Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Haru Taikai Recap - Hokkaido to Tokai

So, here's what's going on in the Haru Taikai's.

Hokkaido Super-Regional
In Hokkaido, it's much of the same process, each region qualifies a team - Sapporo has 4 blocks, Hakodate 2.  Hokushou and Engaru automatically advance having played at Haru Koushien.

They still won their regionals, but since they got automatic bids, the losers of the finals were guaranteed to advance - Otaru Ouyou out of the Otaru region, and Kitami Hokuto out of Kitami.

Many familiar names reached the 2nd stage.  Both Komadai Tomakomai and Komadai Iwamizawa advanced, along with Hokkai and Sapporo Nichidai.  Lesser known teams such as Towa no mori san-ai and Hakodate LaSalle both advanced as well.

Missing from the list of teams is Asahikawa Jitsugyou, who lost 4-1 to Asahikawa Ryuukoku as well as Shirakaba Gakuen who fell 8-7 to Obihiro Kita after they rallied for 5 in the 7th before hanging on by the slimmest of margins.

The super-regionals started the other day and we already have a few casualties.  Hokkai fell 7-5 to Hakodate LaSalle while Engaru couldn't get past the first round falling to Sapporo Nichidai 4-3.  In other games, Komadai Tomakomai had no problems with Wakkanai Ootani, while Otaru Ouyou's reprieve lasted just one game, losing to Kushiro Koryou.  Kitami Hokuto and Komadai Iwamizawa has also advanced.

Tohoku Super-Regional
Prefectures have finished up their qualifiers, and there are not many surprises.

In Aomori, Aomori Yamada cleans up on Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi with Hachinohe Kougyou taking the 3rd spot.

No Hanamaki Higashi in Iwate, instead Moriokadai Fuzoku outlasts Senshuudai Kitami 7-3 to take the title while Ichinoseki Gakuin loses out yet again, this time a 5-1 loss to Morioka Dai-yon.

Newly formed Noshiro Shouyou (merger between Noshiro Shougyou and Noshiro Kita) takes Akita in sayonara fashion in the 10th over tough-luck Honjyou with Akita Chuo winning the 3rd place match.

We haven't really heard from Haguro recently out of Yamagata recently, but they defeat Kunori Gakuen 5-2 to take the spring title.  Sakata Minami was relegated to 3rd after an 11-4 win over Yonezawa Chuo.

Miyagi is still missing Tohoku.  Meiji Jingu champ Sendai Ikuei and Rifu have filled the gap in the meantime - though a 16-9 score doesn't exactly instill confidence in the prefecture in the summer.  Sendai Dai-san blanked Sendai Shougyou 4-0 to take the last spot.

And in Fukushima, status quo is maintained.  Seikou Gakuin wins once again, this time a 25-2 whitewashing over Fukushima HigashiOdaka Kougyou finishes in 3rd.

Kanto Super-Regional
Kanto for the spring includes Tokyo, so they're grouped in with everyone else in the region.  Play has been completed, and it perhaps sheds some light for the summer.

With Tochigi hosting, they receive 4 bids while all others get 1.  No real surprise from those 4 teams - Sano Nichidai, Ootawara, Sakushin Gakuin and Hakuoudai Ashikaga.

Urawa Gakuin got a free pass but still won Saitama in an 8-0 win over Hanasaki Tokuharu. That meant that the 3rd place team advanced from Saitama and that team was Washinomiya in a 5-3 win over Saitama Sakae.  Going over the results, my Kasukabe Kyouei squad had to face Urawa Gakuin and gave them the best fight in-prefecture, losing 2-1 in 12 inning.  I was going to hope those two teams were going to be split up this year (Saitama will be split up this time around along with other major prefectures), but with Kasukabe Kyouei an ~20 min drive to Urawa Gakuin... my guess is no.  Darn.

