Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 9 Recap

Well, I'm finally getting around to posting the rest of the tournament.  It's been 2 months since, but I do remember some things.  If you're wondering about the fall tournament, I'll give an overview eventually as well, but I think I would do a better service to focus more on players to watch than tournament brackets.  As much as I would like to provide complete coverage - it takes up too much of my time and in reality it's more about the star players or the magical teams.

I have to admit, by this time of the tournament my body was starting to fatigue under the lack of sleep and hot weather.  There were times when I was nodding off because I couldn't physically stay awake.

Day 9 was a short 3 game day, which allowed me to at least catch up a little.

First up was Eimei vs. Noshiro Shougyou.  While neither team were favored to win the tournament, Eimei had finally broken through to get to Koushien, which I was happy about, although they defeated Itoman - which I was conflicted about.  While Noshiro Shougyou had also gotten their first win against a decent Kamimura Gakuen team.

I think I've said it before, when it comes to games between teams of prefectures not generally considered contenders, it's usually either a blowout, or a low scoring game.

Bottom 1, Eimei immediately had a chance.  But a lot of self-inflicted wounds cost them as leadoff batter Nishioka drew a walk, failed to get moved over to 2nd on a bunt, advanced to 2nd on a hit on a single by Watanabe, then after a pickoff error advancing the runners got run down on a failed squeeze by cleanup batter Nakauchi.

The advantage seemed to stay with Eimei despite that when #9 batter Hashimoto got a leadoff single in the 3rd.  But Nishioka's scorched comebacker was snagged by Hosaka who started the 1-6-3 double play.  Undeterred, Iguchi hit one back up the middle that Hosaka couldn't get, and Watanabe seemed to continue the rally with a single up to left center, but Iguchi tried to stretch it out to 3rd and got gunned down by CF Yoshino.

But after that it was Noshiro Shougyou.  Back-to-back hits by Yamada Katsuki and Ogawa scored the first run, and added one more in the 6th when an leadoff error scored thanks to a hard hit ball off 1B Kamon.

Eimei had one last opportunity in the 6th, but again the team couldn't execute, failing to lay down a bunt, and failing to score the runners from 2nd and 3rd with just 1 down.  Noshiro Shougyou wins 2-0.

Next up was Shirakaba Gakuen versus Chiben Wakayama.  I remembered Shirakaba Gakuen from 2006 when I was there last, though I think their uniforms were different.  To be honest, with Hokkaido falling back down the baseball ladder, as it were, I expected this to be all Chiben.  Yes, they have a weakness in that their pitching is not as strong, but that doesn't usually show up until later rounds.

I was surprised then when leadoff batter Satou hit a triple to the RCF wall on the 2nd pitch of the game.  That opportunity though was wasted when the next two batters couldn't get the ball past the outfield and Omote struck out looking after a walk to cleanup batter Okada.

Things seemed to be all right in the world after ace Kobayashi walked two of the first 3 batters, who then later scored when Michibata hit the first pitch from reliever Kawagoe.

Though Shirakaba would get a run back on an uncharacteristic error by the Chiben defense, Chiben would extend the lead to 4 runs after 6 innings.

Then things, much like this entire tournament, went nuts.

After giving up a one out walk to last batter Nakamura, and a single to Satou, Uenoyama yielded to Furuta, who hit Ohara, loading the bases.

Next think I know, Kobayashi hits the first pitch down the left field line for a game-tying manrui home run!

And my jaw hits the floor.

Yet, Takashima-kantoku keeps Furuta in the game, and in the 8th, first batter Sasaki gets into a ball and sends it up the LF bleachers, giving Shirakaba Gakuen a shocking 6-5 lead with just 2 innings left to play!  Takashima-kantoku finally sends in ace number Aoki.  who was shaky himself, but manages to get out of the inning.

The only thing is, when underdogs are leading against established teams, there is always the propensity for teams to realize the gravity of the moment and struggle to close the game.

I had such a feeling and when Moriya's throw on a Kawasaki's grounder was off, the opportunity presented itself.  Nakamura, a defensive replacement in the 7th, took the 1st pitch to left center field and all the way to the wall, scoring Kawasaki and tying the game.

Into extras we went, and Moriya would get a one-out double.  Satou hits a blooper to center, and despite Kawasaki being closer to the ball, Nakamura comes running in trying to make the catch, but can't giving Shirakaba the lead!

But I've learned never to count Chiben Wakayama out, and they immediately went to work in the bottom of the 10th.

Nakamura opened with a single to center.  After a popup to short by cleanup hitter Michibata, Miyakawa doubled down the left field line tying the game up.

After an intentional pass to Hiraoka to create a double play opportunity it felt like Shirakaba was trying to survive now.

And when Ogasawara laid down the bunt, Omote's throw to 1st is low and gets away from Okada, allowing Miyakawa to score the sayonara run.

It's certainly painful to see a team fight hard not once, but twice only to lose, but Shirakaba didn't give up and I hoped then and still do that Hokkaido will rise up the ranks again.

Last up was the blockbuster with Kaisei's towering duo of Shirane and Mori versus the juggernaut that was Nichidai-san.  I expected a pitching duel.

Instead, I got an offensive explosion.

And in the beginning, it was all Nichidai-san.  Shirane did not look good on the mound right from the get-go and Sanko took advantage, sending their entire lineup to the plate in the 1st inning, scoring 3 and immediately putting the Shimane representatives in a hole.  And when back-to-back doubles by Takayama and Suganuma both came in to score in the 3rd making the deficit 5, I figured it would be all but over.

I apparently figured wrong.

5th inning now, and Kurosaki reaches on an error by Suganuma.  Innocent enough as Oohata singles to left, and Akikuni bunts the runners along.  At this point, they hope to get a one-shot timely from their big bat Shirane.

Instead he hits a soft liner to center, scoring both runs and making it 5-2, which was still fairly comfortable.

That was until Mori drove a pitch from Yoshinaga to deep center for a 2-run home run!  Now it was just a 1-run affair and we had a ballgame!

Now, by this time I had figured that the main key to defeating Sanko was to let Yoshinaga hang himself.  What I meant was that as good as he was, he had his moments when he lost his control.  Yet no other team had realized it to try and take walks when he was offering them.

Move onto the 6th and Kanayama draws a leadoff walk.  Yasuhara pops a safety bunt and lands in behind the defense for a base hit!

I'm also always one to call for the bust-and-run because most teams are expecting bunt.  And Yasuda must've been thinking the same thing!  He slaps one hard to LCF!  Azegami dives, but can't get to it!  It goes all the way to the wall as Kanayama and Yasuhara score!

But then they wave Yasuda home!  The relay from Yokoo nails him at the plate!  With no down, I didn't know about that decision.

Regardless, Kaisei erased a 5-run deficit and now held a 6-5 lead!  Here was the game I was looking for!

And then the bottom of the 6th came...

Mori, who had come in for Shirane in the 3rd, suddenly fell apart. After a leadoff single to Shimizu, Yasuda flubs a bunt from Kaneko.  Mori then walked Azegami to load the bases, and Yokoo would single back up the middle, giving Sanko the lead right back.  Eventually 12 batters would come to the plate, scoring 6 runs and placing Kaisei back in the 5-run hole they dug themselves out of.

You might be able to manage one comeback against Sanko, but 2 is almost impossible.

Yet in the 8th, there was hope.  3 consecutive hits leading off the inning from their 7-8-9 batters made it a 11-8 game.  And when Akikuni singled through the left side, putting runners at the corners with just one down, you had the feeling that Shirane or Mori would be able to tie the game, or at least pull within 1.

While I didn't have a good view of the pitch sequence to Shirane, I would have had them be patient at the plate as I would be certain that Yoshinaga would try to pitch around the duo as much as possible.

Shirane though got himself in defensive mode after reaching a 2-2 count and going down swinging.  Akikuni took the opportunity to take 2nd on the K putting both runners in scoring position.

2 down and Mori was up, but with 1st base open.  Certainly at this point Yoshinaga would pitch around him.  Instead, Mori tried to attack the pitches thrown when it was obvious that Yoshinaga was indeed giving him nothing to hit.  Mori grounds out to short, and that was that.  Unable to pull within a reasonable amount, the game was all but over for Kaisei.

Indeed they fell 11-8.

Now perhaps Mori rightly assumed that if he was walked, their chances of scoring would be diminished.  But down 3 with 4 outs remaining in the game, you have to keep the inning going at all costs, no matter what.  Even if it means you hand the baton off to someone else.

Nonetheless, Sanko survives the scare from Kaisei and moves on, one step closer to the title.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm sure anyone who's been following the tournament by now...

...knows that Sanko (aka Nichidai-san) won the 93rd Natsu Koushien outright against Kousei Gakuin. As expected, the Kousei batters did not let Yoshinaga get himself into trouble and thus had a relatively easy final.

I got a beer in the 8th, talked to the girl and told her this one was to "celebrate" their victory though I don't particularly like them for the reasons I stated earlier. She replied it was still the 8th, I said to be realistic and that down 9 runs it's not going to happen.

Oh, and how is it that the beer in Japan doesn't totally make me red in the face as much as it does in the states? I generally hate beer, but getting it here isn't bad. And no, it's not because the girls make the experience better (though they do). Oh to be young again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 8 Recap

Day 8 started off great for me as I was able to sit in the Narashino oen-dan again before retreating to the shade of the infield.

Game 1- Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi) vs. Narashino (Chiba)

So the game was pretty much all Narashino from start to finish. They scored 3 in the first, 2 in the 2nd and never looked back. Oono was on the mound today for Narashino and was dominant outside of a homerun he gave up to Kitagawa in the 4th.

About the only downside to the game was that there were 4 hit batters - the #3 and #4 batters Fujii and Minagawa, last batter Koyama, and pitcher Oono.

I know there's little retaliation in Japan baseball, though if you watched Mr. Baseball you'd think otherwise. But that's an odd bunch to hit.

Game 2 - Hachiman Shougyou (Shiga) vs. Teikyou (Higashi Tokyo)

The problem with leaving the alps section was that I needed to buy a ticket to get back in (they sell tickets based on sections, not individual seats).

Problem was, it was Obon and when I walked out there were lines everywhere. If I had ANY hope of getting back it I had to hop into the shortest line, which was the 3rd base alps.

By the time I had gotten back into the stadium, the game was entering the 4th inning. It was hot and miserable outside (as with every single day - when did it stop raining in Japan?) so about the top of the 7th inning I had to retreat into the concourse.

But what struck me about the game was that Itou wasn't starting for them for some reason. I can't read minds nor have I done any research since the game to figure out why this wasn't the case.

I did say before that Teikyou will never win Koushien until they get a true ace, and I didn't think Itou qualified, but he certainly seemed like their best option.Now that's not to say it was a bad decision per se, after all through 8 innings starter Watanabe had just given up 2 hits.

But as I watched on the monitors and heard the crowd outside, I saw with one down the next 3 batters for Hachiman reach base.

And then when Matsumoto bobbled that ball which brought in a run, well I though it was intersesting sure, but still down 2 and needing a base hit it didn't seem likely.

