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89th Haru Koushien – Day 3, Game 2 – Shiga Gakuen (Shiga) v Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou (Chiba)

89th Haru Koushien – Day 3, Game 2 – Shiga Gakuen (Shiga) v Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou (Chiba)

(photo courtesy of Chunichi)

I’m desperately seeking barometer games, and this one should do nicely as well. The Kinki region looks really strong, and the one Kanto ex Tokyo team that has played had a respectable win, but not necessarily dominating.

Shiga Gakuen’s resume was okay, especially playing Riseisha narrowly. Seeing Houtoku Gakuen play it might bump up that resume just a bit. Also returning both of their Koushien starters from last year is a big help as they certainly could be better for the experience. The offense could be their downfall though and that may or may not help against this opponent.

Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou makes it partially on the back of their ace, but he faltered late in parts because the walk bugaboo began to haunt him, so it’s a question if Shiga Gakuen will be able to take advantage of that should it arise. But their offense could be similar to Maebashi Ikuei so if Shiga Gakuen’s pitchers are on their game we could be in for a close low-scoring game.

Shiga Gakuen

  • CF Shindou Tsukasa
  • SS Kohama Ryouji
  • C Gotou Katsuki
  • LF Takei Ryuuji
  • 1B Chinen Ryoutomo
  • 3B Yamamoto Shunpei
  • RF Tai Kaishuu
  • P (#10) Tarahara Kouta
  • 2B Nakanishi Ryouta

Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou 

  • C Shishikura Kenta
  • SS Fujimoto Akihiro
  • LF Arakawa Taichi
  • P Kanekubo Yuuto
  • 1B Oono Taichi
  • RF Tsukamoto Tsubasa
  • 3B Higuchi Keisuke
  • CF Tsukagoshi Daiki
  • 2B Kujirai Yoshiro

11:35 – First Pitch!

Kanekubo not sharp to start. Shindou singles to right on the first pitch and after taking 2nd, Gotou is hit on the head on the first pitch (not serious).

Now Kanekubo can hit mid 140s with a slider in the low 120s, as well as a forkball and curveball. He almost gets out of the inning, but Chinen reaches down, chops a ball up the 3rd base line that catches Higuchi in between and bounces into foul territory. Shiga Gakuen quickly up 1-0. The pitch wasn’t bad, just a good get and an unfortunate in-between play.

Tarahara seemingly your run of the mill pitcher. Mid 130s fastball with slider and curve. Toukaidai makes him work early on and is paid off when Arakawa singles up the middle. However, he’s picked off by a great move from Tarahara and the inning ends.

Since then Kanekubo has settled down while Tarahara is managing his game. 2 out single and walk in the 2nd could have been troublesome until he got Tsukagoshi to ground out to 3rd.

In the 3rd though a leadoff hit off of Kohama’s glove comes home when Fujimoto’s single to center leads to a throw home that hits the back netting. Kujirai had held up, so it was clearly unnecessary. Tie game 1-1 and Tarahara laboring a bit.

Yet, despite getting it level, Kanekubo struggles again in the 4th. Combination of missed pitches and patient batters led to 2 walks and a manrui situation. However, Shiga Gakuen could only get 1 with a sac fly to right, ekeing out a 2-1 lead.

We finally get a report on Tarahara’s repetoire – curve, slider, changeup and cutball. Seems like he should be more than managing, but I think it’s the control that’s betraying him in the game.

And so it was in the 5th when he hit Kujirai to lead off the inning. After a sac bunt, Fujimoto gets down enough on a curveball to ground it up the middle for a base hit, tying the game once again at 2-2. Tarahara prevents further damage, but as we hit the break, it’s a 4-inning game.

Can’t tell what Tarahara is doing with Chinen, but that’s the 2nd straight walk to him, this time on 4 pitches. Here, they elect to bunt him over to scoring position.

But on a ground ball more up the middle than to the right side, he’s caught in a pickle for the 2nd out. Eventually Tai replaces him at 2nd to reset the situation, but Tarahara grounds to 2nd.

The game enters a period where both pitchers settle in. Neither making a big mistake on the mound as the innings tick by. That’s not to say they’re picture perfect hitting the glove every time. But there’s no real opportunities to break the deadlock.