  • In Ibaraki Kasumigaura held on for dear life to defeat Jyousou Gakuin 3-2.
  • Shifting to Gunma, Takasaki Kenkou Fukushidai re-emerges but cannot hold a lead late and falls just short against Maebashi Ikuei losing 5-4 in 12.
  • To the southwest in Chiba, Toukaidai Bouyou finally wins the prefecturals, overcoming a 3-0 deficit to Senshuudai Matsudo winning 5-4.
  • Tokyo qualified 2 familiar faces with Teikyou defeating Nichidai-san.  Teikyou survived back-to-back enchousen games against the aforementioned Sanko and Nichidai Tsurugaoka.  Their schedule was littered with Koushien-brand teams - before Nichidai Tsurugaoka was Kanto Dai-ichi, Yasuda Gakuen, and Kokushikan.
  • Ace Matsui out of Toukou Gakuen struggles to get more support as they cannot win it all as they fall to Touin Gakuen in the Kanagawa final.  This after defeating Yokohama, Yokohama Hayato and Nichidai Fujisawa.
  • And finally in Yamanashi, Fuji-kawaguchiko - a team that has done fairly well in the prefecture, reached the final, but couldn't overcome Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku.
As for the super-regional, the games were for the most part were close.  Teikyou couldn't get past their first game, falling to Jyousou Gakuin 5-4.  Toukou Gakuen, with no Matsui almost got to the semifinals, but a 4-run 7th by Maebashi Ikuei squashed their chances.

Uragaku had an immediate test in the Super-Regionals facing ever-present Sanko.  However, they were able to shut them down in a surprising 2-0 score.  In fact, Ojima was used just twice.  Once in part against Sanko, and then again in the semifinals against Toukaidai Bouyou as Urawa Gakuin took the Kanto Super-Regionals over the aforementioned Maebashi Ikuei.

Hokushinetsu Super-Regional
Ishikawa is the host this year for the Hokushinetsu Super-Regional, so they qualify 4 teams while all others send 2.

And Godzilla's alma mater is trying their darnest to get to Koshien this year.  Well, if the spring taikais are any indication.  Seiryou had to survive two 8-7 ballgames against Kanazawa and Yuugakukan to take the spring title.  On a slightly unrelated note, they also defeated my friend's JET assignment Komatsu Meihou.  Joining the trio is Kanazawa Gakuin Higashi.

In Fukui, the secret is out.  Tsuruga Kehi is good.  So while I suppose you can hide some things, there probably isn't a whole lot to hide anymore.  With that said, they won the rematch against Harue Kougyou 6-3 in the final.

I really wish Ueda Nishi would get to Koushien one day.  I don't know why Ueda Nishi other than that Ueda was used for bits of the Onegai Twins! series.  I guess for now a spring prefectural victory will have to do.  They defeated both Matsushou Gakuen and Chikyuu Kankyou before defeating Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri 2-1.

Over in Toyama, Toyama Dai-ichi will look to challenge this summer after defeating both Tonami Kougyou and runner-up Toyama Shougyou.  A 3-0 11 inning win though in the final means they'll probably have their hands full.

And finally in Niigata, there are two names I am not totally familiar with.  Murakami Sakuragaoka almost fritters away a 6-0 lead, but holds on to defeat Shibata Chuo 6-5.  I haven't really been able to find anything about either team, so I will be curious to see the summer taikai as both Nihon Bunri and Niigata Kenou Kougyou both reached the semifinals.

Tokai Super-Regional
Tokai has already completed play and I can't say I'm completely surprised by the teams that made it.

Since it's a non-Koshien taikai, each prefecture sends just 2 teams to the super-regional.

Shizuoka is always a focus for me because of Tokoha Kikugawa and Tohoha Tachibana.   Sadly, both were in the same half, and wound up facing each other in the semifinals.  Tachibana held the slim 2-1 lead before Kikugawa scores a run in the 8th, then walks off in the 9th to reach the super-regionals.  Joining them will be Shizuoka, who never really competed with Kikugawa in the final.

Gifu brings back one of the possible contenders at Haru Koushien - if not for injuries.  So how did Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou bounce back?

Well, they did win Gifu, but it looks like they didn't use Fujita. It showed as they went through several close games against many seemingly non-contenders... and still won the prefecture.  Oogaki Nichidai joins them, but don't look to be serious contenders at this moment.

