Monday, January 24, 2011

83rd Spring Koushien - Probable Teams

After a much needed break (not really a vacation as there's still my regular 9-5 job - whee....), I'm back to start coverage for the new year.

While the field will be announced later this week (the 28th, I think), we can cover most of the participants. This post will be continuously added until I cover all regions.

Edit: Well, after being busy all week, teams have been announced, so it's not probable anymore... heh... Seriously though the teams invited are chalk for the most part with one or two surprises.

Hokkaido Super-Regional (1)
Hokkai - Champions - 12th appearance, 1st in 16 years
Hokkai earns the bid for the Hokkaido region, and while they're a mainstay in the prefecture, it has not been smooth sailing when they head south.

The team is headed by freshman ace Tamakuma Shouichi (玉熊 将一). A righty with a 3/4 delivery, he was the staff ace in middle school as well.

He features a mid 130's fastball, with a mid 120's slider and mid 110's curve that has good break to it. He depends on his control, which will be needed against the tougher competition. This can be seen in their opening round loss in the Meiji Jingu Tournament to Nichidai-san. They'll be the longshot from up north to win it all.

Tohoku Super- Regional (2)
Tohoku (Miyagi) - Champions - 19th appearance, 1st in 3 years
Tohoku has been trying to return to prominence after the Darvish years, but have never really been able to capture that flash.

This time around, the ace number goes to 2nd year utility player Kamimura Kento (上村 健人), a good-sized righty who also is their slugger. He also throws in the mid-130's for his fastball, but has a 120's shuuto and change in addition to his slider. For someone his size, his delivery time from the stretch is a bit above average (1.1-1.2 seconds).

In their appearance at Meiji Jingu, he pitched a complete game shutout against Kanazawa, but surprisingly did not take the mound against Urawa Gakuin where they fell 7-2.

Videos of him are here (Super-regional) and here (Meiji Jingu)。

While he is the ace, he was relieved in early rounds of the prefectural and super-regionals by Natsui Yasukichi (夏井 康吉), a lefty. Interestingly, his oldest brother Natsui Daikichi (夏井 大吉) was a captain at Hanamaki Higashi, and his 2nd oldest Natsui Kenkichi (夏井 健吉) was captain at Meiou! There isn't much information on him, but there is a video of him here.

Kousei Gakuin (Aomori) - Runner-up, - 5th appearance, 1st in 2 years
Kousei Gakuin receives the 2nd bid out of Tohoku. And why not given their performance in the fall tournament?

Kousei is led by 2nd year ace Akita Kyoura (秋田 教良), who can hit 140 on the radar, and features a slider, cut fastball and curve.

But perhaps the two players to watch will be in the infield for Kousei. 2nd year Kanayama Hirotaka (金山 洸昴) and 1st year Tamura Tatsuhiro (田村 龍弘) lie in the heart of the order for Kousei and could provide some much-needed pop for their squad.

It may be a stretch to expect either team from Tohoku to win, but it's possible they could make a decent run as well.

Kanto Super-Regional (4 + at-large bid)
Urawa Gakuin (Saitama) - Champion - 7th appearance, 1st in 6 years
Urawa Gakuin earned every bit of their title, defeating Kanagawa powerhouses Yokohama AND Toukaidai Sagami in back-to-back games to win the fall super-regional!

But I can't find much information on any of their players!

I do know their ace is Satou Takuya (佐藤 拓也). He only reaches the low 130's and has a big curveball. Certainly though, that can't be just it as it wouldn't make sense that someone like him could singlehandedly defeat those Kanagawa schools.
  • Video from the fall tournament.
  • Video from the Meiji Jingu Tournament. This one has more highlights of Satou.
Offensively, the name that pops up is Hidaka Fumiya(?) (日高 史也). This isn't the best video, but it's what I've found. He hit 2 HR's in the Kanto super-regional, and delivered the sayonara hit against Toukaidai Sagami.

Toukaidai Sagami (Kanagawa) - Runner-up - 9th appearance, 2nd consecutive
So, what is Toukaidai Sagami to do now in the post-Hifumi Shinta era?

Well, looking to fill that void on the mound is Kondou Masataka (近藤 正崇), and he's not that bad himself. He hits the upper 130's and can hit 140, and features a slider, curve and forkball. Relieving him in the key games is Kasama Akira(?) (笠間 圭).