By this time many of the younger kids had run outside. I was a little lightheaded still so I watched on TV the amazement of Endou's ball just clearing the right field fence. Right field! Hitting a HR there is almost like hitting one to LF at Safeco, it rarely ever happens!

But more importantly, it was a manrui homerun that gave Hasshou the 5-3 lead!

Masano would come in to relieve Watanabe, but not before the big damage had been done. Instead of winning the game by 2, they were now trailing by 2 with just 3 outs left to go!

And I watched in amazement as the Teikyou batters went fairly quietly in the bottom of the 9th
as Hachiman Shougyou pulled off the upset!

So first it was Kyukoku, now Teikyou. Who would be next?

Game 3 - Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) vs. Karatsu Shougyou (Saga)

Looking at this game, did I think Karatsu Shougyou have a chance to win it all? Not especially, and when you think about Kitakata Yuujyou's control, it seems like they may have little at all.

But I did think they stood a better chance than Sakushin Gakuin. In most cases, a pitcher's control issues will usually fail them a little later (though in Teikyou's case it was much earlier).

And early on in the game, it was Karatsu Shougyou who was leading the way with a run inthe 1st and another in the 3rd.
Sakushin would finally get a run thanks to a wild pitch on a strikeout no less.

And then one inning later, a hit batsmen combined with a relay throw error by Matsumoto led to the tying and the gyakuten run in the 5th! This while ace Ootani was shutting down the Karatsu offense.

With time running down, Karatsu did start creating scoring opportunities. The 7th they had the tying run in scoring position with 2 outs, then in the 8th with just one, and in the 9th with none! But in every single case, both Ootani and reliever Iino would shut down the threat meaning that Sakushin Gakuin advances to take on to face the aforementioned Hachiman Shougyou.

Game 4 - Jyosuikan (Hiroshima) vs. Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara (Osaka)

Each of the teams playing here defeated an opponet who has pulled off an upset in their prefectural taikais. Jyosuikan in Seki Shoukou (Oogaki Nichidai) and Shigakukan (Aikoudai Meiden) for Higashi-Osakadai.

Again, I went and favored the team that had the experience, which would be Jyosuikan.

As the game started though, it was a lot closer. Jyousuikan had the early opportunity in the 1st, but it was Kashiwara who scored the first run on a double by Matsunami in the bottom of the 2nd. An RBI triple by Kanao though the very next inning tied it right back up again.

Once again, in the 5th Kashiwara would retake the lead on a double by Matsumoto Taiki.

And with the score still at 2-1, things would start to get really weird in the 7th.

With 2 down for Jyosuikan, Kanao gets hit, Shimazaki doubles, and then Tanaka walks to load the bases.

Kimura then hits a groundball right to 2B Nakagawa...

...except it goes right through the wickets! 2 runs come in to score on the error and now Jyosuikan leads 3-2. Add in one more when Yasuhara singles and it's a 2-run lead! Kashiwara's own Shirane comes in to record the final out, but Jyosuikan might be finally hitting it's stride.

Bottom 7 now and the top of the order is due up for Kashiwara. Izumi comes in to PH for Mochidzuki and promptly singles to center. After a bunt and another single, there's runners at the corners for Ishikawa.

Ishikawa hits a grounder to 3rd. Higuchi's throw causes a collision between 1B Kanao and Ishikawa. Izumi scores on the error, but unbenounced to Kanao, Taiki had been running from 1st the whole time and was heading home! By the time Kanao realized this it was too late and it was a tie ball game!

But though it was a tie game, the pressure was on Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara. Jyosuikan was putting undo pressure on Shirane. If Kashiwara was going to win this, they'd have to do it in regulation. And they had that chance in the 9th. 2 outs, runner on 1st, Ishikawa singles then Nishida gets an infield single when no one was covering 1st. The winning run 90 feet away, Yamazaki stands in to get the run home. But he strikes out looking to end the inning.

And by this time it was too late. Jyosuikan would put 3 on the board in the 10th and that was all she wrote for the newcomers.

Before I work on more recaps...

...I will never, ever, EVER, root for Nichidai-san. They are officially my arch-nemesis. And I don't particularly want to talk about the game even though Narashino deserved to lose that game.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 7 Recap

Yeah, the lack of sleep really got to me. I wound up oversleeping on Day 7 and arriving at Koushien late. By the time I had gotten there, the first two innings of the first game had completed.

Game 1 - Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri (Nagano) vs. Meihou (Oita)
Well, to say that Meihou would have been a favorite in this game probably would have been right, but then again a lot of Meihou's success before was with Imamiya, and of course he's not there anymore, so it's really up to the next group to pick up the flag as it were. And if nothing else, they did get back here.

And after quickly settling in, it was apparent that Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri was struggling on offense, while Meihou was putting pressure on ace Sagamihara.

The flood gates finally opened in the 6th. After back-to-back triples, Satou is called out on strikes. However, C Furuya goes to the home plate umpire and has the K recalled back as a foul ball. Mind you, this was on a 3-2 count. With new life, he actually earns a walk and continues what would be a 6-run inning.

Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri made a late run and actually cut the deficit in half, but Okamoto who had come in to relieve Takao closed the job.

Game 2 - Tsuruoka Higashi (Yamagata) vs. Chiben Gakuen (Nara)
So Chiben Gakuen should have just been defaulted in as the Nara representative when Tenri withdrew. It's almost like clockwork how those two teams qualify.

But if there's one thing I've learned, it's that generally without competition it's hard to take the team to the next level.

While Nara has 2 teams, Yamagata is a bit jumbled with several teams that are above the prefectural average, but no one that really stands out.

Neither team really gained any traction in the game until the 4th when the first 3 batters for Chiben Gakuen reached safely eventually resulting in 2 runs. Tsuruoka came back and manufactured a run in the 5th but never really challenged with any scoring chances thereafter. Chiben Gakuen wins rather pedestrianly 2-1.

Game 3 - Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma) vs. Yokohama (Kanagawa)
So Takasaki Kenkoudai's day of reckoning with Yokohama finally came. As much as I was down on Yokohama, I didn't think this would be the game they would trip up in.

And after quickly building a 5-0 lead, it seemed like it was all by the book.

Then in the post-break inning for Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukuishi, the unthinkable started happening.

Yanagi who had given up some hits here and there, started giving them up in bunches. Outside of a sac bunt, 5 batters reached safely with a double from Uno making it 5-3 that would knock him out. Souma was one out away from getting out of the jam when top batter Koike tripled to right tying the game at 5!

I mean, I knew Yokohama was beatable, but not like this!

Worse yet, Yokohama's offense had stalled against ace Katagai! Now all Takasaki had to do was to score a run and the upset may be theirs!

The problem was they couldn't get anything going either.

So the game went into enchousen where Nagasaka had a 2-out single and stole 2nd. Uno put a ball through the left side, but when Nagasaka was rounding for home, it was obvious that he'd be out. I think it was a matter of desperation as they need a run soon because I don't think they could have lasted much longer.

And sure enough in the bottom of the 10th, the game ended when Takasaki singled in Date.

Game 4 - Kanazawa (Ishikawa) vs. Seikou Gakuin (Aomori)
If there was one thing that I could tell about Kanazawa is that ace Kamata had learned to dial it down a bit to gain control.

And it was showing against Seikou Gakuin. He was limiting the offense quite a bit but still gave up the opening run.

That lasted for 2 inning when errors by Seikou Gakuin led to Kanazawa taking the lead 2-1. They extended the lead to 3 thanks to some errors and the lead seemed to be dormy.

Seikou Gakuin though started making some runs when they manufactured one in the 8th to cut the lead to 2, and then in the 9th worked the bases loaded with 2 outs. However Nakamura would not be able to get the timely hit and Kaanzawa would advance.

Day 6 Recap

Day 6
Day 6 is where I think my body started to hit a wall. I hadn't been getting much sleep each night (about 4-5 hours) and the extra walking plus being outside took it's toll to the point that (a) I got sick partially thanks to the A/C, and (b) I started nodding off at games.

Game 1 - Kaisei (Nagasaki) vs. Touyoudai Himeji (Hyogo)
So the other Kaisei got to play today against no pushover in Touyoudai Himeji. Last time ther were at Koushien was when I was there last.

They actually did keep up with them for 3 innings before giving up their first run, but their offense never really did get started and as a result went down quietly 4-0. If not for the 3-run HR given up in the 8th it would probably more reflect thier performance as ace Makise and reliever Nagae (who had to come in because of an injury in the 4th) held the Himeji offense in check.

Game 2 - Kousei Gakuin (Aomori) vs. Senshuudai Tamana (Kumamoto)
I was actually excited to see Senshuudai Tamana. It seemed like there were competing year after year, but never making it. So to seem them here was great.

And then the game started...

It was innocent at first, with both teams being held scoreless. But then in the 3rd, after the first 3 peopel reach, Ameku singled to right, then Kawakami hit a grand slam homerun and the game was blown wide open. The final damage would be 16-1 in favor of Kousei.

Game 3 - Fujishiro (Ibaraki) vs. Tokushima Shougyou (Tokushima)
Fujishiro was one of those "cardiac kid" teams that won their bid by coming back to beat Kasumigaura 6-5. They drew Tokushima Shougyou who isn't a bad team for being where they're from.

In the game itself, it was Fujishiro who opened the scoring with a run in the first. And perhaps I thought that there was more to this team. However Tokusho was able to string some hits together for a pair of runs in the 4th, and add another in the 5th to give them a 3-1 lead. Tatsuta did the rest, giving up just 1 run on 4 hits for the win.

Game 4 - Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Fukuoka) vs. Kanzei (Okayama)
As much as I irrationally like Kanzei, I am a realist for the most part and I realized that drawing Kyukoku was probably one of the worst 1st round draws to have.

Early on though, while Miyoshi was having little problem with the Kanzei batters, Kanzei ace Mizuhara was actually standing up well to the Kyukoku hitters.

But when Mizuhara walked in a run in the 4th I thought this was where Kanzei was going to break down.

On the contrary, in the bottom half cleanup batter Watanabe hits a ball deep to left and to my surprise leaves the yard for a solo shot tying the game at 1!

Even more surprising was that as I checked my scorebook in the 8th I had to do a double take. Not only had Mizuhra held his own, he had limited Kyukoku to just 4 hits! 4!!

And when an error leads to a run for Kanzei in the bottom of the 8th I thought to myself, "Surely I can't be seeing what I'm seeing, right?"

Well going to top 9 and the last 3 outs for Kyukoku, they had their 3-4-5 batters coming up.

And naturally Miyoshi hits a ball that deflects off a diving 3B for a double.

"It's never easy with Kanzei", I said to myself.

And after a K, Ryuu lines a double to right and just like that we were tied back up at 2. Mizuhara would shut it down from there, but into enchousen we would go.

Looking at the scorebook, I noticed that not only did Kanzei was the home team, but that they had their middle of the lineup coming first before Kyukoku.

But after Mizuhara sits down the 8-9-1 batters with little trouble and a nice play from the defense, Kanzei too would go down in order as their 3-4-5 batters were retired in relatively quick succession.

