Monday, November 17, 2014

45th Meiji Jingu Taikai

So, the Meiji Jingu Tournament got itself underway yesterday, and the results were not surprising.

First the brackets (next games are in red, completed games in green, winners in bold):

  • Toukaidai Sugao (Tokyo) v. Shizuoka (Tokai)
  • Urawa Gakuin (Kanto) v. Winner of Ube Koujyou (Chuugoku)-Toukai Dai-yon (Hokkaido)
  • Kyushu Gakuin (Kyushu) v. Winner of Eimei (Shikoku)-Tsuruga Kehi (Hokushinetsu)
  • Sendai Ikuei (Tohoku) v. Tenri (Kinki)
As you can see, all the "weaker" super-regions seemed to draw the short end of the stick, having to play the extra game, meaning their chances of earning their region another bid were dramatically reduced.

The "extra" games were not competitive. Ube Koujyou couldn't keep up at all against Toukai Dai-yon. And while it seemed that Tsuruga Kehi was ready to continue blowing out teams, Eimei actually made a game out of it before a 5-ver in the 6th helped them pull away.

Day 2 at least started with a competitive game as Toukaidai Sugao and Shizuoka traded blows. Neither team looked impressive, but it at least was an interesting game with Koiso for Toukaidai Sugao delivering the timely hit in the bottom of the 8th as they went on to win 7-4.

The second game I was interested in just because Tenri out of seemingly nowhere won the Kinki Super-Regionals - and Sendai Ikuei would be a really tough test right out of the blocks.

Early on, Tenri certainly held their own, despite trailing in the game. But ace Saitou couldn't even make it past 6 innings as he was relieved when he gave up his 3rd run. Reliever Moriura provided no support, giving up 3 runs in less than 2 innings of work. Tenri would fall 6-1.

Yesterday was the final 2 quarterfinal games. Toukai Dai-yon would be getting a tougher test in Urawa Gakuin.

Actually, it wasn't a test at all... It was a massacre.

Urawa Gakuin would just need 6 innings to dispatch Toukai Dai-yon 10-0.

The 2nd game would be another litmus test to see where Tsuruga Kehi actually stands facing Kyushu Gakuin.  Tsuruga Kehi would jump out with a quick run in the 1st, but it would kind of get bogged down for a couple of innings. Hayashinaka with a 2-run double would seem to put them back on track.

#18 Yamazaki, who was charged with the start today, couldn't keep that lead. Timely hits from Hasegawa and Tomoda would spur a 3-run 5th to give Kyushu Gakuin the lead. He would stay in for one more inning - which was one too many as he would give up another 3 runs, effective putting the game away. Tsuruga Kehi would get its pitchers more experience as they would fall 8-3.

That leaves us with the following:
  • Toukaidai Sugao (Tokyo) v. Urawa Gakuin (Kanto)
  • Kyushu Gakuin (Kyushu) v. Sendai Ikuei (Tohoku)
Now, the first semifinal will not eliminate any possible participants who would receive an invite. Kanto/Tokyo has a floating bid, and as long as one of them wins, the floating bid goes to the other region. It's just a problem for them because while it guarantees them a chance in the final, it might have been better if there was a chance that it could have been a lead-pipe cinch.

So, the teams that are most interested in how their teams will fare are:
  • Toukaidai Sugao / Urawa Gakuin (Matsudo Kokusai/Nishogakushadai Fuzoku)
  • Kyushu Gakuin (Higashi-Fukuoka)
  • Sendai Ikuei (Tsuruoka Higashi)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Projected Senbatsu Field

So, I've been boggled down with work and being burned out in general. At this point now though, all super-regionals are complete and the Meiji Jingu Taikai will be underway shortly.

If you've followed my twitter, you've heard crazy things about the prefecturals. Sadly though, in the end, there are a lot of familiar faces that will probably receive that phone call in February.

Hokkaido (1)
  • Toukai Dai-yon
Good for Toukai Dai-yon. I'm generally nowadays not a proponent for private schools, but when it's a school that has not been to Koushien in a while, I'm happy to see that Toukai Dai-yon has carried their success from the fall to the spring. Good luck to you at senbatsu! (Oh wait, Meiji Jingu first!)

