Author: eigokokoyakyu

90th Haru Koushien – 21st Century Candidates

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.

Advertisements
Walking away…

Walking away…

There has been a lot of re-evaluating in my life in recent times.  I began following kokoyakyu in 2005 because of the romanticism of it, and thought that it was worth sharing with the masses in general.

I knew the area was niche, even niche-r than following NPB. But I thought the idea of it was worth putting all my effort into.

But to be honest, the fruits of those efforts have not necessarily turned out to be as perhaps I thought it would be. The Ootani craze over the last couple of weeks somehow drove that home.

Combine that with (a) the fact that kokoyakyu for me has turned from romanticism to cynicism, and (b) there are others that perhaps are more social media savvy than I am and (c) there are other projects that I am working on that are making better headway it’s time I walked away covering kokoyakyu for the masses. I’ll still watch it, but the coverage I’ve done will for the most part disappear. The blog and the twitter handle will still exist, but it will just be things I find interesting.

If you’ve been following me, I’m sure you’ve found others who cover this in some ways that will do as good or better job than I. But I think much like Kajisha-kantoku above, it’s time to officially walk away publicly.

See you all from time to time.

-E

An Open Letter to Ootani Shouhei

(ごめんね、私の日本語はまあまあです。。。その手紙は日本語に書きたいけど、多分ちょっとわかられない。。。)

Congratulations on making it to the big leagues. You’re finally realizing your dream of playing at the highest level. It was something you were eyeing in your senior year at Hanamaki Higashi, and to be honest I even had a post saying you were as good as gone. But you followed the path of your senpai Kikuchi Yuusei and stayed in the NPB. Which is good because you were able to show that you were even then too good for that league. You proved that there was nothing left for the league to challenge you and now is the time to come to the states. And the fact that you’re foregoing a bunch of money now means that while money might matter, the idea of competing means much more.

The story goes that you’ve already started eliminating teams from your destination list. The questionnaire you sent is good. Allows you to figure out where you have the best chance to succeed. The bidding process leaves you at the whim of the highest bidding organization for better or worse.

To be honest, I don’t really have a reason to write this letter. Sure I’d like you to go to a particular team, but if it’s not a good fit for you, then it’s not a good fit. I’m sure there are factors you are building in for the future, such as teams that will help give you good numbers on both sides of the ball so that you can get that huge second contract that you’re foregoing – if that even matters.

I guess I’m writing this to wish you the best of luck. America is a different beast than Japan, and I’ve already heard stories of the collectors who were out to get your signature for $$ and then basically be racist behind your back. It comes with the territory here. People tend to be out for the almighty dollar, which is why some are incredulous (*ahem*Eric Byrnes*ahem*) that you’re just leaving money on the table. You’ll be shielded from that for the most part, or at least not exposed to that side of it, or perhaps you’ll limit that to begin with. Doesn’t matter, basically you’ll be able to negotiate whatever you want since whatever team gets you is getting you on the cheap. Leverage is such a nice thing.

Probably the biggest difficulty for you will be the fact that the team that gets you, even if it’s for peanuts compared to your value, their fans will expect the moon and the stars, and perhaps at this point the universe from you. You’re like the Holy Grail, the Excalibur and any other one of a kind item rolled up into one. You’re expected to be the panacea to whatever is ailing their favorite team. And if you don’t quickly live up to that, they’ll be disappointed.

Let them.

This is your journey, one that you’ve had in mind for now. Don’t care what anyone else thinks. Perhaps not knowing English in that case will be good (though I imagine some hecklers will still Google Translate some insults to give to you because Americans can be like that). Keep your head down and work on becoming the best you can be. That’s what you came here for.

So that’s it, no sales pitch, no “PLEASE COME TO ***** TEAM OMG WE NEED YOU NAO.”. I generally wish any Japanese player who comes to the states the best of luck (except when facing my team), because I want people to know that Japan isn’t just some AAAA farm team for the majors. It’s an uphill battle because people think America is the best thing since sliced bread, but whatever. I think you can succeed in some capacity here, even if two-ways doesn’t work for you. But ignore the nonsense here and get your shit done, because those of us who have followed you for a while know that you can.

Sincerely,

-E

90th Haru Koushien Projected Field

90th Haru Koushien Projected Field

(photo courtesy of Yahoo! Sports)

With just the Meiji Jingu Taikai bid (which is entering its final stages) and the 21st century teams left, the field is almost all set.