So while the game continued, the advanage at this point was back in Kyukoku"s favor.

But once again, Mizuhara works the count a bit high, but gets the job done.

Kanzei in the bottom half of the 11th gave themselves their own sayonara opportuniy with a 1-out double by Mizuhara himself. After Seki Takanori K's it'd be down to #9 batter Fujii.

And he singles to right! Mizuhara is being waved in but...

Well, let's just say they were a little too ambitious... and we went to the 12th.

There Mizuhara continued to dominated the Kyukoku offense to my surprise while opportunites abounded for Kanzei.

Bottom 12, leadoff walk to Ogura. Successfully sacrificed over, he advances to 3rd on a wild patch on ball 4 to Satou.

So the sayonara run is 90 feet away with cleanup batter Watanabe up.

He hits a hard ball to the right side where Hirabaru takes it and fires home...

but Ogura is called safe! Kanzei wins! Kanzei wins!

KANZEI WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Needless to say I was shocked, along with the majority of people at the stadium (except for the homers from Okayama of course).

So one of the favorites went down, and to one of my irrational favorites to boot.

And it wouldn't be the last one.

Small jump ahead

So just do I don' fall completely behind, I'm going to quickly go over the Best 8 matchups:

Day 12, Game 1 - Touyoudai Himeji (Hyogo) vs. Kousei Gakuin (Aomori)
So these two teams probably came out of the weakest brackets in the field. With no Ryuukokudai Heian to challenge them, Himeji cleared the 4-team bracket, though Shin-Minato gave them fits for 8 innings.

Kousei Gakuin did struggle with Tokushima Shougyou who is an upper mid-range team.

Neither team really stood out to me in any way, though if I were to pick a winner I may go with Kousei Gakuin.

Day 12, Game 2 - Jyosuikan (Hiroshima) vs. Kanzei (Okayama)
Um, even though I irrationally root for Kanzei, can I raise my hand and say I never saw this coming?

First defeating Kyukoku, one of the favorites to win it all, then Meihou who isn't quite the same without Imamiya.

Jyosuikan basically outlasted all three of their opponents, which in a close game as this one may very well be, it could be to their advantage. The only thing is, it's arguable now that Kanzei is none of those teams.

I'd like Kanzei to win, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Day 13, Game 1 - Chiben Gakuen (Nara) vs. Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi)
Yokohama was supposed to win Chiben Gakuen's bracket, but something funny happened on the way there. I did think Yokohama was beatable, but not in the manner they lost.

Also, it was supposed to be the familiar Chiben Wakayama that had a better chance of being here than their Nara counterpart, yet the reverse is true. If nothing else, Chiben Gakuen has the no-panic attitude of their well known sister school.

The same could be said for Sakushin Gakuin. Teikyou was by far the favorite, but their lack of a true ace cost them in the end. With them gone, the bracket opened up. Now Sakushin Gakuin did have good wins against Karatsu Shougyou and the surprise Hachiman Shougyou.

I remember telling someone that I'd not root for Chiben Gakuen, and I think I'll favor Sakushin Gakuin. Outside of the 9th inning against Yokohama, they have shown little.

Day 13, Game 2 - Narashino (Chiba) vs. Nichidai-san (Nishi Tokyo)
Deanna, I guess we're on different sides again.

I like what I've seen out of Naraahino, though the game yesterday vs. Kanazawa scared me to death.

Nichdai-san has been, well... Nichidai-san showing their scoring abilities against squads like Kaisei (Shimane) and Chiben Wakayama.

But, like Yokohama, I think there's a good sized weak spot that I think they recognize they'll significantly increase their chances.

I want to pick Narashino, but it's not a guarantee at all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 5 Recap

Day 5
Game 1 - Nichidai-san (Nishi Tokyo) vs. Nihon Bunri (Niigata)
Nihon Bunri outside of the magical year of 2009 had not done a whole lot, much like many of the teams out of Niigata.

And they had about a tough of a first round as you could get in Nichidai-san.

But it was them that opened the scoring in the 2nd with 2 extra base hits and an error from the Sanko defense.

It felt like it might actually be competitive...

...and then it wasn't.

14 runs later and well, we know who was the better team.

Game 2 - Yanai Gakuen (Yamaguchi) vs. Kaisei (Shimane)
I thought it unfortunate that two Chuugoku schools had to play each other. I'd like to see these teams advance, but not through cannibalizing each other.

But when Yanai Gakuen manages just 3 hits off of Shirane... Well, never mind...

Game 3 - Shin-Minato (Toyama) vs. Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
This on paper seemed like a yawner. Heian who defeated both Fukuchiyama Seibi and Ritsumeikan Uji versus a rural prefecture team.

Let me say this... I will never doubt the power of an oen-dan ever again.

Shin-Minato's oen-dan extended past the designation section. It was like the whole 3rd base side was from Shin-Minato. I had retreated to the upper sections of the 3rd base side and it seemed there there was supporters as far as the eye could see.

And in this case the oen-dan didn't necessarily stop the Heian offense per se. Instead it seemed to help them primarily get out of pinches throughout the game. Which meant that they hung in there until they finally got timely hitting to put runs on the board. And when they took the lead in the 8th 3-1, the place went nuts and I couldn't believe my eyes that Heian was losing.

In fact Heian had runners in scoring position in 7 of the 9 innings, and in one of those innings they didn't, Takahashi hit a home run.

And when the last out was recorded, the place just went nuts. I don't blame them - they did in fact defeat a well-known team from a powerful prefecture.

Little did I know that this upset would be one of more to come...

Monday, August 15, 2011

To Mr. Otosaka...

If you happen to stumble upon this blog, it was a pleasure meeting you today, even though it wasn't for that long. I would have liked to have talked more about your son, how you came to Japan and how you've settled in amongst other things.

As it stood it felt like a rushed conversation as the game was about to begin and you were being moved about.

I thought I was going to be able to talk to you again considering how the game was going, but well... we know how it ended.

And I was going to offer my condolences after the game, but I think you had probably left to be with your son who I'm sure was crushed by the loss.

But I'm glad I got a chance to meet you even if for a moment.

Two other things about Days 3 and 4...

First on Day 3, I was in the center seats trying to let my skin rest from being burnt to a crisp. Literally.

Then during the 1st game, people start emerging from the "underground" area that you can see behind home. There were a lot of cameras and the person they were hovering around sat one row and a couple of seats to my right. The way the cameras were positioned I would have been in the background if there was any.

I tried not to look directly over because I hate it when other people do that on TV. But about halfway through the interview, I realized who it was.

It was Sawa Homare from the Women's World Cup Champions!

When the interview was over I was going to say something to the tune of "Congratulations", but I think the last thing I needed was to have her give me a blank stare at a person who spoke in English.

On Day 4 when I was in the Chiben Wakayama section, I was thinking about what I'd do if a foul ball went my way.

Then one of the batters hit one deep down the left field line, and it was coming right at me. I was so dumbfounded though, I just reached my hand out like an idiot and the ball deflected off my upper arm. There's a good size bruise there now. If I had actually done what I had planned on doing, I'd have my 2nd ball in the 2 Koushien's I've attended.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 4 Recap

Onto Days 4-8 as best as I can...

Day 4
Game 1 - Eimei (Kagawa) vs. Itoman (Okinawa)
Eimei has come on in the last two years to represent Kagawa. In fact, these last 2 years have been their only appearances. They're not a new school per se, so I wonder if it's a managerial change or just the personnel they have. I'm beginning to think that to better cover teams/players I'm better off not doing brackets. Too much work for one person.

I was happy in some ways to see Itoman make it. They seemed to be one of the better teams in Okinawa but would get eliminated before the finals - this year they made it and I wondered how they'd fare.

Sadly, not very well. Their performance against Eimei was far from stellar as they managed just 4 hits and the one run they did score was unearned.

Game 2 - Noshiro Shougyou (Akita) vs. Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima)
Noshiro Shougyou made it for the 2nd straight year as well, and were facing a Kamimura Gakuen squad that I was happy to see there.

And early on it looked like the squad that defeated a formidable Kagoshima Jitsugyou would have the better hand. A leadoff hit batter and subsequent error in the 3rd led to 2 runs. Another hit batter in the 5th would make it 2 runs again at 3-1. But in the span of 6 batters in the 6th, the game had completely reversed. Instead of leading, they now were trailing 5-3.

Considering their runs up until this point were done thanks to mistakes by Noshiro Shougyou, it followed that all they needed to do was not make any and they'd advance. They didn't and they won.

Game 3 - Shirakaba Gakuen (Kita Hokkaido) vs. Tottori Shougyou (Tottori)
This game was between two teams from prefectures that haven't had much success at Koushien in recent years. So it wasn't a surprise when it was a low-scoring affair between the two teams.

Shirakaba Gakuen held a slim 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the 9th only to see it immediately evaportate when Yasumoto Shinnosuke singles and Yoshida triples to left. Suddenly Shirakaba not only had lost the lead, but had the sayonara run just 90 feet away!

Kawagoe would need to clamp it down and he did inducing an strike out, and fly to shallow left, and a groundout.

The game would go into extras where Shirakaba Gakuen would win in the 11th.

There wasn't anything else really memorable other than the fact that though Tottori Shougyou lost, oh my god, the girls continually went, "kyaaaa!!!!" over the team. You could hear numerous individual "Ganbare!" screams amongst others. You'd think the team was rock stars - which they might be.

Game 4 - Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama) vs. Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama)
I had left the stadium to re-enter in the Chiben cheering section to see it first-hand. And since I didn't realize I had no more blank box scores in the book I brought with me, I was just enjoying the game.

Chiben Wakayama did indeed kick the daylights out of Hanasaki Tokuharu, but there were two things to note.

First, the oen-dan up close for some reason isn't the same as seeing it from a distance.

Second, I may have been suffering from exhaustion because there was a foul ball just inside the pole that was headed right at me. I had already run through the scenario of what I would do if this would happen, but suffice it to say I blanked. I reached out my hand like an idiot, and the ball deflects off my upper right arm. It's still bruised.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 1-3 Recap

So, I was all ready for Koushien today, and while the games were great, it felt like my mind was somewhere else all day. And I mean that in the sense that I don't know what the heck I was doing for most of it.

I got up at the right time, headed to the subway to go to Umeda so I could withdraw money. I got off at Nanba and started walking around, not finding the Japan Post office I had researched online. Kept walking, tried asking, gave up and went to Koushien. Noting it was 7:50 AM already, and I was supposed to be there at 8, I was screwed already.

Then on the train I realized my mistake. Why the heck did I get off at Nanba?

Crap, now not only did I not get money, I'd get there even later.

8:30 later...

All inside seats were sold out so I went to the 1st alps stands where Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi Takasaki, Kanazawa and Seikou Gakuin were.

Then proceeded to burn up in the heat. Suffice it to say I'm red all over, and I forgot my sunblock... and now I look like someone that nobody would want to deal with.

And in the rush I had no time to buy drinks before getting to the stadium, so I was paying 250 instead of 150 yen. More doh.

