Sunday, February 2, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Hakuoudai Ashikaga (Tochigi)

And now onto the Kanto region, where they were awarded 5 representatives.  First up, the Kanto champs Hakuoudai Ashikaga - who to my surprise had not ever gone to senbatsu before.  This despite the fact that they've been to Natsu Koushien 3 times.

Anyways, here was their road to senbatsu.

Road to Senbatsu
Tochigi Prefecturals
  • def. Yasaka Chuo 6-3
  • def. Oyama 2x-1 (11 inn)
  • def. Tochigi 15-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Sakushin Gakuin 3-2
  • def. Kokugakuin Tochigi 4x-3 (10 inn)
  • lost Sano Nichidai 5-0
  • def. Hanasaki Tokuharu 6-5
  • def. Narashino 3-1
  • def. Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku 3-1
  • def. Kiryuu Dai-ichi 6-3
Meiji Jingu Tournament
  • lost Iwakuni 6-4
Hakuoudai Ashikaga did not have an easy road to winning the Kanto Super-Regionals. Imagine having to play Sakushin Gakuin in the quarterfinals in order to advance.  And yet, they almost dominated the game save for a late rally that almost came back to win.  It would make sense that there might be a letdown in their next game.  So it was against Kokugakuin Tochigi (who by no means is a pushover). Trailing 3-0 with just 3 outs to go, Kokugakuin suffered from the pressure of defeating a big name team. They gave up their 3 run lead and would be bid sayonara one inning later.

Having qualified for the Tohoku Super-Regional, perhaps Hakuoudai finally had their letdown being blanked by Sano Nichidai 5-0.

The loss also put them in a bad spot right off the bat having to play Saitama champs Hanasaki Tokuharu right off the bat.  And yet, they never trailed taking a 6-1 lead before holding on to win 6-5.  Then ace Higa Shin (比嘉 新) limited my Narashino squad to just 1 run in a fairly dominant 3-1 win.  Just a day later, he'd repeat his performance against Yamanashi Gakuindai Fuzoku.

Having gone back-to-back days, kantoku Fujita Shinji (藤田 慎二) let him rest in favor of relief starter Hasegawa Keita (長谷川 慶太) and normal LF Ooshita Seichirou (大下 誠一郎) in the title game against Kiryuu Dai-ichi who also rested their ace.  Again, this probably in the name of not giving up too much information.  Hakuoudai would win the battle of the backup starters 6-3 claiming their first ever Tohoku title and their 1st bid to senbatsu.

Higa would retake the hill in their first game against Iwakuni in the Meiji Jingu tournament, and things looked good as with some well placed balls (including one from himself), they built a 4-1 lead.  However, Higa would lose support in the field in the 8th as SS Kamon Hikaru (下門 光瑠) would go home on a play with the bases loaded, hitting the runner and allowing Iwakuni to eventually take the lead to win 6-4.

Interestingly, ace Higa does not throw particularly hard, somewhere in the low 130s. Reports vary on his repertoire, he has a slider for sure, but either has a curve/change, perhaps a forkball, and might have a cutter as well.

I have to wonder though how much Fujita-kantoku really will lean on the relief staff. Ooshita is more known as a power-hitter on the team more than a pitcher, and yet is turned to more than who would be their reliever in #10 Hasegawa.  And yet, I do not see him pitching outside of the final against Kiryuu Dai-ichi.

Offensively they do not appear to be as strong as perhaps other contenders.  Higa at best seems to be someone that could be Ojima from Urawa Gakuin who doesn't throw hard, but perhaps get the job done.  There doesn't look to be any solid backup behind him, so it'll be boom or bust for the first-timers. Higa can certainly last for 1 or 2 games, but after that the competition will be rough.

Next up today... runner-ups Kiryuu Dai-ichi!

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