Thursday, February 27, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Kainan (Wakayama)

Kainan earned the wild-card bid for the 21st century schools.  They were rewarded for their efforts in the arts while still being successful in baseball - having reached the Kinki Super-regionals.  With Chiben Wakayama dominating the scene in Wakayama, you wouldn't have known that this is Kainan's 17th appearance, since it is their first in 27 years.  They made 3 Natsu Koushien appearances and have reached as high as the Best 4 (Note though that Wakayama was not always awarded a bit to Natsu Koushien - why I'm not quite sure).

Road to Senbatsu
Newcomer Tournament
  • def. Shouyou 7-6
  • def. Tanabe Kougyou 12-2 (5 inn)
  • def. Hidaka Nakatsu 5-1
  • def. Kouyou 1-0
  • lost Chiben Wakayama 5-2
Wakayama Prefecturals - 2nd stage
  • def. Tanabe 11-1 (6 inn)
  • def. Kinkidai Shinguu 3-2
  • lost Chiben Wakayama 6-5
Kinki Super-Regionals
  • lost Riseisha 2-1
Kainan had to fight hard just to bypass part of the prefecturals.  They almost lost right off the bat to Shouyou and would have had to fight through the 1st stage of the prefecturals.  Then, with a ticket to the 2nd stage at stake, they faced former Koushien participant Kouyou and scored the only run in the game to secure their spot.  With that done, it would be okay to relax again Chiben Wakayama.  Winning that game and playing 1 more inconsequential one doesn't mean anything if you can't beat them again later when it might matter.

Fortunately, they were separated on opposite side of the bracket in the 2nd stage.  With the prospect of facing them only when they reached the finals, they easily handled Tanabe first before trading early blows versus Kinkidai Shinguu, delivering the last shot in the top of the 3rd and making it stick the rest of the game.

Oddly enough, they were facing Chiben Wakayama again with little at stake other than perhaps possibly avoiding a 1st round game.  Even still, they actually put together a big inning early to take a 5-2 lead.  However, ace Okamoto Masayuki (岡本 真幸) couldn't go back-to-back days and faltered late, allowing Chiben Wakayama to come back with 4 unanswered runs after the break to fall 6-5.

This meant that they would probably have to fight a prefectural winner to start the Super-Regionals, and sure enough they drew Osaka champs Riseisha - certainly not an easy task, and yet had a fighting chance.  Okamoto once more did all he could to keep his team in it, but again he couldn't keep it up late as he would give up a run in the 8th which would be enough to give Riseisha the victory.

Kantoku Morimoto Naohisa (森本 直寿) appears to go with Okamoto exclusively.  He reportedly can throw in the upper 130s with a slider/changeup combination - though I would think more likely he sits in the mid 130s.

Offensively, not sure who to point at - though Okamoto did hit a HR against Tanabe.  The top of the order, 2B Fukuda Isao (福田 力) and SS Sorayama Yuudairou (空山 侑大朗) help set the table for the rest of the team.

Playing Chiben Wakayama close does count for something, but Chiben also went to their bullpen for the most part in that game.  That result though is backed up somewhat by the narrow loss to Risesha in the super-regionals.

It's a bit hard to say whether they'll get past the first game, but I think they'll have a chance depending on the opponent given some of the results they've posted.

Well, that's it for the reviews!  I might update individual teams as more information comes out in the following days leading up to Senbatsu.  I may also put up my own version of the newspapers "grading" scales that might be more delineating than they provide - though without footage on all teams it's just a guess at best.

16 days until the draw for Senbatsu!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Ooshima (Kagoshima)

The western 21st century bid was awarded to Ooshima, a school who had reached 2 Kagoshima semifinals last year (it's a bit hard to explain since the natsu taikai doesn't count in this statement) and whose location (they're closer to Okinawa than mainland Kagoshima) makes it really difficult to compete as they have to travel by ferry and sometimes by plane - making every game they play a real road game.

Road to Senbatsu
Kagoshima Prefecturals
  • def. Shouyou 7-0 (7 inn)
  • def. Sendai Shoukou 1-0
  • def. Kagoshima Gyokuryuu 6-5 (10 inn)
  • def. Amami 5-0
  • def. Shounan 8-7
  • lost Ibusuki Shougyou 2-1
Unlike other prefecturals, since Kyushu has so many prefecutres rolled into it most only receive 2 bids for the Super-Regionals.  Ooshima lost in the semifinals and thus their road to senbatsu ended... that is until they were awarded a 21st century bid.

The road to the semifinals was rather bumpy, including a narrow 1-0 win over Sendai Shoukou.  Then down to their final out, leadoff batter Takeyama Shuu (竹山 舟) hits a triple over the RF head to inexplicably tie the game, with Ono Kounosuke (小野 浩之介) hitting a HR to center to end the game 1 inning later!  And then against top tier Shounan they actually held a comfortable lead before 4-spot in the 8th made it a very close affair.

Off topic, but it's a bit funny as looking at the schools I noticed that Amami is no more than a 10 minute walk from Ooshima!  And they wound up playing them in both the spring and fall tournaments!  Also, even though the 3rd years were not on this team, they did defeat Kamimura Gakuen in the spring taikai.

Kantoku Watanabe Yoshichika (渡邉 恵尋) uses a pitching tandem, going between ace Fukunaga Shou (福永 翔) and Maeyama Yuuki (前山 優樹).  Cleanup batter Ono and #5 batter Haku Keigo (泊 慶悟) probably will be the center of the offense.

There's no videos or game footage, so there's little to base judgement from.  Chances are Ooshima hasn't had the ability to face strong competition on a regular basis and could easily be considered one of the weaker teams in the tournament.  But, even facing weak competition it's hard to just luck yourself into the semifinals - especially since they did end up facing (and defeating) Shounan.  I hope they try and do more than being just happy to be there.

We're in the last 50 meters, and it's the final entrant - 21st century wildcard Kainan out of Wakayama.

32 teams in 32 days - Koyamadai (Tokyo)

Koyamadai earned the respect of the JHBF due to (a) the fact they reached the Best 8 despite not having an actual baseball ground at their school and thus can only practice an hour a day (though I do wonder how many schools in Tokyo could say that too), and (b) they have quite a few alumnus that have gone on to bigger and better things.  There is also mention of a player back in 2006 by the name of Ichikawa Hirosuke (市川 大輔) who was the starting 2B when he died in an elevator accident.  Since then, kantoku Fukushima Masanobu (福嶋 正信) has managed the team with the belief that he's still there helping the team.

Road to Senbatsu
Block 24 Regionals
  • def. Shiritsu (私立) Musashi 4-3
  • def. Toritsu Tachikawa/Toritsu Nougyou 10-3 (7 inn)
  • def. Jyunten 4-1
Tokyo Super-Regionals
  • def. Horikoshi 3-2
  • def. Waseda Jitsugyou 9-5
  • def. Nichidai Buzan 3-0
  • lost Toukaidai Takanawadai 5-3
Really, the signature win as it were was the 9-5 win over Waseda Jitsugyou.  Other than that, there is very little to write home about since they barely edged a 3rd tier team in Horikoshi in the first round of the super-regionals and lost to Toukaidai Takanawadai in the quarterfinals.

