Wednesday, February 12, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama)

So once again, Takashima-kantoku (高嶋 仁) and his Chiben Wakayama squad return to Koushien. Though in recent years they have not been as competitive and this actually is their first trip back to Senbastsu in 3 years.  What was a dominant team though has had weaknesses in one part of their game or another.  Has time passed Takashima-kantoku by? Surely there are some that do not like his old-school managing, and you could make an argument he resides in a prefecture that is not as strong as others.  But he did manage to have successful runs in the past.

Road to Senbatsu
Newcomer Tournament
  • def. Kishikawa 10-3 (mercy rule?)
  • def. Kainan 5-2
  • lost Shinguu 6-3
Wakayama Prefecturals - 2nd Stage
  • def. Arita Chuo 6-0
  • def. Shirtisu Wakayama 6-3
  • def. Kainan 6-5
Kinki Super-Regionals
  • def. Ichikawa 10-1 (7 inn)
  • def. Naradai Fuzoku 10-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Houtoku Gakuen 16-8 (8 inn)
  • lost Ryuuokudai Heian 6-4
I don't know if Takashima-kantoku is getting wiser or not, but he played this in a manner that I would have done.  First of all, in the newcomer tournament, winning the first game means you get to skip straight to the 2nd stage prefecturals (i.e. quarterfinals).  So there is a big incentive to at least win the first game.  They did that easily against Kishikawa.  Now, I haven't been able to see who Takashima-kantoku sent out there for the next 2 games, but given they were going to get a month off before their next game, they went on to win against Kainan before in-consequently falling to Shinguu.

To the prefecturals and once again Takashima-kantoku held back his main starters as much as possible to defeat both Arita Chuo and Shiritsu Wakayama to ensure a spot in the super-regionals.  With the final against Kainan meaningless other than the fall prefectural title, they fell to Kainan.

Once they hit the super-regionals, they sent out their 2 main starters, ace Nakano Rei (中野 嶺) and #10 Adzuma Yuusuke (東妻 勇輔) who pitched all but 1/3 of an inning in all 4 games.  Both starters split time on the mound each game with exception of the Houtoku Gakuen game where Azuma was asked to go the full distance, despite giving up 5 in the first 2 innings (Chiben scored 5 themselves, but didn't pull away until the 5th inning).  As you can see from the videos (or lack thereof), I do not have any info on either pitcher

Here's the thing though.  If Takashima-kantoku was worried about giving up too much info on his pitchers, he wouldn't have sent out either Nakano or Azuma in the semifinals or finals given that Kinki receives 6 bids.  Now, you could argue that being in the semifinals isn't enough, but unless you're totally blown out I figure you're safe.  So while I think he played the regionals/prefecturals correctly, I think once he got to the Super-Regionals either he tried to win it all - even though winning it is not the end goal, nor is it necessary, or he knew that he could only throw those other pitchers in the prefecturals.

Which then makes me wonder about the strength of their staff.  Azuma certainly went his longest stint in the Houtoku Gakuen game and perhaps could be excused for giving up 3 in the 8th.  And given the review of Ryuukokudai Heian, you could understand the runs that they gave up.  But at the same time, it is an indictment of their potential at Senbatsu if they perhaps cannot hold their own in region.

Offensively, in many of their games, they went for extra bases early and often.  However, it screeched to a halt against Heian, where C Nishiyama Touma (西山 統麻) recorded the only extra base hit.  Ignore that game and Katayama Shouta (片山 翔太) with to a lesser extent Ooishi Kaito (大石 海斗) and Oobatake Tatsuya (大畑 達矢) provided most of the spark in the offense.

Well, for handicapping Chiben Wakayama's chances, they did not really face a seasoned opponent until the super-regional semifinal, and in those last 2 games, the pitching did falter. The offense being slowed considerably by Heian also raises a red flag.  So, probably Chiben's chanes this senbatsu appears to be similar to their runs in recent years, win a game or two and then bow out when they face a tough opponent.

Next up, the hometown 18 of Houtoku Gakuen!

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