Monday, November 23, 2009

82nd Spring Koshien Team Recap

With the fall regional tournaments concluded we have a good idea of who will be heading to Koshien next spring. Also, it appears that 2 of the at-large bids (non-21st century teams) have been awarded to the following regions:
  • Tokyo + Kanto
  • Chuugoku + Shikoku
In other words, they will grant a bid to a team from Tokyo or Kanto regions, and a bid to a team from the Chuugoku or Shikoku regions.

And in something I didn't realize, one bid goes to the region of the winning team in the Meiji Jingu Fall Tournament! That means that Oogaki Nichidai's win gives the Tokai region another bid!!

Giving each region the following bids:
  • Hokkaido - 1
  • Tohoku - 2
  • Kanto - 4 (+1?)
  • Tokyo - 1 (+1?)
  • Hokushinetsu - 2
  • Tokai - 3
  • Kinki - 6
  • Chuugoku - 2 (+1?)
  • Shikoku - 2 (+1?)
  • Kyushu - 4
The final three 21st century bids will go to teams from the regions not already granted an extra bid.

So let's take a look at the probable participants! Note that I'm assuming the automatic bids go in order of finish at each super-regional. This is not necessarily the case.

Hokushou (Hokkaido) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 10 years
Hokushou is led by ace Matano Tomoya (又野 知弥) who only throws around 138 km/h (~86 mph) with a curve, slider and forkball. He's probably more of an offensive ace more than anything else, manning the all-important cleanup spot. Another person to watch may be Oono Masaya (大野 雅也), a 1st-year who plays 1st and generally bats 3rd. Without a dominant ace, it'll be hard to see this team go deep into the tournament unless the offense can go on a long hot streak.

Matano Tomoya videos - Here and here

Akita Shougyou (Akita) - 6th appearance, 1st in 4 years
Akitashou gets another chance at Koshien with ace Kataoka Motoki (片岡 元気) at the helm. He throws a 140 km/h fastball with a large curve and slider. He managed to give up only 1 run in the super-regionals against the likes of Ichinoseki Gakuin, Honjyou and Moriokadai Fuzoku. Again though, coming out of a weaker region means that Kataoka will face better competition and will certainly be put to the test.

In the Meiji Jingu tournament, Akitashou was blanked by Takashou 7-0 further weakening their prospects for the spring.

Moriokadai Fuzoku (Iwate) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 7 years
Shiraishi Takehiro (白石 猛紘) inherits the #1 uniform after Kanazawa Yuusuke graduated. However, he struggled in the super-regionals against the likes of Senshuudai Kitakami and Seiai. Barring an easy matchup, they may be a one-and-done team.

Shiraishi Takehiro video - Here

Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa) - 8th appearance, 1st in 4 years
Um, have I mentioned Hifumi Shinta (一二三 慎太) enough already? Standing at 6' tall, he can throw 149 km/h (~92-93 mph) and sports a curve, slider, fork and sinker. He's already garnered the interest of the NPB ballclubs. The offense certainly looks serviceable, but at the same time the team hasn't faced a lot of tough competition except for perhaps Hanasaki Tokuharu.

The Meiji Jingu tournament may be a better indicator of the teams ability. And a commanding performance by Hifumi over Teikyou certainly bore that out. We also got a chance to see their relief pitcher Egawa Kyousuke (江川 恭介) in the finals when Hifumi was suffering from a nail issue. He held his own in the rain, but gave Oogaki many opportunities in the latter half of the finals. He can throw for a couple of innings and certainly should have a longer hook than other complimentary pitchers, but I don't think he'll be able to spell Hifumi for a full game.

Hifumi Shinta video - Here
Egawa Kyousuke video - Here

Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 7 years
Gomyou Daisuke (五明 大輔), Matsumoto Akio (松本 晃岳) and Yamaguchi Kouta (山口 昂太) make up the pitching staff of the 2nd place team out of the Tohoku regionals. Gomyou throws only about 135 km/h and appears to be able to throw a cut fastball, slider, curve, fork and curve. The lack of a dominant pitcher is a definite negative for Hanasaki Tokuharu and they may not be long for the tournament.

