Friday, March 20, 2015

Reviewing the field - Chuugoku runner-up Okayama Ridai Fuzoku

Okayama Ridai Fuzoku has long been in the shadows to teams like Kanzei and Kurashiki Shougyou. They've been on the doorstep for so long you'd think that perhaps it would be returned to sender.

Fortunately, the school has persevered and it has paid off in this Senbatsu appearance - their first in 17 years. They almost ripped themselves up in the first game, pulling out a 6-4 win over Okayama Minami. The rest of the road to the super-regionals went rather smoothly, including an 8-2 win over the aforementioned Kanzei. Ace Nishiyama Masaki (西山 雅貴) was actually rested in the prefectural final against Soushi Gakuen, and still managed to win 3-2.

After that though, it was Nishiyama or bust. He pitched all 4 games, which were 2 back-to-back pairs defeating Kouryou and Kanzei (again!), and securing their bid with a win over Ube Shougyou. The offense finally sputtered out, giving Nishiyama just 1 run of support. Nishiyama did the best he could, but the team would fall 2-1 in 11 innings.

My guess is that Hayakawa-kantoku will go with Nishiyama for as long as he can. #11 Ookuma Ryouga (大熊 崚雅) was his first option as a starter with Nishiyama wasn't an option for him, but with just 4 K's in 12 IP, he doesn't seem viable. His next option is actually 3B Tokuda Yukiya (徳田 夕希也) who seems more serviceable, but not sure by how much. And if they end up going to #18 Tabuchi Maiki (田淵 舞生), if his 1 appearance was any indicator, it's an all hands on deck situation.

Offensively, there are questions. The team hit 0.294, with an ISO less than 0.100 and their SLG just 25 points higher than their OBP. Leadoff batter SS Morita Masahiro (森田 将裕) sets the table by getting on base, while 2B Ishihara Yoshito (石原 吉人) drives them in. The balanced offense at least means that there aren't automatic outs in parts of the lineup, but against stiffer competition and given their lack of power, it'll be that much harder to score runs.

Kisaradzu Sougou isn't a great draw for the first round. They have good pitching that may leave them with little room for error. They're not without their chances early, but they'll need their close to A-game.

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