Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Reviewing the field - Kinki runner-up Ritsumeikan Uji

Ritsumeikan Uji isn't necessarily one of the top teams out of Kyoyo, but like their counterparts Ryuukokudai Heian, they have 5 kanji in their names, and they're still pretty good. They're making just their 3rd appearance though, so there's still some excitement in going (I figure once you've made it for a while, it's more of an expectation than a joy, but that's just me).

The road out of the Kyoto prefecturals wasn't quite smooth sailing. First, they faced their primary school Ritsumeikan in the 2nd round, and narrowly won in the 1st stage matchup 7-6. They then barely got by a game (but not excellent) Toba squad in the semifinals, clinching their spot in the super-regionals. Losing to the aforementioned Ryuukokudai Heian 2-1 wasn't as bad at that point.

From there, their path to the finals wasn't as tough on paper as Tenri's, but it still had some Koushien teams - Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku and Oumi to start, then a softer matchup against Naradai Fuzoku to cement their position at Koushien.

Even still, they went with their first squad (not that they had a choice necessarily, more on that in a bit), but were rocked 8-4 to deny them the title.

On the overall, the resume at first glance is not impressive.

First of all, Udaki-kantoku went with 1 pitcher the entire fall run - ace Yamashita Taiga (山下 太雅). No information on his repertoire though, but he struggled to strike out 6 per 9 innings, and carried a WHIP of 1.45! Not only that, but he was issuing walks at an alarming pace (60 walks compared to 73 hits!). That has to be really concerning, though perhaps it was because he was wearing down - he had 29 walks in his last 4 games.

The team does carry 2 other pitchers on the Koushien roster, #10 Tanaka Satoru (田中 覺) and #11 Yoshihara Shouta (吉原 章汰). But they weren't used in the super-regionals, so there's almost no chance they'd use them on the big stage.

Offensively, the team batted 0.335, which isn't bad at all given they did play good competition. They did have some extra base hits as indicated by their 0.103 ISO. 6 batters hit over 0.300, but the other 3 were closer to the Mendoza line (that's 0.200 for those not familiar). Oddly, while #3 batter LF Nara Shouhei (奈良 祥平) had more than a third of the team's doubles (6 of 17), it's cleanup hitter 1B Itou Taiga (伊藤 大賀) who had 25% of the team's RBI total (17 of 68).

This concerns me even more about the state of the Kinki region. The fact that this team, with this ace, was able to reach the super-regional final seems more of an abnormality than the norm. The last time I can remember a team that had an ace that walked batters at the rate Yamashita has is probably Hifumi Shinta from Toukaidai Sagami when he changed his arm slot his senior year. Considering that we haven't really heard about this pitcher beforehand, and there's little information on him suggests that he is no Hifumi - and that's a big problem.

They get Shizuoka to start, and they could easily have drawn worse, but Shizuoka isn't a pushover and I would be really interested to see how this team plays on the field because from the looks of things this team shouldn't be here, or should have been one of the last teams in.

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