With the game closing in on effectively sudden death, Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou uses a 1-out single by Kanekubo and bunt him to second for a one-timer. They work around Tsukamoto also to create a force, but it’s not necessary as Higuchi goes down swinging. And with that we enter sudden death.

Immediately Yamamoto takes a fastball back up the middle. But it doesn’t look like Tai is bunting until Kanekubo goes home where he successfully lays it down. Problem is the 8-9 batters are up and haven’t recorded a hit. Tarahara flies out to right, moving the runner 90 feet. Nakanishi puts good bat on the ball, but Oono smothers it and goes to 1st to end the inning.

Top 10, and Shiga Gakuen looks to end it in one frame. Shindou with a swing and drive to left. Arakawa to the fence, slides, but can’t secure it and Shindou is in with a double. However, Arakawa is still down and when the umpire comes out, he immediately calls for the stretcher. He’s carried back but he’s looks in substantial pain. #15 Wakaba comes in short order to take over the position.

Back to the game, Shiga Gakuen moves the runner to 3rd for the heart of the lineup. Gotou hits a hard ground ball, but right to Fujimoto and Shindou has to hold.

However, the futility of the 3-4 batters continue. Takei grounds to Fujimoto as well and the side is retired making the duo 0-9 on the day.

The longer we go into enchousen, the more the offences press for the run and play into the pitchers, who have really found their grooves.

Kanekubo meanwhile hit 150 pitches to end the 11th, Tarahara hits 150 to start the 12th.

Gotou finally gets a hit between the 3-4 batters with one down in the 12th. Interestingly Takei, who had been struggling all day isn’t asked to bunt. He’s retired for the 2nd out remaining hitless. Chinen is given his 3rd free pass to bring up Yamamoto. He can only chop a fastball to 3B so the deadlock remains.

Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou meanwhile tries to jump on the little momentum that might have given. Oono dumps a curve to center. Tanahara leaves a ball over the middle and Tsukamoto singles through the right side. Sayonara run in scoring position.

Higuchi makes contact, but on the end of the bat and a flyout to left. The pressure really mounts as Tsukamoto, who also is hitless, freezes on an outside fastball. 2 innings to go.

Kanekubo gives up the dreaded leadoff walk to Tai, who has also been 0-for this game. Tarahara is looking to bunt but instead Kanekubo falls behind 3-1. The bunt is still on, but he misses and the count is full!

Grounder to 1st. Oono right at the bag, tags it, goes to 2nd, but oh no! He throws it wide! Tai comes home and without the benefit of a hit Shiga Gakuen takes the 3-2 lead!

Things rapidly go downhill after that. The next three batters quickly get base hits extending the lead to 5-2, with even Takei getting his first hit, a double to the RCF wall for an RBI and a 6-2 game. The inning finally ends when Yamamoto grounds into a double play, but the damage is more than done. 3 outs, 4 runs to get.

At this stage of the game, that’s just too much to ask for them. It’s 3 up, 3 down as Tarahara brings the game home. The teams were certainly evenly matched, and it was just attrition on the mound that made the difference. You really have to wonder if Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou should have gone to their bullpen, but unfortunately, this is kokoyakyu and this is what happens. Have to feel bad for Kanekubo because he pretty much gave everything he could.

Handicapping the field – Fukuokadai Oohori (4th appearance, 1st in 26 years)

Handicapping the field – Fukuokadai Oohori (4th appearance, 1st in 26 years)

(photo courtesy of Daily Sports)

Road to Haru Koushien

Regionals – Minami “B” Block

  • def Nanchiku 10-1 (7 inn)
  • def Ogoori 11-0 (5 inn)
  • def Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu 6-2
  • def Fukuoka Seiryou 6-3


  • def Jiyuugaoka 4-0
  • def Chikuyou Gakuen 10-5
  • def Toukaidai Fukuoka 11-2


  • def Oita Shougyou 6-0
  • def Kagoshima Jitsugyou 2-0
  • def Shigakukan 5-0
  • def Toukaidai Fukuoka 4x-3

Meiji Jingu

  • def Meitoku Gijyuku 2-0
  • lost Waseda Jitsugyou 4-6

Who would’ve thought that a Fukuoka team would have won the Kyushu super-region? The same Fukuoka prefecture who despite a large population has years and years of futility? And who would have thought that the team to do it would be a Tier 3 school of all things in Fukuokadai Oohori, and that they’d actually make a game of it against Waseda Jitsugyou?

