Does appearing more often result in better chances to win the title?

So one may wonder, do tiers matter in terms of winning Koushien? I’ve taken the tier list and started moving teams off the lists as they are eliminated. Upcoming teams at risk in red.

Champion

  • Tier 1 – Saitama – Hanasaki Tokuharu (5th apperance, 3rd consecutive)

Runner-up

  • Tier 1 – Hiroshima – Kouryou (22nd appearance, 1st in 3 years)

Semi-finalists

  • Tier 1
    • Nara – Tenri (28th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
  • Tier 3
    • Nishi Tokyo – Toukaidai Sugao (3rd appearance, 1st in 17 years)

Quarterfinal Elimination

  • Tier 1
    • Iwate – Moriokadai Fuzoku (10th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
    • Miyagi – Sendai Ikuei (26th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
  • Tier 2
    • Oita – Meihou (6th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
  • Tier 3
    • Kagawa – Sanbonmatsu (3rd appearance, 1st in 24 years)

3rd Round Elimination

  • Tier 1
    • Fukushima – Seikou Gakuin (14th appearance, 11th consecutive)
    • Osaka – Osaka Touin (9th appearance, 1st in 3 years)
  • Tier 2
    • Gunma – Maebashi Ikuei (3rd appearance, 2nd consecutive)
    • Higashi Tokyo – Nishogakushadai Fuzoku (2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years)
    • Hyogo – Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years)
    • Ehime – Saibi (5th appearance, 1st in 4 years)
    • Kagoshima – Kamimura Gakuen (4th appearance, 1st in 5 years)
  • Tier 3
    • Aomori – Aomori Yamada (11th appearance, 1st in 8 years)

1st/2nd Round Elimination (both rounds grouped in since some start in 2nd Round)

  • Tier 1
    • Minami Hokkaido – Hokkai (38th appearance, 3rd consecutive)
    • Tochigi – Sakushin Gakuin (13th appearance, 7th consecutive)
    • Chiba – Kisaradzu Sougou (6th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
    • Kanagawa – Yokohama (17th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
    • Yamanashi – Yamanashi Gakuin (7th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
    • Niigata – Nihon Bunri (9th appearance, 1st in 3 years)
    • Wakayama – Chiben Wakayama (23rd, 1st in 2 years)
    • Kochi – Meitoku Gijyuku (19th appearance, 8th consecutive)
  • Tier 2
    • Higashi Tokyo – Nishogakushadai Fuzoku (2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years)
    • Aichi – Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (28th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
    • Toyama – Takaoka Shougyou (18th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
    • Gifu – Oogaki Nichidai (4th appearance, 1st in 3 years)
    • Hyogo – Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years)
    • Shimane – Kaisei (10th appearance, 1st in 3 years)
    • Kumamoto – Shuugakukan (3rd appearance, 2nd consecutive)
    • Kagoshima – Kamimura Gakuen (4th appearance, 1st in 5 years)
    • Okinawa – Kounan (11th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
  • Tier 3
    • Kita Hokkaido – Takikawa Nishi (3rd appearance, 1st in 19 years)
    • Aomori – Aomori Yamada (11th appearance, 1st in 8 years)
    • Akita – Meiou (9th appearance, 1st in 8 years)
    • Yamagata – Nichidai Yamagata (17th appearance, 1st in 4 years)
    • Ibaraki – Tsuchira Nichidai (3rd appearance, 1st in 31 years)
    • Nagano – Matsushou Gakuen (36th appearance, 1st in 9 years)
    • Ishikawa – Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa (2nd appearance, 1st in 8 years)
    • Fukui – Sakai (1st appearance), merger in 2016 of…
      • Harue Kougyou (no appearances)
      • Sakai Nougyou (no appearances)
    • Shizuoka – Fujieda Meisei (1st appearance)
    • Mie – Tsuda Gakuen (1st appearance)
    • Shiga – Hikone Higashi (2nd appearance, 1st in 4 years)
    • Kyoto – Kyoto Seishou (3rd appearance, 1st in 19 years)
    • Tottori – Yonago Shouin (3rd appearance, 1st in 17 years)
    • Okayama – Okayama Sanyou (1st appearance)
    • Yamaguchi – Shimonoseki Kokusai (1st appearance)
    • Tokushima – Naruto Uzushio (1st appearance), merger in 2012 of…
      • Naruto Dai-ichi (1 appearance, 2004)
      • Naruto Kougyou (6 appearance, last in 2008)
    • Fukuoka – Touchiku (6th appearance, 1st in 21 years)
    • Saga – Waseda Saga (1st appearance)
    • Nagasaki – Hasami (3rd appearance, 1st in 16 years)
    • Miyazaki – Seishin (St.) Ursula (2nd appearance, 1st in 12 years)
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Breaking Kokoyakyu – Creating an Osaka Touin Dynasty

It is at this point, with Osaka Touin completing it’s second Haru-Natsu Renzoku Yuushou (winning both spring and summer titles), that I figure Kokoyakyu needs to fundamentally break.

I’ve already gone over the fact that despite a large amount of schools participating, it’s basically the same 150-200 schools making it for the most part, and in some prefectures it’s been the same team for over a decade.

So the thought of any team making it is there, but it’s so remote, and so difficult, that even when given the opportunity, some schools blow it (sorry Komatsu Ootani…).

And now you have Osaka Touin.

Established in 1983, they made their first Koushien appearance 8 years later (that’s 5 full classes). They would lose in the quarterfinals in the Haru Koushien, but then win their first appearance at the Natsu Koushien.

It would be a full decade before they would reappear, and have their only appearance in 2002 Natsu Koushien that resulted in a one-and-done.

But it would be in 2008 when the effective dynasty of Osaka Touin would bear fruit.

Starting in the 2008 Natsu Koushien to their championship today, their stats are the follwing:

  • Appeared in 7 of 10 Haru Koushien tournaments and 6 of 11 Natsu Koushien tournaments
  • Eliminated in the 2nd round twice
  • Eliminated in the 3rd round three times
  • Eliminated in the semifinals once
  • Won 3 Haru Koushien and 4 Natsu Koushien titles, including 2 Haru-Natsu titles.

It is in effect a dynasty, and for those that know me, I hate it.

I hate it because of the fact that in most cases you know going in that Osaka Touin can and probably will win it. The odds are basically flipping a coin.

