Thursday, July 28, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Today's Finals (07.28)

12 finals today. After today (weather pending), there will only be Kanagawa, Aichi, Osaka, and Fukuoka left to decide their champions.

Miyagi - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • Rifu v (S) Tohoku
This final matchup is a battle between 2 teams looking to get back to prominence. Tohoku had a 2 year span when they had Darvish and almost won it all. But the team soon afterwards fell back into the masses. Since then they would be seeded, but never able to really deliver.

Rifu came out of seemingly nowhere in 2009 when in the spring, as a 21st century team no less, they reached the Best 4 before losing to Hanamaki Higashi and Kikushi Yuusei.

Since then, they've seemed to hover in Tier 3 status, good, but not great. They had a cup of coffee in 2014, but were embarrassed by Kendai Takasaki.

Both teams have not had the smoothest of runs, but when it mattered they got the win. Rifu defeating Touryou and Tohoku outlasting Sendai Ikuei in 11 innings. You might be able to give Tohoku the advantage, but given neither has shown to be that dominating, you can probably expect it to be an even matchup.

Gunma - 1800 PDT (Not streamed)
  • ① Maebashi Ikuei v ② Kendai Takasaki
I was not really expecting this final, mostly because I thought Maebashi Ikuei's #1 seed was more of a mirage than anything else.

But I have to say, they haven't lost a game in tournament play yet in 2016. That can't last, but if they want to win it all, they'll have to. And that's a big ask.

The teams they left in their wake in the spring? Yokohama, Kanto Dai-ichi, Hanasaki Tokuharu...

...and Kendai Takasaki.

Yep, these two teams faced off in the spring prefectural final where Maebashi Ikuei made a 6-0 lead stick. Barely.

Kendai Takasaki came onto the scene in 2012 by reaching the Haru Koushien semifinal, losing to Osaka Touin. They've been trying to recreate that magic, but their results have declined. Still, they're looking to get their 3rd straight Natsu title.

Maebashi Ikuei's last 4 games they have won 3-0 or 3-1 which included a win over Kiryuu Dai-ichi 3 rounds ago. Kendai Takasaki has thrown 2 shutouts, but has not defeated a major team, beat Isesaki Seimei 3-0 in the semis, and will have to pitch on no days rest as opposed to Maebashi Ikuei's 1 day due to rainouts.

As of right now, before 1st pitch Maebashi Ikuei at least is on the level, if not will start as the favorite.

Higashi Tokyo - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • Kanto Dai-ichi v Toua Gakuen
Well, that rivalry final was thrown off the rails... Nishogakushadai Fuzoku wasn't able to advance out of the semifinals as ace Ooe fell apart in the late innings allowing Toua Gakuen to rally for a 7-6 win. Unfortunately for him, his legacy may be of one unfulfilled as he fails to win the summer title.

Kanto Dai-ichi had no problems with Jyoutou, as the combo of Takei and Satou struck out 12 in a 3-0 shutout. And with their rivals eliminated, they should feel that their path to the title is clear.

Toua Gakuen though will be looking for their first title in 27 years, so you can bet they're hungry. Whether they are up to the challenge is yet to be seen.

Gifu - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Chuukyou v Oogaki Nichidai
Oogaki Nichidai looks really strong going into the final, having shutout Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou 6-0 and whose only close game was a 7-3 win over Seki Shoukou the previous round. Chukyou did defeat last year's champs Gifu Jyouhoku 6-4 and 1-hit Nagara in the semifinal. It's about as strong as a performance one could expect, even though in reality it was a no-win situation.

Oogaki Nichidai should have the advantage here, as Chuukyou is under "prove it" restrictions.

Toyama - 2100 PDT (Not streamed)
  • ⑤~⑧ Toyama Shougyou v ①~② Toyama Dai-ichi
Toyama Dai-ichi is looking for their 2nd ever Natsu Koushien appearance. Their first one went pretty well, reaching the Best 8 before losing to eventual runner-ups Nobeoka Gakuen (Jeez, that final with Maebashi Ikuei was 3 years ago already! God I feel old...). Better yet for them is that they have run circles around the competition scoring 9 runs or more in each game. Though to be honest, it wasn't all that tough.

Toyama Shougyou will look to come back after a year's hiatus. They took out last year's winner Takaoka Shougyou in the Best 8, but did struggle a bit against Nanto Fukuno in the semifinal.

Toyama Dai-ichi probably is in line to make their 2nd appearance. And who know where they will take it given their initial foray.

Mie - 2030 PDT (Not streamed)
  • (S) Inabe Sougou Gakuen v (S) Tsuda Gakuen
Two seeded teams in the final, but neither of them are Mie. Tsuda Gakuen made sure of that by defeating them 4-2 in the semifinal despite getting just 5 hits. They now sit just one game away from reaching their first ever tournament.

Inabe Sougou Gakuen is looking for their 2nd title, and was steamrolling the field until they eked out a 1-0 win against Kaisei. Tsuda Gakuen has a lot to prove, but beating Mie is a big get for their confidence.

Hyogo - 2105 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Akashi Shougyou v Shiritsu Amagasaki
Well, in a prefecture littered with good private schools, all of them have fallen by the wayside, leaving us 2 schools with just 1 combined Natsu appearance, and that was Shiritsu Amagasaki 33 years ago.

And it's not like either school got a dream run either. Akashi Shougyou needed to get past Kansei (Kwansei) Gakuin, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku and Shinkou Gakuen to get here. Shiritsu Amagasaki beat Houtoku Gakuen in the quarterfinals and that was after playing 2 games the prior 2 days because they Nishinomiya Imadzu played them to a 2-2 draw, and replayed the game the next day...

The good news for Shiritsu Amagasaki is that they appear to have 2 pitchers, Tsujii and Hirabayashi, that they seem comfortable leaning on, so the workload has at least been shared. But I'm sure recovering from 3 consecutive games has been tough...

Nara - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Chiben Gakuen v (S) Tenri
Big surprise here! #sarcasm

These two teams have played each other 17 times in tournament play over the last decade, and this will be the 6th time these two teams have faced each other in the Natsu taikai. That not withstanding, these two teams account for 14 of the 16 bids since 2000.

Yet, both of these teams almost didn't make it here. For Tenri, it was a 1-0 deficit against Naradai Fuzoku until 1B Yasuhara hit a 2-run sayonara HR.

For Chiben Gakuen, it was Kooriyama (who actually had one of the 2 other Natsu bids) who jumped out to a 3-1 lead with 2 HRs. But as much as they tried to repel Chiben Gakuen's comeback, a run in 4 consecutive innings tied the game at 5. The game would go to enchousen before Chiben Gakuen plated the winning run in the 10th.

Chiben Gakuen were the Haru Koushien champs, but that last game has to give you pause because Nara is not a very strong prefecture. But Tenri struggled just as much, if not more.

Wakayama - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • Minoshima v Shiritsu Wakayama
With Chiben Wakayama possibly on their way down, it's these two schools (who represented the prefecure in 2013 & 2014) who seem to have emerged early to fill the void.

Both breezed through the field early, but Shiritsu Wakayama has slowed down a bit though they were the team to eliminate Chiben Wakayama 10-5. There may have been some hangover as they then hung on to defeat Hashimoto 3-2 to get to the finals.

Yamaguchi - 1800 PDT (Asahi)
  • Takagawa Gakuen v (S) Ube Koujyou
Both Ube Koujyou and Takagawa Gakuen have crushed the opposition underneath their feet to a combined 79-7. The only blemish is that Ube Koujyou did have a 2 game stretch where they won 5-1 and 2-1 so maybe you could say that there may be some weaknesses there, but that's about it.

Tokushima - 2130 PDT (Not streamed)
  • ① Naruto v ② Naruto Uzushio
Naruto has made their own foothold in Tokushima, winning the last 4 titles and 5 of the last 6. Naruto Uzushio hasn't won any, but its predecessors - Naruto Kougyou and Naruto Dai-ichi - have. It just hasn't seemed to come together as one entity, though that might change today.

Both schools were not dominating like you would like - no mercy rule wins to speak of. Naruto needed runs late to win their semifinal against Tomioka Nishi while Naruto Uzushio needed extras to defeat Seikou Gakuen.

This may finally be the year that Naruto is dethroned, as you can argue that Naruto Uzushio had a more than fighting chance.

Ehime - 2030 PDT (Asahi)
  • Matsuyama Shouyou v (S) Nitta
And finally in Ehime, we are guaranteed to have a first-timer to go to Natsu Koushien. Both teams have had stints of good results, only to either get tripped up or hit the wall against powerhouse teams.

This year, both teams seemed to evade such an occurrence, though Matsuyama Shouyou almost had that against Saijyou in the 3rd round, and Nitta's offense was slowed by Touon in the semifinals. At this point I would just like to see a good match between the two.

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Championship Recap (07.27)

9 finals, 7 streamed on Asahi, 3 from yesterday's postponements.

Saitama - Hanasaki Tokuharu
Takahashi Kouya (高橋 昂也) did his job, pitching a 4-hit shutout to defeat Seibou Gakuen, who was never really in it.

Nishi Tokyo - Hachiouji
Early on, Hachiouji took the game to Toukaidai Sugao, scoring a run in the first 3 innings. It seemed like they were finally ready to enter the stage at the national level.

But things stalled there, and Toukaidai Sugao was able to scratch their way back, tying the game in the 5th. The team would trade opportunities, but as regulation time ended, Hachiouji started getting more opportunities.

As a well-read colleague of mine (and I use that loosely because he's doing much more bigger things than I am career-wise), was saying, ace Itou for Toukaidai Sugao was tiring in his opinion and it would be a matter of time before Hachiouki would get a run across.

This was in the 8th, and Hachiouji instead gave Itou one of the quickest innings, which is the last thing they needed to do. But teams for some reason are reluctant to give a pitcher the rope to hang themselves. Maybe against weaker competition, but against a more competitive squad, almost never. And I don't to this day understand why.

And when a team who hasn't gone and is facing a team that has for a title, that team looking for their first title is always on the verge of collapse at the first sign of trouble. And especially so as the game reaches late stages. As I've mentioned before, it's the feeling of "Here we go again..." that overwhelms those teams. Not to say that those teams can't overcome it, but that they seem more vulnerable.

Hachiouji though managed to hold the line to enchousen, and in the 11th was able to breakthrough with a pair of runs. Though Toukaidai Sugao got a one-out hit, Hachiouji executed a 6-4-3 double play to deliver the first ever title to their school.

