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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91st Haru Koushien – Projecting the 21st Century Candidates

91st Haru Koushien – Projecting the 21st Century Candidates

(photo courtesy of Kushiro Kouryou HS)

There’s one final bit to try and project, and that is the three 21st century candidates which will round out the field. Recently I had found that it wasn’t just picking 3 of the teams nominated from the super-regional areas, but that the JHBF would pick 1 from Western Japan, 1 from Eastern Japan, and 1 wild card.

Of course, projecting these teams are much harder because we don’t know what will be the JHBF’s priorities each year.

Anyways, with that said, let’s look at the 9 nominees.

Hokkaido – Kushiro Kouryou – No prior appearances

Kushine Regionals

  • def Kushiro Konan 5-4
  • def Kushiro Meiki 6-3
  • def Bushuukan 5-0

Super-Regionals

  • def Sapporo Eiai 14-12
  • def Wakkanai Ootani 10-0 (6 inn)
  • lost Sapporo Dai-ichi 5-1

Kushiro Kouryou profiles as a good candidate in that they’re not been overly strong throughout the years, though they did make it to the quarterfinals of the qualifiers for the 2016 Natsu Koushien. Mostly that’s been a by-product of not being very good, but in recent years it’s been because they’ve had to continuously run into Bushuukan, who themselves have started to make a name for themsevles. This fall they have finally slayed the beast that is Bushuukan to reach the Super-Regional where they had another decent win against Wakkanai Ootani before a very good loss to Sapporo Dai-ichi (who also is now in the field). As part of their application, it was mentioned that this was their first Best 4 appearance in 61 years.

The resume looks excellent, and the timing would be good if not for 2 things:

1) The JHBF has seemed to operate on a lag when it comes to rewarding teams, like fellow Hokkaido brethren Engaru several years ago. This seems too timely for them to award them this spot.

2) More importantly, and perhaps counter-intuitively, Sapporo Ootani won the Meiji Jingu Taikai, giving the prefecture an extra bid. A normally weak prefecture now has 2 spots at Koushien, and if Kushiro Kouryou were to be invited, 3 teams would be coming from Hokkaido. I have a hard time believing that the JHBF will let that fly, but I’ve been wrong before. So despite their credentials, circumstance may prevent them from making the trip.

Tohoku – Furukawa (Miyagi) – No prior appearances

Hokubu Regionals

  • lost Iwagasaki 2-1

Hokubu Regionals – Repechage

  • def Furukawa Reimei 5-2
  • def Nakaniida 5-0

Miyagi Prefecturals

  • def Matsushima 5-0
  • def Tohoku Gakuin 6-3
  • def Tohoku 4-3
  • def Oosaki Chuuou 4-0
  • lost Sendai Ikuei 17-3 (7 inn)

Super-Regionals

  • def Hirosaki Higashi 4x-3 (10 inn)
  • def Akita Shuuei 3-1
  • lost Moriokadai Fuzoku 10-0 (6 inn)

That has to be one of the longer resumes I’ve seen. Mostly because of the regionals and the repechage when they were immediately sent down. Even still, they were able to work their way out, defeated some decent schools, but in the case of the prefecturals and the super-regionals, they were unceremoniously ousted by Tier 1 schools.

As part of their application, it is mentioned that the team only has 2 hours of practice everyday (which is less than you might think). In addition, they continue to take the assistance angle as it is mentioned the school has assisted when the Shibui River ran over its banks during heavy rains, and after the Tohoku Earthquake, the school participated in assistance efforts.

That’s not to say they don’t deserve a spot. In fact, the JHBF seems to prefer schools who have actually not done as well – mostly to avoid having a 21st century team suddenly run laps around the field much like Rifu did some years back. They appear to be a team that can make life difficult for the lower rung teams, but will almost certainly be outmatched if they play a Koushien regular.

Which might be perfect for the JHBF.