So now, the Koushien tournament becomes like a glorified prefecture, where Osaka Touin runs roughshod against all other teams.

Where is the romanticism in that? Cheer for the front-runner? Great. Have at it.

In that case I want Osaka Touin to win at least the next 4 years haru-natsu all the way. Create the super dynasty that everyone wants. And surely with each successive win, they’ll get even more talented players, and build a de facto major league team which means they can win even more titles.

All this because at some point people will realize there IS no point to the tournament other than to hand Osaka Touin the title once again.

And once that realization happens, my hope is kokoyakyu in its current state will break. Who knows how badly, but it would and my hope is whatever emerges will be better.

That’s it. At this point I will now hope Osaka Touin crushes all opposition underfoot much like this final against Kanaashi Nougyou. Face Riseisha? Ha. They’re just another nobody. Nichidai-san? They don’t have the pitching to keep up with us. Sakushin Gakuin? You were talking about a 10 year plan to win it all. We have an annual plan.

Beat them all. Feed the fans. Because someday it won’t be fun anymore.

100th Natsu Koushien – Semifinals

100th Natsu Koushien – Semifinals

(photo courtesy of goo news, and please God no I don’t want that final)

I almost don’t want to do this review because I have a feeling it will be the same old Koushien…

Semifinal 1 – Kanaashi Nougyou (Akita) v Nichidai-san (Nishi Tokyo)

Kanaashi Nougyou

  • def Kagoshima Jitsugyou (Kagoshima) 5-1
  • def Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu) 6-3
  • def Yokohama (Minami Kanagawa) 5-4
  • def Oumi (Shiga) 3x-2

Nichidai-san

  • def Orio Aishin (Kita Fukuoka) 16-3
  • def Naradai Fuzoku (Nara) 8-4
  • def Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto) 4-3
  • def Shimonseki Kokusai (Yamaguchi) 3-2

One time I sports hate with a passion, the other I’m not sure what to think.

Kanaashi Nougyou has gotten here mostly on the back of ace Yoshida Kousei who has averaged a tick under 154 pitches per game so far, and he has 2 more to go. His pace would put him around 60 pitches short of Saitou Yuuki’s record, and that was with one extra game in for good measure (15 innings no less).

They were seriously bailed out by a controversial play in the bottom of the 9th. Manrui, no out they go for the suicide squeeze. Oumi’s defense was not crashing in, so when 3B Kenichi charged in, he had to quickly pickup and fire the ball to 1st yielding the douten run. The trailing runner recognized the fact they weren’t paying attention and went for home, beating the throw and therefore scoring 2 runs on a squeeze bunt.

I understand the sentiment. Generally a lot of us (including myself) hate the fact that 高校野球 does sacrifice bunts way too often. And in recent years, it actually has gotten better, though generally with the powerhouses because they know they have the talent to not play that game.

That being said, it could be around the time now that the squeeze becomes relevant again. Before it was done so much, defenses were basically prepared for it. Now, you do expect it at times, but it’s not as automatic.

In a sense if you’re looking for 1 run, you want a sac fly at the worse, base hit at the best. If you’re going to try and trade an out for a run, does it matter if it was via the bunt or the fly?

The worst thing that happens when hitting the ball in play is something like a 1-2-3 double play where you cut down the runner at home, and there’s 2 outs. A suicide squeeze, as long as the other runners are playing safe, could also result in a double play at worst.

So if you’re more comfortable with the bunt as opposed to hitting a deep enough sac fly, then given the current environment regarding bunts, I don’t necessarily have a problem with it.

Which, given how much I hate bunts, does seem weird to say.

With respect to Nichidai-san, I don’t really have much comment other than they’re doing what they normally do. The offense is good, not great and the pitching is the same, but brand name carries them quite a ways. Shimonoseki Kokusai held them hitless for 6+ innings, but they collapsed late and here we are.

The game really just pivots around Kanaashi Nougyou ace Yoshida. If he can somehow still be effective, they have a good chance of winning this game. But that’s a big if having one day off of two days of 140+ pitching performances.

Semifinal 2 – Saibi (Ehime) v Osaka Touin (Kita Osaka)

Saibi

  • def Chuo Gakuin (Nishi Chiba) 5-4
  • def Seiryou (Ishikawa) 13x-11
  • def Kochi Shougyou (Kochi) 3-1
  • def Houtoku Gakuen (Higashi Hyogo) 3-2

Osaka Touin

  • def Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) 3-1
  • def Oki Gakuen (Minami Fukuoka) 8-4
  • def Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama) 3-1
  • def Urawa Gakuin (Minami Saitama) 11-2

Saibi has made the most of their second chance. Seiryou let them stay in the tournament perhaps by being a bit too full of themselves, and one can now wonder if they are starting to believe they’re capable.

No, the resume is not strong, but they’ve beaten who they’ve needed to beat. It’s just that this particular matchup is quite unlike what they’ve faced.

Osaka Touin actually has pitching! Or at least more than just competent pitching at the minimum. That has allowed them to survive some low scoring games that they may not have been able to otherwise.

The only weird blemish is the fact that the team that had the most success offensively is Oki Gakuen of all teams. Not Sakushin Gakuin, not Urawa Gakuin, but first timers Oki Gakuen. What that all means I don’t know, but either way they have to be the heavy favorites not just for this game but to win it all.

Just please don’t give me a Nichidai-san v Osaka Touin final… please?

100th Natsu Koushien – Battle for the Best 8

100th Natsu Koushien – Battle for the Best 8

(picture courtesy of Sankei – and you really should have paced yourself there Nishi…)

The next 2 days will determine our Best 8. Some surprises, quite a few expected…


(from last article)

Bracket 1

  • Day 12, Game 1 – Houtoku Gakuen (Higashi Hyogo) v Aikoudai Meiden (Nishi Aichi)

Aikoudai Meiden won, as expected. Houtoku Gakuen won and as expected had very little margin to do so. There is very little to be taken from Aikoudai Meiden’s win, which means we’re back to square one regarding the level of each team. Houtoku Gakuen has faced better competition, but I am not sure the pitching is quality enough. Call this a tossup.

Bracket 2

  • Day 12, Game 2 – Nishogakushadai Fuzoku (Higashi Tokyu) v Urawa Gakuin (Minami Saitama)

Boy was I wrong. Kouryou was outplayed by Nishogakushadai Fuzoku and it didn’t feel particularly close. The latter looked good, but now I question if they’re really that good.