I did get to talk to 2 nice young women who I think were attending Ritsumeikan University. No pictures for those of you wondering. I get a bit hesitant asking girls about taking pictures. They soon realized my strange understanding of Japanese. I can read most kanji, understand what they're saying (though I think not as much as I actually can - that one's for you Deanna), so yeah.

Also, I need to figure out my purpose at Koushien. I can enjoy it, which means no scoring, I can do what I normally do which is scoring and no pictures, or I can figure out some way to incorporate it all, but the biggest problem is taking pictures. I don't want to leave the camera out in the sun, or hold it with my sweaty hands, but if I put it away I'm going to miss stuff. And if I take pictures I can't score.


So today I scored the games, had thoughts on the oen-dans though I didn't take pictures or videos during the games. Suffice it to say today was a test run and it went about as poorly as possible.

But the games themselves were good, I'll recap as best I can though from the alps stands it was harder to gauge stuff.

Day 1
Game 1 - Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma) vs. Imabari Nishi (Ehime)
Gunma has been one of those prefectures that I can't figure out. It seems like they're more metropolitan than not, but they have little success at Koushien. Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi having played none of the "big" name teams in the prefecuture discounts their performance a bit. Imabari Nishi defeated a resurging Niita for the title, but not much else of note.

When the game started, it seemed evident who was the better team. Imabari Nishi ace Hayashi had problems with control and it was made worse whenever there were runners on base as he would throw constantly to keep the runners on (though it was later found to be a necessary evil).

Compounding things was what seemed like a shaky defense as well. 3B Suehiro took the brunt of it early, but the team suffered as a whole.

On the other hand was #10 Hayashi who was keeping everything in check it seemed. In fact, he didn't even give up a hit in the first 3 innings, though that would change.

Scoring came first for Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi. After another walk and a single, Hayashi would finally be relieved of his duties once Uchida successfully sac bunted.

When Yanagisawa laid down the squeeze, I thought one was going to score before I was surprised to see Kadomura coming home too! The throw was late and Kadomura seemed to make a great slide.

The key I think was Nakanishi's hesitation in coming in to field it. I think he was waiting for it to see if it went foul. But that allowed Kenkoudai to send the trailing runner home successfully. So 2-0 in favor of my alps stands.

Another run in the 4th after Yumoto singles, steals 2nd and scores on the hit and run and things looked good at 3-0.

But then it went all wrong for Hoshino. After a solid one-out single by Gouta, it seemed that Hoshino was the victim of unfortunate luck as one ball gets by the 3B, and the 2nd was missed by a diving Uno, though you can't really fault him.

That was followed by a double from Itou and a 2-run single from Suehiro, and it was now 4-3 Imabari Nishi.

Two batters and one more run later, and Hoshino was pulled for #11 Miki. Why ace Katagai hadn't come in yet I don't know.

But Takasaki Kenkoudai is fortunate when on a single by top batter Minomi, they aggressively send Ishimaru home - and when I mean aggressively, I mean no matter what - and is out by a mile.

Though they managed to stop the bleeding, the problem was new pitcher #10 Yano. His delivery, which I think would endear himself to Deanna, was very odd and probably threw off the timing on the batters. And while they struggled, an insurance run scored without a benefit of a hit in the 6th (walk, bunt FC E1, sac bunt, wild pitch) made it 6-3.

Kenkoudai would finally get to Yano in the 7th thanks to a leadoff triple by cleanup batter Kadomura. He'd be sac-flied home by Yanagisawa and the deficit was now 2 at 6-4.

It wouldn't be until the 9th when Kenkoudai would strike again and boy did they ever. Bloop since, double to left immediately put the tying runners on base.

And who else but Yanagisawa would drive them in with a gapper to LCF past the fielders to tie the game!

But after Yanagisawa is tagged out on a contact play, it didn't seem like they'd be able to push the gyakuten run through.

But after a groundout advancing Nagatomo to 2nd, it was ace Katagai (who had come in in the 6th) who blooped one down the left field line, scoring the go-ahead run!

And with their ace on the mound, it was curtains for the team from Ehime. 7-6 and Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi's reward is.... Yokohama.

Game 2 - Kanazawa (Ishikawa) vs. Ise Kougyou (Mie)
Now don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like Kamata from Kanazawa, it was just that I didn't get the big deal about him.

Yes, he can throw 150km/h. But without control it's no good and that's where my problem with him lied.

But this game was different. A lot of breaking balls early, and a fastball that wasn't even approaching 150. And much like how they dialed down Felix Hernandez in Seattle, a dialed down version of Kamata works too. And when he decided to hit 150 and more, once again the control wasn't there it seemed.

We may never have figured that out had 2nd batter for Isekou, Hashimoto, not missed 2nd on his way to 3rd.

Instead, it was Kanazawa who would score first in the 2nd with a double by Koshida to left.

While the game stayed at 1-0 for a while, it never seemed like Kanazawa was in any danger.

That was made even more apparent when Koshida up again in the 6th hits what I though was a flyball to left... only to see it leave for a 3-run HR??!!!

Kamata throws a complete game 5-hit shutout, striking out 10!

Game 3 - Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki) vs. Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima)
So the one thing I was wondering was if Seikou Gakuin would lift the curse of Fukushima.

Early signs didn't look promising though ace Saiuchi seemed to be the victim of some bad luck, or perhaps some poor defense as a ball hit to left by Nichinan's cleanup Sakiyo catches the LF off guard somehow as he sprints at the last minute and winds up being behind it for a 2-run double!

Things continued to be going against Saiuchi when he throws a wild pitch with the bases loaded in the 5th. By now, down 3-0, I'm thinking that it's another failed year for Fukushima.

However, Saitou Yuuki (the 2B), triples to right center, helping to get one run back.

By the way, it was interesting to hear one Saitou Yuuki, but 2? And then to have the announcer have to repeat the name, first name and number?

Anyways, the tide seemed to start turning in the 6th when after issuing 2 walks to start the inning, Furuichi was replaced by #10 Murata. Though he was able to get out of the inning, once the Seikou batters started being patient, Murata started walking batters of his own.

Walking the top 2 batters more than likely spelled disaster and when a single by Mashiro turns into a double thanks to an error by the RF making it 3-2, it seemed inevitable. Haga brings in the douten run with a ball off the 2B, and Fukuda completes the comeback with a sac fly to right.

By this time Saiuchi had settled down and the win was in sight. Top 9, one down, but a chop single by Kasaoka followed by a clean one by Saikyo and Saiuchi wasn't in good shape. But after striking out Yamamoto he was just one out away.

Except that when he struck out Kakemoto, the ball got away from Fukuda and the run scored anyway!

Now Saiuchi would get out of the mess, but not before they'd have to start from scratch. And after they couldn't turn a one out double into the sayonara run, enchousen it was. Saiuchi would hold down the fort on the top half, and finish it quickly in the 10th when he gets his first hit of the game to score Nakamura.

Day 2
Game 1 - Narashino (Chiba) vs. Shizuoka (Shizuoka)
This had to be the game I was really waiting for. I mean, I would actually get to sit in the Narashino oen-dan. How cool is that? Well, for me at least.

Oh yeah, and their baseball team isn't half bad either.

But early on against a Shizuoka squad that had become one of the powerful teams in Shizuoka, They managed just 1 run amidst their multiple chances,

The offense would finally start turning around right after Shizuoka tied the game up in the 6th.

Shizuoka's ace Harazaki also helped via a couple of walks. 5 runs later and that's all she wrote. It's not a complete victory, but as long as they learn from it, I don't see any problems... yet.

Game 2 - Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido) vs. Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
2 powerhouses in 2 rural prefectures generally means a good game especially when they`re upper level talent.

Early in it was a case of both teams getting scoring chances but neither able to cash them in.

So instead, the first run comes off a solo shot by Kitagawa for Meitoku Gijyuku.

Hokkai ties it up when Zeniya lines a solid double down the left center field alley, then takes the lead thanks to an error by Umeda that extended the inning.

The lead wouldn't last very long though. Not even an inning as 2 consecutive dead balls can't be good in any circumstance.

And in the bottom of the 9th, an unfortunate error that would have sent the game into extras instead leads to the winning run.

Game 3 - Teikyou (Higashi Tokyo) vs. Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate)
As the game progressed, the personalities of each school were easily present. Even when they had Kikuchi Yuusei, Hanamaki Higashi was a plucky squad that just would never quit. No matter what the deficit it seemed like there was a way for them to get back into it.

For Teikyou, perhaps the best example was back when I went in 2006. Best 8 game versus Chiben Wakayama, down 8-4 top 9. Teikyou comes roaring back with 8 runs, capped off by a pinch-hit 3-run HR!

However, the PH was for their last pitcher and come bottom 9, no one, no matter who it was that they threw onto the mound could record 3 outs. Chiben Wakayama came back to win on a walk-off walk 13-12.

And I'll go ahead and say this now, but until Teikyou has a true ace (and at this point I don't think even Itou Naoki qualifies), they will never win Koushien.

Teikyou got ahead 2-0 in the first, but thanks to some patience and timely hitting they tied the game. They were aggressive in the top of the 1st after scoring the tying run (albeit a bit too aggressive).

Then down 5-2, they used some nice decoy running to tie it up again. And one more time in the 6th.

However, when Teikyou gets ahead one final time, Hanamaki Higashi is unable to come back. Not to mention that a dubious ruling of obstruction really costed them a scoring opportunity. I don't know what you're supposed to do if you're trying to bunt and have to get out of the way.

Day 3
Game 1 - Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) vs. Fukui Shougyou (Fukui)
Game 2 - Kuratsu Shougyou (Saga) vs. Furukawa Kougyou (Miyagi)

There isn't much to say about either game, except that both Fukui Shougyou and Furukawa Kougyou can't both be this bad... right?

I mean Fukui is not a great baseball prefecture per se, but to get hammered the way they did? And Furukawa Kougyou defeated both Tohoku AND Rifu to win the bid. How did they ever do that?

Now given, both teams did for the most part held their own - though Fukui Shougyou not as much and Furukawa Kougyou did show their tough side later on, but still fell.

Also, I'm not sure what to make of Kuratsu ace Kitakata. He has power, and seems to control it at times. I wonder though if he`s not another Itou Naoki.

Game 3 - Seki Shoukou (Gifu) vs. Jyosuikan (Hiroshima)
For a team that had to beat Oogaki Nichidai, they have to be somewhat decent. But it`s not a given that they`ll be able to handle Jyosuikan.

As the game progressed, there wasn`t anything that really stood out about either team. No star P, good defense on both sides, and perhaps a little light on the offensive side.

I did find it odd that Seki Shoukou would go to their 2nd pitcher Yasue in the 6th. Naijyou had been more than servicable, though the dead balls and and walks might have been a bit much.

Yet he was having his own troubles in the 7th but got saved thanks to a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play.

Moving to the 8th, Yasue seems to disagree with a ball 4 call, and then proceeds to give up a lined shot to Shinozaki. Again though the defense bails him out, getting the runner at home which included a collision that I don't see in kokoyakyu.

The game would go into extras where I really started to like it. There was a lot of good defense, especially on the Seki Shoukou side. Twice they got out of a jam with a very nicely turned double play. Then it was a great stop by 3B Komatsu.