Shizuoka - Tokoha Kikugawa
This game went pretty much as expected. Fukuroi fell behind right off the bat, and never could get off the mat as Tokoha Kikugawa won 12-0.

Ishikawa - Seiryou
Seiryou is becoming the equivalent of Osaka Touin/Seikou Gakuin for me in that they generally have a stranglehold on the prefecture. And that they've apparently made a pact with the devil to almost always put a hex on the opposition.

How else can you say that with Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa up 4-1 that Seiryou scores 4 to take the lead, and eventually win 7-5?


Fukui - Hokuriku
I wasn't watching the early stages, but was shocked to see Hokuriku up 4-0 over Fukui Shougyou. What wasn't surprising was to see Fukui Shougyou come back to within 1 at the break.

Even still, Hokuriku continued to give themselves opportunities, and that manifested itself in a pair of runs in the 6th.

Fukui Shougyou would get 1 in the 7th and a second chance when on a grounder to SS with the bases loaded, the runner at 2nd collided with the SS and was ruled for interference, but since the SS was not in the action of throwing to 1st, didn't result in a double play - this despite the SS was able to complete the play (it was ruled a dead ball at the time of interference). They couldn't make good on the 2nd chance and reliever Honda was able to close out the game and give Hokuriku the title!

Shiga - Oumi
Takashima did very well to hang with Oumi, keeping the game scoreless at the break. Unfortunately I mentioned that and the very next inning Oumi scores 3. That would be all the scoring in the game and Oumi takes the title.

Tottori - Sakai
None of this makes any sense. 19-4 Sakai, as Ajito strikes out 5, walks none, while Yonago Shouin is the one with major pitching issues, striking out just 2 and walking 14!

There's no way this team makes a deep run. I just can't see it.

Kochi - Meitoku Gijyuku
Nakamura much like Takashima in Shiga did really well against the 6-time winners. Yeah, they were down 2-0 early, but it wasn't until the late inning where Meitoku put the game out of reach. At least the prevented the shutout in the 9th, but Meitoku Gijyuku can erase that 6, and write in a 7 now with their 4-2 win.

Miyazaki - Nichinan Gakuen
I may not have given Miyazaki Shougyou a chance to win, but they did make it a competitive game against Nichinan Gakuen keeping themselves behind by just 1 run heading to the break. But like Oumi, Nichinan Gakuen regrouped during the break, scored 3 runs, and that was pretty much that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Today's finals (07.27)

9 finals, 7 streamed on Asahi, 3 from yesterday's postponements.

Saitama - 2000 PDT (Asahi)
  • ⑤~⑧ Seibou Gakuen v ①~② Hanasaki Tokuharu
It's kind of ridiculous that Hanasaki Tokuharu now has gone 5 games without giving up a run, the most recent which being a 5-0 blanking of Kasukabe Kyouei.

A good part of that is ace Takahashi Kouya (高橋 昂也) who didn't even give up a hit in the 2 games prior. Now, his record at Koushien is mixed at best, but Saitama isn't all that strong it seems, so he doesn't need to be 1st round draft material. Seibou Gakuen has definitely had their struggles in recent games, so they are probably under pressure right off the get go.

Nishi Tokyo - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • ① Toukaidai Sugao v ② Hachiouji
Wow, so the top 2 seeds made it all the way. And it wasn't a cake walk either. Toukaidai Sugao defeated Nichidai Tsurugaoka, Kokugakuin Kugayama and Nichidai-san. That's not a bad who's who there.

When I looked at the brackets, I looked at Hachiouji's 2 seed and cocked my head to the side because while they have been a solid Tier 3 school, a 2 seed seemed rather high. But while their list of defeated teams isn't as impressive, it does include wins over Waseda Jitsugyou and Souka.

Even still though their status as a Tier 3 school means that they cannot be favored to win against a school like Toukaidai Sugao.

Shizuoka - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • Fukuroi v Tokoha Kikugawa
Tokoha Kikugawa has 2 year span where they were as dangerous as an Osaka Touin, reaching the finals twice and semifinals once in 2007-2008. After that though, the kinda fell off the map, re-emerging only in 2013 and reached the round of 16 both times in both tournaments. They have not really been challenged on their way to the finals, and should be considered the favorites. This especially since Fukuroi advanced while giving up 10 runs to Hamamatsu Shougyou.

Ishikawa - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Seiryou v Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa
Sadly for Komatsu Ootani, they couldn't keep up with Seiryou, and perhaps their time as a title contender is slowly passing them by. Unless they can continue to reload the ranks like a team like Seiryou can, their one chance for Koushien may have passed them by...

Yuugakukan will not be able to defend their title as they were unable to stop the Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa offense, yielding 8 runs. What they did to, was to dent the pitching for 5 runs, something none of the other schools were able to to do. And with Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa using a committee of pitchers, one wonders if it is finally hitting its limit. And Seiryou will certainly be a big test.

Fukui - 1800 PDT (Asahi)
  • Fukui Shougyou v Hokuriku
Fukui Shougyou was able to beat Okuetsu Meisei comfortably in the end, but did trail 2-0 after 4. So it wasn't a wire-to-wire win.

I thought Sakai would make things tough for Hokuriku, but instead it was the other way around as Hokuriku never trailed in their 5-1 victory.

I'm puzzled now. I think Fukui Shougyou is still the favorite, but there's a lot of question marks about Hokuriku that in the end may amount to a whole lot of bupkis.

Shiga - 2030 PDT (Asahi)
  • Oumi v Takashima
That bump in the road became a flat tire for Shiga Gakuen, as while they led 1-0 early, Oumi would score 6 unanswered runs to win 7-2.

Takashima defeated Shiga Tankidai Fuzoku 3-1 to reach the final, but it really didn't help me at all figure them out. At this point I think it's all on their ace Nishimura Tokiwa (西村 常) to hold down the fort. I don't think Takashima can win a high scoring game, so he'll need to throw donuts onto the scoreboard.

Tottori - 2100 PDT (Not streamed)
  • (S) Sakai v Yonago Shouin
Tottori Jyouhoku, who has had the most success in recent years (but not at Koushien, though no one really has), was upended by Sakai. Yet ace Ajito only struck out 1 while walking 5. In fact, the game before that they K'd 2 and BB'd 8, and the game before that struck out 0 and walked 6!

How does that make any sense?

And what's even more puzzling is that Yonago Shouin is better, but not much so. Their last 3 K/BB rates were 6/6 and 3/5 and 8/5!

How do you even pick a winner?

Kochi - 2100 PDT (Not streamed)
  • (S) Meitoku Gijyuku v Nakamura
Meitoku Gijyuku is on the verge of their 7th consecutive appearance, this after holding on to defeat rival Kochi Shougyou 2-1. That was their only tough game so far.

Standing in the way is Nakamura, who is looking for their 1st. The results for the most part have been good, including a 6-4 win over Kochi, but with Meitoku Gijyuku dominating for so long, Nakamura will have much more to fight a mental game as well.

Miyazaki - 2105 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Nichinan Gakuen v Miyazaki Shougyou
Nichinan Gakuen is looking for a spring-summer appearance and has looked for the most part dominating in each of their 4 games. This compared to Miyazaki Shougyou who does carry a win against Miyazaki Nichidai, but whose games have been much closer. There just isn't enough there though for me to tip the scales away from the favorites though.

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Championship recap (07.26)

Couple of finals rained out, but some were able to wrap up.

Ibaraki - Jyousou Gakuin
Hosokawa Seiya (細川 成也) did his best to defeat Jyousou Gakuin, giving up just 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 5 and walking none.

But the problem is that they ran into Jyousou Gakuin and their established ace Suzuki Shouta (鈴木 昭汰), who last spring kept his team close with Osaka Touin, but did not look as spectacular this year.

Even still, he recorded 11 K's, including striking out Hosokawa twice. He gave up no runs, and therefore his team makes it to Koushien.

Chiba - Kisaradzu Sougou
Well, color me surprised, Shiritsu Funabashi at least proved that it belonged in the final, not allowing Kisaradzu Sougou to run away with it.

Though in the first, Oosawa delivered a 2-out 2-run double to take an early lead. But the pitching staff by committee shutout the offense after that so that 2 runs was the extent of the damage.

But in the 6th, Kisaradzu Sougou ace Hayakawa had the bases loaded with 2 outs. C Takada delivered a 2 out, 2-run hit of his own to tie the game.

The game stayed that way until the 9th when with a runner on 3rd, Oosawa came up once again and delivered a base hit to left center to give them the lead for good 3-2.

Ishikawa - Rained out
  • (S) Seiryou v Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa
Fukui - Rained out
  • Fukui Shougyou v Hokuriku
Shiga - Rained out
  • Oumi v Takashima
Hiroshima - Hiroshima Shinjyou
One wonders if Hiroshima Shinjyou is establishing itself as a Tier 2 school. After no appearances, it has now been to Haru Koushien (2014) and will now represent Hiroshima for the 2nd straight year.

Despite their performance earlier in the tournament, it seemed like Jyosuikan was trying to manage the game, going between their two pitchers Okamoto and Fukushima several times. It worked until the 8th inning when Hiroshima Shinjyou scored 3 in the 8 to take a 5-1 lead.

But they almost blew it. Jyosuikan, as if a light finally had been lit under their feet, rallied to within 1, but that would be as close as they would get.

Kumamoto - Shuugakukan
It got ugly. Quick.

Shuugakukan scored 3 right off the bat. Kyushu Gakuin tried to respond with 2 in the bottom of the frame, but Shuugakukan scored 6 unanswered in the next 2 innings to basically make the game merely a formality. The final damage was 13-2.

Kagoshima (Replay) - Shounan
I wish I could have watched the game to see how Shounan did it, how they survived 37 innings in 4 days.

But the key seemed to be the beginning of the game. Shounan started their ace Hamaya, while Kagoshima Jitsugyou went to reliever Maruyama. Maruyama though ran into trouble right off the bat and yielded 2 runs which perhaps set the tone for the game. Kagoshima Jitsugyou would tie the game in the 3rd, but Shounan would quickly re-take the lead in the bottom half of the inning. Hamaya would hand the ball off to reliever Hatakenaka soon after, and he shut the door, giving Shounan an amazing victory.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Today's finals (07.26)

9 finals, 6 streamed on Asahi. We are slowly getting to the nitty gritty here.