Even more, Urawa Gakuin comprehensively took apart Sendai Ikuei yesterday and it wasn’t even close. The pitching looks good as well, and if they put together another performance like that here I could consider them a contender. At the minimum they’re the favorites to advance now.

Bracket 3

  • Day 12, Game 3 – Saibi (Ehime) v Kochi Shougyou (Kochi)

Well, I feel bad for Seiryou (not a lot, but still) but they got the comeuppance they deserved. Saibi found their way through the door left open and are one step away from the Best 8.

Kochi Shougyou has proven that their offense can punish average to mediocre pitching, but their own pitching isn’t that great themselves. They also showed they can rally back several times and hold a large lead.

I thought Saibi could have had a shot of defeating Seiryou back when, and they did (but not necessarily in the manner that would give me confidence), and worse yet Kochi Shougyou is not the best opponent they could face.

The early innings will dictate how this game goes. If Kochi Shougyou can hit Saibi early (and it might be more likely given how much Yamaguchi pitched), then this game may be over quickly.


Bracket 4

  • Day 12, Game 4 – Osaka Touin (Kita Osaka) v Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama)

Oki Gakuen put up a brave fight, but again quality shows. Is it concerning that they wait for a couple of innings to put up the runs? Sure, but unless they face an ace you figure that they’ll unlock the puzzle of the opposing ace and then have at it.

Takaoka Shougyou just held on to defeat Saku Chousei, and did not instill any further confidence that they could mount sufficient opposition. Advantage Osaka Touin.

Bracket 5

  • Day 13, Game 1 – Oumi (Shiga) v Tokohadai Kikugawa (Shizuoka)

Welp, Maebashi Ikuei probably did wish they faced Chiben Wakayama in the end, because Oumi proved to be too much. Though one could have argued that Oumi should have scored more than 4 runs when they had 12 hits and 6 free passes…

I was shocked to see Tokohadai Kikugawa’s Kando Tomoya (漢人 友也) pitch a complete game shutout, even more so while just striking out 2 and walking 1.

This is in stark contrast to the first game where he was battered around and yet his team picked him up in the end. The game, and the team’s chances may rest on their reliever (and CF) Shinmura Daigo. If he proves to be a more than competent pitcher, then the wild card might be a legitimate threat. First things first though, the powder blues of Oumi await, and you can’t overlook them now.

Bracket 6

  • Day 13, Game 2 – Kanaashi Nougyou (Akita) v Yokohama (Kanagawa)

Yoshida Kousei wins again, but throws a metric ton of pitches in the process. No way this can continue, and no way against a Yokohama team experiencing a renaissance to the days where their Yokoko chant felt like a wave of pressure thrust upon you. The offense can try to bail Yoshida out as much as they can, but at some point it won’t be enough – especially when the days of rest in between starts shortens and shortens.

Yokohama held off a late charge from the defending champs, but prevailed. Whether that is an indictment of their pitching staff is yet to be seen, but Hanasaki Tokuharu will probably end up being their toughest offensive opponent before the Best 8. Offensively, 5 of their 10 hits happened in that 6-run 4th inning, so it is inconclusive whether they will struggle completely against Yoshida.

Pitching generally rules over all, but in this case Yokohama might stand a chance.

Bracket 7

  • Day 13, Game 3 – Shimonoseki Kokusai (Yamaguchi) v Kisaradzu Sougou (Higashi Chiba)

Soushi Gakuen’s Nishi becomes a tale of pacing oneself, as he used up all his energy early, and faltered late resulting in their premature exit to Shimonoseki Kokusai. That’s an indictment on both the kantoku for not pacing him, and Nishi himself for not realizing that what was best for the team was to pace himself. Too late now.

Kisaradzu Sougou dismantled Kounan. who only recorded 1 strikeout in the last out of the 9th inning. It was rather shocking to see them in firm control from the 2nd inning on – though their own pitching performance wasn’t ace dominating.

Shimonoseki Kokusai has proven that they are never out of a game but they also seem to always fall on the back foot as well. Can Kisaradzu Sougou prevent that late inning charge? I’m not convinced they can.

Bracket 8

  • Day 13, Game 4 – Nichidai-san (Nishi Tokyo) v Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)

Naradai Fuzoku tried to make it a game against Nichidai-san, but Ueno’s HR was just fool’s gold in the end. Does that mean that Nichidai-san is that dominant then? No, probably not. Kawamura did strike out 11, but gave up 6 hits as well including that mistake to Ueno.

Is Ryuukokudai Heian’s offense in a position to take advantage of it? Maybe. After a close game against Tottori Jyouhoku, they tore apart Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei’s pitching to the tune of 14 runs, which was more in line with their prefectural results.

Still, Nichidai-san will provide by far the most challenging opposition they will have faced this entire summer. Their defense is always sound, and if everything holds I think they can play a low-scoring game against Nichidai-san in which I think they have a chance to advance to the Best 8.

100th Natsu Koushien – After all teams have taken the field

100th Natsu Koushien – After all teams have taken the field

So as in general I’ve been busy, but I think with all teams having taking the field it might be a good time to reevaluate where we stand.

Bracket 1

  • Day 12, Game 1 – Houtoku Gakuen (Higashi Hyogo) v Aikoudai Meiden (Nishi Aichi)

Aikoudai Meiden won, as expected. Houtoku Gakuen won and as expected had very little margin to do so. There is very little to be taken from Aikoudai Meiden’s win, which means we’re back to square one regarding the level of each team. Houtoku Gakuen has faced better competition, but I am not sure the pitching is quality enough. Call this a tossup.

Bracket 2

  • Day 12, Game 2 – Nishogakushadai Fuzoku (Higashi Tokyu) v Urawa Gakuin (Minami Saitama)

Boy was I wrong. Kouryou was outplayed by Nishogakushadai Fuzoku and it didn’t feel particularly close. The latter looked good, but now I question if they’re really that good.

Even more, Urawa Gakuin comprehensively took apart Sendai Ikuei yesterday and it wasn’t even close. The pitching looks good as well, and if they put together another performance like that here I could consider them a contender. At the minimum they’re the favorites to advance now.

