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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Projected 91st Haru Koushien Field

Projected 91st Haru Koushien Field

(picture courtesy of Kyodo News)

With the fall taikais and the Meiji Jingu Taikai complete, we can get a good sense of who we should be seeing in next year’s Haru Koushien.

Hokkaido (1)

  • Sapporo Ootani – 1st appearance

This was not a cheap title run for Sapporo Ootani, defeating 4 former Koushien participants in succession in the super-regionals to take the title (Takikawa Nishi, Shirakawa Gakuen, Komadai Tomakomai, Sapporo Dai-ichi).

Meiji Jingu Bid (1)

  • Sapporo Dai-ichi – 3rd appearance, 3rd consecutive

The thing is – Sapporo Ootani didn’t stop there. They started from the depths of the Meiji Jingu Taikai, barely holding on against Ryuukokudai Heian, handling lesser competition in Kokushikan and Chikuyou Gakuen, before defeating what seemed like a backup squad from Seiryou to take the title. That title (their 1st obviously), allows the more well-known Sapporo Dai-ichi to enter the tournament via the Meiji Jingu bid. The resume though is something left to be desired though, as despite wins against Sapporo Nichidai and Asahikawadai, they were slugfests which do not bode well for the squad going forward.

Tohoku (2)

  • Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Aomori)  – 10th appearance, 1st in 2 years
  • Moriokadai Fuzoku (Iwate) – 5th appearance, 2nd consecutive

This isn’t necessarily new here out of Tohoku. Kousei, no matter what the iteration (i.e. name) continues to chug along winning and making appearances, but not replicating their heyday when they made 3 consecutive calendar Koushien finals. And despite defeating a who’s who of teams (Aomori Yamada, Senshuudai Kitakami, Haguro, Hanamaki HIgashi, and Moriokadai Fuzoku) it still feels like they haven’t quite gotten back to where they want to be.

Moriokadai Fuzoku on the other hand is seemingly making steady progress. From being one-and-done through 2012, to reaching the 3rd round and now reaching the quarterfinals at Koushien, the appearance is that they’re building a sturdy foundation for years to come. Though I would say that the hill gets much steeper from here and future progress will be hard to come by, and a resume this time around that lacks in name recognition makes it harder to make a case for in this iteration.

Kanto ex Tokyo (4)

  • Touin Gakuen (Kanagawa) – 6th appearance, 1st in 16 years
  • Kasukabe Kyouei (Saitama) – 3rd appearance, 1st in 22 years
  • Narashino (Chiba) – 4th appearance, 1st in 10 years
  • Yamanashi Gakuin (Yamanashi) – 3rd appearance, 1st in 5 years

This selection is pretty straightforward. All 4 semifinal teams blew out their opposition, so there’s no risk of any of them being passed up for one reason or another.

The selection is notably void of many of the powerhouses in the region, continuing to highlight the downswing the region has taken as a whole. It’s not necessarily that the teams listed above are worse (though they might be), but it does feel like the representatives that come out of a metropolitan areas such as the Kanto region should be doing better than they are. What’s worse, none of these teams have many quality wins to their name outside of each other (Kasukabe Kyouei did defeat Yokohama and Yamanashi Gakuin did defeat Maebashi Ikuei, but that’s about it)  and even the champion Touin Gakuen didn’t even win their prefecture!

It’s looking like another lost tournament for the Kanto super-region.

Tokyo (1 + floating bid w/Kanto ex Tokyo)

  • Kokushikan – 9th appearance, 1st in 10 years
  • Toukaidai Sugao – 4th appearance, 1st in 3 years

Toukaidai Sugao gets the gift of the floating bid thanks to the weak Kanto region, though one could say they easily deserved it defeating both Nishogakushadai Fuzoku and Waseda Jitsugyou. Now, their games once they started to face tougher competition started to look like Toyodai Himeji’s games in that they were low scoring affairs. The pitching has to keep up with that, which is the big query.

Kokushikan managed to dodge most of the tough competition facing Kanto Dai-ichi in the 3rd round before facing Toukaidai Sugao in the finals. In fact, the storyline for both teams is about the same so if you root for either one, the same flaws appear (primarily pitching).

Hokushinetsu (2)

  • Seiryou (Ishikawa) – 13th appearance, 2nd consecutive
  • Keishin (Fukui) – 1st appearance

The beat goes on for Seiryou. not challenged in either the Super-regionals or the Meiji Jingu taikai until the late stages. They also sat their ace in the final and still almost beat Sapporo Ootani. Needless to say they play with some air of arrogance that even rivals that of Osaka Touin (though we all know who can actually justify said attitude).

Keishin finally makes their first appearance at Koushien, breaking through the powerhouse roadblocks and eking their way through the Super-regionals to earn their bid. It may have been cheap at the prefectural level, but at least they did face some known competition in the Super-regionals in Toyama Dai-ichi, Yuugakukan and Ueda Nishi, and perhaps best of all, forcing a replay against Seiryou in the finals.

But the pitching doesn’t seem like it’s all that strong, and the offense struck out 17 times in that draw so…

Toukai (2)

  • Touhou (Aichi) – 30th appearance, 2nd consecutive
  • Tsuda Gakuen (Mie) – 3rd appearance, 1st in 17 years

It used to be before that when we referred to Aichi, it was either Aikoudai Meiden or Chuukyoudai Chuukyou. In recent years though, Touhou can make a good case that they’re now the powerhouse of the prefecture even banking at least one win in each of their appearances dating back to 2004. Now, it wasn’t until 2014 that they started to make regular appearances, but they’ve at least made good when they get there.