Tohoku (2)
  • Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi)
  • Oomagari Kougyou (Akita!)
Well, Sendai Ikuei sure looks scary. Sure, they lost in the regionals to Seiwa Gakuen and qualified through the repechage. And in the prefecturals, they barely got by Sendai Nishi. But my guess is they tried to keep their players unexposed and fresh early. Because outside of those games, and perhaps the prefectual final (where it doesn't matter if they won or lost) they just ran rampant through the field, winning their 4 games in the super-regionals by a combined 39-8...

They're baaaaaaaaack....

Now the other qualifier, the runner-up Oomagari Kougyou will have well earned their invitation. Now, Akita is not a strong prefecture by any means, and going undefeated through the prefecturals is nothing to be excited about. But at least they fought through Kakunodate, Akita Chuo, Akita Shougyou and then finally Noshiro Shouyou to win the prefectruals. Not an easy task in-prefecture.

After a slow start against Matsushima out of Miyagi, they went on to defeat Hanamaki Higashi and then Tsuruoka Higashi to reach the finals where they lost 10-4 to Sendai Ikuei. Those quality wins in the super-regionals should allow them to get that 2nd invite.

Kanto (4 + floating bid w/Tokyo)
  • Urawa Gakuin (Saitama)
  • Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba)
  • Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma)
  • Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki)
  • Matsudo Kokusai (Chiba)
Sadly, while there were a lot of schools that were missing from the super-regionals, there were still quite a few powerhouses still left. And for the most part, they did what they were supposed to do.


Urawa Gakuin perhaps is on their way back. The prefecturals were pretty much cake save for a late rally from Kawagoe Higashi in the finals.

In the super-regionals, they faced Toukou Gakuen (post-Matsui Yuuki of course). Still, they only managed just a 1-0 win.  Their only tough game afterwards was a 10-8 marathon against Kendai Takasaki. It appears to be a weak Kanto region yet again, but if Urawa Gakuin can win in this fashion, who knows.

Kisaradzu Sougou was barely challenged in the Chiba prefecturals (of which Narashino did not survive, dang). They were lucky enough to have drawn the bye, which may have proved crucial as their semifinal game against Jyousou Gakuin they survived 4-3.

The overall resume for Kisaradzu Sougou is not that strong, but having reached the finals it would be impossible to exclude them from an invitation.

I know Kendai Takasaki is yet another private school, but their style of play differs so much from the norm I would like to see it succeed. Their only challenge in the prefecturals was a 7-6 sayonara win against Kiryuu Dai-ichi, and had barely gotten by Meishuu Hitashi (Ibaraki 2) and Matsudo Kokusai (Chiba 2) before losing to Urawa Gakuin.

And finally Jyousou Gakuin should get the last bid, though they had to work for it all the way through. After a clean 2nd round game, they survived 3 close games against Fujishiro, Tsuchiura Kohoku and Meishuu Hitachi to take the top seed from Ibaraki. Then there were 2 more close games against Sano Nichidai (Tochigi 2) and Hiratsuka Gakuen (Kanagawa 1) before falling to Kisaradzu Sougou.

The only other possible school that could receive an invite is Matsudo Kokusai, and they would have to be invited over Jyousou Gakuin. Now, they lost in the quarterfinals to Kendai Takasaki 9-6, but their prefectural resume is much stronger, defeating schools like Senshuudai Matsudo, and Narashino. Still though, I'm not sure it's enough for failing to make the semifinals.

Tokyo (1 + floating bid w/Kanto)
  • Toukaidai Sugao
  • Nishogakushadai Fuzoku

Man, I was happy to see that Soujitsu and Sanko would have to duke it out immediately and that there would be one less superpower left.

And when Soujitsu lost to Hoseidai in the quarterfinals, another was lost.

Teikyou also fell in the quarterfinals, to Toukaidai Sugao. These two schools would play to reach the final.

On the other side, there was a possibility that Nishogakushadai Fuzoku and Kanto Dai-ichi would meet yet again... for the 3rd time in 1 calendar year. Each almost stumbled before then, Nishogakushadai in a 1-0 win over Waseda Gakuin, Kanto Dai-ichi a 5-4 win over Kokushikan in 14 innings!

But nonetheless they did meet in the semifinals. And like every other game they've played, it went down to the wire...

... and then past it.

Because they went into extra innings where Nishogakushadai Fuzoku scored 2 in the 11th and then held on for dear life as they gave back one, but not both runs.