Bracket 3

  • Day 12, Game 3 – Saibi (Ehime) v Kochi Shougyou (Kochi)

Well, I feel bad for Seiryou (not a lot, but still) but they got the comeuppance they deserved. Saibi found their way through the door left open and are one step away from the Best 8.

Kochi Shougyou has proven that their offense can punish average to mediocre pitching, but their own pitching isn’t that great themselves. They also showed they can rally back several times and hold a large lead.

I thought Saibi could have had a shot of defeating Seiryou back when, and they did (but not necessarily in the manner that would give me confidence), and worse yet Kochi Shougyou is not the best opponent they could face.

The early innings will dictate how this game goes. If Kochi Shougyou can hit Saibi early (and it might be more likely given how much Yamaguchi pitched), then this game may be over quickly.

Bracket 4

  • Day 9, Game 1 – Osaka Touin (Kita Osaka) v Oki Gakuen (Minami Fukuoka)
  • Day 9, Game 2 – Saku Chousei (Nagano) v Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama)

There is no change here. It might have been a close game, but the game wasn’t really that close. Oki Gakuen got a win, but they’re likely toast now.

Takaoka Shougyou will probably be Osaka Touin’s last challenge to the Best 8, but I still question whether they can mount a challenge to the tournament favorites.

Bracket 5

  • Day 9, Game 3 – Oumi (Shiga) v Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma)
  • Day 10, Game 1 – Tokohadai Kikugawa (Shizuoka) v Nichidan Gakuen (Miyazaki)

Maebashi Ikuei no longer has to worry about defeating Chiben Gakuen as Oumi has done that job for them, but now has to defeat Oumi instead (which might be a bit tougher). Even still, their win over Kinkidai Fuzoku was sound.

Tokohadai Kikugawa probably becomes the new wild card because they’re still in their free wheeling days of swinging away trying to create a lot of offense. But it’s very volatile as shown by their narrow win against a weaker team.

Still now, Maebashi Ikuei continues to have the inside track.

Bracket 6

  • Day 10, Game 2 – Kanaashi Nougyou (Akita) v Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu)
  • Day 10, Game 3 – Hanasaki Tokuharu (Kita Saitama) v Yokohama (Kanagawa)

Hanasaki Tokuharu was really close to being a defending champ who were eliminated in the first round. 6 unanswered runs helped them advance to the next round, but now you have to put into question how far they can go and even if the Best 8 is even a possibility.

Their next opponent, Yokohama, did their job by handling Aichi Sangyoudai Mikawa and rather well too, especially on the pitching side. This means that Hanasaki Tokuharu’s road has become exponentially difficult – even more so now looking at the other side of the bracket.

Kanaashi Nougyou’s Yoshida Kousei struck out 14, but threw a large amount of pitches. The lack of efficiency is a problem so long as it continues but Oogaki Nichidai’s strong pitching performance probably isn’t as good as face value.

Bracket 7

  • Day 11, Game 1 – Shimonoseki Kokusai (Yamaguchi) v Soushi Gakuen (Okayama)
  • Day 11, Game 2 – Kounan (Okinawa) v Kisaradzu Sougou (Higashi Chiba)

I’m not sure anything was determined after the first round. The teams I profiled advanced and posted really good pitching figures with the exception of Kisaradzu Sougou.

Soushi Gakuen gains the advantage due to Nishi’s 16 Ks, and if he repeats that performance against Shimonoseki Kokusai they could cement their inside road to the Best 8.

Bracket 8

  • Day 11, Game 3 – Nichidai-san (Nishi Tokyo) v Naradai Fuzoku (Nara)
  • Day 11, Game 4 – Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto) v Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Aomori)

Orio Aishin as expected did not provide any effective resistance to Nichidai-san. What’s worse, outside of Naradai Fuzoku the rest of the opposition did not look all that great.

Which means sadly that Nichidai-san is probably now favored by a wide margin of advancing out of this bracket.

100th Natsu Koushien – Day 2

100th Natsu Koushien – Day 2

(screencap courtesy of ABC/SportsBull – because that was a thing)

Well, if the first day was interesting, the second day tried to go off the rails right off the bat.

Kochi Shougyou (Kochi) 14 – 12 Yamanashi Gakuin (Yamanashi)

I was expecting this matchup to be  a good battle between the two teams, with Kochi Shougyou possibly having the advantage. That was primarily because Yamanashi Gakuin’s one-and-done performances have given us a track record of what they are.

But I’m not sure anyone was expecting this game.

While Yamanashi Gakuin scored first, from the pitching alone you felt that it was a matter of time before Kochi Shougyou would be able to level and pull away. And that was indeed the case, doubling their output from the 2nd through 4th innings capped by Norimatsu’s 3-run HR to make it 7-1. At that point I figured the game was over.

Whoops.

Suddenly out of nowhere Kochi Shougyou’s ace Kitadai pitched as if he had the yips or something. Everything was either off the plate or in someone’s wheelhouse. 1 run became 2 runs, became 4 runs…

And then Nakao hits a manrui HR, giving them 8 runs in the 5th and a 9-7 lead. And when they tacked on another run an inning later I figured that was it, now Kochi Shougyou would throw in the towel.

Nope.

Instead they rally for 4 runs to make it 11-10 in their favor.

At this point I wondered if any of this was going to stop.

Nope.

All I could do was just watch as Yamanashi Gakuin scored 2 runs to retake the lead in the 7th only to see Kochi Shougyou turn right back around and score 3 to give Kochi Shougyou the 14-12 lead.

And mercifully, that’s how the game would end.

This most certainly was not the game I was expecting to see, and actually gives the lackluster Keiou offense a fighting chance. There’s really nothing to take from it other than neither team is probably all that good and that Kochi Shougyou’s prospects of a deep run are diminished significantly.

Osaka Touin (Kita Osaka) 3 – 1 Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi)

The marquee game of the day, Osaka Touin, looking for their 7th title in the last 13 appearance and their 2nd haru-natsu renzoku yuushou, facing the 2016 champion Sakushin Gakuin. This should have been a good matchup.

And if you look at the final score it was. But in reality it wasn’t that close.

Osaka Touin ace Kakigi completely shut down the Sakushin Gakuin offense save for right at the tend where they managed to steal a run to prevent the shutout.