Despite this, most of the reason why Koyamadai is here is because of their ace Itou Yuusuke (伊藤 優輔).  He's actually garnered attention by some of the more notable followers of 高校野球.  He only throws in the mid 130s but apparently has a splitter and changeup to go with the standard slider and curve.

Now, the peripherals for Itou need to be taken with some modicum of restraint.  He does carry the highest K/9 ratio overall though during the super-regionals it was brought down to under 8 per 9.  But Itou appears to be it for Koyamadai.  If he can't finish the run, then they won't finish it either.  To be sure, I won't discount Itou's performance - for a school who has never been to Koushien at all, to finish the game against Soujitsu is impressive.  Remember what I said before about the lower tiered school finishing games.

Offensively, perhaps one can look to Yoshida Ryouhei (吉田 龍平) and Nishiwaki Kouichi (西脇 康一), though they inhabit the lower part of the lineup.

I wouldn't necessarily discount Koyamadai as just a team that's happy to be there, but it's hard to really handicap them.  Toukaidai Takanawadai's shutout loss to Kanto Dai-ichi though may not portend good things, but we won't know until they hit the field.

Just 2 more to go and we hit the 21st century western representative Ooshima.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Souseikan (Nagasaki)

Souseikan makes it's second consecutive (and 2nd total) appearance at senbatsu.  Though this time they needed help from Okinawa Shougaku in winning the Meiji Jingu Tournament because until that moment they were on the outside looking in.

Road to Senbatsu
Nagasaki Prefecturals
  • def. Iki 10-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Shimabara 8-1 (8 inn)
  • def. Obama 6-0
  • def. Sasebo Kougyou 7-1
  • def. Hasami 7-1
Kyushu Super-Regionals
  • def. Kashima 4-1
  • lost Misato Kougyou 1-0
Kantoku Wasada Tatsuo (稙田 龍生), while he couldn't bring his team back to Koushien in the summer (they lost in the semifinals), he replaced almost his entire squad and made a decent run again this past fall.

Now, ignoring the name of the opponents, it is amazing that they did not let an opponent score more than 1 run - not even their loss in the super-regionals.  Put the names back in though and it dullens the achievement somewhat.

Wasada interestingly did not hold back from using his promoted ace Hirowatari Yuuki (廣渡 勇樹) though he did go to Washizaki Jyun (鷲崎 淳) and then Tachibe Takahisa (立部 峻長) only in the final against Hasami.

Hirowatari's numbers are not bad at all.  If we were to just look at the 2 super-regional games, he averaged 4.5 H/9, 8 K/9 and 2 BB/9 - all good stats.

I do have to wonder about the offense though.  In the game versus Misato Kougyou each team managed just 4 hits. Two of the holdovers from last year, Onoda Yahiro (小野田 弥啓) and Makino Shinya (牧野 慎也) may be the ones to lead the offense.  They just haven't really been tested yet and it's hard to say if their rebuild is good enough to get past the first game.

Down the stretch we come and we will visit the three 21st century teams... first up... the Eastern Tokyo representative - Toritsu Koyamadai.

Monday, February 24, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Chinzei (Kumamoto)

I had seen Chinzei repeatedly bump their heads against the top tier teams of the prefecture for a while, and wondered if they'd finally break through.  And while I find out that they've been to Koushien before (scary part being that in both of their Natsu Koushien appearances, they reached the semifinals!), it's been a long time since they've played on the hallowed grounds.  But here they are, and is there a similar run in them?

Road to Senbatsu
Kagoshima Prefecturals
  • def. Tamana Kougyou 7-5
  • def. Kumamoto Kokufu 4-2 (12 inn)
  • def. Kumamoto Kougyou 6-5
  • def. Kaishin 6x-5 (11 inn)
  • def. Seiseikou 5-1
  • lost Taragi 4-3
Kyushu Super-Regionals
  • def. Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku 3x-2 (14 inn)
  • def. Waseda Saga 6-2
  • lost Okinawa Shougaku 4-1
Well, looks like they had quite the trip - and was the reason why there was a slim possibility that they were at-risk of being passed up for Souseikan even though they went one round further.

Kantoku Koujyou Kankyou (江上 寛恭) managed his team through quite a few close calls.  Even the Waseda Saga game was in question until the lucky 7 where they scored 4 runs to put the game away.  So only their win over Seiseikou was a breather.  They had to work for every other game.
  • Against Tamana Kougyou, their opponents scored 3 in the 8th to pull within 1 at 6-5.
  • They gave up the tying run in the 8th against Kumamoto Kokufu to force enchousen.
  • They actually had a 4 run lead over Kumamoto Kougyou until the 6th where they gave it all back before retaking the lead for good in the bottom half of the inning.
  • Then they had to come back from 4 runs down versus Kaishin, scoring a pair in the 8th to force enchousen.
  • They almost came back from 4 runs down against Taragi.
  • They let a 1-0 lead slip in the top of the 9th, then had to tie the game in the 11th.
  • And as mentioned before, they needed a 4-run inning to win the game.
Koujyou went with some sort of combination of 3 pitchers for his run.  They were:
  1. Ace sidearmer Suzaki Takurou (須崎 琢朗) who throws a slider and 2-seamer.
  2. 1B Yamashita Tokurou? (山下 篤郎)
  3. RP #11 Yamamoto Noboru? (山元 望)
While I do not have any innings data for the prefecturals, Suzaki was relied upon for the most part. He pitched in almost all of the Kyukoku and Okishou games, while being called in for the final 3 innings of the Waseda Saga match.

Here's the problem - and I have no idea how they were able to accomplish this if these stats really are true...

Suzaki's walk rate is HIGHER than his strikeout rate.

Yes, you read that right.  According to the data, he walked 3.86 batters per 9.  He struckout 3.41 batters per 9.  That's a K/BB ratio of 0.883!!  He also carries the highest H/9 at a little over 8 hits per 9.

This certainly can't be a formula for success, but somehow they've made it work. I would like to see this in action - perhaps somehow they've managed to copy what we saw in Obihiro Ootani in Koushien starter Satou.

Offensively, LF Matsushita Hiroshi? (松下 滉) had a fair amount of success in the super-regionals, possibly by CF Fukuyama Shinji (福山 晋).  But the team as a whole batted an unimpressive 0.238, and yet still averaged around 4.5 runs per game.

This team makes me scratch my head.  It doesn't look like this team should be successful, but they made it to the super-regional semifinal. They shouldn't get past the first game, but I'd really like to see them in action because I'm really, really curious.

We're heading around the home turn and we're approaching the Meiji Jingu bid Souseikan!

32 teams in 32 days - Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima)

I'm actually surprised in looking at the participants that this is just Kamimura Gakuen's 4th time heading to Senbatsu.  Then I find that the club was created in 2003 and I'm a bit surprised.  I say bit because I already expect Waseda Saga to dominate Saga-ken in the near future.  So given this is just their 4th trip, how did they get here?

