Friday, July 15, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Blitzkrieg through the country (Kyushu)

A majority of the prefectures kicked off play this last weekend. There's a lot to go through, so we're going to blitz through all of them to let you know where the major players are, or in some cases aren't. Unless otherwise stated by the prefecture themselves, I will refer to quadrants by number going top-down from left to right (Upper left = 1, lower left = 2, etc.)

Okinawa - Best 4
It was already weird enough to see almost all of the major players gone already. But after the quarterfinals, we have a completely different landscape.

In Koza, Naha Nishi (who already had to come back in the round of 16 from down 3-0 to Ginowan) and Maehara were deadlocked at 0 through regulation. Both teams traded a run in the 10 before Naha Nishi got the eventual winning run across in the 12th for a 2-1 win. Their semifinal opponent will be Kadena, who came back in the 9th to defeat Kounan 2-1 in the round of 16, then outlasted Yaeyama Shoukou in 11 innings by the same score.

On the other half, Oroku is taking full advantage of their rain-shortened win over Urasoe Shougyou, mercy-ruling Naha Shougyou 11-4 in 7 to punch a ticket to the semifinals. Their opponent will be Misato Kougyou, who was in a dogfight with Ginoza in the latter half of the game, but scored 3 runs in the top of the 9th and held on for the 7-6 win.

Now, if these names don't sound all that familiar, don't worry - you're not imagining things. Here are all their prior appearances:
  • Kadena - 1 spring (2010)
  • Naha Nishi - None
  • Misato Kougyou - 1 spring (2014)
  • Oroku - None
Someone will be getting their first Natsu Koushien appearance!

Kagoshima - 2nd round (delayed)
Kagoshima would like to get their tournament going, but mother nature is having none of it. They have been able to get only 1 days' worth of games in since the 7th.

Kumamoto - 1st round (delayed)
Opening day was rather uneventful, save for the fact that former Koushien participant Seiseikou had to take the field against Kumamoto Gakuendai Fuzoku. They won in their normal, low-scoring fashion 3-1. Much like Kagoshima, they've only had 1 days' worth of games since opening day.

As for the bracket itself, it seems the seeded teams do not slot into a predetermined slot in the bracket, but instead slot into a quadrant, and then one half of that, still guaranteeing that none play each other before the best 8. Notable teams in each "block" are as follows (seeded teams in italics)
  • "A1" Block - Shuugakukan, Ariake, Seiseikou, Kumamoto Kougyou
  • "A2" Block - Buntoku, Jyouhoku
  • "B1" Block - Toukaidai Seishou, Chiharadai, Senshuudai Tamana
  • "B2" Block - Kyushu Gakuin, Hitsuyuukan
Miyazaki - 1st round (delayed)
Different prefecture, same story. Miyazaki hasn't been able to get 2 full days' worth of games in. This after they were unable to play any games the first 2 days having been washed out.

The brackets though heavily favor Nichinan Gakuen, who draws into the "A" Block and has little apparent competition with Hyuuga Gakuin their fellow seeded team and Miyazaki Kougyou and Houshou the seeded teams in "B" Block.

"C" Block is certainly the quadrant of death, as seeded Miyakonojyou has to deal with Nobeoka Gakuen and Miyazaki Nichidai. And in "D" Block, St. Ursula has a chance to reach the best 4 if it can take it, though perhaps Nisshou Gakuen has a bit of revenge on their minds having been eliminated by St. Ursula last year.

Oita - 2nd round (in progress)
Oita has been a bit luckier, maybe because they're a bit more protected than the other Kyushu prefectures but they've only been rained out 2.5 days so far. Only.

As a result of the delays, not all the seeded teams have taken the field (they do seeding in groups, 1/2, 3/4, 5-8):

  • Quadrant 1 = Tsurusaki Kougyou (1/2), Touin (5-8)
  • Quadrant 2 = Meihou (3/4), Saeki Kakujyou (5-8)
  • Quadrant 3 = Usuki (1/2), Oita Jyouhou Kagaku (5-8)
  • Quadrant 4 = Oita (3/4), Oita Kougyou (5-8)
If Meihou can do their job (and they defeated Oita Shougyou 5-3 yesterday), they should have a clear path to the finals. This while Oita and Oita Kougyou would have to play in the quarterfinals.

Nagasaki - 2nd round (just underway)
Nagasaki's had rainouts, but they've been able to get caught up with Kaisei and Hasami playing yesterday and both advancing:
  • Quadrant A = Kaisei, Souseikan (Nagasaki just denotes seeded teams vs non-seeded)
  • Quadrant B = Oomura Kougyou, Nagasaki Nichidai
  • Quadrant C = Nagasaki Soudai Fuzoku, Seihou
  • Quadrant D = Hasami, Nagaski Shougyou
There aren't enough good teams to make all quadrants fair, so for Kaisei and Souseikan it's bad luck. I'm really hoping Seihou can make a good showing, but we'll see.

Saga - 2nd round (in progress)
Saga just has 41 teams, so while they have had rainouts, they probably aren't as hard pressed for time as others.
  • Quadrant A = Saga Shougyou (Saga just denotes seeded teams)
  • Quadrant B = Kashima Jitsugyou
  • Quadrant C = Ryuukoku
  • Quadrant D = Kanzaki Seimei
Saga Shougyou got the short end of the stick (and so did the following teams), because Saga Gakuen and Saga Kita are both in the same quadrant. Oy.

Kashima Jitsugyou has Imari Nourin, but that's about it. They should be more concerned who they face in the semifinals (as long as they do their job).

Ryuukoku may be in jeopardy early as their 2nd game could be against Waseda Saga, who has done nothing but rise up the ranks quickly in the prefecture since their inception (2010!). They aren't seeded, but that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. If Waseda Saga is as good as last year, Ryuukoku and Kanzaki Seimei are the only obstacles to the finals.

Fukuoka - 2nd round (in progress)
First, Fukuoka's labeling of blocks are in Japanese reading order (starting from upper right, going down, then to the left side). In addition, there are 8 of them and broken up to Kita/北 (North) and Minami/南 (South) sections.
  • Block A - Kokura (北), Oki Gakuen (南)
  • Block B - Tokiwa (北), Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu (南)
  • Block C - Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku (北), Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku (南)
  • Block D - Jiyuugaoka (北), Kurume Shougyou (南)
  • Block E - Iidzuka (北), Fukuokadai Oohori (南)
  • Block F - Kibougaoka (北), Yuusei (南)
  • Block G - Touchiku (北), Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou (南)
  • Block H - Moji Gakuen (北), Kyushu Sangyoudai Fuzoku (南)
Fukuoka is always volatile as there aren't really any single dominating teams in prefecture, so all the upper level teams are usually beating each other to the top (for some reason I'm thinking the game Catherine). This while Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu doesn't get an easy draw, but Kokura and their next round opponent Yanagawa is certainly more favorable. Oki Gakuen has already been ousted by Chikuzen.

Iidzuka gets the biggest break as all 3 other seeded teams in their quadrant are not world beaters and there are no obvious land mines to surprise them either. And in the final quadrant, all 4 teams could be considered Tier 2 or Tier 3 schools, so it's not a group of death, but it's not going to be easy either.

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