Meanwhile, Sakushin Gakuin’s underpowered relief staff did it’s best to keep the vaunted Osaka Touin offense off the board. And they had done their job too, limiting them to just 1 run. But a whiff on a base hit similar to the one that happened to Kanzei vs Waseda Jitsugyou meant 2 runners, including batter Fujiwara, would score. 3 runs would be far too much to ask and Osaka Touin is well on its way to the Best 8, much to the delight of fans everywhere.

Oki Gakuen (Minami Fukuoka) 4 – 2 Hokushou (Minami Hokkaido)

Game #3 had all the makings of an even matchup. Oki Gakuen despite being first timers, at least defeated a fair number of perennially strong teams on their way to the title. They’d be facing Hokushou, who is a stronger team in Hokkaido, though Hokkaido itself is not a strong prefecture. That meant that Oki Gakuen could stand a chance of advancing.

The game seemingly flew by. Both pitchers were nothing special, but neither offense really were to do a whole lot against them.

The difference was just Hokushou shooting itself in the foot repeatedly. First, ace Harada would hit 2 batters en route to loading the bases in the 3rd, and couldn’t help but yield a run. Then 2 innings later CF Minamoto would sell out diving for a ball, but fail to come up with it, allowing a runner to score from 1st and putting the batter on 3rd who would subsequently score themselves.

Oki Gakuen would only make one key defensive miscue, and that would be in the bottom of the 5th where with a runner on 1st, C Hirakawa would field a failed bunt attempt, but airmail the throw while charging to 1st. Leadoff batter Nakatani would double off the wall for a run, then score later on a timely hit by Kaketani.

3-2 would be the closest though that Hokushou would get as Saitou would navigate the minefield for the rest of the game giving his team the 4-2 win. Congratulations certainly in order, but contenders they are not.

Saku Chousei (Nagano) 5 – 4 Asahikawadai (Kita Hokkaido) – 11 innings

From the draw Hokkaido risked losing both of their teams in back-to-back games. Fortunately for Asahikawadai they also drew a fairly even opponent in Saku Chousei, thereby giving them a chance to advance.

Things could not have started more poorly for Asahikawadai as an early error coupled with some base hits lead to some early runs. A 5-3 double play was the only thing that prevent it from being more than just a 2-0 deficit.

Asahikawadai though would claw back the margin, and after getting a run in the 2nd, would get an assist from the Saku Chousei battery. Koyama would let a ball go through the 5-hole allowing Taketani to score from 3rd to tie the game. Mochimaru would drive in another to given his team the 3-2 lead.

The game would stay that way for a while, with both teams getting their chances, but failing to score. In what felt like a turning point, Top 7th, Satou Shinnosuke hits a ball over the fielders in left center. He has his double, but tries to leg out one more base only to be thrown out by a wide margin. With that opportunity gone, so also it seemed were Saku Chousei’s chances.

Then came the 8th inning. 2 outs, Ueda hits a ball to shallow left. Mochimaru charges in, dives, and seemingly makes the catch. But the 3rd base umpire waves it off saying it was a trap instead. No matter, a 2 out single isn’t too much to be worried about.

But then came a walk… Ok. Not great, but still 2 outs.

And with a Nishifuji flyout to left, that should end the… oh no…

Mochimaru goes to field it and somehow the ball bounces in and out of his glove falling to the ground, and allowing not 1 but 2 runners to score giving Saku Chousei the lead with not much time left.

It would take Mochimaru 3 tries to get the 3rd out, gunning down a runner at home to finally end the inning. Though perhaps he should have needed only 1.

Bottom 9, Asahikawadai 3 outs from elimination. Leadoff base hit from Sawaguchi and they play small ball at this late stage sacrificing one of their outs to move the runner into scoring position. That’s when Nakasuji slices one that lands on the chalk down the LF line, tying up the game.

The game would head to enchousen, where each pitcher would feel the pressure, with scoring opportunity abounding, but nothing reaching home. It would eventually tick over to the 13th inning where the new tiebreak rules would come into effect (runners on 1st/2nd, no out). Even then in the 13th neither team could score and you had to think maybe it could still end in a draw.

Instead it would take a bunt base hit, and then a groundout for Saku Chousei to score a run. Asahikawadai would press, but a 4-6-3 double play would end the game.

Can’t say I’m a fan of the tiebreak rules as is, but you play with the rules you have. Saku Chousei advances, but their prospects look as good as Oki Gakuen’s.

100th Natsu Koushien – Day 1

100th Natsu Koushien – Day 1

(photo courtesy of jiji.com)

Well, that was an interesting first day at Koushien.

First was the opening ceremonies which included a tribute to the past champions and to kokoyakyu and a statement from the Crown Prince before Hideki Matsui went to throw the first pitch, though he buried it in the dirt (or rather threw a 50 foot pitch to which be bowed in apology before it even got to the catcher). Speaking of the catcher, there was a good picture of him shaking hands with Matsui which probably makes his tournament regardless of what happens.

Seiryou (Ishikawa) 9 – 4 Touin (Oita)

Touin came into this matchup on paper overmatched, though at least in the first couple of innings they held their own. Yet you knew based upon Touin’s choice to start #10 Yoshimura that they would have to try and survive a couple of innings, and that was going to be really tough with his stuff.

Sure enough in the 3rd, a leadoff walk starts the wheels turning and Kawai and Uchiyama would have back-to-back extra base hits eventually turning a 1-1 tie to a 4-1 advantage. 2 more in the 4th basically put the game out of reach for Touin.

That’s not to say Touin totally rolled over. They added 3 runs in the final couple of innings to make it a 9-4 final.

Seiryou advances, but I’m not really convinced that their ace Okugawa will be able to take them deep into the tournament. Despite having above average speed, it seemed that he quite a few mistakes in the strike zone that a better team would have properly punished. Now, Seiryou has the benefit of being in a relatively weaker bracket (though there isn’t necessarily a strong one, which is it’s own issue altogether), but I’m not sure you could consider them a title contender.

Saibi (Ehime) 5 – 4 Chuo Gakuin (Nishi Chiba)

Game 2 featured two schools probably equal in strength squaring off. Saibi was a school that wasn’t challenged, but whose pitching staff didn’t seem all that strong. Chuo Gakuin came out of nowhere in the fall last year to win the Kanto Super-Regionals, but disappointed in at Haru Koushien. Their prefectural performance was not stellar either, and I would find out later that their ace was coming off a head injury in a practice game in May.