Road to Senbatsu
Kagoshima Prefecturals
  • def. Izumo Shougyou 17-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Kakushou 10-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Makurazaki 8-4
  • def. Kagoshima Jitsugyou 5-4
  • def. Kagoshima Jyousai 6-0
  • def. Ibusuki Shougyou 3-2
Kyushu Super-Regionals
  • def. Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku 7-3
  • def. Nisshou Gakuen 10-6
  • lost Misato Kougyou 5-1
Hm... Kamimura Gakuen running up to the final had to face Kagoshima Jitsugyou early, and overcame an early 4-0 deficit to do so.  Young kantoku Oda Daisuke (小田 大介) went with a relief pitcher in Ueshin? Taiyou (植新 太陽) and he limited Ibusuki Shougyou to just 4 hits though Ibusuki pulled to within 1 in the 9th.

Onto the super-regionals, Oda-kantoku would go to the pair of Azuma Michihiro (東 務大) and Oomura Shou (大村 将).  But what I'm finding is that there is precious little information on any of the Kyushu representatives - at least through the prefecturals.  About the only thing I do know is for Azuma, and that is that he apparently leads all representatives in the lowest BB/9 (1.04), which is good because he only strikes out about 5 batters/9 as well.

Offensively, interestingly, the team has some consistently decent hitters.  They include 4 of the top 5 batters in the lineup including leadoff CF Nakayama Kouki (仲山 晃樹), SS Tokou Masao (都甲 将央), Kojima Chiaki (小島 千聖), and Toyoda Shougo (豊田 翔吾).  Oddly, cleanup batter RF Yamamoto Takuya (山本 卓弥) is not necessarily one of them.

The problem with having little information is that I can't really form a good opinion on those teams. On the surface, the win against Kagoshima Jitsugyou is a plus and it doesn't hurt with their wins against Kagoshima Jyousai and Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku.  I don't know who started their prefectural games other than the final where a pitcher not used in the super-regionals was used.  A red flag is the game against Nisshou Gakuen, a 3rd level school from Miyazaki where Azuma gave up 6 runs.  Oomura shut them down thereafter, but that combined with Azuma's peripherals make it difficult to consider them a contender.

Next up, the final Kyushu representative... and back after 24 years... Chinzei!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Misato Kougyou (Okinawa)

Congratulations are in order for Misato Kougyou.  They have been trying really hard to break through in Okinawa and have been close.  This time around though, they did it and all the while having the eventual fall champions continuously in their way!

Road to Senbatsu
Okinawa Prefecturals
  • def. Urasoe Kougyou 12-2 (7 inn)
  • def. Maehara 13-2 (5 inn)
  • def. Kadena 7-1
  • def. Yaeyama Shoukou 1-0
  • def. Okinawa Shougaku 3-0 (10 inn)
Kyushu Super-Regionals
  • def. Oita Shougyou 1-0
  • def. Souseikan 1-0
  • def. Kamimura Gakuen 5-1
  • lost Okinawa Shougaku 4-3
Misato Kougyou may have made it, but they could have just easily have lost earlier and it would have been another disappointment.  I don't have any information on the Yaeyama Shoukou game other than the fact that Misato Kougyou scored the only run in the top of the 9th inning while ace Iha Tomokazu (伊波 友和) completed the shutout for the ギリギリ win.

Then in the super-regionals, they would be outhit by Oita Shougyou 8-5 and yet a 1st inning run scored thanks to a walk and a timely base hit by Sunagawa Ryuunosuke (砂川 隆之佑) held up.  Then against Souseikan runners were at a premium on both sides as Nagamine Tsubasa (長嶺 飛翔/Iha and Souseikan ace Hirowatari Yuuki (広渡 勇樹) gave up just 4 hits each.  But in the 8th cleanup batter Kajyou Kou (花城 航) would get a base hit and be driven in later by a timely 2-out double by Yonamine Shou (與那嶺 翔).  Once again, Iha would make that run stick.

Compared to those two games, the semifinal match versus a seasoned Kamimura Gakuen was a piece of cake.  Kamimura's starter Oomura got himself into trouble in the 3rd, giving up a leadoff single to Iha, then hitting CF Kanda Daiki (神田 大輝) and getting unlucky in an infield hit by Nishikuratari Shou (西藏當 祥) to load the bases.  He then would walk Kajou for an oshidashi run, and a hard grounder by LF Miyagi Ryouta (宮城 諒大) would score another.  Misato Kougyou would never look back as they would win 5-1.

Standing in their way once again in the finals would be Okinawa Shougaku and again kantoku Kamiya Yoshimune (神谷 嘉宗), who actually managed Urasoe Shougyou before taking the Misato Kougyou job in 2012, sent out Nagamine instead of Iha.

This time around though, neither starter would be able to keep zeros on the board and by the time both Iha and Daichi would leave the game it would still be tied up 2-2.  Misato Kougyou would get the upper hand in the 6th when Kamizato would enter the game.  He would give up a leadoff basehit and walk the next 2 batters loading the bases!  Daichi would have to immediately return from RF to take the mound, but the pinch would be too much.  PH Azama Itsuki (安座間 樹) would hit the first pitch to center for a sac fly and the 3-2 lead.

Daichi would hold their ground afterwards until his team could come back in the 8th with a pair of runs against Iha for the 4-3 win.  Still it would be more than enough to get the call from the JHBF.

According to reports, Iha can throw in the low 140s, but generally settles in the high 130s and has a slider and forkball.  As for Nagamine, I haven't found any info on him at all other than the videos.  However, we only saw him in 3 games, the 2 vs. Okishou and the Souseikan game.  He seems serviceable enough, but we won't know for sure without more information.

Offensively, pretty much some of the names you see above are the key players.  Kajyou, Kanda and Nishikuratari can be solid hitters in the offense.  But oddly for Okinawa their federation website does not provide inning scores or even battery information.  That had to be obtained from other websites which makes it a little more difficult identifying the better hitters on the team.

The fact that they have played Okinawa Shougaku close, not once but twice, does count for something - but at the same time they should be familiar with them being a prefectural opponent.  It's not quite like a rivalry, but there is some familiarity there.  The other concern is that their offense for the most part struggled to score runs especially against Oita Shougyou and Souseikan - 2 about average teams.  So despite being able to finish as the prefectural runner-up, with little run support they will struggle to advance past the first game.  Not to say they can't, but it will be hard.

Coming up to bat, Kamimura Gakuen!

Friday, February 21, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Okinawa Shougaku (Okinawa)

Okinawa Shougaku has shown promise in recent times, but have yet to put the whole package together for that special run that other schools have been able to do.  Last summer they got to the 3rd round but were upset by unknown Seiai.  They managed to win it all in the fall... but the question will be whether or not they can do it again.

Road to Senbatsu
Okinawa Prefecturals
  • def. Kounan 2-0
  • def. Yokatsu 8-0 (8 inn)
  • def. Mawashi 2-0
  • def. Ginowan 10-0 (5 inn)
  • lost Misato Kougyou 3-0 (10 inn)
Kyushu Super-Regionals
  • def. Nichinan Gakuen 3-1
  • def. Hasami 9-1 (7 inn)
  • def. Chinzei 4-1
  • def. Misato Kougyou 4-3
Meiji Jingu Tournament
Yamashiro Daichi (山城 大智) takes over as the teams ace, and did a wonderful job throughout the prefecturals not allowing a run until the 10th inning of the finals where Misato Kougyou scored 3.