Standing in their way the next day would be Toukaidai Sugao.

Sadly (for me), that extra inning game perhaps took a little out of them. Because ace Ooe, much like Hoseidai ace Komatsu faltered late, giving up 2 runs in the 8th inning. For Komatsu, his team was already behind. But for Ooe, his team was clinging onto a 1-run lead. The easy math means that they were trailing by 1 going into the top of the 9th. And they could not make a last-ditch comeback. So yet again... Nishogakushadai Fuzoku plays the bridesmaid.

This time though, I think they get that floating bid. There is no Yokohama that might perhaps upset their bid, though Matsudo Kokusai might make a case. It would be ironic though if they were passed over this year for a new name, when last year they would have been the new name instead of Yokohama....

Hokushinetsu (1)
  • Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui)
Tsuruga Kehi was merciless the last time we saw them. They were just out to crush the competition - something I hadn't expected from a school in the Hokushinetsu region.

This time around, perhaps they played the game to perfection. In the prefecturals, they guaranteed them a spot by getting to the finals, losing to Fukui Koudai Fukui.

But once they reached the super-regionals, they turned on the switch and outside of giving up 2 runs to Komoro Shougyou (Nagano 3), they crushed Komatsu Ootani, Toyama Dai-ichi and finally Matsushou Gakuen to claim the title. They may be scary yet again.

Tokai (1)
  • Shizuoka
I was surprised to find that Shizuoka's victory was just their 2nd overall. For as much success as they've had in getting to Koushien recently, the fact that they have not won in 50 years?

They were challenged twice in their run to the title. Both times was in the title games. First in the prefecturals versus an unknown Hamamatsu Shuugakusha where they won 13-8, then in the super-regional final 7-6 over Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou.

Unfortunately, their resume otherwise is rather weak, defeating no other big name schools en route to the title. They will certainly be unexposed heading into the Meiji Jingu Taikai.

Kinki (6)
  • Tenri (Nara)
  • Ritsumeikan Uji (Kyoto)
  • Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
  • Naradai Fuzoku (Nara)
  • Osaka Touin (Osaka)
  • Oumi (Shiga)
(Holy crap, what the heck, since when did Tenri ever get back on the powerhouse bandwagon again??!!)


Well, I had gone off the Tenri bandwagon. They had underperformed as one of the supposed duo of Nara (Chiben Gakuen being the other), and disappointed when they did make it to Koushien.

So I guess it would be perfect timing to bail when they do something like this. They were able to defeat both Chiben Gakuen and up-and-comers Naradai Fuzoku (who as you can see qualified themselves).

And then, it's like they summoned the Tenri of old, scoring 6 in the 8th to put away Houtoku Gakuen. They then went and limited Osaka Touin to just 3 runs(!) in a 3-2 win. Bolstered by that, they put away Ryuukokudai Heian 6-1 to take a spot in the finals against Ritsumeikan Uji, where they scored 3 runs in the 1st, and never looked back - winning 8-4 to claim the title.

Of course, this is just the super-regional. The cynicist in me says that they still have time to disappoint come senbatsu.

Since we're in the prefecture, Naradai Fuzoku should get the phone call given they reached the semifinals. The resume is admittedly not strong, having Tenri as their only quality game in the prefectural finals - losing 6-3. And in the super-regionals, they survived a low-scoring game against Toba winning 2-0, and then defeating Minoshima 3-2 - this before losing to Ritsumeikan Uji 4-1. Despite that they shouldn't be passed up as the other quarterfinal losers that I don't expect to get a bid make any strong case.

It was a strange taikai this year, because in the semifinals were just 2 prefectures, and the possibility of a single prefectural final. Nara, as you can see is one.

The other? Kyoto no less.

Ritsumeikan Uji managed to dodge most of the bullets in the Kyoto prefecturals facing just Kita-Saga and Toba before narrowly losing to Ryuukokudai Heian.

Moving onto the super-regionals, they rallied to defeat Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku 11-7 and then soundly defeated Oumi 6-2. You know how the rest of the story goes now.

Finally, the other semifinalist, Ryuukokudai Heian. They got a pass straight to the prefecturals proper with their summer victory. They didn't waste it, blowing through teams like Kyoto Shouei and Kyoto Seishou before edging out Ritsumeikan Uji.