Oddly enough, it might have been a defensive nuance that cost them the game.

Bottom 13, chopper to the right side. Yasue goes off the mound and reaches up for a ball that's a ways away. But I think as a result it froze his own defense, after which both the 1B and 2B went for the ball, and Yasue himself didn't realize he had to cover the bag.

Then I think he was still dwelling on that when his throw on the proceeding bunt went awry. Sayonara runner on 3rd with no down, and there's only so much you can luck you can pull...

Game 4 - Shigakukan (Aichi) vs. Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara (Osaka)
I wondered aloud if it was a bad omen when the coach of the Osaka squad wasn`t able to hit the last ball in their pregame practice.

What I didn't wonder was whether it was a bad omen for both teams because as much as the last game was exciting, this one was horrible to watch.

There was errors everywhere, poor judgement by the defenses, and Higashi-Osakadai advances.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Okay, I decided to get the post done at an internet cafe in Osaka because it`s just too hard for me to do it when I get back to my room. Too tired and waiting too long to take a shower waiting for the AC to cool the room down again.

But first, WTF??? First Shin-Minato defeats Ryuukokudai Heian and now Kanzei (a team I irrationally root for) defeats Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku?? The Kyukoku?

WTF man?

Monday, August 8, 2011

I`m not dead...

...but in my infinite wisdom I left my laptop A/C charger in Nagoya. It`s in transit and I`ll have all my thoughts out there eventually.

Friday, August 5, 2011

No live blogging this year...

So, as you can see from the subject line, there is no liveblogging.

But there's a reason for that...

I'm in Osaka, and will personally be attending Natsu Koushien!

So, if you want to see the games, they'll be broadcast on the links to the left. There may be broadcasts on as well, which would give you good quality at higher resolutions, just follow RealKenDick on twitter. He'll let you know.

There is also a chatroom where people watching the game can talk about kokoyakyu or even daigaku yakyu or pro yakyu (in Japan). That's at

I would put my pictures from the trip on my daily recap posts, but I also realized that since my Sony Vaio was stolen when our house was robbed, I don't have a good laptop with a CD/DVD drive. And since the saying goes that pictures are better taken in RAW status then converted, I don't know how this is going to work.

Anyways, I have a long day ahead. I've sweated through 3 shirts and 2 shorts in 2 days, visited Aikoudai Meiden, Chuukyoudai Chuukyou, almost got in trouble for visiting Oogaki Nichidai and skipped Kyoto Gaidai Nishi for now because I was getting dead tired from the walking in the heat. Assuming they're still open, I'm getting a massage in Nanba.

The odd thing is that I don't think I've gotten sunburnt even with all the time outside. Why is that? I have however reminded myself for the umpteenth time that traveling light is a necessity, not a virtue, and that I really need a case with multi-directional wheels so I don't feel like my arm is about to fall off. I may just get one anyways.

The place where I'm staying (Banana House), is closer to Osaka than Tenri, which is where I stayed for the 2006 Natsu Koushien. It's not bad, but I need to remind myself to get some sheets to cover the futon tomorrow. And a blanket. Unless what I think is the thing that goes on top of the futon is the blanket in which... I still need a blanket (that's OCD me for you). Oh, and the fridge doesn't want to work but the freezer does (what??). Supposedly the population here is half-Japanese and half-foreign. Perhaps if I were a bit more extroverted I might like the people I've seen so far more, but it's not terrible, and I have multiple options to get back here in case the clock strikes midnight (there are only 2 lines to Tenri, and one real viable option). Tenri was nice in that it definitely felt secure, there was no one around the dormitory at the time, and I had my own shower (though not necessarily hot water).

I'm just waiting for the A/C to cool the room down to the point where if I take a shower and come back to the room (communal bath - ok, communal toilet - oy) I won't sweat again.

Prolly will stop by the FamilyMart for yogurt milk and regular milk for my evening drinks. Oh how I missed the yogurt milk here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

93rd Koushien Field

So there's still the Osaka and Hyogo recaps for me to do, but in the meantime here is the complete field.

It's an interesting one that's for sure.

And with the draws out, it gets even more interesting.

So, lets start from the Day 1 bracket (That's Bracket H) and work our way around...

Bracket H
Big names here are Yokohama and Chiben Gakuen. While Chiben Gakuen is one of two schools to come out of Nara perenially, it doesn't necessarily equate to a deep run. Yokohama has had their issues getting to Natsu Koushien in recent years but when they did in 2008, they can make a deep run. Problem is, their Kanagawa taikai was less than impressive.

Joining them are the likes of Imabari Nishi - who was a wild card for a couple of game in 2006, Tsuruoka Higashi - who hasn't been in a while, and Takasaki Kenkou Fukushidai who hasn't been at all.

I expect the big names to meet in the bracket final, and despite Yokohama's struggles, get out of this bracket.

Bracket A
As one of my favorite teams, Narashino finds themselves in this bracket. Unfortunately, while I wouldn't call it the bracket of death per se, it is a trap bracket (THE CAKE IS A LIE!).

Seriously though, they face Shizuoka first, who have come on as of late, then can face Meitoku Gijyuku or Hokkai, both of which are perennial teams and can be a stumbling block if not taken seriously, then there's the possibility of facing Kanazawa's Kamata, or Koushien semi-regulars Seikou Gakuin or Nichinan Gakuen.

I don't believe that there are any teams that play at a level equal to Narashino, but at the same time in any given game I think there's a tangible chance they do. I like them to advance, but at the same time I'm crossing my fingers.

Bracket B
Teikyou drops into this bracket, with former darling (albeit just because of Kikuchi Yuusei) Hanamaki Higashi.

Teikyou's bracket is fairly light on compeition, with only regulars Sakushin Gakuin and Fukui Shougyou occupying the other half of the bracket (though they do face each other first!)

A possible wild card in this whole scenario is Furukawa Kougyou. Though this is their first time to Koushien, they defeated both Tohoku and Rifu to win their bid. That's no small feat for sure.

I do expect Teikyou to be the favorite here, though I am intrigued by Furukawa Kougyou.

Bracket C
There are a lot of recent middle-of-the-road Koushien teams paired along with first timers here. Jyosuikan, Eimei, Kamimura Gakuen and Noshiro Shougyou have been to Kousien in recent years, but have little to show for it (yes, Kamimura Gakuen did make the finals in the spring).

Then there's teams like Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara who defeated Osaka Touin for their title, Itoman who finally made it after years of frustration, Seki Shoukou who defeated Oogaki Nichidai, and Shigakukan who denied Aikoudai Meiden their chance.

It's up in the air really, and I don't really have a favorite to come out of this bracket.

Bracket D
Sanko (aka Nichidai-san) plops themselves down into this bracket, and draws Nihon Bunri first. I like Nihon Bunri, and I loved their run in 2009, but in reality this is Niigata we're talking about here. It doesn't look good for them.

Chiben Wakayama also finds themselves here, though on the opposite side of the bracket. Hanasaki Tokuharu will get first crack.

Though these two are the favorites to meet in the bracket final, a wild card here will be Kaisei (Shimane - there are 2 Kaisei's this year) and the re-emergence of Nonomura-kantoku. He ran a pretty tight ship over there, but lost his job due to remarks he made regarding 21st century teams in senbatsu. Probably considered one of the old-time hard-liners, he's sure to have his team in top condition. Whether that will translate to an upset of Nichidai-san is another story.

Sanko will be the favorite for now, but I'd like to see how this year's Chiben Wakayama plays. Seriously... there's no point in looking at their prefectural taikai.

Bracket E
This is the first of the 3 4-team brackets.

Ryuukokudai Heian is here along with Touyoudai Himeji, the other Kaisei (Nagasaki), and Shin-Minato. Heian certainly has more overall expereience, but it seems whenvever Touyoudai Himeji makes it in recent years, you'd better watch out.

Bracket F
Bracket F may be the weakest of the 8 on paper, with Kousei Gakuin perhaps being the front-runner, if you can call anyone one at this point.

It may mean there's a chance for Senshuudai Tamana to advance, and I'd like that since I root for them each year.

Bracket G

Kanzei draws Kyukoku (Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku)??!!!

That's like saying, "Congratulations for reaching Koushien, now bend over."

I guess I'd better sit in Kanzei's section that day. They're not getting past the first game.

The real loser I think winds up being first-timers Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri. Meihou is their first opponent, and even if they win that, they get Kyukoku. Not fun.

Judging from my reaction, I think you know who I expect to get out of Bracket G.


And that's it! Games start in 2 days... let the battles begin!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

93rd Koushien Qualifying - Osaka & Hyogo

Osaka and Hyogo do things a little differently than most prefectures. Like Wakayama, they do redraws, but they do more redraws in different places.

Osaka does 2 redraws, one at the round of 32, another at the round of 8. With so many teams in the round of 32, it's unlikely that favorite teams could find each other. That was the case here as a lot of the powerhouses drew different brackets. And all of them advanced out of the 2nd level into the Best 8.

Here, there was a clash in the first round of the 2nd redraw. Konkou Osaka and Riseisha would square off first with the winner probably facing Osaka Touin. Meanwhile, PL (Perfect Liberty) Gakuen had the other half all to themselves.

Osaka Touin won their quarterfinal game 10-0 in 5. Riseisha managed to do more with their 6 hits than Konkou Osaka, winning 3-1. And in the other matchup Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara won 6-3.

But the biggest surprise was Toukaidai Gyousei vs PL Gakuen. In the bottom of the 2nd, score tied at 1, Gyousei goes off for 7 runs on PL! Now, it was still early, and this was PL we're talking about so all is not lost.

And indeed PL gets back 4 runs in the top of the 3rd. Trailing 8-5 isn't great, but it isn't bad either.

However, reliever Ogawa coudn't put up a 0 for PL and Gyousei took back all 4 runs! PL found themselves back down 7! And when they got a run in the 4th, so did Gyousei.

Things did not look good for PL at all now. After a couple of zeroes, PL finally scored again, once again getting back those 4 runs and making it a 3-run game. But they would scuffle to score any more runs. One additional run in the 8th put the cherry on top of Toukaidai Gyousei's 14-10 upset!

That certainly shook up the bracket. Now, it seemed like the Osaka Touin-Riseisha winner would have the inside track to the title.

Osaka Touin took grab of that opportunity, scoring 5 early and never letting Riseisha gain any traction. They won 5-1.

After the upset, and this late in the tournament, you'd think that perhaps there wouldn't be a letdown for Toukaidai Gyousei....

You'd be wrong.

Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara scores 5 of their own in the first 2 innings, and bookends that with 6 in the 8th for an 11-0 win!

So they would try and get a crack at vaunted Osaka Touin for their first ever title.

And early on, they would get the first attack in with a run in the bottom of the 1st. Osaka Touin countered with 4 in the 3rd and 2 in the 4th and they certainly were in control. Sure, they gave a run back in the bottom half of the 4th, but it was still a 4-run lead.

In the 7th though, things would change. Fujinami started giving up hits, and before the inning was complete, he would be relieved by Nakano, but more importantly Higashi-Osaka had scored 3 to make it a 1-run ball game!