Toukaidai Bouyou (Chiba) - 1st appearance
Here's another pitching by committee with Nagatomo Akinori (長友 昭憲) and Ozawa Kento (尾澤 健人) comprising the pitching duo. Nagatomo can throw 145 km/h and sports a slider while Ozawa throws around 135 km/h and has a slider and curve.

Nagatomo Akinori video - Here

Maebashi Kougyou (Gunma) - 4th appearance, 1st in 15 years
Maebashi Kougyou appears to have a duo tandem on the mound in Hirai Azuma (平井 東) and Uchiyama Tetsujirou (内山 哲次郎) although Hirai seems to be the ace. He throws in the high 130's with a changeup. Don't have much more information on them other than their performance in the super-regionals, which isn't all too impressive.

Teikyou (Tokyo) - 14th appearance, 1st in 3 years
Where does one start with Teikyou? Probably rookie phenom Itou Takurou (伊藤 拓郎) who wowed the Koshien crowds throwing 148 km/h (~92 mph)! His slider and forkball comes in at around 130 km/h (~80 mph) so batters already having to deal with the fastball will have to deal with the change in speeds. He's already been given the ace position with Hirahara's departure and is certain to continue surprising the crowd.

Should he need assistance, there's Suzuki Shouta (鈴木 昇太) and Yamazaki Yasuaki (山崎 康晃). Suzuki can hit 145 kph and has a two-seam fastball and slider. Yamazaki can also hit 145 and has in addition to the two-seam and slider a cut fastball and supposedly a knuckleball.

But Teikyou has always been known for their offense, and they certainly have that. Okabe Michiori (岡部 通織) is an outfielder that can certainly provide offense. Alongside him is Sonoda Takahito (園田 崇人) who is a speedy leadoff man. And another 1st year in Matsumoto Gou (松本 剛) has earned a starting position at shortstop. He's another speedy character and hit 0.476 in the fall tournament.

Itou Takuro video - Here
Suzuki Shouta video - Here (batting)
Yamazaki Yasuaki videos - Here, here and here
Okabe Michiori video - Here (pitching??)
Matsumoto Tsuyoshi videos - Here (batting) and here (fielding)

Kanto/Tokyo At-large Bid - There's a mess here for the one at large bid. In the Kanto region, you have the quarterfinals losers in Chiba Shoudai Fuzoku (Chiba), Touin Gakuen (Kanagawa), Shiritsu Funabashi (Chiba) or Urawa Gakuin (Saitama). And from Tokyo you have the runner-up in Toukaidai Sugao.

Touin Gakuen has been on the short end lately in regards to getting to Koshien. In the fall tournament last year, they faced Yokohama in the 3rd round and lost 11-7. In the summer, they lost to Yokohama Hayato in the finals 6-5 in 11 innings. And this fall, they finish 2nd to Toukaidai Sagami losing 5-3, and make it to the quarterfinals where they lose to Toukaidai Bouyou 4-1. They use several pitchers, but the primary seems to be Ishigaki ? (石垣 永悟) with Fujioka Masatoshi (藤岡 雅俊) and Utsumi(?) Yuuta (内海裕太) as relievers.

Ishigaki ? video - Here
Fujioka Masatoshi video - Here
Utsumi(?) Yuuta video - Here

Urawa Gakuin has name recognition and has been to Koshien several times recently, albeit with not much success. There may be another knock against it as Hanasaki Tokuharu has already qualified out of the prefecture. Their primary ace is Abe Ryousuke (阿部 良亮) who throws around 135 km/h with a slider and changeup. Joining him is 196 cm (6'5"!) Minami Atsuki (南 貴樹) and Hagiwara Hiroki (萩原 大起). Minami has a father who is half-American which is the primary reason behind his tall stature. He too only throws 135 km/h and has a slider and curve. Hagiwara is primarily a SS, although he does cover as a pitcher. Not much more information is available. Although they edged out Hasaki Yanagawa in the first round of the super-regionals, they were blanked by Hifumi and Toukaidai Sagami in 8 innings which probably doesn't help their prospects.

