Natsu Koushien Qualifying Update – 7/22 (Finals and champs!)

2 more tickets to Natsu Koushien were punched yesterday, with the Akita final rained out. Here’s what happened:

Prefectures Claimed

Fukushima – Seikou Gakuin (14th overall, 11th consecutive)

I wasn’t expecting much considering that Seikou Gakuin had dominated Iwaki Kouyou in recent times, and so when they went ahead 3-0 in the 4th I switched to other games because I figured they would pull away. But when I was notified by my followers on twitter that Iwaki Kouyou had come back to tie it, I figured I’d put it back on.

But throughout the game despite it being tied, it was clear that Iwaki Kaiyou was always on the back foot. They used two bench relievers to start the game, then went to their 2B and then finally their ace Ootani – which signaled to me that was their last bullet.

Iwaki Kaiyou did well to fight back yet again when Seikou scored in the 7th with one of their own in the 8th, but when they couldn’t pull ahead in the 9th, it was danger time for them.

And in fact, Ootani could not record an out in the 9th as they went walk, hit, intentional walk, single to end the game. Seikou has their closest game in the title for a while now, but survive to win their 11th consecutive title.

That’s 9 graduating classes in Fukushima that if you were not part of Seikou Gakuin, you have not seen the grand prize of Natsu Koushien.

Kita Hokkaido – Takikawa Nishi (3rd appearance, 1st in 19 years)

Shirakaba Gakuen seemed poised to take the title, outscoring their opposition 34-4 and racking up wins over last year’s champ Clark Kokusai. Meanwhile, Takikawa Nishi had racked up 3 quality wins, though narrowly against Asahikawa Jitsugyou and Asahikawadai, with a clear win versus Obihiro Ootani in the middle.

The only way this game could go Takikawa Nishi’s way was if the game was low-scoring. And it was. Shirakaba Gakuen led 1-0 early, then retook the lead shortly after Takikawa Nishi tied it up in the 6th.

The game was flying by, with the first 5 innings played in an hour, very fast for this level, and I thought Takikawa Nishi wasn’t going to have an answer.

But then in the 8th, Furukawa Yuuki drives a ball to left, and it just clears the high fence for a game tying HR! Suddenly, there was all to play for!

And when the game when into enchousen, it was possible that an upset could be in the making.

C Hosoya, who I believe hadn’t had a hit at all, hits a ball to almost the exact same place in LF and gave Takikawa Nishi the 3-2 lead! Ace Suzuki would close the game out and in an upset their school goes to Natsu Koushien for the first time in 19 years!

Finals

11 prefectures are in the finals and all are live and free (thanks Australian TV for the phrase, I love it) on Asahi, including Iwate who had been rained out yesterday.

Minami Hokkaido (2100 PDT/0000 EDT) – Toukaidai Sapporo v Hokkai

The two schools who have brought Hokkaido back to prominence are vying for the Minami Hokkaido title.

Neither team has been challenged throughout the process save for Hokkai’s game against Hakodatedai Yuuto where they won 2-1. They also defeated Hokushou along the way, and one would think that perhaps they have the better resume. But while they have won easily for the most part it has not been cleanly as outside of that aforementioned game they have given up at least 4 runs. If Toukaidai Sapporo can keep the game low scoring, they might stand a better chance.

Iwate (2100 PDT/0000 EDT) – Moriokadai Fuzoku v Kuji

See the review of the game on yesterday’s post.

Yamagata (2100 PDT/0000 EDT) – Nichidai Yamagata v Yamagata Chuo

Two powerhouses and two teams who went far in their last outings at Natsu Koushien are looking to make a return trip. Nichidai Yamagata lost in the semifinals to eventual champions Maebashi Ikuei back in 2013 while Yamagata Chuo missed out on a Best 8 appearance with an 8-3 loss to Kendai Takasaki in 2014.

Nichidai Yamagata is coming off a 9th inning 5-4 win over fellow powerhouse Sakata Minami while Yamagata Chuo blew out Yamagata Jyouhoku 16-2. It’s another case of offense versus pitching as Nichidai Yamagata has the arms, and Yamagata Chuo has the bats. Look for each team to try and take control early.

Tochigi – Kokugakuin Tochigi v Sakushin Gakuin (1800 PDT/2100 EDT)

The 10-year plan of Sakushin Gakuin’s Kobari-kantoku has come to fruition. It almost came 5 years ahead of schedule when they reached the semifinals back in 2011, but last year was the year.

But he’s not resting on his laurels as his team is poised to make it’s 7th consecutive appearance at Natsu Koushien. They cruised along the qualifying process until the semifinals where Tier 3 school Seiran Taito pushed them to the limit in a 3-2 victory.

Looking to spoil the party is another Tier 3 school, Kokugakuin Tochigi. Have have passed the tests given to them, defeating Sano Nichidai and Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku, though in back and forth affairs. They’ll hope that experience will help them deal with the defending champs instead of proving that they aren’t in the same league.

Yamanashi – Yamanashi Gakuin v Toukaidai Koufu (1800 PDT/2100 EDT)

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO~~~~

Excuse me while I scream because once again Nihon Koukuu fails to make the finals. Instead it’s a rematch of last year’s finals between Yamanashi Gakuin and Toukaidai Koufu. In fact, this will be the 3rd straight year that these two teams have met in Natsu qualifying.