He would get back to work in the super-regionals, going the distance in each of the first 3 games allowing just a run a piece.  Kantoku Higa Kouya (比嘉 公也) would continue to go with Daichi in the rematch in the finals (again!).  However after giving up 3 runs over 5 innings, Higa would try to go with Kamizato Kounosuke (神里 廣之介).  However, he did not even record an out before Higa went back to his ace.  Daichi would hold down the fort just enough for his team to come back with a pair of runs in the 8th inning for the gyakuten victory.  This despite the fact that they had just 5 hits on the day (they did manage 6 walks from the Misato duo of Nagamine Tsubasa (長嶺 飛翔) and Iha Tomokazu (伊波 友和).

Kamizato would get another chance on the mount, starting the game against Iwakuni, and did manage to go 2 innings in the shortened affair.  But it looked like Higa-kantoku had possibly found another reliever in Kubo Shuuto (久保 柊人) to spell Daichi.  He came in in each of the first 2 games, going 6 against Kanto Dai-ichi, and closing the game out in the 9th versus Komadai Tomakomai.

However, the success was marred in the finals where in relief of a struggling Daichi, he would give up 5 runs in just 2 innings, including one of the many HRs that were hit that day.  And thanks to a gassed Iidzuka, Okishou scored 9 runs in the 7th and 8th innings for an unbelievable comeback to take the title and make Souseikan indebted to them (as they would be the beneficiaries of the Meiji Jingu bid that Okishou won).

Looking at the opponents, it would appear that they faced a tough schedule.  Kounan, Mawashi, Ginowan and Misato Kougyou are generally stronger teams in the prefecture. So for all to be blanked (in regulation) may be impressive.  Their schedule actually appeared to get easier in the super-regionals, as the only main opponents were right off the bat in Nichinan Gakuen and then the rematch against Misato Kougyou.

Even at Meiji Jingu their schedule was not necessarily as robust.  Kanto Dai-ichi did win Tokyo, but one could argue that their schedule wasn't as strong.  Komadai Tomakomai will be back at Koushien, but they definitely aren't the same team of almost a decade ago.  Iwakuni's loss wasn't as bad as the score indicated, but they were under pressure the entire game.  And then finally if not for the opposing ace flat-lining they would have been completetly outmatched.

Still, they did (with the exception of one game) what teams need to do in these tournaments - win.

Daichi did pitch at Natsu Koushien (go to 1:15 in the video, he wears #12).  His delivery is rather strange, as he seems to throw three-quarters, but the delivery is abbreviated when there are runners on base and he appears to be low to the ground when delivering.  He hit 137 in the video, but given the changes in velocity, he may be more in line with the low-mid 130s, with perhaps a cutter in the high 120s and a slider in the mid 110s.  The location isn't quite there though, but it would appear if he misses, he misses low and that's a good thing.  The delivery in the fall looks more smooth.

There is less information on his relievers, Kounosuke for the brief time he was on the mound so far as I can tell threw in the mid-upper 130s.  Kubo, who wears #4 and also plays the outfield as well runs in the upper 130s with a supposed slider/curve/change combination.  That's rather impressive from your starting RF.

Offensively, leadoff batter Akamine Ken (赤嶺 謙) sets the table for the Okishou offense, getting on base at a major clip batting 8 for 16 during the Meiji Jingu tournament.  The rest of the Okishou batters ran hot and cold throughout the games.  For instance C Irabu Shouta (伊良部 渉太) went 0-fer in games against Kanto Dai-ichi and Iwakuni, but was 3-5 with 3 walks in his other 2 games.  Of course the 3-4 hitters of Nishihira Daiki (西平 大樹) and Anzato Ken (安里 健) are there for a reason, but they appear to be inconsistent as well at the plate.

Okishou has shown they can get deep into a tournament, but they have yet to show that they can go further at Koushien.  Unless they get a hell draw, I think a quarterfinal appearance can be penciled in, but after that will be up to the mental strength of the team.

Next up, cross island rival and Kyushu runner-up Misato Kougyou!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)

I had figured Meitoku to be a contender at Natsu Koushien last summer - especially with ace Kishi and the offense behind him.  However, they ran into a Nichidai Yamagata team that had rounded into form and fell in the quarterfinals.

Kishi returned, but pretty much lost his supporting staff - which is a problem since if you lose your offense (or defense for that matter), even the best pitcher can't carry his team.  However, it looks like kantoku Mabuchi Shirou (馬淵 史郎) put together a roster that could at least support Kishi.  And while they lost in the semifinals of the super-regionals, their resume was better than those across Setouchi-umi and was awarded the floating bid.

Road to Senbatsu
Kochi Prefecturals
  • def. Hata Nougyou 10-0 (6 inn)
  • def. Kochi Kougyou 14-1 (5 inn)
  • def. Kochi Chuo 8-1 (7 inn)
  • def. Kochi Ootemae 5-2
  • def. Kochi Higashi Kougyou 17-3
Shikoku Super-Regionals
I guess you could say that it also helped that in the Kochi prefecturals, they did not face any of the powerhouse schools that could have posed an early threat.  At the same time though, it is hard to make any judgments on the team based on those results.

Onto the super-regionals and they put a good win together against Kagawa 3-seed Takamatsu Dai-ichi before Imabari ace Jinno would completely shut the offense down mustering just 3 hits in the loss.

Now, it wasn't all bad as Meitoku had scoring chances, but there were mistakes made on the basepaths as well as in the field that aided the final score.

We know about ace Kishi Jyunichirou (岸 潤一郎).  He has a fastball that can touch 140, a cutter in the low 130s, slider in the upper 120s/130, and a fork in the low 120s.

The only other team member from the summer to break onto the roster (there were only 3 holdovers) is 1B Oonishi Kazumasa (大西 主将), and he bats last.  Instead, batting before Kishi in the 3rd position is LF Tada Tougo (多田 桐吾).

To be honest, the game against Imabari Nishi at least for Kishi wasn't that bad.  A good hit on a decent pitch cleared the bases for 3, and then 2B Mori lost control of a grounder to allow the 4th run to cross.

Kishi will in all likelihood have to shoulder more of the burden for Meitoku's success.  Not that he can't do it, but it will lessen their chances of being considered a contender with a smaller margin of error.  Unless the offense proves me otherwise, they can make a run, but cannot be considered one fo the favorites.

Next up, it's a flight to Naha and a short trip to the Kyushu champions Okinawa Shougaku!

32 teams in 32 days - Ikeda (Kochi)

It has been a while Ikeda.  From a school that teams feared in the 80s and early 90s they went into anonymity.  In recent years, they have made attempts to return to Koushien, and have gotten very close.  This past fall though they finally broke through to receive an invitation from the JHBF.  Welcome back to Koushien Ikeda, the kokoyakyu world has missed you...

Road to Senbatsu
Tokushima Prefecturals
  • def. Jyousei 7-0 (7 inn)
  • def. Naruto 10-5 (12 inn)
  • lost Seikou Gakuen 3-2
  • def. Kaifu 6-0
Shikoku Super-Regionals
Now, remembering what I have been saying regarding Ikeda and working slowly to break through.  In some ways it is represented here in their record.  The win against Naruto does count for something, but note that it was a 5-5 tie going into enchousen.  And with kantoku Okada Yasushi (岡田 康志) sending out reliever Watanabe Kouji (渡邉 剛志) first again, Seikou Gakuen would jump out to a 3-0 lead that they couldn't recover from.