That was why #10 Nishimura was called in to start for Chuo Gakuin and it was evident from the start that he would have to be a game manager in order for them to have a chance because his stuff wasn’t all that good.

Saibi’s ace Yamaguchi was vulnerable as well. Though his fastball had above average velocity, it was still rather hittable. The defense let him down in the 1st as well, with a throwing error allowing the go-ahead run to reach 3rd, and then a stumbling catch in deep left let Chuo Gakuin take a 2-1 lead.

Even still it did feel that Saibi would hit Nishimura again later, and they did, though to his defense his outfield let him down too. Yano reaches 3rd after Aoki’s route to the ball allows it to get past him and to the wall. A timely base hit ties the game in the 3rd.

Just an inning later, a leadoff single and a hit by pitch puts 2 runners on with 1 out. Last batter Masayoshi singles up the middle gives Saibi the 3-2 lead. Follow that up with a bold double steal of home and another base hit by leadoff batter Yano and Saibi jumped out to a 5-2 lead.

Despite that though, Saibi never quite seemed out of the woods. Again some questionable defense in the bottom half of the frame allowed what seemed like a 2-out single to become a double. Nishimura helps his own cause with a double over LF Yamada’s head and it was a 5-3 game.

The game then entered a phase where both teams were pressing a bit. For Saibi, they had opportunities to extend the lead, but couldn’t get the timely hit while for Chuo Gakuin they were just pressing at the plate and being retired in order, giving ace Yamaguchi an easy time of it.

But in the 8th Yamaguchi gets himself into trouble. Back-to-back hits to by Naganuma and Uda put runners at the corners. Chuo Gakuin though trailing by 2 presses the issue. Souma-kantoku has Uda run, and despite not fielding the ball cleanly Ashitani throws him out at 2nd. And with one down and just one runner on base Saibi gladly traded the run for an out. That still left them leading 5-4 with just 1 inning to go, and Chuo Gakuin would never get another good scoring opportunity.

Saibi survives to play another day, but the pitching does not appear quality enough for them to challenge Seiryou to advance to the Best 8.

Keiou Gijyuku (Kita Kanagawa) 3x-2 Chuuetsu (Niigata)

This matchup seemed rather even on paper as neither side seemed to claim an advantage in any particular phase of the game. That bore out in the 1st when Keiou ace Namai walks 2 batters, but managed to escape unharmed. That in contract to his counterpart Yamamoto who also allowed two runners on (base hit, hit by pitch), but despite trying to pitch around Negishi he singled to center giving them a 1-0 lead.

Even still something about Namai’s delivery bothered me. It looked rather excessive and inconsistent, even though it seemed to be getting the job done. You can call it effectively wild, but generally it works until it doesn’t. And in the 3rd it didn’t with back to back doubles by Odaka and Adachi tied the game at 1.

Keiou would take the lead right back in the bottom of the frame. Miyao and Oogawa would have back-to-back singles to lead off the inning. With runners at the corners, Shimoyama’s slow roller to 1st would allow Miyao to score giving them back the lead at 2-1. It would have been 3-1 right after, but Hirose liner was saved by a great diving catch by Sakai. He would once again make another great diving stop, this time on a ball hit by Okumura. A flip to 2nd would end the inning.

The pressure was all on Chuuetsu, at least until the 7th. Hirose with a routine base hit to left, but out of nowhere Yamada completely whiffs on the ball. It’s hit so hard that it goes all the way to the wall. Hirose books it around the bases and goes for an “inside-the-park” HR to tie the game at 2-2! (Well, it’s really a single and 3-base error)

At that point, Keiou I felt was behind the 8-ball. Tie game, with the offense unable to score gave all the momentum to Chuuetsu. Not to mention that I still didn’t trust Namai to hold the line.

On the opposite side, Chuuetsu had deployed their strategy, especially in the face of Yamamoto struggling against Negishi. RF Yamada would come in to pitch in the bottom of the 4th and would be assigned to pitch to Keiou’s 1-5 batters (the last being Negishi). After that Yamamoto would return to the mound to pitch to the 6-9 batters. This strategy would prove to be effective in completely shutting down the Keiou offense.

Chuuetsu would get their opportunity in the 8th. With one down Namai would issue a walk to Odaka and then Adachi would single to left. Odaka would hustle to 3rd and Chuuetsu just needed a sac fly to take the lead.

Instead, Chuuetsu goes for the traditional squeeze play, and Yoshinami alertly throws to 3rd and picks off Odaka! 2 outs, and a runner only at 1st, Yamada’s single leads to nothing and the game stays level at 2-2.

It would stay that way until the bottom of the 9th. 2 outs, close to enchousen. But then Yoshinami works a walk, and new CF Seki singles to right. Runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs and now Yamada has to re-take the mound a base hit away from elimination. Miyao seems ready to stand in the box, but then there’s the warmup, then a bit of walk on the mound, then a mound conference, then a couple of motions to 2nd. All this to make Miyao think, to perhaps like in football “freeze the kicker”, to hopefully add pressure to him and induce an out.

But it doesn’t work! Miyao lines a ball back up the middle behind Yamada! Yoshinami rounding 3rd, the throw home not in time and for the 3rd consecutive time Chuuetsu is walked off at Koushien.

Keiou too survives against a weakened Chuo Gakuin that already was not really considered quality. Add to that the lack of offense, and Keiou’s probably on borrowed time as well.


So we had a great start where Seiryou was able to pay homage to their famous alumni, followed by 2 great games. A very good start to the 100th Natsu Koushien. Day 2 though has had the hype built up ever since the draw….

100th Natsu Koushien – The Draw

100th Natsu Koushien – The Draw

(screencap courtesy of Asahi Broadcasting/SportsBull)

30 minutes. 30 minutes is all it took for the pomp, circumstance, and one fateful draw that would shake the festival hall.

Going from left to right in the screencap the 8 brackets are as follows:

Bracket 1

  • Day 7, Game 3 – Houtoku Gakuen (Higashi Hyogo) v Seikou Gakuen (Fukushima)
  • Day 7, Game 4 – Hakusan (Mie) v Aikoudai Meiden (Nishi Aichi)

Hakusan was going to be the outsider in any bracket it drew into. Aikoudai Meiden isn’t the worst team they could have drawn, but they could have done better for sure. Unfortunately, Ichiro’s alma mater didn’t make a great case for themselves with several close game, some against no-name teams.

