Natsu Koushien Qualifying Update (7/25)

5 champs crowned yesterday, some as Niigata and Yamagata were rained out.

Crowned Champs

Akita – Meiou (9th appearance, 1st in 8 years)

Action was pretty much one way in this matchup. Meiou opened the scoring, and basically held Kanaashi Nougyou off the basepaths all game. Their 3rd pitcher Satou gave up a run in the 9th, but a 5-1 win and Meiou will get a chance, albeit 8 years later, to wipe that ill-timed throw to 3rd out of people’s memories.

Chiba – Kisaradzu Sougou (6th appearance, 2nd consecutive)

I saw the first couple of innings of this final. Wanted to watch it all because I so badly want Narashino to make it back to Koushien. But they were playing catchup all night and wound up never leading, falling 4-3. They had their chances it seems, but just could never get themselves ahead. And so it’s another year with them on the sidelines as Kisaradzu Sougou takes hold of Chiba.

Kyoto – Kyoto Seishou (3rd appearance, 1st in 19 years)

I caught the game in the middle, but by then it was already over. While Heian had just scored 3 in the top of the 5th, it was a drop in the bucket as they still strailed 12-4 to Kyoto Seishou. There really wasn’t a need to watch the rest of the game as Kitayama did what he needed to do to win the game. 12-6 and Just like that Kyoto Seishou is on their way back to Natsu Koushien after a long absence.

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

Hiroshima, or at least Hiroshima teams stick in my mind for rain delays. A Natsu Koushien a couple of years back had Jyosuikan try 2 times to play a game, only to have it rained out. I think they even led both times. And on the 3rd try they lost.

Well, the Hiroshima final was rain delayed before the start, and again after the 2nd inning. Once the game resumed, it was Kouryou who jump started things, with a 6 run 4th capped off by a HR from #3 batter Nakamura. But what was 6-0 became 6-2 and then 6-5. But reliever Yamamoto came in and shut things down in the 7th and got out of a 1st/3rd situation in the 8th. Kouryou made his job easier with 3 runs in the 9th and that was that.

Oita –  Meihou (6th appearance, 1st in 2 years)

I thought this would be more contested than it actually was. Meihou ace Hashidzume Kaito pitches a 3-hit shutout. Only strikes out 2, but 3 hits is 3 hits. Meihou will try once again to replicate the success of Imamiya from 2009.

Contested Finals

Yamagata (2100 PDT/0000 EDT) – Nichidai Yamagata (Tier 2) v Yamagata Chuo (Tier 2)

Niigata (2100 PDT/0000 EDT) – Nihon Bunri (Tier 1) v Chuuetsu (Tier 2)

See prior review on the 21st as teams have been rained out.

Saitama – Urawa Gakuin v Hanasaki Tokuharu

Ibaraki – Kasumigaura v Tsuchiura Nichidai

Guess Tohoku/Hokushinetsu region played rain tag. Saitama and Ibaraki rained out. Review to come tomorrow.

Shizuoka (2100 PDT/0000 EDT) – Nichidai Mishima (Tier 3) v Fujieda Meisei (Tier 3)

This is an actual surprise to not see not one of Shizuoka, Tokohadai Tachibana or Tokohadai Kikugaka (formerly Tokoha Tachibana and Tokoha Kikugawa respectively). But the Tokohadai schools both lost in the quarterfinals, and Shizuoka (who defeated Tokohadai Tachibana) was paper-cutted to death by Fujieda Meisei as they scored 1 run from the 3rd to 7th innings. Oh, and 3 in the 2nd and 6 in the 9th to seal the deal.

While Fujieda Meisei can say they’ve beaten Shizuoka, ace Kubota struggled early in the matchup and could have fatigue issues in the final. For Nichidai Mishima, they’ve used a set of pitchers in their games and could actually have the advantage despite the lack of key competition faced.

Shiga (2030 PDT/2330 EDT) – Hikone Higashi (Tier 3) v Oumi (Tier 2)

For some reason I thought Hikone Higashi was on a higher level than they actually are. Instead they’ve toiled being good, but not good enough. And their nemesis hasn’t been one of the powerhouses like Oumi or Kita-Ootsu, but instead another school who had been toiling in Minokuchi. In fact, in 3 of the prior 5 years Minokuchi has specifically ended their run, wherever they were at that point of the taikai. This year, they faced them yet again, this time in the semifinals. And while neither team got a lot of hits off the other, Hikone Higashi did more with it, scoring 5 runs late against ace Miyawaki to advance to the finals.

Oumi meanwhile is looking for its 2nd consecutive appearance and 3rd in 4 years. They’ve given up just 1 run, and that was to Ritsumeikan Moriyama in the 3rd round. But they’ve not faced any of the other prefectural powerhouses so Hikone Higashi should provide their toughest test.

Mie (2030 PDT/2330 EDT) – Mie (Tier 1) v Tsuda Gakuen (Tier 3)

Mie despite being a Tier 1 school in my eyes, feels like they still play with a blue-collar mentality. Not sure why, but it’s endeared me to them in some way. Even more so after that 2014 final where I think Osaka Touin played mind games with them to take the title. Still won’t forgive them for that.

They would have been perhaps the favorites to take the title up until their semifinal against Tsu Shougyou where they survived a late inning flurry of runs to advance 6-5 using 4 pitchers to bring the team home.

That probably opens the door for Tsuda Gakuen who has blown out their competition so far, mercy-ruling all games except for their first against Hisai. They can also count a mercy-rule win over Komono in the semifinals as a point in their corner as well.

The question is if perhaps Mie’s pitching has been stretched out too far at this point and if Tsuda Gakuen can take advantage of it.

Kochi (2100 PDT/0000 EDT) – Meitoku Gijyuku (Tier 1) v Yusuhara (No Tier)

This is a first I think. We all know who Meitoku Gijyuku is, so there’s no need to discuss their legitimacy. They’re going for their 8th straight title and only dropped runs to Kouchi Shougyou. The 2-0 win versus Okou can be a bit concerning, especially when it comes on just 5 hits.

But the surprise is no tier Yusuhara. A team that had won just 10 games from Natsu 2007 to Aki 2016 is now in the finals. The secret is kantoku Yokokawa Tsunehiro, who formerly coached Muroto when they made their one and only Koushien appearance, sending the team to the quarterfinals of the 2007 Haru Koushien.

He was called upon, despite being in retirement, to become the kantoku of Yusuhara in 2013. Since then they have won 1 game in each taikai save for 2 occasions. And now, with wins over Kochi and Nakamura, find themselves in the finals against the #1 team in the prefecture. There is no second chance like Muroto had, but if they can somehow pull off the upset, it would be one amazing thing. And perhaps for one day, bring back the romanticism of 高校野球.

 

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