Sunday, December 16, 2012

Handicapping the field (Part 2)

Well, we may have had one or two title contenders in the Higashi Nihon and Hokkaido areas.  Let's start heading west and seeing who else might challenge for the title.

Again, please note that these teams have not yet been invited, but this is my best estimate on who will be invited by the committee.

春江工 - Harue Kougyou (Hokushinetsu, Fukui, Sakai-shi) - 1st appearance - B-
Harue Kougyou is a bit of an enigma.  One of the better teams out of Fukui that lives in the shadow of teams such as Fukui Shougyou, Fukui Koudai Fukui, etc., Harue Kougyou survived through the prefectural final where they were annihilated by Tsuruga Kehi.  They then fought through 4 close games (their largest margin of victory was 2!) including a revenge final against Tsuruga Kehi.  A quality win against Urawa Gakuin at Meiji Jingu was a definite plus...

...until they were whitewashed by Kanzei 10-2...

Perhaps part of their success is their backstop Kurihara Ryouya (栗原 陵矢) who has a great arm to limit the running game.

Still though, the body of work outside of the Urawa Gakuin game isn't that impressive.  I do expect a close game against weaker opponents and perhaps a win.  But I do not see them making a deep run at all.

敦賀気比- Tsuruga Kehi (Hokushinetsu, Fukui, Tsuruga-shi) - 5th appearance, 2nd consecutive - C
Tsuruga Kehi isn't as much of a mystery, but might shed some light on Harue Kougyou.  You see, Tsuruga Kehi put up double digits in 4 of their 5 games (the only one was a 1-0 win over Fukui Shougyou).  But then turn the page to the Super-Regionals, and it was all 1-run games including 2 extra inning affairs.

In other words, it speaks to how weak the Fukui prefecturals were and in turn, how weak the Super-Regionals were as well.

Kishimoto Jyunki (岸本 淳希) takes over the ace position, this probably out of necessity as his 1-inning performance at Koushien last year was one he'd like to forget.  His control problems still remain (25:13 K:BB ratio), so while he can hurl it in the low 140s with a slider, curve and sinker, it won't do him much good if he walks more than his fair share of batters.

With Tsuruga Kehi struggling in the Super-Regionals, it's hard to project them to get out of the first round. They might get our of the first round thanks to their namesake, but that's about as fortunate as they will get.

県岐阜商 - Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou (Tokai, Gifu, Gifu-shi) - 27th appearance, 1st in 18 years! - C+
This is a bit of a surprise for me.  Not that Kengifushou has reached Senbatsu... but that they haven't been here in 18 years!  But it is actually a reminder that despite this being Kengifushou's 55th appearance in Haru-Natsu Koushiens, they aren't as strong as perhaps you or I think.

Now, they did beat Oogaki Nichidai 4-0 and defeated Tokoha Kikugawa 2-1.  But while they were able to improve on an 11-1 loss to Sendai Ikuei in the National Sports Festival, they still gave up 4 runs in the 9th to lose 6-2 in the 1st round of the Meiji Jingu Tournament.

Their ace is Fujita Ryouji (藤田 凌司), who apparently is another Oogushi (see Hokushou).  Gets to 130, but not much else, and has the slow curve.  He can hit the ball though.

I give them good odds to get past the first round, but not much else.

菰野 - Komono (Tokai, Mie, Komono-shi) - 1st appearance - C
Komono, despite being at Koushien a couple of times, this is their 1st appearance.

This despite having a secret ace in Urashima Souta (浦嶌 颯太).  He was never used in the fall, but can apparently hit 150 on the gun, with a standard slider and curve.

Instead it was ace Yamanaka Satoshi (山中 亨悟) who carried the team.  Though I can find no information on him other than the video.

Without much to go with, the body of work is a bit weak.  They happened to face Shiritsu Gifu Shougyou before facing Kenritsu Gifu Shougyou and losing.  They might have a chance to advance out of the first round, but it'll be tough.

常葉菊川 - Tokoha Kikugawa (Tokai, Shizuoka, Kikugawa-shi) - 4th appearance, 1st in 5 years - C
Man, when I first really started watching Koushien, it was when Tokoha Kikugawa seemed to make the impossible happen.

