Category: Team Reviews

99th Natsu Koushien Tier List

PSA: This post is stickied 

So as teams qualify I’ll keep track here what tiers I consider these teams to be in. For purposes of this exercise, the tiers are as follows:

  • Tier 1 – Perennially in contention for Koushien
  • Tier 2 – Can be considered one of the lesser favorites perennially, will make periodic appearances
  • Tier 3 – Above-average team, constantly bumping into and losing to the upper tier teams, may occasionally breakthrough.

So without further ado:

Tier 1

  • Minami Hokkaido – Hokkai (38th appearance, 3rd consecutive)
  • Iwate – Moriokadai Fuzoku (10th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
  • Fukushima – Seikou Gakuin (14th appearance, 11th consecutive)
  • Tochigi – Sakushin Gakuin (13th appearance, 7th consecutive)
  • Chiba – Kisaradzu Sougou (6th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
  • Yamanashi – Yamanashi Gakuin (7th appearance, 2nd consecutive)
  • Hiroshima – Kouryou (22nd appearance, 1st in 3 years)
  • Kagoshima – Kamimura Gakuen (4th appearance, 1st in 5 years)

Tier 2

  • Kumamoto – Shuugakukan (3rd appearance, 2nd consecutive)
  • Oita – Meihou (6th appearance, 1st in 2 years)
  • Okinawa – Kounan (11th appearance, 1st in 2 years)

Tier 3

  • Kita Hokkaido – Takikawa Nishi (3rd appearance, 1st in 19 years)
  • Akita – Meiou (9th appearance, 1st in 8 years)
  • Nagano – Matsushou Gakuen (36th appearance, 1st in 9 years)
  • Kyoto – Kyoto Seishou (3rd appearance, 1st in 19 years)
  • Kagawa – Sanbonmatsu (3rd appearance, 1st in 24 years)
  • Saga – Waseda Saga (1st appearance)
  • Nagasaki – Hasami (3rd appearance, 1st in 16 years)
  • Miyazaki – Seishin (St.) Ursula (2nd appearance, 1st in 12 years)

Upcoming

  • Aomori – Aomori Yamada v Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei
  • Yamagata – Nichidai Yamagata v Yamagata Chuo
  • Saitama – Urawa Gakuin v Hanasaki Tokuharu
  • Ibaraki – Kasumigaura v Tsuchiura Nichidai
  • Niigata – Nihon Bunri v Chuuetsu
  • Shiga – Hikone Higashi v Oumi
  • Mie – Mie v Tsuda Gakuen
  • Kochi – Meitoku Gijyuku v Yusuhara
89th Haru Koushien – Grading the field

89th Haru Koushien – Grading the field

(photo courtesy of Asahi)

So the reviews are done (see the prior posts), the field is set. Where do we stand on all the teams?

Grade Range (Pitching & Defense/Hitting)

  • A – Powerhouse, talent up and down in lineup or on mound, possible draft talent
  • B – Above average, should defeat average team but still struggle against powerhouse
  • C – Average, expected to hold their own against a vanilla team
  • D – Expected to struggle regardless of opponent

Team Summary (Pitching & Defense/Hitting)

Sapporo Dai-ichi : C/C

  • Not much has improved from last year and could actually take a step back on the mound with their defense hurting their grades. That said, the offense may be good enough that they have a better than 50/50 chance against the average team, but not enough to move the needle gradewise.

Sendai Ikuei : B/C+

  • Hasegawa certainly appears to be more than the average pitcher and should lift Ikuei above the fray. The offense may be a tick better than average, but the holes in the lineup prevent them from getting a B grade.

Moriokadai Fuzoku : C/C

  • Using the same template as last year has gotten them one step further than last year, but I’m still not convinced the team is any better than last year where they were basically a coin flip – especially on the mound.