So? How did they do it?

Well, you don’t shut out as many teams as they did without pitching, right? Well, their “championship or bust” ace is Miura Ginji (三浦 銀二).  From the video he generally sits in the mid 130s, but can turn it up to 140. He has a slider and changeup in the 120s and a curve hovering around 100. His combined line for the super-regionals and Meiji Jingu tournament was the following:

  • 6 CG, 9 ER, 38 H, 51 K, 16 BB for a 1.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 8.50 K/9, 2.667 BB/9, 3.188 K/BB

Against the competition shown, those numbers are pretty darned good. Especially when you take into account he struck out 9 in the Waseda game. He did walk 4 and gave up 12 hits as well, but it was on 0 days rest – though you could argue that he’ll have to do that eventually if his team is to win. That might be the only hangup for Miura, the condensed schedule if they move to the final.

Remember how I was mentioning with Meitoku Gijyuku how the offensive numbers went down when they went to Meiji Jingu? One of their players actually had a better line at Meiji Jingu. He is C Koga Yuuto (古賀 悠斗). His lines were:

  • Super-Regionals – 4-13, 2 RBI
  • Meiji Jingu – 5-8, 2B, HR, 2 RBI

But the thing is, the offense as a whole was rather anemic relatively speaking:

  • *48-184, 7 2B, HR, 24 K, 24 BB for a 0.261/0.323/0.315 team line.

*I was unable to find XBH data for the Oita Shougyou game.

If we take out Koga and Miura’s numbers the lines get significantly worse. So this is a case where Miura will need to shoulder a majority of the burden. Not that they can’t score runs, but they probably can’t survive a high scoring game. If they have to score more than say 5 runs, they could be in trouble. But the good news is that they have an ace that could carry them all the way, which is more than many teams who are going to qualify could say.

Handicapping the field – Meitoku Gijyuku (17th appearance, 2nd consecutive)

Handicapping the field – Meitoku Gijyuku (17th appearance, 2nd consecutive)

(photo courtesy of Kochi Shinbun)

Road to Haru Koushien


  • def Tosa Jyuku 8-0 (7 inn)
  • def Kochi Kougyou 7x-0 (7 inn)
  • def Okou 3-0
  • lost Nakamura 0-2


  • def Tokushima Kita 13-1 (6 inn)
  • def Uwajima Higashi 2-0
  • def Saibi 10-2 (8 inn)
  • def Teikyou Dai-go 11-2

Meiji Jingu

  • def Sakushin Gakuin 7-2
  • lost Fukuokadai Oohori 0-2

Meitoku Gijuku makes its 4th consecutive calendar Koushien appearance off of an unexpected Natsu Koushien run to the semifinals, which was aided somewhat by a favorable schedule. They’ve lost most of their roster, especially their pitching staff, and yet they still managed to win the Shikoku super-region and “avenge” their loss to Sakushin Gakuin in the aforementioned semi-final. The question is, what type of team remains after the shakeup?

Their new ace is Kitamoto Yuuto (北本 佑斗). From the video, he throws a two-seamer in the high 120s-low 130s, with a slow curve in the 100s. There may be a slider in the video, but we have no velocity record of it. And in a clip from their final against Teikyou Dai-go he also seems to have a changeup in the high 110s. Interestingly, he actually wore #11 during the prefecturals and super-regionals and yet got the majority of the time on the mound. However, his peripherals are not great. In fact his best game was the Tokushima Kita game where he struck out 4 while walking none in 5 innings of work:

  • v Tokushima Kita – 5 IP, 0 ER, H,  4 K, 0 BB
  • v Uwajima Higashi – CG, 0 ER, 5 H, 7 K, 7 BB
  • v Saibi – 8 IP, 2 ER, H, 2 K, 6 BB
  • v Teikyou Dai-go – 8 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 5 K, 8 BB
  • v Sakushin Gakuin – CG, 2 ER, 10 H, 6 K, 4 BB
  • v Fukuokadai Oohori – CG, 2 ER, 8 H, K, BB

For a total line of 3 CG, 47 IP, 6 ER, 27 H, 25 K, 26 BB. That works out to a 1.106 WHIP, 4.787 K/9, 4.979 BB/9 and a 0.962 K/BB ratio.  The WHIP is great, but when you look at his high BB rate and his low K rate, it’s a big red flag for Koushien. If anything, the blueprint for them is the Sakushin Gakuin game. A lot of balls in play, but good defense to help keep the game manageable. And I wouldn’t bother using any of the other pitchers as when they were implemented, they immediately gave up a run, including former ace number Ichikawa Yuuta (市川 悠太) who gave up the 2 runs in the Teikyou Dai-go game on 4 hits, while striking out 2 and walking 1.