One difference though. Since this is the 90th iteration, it’s possible that they repeat what they did in the 80th tournament – and that the floating bids mostly become bids for all regions:

  • Hokkaido (1)
  • Tohoku (2)
  • Kanto ex Tokyo (5 + 1 floating?)
  • Tokyo (1 + 1 floating?)
  • Hokushinetsu (3)
  • Toukai (3)
  • Kinki (6)
  • Chuugoku (3)
  • Shikoku (3)
  • Kyushu (4)
  • Meiji Jingu Bid (1)
  • 21st Century Teams (3)

So, who are the projected teams?

Hokkaido (1)

  • Komadai Tomakomai

Already covered, but while they may be back to Koushien, the team doesn’t look all that strong

Tohoku (2)

  • Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima)
  • Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate)

I question how strong the region is, though Seikou Gakuin’s loss to Souseikan is muted by the fact they in turn defeated Osaka Touin.

Kanto ex Tokyo (4 + 1 floating)

  • Chuo Gakuin (Chiba)
  • Meishuu Hitashi (Ibaraki)
  • Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa)
  • Keiou Gijyuku (Kanagawa)

The bottom 2 should be names you know although Keiou has been away from the scene for a while.

What is more surprising is the top 2 schools. Chuo Gakuin and Meishuu Hitachi come from nowhere to reach the super-regional final. But neither school had no favors in the super-regional tournament, so there may some more legitimacy in their upcoming invitation.

  • Kokugakuin Tochigi (Tochigi)/Kendai Takasaki (Gunma)?

Of the schools who could receive the floating bid are these two who had narrow losses in the super-regional and have comparable resumes in the prefecturals.

Tokyo (1 + 1 floating bid)

  • Nichidai-san

Sankou is doing Sankou things, with good offense, but not necessarily the pitching as shown in their loss to Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa.

  • Kousei Gakuen

As the runner-ups, they would be the team to receive the floating bid, but the problem is their resume which isn’t strong as compared to the possible Kanto invitees.

Hokushinetsu (3)

  • Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa (Ishikawa)
  • Seiryou (Ishikawa)
  • Toyama Shougyou (Toyama)

If not for the fact that Hokushinetsu gets one extra bid, the region would have been represented by one prefecture yet again. Despite the fact that Seiryou won the prefecturals, it was Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa who breezed through the super-regionals.

Toyama Shougyou should get the final bid as they were in competition from runner-up Toyama Kokusaidai and had a better time of it in the super-regionals as well.

Toukai (3)

  • Shizuoka (Shizuoka)
  • Touhou (Aichi)
  • Mie (Mie)
  • Chuukyou Gakuindai Chuukyou (Gifu)?

Nothing new here, as Shizuoka and Touhou are names we’ve heard before. Mie should be the 3rd team in over Chuukyou Gakuindai Chuukyou because while both faced the best competition in-prefecture, both also faced Oogaki Nishi at one point and Mie’s ace Fukuda threw a 1-hitter in a game Oogaki Nishi had to have.

Kinki (6)

  • Osaka Touin (Osaka)
  • Chiben Wakayama (Chiben)
  • Otokuni (Kyoto)
  • Oumi (Shiga)
  • Akashi Shougyou (Hyogo)
  • Chiben Gakuen (Nara)

It’s possible that based upon the results that each prefecture will get one team into the 90th Haru Koushien tournament. It’s a bit hard to project the last 2 teams because none of the quarterfinal losers really impressed, but Akashi Shougyou and Chiben Gakuen seemingly did the best.

Chuugoku (3)

  • Okayama Sanyou (Okayama)
  • Shimonoseki Kokusai (Yamaguchi)
  • Setouchi (Hiroshima)

Okayama Sanyou makes a return to Koushien in almost sweeping fashion, taking the title after trading blows with runner-up Shimonoseki Kokusai 12-11. Setouchi should take the last spot over fellow prefectural school Onomichi due to their performance in the super-regionals.

Shikoku (3)

  • Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
  • Eimei (Kagawa)
  • Matsuyama Seiryou (Ehime)

More known commodities here with Meitoku Gijyuku and Eimei. Matsuyama Seiryou gets in with their close semifinal against the eventual champions.

Kyushu (4)

  • Souseikan (Nagasaki)
  • Tomishima (Miyazaki)
  • Nobeoka Gakuen (Miyazaki)
  • Touchiku (Fukuoka)

Kyushu is in flux again, with Tomishima and Touchiku finding their way into the field of now 36.

