Natsu Koushien Qualifying Update (7/20) – Semifinals

This post will cover prefectures in semifinal stages or later. There are a lot, and I apologize because I had another responsibility over the past calendar week which prevented me from updating.

Okinawa (completed) – Kounan (11th appearance, 1st in 2 years)

Well, the dream was good while it lasted. There was hope that the potential finalist of either Yaeyama Nourin or Mirai Kouka could compete against Kounan or Itoman.

That team would be Mirai Kouka, who won via mercy rule 8-0 in 7 innings. Their opponent would be Kounan who squeaked by with a 2-0 win themselves.

But the final was anything but close. 2 runs in the 1st, 5 in the 2nd and 6 in the 3rd and it was over. 15-1 and Kounan is the first team to Koushien.

Kagoshima – Kamimura Gakuen (4th appearance, 1st in 5 years)

Kagoshima was in the round of 16 last we checked and in looking at the brackets, the powerhouses all marched to the Best 4… with 1 exception.

The prefectural namesake, Kagoshima, had gone and not only come back from behind with 5 unanswered runs in the last 2 innings to defeat Kagoshima Jitsugyou 7-6, but then went in a back-and-forth affair with Kanoya Chuo to walkoff 10-9 in 12 innings to reach the final. Standing in their way was Kamimura Gakuen who themselves had an extra inning win against fellow powerhouse Shounan.

Both teams had a reprieve when the scheduled final day of the 19th was rained out. And on that final, Kagoshima held in there, and actually took a 2-1 lead in the 6th.

But in the bottom of the 8th, with just 6 outs to go, the famed curse of the powerhouse strikes. What was just a baserunner or two led to the tying run. And then with the bases loaded, a ball was struck to the right center field gap for a bases clearing triple. Kagoshima falls short as Kamimura Gakuen takes the title 5-2.

Kita Hokkaido (playing today – not live)

Well, the path has been blown wide open of one of the powerhouses as Shirakaba Gakuen has easily blown through Clark Kokusai and Abashiri Minamigaoka to reach the Best 4. With the exception of the regional final against Obihiro Hakuyou winning 1-0 they have not been challenged.

The other 3 teams have not been to Koushien since either the 2000’s, 1990’s or the 1980’s.

Shirakaba’s next opponent is Asahikawa Ryuukoku who was slightly challenged in regional play but not so far in prefectural play. However, they have not played anyone significant and Shirakaba Gakuen will be the biggest opponent they will have to face.

On the other semifinal is Asahikawadai, who rallied from down 3-0 and then from 5-3 to Bushuukan, all in the late innings to force enchousen. They won 6-5 in 13, but while Bushuukan is one of the better schools, this close affair could diminish their chances. Finally, there’s Takikawa Nishi, who in the first round upset Asahikawa Jitsugyou 2-1 in the 11th, scoring 2 runs after Asahikawa Jitsugyou scored 1 in the top half.

Minami Hokkaido (not playing today)

The Best 4 is a mix of schools who have brought Hokkaido back to prominence and those looking for their first bid.

  • Toukaidai Sapporo (fka Toukai Dai-yon) v Hakodate Kougyou

Toukaidai Sapporo, who long suffered under the status of a Tier 3 school, not only broke through in 2015, but made it to the finals of Haru Koushien where they lost the game late 3-1 to Tsuruga Kehi. Well, they’re back here in the semifinals, outscoring their opponents 35-5. But none of the opponents are of note really, so perhaps they’re getting a free pass.

Hakodate Kougyou had not had as easy of a ride, but can put to their name a 3-1 win over Sapporo Nichidai in the quarterfinals. They have not been to Koushien since 1963, so they will have to fight the curse of the powerhouses.

  • Hokkai v Sapporo Ootani

Hokkai is looking to repeat, and improve on last year’s performance where they reached the Natsu Koushien final, but lost 7-1 to Sakushin Gakuin, who looked unstoppable. Regional play was non-competitive, but they have gone on to mercy-rule Hokushou 11-4, and then squeaked by Hakodatedai Yuuto 2-1.

Sapporo Ootani is in the way, a team who has never reach Koushien at all. They had mercy rule wins over no-name competition until the quarterfinals where they held on to defeat Tanaka Masahiro’s alma mater Komadai Tomakomai 2-1. Defeating the Natsu Koushien runner-up is a much, much bigger ask.

Akita (not playing today)

The prefecture is looking for any signs of life at Koushien, and the team to do it will be a team who has represented themselves once over the past decade, to little success…

  • Meiou v Oomagairi Kougyou

Meiou if memory serves me correctly had a famous Koushien game where they gave up a walk-off… walk to lose their game. they’ve since tried to return, but have always been tripped up. They make it to the semifinal stage, but having faced no one of note, and barely winning 3-2 over Akita Chuo.

Their next opponent is last year’s representative Oomagari Kougyou who themselves have not been tested by any of the other powerhouses, but at least can say they were last year’s winner.

  • Kanaashi Nougyou v Akita

Kanaashi Nougyou has been one of the above-average teams in the prefecture, but flirted with Tier 3 status at best. But like the other teams previewed, have not played anyone of note.

