Saturday, January 24, 2015

87th Haru Koushien Field Announced!

So the field has been announced for the upcoming 87th Haru Koushien (aka Senbatsu). And while I goofed in only putting one team from the Hokushinetsu and Tokai regions in my projections, had I done it properly, I would have had all but one of the 29 main invitees pegged:

  • Toukai Dai-yon
  • Sendai Ikuei (Aomori)
  • Oomagari Kougyou (Akita)
  • Urawa Gakuin (Saitama)
  • Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba)
  • Takasaki Kenkoudai Fukushi (Gunma)
  • Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki)
  • Toukaidai Sugao
  • Nishogakushadai Fuzoku
  • Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui)
  • Matsushou Gakuen (Nagano)
  • Shizuoka (Shizuoka)
  • Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Gifu)
  • Tenri (Nara)
  • Ritsumeikan Uji (Kyoto)
  • Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)
  • Naradai Fuzoku (Nara)
  • Osaka Touin (Osaka)
  • Oumi (Shiga)
  • Ube Koujyou (Yamaguchi)
  • Okayama Ridai Fuzoku (Okayama)
  • Yonago Kita (Tottori)
  • Eimei (Kagawa)
  • Imabari Nishi (Ehime)
  • Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto)
  • Itoman (Okinawa)
  • Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima)
  • Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu (Fukuoka)
Meiji Jingu Bid
  • Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Aomori)
21st Century Schools
  • Toyohashi Kougyou (Aichi)
  • Touin (Wakayama)
  • Matusyama Higashi (Ehime)
Just to explain, it would generally be hard to pass up the runner-ups in the Hokushinetsu and the Tokai regions for a semifinalist. It would have taken a strong resume in order to do so (in my opinion anyways).

And as it turns out, the committee doesn't always go after brand name. Though I think there is a difference between Yokohama and Meitoku Gijyuku. Anyways, Meitoku does not get the benefit of the doubt this time around and the floating bid goes north to Yonago Kita - it's not like it's not well-deserved either.

As for the 21st century schools, they certainly did not consider baseball strength this time around. The 3 teams selected had some of the weakest resumes of the final pool. To be fair though, the 21st century invites were never supposed to be based on baseball merit.  Good for the trio though, the kids get an opportunity to play on the hallowed grounds of Koushien stadium - if even for a game.

There are a lot of familiar names this year - dotted with some newcomers. It may be scratch this time around, but hopefully it'll still end up in exciting baseball come March.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

21st Century Candidates - Final 9

So in less than a couple weeks time, we will have the projected field for the 86th Haru Koushien. Most of the field is pretty much decided, but there is the matter of the 21st century bids which the JHBF gives out to those schools which have shown success in the face of adversity, or for things they have contributed to the community.

The final 9 nominees are:
  • Hokkaido - Kitami Kougyou
  • Tohoku - Matsushima (Miyagi)
  • Kanto/Tokyo - Tomioka (Gunma)
  • Hokushinetsu - Kanazawa Shougyou (Ishikawa)
  • Tokai - Toyohashi Kougyou (Aichi)
  • Kinki - Touin (Wakayama)
  • Chuugoku - Hirata (Shimane)
  • Shikoku - Matsuyama Higashi (Ehime)
  • Kyushu - Yahata Minami (Fukuoka)
Remember that there are 3 bids given out, 1 for the Western regionas, 1 for the Eastern regions and 1 as a wild card.

Let's go through each nominee:

Kitami Kougyou (Lost in Super-Regional Quarterfinals)
Kitami Kougyou actually has a great resume. They didn't have to face Kitami Hokuto in the regionals, but did play and defeat Engaru with 2 runs late. They then defeated Sapporo Dai-ichi and Hakodate Kougyou before losing a 2-0 lead to eventual champions Toukai Dai-yon late.

It would be nice to see a team from Hokkaido to make it as a 21st century team as I think they are generally under-represented. Kitami Kougyou might make it through this year.

Matsushima (Lost in 2nd round of Super-Regionals)
Matsushima's resume, despite reaching the super-regionals, is very weak. They qualified as the 3rd place team out of Miyagi, having been shutout in the regional final to Touryou 5-0, and losing in the semifinals 7-0 to Sendai Ikuei. They defeated Furukawa Gakuen 9-2 in 8 to get that 3rd place.

They blew out Miyako Shougyou in the first round before losing in 10 innings to Oomagari Kougyou 3-2 in 10 innings.

The lack of competitiveness in the major games means on baseball merit they don't really have a leg to stand on that way.

Tomioka (Lost in semifinals of Gunma prefecturals)
Tomioka's resume is much shorter, and therefore is harder to build compared to other schools. Their signature win was in the round of 16 where they defeated Tokyou Noudai Dai-ni 2-1 in 12 innings. They did hold firm early against Kendai Takasaki in the semifinals, but faltered late giving up 5 runs to fall 7-3.