Kanto/Tokyo – Ishioka Dai-ichi (Ibaraki) – No prior appearances

Minami Regional Pools

  • def Edosaki Sougou 11-0 (5 inn)

Ibaraki Prefecturals

  • def Mito Kougyou 1-0
  • def Meishuu Hitachi 10-6
  • def Tsuchiura Nichidai 4-2
  • lost Fujishiro 5x-4 (13 inn – Tiebreak initiated in 13th)

Ishioka Dai-ichi is a weird team. They’ve not been a strong team, and yet if you look at their Koushien qualifying, their losses are to some notable teams:

  • 3 losses – Kasumigaura, Jyousou Gakuin
  • 2 losses – Fujishiro, Meishuu Hitachi, Tsuchiura Nichidai
  • 1 loss – Suijyou

13 of their 21 losses in Koushien qualifying since 2006 have been to teams that have made it to Koushien. That’s pretty unprecedented considering that they’re not considered a Tier 2 school.

Part of the resume includes having to play 3 of those schools back-to-back-to-back. They defeated 2 of them and were short-circuited in the semifinals due to the tiebreak rules (which by the way favor the better schools, but that’s another article). The only notes made other than baseball related are that it was, and still is an agricultural-oriented school despite not having the Nougyou designation (農業).

They look like another candidate for the JHBF. A schools that’s not overly strong, who were able to almost avenge three thorns in their side.

If there is some consolation, both Ibaraki teams that advanced to the super-regionals lost narrowly to the Kanto Super-Regional Champion and Runner-up in the first round. Can’t get a better loss that that I guess.

Hokushinetsu – Kanadzu (Fukui) – No prior appearances

Fukui Prefecturals

  • def Takefu 11-6
  • def Tsuruga Kehi 2-1
  • def Keishin 6-5
  • lost Fukui Koudai Fukui 12-0

Super-Regionals

  • lost Matsumoto Dai-ichi 6-0

Kanadzu’s resume is also short and has very distinct good and bad bits within it.

The good? They defeated Tsuruga Kehi, a Koushien regular. And to a lesser extent, you can include the win over Keishin as well.

The bad? They were blown out by Fukui Koudai Fukui in the prefectural final, and then were shutout by a weak Matsumoto Dai-icihi squad in the super-regional.

As part of their description, Kanadzu is the only HS left in the region due to declining populations (typical for rural areas nowadays, unfortunately), and the team only numbers 22 people in all. In addition they have started teaching Tee-ball to the kindergarten children as well as developing a relationship with the elementary school teams.

With that additional information, it makes sense that their two losses are very stark in nature. It also could speak more to the win they had against Tsuruga Kehi. While I’m not sure if it puts them on par with Ishioka Dai-ichi if we were to take resumes into account, that additional information might help.

Toukai – Shimizu Sakuragaoka (Shizuoka)

Chubu Regionals

  • def Yaidzu Suisan 7-3
  • def Jyounan Shizuoka 10-6
  • def Shizuoka 5-3
  • def Shizuoka Shiritsu 7-3
  • lost Suruga Sougou 9-3

Shizuoka Prefecturals

  • def Izu Chuuou 5-1
  • def Toukaidai Shizuoka Shouyou 5x-4
  • def Katou Gakuen 4-1
  • lost Gotenba Nishi 6-5 (11 inn)

Super-Regionals

  • lost Gifu Dai-ichi 5x-4 (11 inn)

It looks like the super-regions are learning what might constitute a good candidate to the JHBF. A not overly strong school, who has a good win here and there. For Shimizu Sakuragaoka, it’s defeating Shizuoka in the regionals. The rest of the resume is rather underwhelming, though at least in the prefecturals and super-regionals were enchousen losses, though the teams they lost to will get a certain ding against.

