Natsu Koushien Qualifying Update – 7/28

So much to cover, and still many games to go.

Champions crowned

Nara – Tenri (28th appearance, 1st in 2 years)

Tenri, still can claim Tier 1 status since they’re the only other team outside of Chiben Gakuen that gets to go to Koushien from Nara it seems.

Tenri scored a couple of runs early and one perhaps thought that they were on their way versus Naradai Fuzoku.

Wasn’t really the case. Despite getting more opportunities, Tenri appears stuck in the old ways of baseball and it almost cost them. as Naradai Fuzoku made one last stab at it in the late innings. They got one in the 8th to make it a 2-1 ballgame.

But then the panic start setting in. Bottom 8th still, 2 out, runner on 1st. Groundball to 2nd, toss to 2nd, but the runner is called safe! The SS continues to sell it instead of going to 1st and as a result everyone’s safe. Ace Usui gets a groundball to 2nd again to end the inning, but the team appears to be nursing the game home.

Come the 9th and Usui is pitching out to the left-handed batters. With no threat to go inside, they start attacking those pitches. First batter lines it down the 3B line, but the 3B makes a great save for the out. But the second one does the same and this time the 3B can’t come up with it. It goes for a double and Tenri is in trouble.

But Naradai Fuzoku is undone by one unlucky play. Liner to short, runner is taking his normal lead. Maybe he could have gone back to 2nd earlier, but the SS tosses to 2nd and he’s doubled off ending the game and giving Tenri the victory.

Wakayama – Chiben Wakayama (23rd, 1st in 2 years)

It may seem like I give up early on games, but when Hayashi hit a 2-run HR giving Chiben Wakayama the 2-0 lead I thought perhaps the dream was going to die hard.

But as I was watching other games, I flipped back to see that somehow Kioukan had scored 2 right after and tied the game! And as the innings progressed and as the 0’s continued piling up I wondered if Kioukan could actually do it.

Then in the 7th, Morimoto gets a base hit to left, steals 2nd on the K to Hayashi. And when Kurano delivered the timely hit to put Chiben Wakayama up 3-2 I thought that might be it.

Until the 9th…

One out Nakamura gets a base hit. Perhaps in a panic Kurahara replaced by Oosaki. He gives up a base hit to Tokunaga and Ishikata loading the bases! And still 1 out! A base hit could end the game!

Instead more hearbreak. Yamamura, hitless on the day lines a shot to short. Nakamura perhaps forgot about the baserunning rules because he takes off for home. He’s on one knee trying to turn back, but Nishikawa’s toss easily gets there before he does and Chiben Wakayama holds on 3-2…

Hyogo – Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years)

Here, this game was pretty clear-cut. Pro prospect Inoda hits a 2-run HR of his own in the first and Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku really didn’t let off the gas. Though they only scored 4 runs, ace Okano gave up just 3 hits and 1 walk in a complete game effort.

Ehime – Saibi (5th appearance, 1st in 4 years)

It was all Saibi in this one as well, though early on one thought that perhaps the teams would be trading runs all night. In fact it was all one way traffic as well. Tied 1-1, Utsunomiya gets a 2-RBI double to make it 3-1. And then in the 3rd, Yoshioka, Shiraishi and Yano with RBI’s making it a 6-2 ballgame and knocking out relief starter Takahashi Kenshin and bringing in Takahashi Kentarou.

Too little too late, and perhaps wouldn’t have mattered anyways. Saibi adds on 4 more runs in a 10-3 rout securing their 5th appearance.

Yamaguchi – Shimonoseki Kokusai (1st appearance)

The game seemed all in Shimonoseki Kokusai’s favor. They were getting more than their fair share of chances compared to Ube Koujyou, but the on thing they weren’t doing was turning that into runs though by the end of their half of the 8th they were ahead 4-1.

Was it going to be enough though? Beacuse Ube Koujyou started making a late inning rally scoring 2 in the bottom of the 8th making it just a 1-run ball game.

And things looked bad in the 9th. After a great leaping catch by Shimatani to save an extra base hit, Ueno gives up a single back up the middle to Masaki. After Furutani lines one hard, but right at Shimatani, Tateishi draws a walk despite being behind 0-2. With Kaita in to PR for the runner at 2nd the stage was set for a possible comeback. And it could come at the hands of ace Hyakutome.

And in the AB he takes a letter high pitch down the LF line and it has the distance, but goes foul! Straighten that out and he’s won the game!

But instead he swings under a high breaking pitch and Ueno and Shimonoseki Kokusai celebrate their first ever Yamaguchi natsu title!

Fukuoka – Touchiku (6th appearance, 1st in 21 years)

With the stuff I had been reading about Fukuokadai Oohori, especially considering they had players on the U-18 squad, including their ace Miura, that this would be a big task for Touchiku to get the upset.

And when Kubota hit a triple in the 1st and the throw got away from Sakaguchi allowing him to score, you wondered if they were going to be up for it.

Instead Morita hits a HR in the 2nd followed later by a Kitamura squeeze play giving Touchiku the 2-1 lead. And Mizukami would add a timely double to make it 3-1 by the end of the 3rd. And still it seemed like Touchiku was getting the better chances while Fukuokadai Oohori struggled to create any offense against ace Ishida.

And in fact the game would end 3-1 in a seemingly comprehensive victory by Touchiku to get to their first Natsu Koushien in over 2 decades!

Finals contested

Higashi Tokyo – Toukaidai Takanawadai (Tier 3) v Nishougakushadai Fuzoku (Tier 2)

Nishougakushadai Fuzoku is on on the verge again for heading to Koushien having defeated their heated rivals Kanto Dai-ichi, and by mercy rule no less. And after giving up 4 runs in their first game, it’s been almost nothing since.