Ibaraki - 1800 PDT (Not streamed)
  • (S) Jyousou Gakuin v Meishuu Hitachi
Meishuu Hitachi ace Hosokawa Seiya (細川 成也) single-handedly was defeated Kasumigaura. He hit a 3-run HR, struck out 11 and gave up just 4 hits. He's starting to get on the radar, especially since he can supposedly hit 145 on the radar gun. But there's still not much info on him.

So perhaps this won't be as clearcut as Jyousou Gakuin would have though despite soundly defeating Shimotsuma Dai-ni 6-2. If they have anything to lean on, it's that Meishuu Hitachi's offense outside of Hosokawa was basically non-existent.

Chiba - 1800 PDT (Asahi)
  • ⑨~⑯ Shiritsu Funabashi v ⑤~⑧ Kisaradzu Sougou 
My concerns with Narashino were well founded as they fell 5-1 to Shiritsu Funabashi who looks to take their first title in 9 years.

Kisaradzu Sougou came back from down 5-1 to defeat Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku, passing yet another test adding to Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou and Senshuudai Matsudo.

The onus is squarely on Shiritsu Funabashi to prove it belongs in the final.

Ishikawa - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Seiryou v Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa
Sadly for Komatsu Ootani, they couldn't keep up with Seiryou, and perhaps their time as a title contender is slowly passing them by. Unless they can continue to reload the ranks like a team like Seiryou can, their one chance for Koushien may have passed them by...

Yuugakukan will not be able to defend their title as they were unable to stop the Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa offense, yielding 8 runs. What they did to, was to dent the pitching for 5 runs, something none of the other schools were able to to do. And with Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa using a committee of pitchers, one wonders if it is finally hitting its limit. And Seiryou will certainly be a big test.

Fukui - 1800 PDT (Asahi)
  • Fukui Shougyou v Hokuriku
Fukui Shougyou was able to beat Okuetsu Meisei comfortably in the end, but did trail 2-0 after 4. So it wasn't a wire-to-wire win.

I thought Sakai would make things tough for Hokuriku, but instead it was the other way around as Hokuriku never trailed in their 5-1 victory.

I'm puzzled now. I think Fukui Shougyou is still the favorite, but there's a lot of question marks about Hokuriku that in the end may amount to a whole lot of bupkis.

Shiga - 2030 PDT (Asahi)
  • Oumi v Takashima
That bump in the road became a flat tire for Shiga Gakuen, as while they led 1-0 early, Oumi would score 6 unanswered runs to win 7-2.

Takashima defeated Shiga Tankidai Fuzoku 3-1 to reach the final, but it really didn't help me at all figure them out. At this point I think it's all on their ace Nishimura Tokiwa (西村 常) to hold down the fort. I don't think Takashima can win a high scoring game, so he'll need to throw donuts onto the scoreboard.

Hiroshima - 2100 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Jyosuikan v (S) Hiroshima Shinjyou
Didn't see that one coming. Jyousuikan throws a 3-hit shutout in a 10-0 win of Kouryou. Kouryou gave up just 1 run going into that game.


Hiroshima Shinjyou had a somewhat comfortable win over Iwatoku 4-1, but you have to think Jyosuikan is scary at this point.

Kumamoto - 1830 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Shuugakukan v (S) Kyushu Gakuin
Shuugakukan has to have the inside track after basically eliminating Buntoku early with 3 runs in the 1st and 2nd innings to win 7-1.

Kyushu Gakuin defeated Chiharadai 3-1, but it could have easily been more given they had 12 hits and 7 walks. The lack of scoring with all those baserunners is concerning, especially when you ratchet up the competition to face Shuugakukan.

Kagoshima (Replay) - 2105 PDT (Asahi)
  • (S) Kagoshima Jitsugyou v (S) Shounan
There isn't much else to say other than this replay does not help Shounan at all. At this point it all hinges on whether the pitching for Shounan can hold. If it can, then they have a chance. Otherwise it may be over before it starts.

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Championship recap (07.25)

6 more champions crowned yesterday, and while there were a lot of blowouts, there was still drama to be had - and some of the not so good variety.

Akita - Oomagari Kougyou
I had basically touted Kakunodate's Kogita Atsuya (小木田 敦也) who had earlier thrown a no-hitter. But at the same time I said that he had to finish the job.

He didn't.

Kakunodate did have the lead 7-3 going into the bottom of the 8th, but the dominant pitcher perhaps had run out of gas. The bases were loaded with no outs, and as the hits accumulated, the lead shrunk. The final nail in the coffin was a chopper in front of home. Kogita threw home, but the ball bounced away from the C allowing not only the runner from 3rd to score, but the trailing runner as well. That runner made it 8-7 Oomagari Kougyou, and Kakunodate would not have an answer in the 9th. Oomagai Kougyou claims their first title.

Kyoto - Kyoto Shouei
The offense that Kyoto Shouei showed did not slow down at all in the finals against Fukuchiyama Seibi. They got up 6-0 after 3 innings and cruised to an 11-1 win to claim their first ever Natsu title.

Okayama - Soushi Gakuen
Oh, this game was hard to watch. At least the end.

Tamano Kounan was on the verge of claiming their 4th title. They were up 1-0 into the top of the 9th with one out and a runner on 1st.

The ball seems to go out to the pitcher who started the 1-6-3 double play to end the game. Tamano Kounan charged the mound celebrating, but when they lined up Soushi Gakuen was not lining up.

Something was amiss.

The umpires then conferred at home, then went to the back screen where other officials were. The delay was very long, so long in fact that Tamano Kounan recalled their players to the dugout.

When the head umpire got on the mic, he ruled the batted ball went off the batter while in the box. It was therefore a foul ball and the game was in fact not over.

And you can imagine the reaction.

Soushi Gakuen were filled with more energy while Tamano Kounan's kantoku tried to rally the team.

But it would take a very strong willed team to be able to "re-get" those 2 outs.

It didn't happen. Not even close.

Soushi Gakuen would score 4 runs, and with a routine 9th, it would be them that would charge the mound as the declared champions.

Kagawa - Jinsei Gakuen
In my attempts to get my blog updated, I could only get one game going, and when I refreshed the main page to see that Jinsei Gakuen was up 4-1.

I caught the last part of the game and Takamatsu Shougyou looked rather punchless at the plate. And as a result, the Haru Koushien runner-ups are eliminated!

Saga - Karatsu Shougyou
Karatsu Shougyou had no problems defeating Saga Shougyou, and I think the extra day rest certainly had something to do with it, though we will obviously not now to what extent. 16-5 and they are on to Koushien.

Oita - Oita
Saiki Kakujyou and Oita were trading scoring chances throughout the game, and Saiki Kakujyou was able to answer Oita's 9th inning run with one of theirs to force enchousen. But it only lasted one inning when Oita broke it open with 6 runs effectively ending the game.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Upcoming Finals (07.25)

And now for the semifnals:

  • ④ Oomagari Kougyou v Kakunodate
Kakunodate's Kogita Atsuya (小木田 敦也) threw yet another shutout, giving up just 5 hits. Oomagari Kougyou won 2-0 on just 2 hits (but 7 walks). You still have to think though that if Kogita has any gas left in the tank Kakunodate has the advantage.

  • Fukuchiyama Seibi v (S) Kyoto Shouei
Fukuchiyama Seibi did what they needed to, blanking the false seed in Tounan 4-0. But a big problem to them is that Kyoto Shouei got right back on track against Ritsumeikan Uji, only going 7 in a 9-2 win. If I were Seibi, I'd be concerned that the offense hasn't slowed down yet.

  • ⑤~⑧ Soushi Gakuen v ⑤~⑧ Tamano Kounan
Well, I got the Soushi Gakuen part right, but it was Tamano Kounan's pitching that was the difference, shutting out Kurashiki Shougyou 5-0. Soushi Gakuen has been dominant all the way through, so I think it's Tamano Kounan that needs to prove something.

  • (S) Takamatsu Shougyou v Jinsei Gakuen
Kagawa's semifnals were blowouts, setting up this final game. I've seen Jinsei Gakuen's name on the seeded line. I've seen them go far, but as of late I have not seen them win. Both teams have been dominant. Takamatsu Shougyou has made it to the Haru Koushien final. They have to be the favorites, despite perhaps the easier road at Koushien.

  • (S) Saga Shougyou v Karatsu Shougyou
In something unprecedentd, Ryuukoku was found to have a fire in it's club room, and it was determined to be due to cigarette butts. As a result, Ryuukoku forfeited their semifinal match to Karatsu Shougyou.

I've never seen this happen during a taikai. Before sure, but during? And in the semifinals??

So now we're in a situation where Saga Shougyou had to play a game, defeated Imari 5-2, but now faces a Karatsu Shougyou team with extra rest...

The scores and competition are roughly equal but Karatsu Shougyou has more rest. And while Saga Shougyou defeated Saga Kita, it was a 9-7 game. That really sucks for Saga Shougyou. Outside circumstances have put them at a disadvantage.

  • ⑤~⑧ Saiki Kakujyou v ③~④ Oita
The differences between the two schools seemed to have been exposed in the semifinals. Oita went 7 in defeating Usuki. Saiki Kakujyou scored all 5 of their runs in the 8th to defeat Touin, with only 4 hits and 9 walks. Oita should be the favorites going into this game.

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Today's semifinals (07.25)

Weekends are obviously busy for me, so this review is a bit late as games are in progress.

  • (S) Jyousou Gakuin v Shimotsuma Dai-ni
  • (S) Kasumigaura v Meishuu Hitachi
At a first glance, it looks like we're headed for a matchup between arguably 2 of the better teams in prefecture - Jyousou Gakuin and Kasumigaura. Jyousou Gakuin's only close game was their first against Tsuchiura Kohoku.

As for Kasumigaura, they recently broke through the ceiling to approach Tier 2 status after finally getting to Koushien in 2013. The only question for Kasumigaura is that their last game against Hasaki Yanagawa  they traded leads from 1-0, to 1-2, to 3-2, to 3-4 to 5-4. Now, they won, so that's the important part. But Meishuu Hitachi has a score to settle of their own. Their runs in 2013 and 2015 ended at the hands of Kasumigaura. So you bet they would like to exorcise some demons today.

  • Narashino v ⑨~⑯Shiritsu Funabashi
  • ⑤~⑧ Kisaradzu Sougou v ①~④ Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku
Narashino is making a run as an unseeded team no less. beating both Narita and Tokyo Gakkan Urayasu. That's impressive, but given their runs as of late it doesn't feel all that genuine yet. It may not until they win the title. Shiritsu Funabashi hasn't played anyone of note, and the win against top seed Chiba Reimei is a bit hollow. But the unknown factor can't be ignored.