Meiji Jingu Bid (1)

  • Kyushu via Souseikan – Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima)/Meihou (Oita)
  • Shikoku via Meitoku Gijyuku – Takamatsu Shougyou (Kagawa)/Ootemae Takamatsu (Kagawa)

The Meiji Jingu final is set and it’s Souseikan v Meitoku Gijyuku. Either Kyushu or Shikoku will get one extra team in the field. Should Meitoku Gijyuku win, Takamatsu Shougyou should get the bid, though a small chance should be given to Ootemae Takamatsu given who they played, but it’s slim. If Souseikan wins, it’s a tossup between Kamimura Gakuen and Meihou though gun to head I’d say Kamimura Gakuen has the inside track.

Aki Taikai Update

Aki Taikai Update

(photo courtesy of Asahi)

I’ve been busy with a new job and other obligations that are higher on my priority list (sorry, but when covering kokoyakyu hasn’t made you a dollar and does not figure to into the near future, you kinda put it on the backburner when time becomes a constraint).

But at least I can post about updates since most are just starting into their super-regional play.

Hokkaido (1) – Komadai Tomakomai

The teams who made it to the super-regionals included quite a few well-known names, but a lot of unknown quantities as well

Quadrant 1

  • Bushuukan v (winner of Sapporo Sousei v Hakodate Kougyou)
  • Hokkaido Sakae v Obihiro Nougyou

Quadrant 2

  • Wakkanai Ootani v Sapporo Yamanote
  • Sapporo Ootani v (winner of Hokushou v Asahikawa Jitsugyou)

Quadrant 3

  • Kushiro Meiki v (winner of Ritsumeikan Keishou v Kita-Hiroshima)
  • Komadai Tomakomai v Shirakaba Gakuen

Quadrant 4

  • Sapporo Nichidai v Clark Kokusai
  • Engaru v (winner of Hakodatedai Hakuryou v Asakikawa Ryuukoku)

But as the rounds progressed, the cream naturally rose to the top. The top 4 eventually became Hokkaido Sakae, Asahikawa Jitsugyou, Komadai Tomakomai and Sapporo Nichidai. Only Hokkaido Sakae was the odd man out, but none of the 4 really dominated proceedings up until that point. The games here on continued to be close affairs, with the eventual winner being Komadai Tomakomai winning 7x-6 in 12 over Sapporo Nichidai and then a ridiculous 12-10 over Asahikawa Jitsugyou. Needless to say I don’t necessarily hold high hopes for them at senbatsu.

Tohoku (2)

  • Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima)
  • Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate)

Boy, this super-regional wasn’t even close. Seikou Gakuin shows no sign of stopping, defeating their first 3 opponents 28-2 before Hanamaki Higashi finally played them close, losing 6-4 in the final. Despite Seikou’s dominance, this was their first ever fall title.

The question becomes how strong the region is as Hanamaki Higashi played close games against Kakunodate and Nichidai Yamagata en route to the finals.

Kanto ex Tokyo (4 + 1 floating)

What the heck happened in Kanto? I know I perhaps panned the region in the past, but this field while containing familiar teams, may not be familiar to you.

Quadrant 1

  • Kokugakuin Tochigi (Tochigi 1) v Shiritsu Kawagoe (Saitama 2)
  • Takushoku Kouryou (Chiba 1) v Keiou Gijyuku (Kanagawa 2)

Quadrant 2

  • Meishuu Hitachi (Ibaraki 1) v Yamanashi Gakuin (Yamanashi 2)
  • Kendai Takasaki (Gunma 1) v Toukou Gakuen (Kanagawa 3)

Quadrant 3

  • Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama 1) v Chuo Gakuin (Chiba 2)
  • Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi 1) v Kasumigaura (Ibaraki 2)

Quadrant 4

  • Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa 1) – Bye
  • Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi 2) v Kanto Gakuendai Fuzoku (Gunma 2)

Where there are certainly some big names (Kendai Takasaki, Hanasaki Tokuharu, Sakushin Gakuin, etc), there are a lot of schools here who are of Tier 3 status or worse that have just appeared out of nowhere. While perhaps a refreshing change, those top tier schools are just chomping at the bit to defeat them and move on.