Offensively, the team will be relying on returning players such as 2B Tanaka Shunta (田中 俊太), where baseball runs in the family (brother Kousuke plays for Toukai University), and outfielder Usuda Tetsuya (臼田 哲也) who are returners from last year.

Suijyou (Ibaraki) - 3rd/4th place - 1st appearance
I wanted to cover Suijyou first, mainly because, well... I just like them.

I liked them in their battle against Toukaidai Sagami in last year's Natsu Koushien, and thought the team had promise, even though they didn't have stars to speak of. Nonetheless, without big name players, and losing the majority of their starting squad, they worked their way back to Koushien. Leading them is Satou Kenta (佐藤 賢太), who sports the ace number after wearing #11 last summer.

Outside of him, again there's no real information on the team, so perhaps they may fly under the radar once again...

Yokohama (Kanagawa) - 3rd/4th place - 13th appearance, 1st in 3 years
And now onto Yokohama, who really hasn't been able to find that groove. They're good enough to reach Koushien, but lately not much else.

This time around, their leader on the mound is #10, super 1st-year southpaw Yamauchi Tatsuya (山内 達也) perhaps taking the most of an opportunity after ace Saitou Kenta (齋藤 健汰) injured his non-throwing wrist in an accident on the field. He can throw in the upper 130's with a slider and curve.

Then there's ace number Saitou Kenta (齋藤 健汰) who as mentioned before was the starter before being sidelined with that wrist injury. He's a righty whose fastball matches that of Yamauchi and has a slider, curve and change.

Offensively, there's C Kondou Kensuke (近藤 健介), who hit a scorching 0.481/0.741/0.622 in the prefectural tournament, and RF Otosaka Tomo (乙坂 智) who is supposedly Yokohama's version of Ichiro.

Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma) earns the Kanto/Tokyo at-large bid, probably in response to their strong showing in the quarterfinals against Toukaidai Sagami. Looking back at that game they actually held the lead twice before faltering late. Kasumigaura probably had a chance for the bid as they rallied against Yokohama late, but perhaps Toukaidai Sagami's recent performance gave them the edge.

Leading the team is ace Ikeda Yuuki (池田 悠紀) with Takahashi Hiromi(?) (高橋 拓已) spelling him at times starting games. I don't have much more on them other than that.

Looking at these teams, sadly Maebashi Ikuei and Suijyou probably have the hardest hill to climb (depending on the draw of course). I can't exactly figure out what to make of Urawa Gakuin... Toukaidai Sagami may have pitchers with better control but can the offense keep up? And Yokohama seems to have a solid team, but can they prove it at Koushien?

Tokyo Super-Regional (1 + Meiji Jingu bid)
Nichidai-san - Champion - 18th appearance, 2nd consecutive
So Nichidai-san once again makes a Koushien appearance. And they were oh so close against Haru-Natsu champions Kounan. The question will be can they make another run at it?

Taking the helm is new ace Yoshinaga Kentarou (吉永 健太朗). He was used sparingly last year, and when he was used, was rather ineffective. Somewhere along the line though after he was promoted to the ace number, a switch must have gone on in his head. While not utilized as much in the super-regional, he really shined in the Meiji Jingu tournament, pitching 3 complete games while giving up just 1 earned run in each of them, showing great control walking just 5 batters.

Yoshinaga can hit as high as 147 on the radar, throwing a sinker and curve in addition to a slider with all three being at least 20 kph slower. Here and here are videos of him during the summer in the semifinal against Nichidai Tsurugaoka, while this is him at the Meiji Jingu Tournament. Nichidai-san has always been a solid team, but in recent memory, I can't recall them having a dominating pitcher. That might change this year.

Assisting him are returning starters 3B Yokoo Toshitake (横尾 俊健), CF Azegami Shou (畔上 翔), and RF Takayama Shun (高山 俊).

Yokoo is a power hitting 3rd baseman who neatly hit .458/.480/.708 in last year's senbatsu, then hit the go-ahead homerun against Kagoshima Jitsugyou in the Meiji Jingu final. Azegami is a converted pitcher who has experience in timely spots (he hit the RBI triple there), while Takayama is Nichidai's leadoff hitter. He's not your prototypical leadoff man as he doesn't take walks, but can hit a homerun.

Nichidan-san has been a solid team year in and year out. And they have some good pieces returning. The question is whether the rest of the cast will help lead them to victory this time around.