The last step in the process is Toukaidai Takanawadai, who has been mired in the upper, but not top tier of Tokyo. The win against Teikyou isn’t worth as much as it used to, and Toua Gakuen is another 3 team. I don’t really fancy their prospects in this final.

Kanagawa – Yokohama (Tier 1) v Toukaidai Sagami (Tier 1)

It hasn’t taken that long for Yokohama to recover after the retirement of Watanabe-kantoku. They’ve gone to Koushien last year and look to do so again. The major obstacle was Toukou Gakuen, which they pulled away late against in a 10-6 slugfest. The pitching isn’t stellar as you see them giving up runs every game, but the offense has been more than enough.

In their way is fellow powerhouse Toukaidai Sagami who hasn’t played anyone of note, and whose offense isn’t that great, but at least isn’t giving up as much runs.

Still, Toukaidai Sagami has never been known for their pitching, so it would be impressive if ace Saitou could stifle the Yokohama offense.

Toyama – Kouhou (No Tier) v Takaoka Shougyou (Tier 2)

Kouhou has pretty much come from nowhere in 2017 to challenge the powerhouses in Toyama. And this summer they can put a win against Toyama Dai-ichi to their name who have tried to dominate the prefecture. But a come-from-behind 10-9 win aver Toyama Kokusaidai Fuzoku might signal that their pitching staff is being stretched to the limit.

What’s more, their opponent in the final is Takaoka Shougyou, another strong team in the prefecture, who dispatched Shin-Minato 6-2 in the semifinals. After a couple of unnecessary close games early, they have seemed to pick up momentum as the rounds have progressed, which can’t be a good sign for Kouhou.

Ishikawa – Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa (Tier 3) v Yuugakukan (Tier 1)

The main school may not have made it, but their secondary school in Ishikawa has made the finals for the 2nd straight year, losing to Seiryou the year before. They held on to beat them this year 8-7 and that along with a 7-4 win over Komatsu Ootani could be enough this year to put them over the top.

But one last powerhouse awaits and that is Yuugakukan, who has been one of the main teams to come out of Ishikawa in recent years. They’ve been involved in several close games, but none against top tier competition. This will be their first real test coming in, how will they handle it? And against an ace in Sado Yuutarou who struck out 13 against Seiryou?

Aichi – Eitoku (Tier 3) v Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Tier 2)

Eitoku comes to the final after a fairly successful run which was culminated in a 9-2 mercy rule win over Touhou which one would hope help given them confidence going into the final. This despite the fact that their ace Kamaya doesn’t strike out many batters.

Chuukyoudai Chuukyou kind of dropped off the map after their famous win in 2009 over Nihon Bunri. It didn’t help their kantoku retired as well. After popping back up in 2015 to take the title, they’re at it again and if they win this game they could be back once again, and no one in Aichi is hoping that happens.

But here they are, with their closest game against Aikoudai Meiden, who has been relegated to the masses it seems. They also have a mass of pitching they use, though none are ace “dominant”. Still, I imagine the former Natsu champs will look to take it to the Cinderella’s early and smash their hope before it can gain momentum.

Okayama (replay) – Okayama Sanyou v Soushi Gakuen

The two teams return less than 24 hours after the umpires decided to call the game instead of resuming from a rain delay. The two teams were tied in the 8th with Komatsu recording an out in the top of the 11th.

I had written Okayama Sanyou off for dead after Soushi Gakuen scored 4 in the 3rd. But when my feed talked about manrui for Okayama Sanyou, I figured I’d take a look. Not only was it manrui, but Imoto, Abe and Komatsu all had timely hits to bring the margin back to 6-5! And when PH Ogawara walked it was tied up at 6-6! 2 batters later, Kawata singles and of all things Okayama Sanyou had the 7-6 lead!

Suddenly Okayama Sanyou was on the verge of winning the title!

But it wasn’t going to be that easy was it?

Single, double for Soushi Gakuen and the sayonara runner was in scoring position. Unlike Soushi Gakuen, Okayama Sanyou decided not to walk with 1st open which proved costly. A base hit tied the game and a sac fly later gave Soushi Gakuen the 8-7 lead. And now it would be their turn to try and close the game.

But a leadoff single brings back ace Nanba to the mound perhaps to play the handedness factor. Sac bunt put the runner in scoring position.

Instead though Abe takes advantage of the strategy, taking an outside pitch the other way into the gap in RCF for a game tying double! 8-8!

And on a flyout to right, the runner at 2nd tags up and somehow makes 3rd base! Now, with another base open, Soushi Gakuen walks to create the force. Kataoka with 2 hits lines a ball, but right to short and the game heads to enchousen.

Okayama Sanyou would get another chance in the 10th. Kawata leads off with a walk. After a bunt, the next batter is put on. Imoto pops up to shallow right, and while the 2B catches it, Kawata takes off for 3rd and just beats the throw!

After another intentional walk to load the bases Komatsu stands in to try and deliver the win. Instead he’s jammed and pops back up to Nanba to end the inning!

At that time, the tarp was being put on. No rain, but clouds were surrounding the stadium. And almost when they finished putting it on, the downpour started. It was your typical summer Japanese rain and when it finally subsided 30 minutes later I thought the game was going to continue.

Instead the umpire comes out and puts up his hand and just like that the game is called. It’s a “no-game” officially, but could be considered an 8-8 tie as well.

So the teams get a night to sit and think, but they’ll have to return to Muscat Stadium to do it all over again. Usually in replays the better team wins as the pitching suffers. That would be Soushi Gakuen, so we’ll see if that’s the case.

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