The beneficiary of all this may be Seikou Gakuen. I always talk about their pending demise, but for their part, they have reached the Best 8 in 5 of the last 10 years. Of course I can say that because they’ve been to Natsu Koushien the last 11 years. They have a good chance at making it 6 of the last 12 years as they need just 2 games, and Houtoku Gakuen seems like the only possible challenger. However, they operate generally on razor thin margins as the do not score enough runs to give them much leeway.

Bracket 2

  • Day 8, Game 1 – Nishogakushadai Fuzoku (Higashi Tokyu) v Kouryou (Hiroshima)
  • Day 8, Game 2 – Urawa Gakuin (Minami Saitama) v Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi)

Kouryou in a sea of Eastern Japan schools. They only had one quality game, but it was the school that was in effect their rival the past 2 years – Hiroshima Shinjyou. And they were this *pinches fingers* close to losing. But they’re back and they’re hoping to make that last step forward.

Nishogakushadai Fuzoku took one more step forward to evening their rivalry by defeating Kanto Dai-ichi in the semifinals. That leaves them trailing 5-6 over the past decade. But even with making their 2nd consecutive appearance, the profile does not scream contender so they be one and done.

How is it that the other game in this bracket is a rematch of their game 5 years ago when Urawa Gakuin ace Ojima was relieved in the 9th only to see reliever Yamaguchi lose the game on the very next batter. We get this game again? In the first round?!

But there’s really nothing to go off of for either team, neither faced significant competition during their qualifying and for the most part they were not heavily challenged. Regardless of who advances, I have a hard time seeing any of the Eastern challengers taking down last year’s runner-up.

Bracket 3

  • Day 1, Game 1 – Touin (Oita) v Seiryou (Ishikawa)
  • Day 1, Game 2 – Saibi (Ehime) v Chuo Gakuin (Nishi Chiba)
  • Day 1, Game 3 – Keiou Gijyuku (Kita Kanagawa) v Chuuetsu (Niigata)
  • Day 2, Game 1 – Yamanashi Gakuin (Yamanashi) v Kochi Shougyou (Kochi)

So, this is an interesting bracket, and by interesting I mean possibly dominated by Seiryou. Seiryou did not give up a single run during the prefecturals, and when we saw them in the spring, they lost to Mie, who in turn lost in extras to Osaka Touin. Now, Mie isn’t here at Natsu Koushien, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re probably on the list of “contenders”. Touin shouldn’t stand a chance in the opening round.

Almost every other team in this bracket has to prove something. Kochi Shougyou hasn’t been here in over a decade, but annihilated Meitoku Gijyuku. Yamanashi Gakuin and Chuuetsu have to prove they’re more than just a one-and-done school because they’ve failed to do that so far. Chuo Gakuin came out of nowhere to take the Kanto region, and has won Nishi Chiba, but looked pedestrian in their only game. The same could be said for Keiou Gijyuku who lost to Hikone Higashi. Yes, they did defeat Touin Gakuen, Toukaidai Sagami, and Toukou Gakuen in succession to take the title, but unless they gained some form of grittiness, I’m not convinced that they can make a challenge. Saibi might be the closest to mounting a challenge, but they’re running a new ace out there than from their run last year. Still, they handled both Imabari Nishi and Nitta fairly handily so at least they showed they were miles ahead of the rest.

Seiryou should advance, but Saibi and Keiou Gijyuku could put up some resistance along the way.

Bracket 4

  • Day 2, Game 2 – Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) v Osaka Touin (Kita Osaka)
  • Day 2, Game 3 – Hokushou (Minami Hokkaido) v Oki Gakuen (Minami Fukuoka)
  • Day 2, Game 4 – Asahikawadai (Kita Hokkaido) v Saku Chousei (Nagano)
  • Day 3, Game 1 – Saga Shougyou (Saga) v Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama)

Osaka Touin got a dream draw. While Sakushin Gakuin is a very difficult first round matchup, if they pass that test the rest of the bracket is about as easy as you could get.

None of the other schools outside of Takaoka Shougyou had it easy through their bracket with multiple close games. Given, they may have been against good competition, but when you have to go against Osaka Touin, you are already on thin ice:

  • Oki Gakuen – Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku, Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu, Higashi-Fukuoka, Fukuokadai Oohori, Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu
  • Hokushou – Shirakaba Gakuen, Obihiro Ootani, Asahikawa Jitsugyou, Clark Kokusai
  • Saku Chousei – Ueda Nishi

Takaoka Shougyou scored double digit runs in every single game, but also gave up quite a few runs as well. Playing an outscoring game against Osaka Touin will not go down well.

Effectively, Osaka Touin just got a shinkansen pass to the Best 8. They just need to board the train, sit down and enjoy the ride.

Bracket 5

  • Day 3, Game 2 – Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama) v Oumi (Shiga)
  • Day 3, Game 3 – Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) v Kinkidai Fuzoku (Minami Osaka)
  • Day 3, Game 4 – Masuda Higashi (Shimane) v Tokohadai Kikugawa (Shizuoka)
  • Day 4, Game 1 – Nichidan Gakuen (Miyazaki) v Marugame Jyousai (Kagawa)

Chiben Wakayama is the team that refuses to give up their stranglehold in Wakayama. They even produced a finals run last year in the Haru Koushien. But outside of that it’s been declining results since the 2006 Natsu Koushien where they came back against Teikyou before losing to Tanaka Masahiro’s Komadai Tomakomai. Despite the favorable draw, it’ll take a lot to convince me that they are more like the 2017 Haru Koushien team and more like the teams in 2014-16 where they struggled to make it to Koushien, never mind winning a game. The finals game versus Shiritsu Wakayama bears that out.

The biggest threat is possibly Maebashi Ikuei. After their Natsu Koushien win out of nowhere in 2013, they disappeared for a while before finding their way back in 2016. The results are not great, but they are improving with each appearance.  Now, they still had a long ways to go – as evidenced by their 10-4 loss to eventual champions Hanasaki Tokuharu, but they’re not in this bracket, and they did beat Meitoku Gijyuku, which is no small feat. If anything is to trip them up though, it will be their pitching, but then again i doubted their pitching in 2013, and they won the title…

I am not convinced that any other team can realistically make a claim for the Best 8 spot, so Maebashi Ikuei should have the inside track – provided they can defeat Chiben Wakayama.