Kokugakuin Kugayama - Runner-up - 3rd appearance, 1st in 26 years
Kokugakuin Kugayama has Nichidai-san to thank for reaching just their 3rd senbatsu in school history. Now, while the rosters have turned over from last year, they did beat teams such as Obirin, Shuutoku and Waseda Gakuin before falling 4-0 to Nichidai-san in the finals.

And they have ace Kawaguchi Takato (川口 貴都) to thank for that. A first-year ace, he can already hit the low 140's with a good slider. The only question is his stamina. Having pitched 4 complete games, two of which were called after 7, he faltered against Hachiouji giving up 7 runs in a 10 inning affair. Now, while they won, they had to go to backup Sekihashi Jyun(?) (関橋 淳), who did well giving up 2 runs in 6 innings. But as mentioned earlier, the offense could only manage 5 hits against Yoshinaga.

So the 2 questions for Kokugakuin are (1) how long can Kawaguchi last? And (2) can the offense deliver?

Hokushinetsu Super-Regional (2)
Kanazawa (Ishikawa) - Champion - 9th appearance, 1st in 7 years
Kanazawa takes the lead out of the Hokushinetsu region. Leading the charge is ace Kamata Yoshinao (釜田 佳直), who was given the reins as a freshman. All he did was lead them back into the best 4 of the prefectural fall tournament and then held tough against eventual fall champions Takaoka Shougyou, and hitting 145 on the gun.

So how would he follow that up? Well, in the summer he would hit 151 in an escape game against Kanazawa Shiritsu Kougyou before faltering late in the semifinals against fellow seed Oyamadai in the last 2 innings. Then in the fall prefecturals... well, after a 2-1 complete game win against Yuugakukan in the semis, they had a mess of a game against Kanazawa Sakuragaoka of which I have no idea what the team was doing. Still, they managed to win the prefecturals. Then perhaps with the team in order, he had no trouble giving the team the super-regional title and a spot in the 83rd Spring Koushien. And even in the Meiji Jingu tournament loss to Tohoku, he gave up 11 hits and 3 runs in a CG loss, while striking out 7.

Kamata in addition to his blazing fastball, has a variety of other pitches including a two-seamer, slider, change and curveball. So they have the pitcher. But what about the rest?

Nihon Bunri (Niigata) - Runner-up - 4th appearance, 1st in 2 years
Nihon Bunri is yet again at Koushien, and having been able to reach the finals once, hope to do it again. They were always considered the longshot being out of a prefecture not known for baseball, but after the thriller against Chuukyoudai Chuukyou 2 years ago, there's hope.

Leading the charge is Tamura Yuuma (田村 勇磨), a righty who can throw in the low140's with a good slider. Apparently accompanying him are Hatano Yousuke (波多野 陽介), another righty who can almost reach 150, and Yoshino Kazuya (吉野 和也) yet another righty who has a max of 141.

Outside of that, I don't know much more other than that there is still Yumoto Shouta remaining from the runner-up team of 2009 that is on the starting 9 who can provide some experience to the team.

Toukai Super-Regional (2)
Oogaki Nichidai (Gifu) - Champion - 3rd appearance, 2nd consecutive
Oogaki Nichidai returns to senbatsu probably thankful that Kounan (and more importantly Shimabukuro) is gone. Surely the 10-0 loss in the semifinals was a bitter pill to swallow.

Ace Kassai Yukiya (葛西 侑也) must especially be looking forward to this second chance. Since the loss to Kounan, he has buckled down culminating in a CG win against Tenri in the Meiji Jingu tournament. And while they lost to Kagoshima Jitsugyou, he yielded just 3 runs.

He's still not a hard thrower, but his control has improved - especially on his offspeed pitches (slider, change and a curve). In addition, his pitches have good variability in speed which helps keep batters off base (fastball - 136, change - 120's, slider - 110's, curve - 100's).

However, because he's not a hard thrower, he could face issues against high-powered offenses especially later in the tournament as the turnaround between games gets shorter and shorter.

Seisei (Shizuoka) - Runner-up - First appearance
Seisei makes just its 2nd overall Koushien apperance, and first senbatsu appearance. Looking at their road though, and their only probable quality wins were a 4-2 quarterfinal win over Tokoha Kikugawa in the prefecturals, then two extra inning wins against Komono (Mie) and Mie.

But while there may be some skepticism regarding how far they'll go, they did do what was necessary to get here, so they certainly have earned it.