Abe Ryousuke video - Here
Minami Atsuki video - Here
Hagiwara Hiroki video - Here

Shiritsu Funabashi is probably an outsider looking in. In qualifying, Ogawa Tetsuya (小川 達也) was their primary ace #1, followed by Kojima Masayuki (小島 昌之) at #10, and Mita Ryou (三谷 凌) at #11. The only information I could find is that Mita is a side-armer. But they lost to Hanasaki Tokuharu 14-2 in the super-regionals, so their prospects look dim.

Ogawa Tetsuya video - Here

Chiba Shoudai Fuzoku is probably in the same boat as Shiritsu Funabashi. Their ace, and apparently only pitcher is Hirabe Ryuu(?) (平部 隆) who has a 3/4 delivery, throws in the high 120 km/h range and sports a slider and cut fastball. In their only game in the super-regionals, they played a 8-8 draw in 13 innings against Maebashi Kougyou (called due to darkness), then lost 4-2 the next day. Nothing stands out in their performances, and they may just be looked over.

Finally, and strangely enough, Toukaidai Sugao for being in Tokyo ran several pitchers including Satou Katsuya (佐藤 克也), Hoshino Yasuhiro(?) (星野 靖弘), Yoshida Daiki(?) (吉田 大樹), and a one-time appearance by 1st year Mashima Takuya (真島 拓耶) in the championship game.

You'd think they'd have faced an easy schedule, but after defeating Kokugakuin Kugayama and Touyou in the first 2 rounds, take a look at who else they played...
  • def. Toritsu Yukigaya 4-2
  • def. Nichidai-ni 3-1
  • def. Toritsu Hino 9-8
...before getting blown out by Teikyou 13-1. Certainly not patty cake teams. But I can't seem to dig up any more information on the pitchers, or anyone offensively.

Takaoka Shougyou (Toyama) - 4th appearance, 1st in 4 years
Takashou also used a tandem of Nabeda Hironari (鍋田 浩成) and Shindou Shouta (新堂 将太) to win the Hokushinetsu super-regionals. Nabeda has a wide variety of pitches, including a fastball in the mid-130 km/h with a slider, cut fastball and curve.

While the region as a whole is not necessarily strong, like Akitashou (who ironically enough they faced in the first round of the Meiji Jingu tournament) they went through teams such as Kanazawa, Chuuetsu, Fukui Koudai Fukui and Tsuruga Kehi to win the super-regional.

However, while they only lost 5-2 to Toukaidai Sagami they only managed 4 hits. They may have a better shot to advance, but they'll still face the uphill battle.

Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 2 years
Tsuruga Kehi used mainly a duo of Shirazaki Wataru (白崎 航) and Ookubo Takashi (大久保 貴司) in their run through the fall tournament. Offensively, 1st year OF Yoshida Masataka (吉田 正尚) has shown good bat control and hit 0.615 in Fukui qualifying.

But the struggles of the pitching staff against Saku Chousei in the super-regional semifinals and being shutout against Takaoka Shougyou mean that they're just another team in the field.

Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years
Would you call Oogaki Nichidai the front-runner to win senbatsu? Probably not. They faced Kadena, Imabari Nishi and pretty much a Hifumi-less Toukaidai Sagami. Ace Kassai Yukiya (葛西 侑也) will take the hill, but oddly enough, I can't find any information on him. They also have Achira Takuma (阿知羅 拓馬) in relief who generally throws around 135 km/h but can hit 140.

They did have a good performance in the super-regionals defeating teams such as Tokoha Tachibana and Chuukyoudai Chuukyou. But I find it odd that I can't find any information on Kassai.

Achira Takuma video - Here

Chuukyoudai Chuukyou (Aichi) - 30th appearance, 2nd consecutive
The Natsu Koshien champions will return to Koshien yet again to try and hold both the spring and summer Koshien titles. Leading them will be Morimoto Jyunpei (森本 隼平), who helped keep the team in it when Doubayashi floundered in the finals. He can throw up to 145 km/h with a slider, curve and changeup. Asano Fumiya (浅野 文哉) has been promoted to the relief role although information on him is limited.

With the loss of their ace and a majority of the offense, it's a different team than from the summer. Making another championship bid would be different.

