Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Spring Taikais Update - May 22

Since games are generally played during the weekends, I'll post an update after weekend play.

Starting in the Kinki region, Chiben Wakayama does win the tournament, but again not as dominating with a 10-5 win over Wakayama Shougyou.  Osaka Touin is in the finals against Osaka Shoudai Sakai, but they had to survive a 5-4 game over Riseisha to get there.  Again, it underscores the importance of their other pitchers to hold games as I doubt Fujinami will be able to last in the summer heat.

Tenri and Chiben Gakuen did meet in the Nara semis, though oddly Chiben Gakuen struggled in a 9-8 win over Heijyou.  But they annihiliated Tenri 13-4 and then struggled again versus Naradai Fuzoku, winning 2-1 in the final.

And in Kyoto, Kita-Kuwada joined a familiar cast of Toba, Fukuchiyama Seibi and Ryuukokudai Heian in the best 4.  Toba would cruise to the title, defeating Fukuchiyama Seibi 9-1.

Shizuoka finally wrapped up Tokai prefectural play as the namesake school defeated Seisei 5-1.

Hokushinetsu prefectural play is also completed.  Nihon Bunri did indeed reach the finals, and did play Niigata Meikun, and won handily.  Seiryou edged out Yuugakukan 6-5, and had no issues in the finals against Kanazawa Shougyou.  And in Nagano, Chikyuu Kankyou defeated Matsushou Gakuen 4-2 in the first round game.  And with no other competition on their side of the bracket, reached the finals.  They played Saku Chousei, who had a much harder path, defeating Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri and Nagano Nichidai.  The game was all knotted up at 2 before Saku Chousei scored 9 in the 8th to blow it wide open.

I did forget to mention the representatives for host prefecture Saitama for the Kanto taikais, and much like Fukui, all the seeded teams lost.  Nanryou wins their first ever spring title (and first ever bid to the spring super-regional) in a contested battle with Saitama Sakae.  Kasukabe Higashi and Kawaguchi rounded out the bids.  Right now, they're in the best 4.

Teikyou's only competition in their quadrant was a matchup with upstart Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi.  Their defense and pitching limited Teikyou to just one run, which was amazing in and of itself.  But they managed to score the equalizer in the 9th and win 3-1 in the 10th.  They'll face Saitama Sakae, who found an answer to Yokohama Hayato when teams like Yokohama and Keiou couldn't.    Speaking of Yokohama, they couldn't stop Sakushin Gakuin, losing 5-1 in the quarterfinals.  And finally, Kanto Dai-ichi continued their low-scoring ways, defeating Maebashi Ikuei and Matsudo Kokusai 2-1 and 4-1 respectively.

Outside of Akita, who had started play back on the 10th, all other prefectures except for Iwate started prefectural play last Thursday.  Starting with Akita, their prefectural draw is out, and former Koushien participants Meiou and Akita are on the opposite sides of the bracket.  Honjyou, who have had rather bad luck at Koushien, will have to get past Yokote Jyounan to setup a matchup with Meiou.

In other play, Seikou Gakuin still has to play their first game, but they're probably the favorites to advance out of the prefecture.  In Miyagi, there was a fairly big upset as Tohoku lost to Tohoku Koudai 7-5.  That opens the door for Rifu and Sendai Ikuei to challenge for the title.  Yamagata's draw saw Nichidai Yamagata and Sakata Minami on the same side of the bracket.  Don't be surprised if the winner will face Yonezawa Chuo in the final.  Finally, in Aomori, Kousei Gakuin is cruising to the finals.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Looking ahead to the summer (Update 1)

So, about 2 weeks later and there has been more progress in the spring taikais.  Let's see if there's more indications on who might be a contender.

Starting with the warmer climate and heading north (because tournaments start earlier down there), Kamimura Gakuen wound up defeating Okinawa Shougaku, just.  A 2-1 win followed by a 3-0 win over Kumamoto Kougyou (who is a contender to reach Koushien annually) means that they win the spring tournament, but doesn't instill confidence for the summer.

Shikoku's tournament is so small, it actually is held over one weekend.  In it, Naruto dominated the first two games, even defeating mercy-ruling Kochi 7-0.  But an embarrassing 6-2 loss to Meitoiku Gijyuku means that there may not be a contender here either.

In Chuugoku, the spring tournament is weird in that all prefectures get one representative except for the host, which gets 4.  4!  This time around it's Tottori who is the beneficiary.  Tottori Jyouhoku, who not long ago reached Senbatsu, was thoroughly white-washed by Yazu 15-5.  They would defeat unknown Kurayoshi Sougou Sangyou 4-2 to be the top representative.  Rounding out the 4 would be Yonago Higashi.  Kanzei apparently is unable to fully reload from last fall as they stumble late, losing a 9-8 barnburner to Kurshiki Kougyou in the Okayama final.  Meanwhile, Shimane would be won by Hamada, who hasn't been heard from for the good part of a decade.  It helped that Iwamichisuikan and Kaisei had to face each other in the first round.  Similarly in Hiroshima, Onomichi never had to face Jyosuikan or Kouryou as they too were in the same quadrant.  Finally, Hayatomo may have been a one-hit wonder as they lose in their very first game.  And so it was that established Yanai Gakuen and Iwakuni faced off with Yanai Gakuen earning the last spot.  Chuugoku doesn't appear to have any single dominant team that could challenge in the summer.