Facing elimination, ace Nanishi Hiroto (名西 宥人) would take the hill, and proceeded to throw a no-hitter against Kaifu to send his team to the super-regionals.  Certainly just a win was needed, but perhaps he just wanted to make sure they advanced.

With only a championship guaranteeing a slot at senbatsu, Nanishi would be sent out.  He started out with a 2 R, 9 K effort against Kochi Higashi Kougyou, then had to hold Saijyou at bay while his own offense struggled scattering 10 hits over 11 innings, and then revenged the matchup against Seikou Gakuen going from start to finish, giving up 3 runs but striking out 8.  And then in the finals, Nanishi went 6 solid innings giving up just 1 run.  But when Watanabe entered the game, Imabari would go on the offensive scoring 5 runs on just 1 out.  Hosoda would come in and give up 4 more as Imabari pulled away for the title.  Nonetheless, Ikeda had done more than enough to receive an invitation for the spring.

For Nanishi, he throws in the mid 130s with a slider and sinker (which might explain some of the K results he got).  I don't have individual videos of him though, which is strange.  Given the results of the other pitchers for Ikeda though, I think Nanishi will be it.  If he falters, Ikeda is pretty much done.

Offensively, probably the most consistent player is cleanup batter 3B Okamoto Shouya (岡本 昌也).  Other than him you can perhaps look at OF Kita Masashi (喜多 正史).  But it's pretty much station-to-station.

I am not sure why Nanishi was relieved in the title game, but I would assume that he will be going for as long as his arm will let him come March.  There is not a large sample size for him and how he will do against tougher competition, but if he can handle a potential title contender, then they might be able to make a decent run.

Next up, can ace Kishi carry the burden now for Meitoku Gijyuku?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Imabari Nishi (Ehime)

Well, Imabari Nishi is once again at Senbatsu, though it's been 4 years since their last appearance here (2 since their appearance at Natsu Koushien).  They are generally one of the better teams in Ehime, and generally around average when looking at fields as a whole, but never really good enough to win the whole thing.  The question is now, do they stand a chance in a possibly weaker field?

Road to Senbatsu
Ehime Prefecturals
  • def. Niihama Kougyou 9-2 (8 inn)
  • def. Imabari Kita 4-0
  • def. Nitta 3-0
  • def. Teikyou Dai-go 3-1
  • lost Saijyou 5-3
Shikoku Super-Regionals
Meiji Jingu Tournament
Offense seems to be in general at a premium for this version of Imabari Nishi.  Despite having 2 mercy rule wins (3 if you count Ikeda's if not for the fact that they play a full 9 innings), the offense hasn't really gone out and dominated the competition.  Instead, it was ace Jinno Yasuhiro (神野 靖大) who for the most part had to shut down the opposition.  And to his credit he did, giving up just 16 hits in his 4 super-reginoal games - half of them not against Meitoku Gijyuku, but against Sakaide instead!

That continued against Kousei where he went the distance scattering 6 hits in a CG effort.  But when they were paired up with Nihon Bunri, Jinno went just 6 giving up about as many runs as all the previous games combined and were subsequently mercy-ruled out of the tournament.

With the offense at a premium for this team, we focus our analysis primarily on their ace Kanno.  A southpaw, he throws on the slower side of average (high 120s) with the standard slider and curve.

However, this poses a big question.  If he doesn't throw hard, how is it then that he was able to strike out so many batters in the prefecturals and super-regionals?  He still managed to strike out 6 vs Kousei before finally getting lit up against Nihon Bunri.  In general when a pitcher doesn't throw hard, it usually means that he pitches to a lot of contact and most of it being bad contact.  You'd be hard pressed to blow a ball by a batter throwing no faster than 130 kph (~80 mph).  From the videos it appears that a lot of it has to do with the fact that Jinno hides the ball well so that it's harder for the batters to pick up. 

Kantoku Oono Yasuya (大野 康哉) does go to a backup and his name is Monden Jyunya (門田 諄也).  He's a righty who apparently throws in the upper 120s/lower 130s also with the standard slider/curve combo.  However, he's lightly used, and in his appearance relieving Kanno vs. Nihon Bunri, he allowed 1 run on 4 hits in just 2/3 of an inning. So it's hard to say how reliable he is.

Of course, the team can't win if they don't score at least a run (hello Mariners), so the two players to watch would be the 3-4 batters C Ochi Tatsuki (越智 樹) and RF Fukuhara Kenta (福原 健太)... but there is no video on either player outside of the game recaps.

There doesn't appear to be much doubt that Jinno's delivery makes him successful to an extent (remember for instance that while Meitoku kept ace Kishi, he pretty much lost the rest of the roster from the summer).  We've seen average velocity pitchers be successful (see Urawa Gakuin's Ojima) as long as the pitcher can exhibit good control, so there is room for advancement for this squad.  The game versus Nihon Bunri did have some unfortunate misplays, but Jinno was hit hard by the Hokushinetsu champs as well.  I can't tell if it's because he wasn't hiding it well or if they were able to see the ball better, but that will be the biggest weakness of Jinno's game if teams can figure his delivery out.

That will be the determining factor as to how far they can go.  If he can be on top of his game, they certainly can make a decent run - if not be a fringe title contender.

Next up, to borrow a phrase from the 70's... welcome back Ikeda!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Hiroshima Shinjyou (Hiroshima)

This is Hiroshima Shinjyou's first trip to Koushien, either in spring or summer.  And one would not fault someone for thinking that their one chance to make it had passed last summer.  In the Hiroshima taikai, they had defeated Jyosuikan to reach the finals, went to a 15 inning draw against Setouchi only to lose 1-0 two days later.  For a school like then, it's possible the team worked 3 years to build a team.  And yet, they were able to regroup and make another run - which took them all the way to Senbatsu!

Road to Senbatsu
Hokubu Regionals Round-Robin - Zone A
  • def. Miyoshi Seiryou 12-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Nisshoukan 7-1
  • def. Sera 7-1
Hiroshima Prefecturals
  • def. Miyajima Kougyou 4-0
  • def. Hiro 10-3
  • def. Hiroshima Shougyou 11-2 (7 inn)
  • def. Kouryou 6-2
  • def. Soutoku 5-3
Chuugoku Super-Regionals
So, they were able to back up their performance in the fall and in so doing defeated the other prefectural power Kouryou, not once, but twice (which is generally very hard to do).  The win against Soutoku has to be taken with a little bit of a discount as they had rested their ace.

Super-regional play got off to a bit of a shaky start with a narrow win against Tottori's 3rd place team Iwami though ace Yamaoka Shuuya (山岡 就也) did limit them to just 3 hits.  Then after their 2nd win over Kouryou, Yamaoka was involved in a battle with Soutoku and ace Sakai. In general Shinjyou had the better of it, but miscues by Sakai (including a wild pitch) sent Shinjyou to the finals.

In those finals though, two fielding errors in the 1st inning - first a poor FC choice by C Tanaka Keisuke (田中 啓輔) when on a bunt he fielded he threw to 3rd where there was no chance for a play, then later he threw to 2nd on a pickoff, but the defense wasn't ready for it.  So both mistakes led to 2 runs in the first.  Iwakuni would continue to be patient against Yamaoka, drawing walks and picking their spots, scoring another run in the 4th thanks to 2 walks and a base hit by leadoff batter Kawamoto.