Tokyo (1 + 1 floating bid)

Tokyo is in the midst of determining their group of 16 as games there and everywhere else are rained out to the typhoon. Here’s where we stand:

Quadrant 1

  • Ikubunkan v Kousei Gakuen
  • Toukaidai Takanawadai v Higashi-Yamato

Quadrant 2

  • (Toritsu Hino v Kokushikan) v (Waseda Jitsugyou v Kanto Dai-ichi)
  • Kinjyou Gakuen v Risshoudai Risshou

Quadrant 3

  • Toritsu Shouwa v Nichidai-san
  • Meijidai Nakano v Teikyou

Quadrant 4

  • Nihon Wellness v Nichidai Buzan
  • Meisei v Iwakura

A whole bunch of unknowns with the bigger names looking for easy prey. Though Waseda Jitsugyou v Kanto Dai-ichi is an early blockbuster game.

Toukai (2)

Not much to talk about here, quite a few well-known names:

  • Chuukyou Gakuindai Chuukyou (Gifu 1) v
    • winner of Aichisangyoudai Mikawa (Aichi 2) v Tokohadai Tachibana (Shizuoka 3)
  • Shizuoka (Shizuoka 1) v
    • winner of Inabe Sougou Gakuen (Mie 2) v Gifu Kakamino (Gifu 3)
  • Touhou (Aichi 1) v
    • winner of Tokohadai Kikugawa (Shizuoka 2) v Matsusaka Shougyou (Mie 2)
  • Mie (Mie 1) v
    • winner of Oogaki Nishi (Gifu 2) v Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi 3)

Hokushinetsu (2)

Again some familiar names here as well. Times never change…

Quadrant 1

  • Kanazawa Gakuin (Ishikawa 3) v Toyama Shougyou (Toyama 1)
  • Sakai (Fukui 2) v Saku Chousei (Nagano 2)

Quadrant 2

  • Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama 3) v Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa (Ishikawa 2)
  • Nihon Bunri (Niigata 1) v Fukui Koudai Fukui (Fukui 3)

Quadrant 3

  • Hokuetsu (Niigata 3) v Nihon Wellness Shinano-Chikuhoku (Nagano 1)
  • Hokuriku (Fukui 4) v Seiryou (Ishikawa 1)

Quadrant 4

  • Matsushou Gakuen (Nagano 3) v Kanadzu (Fukui 1)
  • Toyama Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Toyama 2) v Chuuetsu (Niigata 2)

Kinki (6)

Another big region, and more powerhouse names. Tenri however is not among them. Oh well.

Quadrant 1

  • Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama 1) v Riseisha (Osaka 2)
  • Houryuuji Kokusai (Nara 3) v Hieizan (Shiga 2)

Quadrant 2

  • Otokuni (Kyoto 1) v Shinkou Gakuen (Hyogo 3)
  • Chiben Gakuen (Nara 1) v Nishiwaki Kougyou (Hyogo 2)

Quadrant 3

  • Oumi (Shiga 1) v Hidaka Nakatsu (Wakayama 2)
  • Akashi Shougyou (Hyogo 1) v Hikone Higashi (Shiga 3)

Quadrant 4

  • Osaka Touin (Osaka 1) v Kyoto Seishou (Kyoto 2)
  • Kinkidai Fuzoku (Osaka 3) v Takada Shougyou (Nara 2)

Chuugoku (2 + 1 floating bid)

Hiroshima is hosting and as a result gets to qualify 4 teams to the super-regional. Perhaps speaking to the continued weakness of the region, many of the teams appearing here are of Tier 3 quality.

Quadrant 1

  • Tottori Jyouhoku (Tottori 2) v Onomichi (Hiroshima 4)
  • Eishin (Hiroshima 1) v Kurshiki Shougyou (Okayama 2)

Quadrant 2

  • Shimonoseki Kokusai (Yamaguchi 1) v Masuda Higashi (Shimane 3)
  • Shimonoseki Nishi (Yamaguchi 3) v Kaisei (Shimane 1)

Quadrant 3

  • Okayama Gakugeikan (Okayama 1) v Takagawa Gakuen (Yamaguchi 2)
  • Iwami-Chisuikan (Shimane 2) v Okayama Sanyou (Okayama 3)

Quadrant 4

  • Tottori Shougyou (Tottori 3) v Hiroshima Kokusai Gakuin (Hiroshima 2)
  • Setouchi (Hiroshima 3) v Yonago Shouin (Tottori 1)

The way they put the teams into each quadrant confuse me as in 2 of the quadrants, it’s just 2 prefectures. It feels like you should be able to mix the schools more effectively so that there are different prefectures in each quadrant.