Yamanashi Gakuin has had to face the tougher road, playing Nichidai Meisei and Nihon Koukuu. All their games have been close and low scoring. That compared to Toukaidai Koufu who has played no one of note and won comfortably. They’ll have revenge on their minds today.

Niigata – Nihon Bunri v Chuuetsu (2100 PDT/0000 EDT)

No surprises here. The 2 teams that have represented the prefecure for 6 of the last 8 years are here in the finals. Lately it has been Chuuetsu who has taken the flag for Niigata, but perhaps it was while Nihon Bunri was rebuilding from that run in 2014 when they came 1 base hit away from tying the game against Chuukyoudai Chuukyou.

Neither team has been challenged and neither team has shown weakness per se as the rounds have proceeded, but they also haven’t really played anyone of note either. It’ll be contested for sure as Nihon Bunri looks to seat itself back at the top of the prefecture.

Nagano – Matsushou Gakuen v Saku Chousei (1800 PDT/2100 EDT)

Another team looks to make a return trip to Koushien in Saku Chousei. After a couple of close games, they blew out Toukaidai Suwa 12-0 to be on the precipice of a growing list of schools who are looking for a repeat bid.

Standing in the way is a team who dominated Nagano in the 90’s and 00’s, Matsushou Gakuen. They get to the finals having mercy-ruled a Iwamurada squad who made a great run as a no-seed, but whose time was definitely up. But while they had their time in the sun, they have to prove that they belong back in the ranks of Tier 2 and perhaps Tier 1 schools in Nagano yet again. A victory here may put them well on their way to doing so.

Kagawa – Sanbonmatsu v Marugame Jyousai (2030 PDT/2330 EDT)

Finally! Here in Kagawa we have two Tier 3 schools who are looking for their first Koushien appearance since 2005! Sanbonmatsu reprsented the Shikoku region at Haru Koushien while Marugame Jyousai was the Natsu representative that same year.

Sanbonmatsu broke the hearts of Ootemae Takamatsu, who themselves were looking for their first ever appearance, with a 5-run 8th inning. They fought back, but lost 6-5. Marugame Jyousai had an easier time of things with their in-city counterpart, defeating Marugame 6-3.

Both teams have quality wins, both teams would really like to finally get back to Koushien. Expect a lot of pressure between the two teams to get it done.

Saga – Waseda Saga v Tosu (2100 PDT/0000 EDT)

Waseda Saga, in their 4th year of existence, almost went to both Natsu Koushien and Haru Koushien but fell just 1 game short. One thought that the Waseda name meant that they had quickly established themselves as a powerhouse in Saga. But it wasn’t quite the case as they needed to rebuild after the 2013 campaign. But they’re back again in 2017 and looked like a Touyoudai Himeji team, with low scoring wins – that was until they were involved in a barnburner with no-seed Saga Kougyou winning 9-7.

Tosu is no stranger to Koushien (they’ve been to Natsu Koushien twice), but they’re not exactly a Tier 3 school either. They’re certainly above average for the most part, but their cycle of ups and downs isn’t quite high enough to make them contenders. They get a chance here against Waseda Saga, but perhaps they’re further along in the process than Tosu is.

Nagasaki – Seihou v Hasami (2100 PDT/0000 EDT)

Seihou, along with Tenri and Narashino was a school that grabbed my attention. And all because of their ace in the 2009 Haru Koushien title run – now closer for the Hiroshima Carp – Imamura Takeru.

Quick quiz – do you know who they beat in the title game, the score, and the ace for that team? Answer at the end of this game review.

But since then they’ve fallen into anonymity, continually getting seeded in the brackets, but never delivering. When they held on to win late against Nagasaki Nichidai 6-4 in the semifinals, they gained a chance to bring the team back.

Hasami was another Tier 3 school until they finally broke through in 2011 to reach the Haru Koushien. But since then they too have suffered a fate similar to Seihou being one of the better teams, but not good enough to beat the powerhouses of the prefecture. They too have a win over powerhouse Souseikan this run to pad their resume.

It’s another desperate game between two teams whose Koushien dreams might finally be realized. Personally I want Seihou back.

Oh, the answer to the question?

Imamura defeated Hanamaki Higashi 1-0. The ace for Hanamaki Higashi? Kikuchi Yuusei.

Miyazaki – Seishin (St.) Urusla v Hyuuga Gakuin (2100 PDT/0000 EDT)

The last final is again 2 teams who have not seen the field of Koushien in a while.

I’m always drawn to schools with non-kanji names. Not that I prefer them, but just that I wonder how they do when it’s not a traditional Japanese name. Obviously Seishin Ursula (or St. Ursula as it’s translated) is a catholic school so it obviously doesn’t attract all the talent from the prefecture. Still it has managed to carve out a Tier 3 existence, regularly reaching the quartefinals or better, but just not breaking through outside of 2005 where they drew the eventual two-time champion Komadai Tomakomai. Their 5-2 win over Miyazaki Nichidai is another feather in their cap towards their run.

Hyuuga Gakuin is resurging as a Tier 3 school after a span from Aki 2011 to Aki 2015 where they won just 1 game. But this time around, they have defeated last year’s champs Nichinan Gakuen and former quarterfinalist Miyakonojyou Shougyou.

This could be another must-see game to round out the day.

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