Worse yet for Osaka Touin, the trouble continued with Nakano. Bottom 8, Kashiwara gets the bases loaded with 1 down, and a sac fly by Nakagawa gets the douten run home! While Nakano is able to prevent the gyakuten run from scoring, it seemed like they were in trouble.

And after a quick inning from Osaka Touin, Kashiwara had a sayonara opportunity.

Hanamoto immediately puts the pressure on Osaka Touin with a leadoff triple! Now any form of sac fly and the game is over!

Instead of loading the bases, they elect to pitch to Ishikawa, and manage to retire him.

Now with a double play ending the inning, they walk Nishida and Yamazaki to load the bases. Nowhere to put Matsune, but also they have a force at home.

But Nakano errs! He hits Matsune for a dead-ball sayonara! Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara defeats Osaka Touin 7-6 on a dead-ball sayonara!

For such as team as Osaka Touin, it's got to be one of the toughest ways to lose. But for now first-timers Higashi-Osaka Kashiawara, it's the greatest feeling in the world...

The reason why Hyogo is weird is that they do a redraw for the Round of 16, then in Best 8, and finally for the Best 4. Almost like what they to at Koushien (They do Best 8 and Best 4).

In the redraw, all major teams avoided each other and were able to move on. Houtoku Gakuen, Kakogawa Kita, and Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku all advanced - though Kobe Kokusaidai slid by Akou 3-1. Touyoudai Himeji advanced too, though it's been a couple of years since they went to Koushien.

The next redraw for the Best 8 almost had all 4 teams avoiding each other, except that Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku and Houtoku Gakuen did draw each other. That game went down to the wire with Houtoku Gakuen taking a 1-run lead in the bottom of the 8th before Kobe Kokusaidai scored 3 in the top of the 9th for the 5-3 win.

Touyoudai Himeji shutout Akashi Shougyou 3-0 while Kakogawa Kita had to go 10 innings to defeat Suma Higashi. In the last matchup Kawanishi Midoridai defeated Yashiro 3-1.

The semi redraw had Touyoudai Himeji get the easy draw with Kawanishi Midoridai, and proceeded to win 13-1 in 7. As much as Kakogawa Kita seemed to struggle in the last matchup, they rose to the occasion in this one. After they fell behind 3-1, they scrapped back to take the lead in the 7th, then re-take it in the 9th for a 5-4 win.

So it would be Touyoudai Himeji and Kakogawa Kita in the finals, and it turned out to be another good game. Scoreless for the first 6 innings, they each score a run in the 7th, and another in the 9th. The game would continue that way until it ended in a 2-2 draw.

That meant they'd have to do it all over again the next day. So the question would be which of the aces, Inoue (Kakogawa Kita) or Hara (Touyoudai Himeji), would break first.

The replay saw more 0's piling up over the first 4 innings. But Hara was holding up much better than Inoue. Touyoudai Himeji finally broke through with a run in the 5th, but it was 5 in the 7th that made the difference. Hara would throw a 2-hit shutout as Touyoudai Himeji won their 12th title, and first in 5 years.

Monday, August 1, 2011

93rd Koushien Qualifying - Shikoku/Kyushu Update

So the Kagawa semis outside of last year's representative Eimei had some former participants, though it was a while ago. As a result, Eimei advanced from one semi, and Marugame from the other would meet up.

But it was all Eimei in the final as they won 8-0 for their 2nd consecutive title.

We almost had 2 upsets in the semifinals. First, Seikou Gakuen shocked seeded Naruto scoring 3 runs on just 4 hits. Naruto only had 2 hits and still managed to score 1 run.

In the other semi, Komatsushima was leading seeded Tokushima Shougyou 1-0. But Tokushou scored a run in the 8th and one in the 9th for a gyakuten sayonara win.

In the final, Tokushima Shougyou led 2-1 heading into the 9th when Seikou Gakuen tied the game! The game would be sent into extras, and while Seikou was able to hold on for a while, reliever Okigaki finally folded in the 13th, giving up the sayonara run giving Tokushou their 23rd title and their first appearance since 2007.

As Ehime passed onto the semis, most of the expected teams made it such as Imabari Nishi, last years winner Uwajima Higashi. They'd have to face Touon and Nitta respectively.

And while Imabari Nishi did their job, seeded Nitta did theirs by defeating last year's representative 2-1 on the strength of a 3-hitter by the tandem of Hino and Nakagawa.

In the finals though Nitta decided to go Hino then Yuyama then Nakagawa. Whether or not it proved to be fatal is unknown, but righter after tying the game at 1 in the 6th, Yuyama gives up 2 runs with prove to be the final margin.

So looking at the matchups, you had to figure it would be Meitoku Gijyuku versus either Kochi school (which would be a challenge).

Meitoku Gijyuku did make it to the finals, but they did it with the benefit of just 1 hit (and 7 free passes). Ace Omatsu would only give up 2 hits to Tosa himself. They would face Kochi, though only because they scored 7 in the 8th to win 7-3 over Kochi Shougyou.

In the final, Omatsu once again shut the door on Kochi's offense! He once again limited them to just 1 hit, though striking out just 3 giving Meitoku Gijyuku their 13th title and 2nd consecutive.

Just to show how good Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku (aka Kyukoku) is, they used backup pitcher Ooe in the semifinals against Oomuta for 8 innings before turning to Miyoshi, and he gave up just 5 hits. Miyoshi completed the shutout.

In the other semi, Touchiku surprised Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou with 3 in the bottom of the 8th for the gyakuten 4-3 win.

The finals was all Kyukoku, who won 11-2 for their 4th title, and their first appearance since 2009.

The final was a pitchers' duel as the teams only combine for 9 hits. Senshuudai Tamana makse the most of their 4 hits and plates a run - the only one scored in the game. Kumamoto Kougyou falls 1-0 and Senshuudai Tamana finally gets their first appearance at Koushien!

One could have argued that this was Meihou's tournament. Except for the fact that in the semifinals against Oita Shougyou, they fell behind 4-0 before scoring in the 2nd half of the game to win 10-5. Nihon Bunridai Fuzoku seemed to be the better team coming out of the semis with a 4-0 win over Hita Rinkou.

Yet in the finals, Meihou's ace Takao throws a CG 1-hitter giving them their 4th title as well and first since 2009.

In the finals between Nobeoka Gakuen and Nichinan Gakuen, Nichinan Gakuen would get the better of the matchup, winning 4-3 and earning their 6th title and first in 4 years.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

93rd Koushien Qualifying - Honshu Update (ex Osaka & Hyogo)

So since prefectures have wrapped up play, I can go over full coverage... except for Osaka and Hyogo. Their formats are weird.

So the battle of the older brother versus younger brother went... well... as expected.

Kousei Gakuin defeated (Kousei Gakuin) Noheji Nishi 9-1 for their 4th title, and first since 2003.

So Yamagata's semifinals had Tsuruoka Higashi surprisingly end Nichidai Yamagata's run scoring 6 in the first 3 innings and using that to win 6-5.

Meanwhile, my irrational pick Haguro was down 5-1 to Yamagata Chuo, then rallied to get up 6-5, blew that lead in the top of the 9th then lost it in the 10th. Nuts.

So it would be either Tsuruoka Higashi, who hadn't been in 30 years or Yamagata Chuo, who hadn't been at all.

It was Tsuruoka Higashi who scores 1st with 2 in the 3rd. Ace Furuichi had been holding Yamagata Chuo at bay until Takahashi hits a 2-run HR in the 6th to reset the game! Sugai with new life tried to keep things level until his team could score, but it wasn't to be. Tsuruoka Higashi would score in the next inning, giving them a 3-2 victory and their 3rd summer title!

In the Miyagi final, Rifu was certainly in the drivers seat against B seed Furukawa Kougyou. Yet Rifu couldn't get to Furukou's ace Yamada. In fact, it was Furukou that got the first lead, scoring on Katou. Rifu responded by firing right back to tie the game.

But when Furukou was threatening once again, Katou would be relieved by Mizuochi, but he was unable to clamp it down. Furukou takes the lead.

Furukawa Kougyou would add one more run in the 8th, and earn their first ever Koushien appearance, defeating both Tohoku and Rifu in the process!!

So, in the semifinals, it really was Seikou Gakuin and everyone else it seemed. They easily handled Iwaki Kouyou 5-0. Their opponent would be Sukagawa who scored the gyakuten 4-3 win over Odaka Kougyou with 2 runs in the 9th.

In the end, it'd be ace Saiuchi for Seikou Gakuin who would 3-hit Sukagawa and earn their 5th consecutive appearance!

So Tochigi was finally able to have their final, but it was rather lopsided. Utsunomiya Shougyou gave it their best, but lost 17-5 to Sakushin Gakuin. It's their 7th title and first in 2 years.

Nishi Tokyo
The semis for the Nishi Tokyo region almost went as expected. Waseda Jitsugyou (aka Soujitsu) defeated Kousei Gakuen 11-5, while Nichidai-san (aka Sanko) had early offensive struggles against Nichidai Tsurugaoka but pulled away in the 2nd half of the game, winning 9-3.

So, what's new? It's a finals matchup between two Tokyo powerhouses - Soujitsu and Sanko.

And this is one final that you know won't disappoint. And it didn't.

Aces Uchida (Soujitsu) and Yoshinaga (Sanko) were going to start and finish the game come hell or high water.

So it began, and the aces dominated the opening innings as neither team could score. Then in the 5th, after Taniguchi for Sanko gets hit in the head (ouch), he steals second and scores on a double to center, making it 1-0 Sanko.

Then in the very next inning, Uchida leaves one up for Suganuma and he bombs one to make it 2-0!

And in a game like this, a 2-0 deficit is rather huge. Soujitsu uses their lucky 7 to get a run back. Though it was via a double, bunt and wild pitch.

Yoshinaga though would not let another run cross the plate. He shuts down the Soujitsu offense and sends Nichidai-san to their 14th appearance and first in 2 years.

In the Kanagawa final, Yokohama looked to be more than beatable and Toukou showed a lot of fight. And it continued here.

Matsui opened for Toukou Gakuen and held Yokohama scoreless for 4+ innings. In the 5th though, after a couple of hits, he would be relieved by Kashiwara. Yokohama though would push home a run in the 5th.

Yet, the deficit would remain at 1, and in the 7th Toukou would find an equalizer! And it would be a new game once again.

Top 9, Toukou Gakuen gets a hit and after a walk with 2 down, Yokohama sends in #11 Souma. He strikes out the next batter to end the threat.

Yokohama looked to end things right in the 9th as Kashiwara hits the first batter, who was leaning waaaaaaaaaayyyy in. The dead ball stands, and the next batter takes advantage of a defense expecting bunt, and bounces one over the infield for a base hit! Now Toukou was in real trouble!

But when they tried to execute a bunt, Kashiwara charges in and makes a great throw to 3rd to get the lead runner! One down, but Toukou isn't out of it yet.

And a base hit to right is quickly fielded by RF Fujishima holding the lead runner at 3rd. Manrui with 1 down, normal baseball strategy would call for a bunt.