It was Senbatsu 2007, and Tokoha Kikugawa started off by defeating Sendai Ikuei 2-1.  Then they defeated Imabari Nishi (whom I had watched in person the prior summer) 10-0!  They wouldn't leave it there as down 1-0 to Osaka Touin in the quarterfinals they scored a run in the 8th and the 9th for the gyakuten win!

Oh, and then was the scrappy Kumamoto Kougyou squad.  Again down 4-3 with just 3 outs to go, they scored 3 for another comeback win.  And to put the cherry on top, down once again 5-3 in the finals to Oogaki Nichidai, they scored 3 to win their 1st title in just their 2nd attempt.

They put together 2 strong runs at Natsu Koushien after that, and cemented themselves a place in my mind and heart.

But after 2008, they disappeared.  Sure they made runs at the title (and they were even denied in the final in 2010 by their sister school Tokoha Tachibana!) but we haven't seen them since.

There are shades of that 2007 team in this team.  In the semifinals, they rallied not once but twice against Hiryuu to win 7-6.  They advanced to the Super-Regional despite a 14-1 loss in the final to Shizuoka.  And against Touhou, they let a lead slip before reasserting themselves in a 6-4 win.  This before giving up the sayonara run to Kengifushou in the semifinal.

I'll be glad when I hear their name called as one of the members in the 85th Senbatsu field.  But I'll treasure the time they're there though as I don't seem them lasting long, sadly.

Their ace is Horita Tatsuya (堀田 竜也), but I don't have much else on him other than that.

京都翔英 - Kyoto Shouei (Kinki, Kyoto, Uji-shi) - 1st appearance - B
Kyoto Shouei's ace is well, not?

Enomoto Kazuki (榎本 和輝) as seen in the first link against Ryuukokudai Heian wears the #3 jersey, yet was the predominant pitcher for the club.

But then in the 2nd clip, he starts against Hokushou in the Meiji Jingu tournament wearing #18, a number meant for relievers?!  Futhermore, he appears to have a bat to boot, so why doesn't he wear a starting number, much less the ace if he starts?

The only reason might be that he throws only in the high 130s with a curve, slider and fork.  But still, aces have been chosen on good teams for less than that.

Kyoto Shouei is a bit of an engima.  You see, the school was established in 1984, and had not experienced success as a team until 2010 when they lost to Kyoto Gaidai Nishi in the prefectural finals for Natsu Koushien.  Then they fell back into anonymity.

Then this fall, they go on a rampage, defeating the aforementioned Kyoto Gaidai Nishi, Kyoto Subaru, Fukuchiyama Seibi, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku, Riseisha, Ryuukokudai Heian and Houtoku Gakuen before losing 3-1 to Hokushou at the Meiji Jingu tournament.

The games that Kyoto Shouei have been involved in have been mostly low-scoring affairs, but to limit the majority of these teams to a handful of runs is impressive.  They may certainly have the ability to make a deep run, but being first-timers is a big wild card.

報徳学園 - Houtoku Gakuen (Kinki, Hyogo, Nishinomiya-shi) - 19th appearance, 1st in 2 years - B+
Houtoku took one year off in 2012, but has come back thanks to ace Inui Ryouhei (乾 陽平).  The gun in the video has him in the high 130s, and just touching 140.  He has the standard slider and curve.

And even though he lost out to Enomoto and Kyoto Shouei in 12 innings, he also has a list of teams he left in his wake - Touyoudai Himeji, Kansei Gakuin, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku, Fukuchiyama Seibi, and Osaka Touin (throwing a 7-inning 1-hitter no less!).

Of course, don't underestimate the power of home field advantage.  They're always a stone's throw away from Koushien Stadium, and they have a great fan base.  Combine that with the school's experience, and they stand to be one of the teams in the discussion when you talk about potential winners.

龍谷大平安 - Ryuukokudai Heian (Kinki, Kyoto, Kyoto-shi) - 37th appearance, 1st in 5 years - B-
Heian once again pokes its head into Koushien.  They've had a winning drought as of late, but get in thanks to wins against Chiben Wakayama and Yamato Kouryou.

Fukuoka Takumi (福岡 拓弥) started most of their games, outside of the game in the Super-Regional against Kyoto Shouei (perhaps to hide him for later?).  But other than that I have nothing else about him to report.

There are a lot of low scoring close affairs for Heian.  But, they've shown they can play the high scoring game if need be, which certainly helps.