Additional information passed on is that the school was as a result of a merger between Ihara and Shimisu Shiritsu Shougyou, of which the latter has been to Koushien before (Haru – 1963, 1968 & Natsu – 1986). The team has to share a field with the soccer team, who are regulars at the national tournament. They are also involved in the “Active Learning” program instituted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in which players help determine policies for teams in all aspects (practice, games, etc.).

The problem with schools picking similar schools is that it’s easier to put them in order, and for Shimizu Sakuragaoka they too fall behind someone like Ishioka Dai-ichi. They’d have to hope that the items outside of performance help push them over the top.

Kinki – Yao (Osaka) – 6 Haru appearances (last 1952), 4 Natsu appearances (last 1959)

Osaka Prefecturals (A Block)

  • def Nishi/Minami/Ogimachi Sougou 13-0 (5 inn)
  • def Senyou 9-2
  • def Ootori 8-7
  • def Kishiwada Shiritsu Sangyou 6-2
  • lost Minato 13-11

Perhaps it seems like the Kinki region went a little too far in nominating someone off the map as it were, though it seems this is the farthest the team has gone in a while. It seems that the selling point is that the school used to be a powerhouse way back when, and in fact of their 10 appearances, they appeared in the semifinals 4 times and the finals once though they didn’t win the title.

Which is nice and all, but it probably would have helped if they had done this last year when they were having the X0’th Haru Koushien. Even still, if the JHBF wants to commemorate a school from the past, this team seems as good as any to give a spot – though one would imagine they’d be in over their heads no matter who they played.

Chuugoku – Hirata (Shimane) – No prior appearances

Shimane Prefecturals

  • def Goutsu 3-1
  • def Izumo Kougyou 3-2
  • def Hamada 3-2
  • def Yakami 2-0
  • lost Taisha 8x-7

Super Regionals

  • lost Soutoku 12x-5 (7 inn)

While the loss to Soutoku was rather significant, they almost won the prefecture if not for giving up 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to Taisha. Also, given the fact that they scored 11 runs in the prior 4 games, this type of offense in the final, against a better known team is rather impressive.

Unfortunately, stop me if you’ve heard this story. Originally established as an agricultural school, the school also excelled in the literary and military arts. Due to declining population the school has been proactive volunteering with the community while the baseball team has been doing outreach to nursery and kindergarten schools.

This means that they are in line with both Ishioka Dai-ichi and Kanadzu. And while the school is on the Western side and wouldn’t be in direct competition, I find it hard to believe that the JHBF is going to take two schools with the same story. This puts them between a rock and a hard place unless the JHBF actually wants to emphasize the declining population issue and wants to push some kind of initiative to revitalize those areas…

Shikoku – Tomioka Nishi (Tokushima) – No prior appearances

Tokushima Prefecturals

  • def Komatsushima 12-1 (5 inn)
  • def Jyoutou 7-0 (7 inn)
  • lost Tokushima Shougyou 3-2 (10 inn)
  • def Ikeda 9-3

Super-Regionals

  • def Kochi 8-7
  • def Teikyou Dai-go 10-6
  • lost Matsuyama Seiryou 5-3

Shikoku has gone totally on the performance front seeing as though they probably will lose the floating bid. Tomioka Nishi was no slouch, defeating teams like Komatsushima and Ikeda in the prefecturals, and Kochi and Teikyou Dai-go in the super-regionals. Not only that, the losses were narrow as well.

The additional information on Tomioka Nishi still is baseball-related in that they share a compact shared ground, and yet are still able to produce good results. That and a short statement about contributing to the community.

If the JHBF wants to give a bid to a strong resume team, Tomioka Nishi could be that team (though one wonders what Furukawa would count as).