It wouldn't be until the 8th inning when Hiroshima Shinjyou would fight back. Top of the order, back-to-back singles to the left side by Nakabayashi and LF Tanaka got the inning started.  2B Nishijima Haruto (西島 晴人) would then line a ball down the right field line scoring 1.  Sakagaki Kazuya (阪垣 和也) would get a sac fly to score another, and after an errant throw by Azuma, new RF Nikaku Hiroaki (二角 太陽) - younger brother of Yuudai who plays for Rikkio, pokes one to right tying the game. Nikaku would steal 2nd and 3rd but be stranded there when #10 Funabashi would strike out.

But Yamaoka would go completely off the rails, walking Kawamura, throwing a wild pitch, and then after a bunt, throwing another wild pitch, giving Iwakuna a run without the benefit of a hit.  That would be all she wrote for Hiroshima Shinjyou as they would fall 4-3.

Videos of Yamaoka are available, predominantly against Soutoku in the Hiroshima finals (1, 2, 3).  He can throw in the upper 130s and possibly has a cutter/two-seamer to go with the standard set of pitches.  However, he doesn't strikeout a lot of batters, and as seen in the Iwakuni game, he walks quite a few.  In fact in his 4 games in the super-regional, he almost allowed the same number of hits, walks and strikeouts (22, 18 and 21 respectively)!

The pitching once again worries me.  What Yamaoka reminds me of is Toukaidai Sagami's Hifumi Shinta. You know, the one who struck out and walked a ton of people and was wildly effective - and couldn't win the big one as a result.

It is generally not a recipe for success, and with no backups he's it for Hiroshima Shinjyou.  Yamaoka has shown it can work, but if opposing teams are patient I think he'll struggle.

Next up, across the water to the Shikoku champs Imabari Nishi!

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.

Monday, February 17, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Chiben Gakuen (Nara)

With Tenri having faded into the depths of Nara's anonymity, Chiben Gakuen has planted their flag as the top team in the prefecture.  And they could be in a more dormy position than brethren school Chiben Wakayama as Nara is certainly weaker from top to bottom than Wakayama.  Sure, with only one school dominating the prefecture, there isn't the ironclad grip that other areas have - remember, Sakurai won this past summer. But for Chiben Gakuen, the title in Nara will be theirs to lose.

Road to Senbatsu
Nara Prefecturals
  • def. Nara 2-0
  • def. Houryuuji Kokusai 11-5
  • def. Nara Tousen 7-0 (7 inn)
  • def. Kashiba 12-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Naradai Fuzoku 11-7
Kinki Super-Regionals
  • def. Youkaichi 8-0 (7 inn)
  • lost Ryuukokudai Heian 2-1
I say all that stuff in the introduction, then you look at their resume and it looks especially weak.  There is the unusual 2-0 won against Nara in the first round, and despite a win 11-5 over Houryuuji Kokusai they didn't get a mercy-rule shortened game.  And then versus Naradai Fuzoku in the final, starter Oda Kyouhei (尾田 恭平) struggled, giving up a 5-run lead and 7 runs in all before his team bailed him out.

The super-regionals went about the same as they handled unknown Youkaichi with little trouble before having their offense stonewalled by Heian.

Oda throws slower than average (high 120s), with the standard curve and slider.  Reliever Okamoto Kazuma (岡本 和真) is actually their 1B as well as their #4 batter.

I suppose there can be some players on offense to mention for Chiben Gakuen - 2nd batter CF Oonishi Ryouta (大西 涼太) and 3rd batter SS Yoshioka Ikuya (吉岡 郁哉) but the problem I find is that in their one real game against a Koushien power, they managed just 6 hits and none of the extra base variety.  It is one game, but it's hard to take any of the other games seriously given Chiben Gakuen's status in the past as well as the weakness of Nara prefecture in general.

If they run into weaker competition, they can take those games, but the minute they run into more stiffer competition, I think it will be hard for them to advance.

Next up, we move on to the Chuugoku region and champions Iwakuni.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Fukuchiyama Seibi (Kyoto)

I remember seeing Fukuchiyama Seibi back in 2006, and thought they were one of the established powers at Koushien, and with my penchant for rooting for the underdog, wanted some other team to advance.  Little did I know that was anything but the case.  Combine that with suspensions resulting from violence within the club set them back a couple of years.  Hopefully kantoku Tadokoro Kouji (田所 孝二) has cleaned house and bringing them back to Koushien means the program is on the level.

Road to Senbatsu
Kyoto Prefecturals
  • def. Nissei 11-8
  • def. Otokuni 4-0
  • def. Murasakino 5-1
  • def. Ristumeikan Uji 7-2
  • lost Ryuukokudai Heian 10-5
Kinki Super-Regionals
By virtue of being the Natsu Koushien representative, Fukuchiyama Seibi got a free pass through block play and straight to the prefecturals.  They did not however, get a first round bye.  In that first game against Nissei, they went out to an 11-4 lead and let Nissei stay around for the full 9 innings.  Then there were some rather pedestrian efforts against Otokuni and Murasakino.  The score looks better versus Ritsumeikan Uji, but that was just because they had a 6-run inning.  They would then have their own big inning against Heian in the final but starter Adachi, in place of ace Ishihara Takeshirou (石原 丈路), couldn't get out of the 7th inning as Heian would go on to score 6 runs, take the lead and never look back.

Ishihara would retake the hill for the super-regionals, eking by PL Gakuen first.  Then he was involved in a defensive battle against Houtoku Gakuen as both sides put the ball in play often, but it would be Hotoku who would push through the only run to advance.

Thanks to Ishihara's twitter account, I know he doesn't throw particularly hard.  In a picture of some type of pitching session, his max was 131 kph.  Now the gun could be slow, but I would imagine he's around the low 130s.  But I have no isolated videos of Ishihara, nor any information on Adachi - not even his first name!

Offensively, Seibi is mainly a station-to-station team, and given the fact that without their 2 big innings vs Ritsumeikan Uji and Ryuukokudai Heian their scoring is low, it will appear that Ishihara will have to limit scoring in order to give his team a fighting chance.

If I had to pick out some players on offense, it would be summer starters C Sano Yuusuke (佐野 友亮) and SS Nishida Tomonori (西田 友紀).  But again, no isolated videos of either person.

Seibi may have made it to senbatsu, but if you took away the name on the uniform they'd look like just another team. And sadly for them that's probably what they are. Now, their name or an easy draw might help them get a game, but it will be an uphill climb right from the get go.

Tomorrow, the final Kinki Super-regional representative, Chiben Gakuen.

Friday, February 14, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Riseisha (Osaka)

Riseisha in recent years has come to be on equal footing with Osaka Touin in the battle for the top of the prefecture. However, it hasn't necessarily translated to wins at Koushien, while Osaka Touin just 2 years ago was the most recent team to achieve haru-natsu renzoku yuushou.  Still, kantoku Okata Tatsuo (岡田 龍生) managed to get enough out of his team to advance out of Osaka and earn their 4th consecutive senbatsu appearance.

