Tuesday, February 18, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Iwakuni (Yamaguchi)

It has been a little while, but Iwakuni makes their first trip back to Koushien since their appearance in Natsu Koushien back in 2007, and it's been 14 years since their last appearance here in Senbatsu.  Yamaguchi prefecture really hasn't had stable representation, perhaps lending itself to the fact that the rest of the field perhaps is catching up to them.  But they're back for now.

Road to Senbatsu
Yamaguchi Prefecturals
  • def. Iwakuni Kougyou 8-1 (8 inn)
  • def. Hikari 1-0
  • def. Shimonoseki Shougyou 9-2 (8 inn)
  • def. Yamaguchi Sakuragaoka 9-0 (7 inn)
  • def. Takagawa Gakuen 8-6
Chuugoku Super-Regionals
  • def. Tottori Shougyou 7-1
  • def. Soutoku 4-0
  • def. Kurashiki Shougyou 7-0
  • def. Hiroshima Shinjyou 4-3
Meiji Jingu Tournament
The prefecturals went pretty much as you might suggest.  But in their 3rd round game, Hikari's ace Fujishima Kentarou (藤島 謙太朗) suddenly game Iwakuni a shock, limiting them to just 1 run.  However, ace Yanagawa Takehiro (柳川 健大) limited Hikari to just 3 hits to help his team advance.

After that they had more expected games until the final where Kawaguchi Masao (河口 雅雄) sent in Azuma Fumiya (東 史弥) instead.  Despite doing so, and facing Takagawa Gakuen ace Sakai, they still managed to win 8-6 (Takagawa scored all 6 runs in the final 3 innings).

Iwakuni opened super-regional play with a solid win over Tottori Shougyou.  However, versus Hiroshima runner-up Soutoku, it took having Soutoku's ace Okamoto tiring before they could put up all 4 runs in the 7th.  And then after another simple win over Kurashiki Shougyou they once again were taken to the limit by another Hiroshima squad. Yanagawa, playing with a 3-run lead let it slip away in the 8th before a wild pitch by ace Yamaoka gave Iwakuni back the lead for good.

And as mentioned in Hakuoudai's post, an error led to Iwakuni's 5-run 8th inning and subsequent victory.  But that extension was short lived as Okinawa Shougaku would mercy-rule them in 5 innings, all while getting just 5 hits.

Ace Yanagawa throws in the mid 130s, with a reported slider/fork combination.  He is not a strikeout pitcher though, so the defense will need to back him up.  Unfortunately though, as noted in Yanagawa's final 3 games (Chuugoku final and Meiji Jingu games), he gave up more than his fair share of hits, putting a ton of pressure on the defense.  I have little information on their other pitcher Azuma other than that he might have a two-seamer and slider.

Probably the best offensive piece on the team is leadoff batter 2B Kawamoto Takuho (川本 拓歩).  He had 2 base hits against Okishou, and had a double against Hakuoudai.  Otherwise it would be cleanup batter 1B Tsuchiya Tomohiro (二十八 智大), who had 2 hits in the Hakuoudai game and a HR and triple in the Kurashiki Shougyou game.

The problem I find is that their ace Yanagawa was just completely overmatched in his game versus Okinawa Shougaku.  If Kawaguchi-kantoku had wanted to hide his ace, Azuma would have been sent out.  But since Yanagawa pitched, they were trying to win and were whitewashed.  Plus, if not for the error, they would have lost to Hakuoudai as well.  With pitching at an apparent minus for the team, despite being the Chuugoku champions it will be hard from them to win games at senbatsu.

We'll see how the Chuugoku region is a whole when we review first-timers Hiroshima Shinjyou next.

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