The other semifinal matchup are two well-known schools. Kisaradzu Sougou has passed some tough tests, defeating both last year's winner Senshuudai Matsudo, and borderline Tier 2 school Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou (they seemed to have added the Ichihara bit).

Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku is another borderline Tier 2 school, though recently have just been making deep runs without finishing. Their schedule seems the easiest of the 4, but they have won their games with relative ease. Kisaradzu Sougou will be their biggest test.

Nishi Tokyo
  • ① Toukaidai Sugao vs. ③~⑦ Nichidai-san
  • ③~⑦ Souka vs. ② Hachiouji
Well, this looks scratch, but teams are missing. Waseda Jitsugyou? Gone. Nichidai Tsurugaoka? Also gone. Instead, there are 3 other brand names, and one outsider that seems to be stronger than ever looking for their first bid!

The first game you could see as a final. Both schools have been making solid runs, with perhaps a blip in the road for Nichidai-san in their 2-0 win over Meisei. While Toukaidai Sugao has had the tougher competition, Nichidai-san outranks them in terms of brand name.

Souka has been a solid Tier 3 school, as noted by their losses to teams like Toukaidai Sugao, Nishogakushadai Fuzoku and Nichidai-san. They can make deeps runs, but can't seem to get over the hump.

Hachiouji has been bordering on Tier 3 status recently, losing to teams like Waseda Jitsugyou, Toukaidai Sugao and Nishogakushadai Fuzoku.

Well, Hachiouji exorcised one of those demons 2 days ago when they sent the fighting Kiyomiya's (Waseda Jitsugyou) home with a 6-4 win. It's a start, and Souka should be a better challenge for them, but the finals would still await against a major school...

  • (S) Seiryou v Komatsu Ootani
  • (S) Yuugakukan v Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa

Fate likes to play tricks it seems. For the 3rd year in a row, Seiryou and Komatsu Ootani fight. But the scales still fall Seiryou's way. After all, their 9 runs in the 9th was for the title. Komatsu Ootani's 4 runs in 9th was just to get to the finals (where they lost).

Karma would say that Komatsu Ootani should still get some payback. But the scores so far indicate otherwise. Komatsu Ootani has had to work for just about every win. Seiryou has not lost by less than 6 runs. The math seems clear.

In the other semi, defending champs Yuugakukan have not had any peace, moving on by the skin of their teeth against Komatsu and Kanazawa. This compared to Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa who has scored 9 or more runs in each of their game, but have not faced anyone of note. Yuugakukan has been able to fight the close game, so they might have an edge if they do keep it close (which it seems like it might).

  • Fukui Shougyou v Okuetsu Meisei
  • Hokuriku v Sakai
What? Only Fukui Shougyou is left?

Yep. Fukui Shougyou ousted Fukui Koudai Fukui, and of all teams Sakai sent home Tsuruga Kehi.

Fukui Shougyou certainly has the inside line of the 4 schools by brand name and scores.

Both Okuetsu Meisei and Hokuriku's runs are odd. Neither have done much of anything and then recently both have had unexpected success. Weird, and I have no explanation.

Sakai is a new school, but comes from familiar roots. It's a combination of Sakai Nougyou...

... and Harue Kougyou.

Well, that explains it. And weirdly, the merger wasn't complete in 2016, so in last year's natsu taikai, Sakai lost in the first round... to Harue Kougyou. That's not awkward at all.

But after a 1st round spring taikai loss, they've come back and made their mark, upsetting Tsuruga Kehi 15 innings. It will yet to be seen how quickly this school competes for the title. It's almost there now.

  • Shiga Gakuen v Oumi
  • Takashima v Shiga Tankidai Fuzoku
No Kita-Ootsu? None of the burgeoning Oumi Kyoudaisha? Nope.

Instead we have Shiga Gakuen and Oumi, but facing off in the semifinals. Both were fortunate to not have drawn into the zones fo the 2 aforementioned teams. And both ran roughshod over the field to get to this point. The only difference is that Shiga Gakuen survived a 12-9 game against Kousen - a possible bump in the road right when they face one of the prefectural powerhouses.

Both teams in the other semifinal were responsible for ousting the seeded teams, but again it's weird. For Shiga Tankidai Fuzoku, their last win before this Natsu taikai was the Natsu 2nd round... 2014.

For Takashima, if we ignore spring (because it doesn't directly lead to Koushien), their last win was the 2nd round of the Aki taikai... 2014.

I really don't know what to make of it other than that Shiga Tankidai Fuzoku has had the smoother run of the two. But that doesn't mean anything. So the best I can do is shrug my shoulders. You've got me on this one.

(As this was rained out, this will be covered in tomorrow's post.)


  • (S) Shuugakukan v (S) Buntoku
  • (S) Chiharadai v (S) Kyushu Gakuin
Augh, I hate my computer, I had this done, and then blogger f'd up somehow and posted like 5 copies of the entry and I deleted the copies only to have this one not actually have what I wrote.

But here the basic gist was that all 4 teams were seeded, 3 of which are known names, with Chiharadai being the only "outsider" as a Tier 3 school. Shuugakukan and Buntoku have been tested facing former Koushien participants, but Shuugakukan played Seiseikou and Kumamoto Kougyou as opposed to Buntoku defeating Jyouhoku.

Chiharadai and Kyushu Gakuin have not had such testing, and Chiharadai's games have been much closer than the rest. So you have to expect Kyushu Gakuin to have the edge here.

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Championship Recap (07.24)

Alright, a lot of tickets punched yesterday, but not for 1 prefecture...
So, here's what's on tap for today (7/24 in Japan). If it says it's on Asahi, the link to the stream can be found on their site (

Iwate - Moriokadai Fuzoku
Ichinoseki Gakuin fared better than I thought though I didn't watch the final. It was scoreless until the 8th when with 1 out and the bases loaded, their #3 batter Ueda hits a sac fly to score the only run of the game. As a result, Moriokadai Fuzoku gets to return to Natsu Koushien for the 3rd time in 5 years.

Fukushima - Seikou Gakuin
Kounan was so close, oh so close to defeating Seikou Gakuin to break up the 9 year run. But dangit if that curse of finally beating the team that has beaten you down came right in. Single, double, single, sac fly, single, double, and just like that a 4-2 lead for Kounan was a 6-4 deficit...


Tochigi - Sakushin Gakuin
There isn't much to say here, it was a rematch of the finals from last year and Kokugakuin Tochigi gave up 7 runs in the first. 15-6 and they have their 6th consecutive appearance.

Yamanashi - Yamanashi Gakuin
For two teams who gave up a combined 7 runs in 8 games, this game was shocking. Not just because of the high scoring, but because the defending champs seemed to have no answers - especially on the mound. Yes, they did take the lead with 4 runs in the 4th, but Yamanashi Gakuin fired right back taking those runs away. In the end it was a laugher with Yamanashi Gakuin winning 12-5!

Niigata - Chuuetsu
Boy, I kinda wished I had not grabbed dinner when I did because it went from a 2-1 Niigata Meikun lead to a 10-2 Chuuetsu blowout. It perhaps was coming with the troubles they had against Maki, but to the extent that Chuuetsu scored 7 in the lucky 7 is shocking.

Nagano - Saku Chousei
All Matsushou Gakuen was able to prove was that at best they are a Tier 3 school. They had no answers for Saku Chousei (who was lower seeded), and the team was not crisp on defense. There's a long way to go for the former powerhouse...

Shimane - Izumo(!)
Sure, it's not like either team could be heavily favored, but at least Risshoudai Shounan could say they've been here before. But the manner in which Izumo controlled the game start to finish was shocking. Ace Hara Satoru (原 暁) pitched a 3-hitter, though walking 5 in a 6-1 dismantling of Risshoudai Shounan. They get their first ever Koushien appearance. Good for them.

Nagasaki - Nagasaki Shougyou
This was the game I was focused on.

Nagasaki Shougyou would open the scoring with a timely 2-out single to left by Inoue. Little did we know that that would end up being the only run of the game.

That's because Oomura Kougyou had many good chances to tie the game, but couldn't get the runner home. Their last chance was in the 8th with runners at the corners and 1 down, but even then they couldn't get as little as a sac fly. So Nagasaki Shougyou goes to Koushien instead with a hard earned win.

Kagoshima - TBD
Huh? What happened here?

Well, a lot and nothing at the same time. The teams were deadlocked at 1-1 since the 4th, but as the 9th inning approached, the advantage seemingly was with Shounan. But despite getting a runner to 3rd, and Kagoshima Jitsugyou loading the bases to create a force at every bag, they couldn't get the run home.

And as enchousen progressed, it was Shounan who kept on threatening with a runner in scoring position:

  • 11th inning - 1st/2nd, 2 out - flyout to left.
  • 12th inning - Leadoff double, failed bunt, intentional walk, bunt, intentional walk - K looking
After that, the teams entered what I call the march to the 15th. Both teams are no doubt tired, and are pressing to try and end the game before the tie in the 15th. But the pressing leads to quick outs and the result neither are wanting.

The 13th and 14th go without issue, but in the bottom of the 15th, Shounan gets one last chance. With one down, there's a base hit past the diving SS. Shounan plays for one final hit, bunting the runner over.

After another intentional walk, Shounan pulls all the tricks out of the bag as #14 Miyashita Shouji comes to bat. On the 2-1 pitch he singles a ball to left! The 3B coach is sending the runner home! The throw comes in...


Kagoshima Jitsugyou denies Shounan once again, and the game ends in a 1-1 draw! And that means after a day's rest, the teams will take the field to replay the title game.

And this has to be devastating for Shounan. For ace Hamaya, it's been 13 innings, 15 innings (and 190 pitches) on two consecutive days, and then tomorrow another 9. I cannot see how they are going to take the title now.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Upcoming semifinals (07.24)

And now for the semifnals:

  • (S) Tounan vs. Fukuchiyama Seibi
  • Ritsumeikan Uji vs. (S) Kyoto Shouei
  • ⑤~⑧ Soushi Gakuen vs. ①~④ Okayama Sanyou
  • ⑤~⑧ Tamano Kounan vs. ⑤~⑧ Kurashiki Shougyou
  • (S) Jyosuikan vs. (S) Kouryou
  • (S) Iwatoku vs. (S) Hiroshima Shinjyou
All known teams, with Iwatoku the only Tier 3 school among them.