Road to Senbatsu
Osaka Prefecturals
  • def. Ikuno Kougyou 9-1
  • def. Midori Seihou 13-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Osaka Touin 13-1 (5 inn)
  • def. Higashi-Osakadai Kashiwara 10-2 (8 inn)
  • def. Hatsushiba Ritsumeikan 13-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Kansaidai Hokuyou 4-1
  • def. PL Gakuen 4-3
Kinki Super-Regionals
Well, it definitely appears that it is Riseisha's time to shine in the prefecture given the 13-1 trouncing they game Osaka Touin in the 4th round. How those two wound up playing each other that early is beyond me.

One could argue that the game against PL Gakuen may mean something, but at the same time PL hasn't really risen back to prominence in 高校野球, much less in Osaka.  What is also an indictment about the Osaka region is that the other qualifiers, PL Gakuen and Kansaidai Hokuyou (whom Riseisha both beat), lost in the first round of the super-regionals to Fukuchiyama Seibi and Houtoku Gakuen respectively.

Riseisha almost suffered the same fate needing a run in the 8th to defeat Kainan.  After getting a small respite in Sanda Shousei, they wound up in a fistfight against Ryuukokudai Heian, and well... Riseisha got no help once #10 Nagatani Nobuaki (永谷 暢章) ran out of steam in the 7th.

That's not a one-time issue though either.  In the Osaka final, Nagatani was relieved in the 9th with his team leading 4-1.  Ace Mizota Yuuto (溝田 悠人) came in and almost blew the lead.  Mizota was also called into the Heian game after fellow relievers Hayashi and southpaw 3B Honjyou Madoka (本城 円) failed to record an out.  Even after Mizota finally recorded the 3rd out and Riseisha scored one to pull within 1, he would still give up 3 more runs in the final 2 innings sealing their loss.

Nagatani appears to be more relied upon despite wearing the #10.  He appears to be one of the harder throwers out there, hitting the mid 140s with a forkball to go along with the slider and curve.  Mizota throws in the upper 130s/low 140s, but I don't have much more info than that.

Offensively, SS Yoshida Yuki (吉田 有輝) and C Hata Kasumi(?) (八田 夏) provide some of the oomph, while #5 Tsuji Shinobu (辻 心薫) puts the ball in the gaps for base hits.

Riseisha does have some hard throwers that they can put on the mound, but it hasn't translated to much success against tougher competition, and they haven't shown that they can consistently put away the teams they were supposed to.  That doesn't really bode well for their chances, but like most teams they'll have a chance to win a game or two depending on their draw.

Next up, Kyoto's 2nd representative Fukuchiyama Seibi!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)

And now for the hometown favorites Houtoku Gakuen.  Here for the 2nd straight year, they're trying to revive themselves as a true title contender as their success in their backyard (the stadium is just a 15 minute drive down Mukougawa) has waned in recent years.

Road to Senbatsu
Hanshin Regionals - D Block
  • def. Takaradzuka 9-0 (7 inn)
  • def. Kenritsu Amagasaki 11-1 (5 inn)
  • def. Nishinomiya Higashi 8-1 (7 inn)
Hyogo Prefecturals
Kinki Super-Regionals
And herein lies the problem for Houtoku Gakuen.  They did not really face a upper tier team until the quarterfinals of the super-regionals.  And for the most part they did what they were supposed to - have a mercy-rule victory.  The only exceptions being a game against unknown Akashi Shougyou where a good draft prospect, Matsumoto Wataru (松本 航) who throws in the low 140s, shut down Houtoku for 6 innings.  The other being a game against Kansaidai Hokuyou where ace Nakamura Makoto (中村 誠) struggled to keep his team in the game.

#10 Tanaka Kazuma (田中 和馬) is the other pitcher mainly used by kantoku Nagata Yuuji (永田 裕治).  Another less used option is C Kishida Yukinori (岸田 行倫) though he also plays SS (?!).

What's a bit puzzling is that I saw pictures of Nakamura wearing #2 and Kishida wearing #6, which begged the question of who was the ace during that time... but I digress.

What's odd is that outside of the boxscores, I cannot get any more information on other players other than digests of complete games.  Ishigaki Shouji (石垣 昭二) is their 3B and has had several extra base hits in the super-regionals.  The aforementioned Kishida also was successful at the plate, but the XBH were against lesser competition.  SS Tsuchiya Yuusuke (土谷 勇輔) and 2B Mishina Hayato (三品 勇人) may provide solid defensive work on the left side.

But with little information on the actual players, it generally means there are no big stars on the team. Not that it's necessarily an indicator of how successful a team can be (hello, Maebashi Ikuei) though. But a team that's lightly tested and who struggled against fellow Koushien participants does not give the team positive marks for a long run unless they get an easier road.

Next up, fellow semifinalist Riseisha!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Chiben Wakayama (Wakayama)

So once again, Takashima-kantoku (高嶋 仁) and his Chiben Wakayama squad return to Koushien. Though in recent years they have not been as competitive and this actually is their first trip back to Senbastsu in 3 years.  What was a dominant team though has had weaknesses in one part of their game or another.  Has time passed Takashima-kantoku by? Surely there are some that do not like his old-school managing, and you could make an argument he resides in a prefecture that is not as strong as others.  But he did manage to have successful runs in the past.

Road to Senbatsu
Newcomer Tournament
  • def. Kishikawa 10-3 (mercy rule?)
  • def. Kainan 5-2
  • lost Shinguu 6-3
Wakayama Prefecturals - 2nd Stage
  • def. Arita Chuo 6-0
  • def. Shirtisu Wakayama 6-3
  • def. Kainan 6-5
Kinki Super-Regionals
  • def. Ichikawa 10-1 (7 inn)
  • def. Naradai Fuzoku 10-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Houtoku Gakuen 16-8 (8 inn)
  • lost Ryuuokudai Heian 6-4
I don't know if Takashima-kantoku is getting wiser or not, but he played this in a manner that I would have done.  First of all, in the newcomer tournament, winning the first game means you get to skip straight to the 2nd stage prefecturals (i.e. quarterfinals).  So there is a big incentive to at least win the first game.  They did that easily against Kishikawa.  Now, I haven't been able to see who Takashima-kantoku sent out there for the next 2 games, but given they were going to get a month off before their next game, they went on to win against Kainan before in-consequently falling to Shinguu.

To the prefecturals and once again Takashima-kantoku held back his main starters as much as possible to defeat both Arita Chuo and Shiritsu Wakayama to ensure a spot in the super-regionals.  With the final against Kainan meaningless other than the fall prefectural title, they fell to Kainan.

Once they hit the super-regionals, they sent out their 2 main starters, ace Nakano Rei (中野 嶺) and #10 Adzuma Yuusuke (東妻 勇輔) who pitched all but 1/3 of an inning in all 4 games.  Both starters split time on the mound each game with exception of the Houtoku Gakuen game where Azuma was asked to go the full distance, despite giving up 5 in the first 2 innings (Chiben scored 5 themselves, but didn't pull away until the 5th inning).  As you can see from the videos (or lack thereof), I do not have any info on either pitcher

Here's the thing though.  If Takashima-kantoku was worried about giving up too much info on his pitchers, he wouldn't have sent out either Nakano or Azuma in the semifinals or finals given that Kinki receives 6 bids.  Now, you could argue that being in the semifinals isn't enough, but unless you're totally blown out I figure you're safe.  So while I think he played the regionals/prefecturals correctly, I think once he got to the Super-Regionals either he tried to win it all - even though winning it is not the end goal, nor is it necessary, or he knew that he could only throw those other pitchers in the prefecturals.