Morimoto Jyunpei video - Here (Natsu Koshien Final - 9th inning)
Asano Fumiya video - Here

Tokai Meiji Jingu Bid - Chuukyou (Gifu) or Mie (Mie)
Well, well! Chuukyou and Mie suddenly find themselves with a possible bid to Koshien thanks to Oogaki's win! The question is, who will be awarded the bid?

Chuukyou presents a strong case. They lost to Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou in the semifinals of the prefectural qualifying in 14 innings then hung in there against Kassai in the super-regionals losing only by a score of 3-2. Their ace is Katou Tomohiro (加藤 智弘) who throws around 130 km/h.

Mie had a good showing as well. Ace Masuda Daiki (増田 大樹) as well as RP Tamura Takuto (田村 拓土) both got experience at Koshien last year. The experience should have helped them going forward. They defeated Komono and held on against Inabe Sougou in the prefecturals, and then in the super-regionals made several rallies against Chuukyoudai Chuukyou before falling.

Masuda Taiki video - Here

Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Hyogo) - 3rd appearance, 1st in 5 years
Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku has been mired in the middle of the pack recently, making it to the prefectural qualifying stage, but getting not much further.

That changed this fall. Behind the pitching of Okamoto Ken (岡本 健) they tore through the Hyogo prefecurals, and interestingly enough avenged the regional loss to Ikuei in the finals. In the super-regionals, he fell behind Kita Ootsu and Tenri only to see his offense make a late rally. And in the championship game, he gave up only 4 hits to Osaka Touin. 4!

So who is Okamoto Ken? He's a 2nd year who throws in the low 140 km/h range with a slider and curve. He has been noted as having good control on his pitches.

Occasionally spelling him is Oogawa Kento (大川 賢人), but Okamoto is the ace of the staff. They'll go as far as his arm takes them.

Okamoto Ken video - Here

Osaka Touin (Osaka) - 4th appearance, 1st in 3 years
What's a Koshien tournament without Osaka Touin? Because they're well known, they reload each and every year and don't give any other teams in Osaka-ken a break.

This year is no different. For the prefectural qualifying and early rounds of the super-regionals, they leaned on 2nd year southpaw Fukumoto Tsubasa (福本 翼) who throws only in the high 120 km/h range with a slider and change.

In the late stages, they turned to 1st year Nakano Yuu (中野 悠佑) to start games. He throws in the low 130's with a slider and curve. Relieving him was 2nd year righty Yamanaka Kyousuke (山中 響佑).

Offensively there's Emura Naoya (江村 直也), who while being a catcher exhibits a good deal of speed and Kawahara Ukyou (河原 右京) a 3B with good bat skills. There's no power hitters that I can see this time around, so they may have to rely on their pitching even more now.

Fukumoto Tsubasa video - Here
Emura Naoya video - Here

Ritsumeikan Uji (Kyoto) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 6 years
Ritsumeikan Uji earned their spot by rallying to defeat Chiben Wakayama in the quarterfinals of the super-regionals. Their ace is 1st year Kawabe Kaita (川部 開大) with Iwami Shingo in relief (岩見 晋悟). They had one other quality win, and that was against Fukuchiyama Seibi in the prefectural finals winning convincingly 8-3.

Offensively, there's 1st year C Kozaki Hiroyuki (小嵜 裕之) who has already taken the cleanup spot in the lineup.

But the late struggles against Chiben Wakayama and the rout they incurred against Osaka Touin could signal weakness for this team.

Kawabe Kaita video - Here
Iwami Shingo video - Here

Shinkou Gakuen (Hyogo) - 5th appearance, 1st in 4 years
There isn't much information on Shinkou Gakuen other than ace Maenaka Masashi (前仲正志) who can throw up to 145 km/h. But looking at their results, it doesn't look too good. They lost against Ikuei in the semifinals of the Hyogo qualifiers 6-2, and then after edging out Oumi and Fukuchiyama Seibi were unceremoniously ousted by Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku with the help of some rain.

Maenaka Masayuki video - Here

Last 2 guaranteed Kinki Bids - Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama), Ikuei (Hyogo), Tenri (Nara) or Fukuchiyama Seibi (Kyoto)
I find it hard to believe that the committee will allow Hyogo to get a 3rd team in so Ikuei will probably be crossed out. Fairly or unfairly, I don't know.