Shikoku (2 + 1 floating bid)

They’re not even at the super-regionals yet, though their super-regionals are very short in nature so they can afford to wait until later (though the weather might be a factor for starting earlier anyways.

Kyushu (4)

Kyushu has quite a few well-known names in the super-regional, but one name missing is Shuugakukan. Having lost all of their aces and Kajisha=kantoku retiring, perhaps they will fade into the sunset.

Quadrant 1

  • Souseikan (Nagasaki 1) v Miyakonojyou Higashi (Miyazaki 4)*
    • *defeated Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto 2) 3-2
  • Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa 1)
    • defeated Imari (Saga 2) 8-0

Quadrant 2

  • Nobeoka Gakuen (Miyazaki 1)
    • defeated Chikuyou Gakuen (Fukuoka 2) 5-2
  • Meihou (Oita 1) v Kagoshima Jitsugyou (Kagoshima 2)

Quadrant 3

  • Saga Gakuen (Saga 1) v Nagasaki Shougyou (Nagasaki 2)
  • Tomishima (Miyazaki 2) v Buntoku (Kumamoto 1)

Quadrant 4

  • Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima 1)
    • def Tsurusaki Kougyou (Oita 2) 12x-0 (5 inn)
  • Touchiku (Fukuoka 1) v Kounan (Okinawa 2)*
    • *def Miyazaki Nichidai (Miyazaki 3) 2-1

It looks like the rotation may go to some lower tier schools this time around. Which is good in that they get a chance, but bad in the sense that teams like Osaka Touin and Hanasaki Tokuharu who may reach will supposedly have an easier time of things.

99th Natsu Koushien – Final – Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama) v Kouryou (Hiroshima)

99th Natsu Koushien – Final – Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama) v Kouryou (Hiroshima)

(picture courtesy of Yahoo! and if you know any better Hanasaki Tokuharu you aren’t giving this guy a pitch to hit. Not one.)

Hanasaki Tokuharu

Road to the title

  • def Kaisei (Shimane) 9-0
  • def Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa (Ishikawa) 9-3
  • def Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) 10-4
  • def Moriokadai Fuzoku (Iwate) 10-1
  • def Toukaidai Sugao (Nishi Tokyo) 9-6 (11 inn)

The narrative finally changed with Hanasaki Tokuharu. Sunawaki struggled, the finally use their ace in the hole sending Shimizu in earlier to pitch a longer stint.

And it almost didn’t work because of a rough 9th inning by Iwase. Even still, Shimizu was still required to pitch a longer stint than perhaps they wanted.

So their win unfortunately brings up questions now for Hanasaki Tokuharu that makes this game possibly more interesting. Because if Sunawaki is truly out of gas, then Shimizu has to shoulder the load. Sure, they’re carrying #11 Saitou and #16 Nakamura, but neither were used in very high leverage situations so unless they’re super-secret aces (which I highly doubt), their pitching situation could be a little more uncertain than originally planned.

Oh, and the bottom of the lineup, while it does deliver, still is for the most part a black hole…

Kouryou

Road to the title

  • def Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi) 10-6
  • def Shuugakukan (Kumamoto) 6-1
  • def Seikou Gakuin (Fukushima) 6-4
  • def Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi) 10-4
  • def Tenri (Nara) 12-9

Tenri thought it a good idea to pitch to Nakamura. They were sorely mistaken.

In fact, Nakamura almost single-handedly defeated Tenri by himself driving in 7 of Kouryou’s 12 runs. Why they didn’t pitch around him is beyond me. He was the main danger (though there were others) and you shouldn’t have let him beat you. And yet, you basically gave him the keys to the city.

Kouryou’s question is the pitching duo of Yamamoto and Hiramoto. Yamamoto was battered around a bit, and Hiramoto provided very temporary relief but still had to cede the mound back to Yamamoto to close the game out.

This will not fly against Hanasaki Tokuharu, so they’ll need to find a solution and quick. Either the offense will just need to be gangbusters throughout the game, or Yamamoto needs to find that reserve tank for one last push.

I still expect Hanasaki Tokuharu to win this, and give Saitama their first ever Natsu Koushien title (which is still mind-boggling to me). It’s just not as clear-cut as it was 24 hours ago.