In Mie, Inabe Sougou Gakuen takes out a possible contender in Komono in the quarterfinals, then almost coughs up the victory against recent newcomer Tsu Shougyou before winning 6-5 in 11 innings.  Not sure that Tsu Shougyou has in their arsenal that has made them contenders in Mie at least, but I don't think we've seen the last of them.

(I did try to look up players from Tsu Shougyou, and all I can find is the battery of Moriyama Takuma 森山 拓魔, and Shimizu Tomoki 清水 智貴 - who happen to be the 3-4 batters for the team)

Aichi happens to be the only surprise out of the 4.  Both Chuukyoudai Chuukyou and Aikoudai Meiden both lost in the quarterfinals, opening the field up for the title - which would be taken in spectacular walkoff fashion by Haruhigaoka 3-2 over Eitoku.

Onto the super-regionals and it looks like Fujita isn't 100% yet.  He started versus Shizuoka, but did not last long as they got to him early and often in an 8-3 loss.  Oogaki Nichidai proved my premise right about Gifu as they lost to Inabe Sougou Gakuen, while Tsu Shougyou only yielded a 9th inning run against Haruhigaoka.

Much to perhaps all the other prefectures' dismay, it was an all-Shizuoka final as Tokoha Kikugawa and Shizuoka squared off yet again.  After trading 3-spots in the 1st, another 3-run inning by Kikugawa in the 5th proved to be just enough as they take the spring Tokai tournament 6-5.

The biggest concern has to be for Kengifushou and Fujita.  If he's not 100%, they're just another team.  They need him to be fully ready for the run this summer... or it really was a pyhrric victory over Osaka Touin.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Haru Taikais - What are they used for?

In the Kokoyakyu calendar year, everything seems to lead into the next thing.  The 秋大会 (aki, or fall taikai) leads to 春甲子園 (haru koushien or senbatsu).  Then there's the summer qualifying for 夏甲子園.

But what puzzles me is the 春大会, or haru taikai.  They don't seem lead to anything.  It's not like it's used for qualification to any 甲子園, so what is it really used for?

While I don't have a fully concrete answer right now, I can only fathom several possibilities.

One thing that I can say for sure, though it is not uniform across the prefectures is that that the top finishers get the top seedings for the summer prefectural qualifiers.  This is definitely the case in Okinawa where Okinawa Shougaku, Kounan, Okinawa Suisan and Urasoe Kougyou all received the top 4 seeds in the summer prefecturals after finishing in that order in the haru taikai.
Now, of course being a top seed in an otherwise random draw doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot - perhaps a first round bye (two byes if you're in Aichi - which actually makes a difference).  But compared to other prefectures where they use last year's top 4 (or more), it certainly seems like a better indicator since most schools have a bevy of 3rd years on the roster who have obviously since graduated.

If you're in a prefecture that doesn't use the haru taikais for Natsu Koushien seeding, then the only other thing I can think of is that it gives teams to work together as a team in a simulated tournament setting before the Natsu Koushien qualifying.  During the fall taikais it was the 1st and 2nd years participating (now 2nd and 3rd years).  Now with the incoming freshman class, it gives teams and managers the ability to evaluate talent against competition outside of single game settings.

The drawback is the same as the fall taikai. Since Haru Koushien is an invitational, all one team really needs to do is to get into the field of qualifying teams.  Now, the committee has passed on teams that if we went from top down would qualify.  But if one can make a good case with their performance, generally they are accepted.

So let's say you're in the Kinki super-region where they qualify 6 teams.  Unless you had an easy road and got annihilated in the semifinals, or perhaps skated by a couple of games, chances are if you make the semis you're in.  So outside of the pride of winning it all (which being Japan obviously means something), there is something to be said for giving away too much information to your possible opponents about your team.  Heck, I've even found videos that have had things blurred out so you couldn't see players or the like - until Koushien was over.

So while you may get extra work in, it can also be a place where people get to see your new, or congealing talent, and for people to prepare.

That's all I can really come up with for now.  But since it can at least shed some light on possible teams to track for the summer, I'll be giving the haru taikais (including super-regionals) some coverage of the next couple of weeks (Shikoku and Kyushu have already concluded).