The super-regionals started out good enough with a 7-0 win over Osaka Shoudai Sakai. It was tougher sledding against Kita-Ootsu, rallying from down 4-0 in the 2nd half of the game to win 6-4. There would be no such rally against Tenri, as they fell behind 6-0, losing 6-1.

All 4 schools should get an invite.

The problem is the final 2 schools. Well, maybe just 1.

Osaka Touin will get an invite. If Yokohama can get an invite as a floating bid over Nishogakushadai Fuzoku (who I thought had a stronger resume), Osaka Touin will not be denied.

Not that they aren't deserving. The only close game in the prefecturals was in the semifinals defeating Osaka Shoudai proper 5-1. They started with a 10-0 win in 5 over Hidaka Nakatsu (Wakayama 3) before losing to Tenri 3-2. That narrow loss to the eventual champs will rightly earn them a bid.

So that brings us back to who gets the other bid. The other quarterfinal losers were:
  1. Minoshima (Wakayama) - Quality name, but a narrow win to Tsuna, then a loss to Naradai Fuzoku who didn't really compete with Ritsumeikan Uji? Pass
  2. Kita-Ootsu (Shiga) - Kita-Ootsu was not really challenged in the prefecturals, only losing to Oumi in the finals 3-1. They edged out Wakayama Higashi (Wakayama 3) in the top of the 9th 8-6, and then actually led against Ryuukokudai Heian before letting it slip away late. Heian's sound loss to Tenri does not help their cause.
  3. Oumi (Shiga) - Oumi's road in the prefecturals was brand name wise harder. Hieizan, Hikone Higashi and then Kita-Ootsu in the finals. Super-regionals had a quality win against PL Gakuen, who is making a renaissance of sorts. But they were outmanned versus Ritsumeikan Uji.
Unfortunately for Kita-Ootsu, it would appear that they are competing with their rival school in Oumi. And Oumi appears to have the better resume, and thus gets the final bid.

Chuugoku (2 + floating bid with Shikoku)
  • Ube Koujyou (Yamaguchi)
  • Okayama Ridai Fuzoku (Okayama)
  • Yonago Kita (Tottori)
There was the standard fare in Chuugoku again. But the draw immediately pitted these schools against one another. Hiroshima Shinjyou v. Kanzei? Check. Kouryou v. Okayama Ridai Fuzoku? Yup. Soushi Gakuen v. Shimonoseki Kougyou? Roger. And Yonago Kita vs. Risshoudai Shounan? You betcha.

What's more, once those matchups were done, the winners of the first 2 games have to re-enter the fray. The perhaps unfortunate part for both Kanzei and Okayama Ridai Fuzoku is that with the draw, they had to play each other after winning the first round of the super-regionals. Okayama Ridai Fuzoku clearly had the better of it in the prefecturals, winning 8-2 thanks to a big inning. Kanzei couldn't avoid the same fate, giving up 3 runs in the 2nd. They would fight back, but a run in the 9th wasn't enough as Kanzei would fall again 4-3. After those 2 games, Ube Shougyou in the semis was no problem, cementing a place in the finals, and more importantly an invitation to senbatsu for sure, win or lose.

Ube Koujyou won the Yamaguchi prefecturals, only challenged by Shimonoseki Kougyou where they let a 5-1 lead get away in the top of the 8th, but scrambled to re-take the lead in the bottom half.

Saijyou Nougyou (Hiroshima 2!) couldn't keep up, losing 15-0 in 5 innings. Soushi Gakuen, had the better of Ube Koujyou early, but they bounced back quickly, shutting out Soushi Gakuen afterwards, winning 4-2.Yonago Kita should have been a pushover, especially after they had to endure a 13 inning game against Masuda Higashi. But, Yonago Kita continued to persevere. They gave Ube Koujyou all they could handle, as the pair of Fukumoto and Takahashi yielded just 1 run to the favorites. But sadly for Yonago Kita, the offense could not push through the tying run and thus fell 1-0.

So that setup the final between Ube Kougyou and Okayama Ridai Fuzoku. Okayama Ridai Fuzoku surely would be considered the favorite considering who they played up until then.

But perhaps Ube Koujyou had some of that sticktuitiveness that Yonago Kita showed rub off on them, because they were able to keep Okayama Ridai Fuzoku's offense in check. In fact, despite the fact that ace Uenishi couldn't hold the 1-0 lead, his school never trailed, as he would close out the 11th with a 2-1 win to claim the title.

