Natsu Koushien Qualifying Update – 7/27

9 champions crowned yesterday and our field is almost rounded out.

Champions Crowned

Aomori – Aomori Yamada (11th appearance, 1st in 8 years)

The final was pretty much an even affair, but as with the recent tussles between the two Aomori Yamada has Kousei Gakuin’s number. In the late going, Aomori Yamada scored 1 run in the 7th and 2 in the 9th, which was just too much. Kousei’s Koike had a 9th inning solo HR, but that was all as they fell 5-3.

Ibaraki – Tsuchiura Nichidai (3rd appearance, 1st in 31 years)

I honestly do not know what happened in this game. Last I had left this matchup it was all Kasumigaura, up 7-2 with just 3 innings left.

Then I check it again and it’s 8-4.

Then 8-6.

Then 9-wait… It’s 9-8 Tsuchiura Nichidai?!

So I watch again as Kasumigaura has to find a run in the 9th. And they do. Base hit, bunt, timely single and they’re tied. Can’t push through the sayonara run, and they head to enchousen.

And now the innings start to tick off. I start seeing 10th, 11th, 12th inning on the scoreboard and neither team seems to be doing anything. After the 13th now it becomes dangerous because the teams are at-risk of having a replay.

Top 15th and the pressure is on Tsuchiura Nichidai. Fail to score in the top of the inning and the best they can do is draw.

But the leadoff batter doubles and now the shoe is on the other foot now. Next thing I know they’ve driven the go-ahead runner in, and I know that barring the team being able to quickly regroup Kasumigakura is done.

And in the bottom of the 15th that was indeed the case. Kasumigaura loses it at the death, and Tsuchiura Nichidai finally makes the trip back to Koushien.

Saitama – Hanasaki Tokuharu (5th apperance, 3rd consecutive)

Urawa Gakuin seemed a bit on the back foot, as relief starter Watanabe had been struggling. In the 5th it came all to a head as he got himself into a manrui situation due to walks/hit batters then waked in a run. Reliever Kuwano came in for one batter and he too walked in a run. Not until Sano came in, did they finally got out of the inning – but he also walked his first batter, so 3 of the 4 runs scored by Hanasaki Tokuharu were via the walk.

And that was pretty much it. Shimizu gave up a 2-run HR, but otherwise it was all Hanasaki Tokuharu as they won 5-2 and earn yet another bid to Natsu Koushien.

Gunma – Maebashi Ikuei (3rd appearance, 2nd consecutive)

Kendai Takasaki tried to be their gritty selves, but Maebashi Ikuei seemed to have opportunities every inning and it didn’t help that Kendai Takasaki was issuing free passes putting runners on base.

Who while they initially tied it up at 2-2 in the 3rd, Maebashi Ikuei put up runs over the next 3 innings which was enough to put it out of reach. Maebashi Ikuei is starting to cement themselves as a fixture in Gunma.

Fukui – Sakai (1st appearance)

Sakai (or partially the former Harue Kougyou), dominated Tsuruga from start to finish. Ace Yoshikawa Hiroto gave up just 2 hits and walked none as Sakai went on to win 3-0. He was part of the U-15 Japan team back in 2015 so there’s something there, but not sure how much as while he only allowed 2 hits, he struck out only 3 so he’s certainly a contact pitcher.

Gifu – Oogaki Nichidai (4th appearance, 1st in 3 years)

Oogaki Nichidai controlled things early before ace Shuugyou Keito faltered in the 7th leading the defending champs to tie the game. But Chuukyou Gakuindai Chuukyou was already on their 2nd pitcher at the time, and actually went to their 3rd pitcher to start the 8th. That didn’t go well as reliever Fugo Yuuma (who actually was on the U-15 roster in 2016) got just one out in 4 batters and was pulled for Shigemoto who did not help things. All of those baserunners Fugo put on scored and that was that.

Tottori – Yonago Shouin (3rd appearance, 1st in 17 years)

Yonago Shouin won the game, but it was Yonago Higashi who actually out-hit the eventual champions, but it was a key 2nd inning with RBIs from Ueda, Yamaguchi and then a 2-out 2-RBI hit from leadoff batter Babahata. Those 4 runs were more than enough for Yonago Shouin and ace Tatsumi Shinyu as he managed those baserunners to a 5-2 win.

Shimane – Kaisei (10th appearance, 1st in 3 years)

Much like the Tottori final, while Kaisei led from wire-to-wire, Masuda Higashi actually out-hit them as well. However, the top of Kaisei’s lineup, led by cleanup hitter Ueda with his 2 RBI’s, were more than Masuda Higashi could handle, this despite the fact that Nakamura and Katahara struck out just 2.

Naruto Usuzhio – Naruto Uzushio (1st appearance) fka Naruto Kougyou (7th appearance, 1st in 9 years)

Despite the fact the new version of Naruto Kougyou had been unable to go to Koushien, asking Itano to beat them was probably a lot to ask for.