Sakushin Gakuin : C+/B-

  • All credit to Kobari-kantoku for reloading as quick as he has. What’s surprising is that since taking over the team in fall of 2006 he has been to Haru Koushien just once before. He has had a dream of giving his school the famed haru-natsu renzoku yuushou. But as for holding both titles at once, it may not be possible this time around. He’ll probably have to wait another year before going for it. The spring will pave the way for the summer.

Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou : C-/C+

  • Kanekubo’s walk numbers are a bit alarming and could be a major red flag in their bid to advance at Koushien. The offense is passable, but still average. Good enough though to warrant a slight upgrade.

Kendai Takasaki : C/C-

  • The always blue-collar team continues to make more out of less, but there seems to be a lot less this time around, even more so than usual on the offensive front.

Maebashi Ikuei : C±/C+

  • What advantage they may have in a solid 1-9 is lost on the mound. The reason why the grade for the pitching is C± and not just a flat C is that it’s not like their pitching duo can’t strike out batters. The problem is that as well as they can strike them out, the opposition can square up the ball. So it’s a bit of a double edged sword.

Waseda Jitsugyou : C-/A-

  • Waseda trying to be like Shuugakukan – 4 pitchers, but in their case none of which are good. In order for them to win the title they may have to survive high-scoring games because unlike the formula for most champions, the offense will have to fully carry the load.

Nichidai-san : B+/B

  • If you strike out Kiyomiya 5 times in 1 game, you have to be doing something right, and that’s where Sakurai falls into, and yet he still lost to Waseda Jitsugyou. Their offense never really slowed down during their run either, but the barometer of the Waseda game means very little. It could be very easy to move both grades down a tick.

Fukui Koudai Fukui : B-/C+

  • I’ve decided to give Fukui Koudai Fukui the benefit of the doubt. Despite playing against Riseisha’s relief staff, you still can’t deny that giving up 4 runs to the eventual Meiji Jingu champions doesn’t warrant some credit. I’m not sure I can necessarily do the same on offense, so I’m giving them the more conservative grade here.

Takaoka Shougyou : C/C-

  • I can’t really give credit to the team for much right now. Both sides of the ball seem suspect, the offense even more so which is why they were downgraded. It’s possible the pitching could be downgraded as well, but with their ace not pitching until later, it prevents me from doing so.

Shizuoka : B+/C+

  • Shizuoka’s Ikeya will more than likely be one of the better pitchers in the field. The question will be if the offense will be enough to give them enough runs to move on each round. The low output versus Waseda Jitsugyou makes it that much more questionable.

Shigakukan (至学館) : C-(=)/C-(=)

  • On the overall the team should be below average. But because of their ability to hang in games, I think it’s possible that they can play up in any given game and make them competitive.

Riseisha : A-/B(+)

  • Takeda Yuu is in all likelihood the real deal. He may have not shut down completely the Waseda offense, but he certainly looked like a higher round draft pick (plus he won’t have to pitch consecutive days). The offense should beat every average team out there, but with the offense being centered around a couple of players, it’s possible a road bump could derail them.

Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku : B-/B-

  • Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku should be able to advance out of any riff-raff they experience, but I still have questions about their pitching overall and we’ll have to see at Koushien how they perform.

Shiga Gakuen : B-/C

  • Pretty much where they were before. Better than average pitching, average hitting (at best). Any stumbling of the offense in their games could spell an early exit.

Osaka Touin : B-/B-

  • Certainly not the best team Nishitani-kantoku has put out there, but should still be better than most teams. Pitching is not their forte and the offense isn’t firing on all cylinders.

Houtoku Gakuen : C-/C-

  • Houtoku Gakuen reminds me of Shigakukan, but with less upside. The “no-game” against Shiga Gakuen really hurts them in my opinion.

Chiben Gakuen : C+/C+

  • The pitching will probably be enough to beat an average team, but the offense may not be enough to carry the team to 2nd consecutive title.