On the mound for Seisei is Nomura Ryousuke (野村 亮介). He took over the ace number in his first year, and has a slider, changeup and an excellent forkball in addition to a fastball in the upper 130s. But with the poor performance against Oogaki Nichidai there is certainly room for improvement.

Kinki Super-Regional (6)
Tenri (Nara) - Champion - 21st appearance, 4th consecutive
Tenri is back yet again at Koushien, but I wonder if the team is frustrated at all that they have not had success in the last couple of years. Or perhaps the team has just began to settle for reaching Koushien. Whatever it is, if you've been reading my blog, you know I root for Tenri, albeit mostly in frustration. I do have to yield the fact that while Tenri has been to Koushien many, many times - when you have just 2 schools that go from Nara (3 if you include Kooriyama), one does have to wonder about the depth of talent.

Although Chiben Wakayama suffers from the same issue and yet they seem to have more success in recent years... *sighs*

Anyways, back on the mound for Tenri is newly promoted ace Nishiguchi Tasuku (西口 輔). In my analysis of Tenri last year, I said that in order for Tenri to advance they had to avoid the bullpen which, yep - you guessed it, included Nishiguchi. And when he did enter the game he was wildly erratic and pretty much sealed the team's fate.

So what changed?

Well for one, it seems like he has cut down on his wildness. While I don't have information on his prefecutral/super-regional play, in the Meiji Jingu game against Oogaki Nichidai, he threw 7 innings and gave up just one run on 4 hits, walked 2, and only struck out 3.

This despite being able to hit 148 on the radar gun, and now sporting a slider, change and curve. He seems to be throwing more downhill now, but he seems to struggle the later he goes into the game. His game against Oogaki Nichidai can be seen here.

So Tenri runs a tandem with 1st year pitcher Nakatani Keita (中谷 佳太), who shows excellent control for a freshman. While he only throws in the low-mid 130's, he not only locates his fastball, but his offspeed pitches which include a slider, curve and forkball. It would appear that this time, Tenri has a bullpen that they CAN use.

But with the entire roster turning over from last year, how will the newcomers fare?

Riseisha (Osaka) - Runner-up - 3rd appearance, 1st in 3 years
Riseisha, on the back of a mostly returning starting 9 from the summer was one game away from winning the Kinki Super-Regional only to lose a close revenge match against Tenri.

Iidzuka Takashi (飯塚 孝史) has been promoted to the ace number. I don't know if he's picked up any speed since we last saw him (he was throwing in the 120's). But he has a game plan for batters. Against righties he uses his slider and curve. On lefties, he utilizes his two-seam fastball.

As mentioned before, Riseisha returns most of its summer team. Some notable names within it are C Sakamoto Seishirou (坂本 誠志郎), 3B Ishii Gen (石井 元), and CF Kaifu Hiroto (海部 大斗).

Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo) - 3rd/4th place - 18th appearance, 1st in 2 years
Houtoku Gakuen has apparently reloaded after their Best 4 appearance last summer despite having only one person returning from their starting 9.

But they're in good hands. Last year's super 1st year Tamura Ichirou (田村 伊知郎) showed poise beyond his years in the quarterfinal game last summer, pitching 7.2 strong innings against Niigata Meikun, striking out 9 and giving up just 1 run.

Tamura sports a fastball that can hit 140, along with a slider, curve and V-slider. Here he was at Natsu Koushien, and here he is during the fall tournament.

The supporting cast for Tamura is unknown as the roster has almost completely turned over, but they seem to be a strong bunch considering they made it to the super-regional semifinal.

Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama) - 3rd/4th place - 10th appearance, 2nd consecutive
Chiben Wakayama makes yet another appearance at Koushien. But while in past years, the stars were on offense, it seems like the key members of the team are all on the mound.

All 4 of them.

3 of them were on last summer's team. With ace number Yoshimoto graduating, the ace designation fell to Uenoyama Shouma (上野山 奨真). A side-arm pitcher, he can still get it up the high 130's with a slider, curve and shuuto. He hung in there against Narita last summer, but did give up 2 runs in 4.1 innings of work.

Then there's Miyagawa Yuuki (宮川 祐輝) who retains the #10 jersey. He can hit 142 on the gun, but his historical numbers suggest he might be better at the plate than on the mound.