2 innings in and Itano was already down 4-0. The final margin would be 6-0 as Naruto Uzushio finally makes their return to Koushien.

Contested Finals

Nara (2100 PDT/0000 EDT) – Tenri (Tier 1) v Naradai Fuzoku (Tier 3)

Tenri is about to make a return trip to Koushien, but they have not been able to have success like their main rival in the prefecture – Chiben Gakuen. They managed to beat them in a head-to-head matchup (they almost blew the lead), and should sit as the favorites in the matchup.

Naradai Fuzoku has at least poked its head outside of the prefecture, able to go to Haru Koushien back in 2015. No success once they got there, but at least perhaps they could gain some confidence. And in fact they did beat Tenri in the spring taikai so perhaps they aren’t afraid of the matchup.

Wakayama (2100 PDT/0000 EDT) – Chiben Wakayama (Tier 1) v Kioukan (Tier 3)

Chiben Wakayama is on the decline, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still considered a formidable opponent. They still put up double digits on every opponent save for last year’s representative Shiritsu Wakayama.

Kioukan will be the most recent opponent to try and take their licks against the powerhouse. They’ve survived 3 one-run games against lesser opposition but I wonder how they will do in the finals. If this was several years ago, I’d give them no chance. But now? They might have one.

Hyogo (2100 PDT/0000 EDT) – Akaishi Shougyou (Tier 3) v Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Tier 2)

Akashi Shougyou broke through for their first Koushien experience last spring and rewarded their fans with a quarterfinal experience defeating Nichinan Gakuen and Touhou. They’ve reached the finals, but have not played any top tier teams and have had close affairs in their last 2 games.

Meanwhile Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku has had to play both Kansai Gakuin and Houtoku Gakuen, winning both by just 1 run. It will be up to ace Okano to keep the game low-scoring and give his team a chance to take the title.

Okayama (2100 PDT/0000 EDT) – Okayama Sanyou (Tier 3) v Soushi Gakuen (Tier 2)

Soushi Gakuen, after years in the shadows of other schools in Okayama broke through in 2016 and is on the verge of perhaps becoming the king of the prefecture should they win this game. It would be 4 straight calendar Koushien appearances.

Not only that, but in this particular run they defeated both Okayama Ridai Fuzoku and Kanzei fairly handily.

If the times are a changing, it’s not good news for Okayama Sanyou, who themselves have been mired in Tier 3 status. They can at least show a win to Tamano Kounan to their name, but otherwise it’s been against no-name competition. They will need to play their best game ever to make their first ever appearance.

Yamaguchi (1800 PDT/2100 EDT) – Shimonoseki Kokusai (Tier 3) v Ube Koujyou (Tier 2)

Ube Koujyou is trying to raise its status in the prefecture, but so far, they’ve had to depend on Haru Koushien appearances to promote their name.

This run to the final has not been smooth sailing nor convincing as they came back from down 4-0 to walk off 6-5, then gave up 7 runs versus Tokuyama Shoukou. It may have been a mercy-rule win, but the amount of runs given up are a red flag.

Shimonoseki Kokusai is looking for their first title. There were doing the same 2 years ago but fell short against Shimonoseki Kougyou.

This run has been more impressive, with a 4-0 win against Takakawa Gakuen and an 8-7 win over Ube Shougyou. And in the latter game, they rallied several times, including the final 2 innings before taking the lead for good in the 11th. If there is a team that might be able to take on Ube Koujyou, it might be them.

Ehime (2030 PDT/2330 EDT) – Teikyou Dai-go (Tier 3) v Saibi (Tier 3)

It’s odd to consider Saibi a tier 3 school, but while they have had success past the turn of the century, it’s been sporadic and not sustainable. They reach the finals with only a quality win vs last year’s champs Matsuyama Seiryou.

Teikyou Dai-go finally got their chance at Koushien with a Haru appearance last year. Yeah, they got a couple of breaks to go their way, but they still earned it nonetheless.

They got similar breaks, only having to face Saijyou in the 3rd round as significant competition. However in the semifinals, they had to rally from down 5-0 against Kawanoe and won 16-11 in extra innings. I don’t think that will fly in the finals though.

Fukuoka (2100 PDT/0000 EDT) – Fukuokadai Oohori (Tier 3) v Touchiku (Tier 3)

Both schools have basically been in the muck that is Fukuoka. Up until recently Fukuoka was generally up for grabs between one of almost double digit teams who could regularly make deep runs. As of late it has been Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku.

They’re not here in the finals this year, and that opens it up for that mass of schools. This year it’s Fukuokadai Oohori and Touchiku.

Fukuokadai Oohori is looking to make it a Haru-Natsu appearance, having reached the quarterfinals earlier this year. They reach the finals having avoided the big names, but the run last fall/spring cannot be ignored.

Touchiku houwever, is looking for their first appearance in 29 years, not only that, but they’ve defeated both Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou and Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku in consecutive games to get to this point.

While Fukuokadai Oohori does have players in the U-18 national team, I think Touchiku might have a chance in this matchup.

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