Kyushu – Kumamoto Nishi – 1 Natsu appearance (1985)

Kumamoto Prefecturals

  • def Ushibuka 7x-0 (7 inn)
  • def Asou Chuuou 11x-1 (5 inn)
  • def Nanryou 5-1
  • def Kikuchi 4-2
  • def Kumamoto Kougyou 6-5
  • lost Kumamoto Kokufu 11-9

Super-Regionals

  • def Saga Gakuen 3-2
  • lost Nisshou Gakuen 8-1 (7 inn)

Kumamoto Nishi has come from nowhere (the team had won 3 consecutive games only twice in the prior 9 years) to reach the quarterfinals of the Kyushu Super-Regionals defeating a team like Kumamoto Kougyou in the process.

The huge catch? They did it entirely with a team whose prior experience was in rubber baseball (軟式 or nanshiki).

WHAT?

That’s right, the members before reaching HS seemingly had not played with a hard baseball.

If that’s really true, then this is unprecedented.

Tragically, this could also lead to potential issues if players have not had extensive experience. Back on November 18th #19 on their roster, Shinoda Taishi was struck on the head by a batted ball and died of his injuries the following day.

With the announcement of the super-regional nominees done on the 14th of this month, surely this was taken into account when submitting them for nomination.

So while there is mention of the team reaching out to elementary school students and the fact that they have management controls for things like the netting and the club room, surely this will be something overhanging it all.

And while it might be unfair, and they may have been chosen anyways on its story, it is all but certain that Kumamoto Nishi will be selected as a representative – though maybe as the wild card so as not to give the feeling of being emotionally held hostage as some might think.

So I imagine the three projected teams to be:

  • West – Kanadzu
  • East – Yao
  • Wild Card – Kumamoto Nishi

Here’s what I figure, with Kumamoto Nishi almost certainly guaranteed to get a bid, it hamstrings the JHBF and who they could choose.

West

Kushiro Kouryou is probably out due to Hokkaido having 3 teams if they were included. Furukawa is probably out due to the fact that Tohoku schools have been chosen each of the past 3 years.

The other 3 teams have a compelling argument. Ishioka Dai-ichi was able to (almost) exercise the demons against the powerhouses in its own prefecture. Kanadzu would be picking a team fighting the decline of the area. And Shimizu Sakuragaoka could be chosen to promote the program they’re associated with.

My teams chosen are in themes. For Kanadzu it’s the present and dealing with regions with declining populations.

East

With Kumamoto Nishi taking the wild-card spot, that leaves Yao, Hirata and Tomioka Nishi. Hirata and Tomioka Nishi were both nominated due to their results, which I think means that Yao will get chosen due to a celebration of the past.

Wild Card

Kumamoto Nishi will be awarded this spot because it will allow the JHBF to choose this team to honor their fallen teammate, while acknowledging their ability to convert from rubber to hardball.

 

Pitch limits in Niigata – What does it all mean?

Pitch limits in Niigata – What does it all mean?

(photo courtesy of the Japan Times article and subsequently Kyodo)

So I was eating dinner and decided to read the recent Japanese Baseball news especially since the Carp were losing players (or soon to lose in the case of Kikuchi).

Then the aforementioned article linked above appeared, and I was completely shocked to see this happening.

For those who want a summary of the article, Niigata has decided that for all tournaments starting with the 2019 Spring Taikais, no pitcher can start an inning if they have already thrown 100 pitches. Now, this is slightly different than pitch counts in say Little League, where once a pitcher hits 85 pitches they may finish the batter, but then be immediately relieved.

Now, the player above, Yoshida Kousei obviosuly broke down as the tournament progressed, basically becoming ineffective in the final. Go back further and there’s Anraku Tomohiro who was billed to be the next great pitcher, only to see injuries derail his career for good.

Even with the injuries, the JHBF (Japan HS Baseball Federation) hasn’t really been all that proactive about dealing with pitchers’ high counts overall, and when they’ve implemented something it almost had the opposite effect.

Take for instance the rule they implemented after Matsuzaka’s 1998 performance. In it, he pitched a complete game shutout, then a 17 inning affair against rival PL Gakuen, then closed out the 9th inning, then pitched a no-hitter in the title game.