Lineups

Hanasaki Tokuharu

  • CF Tachioka Ren
  • 2B Chimaru Tsuyoshi
  • LF Nishikawa Manaya
  • 1B Nomura Yuuki
  • C Sunaga Hikaru
  • 3B Takai Yuutarou
  • RF Ogawa Megumu
  • P Sunawaki Sui (#10)
  • SS Iwase Tomoharu

Kouryou

  • RF Takada Masaya
  • 2B Yoshioka Hiroki
  • C Nakamura Shousei
  • LF Kagawa Daiki
  • 1B Oohashi Shouki
  • CF Satou Kouji (#13)
  • SS Maruyama Masashi (#15)
  • 3B Matsuoka Naoki
  • P Hiramoto Ginjirou

14:00 – First Pitch!

The pitchers starting for each team suggest that they’re going to run the same strategy. They’re going to run their weaker pitchers out first and then replace with their starters as late as they possibly can. It will be interesting to see which team either blinks first or is forced to change.

Tachioka already getting them off to a quick start with a single back up the middle.

Chimaru doubling down the RF line and already Hanasaki Tokuharu is threatening.

Nishikawa jammed, but bloops a ball that falls in shallow center out of the reach of the scampering fielders. Both runners score and Hanasaki Tokuharu leads 2-0.

They then decide to play small ball and bunt Nishikawa to 2nd, but after a walk, Takai hits into a 4-6-3 double play to retire the side. How will Kouryou respond?

Well, one out and Yoshioka singles through the right side ahead of Nakamura. I’d still walk him, but Hanasaki Tokuharu joins everyone else in pitching to him.

And he thanks them by doubling down the LF line. 2 runners in scoring position, thank you very much.

I DON’T GET IT. THERE IS NO GOOD REASON TO BE PITCHING TO THIS GUY. NONE. ZERO. NADA. ZILCH.

And guess what? Kagawa strikes out on all those outside pitches Sunawaki is feeding the RH batters, and Oohashi weakly hits one back to Sunawaki.

WHY ARE YOU LETTING HIM SWING THE BAT AT ALL?

Hanasaki Tokuharu’s bottom of the lineup still scuffling a bit. Ogawa singles, but after a failed bunt, Ogawa is picked off 1st and run down. Iwase make his AB costly going 10 pitches, but strikes out.

Kouryou finds an answer in the 2nd. Maruyama walked with one down, and Hiramoto, who hits well despite being at the bottom of the lineup (presumably because they’ll have to put weaker hitting Yamamoto there later), doubles down the right field line to make it a 2-1 ballgame!

But the lineup has turned over for Hanasaki Tokuharu and Hiramoto struggles again.

Tachioka walks to start off the inning. A sac bunt and groundout move him to 3rd. He then hits Nomura who steals 2nd without a throw (double steal concerns).

However, that comes back to bite them as Sunaga singles up the middle bringing in both runners and extending Hanasaki Tokuharu’s lead to 4-1.

Kouryou gets one of those runs back again thanks to a Murakami single, a stolen base and a timely double by Oohashi over Tachioka’s head. But at 4-2 Kouryou is losing ground and innings.

Hiramoto’s spot int he lineup comes in the 4th and I figured having retired the bottom third of the order, he’d get his AB and then Yamamoto would come in.

But instead Hiramoto stays in for the 5th. I don’t like that decision.

Tachioka walks, Chimaru singles to right.

And then Nishikawa hits a ball to the right center field wall for a 2-RBI triple making it 6-2. Even then Hiramoto isn’t relieved and it isn’t until Nomura’s single to make it 7-2 that Yamamoto comes in.

Now, Yamamoto gives up a double to right center after a sac bunt, making it 8-2, but you sent him into an unsalvageable situation. If you put him in versus the top of the lineup and he failed, then you were sunk anyways because Hiramoto was not going to do better the third time around.

But with two outs the defense completely capitulates on Kouryou. Takada drops a fly ball and Matsuoka misses on a grounder bringing in 2 more runs on errors. 10-2 and this game has gotten out of hand.

Kouryou gets A run back in the 5th with Takada’s single and Yoshioka’s double. They still pitch to Nakamura who gets an infield single.

Announcers are all like “MAKING A COMEBACK!”

Murakami grounds into 4-3 double play. Oohashi strikes out.

Ehhhhhhhhhhh, nah.

This game is basically over unless Kouryou can get the douten runner in scoring position. That’s about what it’s going to take for me to think that they have a chance again in this game.

