1) It is really, really hard to complete the haru-natsu renzoku yuushou (春夏連続優勝).
Yes, it's happened twice in the last 5 years, but that doesn't make it any easier to complete the feat. In both of those cases, the schools had a bonafide ace (Kounan - Shimabukuro Yousuke, Osaka Touin - Fujinami Shintarou), and both had offenses that were less prone to power outages.
Now Ryuukokudai Heian took the model that we saw from Nobeoka Gakuen and Maebashi Ikuei last year and won senbatsu. But to win both, and especially from a urban prefecture such as Kyoto, requires a lot of games to go undefeated in.
And in the case of Heian, they continued to follow the gameplan sending out Motouji. This time though it came with disastrous results. You can throw in the failure of the kantoku to switch pitchers sooner, or the fact that they were not challenged in the prefecturals, but whatever the combination was it equaled an opening day exit.
2) All prefectures are not created equal
That probably goes without saying, but the 16-0 drubbing of Sakaide Shougyou by Tsuruga Kehi puts a huge spotlight on it. Yes, Sakaide Shougyou did win the Kagawa tournament and earned the right to be there, but think about this:
27 of the 47 prefectures have won at least 1 Natsu Koushien title.
That means that 20 have not won even 1 (winning percentages):
- Aomori (0.432)
- Akita (0.364)
- Iwate (0.304)
- Yamagata (0.274)
- Miyagi (0.496)
- Fukushima (0.350)
- Saitama(??!) (0.500)
- Yamanashi (0.437)
- Niigata (0.303)
- Toyama (0.308)
- Ishikawa (0.368)
- Fukui (0.415)
- Shiga (0.397)
- Okayama (0.517)
- Tottori (0.352)
- Shimane (0.337)
- Miyazaki (0.471)
- Nagasaki (0.379)
- Kumamoto (0.509)
- Kagoshima (0.500)
None of the Tohoku prefectures have won even one, while all but 3 from the Kanto/Kinki regions have. Only Nagano has managed to achieve the feat in Hokushinetsu, and 2 of the 5 from Chuugoku.
And those winning percentages? The best one, Okayama at 0.517, is good enough for 19th on the list. And if you're a prefecture such as Niigata, Iwate or Yamagata? Good luck. This despite the fact that Nihon Bunri reached the finals, and there's Hanamaki Higashi out of Iwate. Heck, even half of those 20 haven't even been to the finals, Yamagata has reached the finals just once, and Toyama hasn't even reached the semifinals!
That's the road some of these schools have. So sometimes you just have to celebrate the fact they got there, and perhaps bypass the fact that they got blown out. It sucks sure, but given the above - perhaps you'd be surprised it doesn't happen more often.
3) Old habits may be breaking sooner than I expected
It used to be for so long that certain things were expected in a 高校野球 game. Excessive bunting, the use of one pitcher for the entire tournament, head sliding into 1st, etc.
But last year we started seeing the use of an actual pitching staff, less of the head-sliding for the schools who went deep... and we saw it with Kaisei v. Hanamaki Higashi last year, but the use of shifting may be coming into use.
I say that because in the 6th, lefty Kutsuwada was at bat for Toyama Shougyou. He pokes the ball to the left side, and the SS Nishigaya is way out of position almost at 2nd. What might be a normal out turns into a base hit.
Now I'm all in favor of things like shifts if you've done enough scouting. The difference though is that in Japan, fundamentals are drilled into players. And I think that will allow teams to have a better chance at beating such shifts because they're not as locked in as players in the US. So I think there will be more shifts, but perhaps nothing as pronounced as the Lucas Duda shift where there was no player on the left side of the field... at all.