All on consecutive days.

So what did the JHBF do? They said that any game that was tied after 15 innings would be considered a draw and have to be replayed.

Great, the games now can’t go longer than 15 innings, that’s good right?

But the problem is most teams have just 1 pitcher. Or even if they have a 2nd, there’s a large gap in talent. So now, instead of a game going say 16 innings and finishing, now a game would be called a draw and that same pitcher (generally after just 1 day off) would have to pitch a minimum of 9 more innings.

That’s not really protecting the pitcher now, is it?

The most recent effort by the JHBF is to enact tiebreaker rules, where once the game hits the 13th inning, runners are placed on 1st and 2nd and no out. That probably will end the game sooner, but the game also becomes a crapshoot because now it comes down to a timely hit or a poorly executed bunt. Even more, this would seem to favor the powerhouse schools as runners on base are almost always threats to score.

So, back to the Niigata pitch limits. What will this do? Lets take a look at it from a prefectural view outwards.

Arbitrage means talent may go elsewhere

Wait, what? Arbitrage? Yeah, in a way.

So Niigata is the only prefecture to enforce pitch limits. If you are a pitcher attending middle school in Niigata and you’re looking at what HS school to choose, if you are still under the old-school thinking that you (and only you) want to be the staff ace, there’s no way you’re going to HS in Niigata.

Why?

Because there’s no way you’re going to get through a complete game in 100 pitches or less, which means that you’re going to have to give way at some point in time.

So what do you do then? You just move out of prefecture and the old rules still apply.

Those that do stay will have to be more efficient

Any pitcher for a Niigata school, especially the staff ace, will have to pitch more efficiently to get deeper into games. Waste pitches, especially on a 0-2 count? Not anymore. Pitchers will have to be more around the zone to get either strikes or contact (hopefully for outs). But with more pitches in the zone, it also means…

More balls in play and more offense

Most pitchers won’t be able to cope with throwing in the zone more. They may be able to throw in the strike zone, but either will not have good control or have average velocity. Either of which makes them more vulnerable to good offenses.

Which brings me to my final, and most important point…

The rich will get richer

There is only so much good talent to go around. If you took Kanaashi Nougyou and Yoshida and put them in the new rules, there’s no way they would have made the finals. His inefficiency and pitches that seemed hittable would have knocked him out of the game early, forcing them to go to a bullpen which would be significantly worse.

Flip the script to Osaka Touin now. First, they have an offense that will mercilessly punish bad pitching. And this year they had 2 aces in Kakigi Ren and Neo Akira. Not only that, you can bet that they had even more pitchers in the pipeline should they need it.

As I mentioned before, Shuugakukan put out the template of a successful team when it had not 1, not 2, but 4 ace pitchers. Now, it was mismanaged IMO, but the blueprint nonetheless was still there.

If you are a powerhouse team, and you can already recruit some of the best talent in the country, why not take advantage of that, leverage every spot on your roster and build a pitching staff?

What a pitch count will do is accelerate that process giving those teams that can recruit enough talent a significant edge. Niigata might be ahead of the curve getting their schools accustomed to this, especially if they bet that the JHBF will eventually make this a nationwide mandate.

But even then, schools like Nihon Bunri, Niigata Meikun and Chuuetsu will all immediately benefit as their 2nd pitcher will generally be better than the average Niigata school’s 2nd pitcher.

The long-run impact

Pitch counts are not a bad thing, and in the case of kokoyakyu, it perhaps is needed to prevent pitchers (and kantoku’s) from detrimentally hurting themselves in the long-run.

However, pitch counts means schools will have to carry an actual pitching staff which means that the powerhouses will immediately benefit both because they can take advantage of mistakes and because their pitching staff will generally be deeper. If you thought there was already a concentration of schools that regularly make the Koushien tournament, that pool of schools may continue to dwindle as fringe schools struggle to develop a 2nd competent pitcher.

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.