Wednesday, January 29, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Aomori)

Onto the Tohoku region where we start with champion Kousei Gakuin, now known as Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei. It was heartbreaking to see them reach 3 straight Koushien finals only to lose in all 3. Once versus Nichidai-san which I witnessed in person, then back-to-back in 2012 to Osaka Touin.  I really hoped they would have been able to win one - I think they certainly deserved it.  But the world of 高校野球 is not as ideal as we would like - though that might be changing.  After a year to rebuild, they return once again to the national stage, hoping for a better result this time around.

Road to Senbatsu
Hachinohe Regionals
  • def. Hachinohe Suisan 10-0
  • def. Hachinohe Higashi 16-2
  • def. Hachinohe 10-1
Aomori Prefecturals
  • def. Goshougawara Shougyou 8-1
  • def. Misawa Shougyou 9-0
  • def. Aomori 5-2
  • lost Aomori Yamada 8-3
  • def. Sendai Ikuei 10-7
  • def. Sakata Minami 9-2
  • def. Hanamaki Higashi 2-1
  • def. Touryou 13-2
Meiji Jingu
  • lost Imabari Nishi 5-1
As you can see, for larger Super-regions the road to Koushien is much, much longer.  Fortunately for Kousei they were able to afford a loss - to an Aomori Yamada squad that has tried for years to return to Koushien themselves.

Looking at their record, they defeated every lower-level team they were supposed to beat.  And not just beat, but in general annihilate.  Only Aomori, who isn't that bad of a team in-prefecture was spared a mercy-rule loss.

Of course, what is more important is their games against the bigger fish, and there is a bit to see. I do not unfortunately have data on their loss to Aomori Yamada, but perhaps I think knowing that they were going to qualify held some things back just in case for the Super-Regionals.

In those Super-Regionals, they had a very Sendai Ikuei-ish game against said team. I say that considering the game that Urawa Gakuin had against them last summer - if you could call it one. They got out to a 4-1 lead, gave up 6 runs, then battled back to win.  Sakata Minami got a bunch of hits, but could only push through 2 runs.

Predictably, Hanamaki Higashi proved to the the biggest stumbling block as Sasaki-kantoku continued to have his team play up to the competition.  Ace Hosokawa would strike out 11 in a CG effort, but Kousei made enough of their 8 hits while Nakagawa would hold the fort.

Indeed, it would seem that they are playing safe as in their loss to Imabari Nishi, Nakagawa only pitched 3.2 innings before being relieved with his team down 3-0.

Further supporting my argument was the fact that Nakagawa Masashi (中川 優), who was used for many of the key games... does not wear the ace number!  Instead he wears #11!!  According to the reports, he throws in the mid 130s, and has a change to go with the standard slider and curve.  He appears to be Nakai-kantoku's stopper.  More videos of him can be found here and here.

So then what about ace Satou Shun (佐藤 駿)?  He also apparently also throws in the 130s, and with the Meiji Jingu radar gun, this figure is more reliable. But while he wears the ace number, there is no other information on him - although I guess you could assume he carries the basic selection of pitches.  Which begs the question if he really is the staff ace.

Defensively, the Nii(?) twins of Katsuyoshi (新井 勝貴) and Katsunori (新井 勝徳) who patrol CF and RF respectively are a great asset for the team.  At the plate, SS Houjyou Yuuji (北條 裕之) can provide some pop at the top of the lineup, though from these ABs against Imabari Nishi it doesn't look like that at all - though the defense seems to have him played right in the OF.  And finally, their cleanup batter is 1st year Sai Seiu (蔡 鉦宇) who is actually Taiwanese.

With not as much information as I'd like, it's hard to say whether Kousei can make another big run. It would seem that the pitching might keep them in it, but the offense may not be able to stand and deliver against the more competitive teams.  Unless they get a tough draw, I think they could make the quarterfinals - but after that it will be tough.

Next, Tohoku runner-up Touryou!

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