Weirdly, for as good as Jyosuikan and Kouryou are, it's been a while since they've seen each other in a tournament (2014 spring taikai). So it'll be interesting to see the pair face off, though perhaps both would have liked it to be the finals. Though, in looking at the other pairing, it might actually be the case as neither Iwatoku or Hiroshima Shinjyou have played anyone of note, and have either been in close games (Hiroshima Shinjyou) are suddenly running into a roadblock when things were going swimmingly in early rounds (Iwatoku). The same could be said for Jyosuikan and Kouryou, but both have their status on their side and for Kouryou, yesterday's 11-1 win was the first game they yielded a run.

  • (S) Ootemae Takamatsu vs. (S) Takamatsu Shougyou
  • Kanonji Chuo vs. Jinsei Gakuen
  • (S) Saga Shougyou vs. Imari
  • (S) Ryuukoku vs. Karatsu Shougyou

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Upcoming finals (07.24)

So, here's what's on tap for today (7/24 in Japan). If it says it's on Asahi, the link to the stream can be found on their site (

Iwate - Finals (On Asahi - 2100 PDT)
  • (S) Ichinoseki Gakuin (一関学院) vs. (S) Moriokadai Fuzoku  (盛岡大付)
So Ichinoseki Gakuin does get a chance to compete for the finals, but given the two performances yesterday, Moriokadai Fuzoku is the prohibitive favorite to take the title.

Fukushima - Finals (On Asahi - 1900 PDT)
  • ① Seikou Gakuin (聖光学院) vs. ② Kounan (光南)
Well, you can watch, but you can almost put money on Seikou Gakuin to take the title, again.

Tochigi - Finals
  • (S) Sakushin Gakuin vs. (S) Kokugakuin Tochigi
Both teams won going away and got a break for the finals. But the burden of proof is on Kokugakuin Tochigi to prove that they have the chops to beat Sakushin Gakuin.

Yamanashi - Finals
  • ①~④ Toukaidai Koufu vs. ①~④ Yamanashi Gakuin
Both teams pitched shutouts to get to the finals. Yamanashi Gakuin's win 7-0 made me take notice like I said it would, but like I said before, it'll be a show me game for them.

Niigata - Finals (On Asahi - 2100 PDT)
  • ① Niigata Meikun vs. ② Chuuetsu
Chuuetsu finally had their first tough game against Kamo Gyousei, only pulling away later in the game, this while Niigata Meikun 4 runs in the 8th was enough for the gyakuten 6-4 win over Maki. 

Chuuetsu may still have the inside track over Niigata Meikun, but it's not as clear cut now..

Nagano - Finals (On Asahu - 1800 PDT)
  • ⑤ Saku Chousei vs. ② Matsushou Gakuen
In the end, there was no revenge to be had, though one got close. Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri had their chances, but it was Matsushou Gakuen who capitalized on them early, so by the break they were faced with a 5-run deficit that eventually proved to be too much. Komoro Shougyou was trying to make a 3-run 1st inning, and a 3-2 game after 2 stick. But in the 8th the gates could not be held and Saku Chousei scored 4 in the 8th to win 6-3.

At this point you could argue that Matsushou Gakuen has the edge, but seeing as though they haven't been able to go to Natsu Koushien for a while, it's more of a "prove it" situation for them.

Shimane - Finals (On Asahi - 2100 PDT)
  • Risshoudai Shounan vs. Izumo
Well, both seeded teams lost, but again I wasn't really keen on any of them. Risshoudai Shounan made easy work of Kaisei winning 7-0. Izumo make a 4-0 lead stick to defeat Taisha.

Does that mean that Risshoudai Shounan is favored? At this point, probably.

Nagasaki - Finals (On Asahi - 2100 PDT)
  • (S) Oomura Kougyou vs. (S) Nagasaki Shougyou
The first result was a bit unexpected, the second not so much.

Oomura Kogyou wasn't looking good early, but right after the break they exploded for 4 runs. Now, they almost gave it away late in the (OMG, we're about to beat X team, OH GOD it's a base hit, NOOO they're coming back, WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN TO US) mindset, but they managed to close it out.

Seihou meanwhile continues to underwhelm post Imamura. Yes, they scuffled with Nagasaki Shougyou, but errors were their downfall as they fell 3-2.

The good news is that Oomura Kougyou doesn't have to worry about the powerhouse mindset seeping in. The bad news is that I can't pick them to win. But I can't pick Nagasaki Shougyou either. Flip a coin.

Kagoshima - Finals (On Asahi - 2105 PDT)
  • (S) Kagoshima Jitsugyou (S) Shounan
The narrative completely flips after the semifinals. Shibushi rolled over to Kagoshima Jitsugyou, letting them go just 4.5 innings and get rest. Shounan meanwhile, couldn't put away Sendai in the 9th, and instead needed 13 innings to win 5-3.

When you have 0 days rest, Kajitsu' 5 innings on the mound versus Shounan 13 means that any advantage Shounan had until this point is gone. All bets are off.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Upcoming semifinals (07.23)

So aside from the semifinals from my prior post:

  • (S) Ichinoseki Gakuin vs. (S) Ichinoseki Kougyou
  • (S) Moriokadai Fuzoku vs. Senshuudai Kitami
  • ① Seikou Gakuin vs. ⑤ Nichidai Tohoku
  • ② Kounan vs. ③ Shouin Gakuen Fukushima
  • (S) Sakushin Gakuin vs. (S) Yasaka Chuo
  • Motegi vs. (S) Kokugakuin Tochigi
  • ①~④ Toukaidai Koufu vs. Teikyou Dai-san
  • ①~④ Nihon Koukuu vs. ①~④ Yamanashi Gakuin
  • ①~④ Kaisei vs. Risshoudai Shounan
  • ①~④ Taisha vs. Izumo
  • (S) Souseikan vs. (S) Oomura Kougyou
  • (S) Seihou vs. (S) Nagasaki Shougyou
  • (S) Kagoshima Jitsugyou vs. Shibushi
  • Sendai vs. (S) Shounan
We have the following ones on tap for this weekend:

What the hell happened in Akita? Sure, they're weak as all heck (they were winless from 1998-2010 - let that sink in), but you still usually see the usual suspects going to Koushien anyways...
  • ⑧ Oodate Kokusai def Akita Shougyou 3-2 ??!!
Sure, Akita Shougyou was unseeded, but they were responsible for 4 of the prefectures 5 wins in the last 5 years, including 2 last year to get to the Best 8. And yet, they made 3 runs in the first inning stick. Also note that Oodate Kokusai has not gone to Koushien at all.
  • ④ Oomagari Kougyou def Oodate Keiou 5-3
Now, think about this, Oodate Keiou was the merger of 3 schools - Oodate Katsura, Oodate, and Oodate Kougyou. And in the spring, they went 3-2, thought one of their losses was Noshiro Shouyou 10-0. But they won 3 games to get to the quarterfinals and they even had a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the 8th. But ace Seki gave up 3 in the frame and that was that. Still impressive for a team incepted this year. Oomagari Kougyou is looking for their 1st Natsu appearance.
  • Noshiro Kougyou def Akita Shuuei 5-4
This quadrant was by far the weakest, and it showed as both seeded teams were eliminated. Neither team looked all that impressive in their games to this point, but both were fighting to keep their run for their first Koushien appearance alive. Noshiro Kougyou never trailed, but blew a 3-0 lead, and almost blew a 5-3 lead in the 9th, but they move on.
  • Kakunodate def ⑦ Noshiro Shouyou 1-0
Kakunodate is the only remaining semifinalist who has been to Koushien, but that was in 2014, after losing in the finals the prior year. This year, facing the team that they eliminated in the finals to go to Koushien... well there's only 1 way to put this:

Kogita Atsuya (小木田 敦也) walks 1 in a no-hitter.

Yep, Kakunodate no-hit Noshiro Shouyou. *drops mic*

With Nihon Bunri's loss in the round of 16 to Nagaoka Oote, Niigata Meikun and Chuuetsu were slated to be the front runners to win.
  • ① Niigata Meikun vs. ⑨~⑯ Maki
  • ⑤~⑧ Kamo Gyousei vs. ② Chuuetsu
And here we are, with both teams just 1 win away from facing off for the title.

Niigata Meikun seemed to have a hiccup in the quarterfinals against Nagaoka Shougyou, but ace Hirota Shouichirou kept them at bay, pitching a 4-hit shutout though he only struck out 4. Meanwhile Chuuetsu continues to gain steam, defeating Teikyou Nagaoka 10-1 in 7 while being the recipient of 14 free passes, while leaving 11 men on base. I can't comprehend that.

But Chuuetsu certainly has the inside track over Niigata Meikun right now.

Nagano is pretty much the equivalent of a middling NBA team, they good enough to win at least a game, but not good enough to make a deep run. 7 times since 2000 they have won at least 1 game, but none of the teams have gone past the 3rd round.
  • Komoro Shougyou vs. ⑤ Saku Chousei
  • Tokyo Shidai Shirojiri vs. ② Matsushou Gakuen
Ueda Nishi ran into a brick wall in the quarterfinals, losing 10-2 in 7 innings to Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri, so no repeat champion here. But now they're facing Matsushou Gakuen, who is (a) certainly hungry to get back to Koushien after years of disappointing runs and (b) is solely responsible for 3 of their 4 losses since 2015. You know there is a score to settle.

There's also a score to settle in the other semifinal as well. See, Komoro Shougyou and Saku Chousei faced each other last summer as well. And also in the semifinals... it was a closely contested affair, but Saku Chousei won 3-2. Komoro Shougyou has never been to Koushien, but looks on the other side of the bracket and has to think that if they can exercise this demon they have a fighting chance in the final.

Times are a changing again in Kyoto...
  • (S) Tounan vs. Fukuchiyama Seibi
  • Ritsumeikan Uji vs. (S) Kyoto Shouei
Oddly, the two teams who have been more prominent were unseeded, but then again, if they based it on the spring taikais, it means nothing. Tounan is looking for their first Koushien title, and Kyoto Shouei's only appearance, they took Tsuruga Kehi the distance, losing 6-5.

Tounan's games have been getting closer and closer the further they progress, and this not having played anyone of note. So Fukuchiyama Seibi will be a huge step up.

Speaking of which, Fukuchiyama Seibi has passed their biggest test, defeating Ryuukokudai Heian in the round of 16 3-2. They're not going to give a dominating performance, but they should be the favorite.

Ritsumeikan Uji can write down that they beat last year's champions Toba 3-0, but they didn't score those runs until the final 2 innings. And outside of their game against Kyoto Subaru, all of their games have been close.