Needless to say that doesn’t happen.

Hanasaki Tokuharu in tour de force eliminates the one threat to their title and claim their first, and Saitama’s first ever, Natsu Koushien title with a 14-4 win over Kouryou.

The offense (outside of the bottom third) was unstoppable. Nobody like a Nakamura who was hands and above the rest, but just a lot of good hitters you couldn’t work around.

The pitching? Excellent. They went from the 1st round to the quarterfinals on their RELIEF STARTER. Their ace Shimizu came in late innings, but wasn’t pitching the majority of the game until the semifinals.

And when I saw him come early in the semifinals, it was just about game over. The enchousen semifinal put some doubt, but it was allayed right in the first inning.

They had just about the complete team, and Iwai-kantoku has played his pitching staff to perfection. They’ve earned this title through and through.

99th Natsu Koushien – Semifinals, Game 2 – Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama) v Toukaidai Sugao (Nishi Tokyo)

99th Natsu Koushien – Semifinals, Game 2 – Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama) v Toukaidai Sugao (Nishi Tokyo)

(photo courtesy of Sponichi)

Hanasaki Tokuharu

Road to the title

  • def Kaisei (Shimane) 9-0
  • def Nihon Koukuu Ishikawa (Ishikawa) 9-3
  • def Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) 10-4
  • def Moriokadai Fuzoku (Iwate) 10-1

I can just copy paste the opening bit from their last game. I mean, read this:

One more game has passed, and the story stays the same. Dominated opponents, bottom of lineup struggling, pitching doing enough to win.

The scary part is that their ace Shimizu has only been used in the final innings of games. If he can actually go for longer stretches (and he has before) and he’s been saved until this point, Hanasaki Tokuharu could just run away with this title.

Toukaidai Sugao

Road to the title

  • def Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama) 11-1
  • def Aomori Yamada (Aomori) 9-1
  • def Sanbonmatsu (Kagawa) 9-1

This game is the hardest Toukaidai Sugao has faced so far this tournament with two unstoppable forces colliding here in the semifinals (Tenri and Kouryou thank them both for KOing each other here).

They’ve had a break in that they drew into the later side of the brackets and that they were able to use relief starter Toda in the Aomori Yamada game. However, in the Sanbonmatsu game he was not as effective pitching the final inning putting into question his usability should they need him. This could be a problem for them if ace Matsumoto cannot pitch the entire game.

It is the only question we have about Toukaidai Sugao, but unfortunately it is a big one as we’ve seen the inferior pitching staffs fall by the wayside.

Lineups

Hanasaki Tokuharu

  • CF Tachioka
  • 2B Chimaru
  • LF Nishikawa
  • 1B Nomura
  • C Sunaga
  • 3B Takai
  • RF Ogawa
  • P Sunawaki (#10)
  • SS Iwase

Toukaidai Sugao

  • SS Tanaka
  • RF Matsui
  • 2B Kodama
  • 1B Katayama
  • 3B Okuyama
  • LF Satou
  • CF Ushiyama
  • C Shikakura
  • P Matsumoto

13:20 – First Pitch!

1st Inning

Early on, it appears that offense continues to dominate the day. Though Hanasaki Tokuharu gives a helping hand.

First two batters get on with solid singles. After a sac bunt Sunwaki fires a wild pitch scoring Tanaka, 1-0 Toukaidai Sugao. Okumura singles making it 2-0, just like that.

2nd Inning

Hanasaki Tokuharu gets on the board in the 2nd, thanks to two leadoff hits of their own from Nomura and Sunaga. But they can only manage one run when Ogawa hits a grounder to 2nd.

But Sunawaki’s struggles on the mound continue. He gives up a triple to right center to Ushiyama. 2 batters later, Matsumoto singles back up the middle and they have their 2-run lead again at 3-1.

3rd-5th Innings

The teams continue to trade runs over the next couple of half innings.

Matsumoto gives up 2 walks in the 3rd and allows both to score on a ringing double off of Okumura’s glove. Tie game at 3-3, but not for long…

Because in the bottom of the 3rd, a one out single by Kodama and subsequent walk puts two runners on. 2 batters later Satou hits a double down the right field line scoring Kodama giving Toukaidai Sugao back the lead at 4-3.