By the way, Uenishi's full name? 上西 嵐満, or Uenishi Ranma!

Now, I've included Yonago Kita in the discussion for the floating bid. It will be hard to matchup name-wise with Meitoku Gijyuku. But, the resume isn't weak by any means, and Meitoku had the floating bid last year. Meitoku though did not disappoint posting wins against Chiben Wakayama and Kanto Dai-ichi.

Shikoku (2 + floating bid with Chuugoku)
  • Eimei (Kagawa)
  • Imabari Nishi (Ehime)
  • Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
Eimei is a deserved winner. In the quarterfinals, Eimei was almost tripped up by Tier 3 Sanbonmatsu. Still, they survived 8-7. That might have woken them up as they easily dispatched Jinsei Gakuen and Kanonji Chuo to claim the prefectural title.

That momentum continued into the super-regionals. They defeated Naruto and Kochi with back-to-back 7-0 mercy rule games to reach the finals.

Imabari Nishi almost never made it to the super-regional final. Against Imabari Kita in the first game, they needed 13 innings to win 2-1. After a seemingly easier time against Uwajima Higashi, Matsuyama Seiryou and Matsuyama Higashi couldn't mount a challenge.

It appeared they needed another warmup game as they handled Kawashima (Tokushima 2) 4-1. They'd need it because Meitoku Gijyuku loomed large next - even without Kishi, because they have another young ace by the name of Kunimitsu Akito (国光 瑛人) who was already acclimating himself in the position.

Kunimitsu was staked to a 4-0 lead early, but perhaps the stage got to him as Imabari Nishi scored 4 in the 5th to level the game. Nakano would come in relief of Kunimitsu and try to hold the line, but would not be able to as Imabari would take the lead in the 8th as ace Sugiuchi would make it stick, winning 5-4.

Once again, the momentum seemed to continue as Sugiuchi would shut down Eimei as his team would slowly build a 2-0 lead. But it appears that he just ran out of steam late. Eimei would score 5 unanswered runs in the final 2 innings to take the lead and hold on for the 5-3 win.

I do think Meitoku Gijyuku, despite getting the floating bid last year, will probably get it again. Kishi was a solid ace that turned the cameras, and it's possible that Kunimitsu might do the same if the JHBF thinks about it.

Kyushu (4)
  • Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto)
  • Itoman (Okinawa)
  • Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima)
  • Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu (Fukuoka)
  • Higashi-Fukuoka (Fukuoka)
Kyushu Gakuin's victory in the Kyushu super-regionals was not an easy task. Sure, the prefecturals were as their only real close game was a 5-2 win over Chinzei in the quarterfinals. But they still faced Shuugakukan and Kumamoto Kougyou.

Things got slightly easier once they got to the super-regionals, though they had to rally after giving up 5 runs in an inning to Kaisei (Nagasaki). After that, Chubu Shougyou (Okinawa 1) and Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu (Fukuoka 1) were no match as they reached the finals.

Their opponent in the final would be Itoman. Having rolled over the majority of the competition, they seemed to give their players a rest as they lost narrowly to Chubu Shougyou in the prefectural final 3-2.

Their road to the finals were filled with tough competition. They did have a warmup game against Saga Gakuen to start, but after that they surrendered 5 runs late to Meihou (Oita 1) forcing enchousen. They would win in 11 innings 9-6.

Against Kamimura Gakuen in the semifinals they actually relinquished their lead, having to rally to force enchousen and winning 4-3 in 10.

Itoman's late-inning woes would rear its ugly head in the finals, this time with no chance for response. 3 runs in the 8th to tie the game and the sayonara run in the 9th to claim the title.

Kamimura Gakuen will get a bid. Shounan provided some resistance in the 4th round but lost 5-2, and Kagoshima Jyousai reached the finals this time around though they lost 6-2.

Kumamoto Kougyou proved to be no match, but they needed 4 runs in the final 2 innings to force enchousen against Higashi-Fukuoka, winning 6-5 in 11.

The only question will be the last bid. Yes, Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu did reach the quarterfinals, and they did win their prefecture. But the blowout loss against Kyushu Gakuin is not promising. However, their biggest competition for the bid would be Higashi-Fukuoka - the runner-up in the prefectuals to Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu. The resume isn't that much better, and as a result may not be enough to promote themselves to the final bid.