That honor goes to Akita, who has played highly contested games against both Akita Shougyou and Noshiro Shouyou over the last two games to get to this point. They have the resume that stands out at this point to be the front-runner to the title.

Iwate (playing today – live on Asahi 1800 PDT/2100 EDT)

Well, it looks like it could be another familiar face representing the prefecture, especially with Hanamaki Higashi out before the round of 16.

  • Moriokadai Fuzoku v Morioka Dai-yon

Moriokadai Fuzoku, who has represented the prefecture 3 of the last 5 years and was last year’s representative has not been really challenged, and did record a 7-0 win against Ichinoseki Gakuin, though their status as powerhouse has declined to Tier 3 status over the years.

Morioka Dai-yon however is a Tier 3 school, who has consistently reached the highest stages, but without ever reaching Koushien. They are here again in the Best 4, but not facing any significant competition and beating no-seed Mizusawa Kougyou 3-2 in the past round.

  • Oofunato Higashi v Kuji

Of the two schools, only Kuji has been to Koushien before, but that was back in 1979. Both schools have been performing well as of late, but neither has faced named competition and both were challenged in their last game. One of these teams will get a chance for the title, but the odds seem in favor of the winner of the other game.

Yamagata (not playing today)

More familiar names in the Best 4 here, with 1 looking to crash the party…

  • Nichidai Yamagata v Sakata Minami
  • Yamagata Chuo v Yamagata Jyouhoku

3 of the schools have represented the prefecture 13 times since 2000. Sakata Minami (8), Nichidai Yamagata (3), and Yamagata Chuo (2) though none have represented the prefecture since 2014.

Yamagata Chuo has the better resume, having mercy-ruled Tsuruoka Higashi and Tier 3 Haguro while Nichidai Yamagata has been the least troubled of the 3 schools.

Yamagata Jyouhoku is a marginal Tier 3 school, certainly considered above average in the prefecture but not really challenging the top schools. Their road has been easy in terms of competition, but have at least dispatched all opponents without issue. It goes without saying their road gets much more difficult from here.

Fukushima (playing today – live on Asahi 1800 PDT/2100 EDT)

Fukushima is Seikou Gakuin’s to lose at this point.

  • Seikou Gakuin v Nichidai Tohoku
  • Fukushima Shougyou v Iwaki Kouyou

The 10-year consecutive winner may only have this last hurdle to go as last year at this stage they defeated the same Nichidai Tohoku squad 7-3. Do it again and they may have their ticket waiting for them. Neiher Fukushima Shougyou or Iwaki Kougyou have defeated Seikou Gakuin have defeated Seikou Gakuin in the past 10 years in any competition so the ask is pretty great.

Tochigi (not playing today)

The same might be argued for Sakushin Gakuin here in Tochigi as well though the competition at least has a better argument.

  • Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku v Kokugakuin Tochigi
  • Seiran Taito v Sakushin Gakuin

All 3 remaining schools have recorded a win against Sakushin Gakuin, though most during the spring taikais which are less important. 2 of the 3 can at least have a resume building win so far – Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku (4-3 over Hakuoudai Ashikaga), and Kokugakuin Tochigi (7-5 over Sano Nichidai).

But asking to defeat a Sakushin Gakuin squad who has actually given up less runs as the tournament has gone along… might be a bit too much of an ask.

Yamanashi (not playing today)

It has gone all scratch in Yamanashi with all top seeds reaching the Best 4

  • Yamanashi Gakuin v Nihon Koukuu
  • Sundai Koufu v Toukaidai Koufu

The defending champs actually have looked the weakest, barely getting by Nichidai Meisei in the 3rd round and them coming from behind to defeat Koufu Kougyou 5-4 in the quarterfinals. It was at this stage last year they mercy-ruled Nihon Koukuu and have the chance to do it again. For their part Nihon Koukuu has looked better compared to last year, but the elephant in the room will be there until it’s not.

Yamanashi Gakuin could also face Toukaidai Koufu in the finals as well if they can beat Sundai Koufu, who themselves are looking for their first ever berth. But a 7-4 win over Fuefuki, combined with a 43-2 score for Toukaidai Koufu versus their opponents is not a good sign.

It could be the “different year, same story” once again here in Yamanashi.

Nagano (not playing today)

Nagano has been kind enough to put the games on live from the opening round. While the games have been interesting to watch, we could be in store for another repeat winner.

  • Matsushou Gakuen v Iwamurada
  • Saku Chousei v Toukaidai Suwa

Saku Chousei is looking for a repeat title like others covered so far. But there have been some signs of cracks in their run, including a 1-0 win over Matsumoto Kougyou in the 3rd round, and a fading late against Ueda Nishi, giving up 3 runs in the 9th to make it a close 5-3 win.

Toukaida Suwa seems to be on one of those upswings, but have had 2 close games against unnamed opposition. Saku Chousei is certainly not that.