But there was none from Nakase and he goes down swinging! I wonder why they didn't try it.

2 down, and Aoki is up, but he pops it up! 2B Suzuki secures it and they go into extras!

However, given Yokohama's threats in the last couple of innings and the momentum they seemed to have, I thought Toukou would have to win this now, or they might lose immediately in extras.

Sure enough, Toukou goes down in order, and Otosaka starts things off in the 10th with a double. Another quick single to right puts the sayonara run 90 feet away...

...and C Kondou doesn't miss. He chops one up the middle for the win! Yokohama wins 2-1 in 10 for their 14th title and 1st in 3 years.

So in Niigata, it's 2 strong teams in the final. Nihon Bunri, the almost cardiac kids in 2009, versus Niigata Meikun.

And as expected it would be a low scoring affair at Hard-Off Eco Stadium.

In fact, it'd be another enchousen game. Niigata Meikun would have first crack, getting a runner on 3rd with 2 outs. But a flyout to left ends that.

#20 Tamura for Nihon Bunri (teams are allowed 20 on their roster during prefecturals). hits a double to left-center! But when he's bunted over, P Machinaga fields it and throws to 3rd getting Tamura out by a mile! What the heck happened there??

A base hit to left by Noguchi put runners at the corners.

Yumoto finishes the deal with a drive to right center giving Nihon Bunri their 6th title and 1st appearance since their final game in 2009.

In the Toyama finals, Toyama Kokusaidai Fuzoku down 1-0 quickly scored 4 to take a 4-1 lead over Shin-Minato. Kokusaidai ace Gotou continues to shut down the Shin-Minato offense, but in the 8th Shin-Minato breaks out with 3 runs to take a 5-4 lead! With just 3 outs left, Toyama Kokusaidai Fuzoku couldn't get to ace Hakamatani who denies them their first ever Koushien appearance! Instead it will be Shin-Minato who earns their 5th summer title and first since 1999!

As the tournament progressed, it seemed like some of the pre-tournament favorites didn't look to be actual favorites. Mie in the round of 16, struggled against Matsusaka Kougyou needed to score 2 in the 9th for the 4-3 gyakuten win.

Inabe Sougou was not as fortunate losing 3-2 to Kuwana Kougyou.

But Mie wouldn't be too far behind. Ise Kougyou, despite giving up the tying run in the 9th, defated Mie 2-1 in 11! Tsu Nishi bid sayonara to Tsu 5-4 in 9.

So Inabe Sougou was gone... now so was Mie. That left Komono as the only major team left.

Except they lost too in the quarterfinals to Kinkidai Tousen 6-3.

So that meant the entire field is wide open. And the semifinals really showed that.

Kinkidai Tousen vs. Tsu Nishi went something like this...

Tsu Nishi down 0-4, 1-4, 1-6, 1-7, 4-7, 4-8, then up 9-8, down 9-11, 10-11, 10-13...

And 5 runs in the bottom of the 8th gave them a 15-13 lead. With 28 runs already, 2 more seemed like a possibility.

But Tsu Nishi's 4th and 5th pitchers, Morimasa and Itou would put the games 4th zero (on either side), as they win 15-13.

The other semifinals was much more tame. Yokkaichi gets a 3-0 lead in the 3rd, Kurokawa can't hold it, gives up 4 in the 6th to Ise Kougyou en route to a 5-3 loss.

The final would be unpredictable given these teams, but Ise Kougyou took control early, jumping to a 6-1 lead. Tsu Nishi though would chip away, closing to within 2 in the 6th. But 3 in the 8th meant that Ise Kougyou wins just their 2nd title (their first was in 1988).

So, in Kyoto we had 3 well-known (and fairly long-named) schools in Ryuukokudai Heian, Fukuchiyama Seibi, and Ritsumeikan Uji, and a not-so much imposter in Kyoto Ryouyou (they did after all beat what could have been the 4th long-named team in Kyoto Gaidai Nishi).

Kyoto Ryouyou did show they belonged though, as they held with Ritsumeikan Uji, taking a 2-0 lead and a 3-2 lead. However, Ritsumeikan Uji took control in the 5th, scoring 5 runs and a 7-3 lead. Ryouyou scored 2 to cut the deficit in half, but Ritsumeikan put it away with a pair in the 7th to win 9-5.

Fukuchiyama Seibi is working to rebuild after their withdrawal following some rather offensive actions last year. They're back to the Best 4, but could not keep up with Ryuukokudai Heian. There were pinged in the middle innings to death and a 6-3 loss.

In the finals it was all Heian as they win their 31st title and a trip to Koushien after a year off.

Chiben Gakuen wins.

(What? What else do you want me to say? That they won their 5 games by a combined 45-6???)

Chiben Wakayama wins.

Ok, so in this case there's a little more to this. First Chiben Wakayama actually got a scare. Block semifinals against Hidaka, Hidaka actually took the lead 2-1 in the 3rd, then extended it by a run in the 5th! But it's a 9-inning game, and in the 8th Kadoguchi couldn't hold Chiben off. 3 in the 8th meant they were behind, and they never caught up.

But after Kouyou fell to Ito in the Block D final, that left only Minabe to challenge Chiben Wakayama. And suffice it to say, Minabe is no Kouyou, nor Minoshima (who lost earlier).

So Chiben Wakayama wins their 7th consecutive title. Chiben Wakayama winning Wakayama is like Tenri/Chiben Gakuen winning Nara. Just check the box and move on.

Championship game in Okayama, and Kanzei was poised to win another title. But Konkou Gakuen had other ideas. After falling behind 2-0, Konkou Gakuen scored 5 unanswered to take a 5-2 lead late.

Kanzei though showed fight by coming all the way back in the bottom of the 9th! 2 innings later, they secure their 8th appearance and first since 2006.

Perhaps as expected, it was Iwamichisuikan and Kaisei in the finals, though it almost wasn't. Iwamichisuikan needed to score 5 runs in the last 2 innings to pull out a 6-5 sayonara win.

And in that sense, it wasn't surprising then that Kaisei routed Iwamichisuikan 12-2 for the title.

Jyosuikan would be in the finals, that seemed assured (and it was with a 3-1 win). The question would be who would they face.

Soutoku was the seeded team, but Hiroshima Shinjyou was the one taking the initiative. After falling behind 3-1 they rallied for 3 to re-take a one run lead, eventually winning 5-4 in 10.

In the final, Jyosuikan did take the 1-0 lead, but then Shinjyou pinged one run, then another and perhaps we'd see an upset. But when Jyosuikan scored a pair in the 7th and 8th, it was all but over as they won their 7th title.

In the final, Yanai Gakuen would manage just 5 hits and 1 run. But their ace Yazawa held Sakuragaoka to just 2 hits and 0 runs meaning that they would earn their 1st ever appearance!

Friday, July 29, 2011

93rd Koushien Qualifying - Hokushinetsu/Chuubu Update

With games spaced out, Niigata wasn't affected as much by the rain. Round of 16 action at Sanjyou Kikai wound up being a surprise as both seeded teams, #3 Nagaoka Oote and 5-8 Sado both lost! Nagaoka Oote gave up 4 in the 1st and never recovered against Niigata Kenou Kougyou while Niigata Meikun scored all 3 of their runs in the bottom of the 9th to defeat Sado 3-2!

Nihon Bunri led 4-0 over Teikyou Nagaoka before Teikyou scored 6 to take the lead! But Nihon Bunri had time to recover, tied the game in the 6th and won 10-6.

#2 Hokuetsu too would fall at Shibata Ijimino as Shirone scores 3 in the bottom of the 8th for the gyakuten 6-5 win.

Onto the quarterfinals and Nihon Bunri got involved in one heck of a battle with Murakami Sakuragaoka! After falling behind 3-0 in the top of the 1st, they score 5, then give 4 right back! Things got worse in the 6th after Murakami scored 2 more. That meant they were trailing 9-5! But Nihon Bunri would finally respond. 3 in the 6th and one more in the 7th finally brought them level. And in the bottom of the 9th, they score the winning run, but a rather unusual game from them here in the quarterfinals.

Shirone on the other side surprised yet another team as Katou shut out Gosen 2-0!

To the semis, and Nihon Bunri struggled again, this time against Chuuetsu. Managing just 1 run early, Chuuetsu took the 2-1 lead in the 6th. It would be 1 inning later where they'd take a 3-2 lead, but even though they reach the finals, I don't know if they can get away with it against Niigata Meikun. They mercilessly end Shirone's run with a 9-1 mercy game.

In what could be considered a big upset, unknown Komoro Shougyou and ace Niimi(?) shutout Saku Chousei 3-0! That still leaves some big name teams, but it sure opens the door!

Joining Komoro Shougyou would be Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri, who scored 4 in the 4th but that was all they needed to beat Toukai Dai-san 4-3.

Meanwhile, emerging power Nagano Nichidai goes down in a shocker to to Matsumoto Dai-ichi 6-4!

Matsushou Gakuen does advance to the semis, but with a less than convincing 4-2 win over Iiyama.

In the semis, Matsushou Gakuen advanced to the finals with little resistance from Komoro Shougyou. It would seem like no matter the opponent, they should have no problem. After all, neither of them had been to Koushien before.

Their opponent would be Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri who won 2-0...

In the beginning though, it was Shidai who took the lead first. 3 runs in the 2nd and Matsushou was on their heels. It wouldn't be until the 6th inning when Matsushou would finally get on the board against ace Aibara. And the very next inning they knocked him out and scored 3 runs to boot to take the lead.

Things looked well for Matsuhou after that. All Kumatani had to do was close it out. But in the 9th he faltered. Shidai would score 3 runs in the 9th to take a 1 run lead. Matsushou once again was on the verge of being knocked out. Once again, they manufactured a run against reliever Kaneko to send it into extras.

That would be it for starter Kumatani as Miwa would relieve him, but 2 hits and only 1 out later, he would be relieved by their 3rd pitcher Hara. He gets them out of the mess, but he may be the end of the line for Matsushou.

As the game progressed, neither team was able to manufacture a run.

That was until the 13th when Shidai was able to push in a run, once again putting Matsushou on their heels.

This time though, there would be no comeback. The middle of the lineup couldn't deliver for Matsushou and Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri earns their 1st ever Koushien appearance!

Toyama had the benefit of going slowly given the number of teams. They've actually been able to go through just 2 games a day each at 2 sites.

One of those games was in the 2nd round when Sakurai and Shin-Minato go extras, with Sakurai taking a 2-1 lead in the 12th only to have Fukushima falter in the end giving up 2 for the loss.

Shin-Minato's next game against Fushiki was even crazier. Down 4-0 before getting their first AB, they quickly got 3 back. After trading some runs in the next couple of innings, Shin-Minato scores 6 in the 6th to take a 11-6 lead! That lasted all of... almost nothing. Fushiki scores 5 in the lucky 7 and we were tied! Shin-Minato finally puts it away with 3 in the 8th for a 14-11 win!