Kyoto Shouei in 3 of their 4 games had pitched nothing but donuts. Yet against Hokuriku, they found themselves trailing 5-1. But they scored 1 in the 7th and 2 in the 9th to send the game to enchousen where they would win 2 innings later. Not sure what to make of it all, so I guess we'll have to see if that game was just a bump in the road or not.

Welp, Kanzei crashed and burned. Who's left is mostly brand names, save for one:
  • ⑤~⑧ Soushi Gakuen vs. ①~④ Okayama Sanyou
  • ⑤~⑧ Tamano Kounan vs. ⑤~⑧ Kurashiki Shougyou
Oddly, that is the only top seed left in the tournament, Okayama Sanyou. However, they have not faced any of the top competition (mostly because they're the ones that are left), so facing Soushi Gakuen (who shutout Okayama Ridai Fuzoku) is going to be a big ask.

Kurashiki Shougyou was the party that eliminated Kanzei, and have been pretty consistent in their 3 games. Tamano Kounan's offense has gotten better as the team has progressed, but their pitching has also given up runs as well.

Expect the spring representatives (Soushi Gakuen) to play to be the summer representative as well against Kurashiki Shougyou.

Takamatsu Shougyou is on a mission to get to the Koushien finals again it seems. That loss to Chiben Gakuen must've left a bad taste in their mouths...
  • (S) Ootemae Takamatsu vs. (S) Takamatsu Shougyou
  • Kanonji Chuo vs. Jinsei Gakuen
Takamatsu Shougyou has won 12-0, 8-1 and 16-0. They look by far the front runner to go to Koushien, but will the get as favorable as a draw as they did in the spring?

Well, Waseda Saga seems to be still a ways off (thankfully) as they were blanked by Ryuukoku 10-0. Who's left in Saga is mostly upper-tier schools:
  • (S) Saga Shougyou vs. Imari
  • (S) Ryuukoku vs. Karatsu Shougyou
Imari has their work cut out for them as Saga Shougyou survived a barnburner 9-7 over Saga Kita. Imari hasn't yielded a lot of runs so far, so there is hope, but not sure how much.

Ryuukoku, outside of the game against Waseda Saga, has been in low-scoring dogfights. Karatsu Shougyou is their opponent, who offed the seeded Kanzaki Seimei 7-3.

Meihou will not repeat as Oita representatives, losing in spectacular fashion 12-5 to Saiki Kakujyou. But while seeded teams are all left, they're not brand names, though whomever wins it will not be their first rodeo.
  • ⑤~⑧ Touin vs. ⑤~⑧ Saiki Kakujyou
  • ①~② Usuki vs. ③~④ Oita
Of the 4, Oita is the one who has been there most recently, but their 2014 Natsu Koushien appearance was their first. Then you go back to the 1990's for the last time Touin (1995) and Saiki Kakujyou (1996)were at Koushien in either capacity. And for the only top seed left, you have to go back to post-WWII Japan (1949) for the last time Usuki was there.

Each team has had hiccups on their way to the semifinals, and none really stand out except for maybe Saiki Kakujyou whose blemish was falling behind 5-4 before scoring 8 runs in the 4th.

Next ticket punched... Minami Hokkaido and Hokkai

Well, going in perhaps you thought that Sapporo Nichidai had at least a chance. They were a solid Tier 3* school and finally had their shot against maybe a Hokkai team that wasn't as strong as in other years.

*After a discussion yesterday, I should explain tiers. Tier 1 schools are like Osaka Touin, Seikou Gakuin, and Chiben Wakayama, who you could almost pen in to get to Koushien before the tournament starts. Tier 2 schools are most of the mainstays who go, but generally rotate with other schools - so Nichidai-san/Waseda Jitsugyou (Nishi Tokyo), Nishogakushadai Fuzoku/Kanto Dai-ichi (Higashi Tokyo), Hanamaki Higashi/Moriokadai Fuzoku (Iwate), etc. Tier 3 schools are schools who have either not gone to Koushien, or have gone very few times, but are always making deep runs in prefecture.

Anyways, as the game started, Hokkai got a double, a bunt, and a sac fly, and it was already 1-0 in the first. The next couple of innings were very tenuous for Sapporo Dai-ichi as Hokkai would continue to put baserunners on, but would hit into double plays to end the threat. Worse yet, Sapporo Dai-ichi was getting no-hit, and there wasn't even hope that they were going to get one.

In fact, they didn't get their first base runner until the 5th when they got a walk. And their first base hit wasn't until the 6th. By that time it would be too late as Hokkai would pull away with 6 unanswered. Sapporo Nichidai would prevent the shutout, but lose 7-2.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Upcoming semifinals/finals (07.22)

Ok, with everything starting to crunch up, I'm switching tack to focusing on prefectures by where they are in the qualifications as opposed to by region. Here, we will cover those prefectures in the semifinals or finals.

Minami Hokkaido - Finals
Kita Hokkaido had their finals yesterday, today it's the southern region's turn.

It's not as exciting on paper though. Hokkai is in the finals, but whose only quality win was a 4-2 victory over Hokushou. Their opponent is Sapporo Nichidai who is looking for their first title, but at least they can say they've defeated Komadai Tomakomai and Sapporo Dai-ichi.

Sapporo Nichidai may have the advantage, but Hokkai will have the "been there before" edge, which always counts for something.

Iwate - Semifinals
With Hanamaki Higashi gone, I would have said it's a free-for-all, but really Moriokadai Fuzoku gets first grab.

  • (S) Ichinoseki Gakuin vs. (S) Ichinoseki Kougyou
  • (S) Moriokadai Fuzoku vs. Senshuudai Kitami
*(S) = Seeded team of which there were 8.

Ichinoseki Gakuin is on a permanent disappoint status for me until they show me otherwise. Heck, they were the only school I know of that the JHBF skipped over for the 2nd Tohoku bid for a Haru Koushien for a semifinalist. That never happens.

But they're facing Ichinoseki Kougyou, who is clearly the odd team out in this scenario. So it could be that they at least reach the finals.

The other semifinal may be the championship match. Moriokadai Fuzoku has not given up a run since the 1st inning of the first game. Senshuudai Kitami has had solid wins, but the margin has narrowed as they have progressed, and Moriokadai Fuzoku is a big step up from their competition so far.

Fukushima - Semifinals
I said wake me up when Seikou Gakuin either loses or wins it all, right?
  • ① Seikou Gakuin vs. ⑤ Nichidai Tohoku
  • ② Kounan vs. ③ Shouin Gakuen Fukushima
Seikou Gakuin may have won 6-2 over Odaka Kougyou, but they certainly looked beatable. But Nichidai Tohoku was in a slogfest with Iwaki, and in such a high scoring game it doesn't bode well for them.

In the other semifinal, Shouin Gakuen Fukushima has been the more dominating of the two schools, yielding runs only in the game against Teikyou Asaka. As for Kounan, they had to rally to defeat Aidzu 8-6.

I don't know if any of these seeded teams can defeat Seikou Gakuin, and it looks like Shouin Gakuen Fukushima may be the best shot of the 3.

Tochigi - Semifinals
Sakushin Gakuin is going for 6 in a row, and they're in the Best 4.
  • (S) Sakushin Gakuin vs. (S) Yasaka Chuo
  • Motegi vs. (S) Kokugakuin Tochigi
Sakushin Gakuin did have to sweat out a game against Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku, pulling away late 6-4. If they and Kokugakuin Tochigi win, we have a rematch of last year's final where Sakushin Gakuin annihilated them 9-2.

Yamanashi - Semifinals
Yamanashi is pretty much scratch:
  • ①~④ Toukaidai Koufu vs. Teikyou Dai-san
  • ①~④ Nihon Koukuu vs. ①~④ Yamanashi Gakuin
Teikyou Dai-san wasn't seeded, but they're an above average team and was placed in a quadrant away from the other 3 teams. They have some work to do though because Toukaidai Koufu hasn't gone past 7 innings in any of their games, scoring at least 8 runs.

I really, really want Nihon Koukuu to win, but a 3-2 win over Koufu Shougyou is not a good sign. Combine that with Yamanashi Gakuin padding their 19-2 and 28-3 wins with a 11-0 win over Fuji Gakuen, and you may need to start taking notice, especially if they do the same to Nihon Koukuu. But the big test would be Toukaidai Koufu.

Shimane - Semifinals
More scratch stuff here.
  • ①~④ Kaisei vs. Risshoudai Shounan
  • ①~④ Taisha vs. Izumo
Again, Risshoudai Shounan and Izumo were unseeded, but could easily be a seeded team.

There is no front-runner right now. Kaisei has won back-to-back 3-2 games. Risshoudai Shounan could be a front runner, but the late 3-2 win over Daitou is a crack. Taisha did defeat last year's champs Iwami Chisuikan 2-1, but like Kaisei have had 2 close wins, so again not a clear favorite. And Izumo has had 2 close games as well.

But whomever wins will probably need a lot of luck come Natsu Koushien...

Nagasaki - Semifinals
Scratch scratch...
  • (S) Souseikan vs. (S) Oomura Kougyou
  • (S) Seihou vs. (S) Nagasaki Shougyou
4 of the 8 seeded teams made it to the Best 4. Souseikan is in only because they scored 6 in the 8th against Kaisei. That's concerning because Oomura Kougyou, looking for their first time, never trailed past the 1st inning defeating Nagasaki Nichidai 7-4. So I don't think it'll be a slam dunk.

I cling onto rooting for Seihou because of Imamura Takeru (who still seems to have just a bit part in the Hiroshima bullpen, but hey they're winning so I'll take it). The scores are good (5-2, 9-0, 10-0), but they're not against tough competition. Nagasaki Shougyou put away Hasami early in the quarterfinals, jumping out to a 6-0 lead to win 6-1.

So only Seihou has been dominant, but there are caveats to that.

Kagoshima - Semifinals
Kajitsu (aka Kagoshima Jitsugyou) appears to have the inside track for their 2nd straight title...
  • (S) Kagoshima Jitsugyou vs. Shibushi
  • Sendai vs. (S) Shounan
Now, they haven't played anyone of note, but they've done their job winning 6-1 and then 10-3 twice, and that's all you can ask of them. Shibushi has a big uphill climb to overcome, as they have played 4 close contests, winning all of them by 3 runs or less and the only notable one (any barely so) is a 4-3 win over Reimei in the prior round.