The resume this time around is a bit lacking with only Chuukyoudai Chuukyou in the prefecturals, and no one of real note in the Super-regionals (no, not Tsuda Gakuen either). In addition, in their loss to Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei the pitching was not stellar which does not bode well for them come the spring.

Tsuda Gakuen’s resume is not all that great either as they suffered a loss in regional play to Inabe Sougou Gakuen, then lost in the semifinals to Komono, and then getting blown out by Touhou in the super-regional finals. There are some okay wins, Kaisei in the 3rd place game to advance to the Super-regionals and Oogaki Nichidai and Chuukyoudai Chuukyou in the Super-regionals. But those latter two wins do not carry as much weight as they used to.

Kinki (6)

  • Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto) – 41st appearance, 1st in 3 years
  • Akashi Shougyou (Hyogo) – 2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years
  • Riseisha (Osaka) – 8th appearance, 1st in 2 years
  • Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama) – 13th appearance, 2nd consecutive
  • Osaka Touin (Osaka) – 11th appearance, 5th consecutive
  • Shiritsu Wakayama (Wakayama) – 6th appearance, 1st in 3 years

The Kinki region also projects to be straight forward as well with 3 clear tiers of teams. The two finalists had called games in the semifinals, and then in the quarterfinals those teams that were blown out had good wins in the quarterfinals. Finally, Osaka Touin losing in the quarterfinals meant that 1 potential spot that would go to a team that hadn’t gone before (though in this case it was non-applicable) would just be awarded to Osaka Touin because well… they’re Osaka Touin.

Ryuukokudai Heian does not appear to have the high-powered offense they had last summer, and are back to mostly being a pitching and defense squad, but note that they did not even win their prefecture and instead went to the Super-regionals as the 3rd place team.

Akashi Shougyou banked some quality wins en route to the Super-regional finals defeating Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku, Houtoku Gakuen and Chiben Wakayama. Of course at the same time they kind of represent the old guard when it comes to the group of powerhouse teams.

I wasn’t surprised to see Chiben Wakayama blown out in the semfinals, but I was surprised to see that Riseisha had been. Though, if you discount their win over Osaka Touin because they do not seem to take the tournament as seriously than at Koushien, then perhaps it makes a little more sense.

Heck, Osaka Touin lost to Chiben Wakayama. That really should never happen now. Ever.

Shiritsu Wakayama gets the last spot IMO merely for the fact that they weren’t shutout in their quarterfinal loss. It’s quite possible they choose someone like Fukuchiyama Seibi because they see wins against Kyoto Subaru, Kyoto Gaidai Nishi and Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku. While not bringing as much weight as it used to, the committee may decide that enough to take a different quarterfinal loser as the 6th team.

Chuugoku (2 + floating bid w/Shikoku)

  • Kouryou (Hiroshima) – 24th appearance, 1st in 6 years
  • Yonago Higashi (Tottori) – 9th appearance, 1st in 23 years
  • Shiritsu Kure (Hiroshima) – 2nd appearance, 1st in 2 years

Kouryou makes it back to Koushien again, but there were some early hiccups that could give one pause, especially when they were blown out of the super-regionals by Seiryou at Meiji Jingu.

Yonago Higashi doesn’t necessarily have a good resume to boot, with wins over Kaisei (Shimane) and Kurashiki Shougyou.

And Shiritsu Kure gets the floating bid only because the resumes of the schools in Shikoku are about as comparable with their key win against Okayama Ridai Fuzoku.

Chuugoku (2)

  • Takamatsu Shougyou (Kagawa) – 27th appearance, 1st in 3 years
  • Matsuyama Seiryou (Ehime) – 2nd appearance, 2nd consecutive

Takamatsu Shougyou gets some bonus points from their fall taikai. First, for playing Seiryou close at Meiji JIngu, and then from earlier in the process by defeating Meitoku Gijyuku and Kochi Shougyou.

The same can’t be said for Matusyama Seiryou, who can only point to a win against Imabari Nishi, which isn’t all that good. And as mentioned before, the resumes are too poor to consider sending the floating bid across the Naruto Strait.

Kyushu (4)

  • Chikuyou Gakuen (Fukuoka) – 1st appearance
  • Meihou (Oita) – 3rd appearance, 1st in 10 years
  • Nisshou Gakuen (Miyazaki) – 1st appearance
  • Oita (Oita) – 1st appearance

3 first-timers from Kyushu??!! What in the world is going on here?

Well, Chikuyou Gakuen has always been a Tier 3 school for a good while. This run though, was not totally cheap. They needed to defeat both Iidzuka and Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku to win the prefecture. Then in the Super-regionals they beat Kounan, and Meihou. So it’s not bad, but the strikeout numbers the pitching staff tallied isn’t all that great, so they don’t have a power ace on the mound. Doesn’t mean they don’t have a control ace, but there’s less leeway either way.

The other 3 teams’ resumes appear whelming at best with Nisshou Gakuen defeating Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku, and Oita defeating Kamimura Gakuen. Either way, there’s not much to say.

Summary

At first glance this field is a feast for the powerhouses as there are a lot of middling teams that appear likely to receive the phone call. Even in a down year for Osaka Touin, it’s possible this Koushien is to be had.

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….