Well, I guess Chuugoku's format isn't too weird as the same applies to the Kinki spring taikai.  This year, Hyogo gets 3 bids as host.  Touyoudai Himeji, who lived off low-scoring games had a relative offensive explosion averaging 4 runs a game in the prefectural bracket, defeating Houtoku Gakuen 6-2 in the final.  Akashi would be the 3rd qualifier.  Shiga is the only other team to complete their prefectural play, and in that final, Hieizan outscores Hikone Higashi 8-6 for the bid.

Elsewhere in Kinki, over in Kyoto 3 powerhouse teams in Fukuchiyama Seibi, Ritsumeikan and Ryuukokudai Heian all are on one side, while senbatsu representative Toba lies on the other half.  Osaka Touin is dominating their brackets so far.  There are other known teams in Osaka still in play, but the senbatsu champs should be poised to advance.  Chiben Gakuen's stranglehold over Nara seems to be tightening as Tenri has struggled in their first two games.  And with no other team able to make anything that resembles a challenge in several decades, we can in all certainty proclaim the winner.  In fact, Chiben Gakuen is not only dominating Nara, but could well eclipse brother Chiben Wakayama as the better "C" team.  Not to say that Chiben Wakayama is in decline, but the field is slowly catching up to them.

Overall, no new teams here either to speak of.

Moving on to the small Tokai region, only Shizuoka has not completed play.  Kinkidai Tousen and Kaisei advance from Mie, Oogaki Nishi spoils the all-Gifu Shougyou party by defeating Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou, Aikoudai Meiden loses to Toyoda Kougyou as Touhou and Toyoda Nishi advance, and finally in Shizuoka, Seisei and Shizuoka square off in the final.

Traversing the Chuo Line, we head into the Hokushinetsu region.  Fukui, hosting this year, receives 2 extra bids.  And interestingly, all 4 bids go to relative unknown teams - Sabae, Mikata, Ono and Fujishima.  Toyama is the only other prefecture to complete play, and the winner was Fujikoshi Kougyou, who edged out fan favorite Shin-Minato and then Toyama Dai-ichi for the title.  Two teams from each prefecture advance, so Toyama Dai-ichi goes on anyways.

Elsewhere, Ishikawa is in their best 4 and Godzilla's Seiryou is still alive.  Their next game is against Yuugakukan.  Nihon Bunri is still alive in Niigata, but will have to play Chuuetsu, then either Hokuetsu or Tookamachi, and then probably Niigata Meikun in the finals - though if they get there it doesn't really matter.  And in Nagano, Chikyuu Kankyou will have an uphill climb in the prefectural bracket as they drew Matsushou Gakuen in the first round.  There are a lot of strong Nagano teams still remaining, so it'll be all uphill from here.

Yet overall in the region, no teams are standing out just yet.

Moving along the Chuo Line back to the 0 km mark, we hit the Kanto region.  Here, Saitama gets 4 bids as host, all others get 2 - and that is irregardless of the fact that the senbatsu representatives get an automatic advance regardless of performance.

That's why when Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi won Gunma's prefecturals with relative ease (they gave up just 3 runs in 6 games and all in the semis and finals), Maebashi Shougyou's 3rd place win actually gave them a bid.  It may also explain why perhaps Kanto Dai-ichi lost in their first game to Hachiouji Kita in the Tokyo taikai.  While game experience is good, why do it if you don't have to?  Especially against opponents you may see in the summer when it matters?  By the way, Teikyou scored 49 runs in 5 games, yet had to survive a 16-10 final against Toukaidai Takanawadai!

In other prefectures, Mito Shougyou and Shimotsuma Dai-ni advance out of Ibaraki, Utsunomiya Kougyou and Sakushin Gakuin represent Tochigi, unknowns Nanryou and Kasukabe Higashi will represent Saitama.  Over in Chiba it's an all Matsudo affair as Senshuudai Matsudo only struggled against Narashino, and Matsudo Kokusai will join them in the super-regional.  And in Yamanashi, Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku and Toukaidai Koufu advance.

Perhaps one team that could make a name in the summer is good ol' Yokohama Hayato.  3 years ago, they defeated Yokohama 10-9 en route to their first ever Koushien appearance.  This spring, they hope they haven't blown their trumps cards early.  Why do I say that?  Well, take a look at their road to the spring title after 3 easy games:
  • Round 4 - Rallies from down 4-1 to Keiou to tie it in the bottom of the 9th, wins 5-4 in 13.
  • Quarterfinals - Down 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th to Yokohama Shoudai, scores 2 for another sayonara victory.
  • Semifinals - Down 5-0 to Toukaidai Sagami after 3, they rally back to tie the game, then score the go-ahead run in the top of the 9th to win 6-5.
  • Finals - Against Yokohama (yes, Yokohama), they come back from down 1-0, then 3-1, scoring 2 runs in the top of the 8th to win 4-3.
That's 4 consecutive come-from-behind wins against Keiou, Yokohama Shoudai (who you may not have heard of, but is certainly above average in the prefecture), Toukaidai Sagami and Yokohama.


So again, the question will be, did they use up all their luck in the wrong spot?  Because if they manage to repeat the feat this summer, they will certainly be talked about come the summer.  Maybe not as a championship contender, but one that could make a decent run.  Oddly enough, you might consider them the Hanamaki Higashi of the Kanto region.  And coincidentally, Hanamaki Higashi Sasaki-kantoku's old school?  Yep, Yokohama Hayato.

Tohoku hasn't started play yet, and Hokkaido just started, so there's nothing new there.

So a couple of weeks later, perhaps put Yokohama Hayato on the bottom of the notable list.  If nothing else, they made one hell of a run.