Takada Shougyou : C+/C-

  • The offense is to put it nicely anemic and could easily be downgraded to a D+ if not for their performance against Chiben Gakuen. But it will cost them in the end

Ube Koujyou : C/C

  • A narrow defeat to Sapporo Dai-ichi at Meiji Jingu reflects the averageness of the team. Nothing on either side of the ball really stands out.

Shiritsu Kure: C-/C-

  • The team still looks like a Tier 3 school despite qualifying for Koushien and as a result their grades reflect as such.

Soushi Gakuen : C/C

  • Soushi Gakuen and Ube Koujyou could have easily switched places had Soushi Gakuen won the semifinal game. We won’t know how good the offense is outside of Chuugoku, which is why they share the same grade.

Meitoku Gijyuku : B-/C+

  • The win over Sakushin Gakuin is a big plus, and the B- goes more for the defense than the pitching which is necessary given their ace. But if Kitamoto gets squared up, there’s no defense that can save him.

Teikyou Dai-go : D+/C-

  • Another Tier 3 school with a makeup that still profiles like one, but got breaks their way. Some good wins against named competition mean that they’re not made completely hopeless. Probably.

Fukuokadai Oohori : A-/B-(C+)

  • Miura also can be considered one of the best pitchers coming into Koushien, maybe even the best. The offense could good enough to hold their own against mid-level competition, but it’s borderline at best.

Toukaidai Fukuoka : C+(B-)/C(+)

  • It probably will require more than the revenge meetup between them and Fukuokadai Oohori to prove the team is better on both sides of the ball. They have the potential to, but it’s going to have be a “show me” kind of situation.

Kumamoto Kougyou : B/C+

  • There is more upside to ace Yamaguchi than Toukaidai Fukuoka’s Yasuda. The only question is if the upside down lineup is just an aberration or there’s something more there.

Shuugakukan : B+/C+

  • They may be down to 2 aces, but they have one more (if not two more) than most teams have which earns them the + grade. The offense is where they can falter still, and it will take a master effort to convince me that Kajisha-kantoku won’t screw things up.

Kozukata : D+/D-

  • For as much of a Cinderella story they are, there is no beating around the bush that they will certainly struggle once they take the field. Kohiruimaki will do his best to keep his team competitive, but the offense will make that awfully difficult.

Tajimi : C-/D+

  • Tajimi’s offense is certainly better off than Kozukata, but the low offensive output means their ceiling is still low. Kawachi won’t be as hard pressed as Kohiruimaki, and perhaps the Shigakukan game will give them some confidence going in. The projected ouen-dan can’t hurt either.

Nakamura : C-/C-

  • Nakamura’s resume is better than the other two, but still questionable. The win against Meitoku Gijyuku is good but the fact the game didn’t matter plus the collapse against Eimei means the team is probably still below average.
Handicapping the field – Nakamura (2nd appearance, 1st in 40 years)

Handicapping the field – Nakamura (2nd appearance, 1st in 40 years)

(photo courtesy of Daily News)

Road to Haru Koushien

Prefecturals

  • def Aki 2-0
  • def Kochi 6-5
  • def Kochi Higashi 4-1
  • def Tosa 5-1
  • def Meitoku Gijyuku 2-0

Super-Regionals

  • lost Eimei 5-7 (13 inn)

At first the picture suggests the team only had 10 men, but that certainly couldn’t have been true because they would have made mention of it. The team though does have just 16 members. (FYI, the team seen in the picture are the 2nd years. The first years were on a trip and were not present for the presentation which is unfortunate because the moment can only happen once).

The resume for Nakamura is the best of the 3, defeating 2 teams that have attended Koushien before, and taking a former participant to 13 innings.

Kitahara Noa (北原 野空) is their ace and the one responsible for shutting out Meitoku Gijyuku giving up just 7 hits, striking out 4 and walking 2. The game against Eimei he could not close it out in the late innings, giving up 3 runs in the final 2 innings eventually capitulating 4 innings later. His combined line in his last 2 games was 4 ER on 23 hits with 10 Ks and 6 BBs.