Like Matsushima, if they get in it will be based upon some other merit than on the field results.

Kanazawa Shougyou (Lost in 1st round of Super-Regionals)
Kanazawa Shougyou was impressive in prefecture, defeating powerhouses Kanazawa and Seiryou back-to-back to win the title (They shutout Kanazawa, and then rallied after falling behind 6-3 in the final 2 innings to win 8-6).

The problem is that they suffered a mercy-rule loss to Toyama Dai-ichi. They were shutout by Tsuruga Kehi 2 games later, but then again who didn't? The big name victories in-prefecture will be a plus.

Toyohashi Kougyou (Lost in 1st round of Super-Regionals)
Give credit to Toyohashi Kougyou, they did reach the super-regionals. But they didn't have to defeat any of the big-name schools and when they did it was a 10-0 loss to Aikoudai Meiden. They did salvage 3rd when they defeated Haruhigaoka 3-1.

And in the super-regionals, they fell behind quickly to Hamamatsu Shuugakusha (Shizuoka 2) and lost 6-1.

Sadly, they fall in with the likes of Matsushima and Tomioka when considering teams using baseball merit.

Touin (Lost in prefectural quarterfinals)
Touin's resume might actually be the weakest of them all. They qualified for the prefecturals proper by being one of the 4 winners of the 1st year tournament. But in the first round (i.e. the quarterfinals), they lost 7-5 to Minoshima.

Now, the loss could be qualified in that they gave up 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th, but still with Minoshima not performing well in the super-regionals it doesn't really give Touin that much weight for consideration.

Hirata (Lost in super-regional quarterfinals)
Hirata, for what it's worth in Shimane, built about a good of a resume as they could have.

First, in the first stage, they defeated a solid Izumo Nourin squad 4-0. Then, in the prefecturals they defeated Masuda Shouyou and Taisha before almost slipping up against Matsue Kita, winning in sayonara fashion 3-2. They then gave Risshoudai Shounan all they could handle rallying from behind to force enchousen, but lost an inning later 5-4.

Hirata had a favorable draw in the super-regionals, getting Yonago Higashi (Tottori 4) to open - though they needed all 9 innings to win 2-0. Unfortunately, scoring late was not a successful strategy against Ube Shougyou (Yamaguchi 2) as by that time they were already trailing 4-0, eventually losing 6-3.

Matsuyama Higashi (Lost in 1st round of super-regionals)
Matsuyama Higashi's run this year started off well with a 7-1 win over Touon in the regionals. But when they reached the prefecturals, they struggled all the way through against teams like Matsuyama Kita and Komatsu before putting together a solid 3-2 win over a resurging Nitta squad. However, when paired with Imabari Nishi in the final, they fell flat losing in a shutout 5-0.

They didn't really appear to recover from that in the super-regionals, though admittedly it didn't help that they were paired against Naruto (Tokushima 3). A 5-2 loss spelled the end of things.

Yahata Minami (Lost in 1st round of super-regionals)
Yahata Minami had a good run this year, starting with an exhaustive 8-6 victory versus Touchiku to advance to the prefecturals.

In the prefecturals, they then put a solid game together against Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku, narrowly winning 4-3 before failing late, yielding 5 runs in the final 2 innings to fall 5-4 to eventual winners Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu. Still, with Fukuoka qualifying 4 teams as the host, they advanced to the super-regionals.

They unfortunately drew one of the few first round spots and a game against St. Ursula (Miyazaki 2). Once again, they failed to hold a lead, relinquishing a 2-0 and then a 3-2 lead, falling 4-3 for an early exit.

The run for them was good, but there wasn't a true quality win in their run. Still, compared to some of the other resumes it looks better than most of them.


So, with a summary of all the nominees, who is projected to receive that phone call?

It's hard to say. Mostly because there is that part that can award a bid for something outside of baseball merit.

But, as best as I can determine, here's what I see happening:
  • Hokkaido - Kitami Kougyou
  • Tohoku - Matsushima (Miyagi)
  • Kanto/Tokyo - Tomioka (Gunma)
  • Hokushinetsu - Kanazawa Shougyou (Ishikawa)
  • Tokai - Toyohashi Kougyou (Aichi)
  • Kinki - Touin (Wakayama)
  • Chuugoku - Hirata (Shimane)
  • Shikoku - Matsuyama Higashi (Ehime)
  • Kyushu - Yahata Minami (Fukuoka)
From a baseball point of view, this is about as clear-cut as I have ever seen it. None of the schools crossed out built a solid resume of games, while the ones who are left did.

Of course, JHBF doesn't work that way, so I expect there to be a change somewhere. I just wouldn't know which team they would choose.