The thing is that Ikuei has some good players. Their ace is Hotta Kengo (堀田 健吾), a lefty who can throw in the high 130 km/h with a slider and curve. Imura Noriaki (井村 展章) was Hotta's batterymate last year, and is a beast at the plate having hit 37 home runs. They went toe-to-toe with Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku in the prefectural finals, and only lost to Osaka Touin 2-0 in the super-regionals.

Hotta Kengo video - Here
Imura Noriaki video - Here

If Ikuei is eliminated from consideration because they would be the 3rd Hyogo team, that leaves 3 experienced teams vying for the last bid:

Chiben Wakayama returns with 2 offensive players in 1B Yamamoto Sadahiro (山本 定寛) and RF Nishikawa Haruki (西川 遥輝). Pitching duties have been passed to 2nd year Yoshimoto Yuu (吉元 裕) and 1st year Aoki Yuuto (青木 勇人).

Nishikawa Haruki video - Here (from 2008 Natsu Koshien)
Yoshimoto Yuu video - Here

Tenri. Seriously, I think they break my heart every year with their play. And this past summer, they had one heck of an infield both offensively and defensively. But that was last year, and this is this year.

Boy that didn't sound right...

Anyways, Tenri has reloaded with a vengeance, returning back Numata Yuuga (沼田 優雅) who performed well at Koshien. He's a lefty who throws in the low-mid 130's with a slider, curve and changeup. Joining him is another 2nd year, Nishiura Kenta (西浦 健太), who didn't join the team for Koshien. He can throw 145 km/h with a slider and curve, but has control issues. Also returning is starting 3B Yasuda Kouki (安田 紘規), who was a respectable 3-9 with a double at Koshien. Taking over duties in LF is Uchino Satoshi (内野 聡), who mans the leadoff spot. He a righty that bats left and has hit 10 HR's.

Numata Yuuga video - Here

And finally Fukuchiyama Seibi. Shimamoto Hiroya (島本 浩也) returns for Seibi as the staff ace. Tsuda Hibiki (津田 響) is the main reliever, with Kobayashi Shou (小林 将) and Yamada Masaya (山田 雅弥) seen in mop-up duties. They had quality wins against Kyoto Gaidai Nishi and Tounan in the prefecturals and lost in the 14th inning against Shinkou Gakuen in the super-regional quarterfinal.

Shimamoto Hiroya video - Here

Kaisei (Shimane) - 2nd appearance, 2nd consecutive
Kaisei reasserts itself as not only the top team out of Shimane, but the top team in the Chuugoku region. Ace Shirane Naoki (白根 尚貴) is the main reason for that. Only a 1st year, he has already hit 147 km/h, and sports a slider, curve, fork and shuuto. With him on the mound, they blew through the prefecturals, and didn't hit any turbulence until the super-regional semifinals and finals when he faced off against Kouryou and Kanzei - and he still held them to 3 runs apiece. He averages more than an K/inning! If the offense can support him, they could go far.

Helping the cause is Itohara Kento (糸原 健斗) who came onto the scene in their 4-3 loss to Minoshima in last year's senbatsu, going 3-5 and falling a HR short of the cycle!

Shirane Naoki video - Here
Itohara Kento video - Here

Kanzei (Okayama) - 10th appearance, 1st in 3 years
Kanzei is experiencing a resurgence this year, thanks in part to 1st year pitcher Katada Yuuta (堅田 裕太), who took the hill for Kanzei in the super-regionals. A southpaw who can hit 142 km/h, he has a slider, curve and screwball. He handled the competition in the super-regionals until the finals where he came in relief.

Kenta Yuuta video - Here

Imabari Nishi (Ehime) -12th appearance, 4th consecutive
Imabari Nishi took the Shikoku super-regionals with a tandem of Hino Reona (日野 玲央奈) and Hayashi Masaya (林 正也). For the most part it's a true tandem, muck like Saga Kita's Baba and Kubo, but I'll have reservations on that until I see it in person. The only exception I can find was their prefectural semis against Saibi where Hino pitched a complete game in a 3-2 victory.

As for notable players, I can't find much evidence on any particular person who stands out.