Bracket 6

  • Day 4, Game 2 – Kanaashi Nougyou (Akita) v Kagoshima Jitsugyou (Kagoshima)
  • Day 4, Game 3 – Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu) v Toukaidai Seishou (Kumamoto)
  • Day 4, Game 4 – Hanasaki Tokuharu (Kita Saitama) v Naruto (Tokushima)
  • Day 5, Game 1 – Yokohama (Kanagawa) v Aichi Sangyoudai Mikawa (Higashi Aichi)

The defending champs are back to defend their title, having almost a cakewalk to Koushien with Saitama broken up. Even still they had 2 close games against unknown competition, so they’re coming in rather untested. Naruto is 2 years removed from a Best 8 run, but they too didn’t face anyone of real note.

There are some well known names in this bracket, which would suggest that their road to a repeat is harder than some of the other favorites. Yokohama is back once again, but like other split prefectures for the 100th Natsu Koushien, it meant that their road to the title was much easier than in years past. That didn’t stop them from having to come from behind against Seisa Kokusai Konan, then having to survive a 9th inning comeback. The other other competition of note was Tier 3 Tachibana Gakuen (立花学園 – note that there are 2 different Tachibana Gakuen, the other being 橘学園).

Kagoshima Jitsugyou did defeat both Kagoshima Jyousai and Kanoya Chuo, but had to survive a 1-0 game against Ibusuki Shougyou. I’m not too keen on their prospects as a result, but there’s one other reason.

There’s been a lot of talk about Akita’s representative, Kanaashi Nougyou. It’s been 11 years since they’ve been at Natsu Koushien, but the focus has been on their ace, Yoshida Kousei (吉田 輝星). Reports have him at the upper 140s, but given that radar guns away from major stadiums tend to run faster, he probably runs in the low 140s instead. Even still, from the video his 2-seamer has a lot of run, and his offspeed stuff he can throw for strikes. His offspeed stuff includes a slider, splitter and slow curve. All in all, he posted a 57:16 K:BB ratio during the prefecturals for a 11.93 K/9, 3.35 BB/9 ratio and a 0.977 WHIP.

However, there is one caveat. Against Akita Shougyou, a perennial powerhouse, he struck out just 3, while also walking 3. It probably isn’t that bad, but he’s also not as good as his overall numbers indicate. Kagoshima Jitsugyou will be a quick first test to see if he’s the real deal. After that, it’s probably a date with Hanasaki Tokuharu for a spot in the Best 8.

Bracket 7

  • Day 5, Game 2 – Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate) v Shimonoseki Kokusai (Yamaguchi)
  • Day 5, Game 3 – Soushi Gakuen (Okayama) v Souseikan (Nagasaki)
  • Day 5, Game 4 – Kounan (Okinawa) v Tsuchiura Nichidai (Ibaraki)
  • Day 6, Game 1 – Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui) v Kisaradzu Sougou (Higashi Chiba)

I’m having a hard time figuring out a front-runner to come out of this particular bracket. There are several well-known names, but none of them seem especially strong this year.

There’s Hanamaki Higashi, alma mater of Ootani Shouhei and soon to be major leaguer Kikuchi Yuusei. They’ve been unable to replicate those times, and a 19-0 drubbing against Osaka Touin in the Haru Koushien isn’t very inspiring. Even still, they beat Ichinoseki Gakuin and Moriokadai Fuzoku to get here.

Kounan is back one again, but still has yet to replicate life after Shimabukuro. Life was generally easy, but a 4-3 win over no tier Naha gives me some pause. They’re attempting do to this with a group of pitchers instead of a single ace:

  • vs Naha – Fujiki Ryuuyuu (藤木 琉悠) and Miyagi Hiroya (宮城 大弥)
  • vs Kadena – Fujiki and Touyama Naoshi (當山 尚志)
  • vs Itoman – Miyagi

Should be interesting how this all plays out.

Kisaradzu Sougou could be a factor, given they defeated both Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou and Narita. But the pitching while not giving up many runs appears questionable due to the low strikeout numbers. The offense will need to prove it’s legitimate in order for them to have a shot – though in this bracket, they stand a better chance.

Tsuruga Kehi could play a factor, but the prefecturals give us nothing to go off of. The wild card is their ace Kinoshita Genshuu(?)(木下 元秀). He rarely pitched, until the final, but he didn’t need to it seemed until then.

Soushi Gakuen’s ace Nishi Jyunya (西 純矢) might be the piece they need to make a deep run, but that 2-0 game against Kurashiki Shougyou gives me pause in the middle of all their double digit games.

The same could be said for Shimonoseki Kokusai’s Tsuruta Katsuki (鶴田 克樹), who pitched a 3-hit shutout against Ube Koujyou and put in a solid performance in the Haru Koushien vs Souseikan.

Either way, it feels like an open bracket, but as always it will come down to the pitching.

Bracket 8

  • Day 6, Game 2 – Nichidai-san (Nishi Tokyo) v Orio Aishin (Kita Fukuoka)
  • Day 6, Game 3 – Haguro (Yamagata) v Naradai Fuzoku (Nara)
  • Day 7, Game 1 – Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto) v Tottori Jyouhoku (Tottori)
  • Day 7, Game 2 – Akashi Shougyou (Nishi Hyogo) v Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Aomori)

The last bracket has some heavy hitters in it, but there’s opportunities to be had as well.

Nichidai-san is the biggest name, and you have to recognize their abilities, despite the fact I dislike them. But they looked vulnerable in their final 3 games. I think if a team is patient on their pitchers, they’ll get many free passes.

What in the world is going on with Ryuukokudai Heian?! They scored double digit runs in all but 1 game, and they’re not known for their offense! But they do have an ace in Kodera Tomoya (小寺 智也). And if the offense is for real, then they could be a force to be reckoned with.

Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei’s name change has not helped it in exorcising the three consecutive losses in the finals. And the last 2 games versus Aomori Yamada and Hirosaki Gakuen Seiai does not inspire confidence.

Everyone else though doesn’t inspire much confidence and could be at the mercy of the bigger names. Maybe give Heian the nod for now, but you can never count out the name brand that is Nichidai-san…

That’s it. We’re not far away from the opening ceremonies. Enjoy!