But not for long…

Because Ogawa leads the 4th for Hanasaki Tokuharu with a single to center. 2 outs and now on 2nd, Tachioka doubles down the left field line scoring Ogawa and tying the game at 4-4…

Hanasaki Tokuharu finally plays their ace in the hole. Shimizu comes in with one out in the 5th and what would have been Sunawaki’s 3rd time through the order. He immediately shuts down the Toukaidai Sugao offense.

6th-9th Innings

Ace Matsumoto also seemed to have found his stride, but when he was to face the lineup for the 4th time, #11 Toda is sent in in his place. They’re going to ride him the rest of the way.

But in the 8th, he gets into a spot of trouble. An error by Tanaka lets Nomura on. After a sac bunt, Toda hits Takai and walks Ogawa to load the bases.

With the 8-9 batters up Toda might be able to get out of the jam. Shimizu strikes out and he just needs one more.

Instead Iwase comes through with his first hit, lining a double down the left field line scoring 2 and giving Hanasaki Tokuharu the 6-4 lead!

And in the 9th they look to play add-on. Chimaru doubles down the left field line, but they don’t bunt him over. Instead Nishikawa and Nomura are retired. Sunaga would be walked to get to Takai, who was hitless on the day and he strikes out. Still they had the 2-run lead.

The bottom of the 9th went to an auspicious start when Ushiyama’s chopper to short is whiffed at by Iwase. Two batters later, PH Inomata (for Toda) singled to left. 2 runners on, but still nothing to be excited about yet.

That was until leadoff batter Tanaka hit a rip shot to short. Next thing you see, it goes off Iwase and ricochets all the way to right center. Both runners come in to score and before you know it we’re all tied at 6-6.

Shimizu gets the final 2 outs, but the damage has been done and we’re headed to enchousen!

Enchousen

The problem for Toukaidai Sugao is that they’re going to #10 Yamauchi. We hadn’t seen him at Koushien so far, and there’s a good reason why:

  • 2nd Round – v Touhou – 7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 4 K, 2BB
  • Semifinals – v Nichidai-ni – 0.2 IP, 5 ER, 6 H, 1 K

He’s just not that good…

Which means that Toukaidai Sugao is now under a clock. They need to walk off in the next inning or two or else it will all fall apart.

In the bottom of the 10th, they get their chance. Katayama hits a ball up the middle, and while Iwase runs it down he can’t put enough on the throw at 1st.

With a sac bunt, Satou and Ushiyama could end the game with a base hit. But both would ground out to Iwase (whom the ball is seeming to find now) and the inning is over.

Top 11, Nishikawa gets his first base hit with a one out single to right. With 2 outs, Toda throws a wild one allowing him to reach 2nd.

Sunaga hits a grounder to short and while Tanaka would field it, he would have no play. So what seemed innocuous enough has become a potential problem. It doesn’t get any easier when Sunaga steals 2nd without a throw, afraid of the double steal.

PING.

And then Takai drives a ball to right. Matsui scrambles back, leaps, and the ball goes over his glove! Both runners will score as Hanasaki Tokuharu grabs the 8-6 lead!

Things don’t get any better when Ogawa’s ball to second goes off of Kodama for another base hit. Runners at the corners and Toukaidai Sugao threatens for more.

AH! But while Yamauchi strikes out Shimizu, the ball gets away from Shikakura and Takai scores to make it 9-6!

With that, the jig is finally up. Toukaidai Sugao has no recourse now and they know it. They go down in order in the bottom of the 11th to fall 9-6.

So the narrative wound up being right on both accounts. Shimizu for Hanasaki Tokuharu was apparently saved and was able to come in for longer stretches. For Toukaidai Sugao, Toda wasn’t as good as his Aomori Yamada performance and more like his 1 inning of work against Sanbonmatsu.

Once both narratives were the case and Toda was in the game, Toukaidai Sugao was in a lot of trouble. They got a break in the 9th thanks to Iwase, but going to Yamauchi for extra innings meant that they broke the proverbial glass in case of emergency. They weren’t able to end the game quickly and they ended up paying the ultimate price.

So Hanasaki Tokuharu advances to the finals, but they have problems of their own.

  • First, Sunawaki struggled mightily before being relieved by Shimizu. What does he have left in the tank, if any?
  • Shimizu may have been saved, but he came in with one out in the 4th. If it was a regulation game that’s not as much of an issue, but he wound up pitching 7.2 innings. How much does he have left?
  • The bottom of the lineup came through, but they still batted a combined 4-14 (0.285). It hasn’t hurt them so far, will they continue to be able to get away with it?