Offensively, the team has some good and bad news. The good news is that their offense seems to at least carry some weight. No one person really seems to carry the offense, but there may not be a vacuous hole at the bottom of the lineup that other teams carry. In addition they do not strike out at ridiculous rates which would suggest that they’re over their skis. The bad news is that despite the fact that no obvious holes exist, the team versus Meitoku Gijyuku and Eimei were 16-74 or a paltry 0.216.

Still, of all three 21st century teams, it seems that Nakamura may have the best chance of escaping the 1st round. Nakamura’ inclusion into the field of 32 also signals that the JHBF’s method of selecting teams is still a bit of a black box. Tohoku gets more than their fair share of 21st century bids while Kanto and Tokyo do not. Non-baseball criteria only add to a team’s resume, but don’t become the main reason for selection (unless of course you are from Tohoku). Resume is important, but sometimes a team in form isn’t selected (Engaru), perhaps due to times before where they succeeded beyond expectations (Rifu).

Really then what is the 21st century team bids for?

Handicapping the field – Tajimi (1st appearance)

Handicapping the field – Tajimi (1st appearance)

(photo courtesy of Livedoor news)

Road to Haru Koushien

Prefecturals

  • def Kani 4-3
  • def Nakatsu Shougyou 4-1
  • def Gujyou 4-2
  • def Mashita Seifuu 6x-5
  • def Reitaku Mizunami 10-1

Super-Regionals

  • lost Shigakukan 1-2

The resume hinges on one game really. In the prefecturals there was no Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou, no Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou, no Oogaki Nichidai. That didn’t stop them from having close games time and time again before coming through in the prefectural final. In fact, the semifinal against Mashita Seifuu, they scored 5 in the 9th for a gyakten sayonara victory. They scored all 6 runs on just 4 hits.

Really it is the narrow loss to Shigakukan that makes their resume have any sort of validity. Shigakukan themselves had a resume that was so-so, defeating an Aikoudai Meiden that isn’t what it used to be, and then in the super-regionals Chuukyoudai Chuukyou who they missed in the prefecturals.

Kawachi Keita (河地 京太) is their ace, and the one responsible for holding them to just 2 runs on 4 hits, striking out 1 and walking none. The lack of K’s is always a concern, but still 4 hits is pretty good. I can’t find any videos, but this Asahi article talks about him having a ~130 kph fastball with a 90’s slow curve. It probably explains the low K numbers if anything.

The issue for them, much like Kozukata is their offense. 4 of their games they scored 4 or less runs, and if you consider that they had just 1 run against Mashita Seifuu until the bottom of the 9th, it’s clear that the team struggles to get runners home. What offense they do have is mostly situated at the top of the lineup. Each of the top 4 batters almost collects a hit per game. Not great, but better than nothing.

Again, there’s little to go on, but I think that Tajimi will stand more of a chance than Kozukata. What will also help is the possible crowd that will travel down for their game. Maybe it gets close to the size of Shin-Minato’s ouen-dan. But their overall prospects are to maybe win one game, but only if things fall their way.

Handicapping the field – Kozukata (1st appearance)

Handicapping the field – Kozukata (1st appearance)

(photo courtesy of Biglobe news)

Road to Haru Koushien

Morioka Regionals

  • lost Morioka Dai-ichi 0-6
  • def Kounan Gijyuku 9-5
  • def Tairadate 13-3 (6 inn)

Prefectruals

  • def Touno 11-0 (6 inn)
  • def Fukuoka 2x-1 (11 inn)
  • def Morioka Shiritsu 7-1
  • def Hanamaki Nougyou 6-4 (10 inn)
  • lost Moriokadai Fuzoku 0-9

Super-Regionals

  • lost Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei 0-2

10 men. Just 10 men was able to get to the Iwate finals. 10 men to get to the super-regionals.

