21st century candidates are always hard to predict, mostly because of the fact that performance on the field isn’t the only criteria for choosing a team. The final candidates are as follows:
- Hokkaido – Hakodate Kougyou
- Tohoku – Yuri Kougyou (Akita)
- Kanto/Tokyo – Fujioka Chuuou (Gunma)
- Hokushinestu – Kanadzu (Fukui)
- Toukai – Oogaki Nishi (Gifu)
- Kinki – Zeze (Shiga)
- Chuugoku – Shiminoseki Nishi (Yamaguchi)
- Shikoku – Kouchi Ootemae (Kouchi)
- Kyushu – Imari (Saga)
And of these, if I had my druthers, I would have chosen the following:
Higashi-Nihon Bid – Hakodate Kougyou
Hakodate Kougyou knocked off two former Koushien participants in Hakodatedai Yuuto in regional play and beat Bushuukan in the prefectural 2nd round before being mercy ruled by Hokkaido Sakae. They have a knack of playing against former participants well, and it could be interesting to see if perhaps they can pull off a Giant Killing of their own.
Nishi-Nihon Bid – ?? Imari (Shimonoseki Nishi?)
I’m hard pressed to find a convincing argument for any team in the Nishi-Nihon region. No team presents a strong resume, or almost reaching Koushien in the past, or a recent spurt backed by results.
As a result, I settled on these two teams as the possible bid. Imari has had good results, but mostly due to favorable draws. They beat Saga Kita, but they have since shown to be a one-hit wonder – a big one-hit wonder, but still not a competitive team. Bad losses to Saga Gakuen and Okinawa Shougaku further tarnish the resume. Still, they are the only team in the group who has not yet been to Koushien.
Shimonoseki Nishi had a bad loss to Takigawa Gakuen, rebounded to defeat Hayatomo, and narrowly lost to Kaisei in the super-regionals, all former Koushien participants. But Takigawa Gakuen and Kaisei didn’t make it far (lost poorly in 2nd round), so that makes their accomplishment less impressive.
I guess then I’d go with Imari. Send a school who hasn’t been there. Why not?
Wild Card – Yuri Kougyou/Kanadzu
This is where I guess things get a little interesting. On resume, Yuri Kougyou would probably have this hands down, winning 6 games to get to the final. Then they lost to the eventual runners-up Hanamaki Higashi. Not too bad really.
But if we were to go with perhaps other non-baseball reasons, Kanadzu might get the nod as part of their application was the fact that their team helps out in the annual matsuri (festivals). The resume is weak, but in some ways embodies the spirit I think of what they wanted as a 21st century team. So it’s quite possible they choose them because of their service outside of the club.
Given that the selections never go as I plan, I guess I’ll say Kanadzu gets the final spot.