But I don't have a lot to go on to analyze the team.  Given their performance at Natsu Koushien and their loss of most of their starting 9, they probably won't go far outside of a favorable draw.

大阪桐蔭 - Osaka Touin (Kinki, Osaka, Daitou-shi) - 6th appearance, 2nd consecutive - B+
Osaka Touin continues to chug along.  Yes, they lost Fujinami as the ace, but the offense continues to chug along.

How much?  In their 9 victories in the fall taikais, their combined scoring was 99-16, with their smallest margin being 5 runs against Uenomiya Taishi!

Mori Tomoya (森 友哉) returns as the lynchpin of the Touin offense.  And apparently, he hasn't missed a beat.  I'm still searching for actual statistics, but from the video, he continues to contribute on offense.  Plus, as the game caller he'll help the new aces.

3B Kasamatsu Yuuya (笠松 悠哉) also returns to help out Mori on the field.  Not necessarily a power hitter, he makes good contact and can get on base.

Joining them is new 1B Kinden Takuya (近田 拓矢) who was the backup last summer (#13), and SS Mizutani Yukiya (水谷 友生也) who was the backup middle infielder (#14).

Kuzugawa Tomoya (葛川 知哉) appears to have taken over as the ace of the staff.  Orginally given #9, he has taken over as #1 with a 145 kph fastball.  Before then, it appeared that Takanishi Ryouta (高西 涼太, formerly #18) had inherited the ace number.  He threw in the low-mid 140s with a good change, and a slider and curve.
The problem with Osaka Touin is that in their two losses, they fell to Riseisha in the Osaka final 3-1, then were 1 hit by Houtoku Gakuen 8-0 in a 7 inning game!

Those 2 games give me pause, especially the Houtoku Gakuen game.  To have the offense completely shut down, and the pitching give up 8 runs is a red flag.  However, it's only one game and perhaps it's not as serious, but at Senbatsu you cannot afford a bad game... unless you get lucky.  You cannot count them out to win their 3rd calendar Koushien title, but whenever you lose an ace it makes the job that much more difficult.

履正社 - Riseisha (Kinki, Osaka, Toyonaka-shi) - 5th appearance, 3rd consecutive - B-
Riseisha suffers from the fact that (a) they're in a big prefecture as Osaka, and (b) the road to the Osaka title goes through Osaka Touin.

That's why they're making their 3rd straight Senbatsu appearance.  They don't have to win the Osaka title to advance, which gives them a chance to receive and invitation.

This year though they did win the Osaka title, defeating Osaka Touin, and advanced to the quarterfinals where they lost to Kyoto Seishou, 3-1 in 12 innings.

Higashino Ryuuji (東野 龍二), who wore #17 at Senbatsu last year and started both games, becomes the true ace this time around.  From last spring, Higashino has a fastball that touches 130 and a slider in the high 110s and a fork in the low-mid 110s.

Riseisha's problem may be their offense.  Despite outscoring their opponents 60-5 in their games before the Osaka final, none were against established competition.  After that, in their next 3 games, they barely outscored their opposition 5-4:
  • 3-1 against Osaka Touin
  • 1-0 against Kansei Gakuin
  • 1-3 loss to Kyoto Seishou
The Osaka Touin win is definitely impressive.  But scoring 1 against Kansei Gakuin, then losing to relative unknown Kyoto Seishou (despite them winning the Super-Regional) suggests they will struggle to score runs at Senbatsu.

大和広陵 - Yamato Kouryou (Kinki, Nara, Kouryou-machi) - 2nd appearance, 1st in 28 years - B-
Yamato Kouryou will get in ahead of Tenri because they have something that Tenri hasn't had for a while... a staff ace.

Tachita Shouta (立田 将太) is a super rookie who is *pinches fingers* this close to hitting 150.  Not only that, but he apparently already has a slider, curve, and forkball to go along with it.

Here's the thing, as perhaps a strategic move for the summer, Yamato Kouryou did not start Tachita against Tenri in the prefectural final.  So he wasn't responsible for the 5-1 loss.  Furthermore, he gave up just 2 runs in a 2-0 loss to Ryuukokudai Heian.  Sure, they aren't an offensive powerhouse, but it's still solid nonetheless.

The problem is offense.  They will be subject to low scoring games, and in a single-elimination format, that is a big problem.

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