10 men held Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei to just 2 runs.

Yes their road was easy. Yes they got blown out by Moriokadai Fuzoku. But this is the story that I had in my head when I believed in the romanticism of this game.

Since the team is just 10 players, there really isn’t much to delve into. Their only pitcher in all likelihood is Kohiruimaki Keita (小比類巻 圭汰). Doing yeoman’s work, he pitched in 2 enchousen games, the second of which gave him absolutely no rest to face Moriokadai Fuzoku. So he could easily be forgiven for his collapse in that game. Against Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei he fared much better, giving up 2 runs on 9 hits, striking out 5 and walking 2.

Where the team will really struggle is on offense. In the two games against known teams, they went a combined 6-59 with 22 strikeouts and no walks. 2 of those hits came from RF Iwama Tatsuki (岩間 龍輝).

With 21st century teams it’s much harder to get information on them. They’re generally not followed, most do okay during the aki taikai but not well enough to garner coverage that can be parsed for information. The best video I could find was just an introduction to the team, their current situation with 10 men, and what they were doing to perhaps shore up things for the road ahead.

I won’t beat around the bush here. The team will be outmatched in almost any pairing they have. And if they get a really bad draw, it’s possible it could get really ugly. I hope that doesn’t happen. I hope they draw a lesser opponent and make a somewhat close game out of it. I don’t want to see their work done in by a blowout – even if they know the odds are against them.

Handicapping the field – Takada Shougyou (3rd appearance, 1st in 23 years)

Handicapping the field – Takada Shougyou (3rd appearance, 1st in 23 years)

(photo courtesy of Mainichi Shinbun)

Road to Haru Koushien

Prefecturals

  • def Ouji Kougyou 12-1 (7 inn)
  • def Ikoma 7x-0 (8 inn)
  • def Nara Kita 11-8
  • def Kashihara 7-0 (7 inn)
  • def Takatori Kokusai 2-1
  • lost Chiben Gakuen 4-5

Super Regionals

  • def Wakayama Higashi 9x-8 (13 inn)
  • lost Riseisha 0-7x (8 inn)

The voting methods of the JHBF baffle me at times. While I mentioned in my announcement post that I understood that it would be hard to invite 3 Osaka teams directly at least Uenomiya Taishi could have been the first team out. But instead it was Takada Shougyou’s opponent Wakayama Higashi that sat ahead of them. I guess since in the end neither was going to make it it doesn’t matter, but in principle for me it does. Anyways, we have what we have and Nara gets a 2nd team in the form of Takada Shougyou, which by process of elimination was the only real team left for them to select.

The resume is a bit average. If we took the general state of affairs in Nara, losing narrowly to Chiben Gakuen is not a bad thing. But Chiben Gakuen is in a bit of a rebuilding phase right now, so they’re not as strong as in prior years. The enchousen game against Wakayama Higashi isn’t great either considering the loss of leadership at Chiben Gakuen has created a vacuum of sorts in the prefecture. And then there is the blowout loss to Riseisha where they just managed 2 hits.

Offensively, the team isn’t much better. In their last 4 games, the team as a whole batted 30-127 with their overall slash line being 0.236/0.289/0.315. Their best hitter by far is 2B Ueda Yuuki (上田 有輝) who was 5-16 with 3 RBIs followed up perhaps by CF Nakao Tsubasa (中尾 翼). But with holes all over the rest of the lineup, it’s hard to imagine them having success at Koushien.

