And even then, like in the case of Komatsu Ootani and Sekine Gakuen this year and like Kakunodate and Kasumigaura last year, getting the final 3 outs is mentally more tough than anything out there.
And yet, it's Seiryou that's lauded for their comeback because they're Seiryou and they showed their power when I argue that no, it's poor Komatsu Ootani who couldn't overcome the victim mentality when things started to go wrong.
I think my best comparison is saying the powerhouse schools are say the Big 5 conferences in college football, and the rest of the schools are the other Division 1 schools. Yes, they're there, but no, they're rarely if ever going to be considered for the title.
Think about this. With Osaka Touin's win today, they have won 3 of the last 7 Natsu Koushien titles.
Okay, but one could argue to me.. "Well you rooted for Komadai Tomakomai in 2006 and they were going to their 3rd straight Natsu title? What about that?"
Well, for one, they're from Hokkaido - and until they won back in 2004, no team had won from Hokkaido. So I wanted them to make the most of their run while they had it. You can see that they went to Koushien one more year, but after that has faded into almost anonymity.
"And what about rooting for Kouryou back in 2007?"
That's a fair question. And my answer is it was during that time that I still had not seen 高校野球 the way I do now. And I rooted for Kouryou because they seemed like a strong team that deserved to win.
Of course, while I still like Kouryou, if I were to go back to 2007 knowing what I know now, I probably would root for Saga Kita.
And that's why this year I was happy to see the non-powerhouses have their day. Kasukabe Kyouei defeating Ryuukokudai Heian right off the bat, Toyama Shougyou, Mie, Jyouhoku, Moriokadai Fuzoku amongst others. It was fun to see their fanbases be able to cheer for a victory as opposed to just being there.
But in the end Osaka Touin won - and I can understand it because of the dynamic that exists today. But the pessimist in me sees that one tactic in the 7th as something that made the win unbearable - because since they were losing - to Mie no less, they would resort to things like that to gain an advantage and "rightly" claim the title.
In America - I wouldn't doubt it at all. In Japan, in 高校野球, I would have said in the past "Never.". But now I can't discount the possibility, and that is what saddens me and puts a even bigger shadow on something that I liked so much.