Aoki Yuuto (青木 勇人) gets promoted to the #11 jersey, and may very well be the stronger of the 3. He put in 3.2 innings of scoreless ball against Narita in the summer, then in the fall pitched a CG win over Kyoto Gaidai Nishi before giving up 2 runs in 2.2 against PL Gakuen (he did strike out 6 though). He throws a slider, changeup and curveball.

Who's the 4th? He's a 1st-year by the name of Oojino Masaki (蔭地野 正起). He already has a spot on the main team wearing #12. He, like Miyagawa, can hit 142, but has a curve, slider and forkball to compliment his fastball. In 3 games during the summer qualifying against Kasada, Minoshima and Kouyou, he threw 9.2 innings of shutout ball giving up 6 hits while striking out 6.

4 pitchers on the roster for Chiben, but can the offense get itself going unlike last time?

In a slight shocker, Kyoto Seishou (Kyoto) and Kakogawa Kita (Hyogo) get the final two bids from the Kinki super-region ahead of PL Gakuen. However, Kyoto Seishou defeated Chiben Gakuen in the first round of the super-regional tournament, while Kakogawa Kita defeated Osaka Touin. That combined with their performances in the quarterfinals perhaps gave them the bids.

All I can find on Kyoto Seishou is their ace's name with is Nishino Kentarou (西野 健太郎), and a recap of their game against Nara 2 seed Chiben Gakuen. There's no information on their players, and their qualifying route is rather non-descript. The only notable games are in fact their semifinal loss to Kyoto Gaidai Nishi, and both of their super-regional games - a 3-2 win over Chiben Gakuen, and a 5-4 loss to Houtoku Gakuen blowing a 4-0 lead in the last 2 innings.

For Kakogawa Kita, I can find only information on their ace as well - Inoue-kun (the first name I can't figure out 井上 真伊人). He throws in the mid-upper 130's with a curve - although in this video it seems like the first curve he throws is a slow curve.

Chuugoku Super-Regional (2 + at-large bid)
Kanzei (Okayama) - Champion - 11th appearance, 2nd consecutive
Kanzei once again blew through the fall tournament, yielding just 4 runs in 12 games and shutting out all opponents in the super-regional! Although again it appears that their competition was rather light again.

Kanzei returns both pitchers from last spring - Katada Yuuta (堅田 裕太) and Mizuhara Hiroto (水原 浩登). Katada has added a couple of kph to his fastball, as well as a variety of pitches (a slider and curve for lefties, and a change and screwball for righties). Here was his appearance at last year's senbatsu. Mizuhara has been given the #6 jersey, suggesting that Kanzei may very well be keeping both pitchers on the field much like Sendai Ikuei last year or even Meihou with Imamiya. And in all intents and purposes, he's the right-handed version of Katada - featuring pretty much the same pitches and having a similar max on his fastball. I don't know if that's a plus or not, but it can't hurt.

Offensively, there's 3B Watanabe Yuuki (渡辺 雄貴), who was 3-4 with a double against last year's darling Shimabukuro Yousuke. Watanabe actually has moved from 3rd to LF (if the #7 uniform is any indication), but is apparently your super-utility player.

Soushi Gakuen (Okayama) - Runner-up - 1st appearance
Soushi Gakuen did not have as easy of a road as Kanzei. In fact, outside of the two games against Kanzei in the prefectural and super-regional finals, their games were almost always decided by 2 runs or less.

They depend primarily on 2 pitchers. Ace Yamamoto Ryou (山本 凌), and reliever (#11) Tomita Kazushige (富田 一成). But I don't have any more information on these players.

Hiroshima Sougou Gijyutsu (Hiroshima) - 3rd/4th place - 1st appearance
Perhaps as a result of the selection committee going with 2 teams from Okayama in the Chuugoku super-region, I think they almost had no choice but to give the Chuugoku/Shikoku at-large bid to this region - with Hiroshima Sougou Gijyutsu being the benefactor.

They avenged a 16-6 loss to Onomichi in the prefectural semifinal, then lost a 1-0 game against Kanzei in the super-regional semifinal.

Leading the way is 1st year ace Ida Yuki (伊田 有希), who actually wears #11. He was actually on the mound both times against Onomichi and Kanzei in the super-regional. The only thing I know is that he throws a slider. But then, who doesn't?

Shikoku Super-Regional (2)
Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi) - Champion - 14th appearance, 1st in 3 years
Meitoku Gijyuku has successfully turned over its roster in the fall, won the Shikoku super-regional and thus an automatic bid.