Sendai's last 3 games have been even closer (all 1-run affairs), culminating in defeating Kamimura Gakuen 6-5 in the bottom of the 9th. This after falling behind 4-0 in the first. However, Shounan stands in their way, and they have yet to yield a run.

Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Completed prefectures (as of 07.21)

3 finals concluded today and there was at least 1 surprise (though I guess it probably couldn't have been avoided).

Aomori - Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei
First the slam dunk bid. That was the Aomori final where Kousei was facing potential first-timers in Oominato.

And while it was close early, in the 3rd inning it was all but over. Having expanded their lead to 4-0 and with manrui, a defensive error by Oominato scores all 3 runners, making it 7-0. They'd score 2 more that inning en route to an 11-0 win and their 4th title in 6 years. While there is always the disclaimer that past results do not predict future performance, here are their last 3 appearances at Natsu Koushien:
  • 2011 - Finals - Lost 11-0 to Nichidai-san (ugh, I'm still salty about that year)
  • 2012 - Finals - Lost 3-0 to Osaka Touin (how was it that they reached 3 finals and had to face Osaka Touin both times in 2012??!!)
  • 2014 - Best 8 - Lost 7-2 to Tsuruga Kehi (it was Hiranuma, what do you want?)
Kita Hokkaido - Clark Kokusai
To be honest, I didn't think about Clark Kokusai other than "hey, a school with katakana in their title!". And there wasn't anything that should have tipped me off about them. Heck they started their baseball program back in 2014!!

But there must have been something, because heck even the Clark Kokusai webpage had a page for the announcement of their kantoku Sasaki Keiji (and it looks like a real press conference!).

And if you look at his resume, it isn't half bad:
  • 1978 - Kantoku of Komadai Iwamizawa
  • 1983 - Took the team to the Best 8 in the Spring Koushien
  • 1993 - Took the team to the Best 4 in the Spring Koushien
  • 2001 - Was a coach for the Japan Asia AAA team
  • 2003 - Was the kantoku for the Japanese amateur team
  • 2014 - Became the Clark Kokusai kantoku after Komadai Iwamisawa was shut down(!)
(I didn't know Komadai Iwamisawa had shut down! That's kinda sad.)

But it was a boon for Clark Kokusai, and why not? Sure Komadai Iwamisawa was no world beater, but he had the team consistently in Tier 2 status. So what did he do with Clark Kokusai since he took over and started the baseball program?
  • 2014 Spring - Lost opening round to Takikawa Kougyou 9-0.
  • 2014 Summer - Lost in 2nd round of Sorachi "A" Block to Iwamisawa Nougyou 4-3.
  • 2014 Fall - Lost in 2nd round of Sorachi regionals to Takikawa Nishi 9-3.
  • 2015 Spring - Lost opening round to Iwamisawa Ryokuryou 9-2
  • 2015 Summer - Lost in 2nd round of Sorachi "B" Block to Ashibetsu 5-4 in 12 innings.
  • 2015 Fall - Lost in 2nd round of Sorachi regionals to Takikawa Nishi 10-1.
Huh, well that's not impressive at all... Okay, so what about in 2016?
  • 2016 Spring - Lost in 1st round of prefecturals 3-1 to Hakodate Kougyou.
Prefecturals? When they couldn't even win 2 in a row?

And then in the summer:
  • Sorachi "A" Block - def. Iwamisawa Higashi 4-2
  • Sorachi "A" Block - def. Fukagawa Nishi 11-1
  • Prefecturals - def. Engaru 5x-4 (blew 4-1 lead in final 2 innings but won)
  • Prefecturals Quaterfinals - def. Kushiro Kouryou 12-5
  • Prefecturals Semifinals - def. Asahikawa Jitsugyou 5x-4 (blew 3-0 lead in final 2 innings but won)
The win against Engaru? Not bad. The win against Asahikawa Jitsugyou? That has my attention. Not to mention the fact that in both games, they gave up a run in the 8th, and 2 in the 9th both times to tie the game at 4-4, and then walked off in the 9th. That takes some fortitude right there.
    And once you read the whole story, how fitting is it that their opponent in the Kita Hokkaido final was Takikawa Nishi - the team who they had eliminated them in the fall tournaments the last 2 years?

    Would you believe that in the final, ace Hirasawatsu Toraki (平沢津 虎揮) pitched a 5-hit shutout to take the title 3-0?

    Would you also believe that he was actually their SS before but became their side-throwing ace?

    What the heck?

    What the heck indeed! Go Clark Kokusai!

    Yamagata - Tsuruoka Higashi
    The Yamagata final was between the last 2 Natsu representatives - Tsuruoka Higashi looking to repeat, and Yamagata Chuo who had won in 2014...

    And early it looked like your typical low scoring pitching affair. But when cleanup hitter Ooizumi hit a 2-run HR in the 5th, extending Yamagata Chuo's lead to 4-1 it seemed over.

    But then the 8th came around, and it was obvious that ace Arasawa for Yamagata Chuo was out of steam, and yet he wasn't being pulled.

    This despite loading the bases...

    This despite walking a batter to make it 4-2...

    This despite hitting a batter to make it 4-3...

    Oh dear. If they're not pulling their ace, that means they don't have anyone else...

    And when the CF misplays the next ball, turning tail to chase it to the wall, and Tsuruoka Higashi getting the 6-4 lead. You had to figure it was over.

    But bottom 8th, Yamagata Chuo gets runners at the corners, and they have the balls to call a steal of 2nd, which works! And one grounder brought one run in. Then a grounder that looks like a double play isn't when the batter beats out the throw to 1st, and somehow we're all tied at 6!

    Yamagata Chuo couldn't take the lead though, and that was bad. You have a struggling ace on the mound with no apparent backup. If history was any indication, for them to have any chance of winning, they had to win in the 9th. And while Arasawa held serve, so did Tsuruoka Higashi. And so to enchousen we went.

    I couldn't tell you all that happened in the 10th because my feed had frozen up. But as I thought, Tsuruoka Higashi scores 2 in the 10th and now it seems over.

    But flipping back to the game bottom 10, I see a walk, a HBP, and a single to load the bases! What?

    And then there's a base hit to right, and 2 runners score! Wait. We're tied at 8-8!!

    But with the sayonara run 90 feet away, Yamagata Chuo couldn't get the run home. And once again, they were in the same situation after the 8th.

    And in the 11th, with runners at the corners, Tsuruoka Higashi executes the fake caught stealing, which somehow works as the runner from 3rd comes home to score, giving them the lead. That lead would expand to 10-8, and could you really expect Yamagata Chuo to come back from 2 runs down 3 times?

    But then there's a walk, a HBP and another walk, and we have a manrui situation with 1 out. No way...

    In that next AB though, the count goes to 3-1 and on a pitch that looks high and away, the umpire calls strike 2... Oh boy... That could have (and maybe should have) scored a run.

    But the batter strikes out looking on a pitch inside and there's 2 out, setting up a P vs. P matchup to seemingly decide the game.

    Arasawa though grounds out to 2nd and the game is over.

    So in the end, Tsuruoka Higashi claims the title for the 2nd consecutive year, but perhaps in some controversial circumstances, and that's disappointing - to me anyways.

    Thursday, July 21, 2016

    Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Blitzkrieg through the country (Kanto)

    (Yes, I know I waited until last to do Kanto, it's such a big region that I need the time to sit down and go through it all. I seem to have less time - as seen by me not able to manually do each prefecture's brackets anymore.)

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

    Tochigi - Best 8
    A lot of the prefectures here have made a lot of progress. They have to considering how many schools compete. Sakushin Gakuin has represented the prefecture the last 5 years, but have had less and less success:
    • ① Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku vs. ① Sakushin Gakuin
    • ① Yaita Chuo vs. Ashikaga Minami
    • Motegi vs. Kuroiso
    • ① Kokugakuin Tochigi vs. ① Seiran Taito
    A lot of the seeded teams have reached the Best 8. Sakushin Gakuin is there again, and facing possibly the only team that could mount a challenge against them.

    Ibaraki - Round of 16
    I was so glad to see Kasumigaura make the Koushien tournament last year. They had been hitting the ceiling so much recently I thought they'd knock themselves out eventually. Sadly though, Ibaraki has had very little success as of late. Yes, Jyousou Gakuin did win it all back in 2003. But they are also responsible for 13 of the prefecture's 14 wins since 2000 (Fujishiro getting the only other one in 2005).
    • ① Jyousou Gakuin vs. Chuo
    • Toride Dai-ichi vs. ①Tokiwadai
    • Mito Shougyou vs. Ryuugasaki Dai-ichi
    • Taga vs. Shimotsuma Dai-ni
    • ①Kasumigaura vs. Katsuta Kougyou
    • Hasaki Yanagawa vs. Hitachi Kita
    • Meishuu Gakuen Hitachi vs. Tsukuba Kokusaidai Harukaze
    • Suijyou vs. Mito Kiryou
    There were 10 seeded teams in Ibaraki, and of those just 3 are left, and 2 of them are the aforementioned Jyousou Gakuin, and last year's winner Kasumigaura.

    Gunma - Round of 16
    There's been a bit of regression, but that the only direction to go when first timers Maebashi Ikuei won it all back in 2013. That said, Kendai Takasaki has reached at least the 3rd round the past 2 years, so it's not all bad. And the representative from Gunma has only been one-and-done 5 times since 2000.
    • ① Maebashi Ikuei vs. Kiryuu Dai-ichi
    • Oota Higashi vs. ⑤~⑧ Kiryuu Shiritsu Shougyou
    • ⑤~⑧ Kitoku vs. Chuo Chuutou
    • Tone Jitsugyou vs. ③~④ Maebashi Kougyou
    • Tatebayashi vs. Kiryuu Nishi
    • Takasaki Shougyou vs. ⑤~⑧ Isesaki Seimei
    • Takasaki Kougyou vs. Tone Shougyou
    • Kiryuu Minami vs. ② Kendai Takasaki
    The big 2 are still around, by Maebashi Ikuei has Kiryuu Dai-ichi standing in their way, which could be dicey.

