Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Reviewing the field - Hokushinetsu champions Tsuruga Kehi

Originally, when I had seen Tsuruga Kehi's gaudy scores in the super-regionals, I thought that they were on the warpath again - blowing out teams left and right, and showing no mercy. But a closer look at things suggest that they may be in a bit of trouble.

Their form through winning the super-regionals was excellent. Ace Hiranuma Shouta (平沼 翔太) was used sparingly in the prefecturals, and not in the championship game since they had already qualified. After that it was almost exclusively Hiranuma who with the exception of a pair of runs to small unknown Komoro Shougyou out of Nagano, threw up bagels.

That seemed to bode well for them leading up to the Meiji Jingu tournament, but the problem was that he seemed to struggle against Eimei though they would eventually win 7-5. But he would not take the hill against Kyushu Gakuin as they would fall badly 8-3. It would late be reported that he had suffered a lower foot injury.

All other things aside, this could prove to be fatal for Tsuruga Kehi. The next man up, Yamazaki Souichirou (山﨑 颯一郎), was ineffective against Kyushu Gakuin. And the two relievers that followed fared no better. Hiranuma is on the roster for the tournament, but as we've seen in years past, it could just be in name only as he may never take the field. He wasn't on the mound for practice games following the Meiji Jingu tournament so there's that too. And perhaps the last nail in coffin is that Azuma-kantoku is bringing in 3 more "relievers" outside of #18 Yamazaki - #10 Unno Ryuuichirou (海野 隆一朗), #11 Hara Ryou (原 綾) and #17 Matsumoto Souma (松本 早馬). Hara and Unno both started that disaster of a game against Kyushu Gakuin.

Finally, to beat a dead horse, Hiranuma is their cleanup batter as well. He hit 3 of the team's 4 HRs, and drove in 20% of the team's runs while going 16-32. If he's not in the lineup, their run production is cut dramatically. They still have some good hitters on the team, including leadoff hitter 3B Shinohara Ryou (篠原 涼), 2B Nakai Kidzuku (中井 基継), and CF Yamamoto Kouta (山本 皓大), but the loss of Hiranuma would be crippling.

Long story short, if Hiranuma is available and at near full strength, the team can be a force to be reckoned with. If he's unavailable, they may not get by Sendai Ikuei in the 2nd round.

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