What is saving Takada Shougyou right now is their ace, Furukawa Hibiki (古川 響輝). He’s not a fireballer by any stretch of the imagination, his velocity is average at best in the mid 130s. However, he reportedly features 6 pitches – slider, curve, changeup, forkball, cut fastball and shuuto. The quality of each of those pitches may be another story though. Since we have 2 relatively high quality opponents to get data from, let’s take a look at his lines:

  • vs Chiben Gakuen – 8 IP, 5 R, (4 ER), 10 H, 3 K, 2 BB
  • vs Riseisha – 7 IP, 7 R, (6 ER), 6 H, 7 K, 3 BB

Which works out to a 6.00 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP, 6.00 K/9 and 3.00 BB/9. Could be worse against those teams, so on the overall it’s probably ok.

His only problem will be the fact that his offense is so anemic that he’s going to have to find a way to carry the team. And given that his performance against Wakayama Higashi he gave up 8 runs in 9 innings before turning the ball over to Sugita Kouichi (杉田 晃一) I’m not sure it’s going to be enough.

The JHBF was pretty much left in a bind as to who to nominate as the Meiji Jingu bid. But the minute they decided that 3 Osaka teams weren’t possible, there was no choice left. I just have a hard time imagining them being able to go far in the tournament. They may be able to pull off a win or two if given a favorable schedule, but that’s only if they’re lucky.

Handicapping the field – Handcapping the 21st century candidates

Handicapping the field – Handcapping the 21st century candidates

(screencap courtesy of Kyodo News)

That’s the phone call you want to get as the principal of a 21st century candidate. That phone call means that you’ve received an invitation to Haru Koushien. We’re less than a couple of days away from finding out who those 3 teams are.

Just a reminder to the process. Every prefecture nominates a school who has reached at least the Round of 16 in the prefecturals. They may be nominated for their performance on the field, or for overcoming hardships, or for something special the school itself has done that is not necessarily baseball related. Then each super-region (for purposes of this Tokyo is merged back into Kanto) selects one to be their representative for consideration by the JHBF. Finally, the JHBF selects one team from the west (Kinki, Chuugoku, Shikoku, Kyushu), one from the east (Toukai, Hokushinetsu, Kanto, Tohoku, Hokkaido), and one wild-card team.

With that being said, here are the 9 nominees:

  • Hokkaido – Furano
  • Touhoku – Kozukata (Iwate)
  • Kanto – Ishibashi (Tochigi)
  • Hokushinetsu – Toyama Higashi (Toyama)
  • Toukai – Tajimi (Gifu)
  • Kinki – Rakusei (Kyoto)
  • Chuugoku – Kurayoshi Higashi (Tottori)
  • Shikoku – Nakamura (Kochi)
  • Kyushu – Takachiho (Miyazaki)

Let’s try to look at it from several angles. First is geography. 6 prefectures according to my projections will send 2 teams (Tokyo included). If the JHBF wanted diversity, they probably wouldn’t want to invite a team which would give a prefecture 2 teams. Ignoring Hokkaido because it like Tokyo is its own region, the following teams would be left:

  • Hokkaido – Furano
  • Toukai – Tajimi (Gifu)
  • Kinki – Rakusei (Kyoto)
  • Chuugoku – Kurayoshi Higashi (Tottori)
  • Kyushu – Takachiho (Miyazaki)

What about their performances?

Furano

Asahikawa Regionals – “B” Block

  • def Asahikawa Eiryou 7-2
  • def Asahikawa Touei 4-0
  • def Rumi Senbou 18-2 (5 inn)
  • def Asahikawa Meisei 4-3

Prefecturals

  • def Futaba 3-1
  • lost Engaru 2-8

Kozukata

Morioka Regionals

  • lost Morioka Dai-ichi 0-6
  • def Kounan Gijyuku 9-5
  • def Tairadate 13-3 (6 inn)

Prefectruals

  • def Touno 11-0 (6 inn)
  • def Fukuoka 2x-1 (11 inn)
  • def Morioka Shiritsu 7-1
  • def Hanamaki Nougyou 6-4 (10 inn)
  • lost Moriokadai Fuzoku 0-9