Matsushou Gakuen has been trying to rise back up to prominence but seems to trip themselves up in recent times. This might be the year they contend though, having mercy-ruled Nagano Nichidai earlier, and beat Komoro Shougyou 5-4 in the quarterfinals. They get an Iwamurada squad looking for their first ever title, but have had to come back from down 9-3 against Matsumoto Agatagaoka in the 4th round, and then 2-1 over Matsumoto Fukashi. No easy games from here on out though.

Niigata (not playing today)

More of the same story in Niigata. Couple of familiar faces, some not so much.

  • Nihon Bunri v Hokuetsu
  • Takada Kitashiro v Chuuetsu

Chuuetsu and Nihon Bunri are the two mainstays, winning their games by a margin of 72-8. They could be on a collision course in the final.

Hokuetsu has been a solid Tier 3 school, and find themselves on the brink again. But the road has not been smooth by any means, including a 4th round 1-0 win over Sekine Gakuen who just missed 2 years ago, and a 13-6 win over Tokyo Gakkan Niigata.

Takada Kitashiro has not had much success at all over the past decade, but has appeared out of nowhere to reach the best 4, including a come-from behind 8-7 win in 12 over Nagaoka Kougyou in the quarterfinals. They have not played any named competition, so it’s an uphill battle to be sure.

Kagawa (not playing today)

While we have some teams who have been to Koushien before, only one of them has been there in recent years, but we will have a relatively new champion.

  • Sanbonmatsu v Ootemae Takamasu
  • Marugame Jyousai v Marugame

While it’s been since 1993 that Sanbonmatsu has made it to Natsu Koushien, they are by far one of the best Tier 3 schools in Kagawa. Their key win was a 7-6 win over Takamatsu Shougyou in the quaterfinals. Ootemae Takamatsu has never been to Koushien and yet has also been a Tier 3 school in recent years and also had a 7-6 win over Kagawa Nishi in the quarterfinals. Both will want to make use of the opportunity this year with the main players missing.

The other semifinal is an all-Marugame affair. Marugame Jyousai eliminated last year’s champion Jinsei Gakuen 4-3 and is looking for their fist Natsu appearance since 2005. Marugame is the most recent team to appear, having gone in 2013. They had a tough first round matchup with fellow powerhouse Eimei, and had to come back from down 5-3 late to win 6-5.

Saga (not playing today)

Saga is completely up for grabs as many of the powerhouses are gone. That isn’t to say though that some prominent teams aren’t still around though.

  • Waseda Saga v Saga Kougyou
  • Tosu v Kashima

When I saw Waseda opened a school in the prefecture, my first thought was “Well, there goes the neighborhood”. And while they haven’t totally taken over the prefecture they certainly rose really quickly. And here they are in the Best 4 in Saga with perhaps their best chance to take the title. They have only given up just 1 run so far, and blanked Saga Kita 3-0 in the quarterfinals.

Saga Kougyou is looking for their first title since 1987, and had a 1-0 win over Saga Gakuen, but having to meetup with Waseda Saga isn’t the best of draws.

Tosu hasn’t been to Koushien since 2002, but also has put up a quality win over last year’s winner Karatsu Shougyou coming back from down 3-1 in the 9th to win 5-3.

Kashima is the only outlier here, not having faced any competition so far, band been in 3 close games. They got the right end of the stick, but it will change should they make the finals.

Nagasaki (not playing today)

Another case of a David in a pack of Goliaths.

  • Nagasaki Nichidai v Seihou
  • Keihou v Hasami

Nagasaki Nichidai had their day in the sun back in 2007 when they almost made the finals, but lost out to Kikuchi Yuusei and Hanamaki Higashi in the semis. Outside of a 5-3 game in the opener versus Nagasaki Kougyou, they have breezed through.

But of all the 4 teams, only Keihou and Hasami have been tested against prominent teams. Keihou beat Isahaya 3-1 in the 3rd round, while Hasami held on against Souseikan 5-4.

I’d root for Keihou, but Seihou was home to the first player I followed in 高校野球, which was Imamura Takeru, now closer of the Hiroshima Carp.

Miyazaki (not playing today)

Well, we will have a new champion in Miyazaki, but the name might be a familiar one:

  • Miyazaki Nichidai v St. Ursula
  • Miyakonojyou Shougyou v Hyuuga Gakuin

The one team that doesn’t quite fit is Hyuuga Gakuin. They made 1 Haru and 1 Natsu appearance back in the 1980’s but have sort of dropped out of view since then. They’re back, and they made their presence felt defeating last year’s champs Nichinan Gakuen 6-5 in the 3rd round. They blew a 5-1 lead, but still walked them off 6-5. They are facing a Miyakonojyou Shougyou squad who has not been challenged and should they make Koushien could be one to watch out for. Their 2 other appearances they made the Best 8.

Miyazaki Nichidai has not been challenged, but has not looked dominating either, they are facing a hungry St. Ursula squad who have been a perennial Tier 3 school and whose only appearance came back in Natsu 2005. They have an 8-4 win against Nisshou Gakuen in the 3rd round, but otherwise have not faced any notable competition.

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