Hayashi Shouya video - Here

Kochi (Kochi) - 15th appearance, 1st in 3 years
Kochi makes yet another appearance at Koshien. Tsutsui Taichi (筒井 太智) has inherited the ace duties. He endured a 13 inning affair against Okou, then turned around to defeat Meitoku Gijyuku 8-4 in the finals. And in the super-regionals, their quality game was their finals loss against aforementioned Imabari Nishi.

And like Imabari Nishi, I can't find any other info on any Kochi players.

Chuugoku/Shikoku At-large Bid - A choice between the semifinal losers Iwamichisuikan (Shimane), Kouryou (Hiroshima) or Okou (Kochi), Saibi (Ehime)

Ow. While Iwamichisuikan (aka Gonokawa) has not seen Koshien in a while, will the selection committee bring in a 2nd Shimane team? They're led by Tone Kazuaki (戸根 千明). However, a 4 hit effort against Kanzei in the semifinals won't impress the committee.

Name recognition could help Saibi recieve it instead. Suzuki Takuya (鈴木 貴也) is the ace of their staff, and was on the team that went to the 2008 Koshien, although he didn't enter the game.

Kouryou has the benefit of not having a Hiroshima team with an automatic bid. It also has some notable players. One is ace Arihara Kouhei (有原 航平), a righty who can throw up to 139 km/h and has a slider. The other is a 1st year by the name of Maruko Tatsuya (丸子 達也). He's has been given 1st base, however he has pitching experience and is able to throw in the 130 km/h range as well with a slider, curve and forkball. However, for now he's at 1st base.

Arihara Kouhei videos - Here, here and here

Okou would be a fresh face - but could be considered a team that would lose in the first round. Their ace Tanouchi Wataru (田内 亘) has garnered some attention. He throws up to 141 km/h with a slider and curve, and shows good stamina.

Kadena (Okinawa) - 1st appearance
Kadena leads a trio of teams out of Kyushu who will be making their first appearance at the Spring Koshien. Led by Ikehara Yuu (池原 有), Kadena beat both Urasoe Shougyou and Itoman before losing to Kounan in the prefectural finals.

And perhaps they were the beneficiary of a weak bracket in the super-regionals, although they did face Nichinan Gakuen in the first round. And in the semifinals, they elected to go to Yamashiro Seiya (山城 星也) against Jiyuugaoka, and all he did was blank them.

Ikehara Yuu video - Here
Yamashiro Seiya video - Here

Miyazaki Kougyou (Miyazaki) - 1st appearance
Perhaps the strongest resume out of Kyushu belongs to the runner-ups in Miyazaki Kougyou. They had to face Nobeoka Gakuen, St. Ursula, Miyazaki Nichidai and Nichinan Gakuen in the prefecturals. And in the super-regionals, it was Kagoshima Jitsugyou, Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou and Kounan (minus Shimabukuro to start though).

Hamada Tomohiro (浜田 智博) is their ace, and he's proven he can pitch. The question will be if he can last through the tournament and pitch when it counts.

Hamada Tomohiro video - Here

Jiyuugaoka (Fukuoka) - 1st appearance
Jiyuugaoka finally breaks through and earns their 1st ever appearance at Koshien thanks to ace Ono Gouki (小野 剛貴). He throws around 130 km/h with a slider and curve.

But they didn't have to face any of the stronger teams out of Fukuoka. And in the super-regionals, their only quality win was against Meihou where they won 2-1. While they may earn an invitation, it'll be hard to envision them getting far in the tournament.

Kounan (Okinawa) - 4th appearance, 2nd consecutive
Kounan is back yet again, and once again Shimabukuro Yousuke (島袋 洋奨) leads the team. If you don't remember him, he's hit 145 km/h with a two-seam fastball, slider, curve and forkball. Whenever he pitched, he dominated. In fact, their loss to Miyazaki Kougyou in the super-regional semifinals it was the relief pitcher Sunagawa Daiki who started the game (砂川 大樹) and was responsible for all 3 runs that Miyazaki scored.

The team as a whole was very young last summer, with only 6-3rd year players, and only 2 who were part of the starting 9. Expect them to be a strong force at Koshien... if the offense could only be bothered once it got there.

Shimabukuro Yousuke video - Here

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