Super-Regionals

  • lost Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei 0-2

Ishibashi

Prefecturals

  • def Ashikaga Seifuu 2-1
  • def Takanezawa 3-2
  • def Bunsei Geidai Fuzoku 4-2
  • def Utsunomiya Tankidai Fuzoku 6-0
  • def Hakuoudai Ashikaga 7-3
  • lost Sakushin Gakuin 1-5

Super-Regionals

  • lost Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou 2-5

Toyama Higashi

Prefecturals

  • def Takaoka Kouryou 11-1 (5 inn)
  • def Toyama Hokubu 5-1
  • def Uodzu 10-2 (7 inn)
  • def Toyama Dai-ichi 11-5
  • lost Takaoka Shougyou 2-18

Super-Regionals

  • def Murakami Sakuragaoka 4-2
  • lost Fukui Koudai Fukui 1-11x (5 inn)

Tajimi

Prefecturals

  • def Kani 4-3
  • def Nakatsu Shougyou 4-1
  • def Gujyou 4-2
  • def Mashita Seifuu 6x-5
  • def Reitaku Mizunami 10-1

Super-Regionals

  • lost Shigakukan 1-2

Rakusei

Prefecturals – 1st Stage, “A” Zone

  • def Todou 5-1
  • def Kyoto Kogakkan 6-1
  • lost Kyoto Seishou 2-9 (7 inn)
  • def Todou 8-1

Prefecturals – 2nd Stage

  • def Katsura 1x-0
  • def Ootani 3-1
  • lost Ryuukokudai Heian 0-5

Kurayoshi Higashi

Prefecturals

  • def Tottori Ikuei 8x-1 (8 inn)
  • def Tottori Kougyou 7-2
  • lost Sakai 2-6
  • lost Yonago Shouin 1-6

Nakamura

Prefecturals

  • def Aki 2-0
  • def Kochi 6-5
  • def Kochi Higashi 4-1
  • def Tosa 5-1
  • def Meitoku Gijyuku 2-0

Super-Regionals

  • lost Eimei 5-7 (13 inn)

Takachiho

Prefecturals

  • def Takajyou 5-1
  • def Miyazaki Dai ichi 5-3
  • def Miyakonojyou Higashi 5-1
  • def Miyakonojyou Shougyou 3x-2
  • lost Houshou 2-3x (12 inn)

Super-Regionals

  • lost Reimei 0-5

From the resumes, Ishibashi clearly had the toughest schedule and did hang in there for a while in their 2 losses. Nakamura would probably be next, though one may discount the Meitoku Gijyuku win as it didn’t matter for advancement to the super-regional. Kozukata’s resume would look better without that blowout loss to Moriokadai Fuzoku though like the Nakamura resume, could be discounted because that game didn’t matter either. Tajimi would be the last marginal resume to consider because of the narrow loss to Shigakukan. The rest of the teams have poor resumes.

Last one, what about their stories behind the nomination?

The media was drawn to Kozukata’s story of playing with just 10 men. But they’re not the only one. Rakusei also played the aki taikai’s with just 10 players as well, but they certainly got less coverage than their northern bretheren. The problem is, probably only one of these two teams will get an invite, and Rakusei could be left out in the cold.

Furano’s story is that the ground becomes unusable during the winter that they have to practice in classrooms from most of the winter and even spring (their website says that just a couple of days ago on the 24th it was -29.4 degrees C!). In addition, the baseball club volunteers quite a bit in the community to help develop a connection to the team.

Ishibashi is more known as an academic school than a baseball school. So much so that they even have curriculum activities on Saturdays. The precedence of studies takes away from their ability to practice baseball, but this year made the super-regionals for the first time.

Toyama Higashi is similar to Ishibashi, but in their case it is their baseball players themselves that go on to national universities. And while their situation isn’t special in that they have to share the field with other clubs, it probably stands out more in that the only times they get to practice are on the weekends.