Even by the Best 8, things had going pretty much as normal. The top 2 seeds advanced, but certainly not convincing. Toyama Kokusaidai Fuzoku managed just 6 hits against Namerikawa but scored the only run. Takaoka Shougyou limited Fujikoshi Kougyou to just 2 hits, but won 4-1.

Shin-Minato's quarterfinal game had to be pushed back due to rain, but when it finally got underway, it was another nail-biter. Takaoka Nishi kept the game close until the 8th when Shin-Minato scored 3 for the eventual 5-3 win.

In the semifinals, Toyama Kokusaidai Fuzoku uses a 4-run 5th to distance themselves from Tonami Kougyou for a 6-3 win. Shin-Minato will be their opponent as they win 15-6 over Takaoka Shougyou. Interestingly, it's Shin-Minato who's been to Koushien before, and seeded Takaoka Kokusaidai Fuzoku who hasn't!

Not surprisingly, 3 of the 4 semifinalists were Fukui Koudai Fukui, Fukui Shougyou and Tsuruga Kehi. The 4th seeded team, Nyuu, who seems to at least be above average, lost to Takefu Shougyou in the round prior.

So in the semis, Koudai Fukui had no trouble with the outlier of the bunch as they won 6-0. The Fukushou-Tsuruga Kehi game on the other hand was close as expected. Neither team was able to scratch out a lead bigger than 2 until the bottom of the 8th as Fukushou got to Tsuruga Kehi's ace Yamamoto for 2 to get a 3-run lead. It was left to Fukushou's Yamamoto to shut things down. Except he wasn't able to cleanly. 1 run was in for Kehi, then 2... But Yamamoto managed to record the 3rd out and it setup a familiar final between two powerhouse schools.

Sadly though the finals were all Fukui Shougyou. Despite keeping the deficit at 1 early, they couldn't stop Fukushou from scoring in the middle innings. When all was said and done, Fukushou had earned their 2nd consecutive appearance and 21st overall.

As the tournament moved into the round of 16 we could start noting some of the favored teams such as Kanazawa and Yuugakukan though you could be assured they'd advance far.

Looking at the other teams, there were some interesting battles. Komatsu defeats Hakui 3-2 in 12, Kanazawa Sakuragaoka rallies from down 6-0 to defeat Kanazawa Izumigaoka 9-6.

But in the end it would be Kanazawa and Yuugakukan who would meet in the final. Kanazawa would build a 4-0 lead early and not relinquish it, winning 8-5 for their 13th appearance and first since 2008.

Much like other rural prefectures, certain teams dominate the area. Here in Shiga, it's primarily Kita-Ootsu and Oumi.

Yet this year they didn't seem as dominating. While Oumi won their first games 4-1 and 5-0, Kita-Ootsu won 3-1, then won 1-0 in 12 over Hikone Higashi (who really isn't that bad of a team).

That meant the door was possibly opened for other teams. Takashima, down 5-1 to Youkaichi in the bottom of the 9th score 5 to win the game and earn a crack at Kita-Ootsu.

Surpringly, it was not Kita-Ootsu, but Oumi who would fall first. Seta Kougyou scores 4 in the 8th and 9th innings to win 9-6! Kita-Ootsu survived yet again with a 3-1 win over Takashima.

Perhaps the only team that showed some domination was a different seeded team - Hachiman Shougyou who had won their first games combined 15-2 before defeating Kawase 4-1.

In the semis, Hachiman Shougyou flexed its muscle again, mercy-ruling Seta Kougyou 7-0 in 7. Kita-Ootsu makes it to the final with another close game against Oumi Kyoudaisha 4-2.

To the finals, and Kita-Ootsu seemed to be destined to be one of those teams who liked playing low scoring affairs. They build a 3-0 lead early, and looked to be in control. But in the 5th, Hachiman Shougyou out of nowhere goes on a run and scores 6 runs! Kita-Ootsu, who has played a low scoring strategy suddenly needs to keep up. But trying for runs at this point is difficult and as a result they lose 6-4 and Hachiman wins their 7th title and heads to Koshien for the first time in 5 years!

So in the semifinals, Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku had no trouble with Koufu Shougyou after pulling off the upset on A seed Toukaidai Koufu. Meanwhile Nihon Koukuu had their own upset to pull off against Koufu Kougyou and succeeded 6-4. Interestingly, all 4 semifinals were a Natsu Koushien representative in each of the last 5 years except last year (Hikawa).

In the finals, Gakuindai opened the scoring in the 4th with a run but JAA responded with 3 in their half. But Gakuindai started chipping away in the 6th, tying it in the 7th then blowing it open with 7 runs in the last 2 innings for the 10-3 win. This is their 5th title, and 1st in 2 years.

Well, for almost all seeded teams remaining in the block semifinals, they all advanced. Though for teams like Seki Shoukou, they went from tied at 1-1 into the 9th, to down 4-1, to a sayonara 5-4 win!

The only seeded team remaining not to advance was Tounou Jitsugyou. They fell 9-5 to Gujyou.

To the block finals, and the shocker of them all came in the first game. Block A saw Seki Shoukou take a 4-1 lead over Oogaki Nichidai with 4 in the 5th! After extending it to 4 with a run in the 7th, ace Naijyou(?) gave it all right back, and was knocked out. And so, Oogaki Nichidai with new life, seemed to be back in control of the game. But Oogaki's 3rd pitcher of the game, Ueki, couldn't record an out. 2 hits later, and Kassai was tasked to save the inning.

Yet, he would be unable to do so. Seki Shoukou plates a run and takes the lead once again. Reliever Yasue shuts the Nichidai offense down, and they pull off the 6-5 upset!

Joiing Seki Shoukou would be Oogaki Shougyou, Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou, and Gujyou.

In the redraw for the semis, the expected blockbuster matchup game not in the finals, but the semis. Yes, Oogaki Shougyou and Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou drew each other. The game started off competitive as Oogaki Shougyou nudged out to a 2-1 lead. But in the 7th, Oogaki Shougyou scored 6 runs putting Kengishou on mercy watch. And sure enough, they were unable to score and Oogaki Shougyou advanced to the finals.

And though Seki Shoukou advanced to meet them, it was all but a certainty that Oogaki Shougyou would go to Koushien.


No one told Seki Shoukou that...

In the 2nd and 3rd innings, Seki Shoukou scores 2 runs apiece to take a shocking 4-0 lead on the favorites! Meanwhile, Naijyou scatters 7 hits across the board as he gives his team their 1st ever Koushien appearance!

Almost 2 full weeks after the first games started in Aichi, the seeded teams finally start their games in their blocks. This is because the format chosen means these teams get not 1, but 2 bye rounds before they even play a game.

All the seeded teams did advance, though some not without some difficulty. Block A, Shigakukan scored 4 in the 9th to beat Douhou 10-7. In Block D, Kikuka needed all 15 innings before scoring the sayonara run to beat Niwa 3-2. And in Block F, Oobu gave up a 1-run lead to Bihoku before winning in 10.

In other block games, Kira scored in each of the last 3 innings to defeat Kariya Kita 3-2. Meijyoudai Fuzoku and Shouwa played to a 2-2 draw. The following day, it would be Meijyoudai who jumped out to an early lead and win 8-5.

There'd be more trouble for the seeded teams in the block semis. Shigakukan got into trouble yet again, but not in the way you'd think. Down 3-0 To Aichi Sangyoudai Kougyou they score 7 in the 7th and the game seems to be under control. Yet the very next half-inning Sangyoukou scores 6 to retake a 2-run lead! Well, with just 2 innings to go, and getting punched in the mouth like that it seemed like this time it would be the end. Yet they score 3 in the bottom of the 9th and advance 10-9!

Oobu too was in trouble. Down 3 to Tojyaku in the bottom of the 9th, they find a way to tie the game up and win 5-4 in 10.

Aichi was not so lucky in Block B. They fall 3-2 to Toyokawa and become the first casualty. Next, and perhaps most surprising of all was 2009 Natsu Koushien winner Chuukyoudai Chuukyou who lost to Jishuukan 3-2!

We also had our 2nd draw as Chiryuu and Aichi Shougyou played to a 5-5 draw. Chiryuu would win the replay 6-2.

Of the 8 seeded teams, the 6 remaining after the upsets did advance.

Perhaps the weakest of the bunch may have be Oobu who though seeded played 3 consecutive enchousen games, including their block final against Chiryuu. That went the full 15 before they scored 2, and yet almost blew it again (Chiryuu scored 1).

The Final 8 was redrawn, and it was very lopsided. The 2 favorites, Aikoudai Meiden and Touhou were on one side of the draw, along with Aichi Keisei who while never has to Koushien, has fared really well in the prefecture. On the other side the only team to have advanced to Koushien was Oobu.

Aikoudai Meiden and Touhou did win their games, though by margins of 5-2 and 3-1. Oobu's run did indeed run out against Toyokawa 6-3, and Shigakukan went 14 innings against Kikuka before winning 2-1.

In the semis, Aikoudai Meiden was able to edge out Touhou 6-5 through a 5-run 5th. Shigakukan would be their opponent as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead after 1 and used the cushion to win 10-7.

The finals were held the very next day amidst not to friendly clouds. The conditions seemed to favor Shigakukan as they overcame a 2-0 deficit in the first to lead 4-2 when the game went into rain delay at the end of 5. When the game resumed, Aikoudai Meiden would immediately pull within 1 against 3rd pitcher Iwata.

But Iwata would be able to shut down Ichiro's alma mater and Shigakukan earns their 1st ever Koushien appearance with a 4-3 win!

As Shizuoka moved on in their tournament, the teams to watch out for would be Tokoha Kikugawa, Shizuoka and Seisei.

In the meantime, the other teams needed to keep advancing to even have a shot, no matter how small. Iwata Kita almost blew that chance twice. First, they lose a 2-run lead to Seikei in the top of the 9th, then Seikei scored a run in the 11th. Iwata Kita was able to score 2 to advance 6-5. Fuji Shiritsu had to go 15 innings against Hamakita Nishi to win 3-1.

Seeded Hamamatsu Nishi was not so fortunate, having to rally against Touyou from down 3-0 early, but lost 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th. Shizuoka Shougyou was next in the round of 16, falling 9-1 in 7 innings to Iwata Higashi!

So on one side of the best 8, all 4 seeded teams advanced. On the other side, only Nirayama remained.

The quarterfinals saw Nirayama and Iwata Higashi advancing on one side with 5-0 victories, Shizuoka defeating the weak link Hiryuu, and Tokoha Kikugawa and Seisei battling the full 9 innings before Tokoha Kikugawa made the sayonara victory 3-2.

In the semis, the last seeded team on the left side of the bracket finally fell as Nirayama lost to Iwata Higashi 6-3. But to win their first ever natsu title, they'd have to go through Shizuoka who dominated Tokoha Kikugawa 12-4.

But Iwata Higashi put up a great fight. Ace Abe kept Shizuoka to 1 run early, and allowed them to tie it up in the 4th with a HR from 1B Moriguchi. Except he'd give the 1-run lead right back to them. An insurance run in the bottom of the 8th spelled doom for the potential first-timers as Harazaki gives Shizuoka their 22nd title and first in 8 years!