Offensively it’s a mixed bag. In their game history, there are blowout games, and then there are games where they severely struggle on offense. One big example is 1B Kugo Kenta (久後 健太) who was 10-15 with 6 RBIs in the super-regionals, but was 2-7 at Meiji Jingu. You can look at SS Imai Ryousuke (今井 涼介) was 8-14 with 2 2Bs and 4 RBIs in the super-regionals, but also was 2-7 at Meiji Jingu though one of his hits was a HR.

The offensive output they showed means that they can beat up on the lower tier teams at Koushien. But the inconsistency means that they could just as easy turn belly-up against a no-name.

Handicapping the field – Soushi Gakuen (3rd appearance, 2nd consecutive)

Handicapping the field – Soushi Gakuen (3rd appearance, 2nd consecutive)

(photo courtesy of

Road to Haru Koushien

Regionals (incl repechage)

  • def Shuujitsu 9-2 (8 inn)
  • lost Okayama Asahi 1-2
  • def Meisei Gakuin 11-1 (5 inn)
  • def Okayama Asahi 8-0 (7 inn)


  • def Kurashiki Minami 4-0
  • def Kurashiki Kougyou 7-2
  • lost Tamashima Shougyou 3-4x (14 inn)
  • def Okayama Shoudai Fuzoku 8-0


  • def Masuda Higashi 5-0
  • def Kanzei 9-3
  • lost Ube Koujyou 2-3

Soushi Gakuen followed up the controversial summer final with a run which in all likelihood will allow them to fall into the floating bid. But there are no real quality wins and a couple of losses that make you scratch your head a bit.

The ace is Nanba Yuuhei (難波 侑平), who actually came in relief in the loss to Moriokadai Fuzoku this past summer. His numbers weren’t terrible (2.1 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 3 K, 1 BB), but when pressed to a longer stint, it seems to drop off. Combined with reliever Akiyama Tatsuhiko’s (秋山 竜彦) stats, they struck out 8 batters while walking 9 in the three games meaning that we’re talking about a 2.67 K/9 rate and a 3 BB/9 walk rate. And in an already considered weak super-region, those numbers are certainly expected to get worse.

Back to Nanba, in that Natsu Koushien he actually started in LF and then took over after Takada gave up a 2-run HR to extend Moriokadai Fuzoku’s lead to 10-7. His fastball seems to be in the upper 130s, there appears to be a shuuto/sinker in the low 130s, and then a forkball in the upper 110s/lower 120s. It took a couple of times for me to figure out what the pitches were though because from the movement it wasn’t immediately ascertainable. Nanba lacked control on his pitches, and if I had trouble figuring out what the pitches are, I imagine that that the pitches themselves aren’t all that great. Combined with the fact the pitches themselves aren’t what you would consider out pitches, it also makes sense why his K numbers aren’t all that stellar either meaning he has to lean on his defense.

Where they certainly don’t seem to be lacking is on offense, as they recorded double digit hits in every game in the super-regionals save for the loss to Ube Koujyou and even then they still recorded 8 hits. By far, the two best hitters are their leadoff batter CF Yamamoto Aoi(?) (山本 蒼) who was 9-14 with 3 RBIs, and the aforementioned Nanba who was 6-13 also with 3 RBIs. Though again, if one of your better hitters is your pitcher, that generally spells trouble (Ootani aside, yes I know).

So in some ways they’re in the same boat as Shiritsu Kure, with the offense needing to carry the day. Unlike Shiritsu Kure it seems like they have a higher upside which means that they may at least be able to steal a game. But long-term it’s unsustainable an outage in any game spells almost certain doom.