Last year's #15, Omatsu Yoshio (尾松 義生) has become the new ace. Your average southpaw, he throws a slider, cut fastball, curve and change.

Omatsu has done all of the hard work for Meitoku, but there is note of a 1st year by the game of Fukunaga Tomoyuki(?) (福永 智之). He throws a slider and sinker, but I don't know much else.

Offensively, they have Kitagawa Rintarou (北川 倫太郎), who actually went 2-3 against Shimabukuro and both hits were to center. He's probably manning the cleanup spot again, but he'll definitely need help from the supporting cast.

Kagawa Nishi (Kagawa) - Runner-up - 1st appearance
It's been a while since we've seen Kagawa Nishi. An unknown team, they appeared first in the 2003 Natsu Koushien, and has actually had 3 summer appearances, but this is their 1st senbatsu.

But, the road they took is not all too convincing. The only game in the prefecturals that may garner attention is their 5-4 loss to Sangawa in the finals. Perhaps you can make a case for their semi matchup against Kannonji Chuo, but it's hard to say.

In the super-regional, the 3-1 win against Kochi would be a big plus...

...if not for the 15-1 loss to Meitoku Gijyuku the next day in the finals...

Sure it was raining that game, but unless the conditions were really sloppy, there's not much excuse.

Only player I have real info on is their ace Utsunomiya Kenta (宇都宮 健太). He throws in the upper 130s, with a slider, fork and change.

The loser out in the selection process was probably Kochi as they would have in all certainty earned a bid had Okayama not qualified 2 teams. Alas, they'll have to regroup and make a push for Natsu Koushien.

Kyushu Super-Regional (4)
Kagoshima Jitsugyou (Kagoshima) - Champion - 8th appearance, 1st in 15 years
Kagoshima Jitsugyou has had stretches of appearances followed by rebuilding. They seem to be in an upcycle now having been to Natsu Koushien last year, and returning as the Kyushu super-regional champion to start this year.

Noda Shougo (野田 昇吾) has been promoted to the ace number. Although technically the de facto ace given that all the pitchers from last year's Natsu Koushien team graduated, he's not bad himself. He sports a fastball that can hit the low 140's and compliments that with a slider, curve and change.

After a messy start against Kumamoto Kokufu, he handled Touin, and then performed brilliantly against Kyushu Gakuin and then Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku, yielding a run each.

In the Meiji Jingu tournament he once again had trouble in the first game against Meitoku Gijyuku but managed to yield just 1 run even while giving up 9 walks. He settled down once again versus Oogaki Nichidai, and while he couldn't finish against Nichidai-san, it's not as if his numbers were terrible.

Two possible offensive players to look at are returning 1B Agemura Kyouhei (揚村 恭平), and RF Toyozumi Kouta (豊住 康太). They had good success at Koushien last summer, especially given that both did well against Kyushu Gakuin.

Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Fukuoka) - Runner-up - 2nd appearance, 1st in 29 years
Kyukoku as they are called re-emerged on the scene in 2009 thanks to the efforts of Wakao Masahiro, former manager of Tohoku and Yu Darvish.

And they're back again here in the 83rd senbatsu.

And to my surprise, the ace on the mound for Kyukoku was on the 2009 Koushien team, #15 Miyoshi Takumi (三好 匠). He apparently has gone from #15 to #5 to #1. I think. And while they finished 2nd in the Kyushu Super-regionals, the only footage I can find of him pitching is when he was a 1st year. Which doesn't help much, but it certainly is an interesting path to the ace number. Even with that he can hit 143 with the traditional slider, curve and change.

However, the roughness shows. Against Senshuudai Tamana and Hasami he did well giving up 2 runs in 2 CGs. But against Okinawa Shogaku and Kagoshima Jitsugyou he gave up 11 runs and 24 hits again in 2 CGs.

Which means much like their Eastern Japan counterpart Teikyou (several years ago), it may have to be the offense that carries them.

His battery mate, Takajyou Shuuto (高城 俊人), was the backup catcher back in 2009. And he has become quite the player. He's hit 21 homeruns, and as the 3-4 batters respectively in the lineup, provide the heart of the offense.

To boot, he has a good arm and can get a ball to 2nd in 1.86 sec. I don't know if that's really fast, but he's been noted for his arm.