Tajimi had won their first ever fall prefectural tournament this year. They received a lot of support from their city during the prefecturals which impressed many. In addition to the work they do in their own club, they do outreach to elementary school students as well as participation in baseball has declined in the area in recent years.

Kurayoshi Higashi was nominated primarily due to their efforts following an earthquake that hit the region back in October. They still continue to assist the community to this day.

Nakamura was nominated mainly on their victory over Meitoku Gijyuku. The team is notable in that the one time they went to Koushien was for senbatsu in 1977. That team had only 12 members yet advanced all the way to the finals defeating teams such as Kaisei and Tenri before losing to Minoshima in the finals. Minoshima would go on the next couple of years to be a force at Koushien.

Takachiho is regarded as a spiritual location of sorts in Shinto mythology. But being located deep in the mountains, it is one of many locations experiencing a decline due to the younger populations moving to the cities. Worse yet, the only rail line to the area was closed in 2008 when a typhoon blew out 2 crucial bridges and there was no money to rebuild the line. The school is actively working to revitalize the area and reverse the trend. This was also their first ever trip to the Kyushu super-regionals.

So where do we stand? Let’s take a look at the list again:

  • Hokkaido – Furano
  • Touhoku – Kozukata (Iwate)
  • Kanto – Ishibashi (Tochigi)
  • Hokushinetsu – Toyama Higashi (Toyama)
  • Toukai – Tajimi (Gifu)
  • Kinki – Rakusei (Kyoto)
  • Chuugoku – Kurayoshi Higashi (Tottori)
  • Shikoku – Nakamura (Kochi)
  • Kyushu – Takachiho (Miyazaki)

One of the 2 schools who fielded a team of 10 is going. And here I really believe Rakusei gets the short end of the stick. Not only does Kozukata have the same story, they’re from the Tohoku region, and that’s always a plus. Chances are they will get the Eastern bid.

That eliminates Rakusei from consideration, but maybe Nakamura as well. The story of their only Koushien run is too similar to Kozukata and Rakusei it makes it hard for me to believe that they will get a bid. Also, the JHBF seems to be always late to award a team a bid based upon performance. Engaru was a prime example having been passed up in 2011. They did get an invite 2 years later, but the team wasn’t what it was. Nakamura lost in the summer finals to Meitoku Gijyuku and then came back to win in the fall.

From that reasoning, we’re left with Kurayoshi Higashi and Takachiho. Kurayoshi Higashi gets a plus for being nominated due to their efforts after an earthquake. But Takachiho efforts at revitalization in a rural area cannot be dismissed either.  I think the fact that Kurayoshi Higashi has been to Koushien and somewhat recently may be the tie-breaker and as a result Takachiho gets the Western bid.

That leaves us with the wild card bid. By the process of elimination, we’re basically left with Furano, Ishibashi, Toyama Higashi and Tajimi. Ishibashi and Toyama Higashi have a problem in that they’re both nominated for academic reasons. Worse for Ishibashi is that they’ll probably suffer the same fate as Nakamura and by proxy Toyama can’t get the bid because Ishibashi would have been the better candidate for educational purposes and if they’re not getting it, Toyama Higashi shouldn’t either. Furano’s situation is certainly extreme, having to practice for over a third of the year in classrooms and hallways. But it’s not unique either.

Which leaves us with Tajimi. The resume is not strong outside of the lost to eventual runner-ups Shigakukan, but they have the benefit of having a very supportive ouen-dan which would be a big plus to the atmosphere of the stadium. I can remember seeing the baby blues of Shin-Minato extending up and down the side of the stadium going from the outfield all the way to home plate. It was a sight to behold. So probably, Tajimi will get the wild-card bid. If not them them it would be either Furano or Ishibashi.

So my final prediction of bids are slightly different than ラガーさん. I am not choosing Nakamura, but Takachiho instead with the following selections:

  • Western – Takachiho
  • Eastern – Kozukata
  • Wild-card – Tajimi