Handicapping the field – Ube Koujyou (appearance, 1st in 2 years)

Handicapping the field – Ube Koujyou (appearance, 1st in 2 years)

(photo courtesy of @shofu_kumeraman)

Road to Haru Koushien


  • def Saikyou 2-0
  • def Ube Kougyou 10-3 (7 inn)
  • def Hikari 7-2
  • def Tokuyama Shoukou 10-3 (7 inn)
  • def Kumage Minami 13-5


  • def Sakai 5-1
  • def Karyou 11-5
  • def Soushi Gakuen 3-2
  • def Shiritsu Kure 13-2

Meiji Jingu

  • lost Sapporo Dai-ichi 5-6x

From almost nowhere, Ube Koujyou has come into their own in Yamaguchi prefecture. Now, of course Yamaguchi-ken isn’t all that great of a baseball prefecture, so one could argue that the hurdle to clear is low. True, but it also means that in general most of the powerhouses in the prefecture attract what talent doesn’t leave for elsewhere.

The player predominantly keeping the opposing offense in check is ace Waseda Reo (早稲田 玲生). He is your prototypical average ace, throwing in the mid-130s with a slider, curve, but does have an additional changeup.

Relieving him is actually his 1B Aratake Yuudai (荒武 悠大).  No data on his pitches other than he throws probably in the low 130s.

What is of concern is that the pitching really puts the balls into play. In the two benchmark games (Soushi Gakuen & Sapporo Dai-ichi), the two pitchers put up the following lines:

  • Waseda – 2 G, 16.1 IP, 6 ER, 21 H, 4 K, 2 BB
  • Aratake – 1 G. 1.1 IP, ER, 2 H, BB

Which certainly means that there is a minuscule margin of error, and that’s why you see them in close games, both low and high scoring games.

That means the offense has to step up to accommodate the pitching. But the two batters I can see who make a big difference are their leadoff hitter LF Furutani Shingo (古谷 慎吾), and their cleanup hitter, SS Shimatani Shouhei (嶋谷 将平). Neither of them are power hitters, but they are gap hitters who can hustle a double or possibly a triple. But the rest of the team will need to step up if they want to have a shot. And I’m just not convinced that they will be able to do it.

So they’re another team that might be able to hang in there, but will prolly not win a blowout game, and are susceptible to be on the losing side of one.

Handicapping the field – Houtoku Gakuen (21st appearance, 1st in 3 years)

Handicapping the field – Houtoku Gakuen (21st appearance, 1st in 3 years)

(photo courtesy of zebura nubaronn‘s YouTube channel)

Road to Haru Koushien

Regionals – Hanshin D Block

  • def Itami Nishi 10-0 (6 inn)
  • def Kenritsu Itami 11-0 (5 inn)
  • def Takaradzuka Higashi 5x-4

Prefectuals – D Block

  • def Himeji Shikisai 10-0 (6 inn)
  • def Tsuna 6-4
  • def Higashi Harima 5-1
  • def Shiritsu Amagasaki 4-2


  • def Ikuei 5-3
  • lost Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku 1-2


  • def Higashiyama 9-7
  • lost Shiga Gakuen 0-1

Houtoku Gakuen’s resume isn’t really all that enthusing to anyone who reads it. The game against Takaradzuka Higashi technically didn’t matter as both advanced to the prefecturals. But then there’s the Tsuna game where they faltered late, the Shiritsu Amagasaki, Ikuei and Higashiyama games where they had to come from behind late, and the finally the Shiga Gakuen game where they were just to be rather blunt – feckless.

No quality wins, and yet here they are more than likely going to receive a bid because in a had-to-have game, they played Shiga Gakuen close, even if they did almost nothing.

They are in the Kinki region though, so it’s not like their so-so resume doesn’t mean that they have little to no chance to advance. But it does make their margin of victory a bit smaller.

Nishigaki Masaya (西垣 雅矢) is the team’s ace. No speed figures for him that I can find, but in the video, it looks like he has a slider/curve combo, and it doesn’t look like he throws extremely fast, meaning he probably sits in the mid-130s. Interestingly, the other pitcher that they went to in the super-regionals was actually their 3B Ikegami Hayate (池上 楓). Obviously from that angle it’s difficult to figure out what he has or how fast, but there’s certainly a curve/changeup in there, and probably a slider at least.