The final player of note is Katou Ryou (加藤 凌), a 2nd year who while hitting in the 7 spot, hit 7 homeruns in the fall tournament.

Kyushu Gakuin (Kumamoto) - 3rd/4th place - 4th appearance, 1st in 9 years
Kyushu Gakuin had fallen out of view over the better part of the last decade. This after experiencing a surge at the end of the last millennia.

Now, they had continued success as one of the better teams in Kyushu... just not good enough to get back to Koushien.

That changed last summer when they won the Kumamoto prefectural tournament and went to Natsu Koushien, and after blowing through the first 2 rounds, faced the aforementioned Kagoshima Jitsugyou, and beat them before losing to Toukaidai Sagami.

But with a young bench, they quickly turned around, finished 2nd to Shuugakukan in the prefecturals, defated last year's haru-natsu champions Kounan before losing a close game to Kagoshima Jitsugyou.

1st year Ootsuka Takahito (大塚 尚仁) has become the new ace for Kyushu Gakuin. I don't have any other information on him.

Where I do have information is on the supporting cast. First and foremost is 3B Hagiwara Hideyuki (萩原 英之), a first year who actually was part of the starting nine (although wearing #14) and who hit a HR at Koushien (5:30 mark). And he's a 1st year!!

Then there's speedy switch-hitting outfielder Yamashita Tsubasa (山下 翼) who hit a neat .353/.476./.412 with 6(!) stolen bases!

Finally, Mizowaki Hayato (溝脇 隼人) has been promoted to the starting SS position, and while he had early success at Koushien, he did struggle as the tournament progressed.

Hasami (Nagasaki) - 3rd/4th place - 1st appearance
Hasami has almost appeared out of nowhere and is back at Koushien. They first came on in the 1996 Natsu Koushien, and then stormed their way to the Best 8. They made a brief appearance in 2001, and now are here again in 2011.

And as with most unknown teams, it's the ace pitcher that is the player of note. Enter super rookie Matsuda Shouma (松田 遼馬). He 3-hit Nagasaki Nichidai and gave up a whopping 5 hits in the final 3 games of the prefecturals (Nagasaki Nichidai included). He then advanced the team into the semifinals where he finally just gave out, giving up 8 hits and 9 walks, and yet only 4 runs. Not sure how that happened.

Anyways, he already has hit 144 on the gun, and outside of the standard slider, curve and change, he supposedly has a cutter and a two-seam. And he's apparently the cleanup hitter as well.

21st Century Teams (3)
Oodate Houmei (Akita) - Akita champions - 1st appearance
Oodate Houmei earns a 21st century bid, but it may not have happened at all. Akita is one of a few prefectures that has a double elimination format. After losing to Noshiro Shougyou in the Kita regionals, they won out in the losers bracket to make the prefecturals. From there they defeated Honjyou en route to defeating Yokote Jyounan to win the #1 seed. They lost to Aomori Yamada 4-3 in the first round, but the committee liked their consistent results in Akita as well as their efforts to balance academics and extracurriculars enough to award them a bid.

As for the team, the man wearing the ace number now is Saitou Kouhei (斉藤 浩平). Don't have much else right now. He takes over on the mound after their original ace Abe Shuntarou (阿部 春太郎) injured his arm.

Sado (Niigata) - Niigata runner-up - 1st appearance
I've had a small place for Sado when I follow teams. It's mostly because it's a school on Sado Island, a fairly large island in a remote area of Niigata. Seeing them continue to do well in Niigata but fall short disappointed me, but the committee this time around rewarded them with a bid in part due to that remoteness.

Sado made it to the prefectural finals only to lose to Nihon Bunri 6-1, and then was shutout by Saku Chousei 6-0.

I have no other information other than the pitcher/catcher combination consisting of Kamata and Watanabe (鎌田 - 渡部), as well as a video of Kamata.

Jyounan (Tokushima) - Tokushima champions - 1st appearance
Jyounan is rewarded by the selection committee after winning the Tokushima prefecturals for the first time in school history.

And outside of a close call against Komatsushima in the semifinals, they actually breezed through the prefecturals! They even defeated Tokushima Shougyou 13-2!

In the super-regionals, they held strong against Kagawa Nishi, and actually had the lead against them. But they faltered late and fell 7-6.

The ace who helped lead the team to their first prefectural title is Takeuchi Yuuta (竹内 勇太), a righty who throws in the high 130s with a two-seamer in addition to the traditional slider, change and curve.