    Saitama - Round of 16
    What boggles me more than Fukuoka not having success at Koushien is Saitama not having success at Koushien. They are one of the biggest prefectures by population and yet until from 2004-2011 they couldn't get past the 2nd round. The only explanation I can think of is that since some of the powerhouses in Tokyo and Kanagawa are just a stone's throw away, all the talent is moving there. Urawa Gakuin and Hanasaki Tokuharu bucked that trend, but it still feels like a long way to go.
    • Shiritsu Kawagoe vs. ⑨~⑯ Shouchi Fukaya
    • Wasedadai Honjyou vs. ⑤~⑧ Seibou Gakuen
    • Hoshino vs. Urawa Jitsugyou
    • ⑨~⑯ Oomiya Higashi vs. Saitama Sakae
    • ①~② Hanasaki Tokuharu vs. Namegawa Sougou
    • Kumagaya Shougyou vs. ⑤~⑧ Seibu Bunri
    • ⑤~⑧ Kasukabe Kyouei vs. Oomiya Kougyou
    • ⑨~⑯ Nanryou vs. ③~④ Ageo
    Urawa Gakuin is not around, and that is because Shiritusu Kawagoe and ace Mendis Kai shut them out 1-0. This opens up the left side of the bracket, while Hanasaki Tokuharu is the favority to advance out of the right side and could be the prohibitive favorite to repeat.

    Chiba - Round of 16
    Chiba is also a quandry, though they may suffer from the same problems as Saitama with loss of talent. They've had deep runs - Toukaidai Urayasu (2000 runner-up), Narita and Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku (2010 and 2004 semifinalists), but at the same time have won 1 or less games in 11 times since 2000.
    • ①~④ Narita vs. Narashino
    • ⑨~⑯ Chiba Keiai vs. ⑤~⑧ Tokyo Gakkan Urayasu
    • Shourin vs. Tokyo Gakkan Funabashi
    • ⑨~⑯ Shiritsu Funabashi vs. ①~④ Chiba Reimei
    • ①~④ Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou vs. Ryuutsuu Keizaidai Kashiwa
    • ⑨~⑯ Senshuudai Matsudo vs. ⑤~⑧ Kisaradzu Sougou
    • ⑤~⑧ Matsudo Kokusai vs. Funabashi Shibayama
    • ⑨~⑯ Yachiyo Shouin vs. ①~④ Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku
    Despite being a big prefecture and 16 seeds in all, only 5 seeds have been upset and and only 1 in the top 8. So it's pretty chalk, and that's not including Narashino who is unseeded this year.

    Nishi Tokyo/Higashi Tokyo - Best 8
    Tokyo seems to be very cyclical in nature, and both seem to move relatively in tandem. Both were in force last year when Kanto Dai-ichi and Waseda Jitsugyou both reached the semifinals, creating the possibility of an all-Tokyo final. Both lost, but one wonders if both sides could make yet another run this year.

    Nishi Tokyo
    • ① Toukaidai Sugao vs. Kokugakuin Kugayama
    • ③~⑦ Nichidai-san vs. ③~⑦ St. Paul Gakuen
    • ③~⑦ Souka vs. Waseda Gakuin
    • Waseda Jitsugyou vs. ② Hachiouji
    Don't ask me how they determine the seeding. 7 seeded teams seems really odd, but of those 7, just 2 have been eliminated and both by Waseda schools. And what would be the 8th seed is filled by a Tier 3 school in Kokugakuin Kugayama, so this really feels scratch. What would you do if you had a Waseda Gakuin-Waseda Jitsugyou match? It's not like the Toukaidai school matches that we've seen, but it would be interesting to see the two schools play.

    Higashi Tokyo
    • ① Kanto Dai-ichi vs. ⑦~⑨ Shuutoku
    • ④~⑥ Teikyou vs. ④~⑥ Jyoutou
    • ③ Toua Gakuen vs. Nichidai Buzan
    • ⑦~⑨ Edogawa vs. ② Nishogakushadai Fuzoku
    We could be in store for the 10th meeting between Kanto Dai-ichi and Nishogakushadai Fuzoku in the past 10 years. If this were Kagawa or Shimane it wouldn't be all that impressive. But in Tokyo? and 3 of those were finals' matchup and 4 were semifinals? That's what I call a rivalry.

    Kanagawa - 3rd round (in progress)
    Kanagawa is the only prefecutre in the Kanto region that is not in the round of 16. In fact, they're still trying to get to the round of 32. They have certainly been one of the mainstays at Koushien, reaching the best 8 half of the time since 2000. That's impressive no matter how you look at it. And of course, they are home to the current champions, Toukaidai Sagami.
    • Quadrant 1 - ①~④ Keiou, ⑤~⑧ Toukaidai Sagami, ⑨~⑯ Tourei Fujisawa & Kawasaki Kita
    • Quadrant 2 - ①~④ Nichidai, ⑤~⑧ Touin Gakuen, ⑨~⑯ Hiratsuka Gakuen & Busou
    • Quadrant 3 - ①~④ Yokohama, ⑤~⑧ Yokohama Hayato, ⑨~⑯ Yaei & Suge
    • Quadrant 4 - ①~④ Fujisawa Shouryou, ⑤~⑧ Toukou Gakuen, ⑨~⑯ Koumyou Gakuen Sagamihara & Daishi
    It's still early, so seeing most of the top seeds still alive isn't surprising as of now.

    Yamanashi - Best 8 (in progress)
    Rounding things out is Yamanashi. Sadly, outside of Toukaidai Koufu, the prefecture has had little success with no other school able to reach the Best 8, and in half of their apperances, they've been one-and done.
    • ①~④ Toukaidai Koufu vs. ⑤~⑧ Hikawa
    • ①~④ Tsuru vs. Teikyou Dai-san
    • ①~④ Nihon Koukuu vs. Koufu Shougyou
    • ①~④ Yamanashi Gakuin vs. ⑤~⑧ Fuji Gakuen
    Toukaidai Koufu seems very determined to make their 3rd straight appearance, and I'm not sure they're going to be denied either unless it's by Nihon Koukuu. Also, don't be fooled by Yamanashi Gakuin's gaudy wins (19-2, 28-3). They're against very poor competition.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2016

    Natsu Koushien Qualifying - Blitzkrieg through the country (Hokushinetsu)

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

    Fukui - Round of 16 (in progress)
    If you were to look at the Fukui page, it would say the 2nd round, but it is the round of 16 because Fukui sadly has 30 schools.
    • "A" Zone - Fukui Koudai Fukui
    • "B" Zone - Mikata
    • "C" Zone - Keishin
    • "D" Zone - Tsuruga Kehi
    Tsuruga Kehi, Fukui's representative the last 2 years, was upset yesterday by Sakai. Tying the game at 2 after 7, the game went to enchousen and continued to the 15th (and final) inning. And at that moment, Sakai came through with 2 runs to shock the champions.

    This opens the door for Fukui Koudai Fukui and unseeded Fukui Shougyou. But if Fukui Shougyou wins their game in a couple days' time, these 2 schools will square off, thinning the powerhouses even more and given them some hope. Though it will also give the winner a clearer path to the title.

    Ishikawa - 2nd round (in progress)
    Ishikawa has one of the worst overall winning percentages (0.380), but since 2000, teams from Ishikawa have at least won 1 game in all but 4 years - which isn't bad for a more rural prefecture.
    • "A" Zone - Seiryou, Komatsu Meisei
    • "B" Zone - Komatsu Nishi, Hokuriku Gakuin
    • "C" Zone - Yuugakukan, Kanazawa
    • "D" Zone - Kenritsu Kougyou, Kanazawa Shougyou
    The seeded teams that have played so far have advanced with no issue. And the team I root for now because Seiryou got into their heads 2 years ago, Komatsu Ootani, has to play Komatsu Nishi today.

    Nagano - Best 8
    Nagano has had some success, winning at least 1 game in half of their appearances in the 2000's, but have been unable to get past the 3rd round. As for the qualifying, they have quickly gone from a field of 84 to the best 8, though perhaps that's more of the fact that they have not had the rainouts other prefectures have had:
    • Komoro Shougyou vs. Nagano Nishi
    • ⑤ Saku Chousei vs. Souzou Gakuen
    • ③ Ueda Nishi vs. Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri
    • ⑦ Matsumoto Fukashi vs. ② Matsushou Gakuen
    That is seemingly a lot of carnage out there. Komoro Shougyou upset ① Matsumoto Dai-ichi right off the bat, so there they went. Nagano Nishi sent ⑧ Okaya Minami home in the 3rd round. ④ Nagano Nichidai did not look impressive at all, losing 8-2 to Souzou Gakuen. And it's not all surprising that Tokyo Shidai Shiojiri has upset an average school in ⑥ Nagano Shougyou.

    Toyama - 2nd round (in progress)
    Toyama has been a pleasant surprise, getting to the 3rd round 3 of the last 5 years and from schools not necessarily powerhouses in the prefecutre (Shin-Minato & Toyama Dai-ichi). This after recording a win in just 5 of their last 15 years.
    • "A" Block - ① Takaoka Shougyou, ⑤ Toyama Shougyou
    • "B" Block - ① Toyama, ⑤ Nanto Fukuno
    • "C" Block - ① Toyama Dai-ichi, ⑤ Tonami Kougyou
    • "D" Block - ① Namerikawa, ⑤ Toyama Kokusaidai Fuzoku
    All 8 seeded teams were in play yesterday, with Toyama being the only casualty, losing 3-2 to Uodzu. They seemingly looked out of place as a top seed, and they got exposed in the 2nd round. Most teams are happy that both Takaoka Shougyou and Toyama Shougyou are in the same block as they will beat each other up and open things up for everyone else.

    Niigata - Best 8
    Niigata is surprisingly on schedule, given that they're normally subject to rainouts. Basically, 2 schools have had the only success out of the prefecture - Nihon Bunri (darn you Chuukyoudai Chuukyou) and Niigata Meikun. It doesn't mean that they're guaranteed to have success when they get there, but at least you know they have a chance.
    • ① Niigata Meikun vs. ⑨~⑯ Nagaoka Shougyou
    • ⑨~⑯ Maki vs. ④ Nagaoka Kougyou
    • ③ Nagaoka Oote vs. ⑤~⑧ Kamo Gyousei
    • ⑤~⑧ Teikyou Nagaoka vs. ⑨~⑯ Chuuetsu
    All seeded teams, though as you can see, they go 16 deep. Missing is Nihon Bunri, who already was unseeded but did take Nagaoka Oote the distance before giving up the winning run in the bottom of the 8th, falling 2-1. Niigata Meikun could be considered the prohibitive favorite now, and the scores indicate that they're gaining steam. Chuuetsu is trying to make a repeat bid, and having defeated ② Hokuetsu, it might be possible, but a game Teikyou Nagaoka currently stands in their way. Don't count out the aforementioned Nagaoka Oote either, they're a solid Tier 3 school who may gain momentum defeating Nihon Bunri (because exercising demons is a thing).