Boxscores are tough to come by in Hyogo prefecture, so all I have are the super-regional games, and 2 games is a really small sample size to work with. Worse yet, that aforementioned feckless game against Shiga Gakuen, the team as a whole managed just 3 hits, all at the top of the lineup. That combined with the game against an unknown Higashiyama team makes it all the more harder to make heads or tails of them.

I did manage to find some things though. Their C Kantou Yuusuke (神頭 勇介) and SS Kozono Kaito (小園 海斗) were on the 2015 U-15 Japan team where they went 4-9 with a 2B and an RBI and 2-9 with a 3B and an RBI respectively against Chinese Taipei in the Asia Challenge Cup. They’re certainly not without talent, but the question is whether there is enough there to be competitive. Both players don’t seem to be power hitters, and yet Kantou sits in the #5 spot in the lineup. That isn’t a great sign for them.

As a result, I could easily see them struggling against rural regional teams (i.e Shikoku, Chuugoku, Tohoku), and could easily be one-and-done if they draw a metropolitan team. And if it weren’t for the other 2 quarter-finalists losing badly, I’d say their position in the tournament would be more at risk to a team like Uenomiya Taishi who at least beat Riseisha (though that game didn’t really matter).

Handicapping the field – Shiga Gakuen (2nd appearance, 2nd consecutive)

Handicapping the field – Shiga Gakuen (2nd appearance, 2nd consecutive)

(photo courtesy of Kyoto Shinbun)

Road to Haru Koushien


  • def Echiko/Nagahama Nougyou/Notogawa 7x-0 (8 inn)
  • def Torahime 12-0 (5 inn)
  • def Hieizan 6-2
  • def Hachiman Shougyou 10-0 (5 inn)
  • def Oumi 4x-3 (14 inn)

Super Regionals

  • def Chiben Wakayama 13x-6 (8 inn)
  • def Houtoku Gakuen 1-0
  • lost Riseisha 3-6

Shiga Gakuen makes good on last year’s performance, returning to Haru Koushien after a good showing their first time out. They defeated the teams they perhaps should have, but at the same time were put back in their place by eventual champs Chiben Gakuen. While they did not reach Natsu Koushien, they revenged their finals loss to Oumi in the prefectural finals. Chiben Wakayama is not the team it has been in the past, and the same could be said for Houtoku Gakuen. And as mentioned in the Riseisha review, while Shiga Gakuen caught them at the right time losing the game 6-3 is far from disgraceful. The question will have to be whether or not their squad has improved over last year to become contenders.

The team returns both starters from last year – ace Kamimura Hikari (神村 月光) and reliever Tanahara Kouta (棚原 孝太). Kamimura throws in the upper 130s with a wide variety of pitches including a slider, changeup, splitter, curve and shuuto, though he didn’t strike out a ton of batters at Koushien outside of the Kiryuu Dai-ichi game. Also this year Tanahara is getting more usage it seems, spot starting Kamimura at times. I didn’t have much data on him as others as I slowly have a harder and harder time staying up late for games, but in terms of velocity he sits about average in the mid-130s. The extra year of experience certainly will benefit them, it’s just a matter of if they’ve been able to progress as pitchers though the margin of error still is razor thin.

Offensively the team has a massive black hole at the bottom of the lineup. The 7-9 batters went a combined 6-42 (0.143) in the super-regionals and half of those hits came in the wacky Chiben Wakayama game where they scored 9 unanswered runs to trigger the mercy rule and scored all 13 runs on just 14 hits. Oh, and they only walked twice in the game as well.

Probably the most consistent hitter is actually their #6 batter 3B Yamamoto Shunpei (山本峻平) who was 6-12 in the super-regionals though he wasn’t really an run producer. SS Kohama Ryouji (小浜 崚史) was more productive though inconsistent hitting 7-13 with a HR and 3 RBIs, but went 0-4 in the Houtoku Gakuen game. For reference though, that one run was actually a home run hit by Chinen Yoshitomo(?) (知念 良智).

In the end I think Shiga Gakuen is still in the place it was last year. Good enough to beat the riff-raff, but not necessarily good enough to beat the top competition. They may not be disgraced doing so, but they’ll still fall nonetheless.