Which then makes me wonder about the strength of their staff.  Azuma certainly went his longest stint in the Houtoku Gakuen game and perhaps could be excused for giving up 3 in the 8th.  And given the review of Ryuukokudai Heian, you could understand the runs that they gave up.  But at the same time, it is an indictment of their potential at Senbatsu if they perhaps cannot hold their own in region.

Offensively, in many of their games, they went for extra bases early and often.  However, it screeched to a halt against Heian, where C Nishiyama Touma (西山 統麻) recorded the only extra base hit.  Ignore that game and Katayama Shouta (片山 翔太) with to a lesser extent Ooishi Kaito (大石 海斗) and Oobatake Tatsuya (大畑 達矢) provided most of the spark in the offense.

Well, for handicapping Chiben Wakayama's chances, they did not really face a seasoned opponent until the super-regional semifinal, and in those last 2 games, the pitching did falter. The offense being slowed considerably by Heian also raises a red flag.  So, probably Chiben's chanes this senbatsu appears to be similar to their runs in recent years, win a game or two and then bow out when they face a tough opponent.

Next up, the hometown 18 of Houtoku Gakuen!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)

Ryuukokudai Heian makes its 2nd consecutive and 38th total appearance at senbatsu having won the Kinki Super-Regionals.  Heian has been a recurring character at Koushien, though achieving total victory has been out of their grasp.  Winning the Kinki super-regionals may be a good sign, but how are they really?

Road to Senbatsu
Regionals - Block F
  • def. Kyoto Kougakkan 6-0
  • def. Doushisha 9-0
  • def. Kyoto Subaru 11-1 (5 inn)
Kyoto Prefecturals
  • def. Kyoto Gakuen 8-1 (7 inn)
  • def. Kyoto Shouei 11-2
  • def. Nishi-Jyouyou 11-1 (6 inn)
  • def. Fukuchiyama Seibi 10-5
Kinki Super-Regionals
  • def. Oumi 5-0
  • def. Chiben Gakuen 2-1
  • def. Riseisha 11-7
  • def. Chiben Wakayama 6-4
Meiji Jingu Tournament
  • def. Mie 5-4 
  • lost Nihon Bunri 6-5
Thank God for Heian's baseball website.  It's a great website that has a lot of information that I don't need to dig up elsewhere.

Looking at their roster from last summer, it's amazing they only kept as many as 4 people from that roster:

  1. Shimada Yuuto 嶋田 侑人 (#5)
  2. Arita Kouji 有田 浩之 (#7)
  3. Kobayashi Kazuki 小林 和気 (#12)
  4. Ishikawa Takuya 石川 拓弥 (#16)
and still turn around to win the Kinki super-regionals!  To boot, only Ishikawa is left on the roster at all (starting SS)!

Kantoku Harada Hidehiko (原田 英彦) used a bevy of pitchers to win the title, and as far as I know of never had a pitcher go a full 9 innings.  That is impressive because he seems to be more flexible than other managers regarding this issue.  And furthermore, none of these were used last year and he still managed to be successful!

#11 Takahashi Keiji (高橋 奎二)
  • vs. Mie (5.1 IP, 66 pitches, ER, 3 H, 2 K, BB)
  • vs. Chiben Wakayama (5 IP, 2 R)
  • vs. Riseisha (5.2 IP, 6 R)
  • vs. Chiben Gakuen (5.1 IP, R)
  • vs. Oumi (8.1 IP, 0 ER)
Keiji apparently was given the task of starting every super-regional game as well as the Meiji Jingu opener over Mie.  He's pretty much your standard lefty, throwing in the low-mid 130s with a slider in the 110s and a slow curve around 100.

#1 Nakata Ryuuji (中田 竜次)
  • vs. Nihon Bunri (5.2 IP, 64 pitches, ER, 3 H, 4 K, BB)
  • vs. Chiben Gakuen (3.1 IP, 0 ER)
  • vs. Oumi (0.2 IP, 0 ER)
Nakata also pitched in regional block play, but it's odd that he wasn't used much in prefectural play and then only when the game was out of hand against Nihon Bunri.  It could be the case that he only has the ace number by seniority only, though the performances seem to suggest that perhaps Harada-kantoku is holding him back.  Even then though, why send him out at Meiji Jingu where more cameras could be watching?  There is precious little information on him though, and the only thing I did find is that he supposedly has reached 145 on the gun.  However, reported speeds tend to be fast, so perhaps upper 130s/low 140s is right.

#10 Inudzuka Takaya (犬塚 貴哉)
  • vs. Nihon Bunri (2+ IP, 61 pitches, 5 ER, 3 H, 0 K, 4 BB)
  • vs. Mie (1.2 IP, 27 pitches, 0 ER, 0 H, K, BB)
  • vs. Chiben Wakayama (2.1 IP, 0 ER)
  • vs. Riseisha (3.1 IP, R)
Inudzuka in addition pitched in regional block play games.  Harada-kantoku appeared to trust him enough to finish out the game against Mie, as well as start him against Nihon Bunri (though apparently control issues led to his poor outing).  However, otherwise his performances look rather stellar.

#18 Tamaru Yura (田丸 由羅)
  • vs. Nihon Bunri (0.1 IP, 9 pitches, 0 ER, 1 H)
  • vs. Chiben Wakayama (1.2 IP, 2 R)
Now Tamaru is an interesting person in that he is a side-armer/submariner with a seemingly violent motion.  However, he was used rather sparingly pitching a grand total of 2 innings.

#17 Minato Youichi (湊 耀一)
  • vs. Nihon Bunri (1 IP, 14 pitches, 0 ER, 2 K, BB)
Other than this game, Minato came out only in the regional block play games.  He was the last reliever used against Nihon Bunri, so it's possible Harada-kantoku got him some in-game experience ahead of senbatsu.

Harada also had used Motouji Reiji (元氏 玲仁) and Aoyama ? (青山?) in regional block play, though they weren't seen in any level higher than that and chances are they were part of the expanded roster allowed in the prefecrual tournaments.  Carrying more than 5 on an 18 man roster probably is overkill.

It is apparent though that Harada-kantoku is limiting pitcher's pitch counts seeing though that no pitcher went higher than the 60-70 pitch limit.  Keiji appears to be tagged as Heian's more "used" pitcher.

Leadoff batter CF Tokumoto Kentarou (徳本 健太郎) is a pretty solid leadoff hitter.  Himeno Taisei (姫野大成), who bats cleanup (cleanup in Japan seems to include the #3 batter, which oddly by sabermetric terms is where the best hitter should be) also takes walks and had some solid extra base hits in the prefecturals.  Tsune Hiroshi (常 仁志), despite being near the bottom of the lineup also isn't afraid to take a walk.

I will be very interested to see how Harada-kantoku's setup plays at Koushien. It does appear that he will play matchups with his pitchers as well as not allow them to go for long stretches like most other schools would with their ace.  The team is not necessarily starved for runs either it would seem, so as long as the pitching holds, they might be one of the contenders for the title.

Next up, runner-up and Koushien mainstay Chiben Wakayama and Takashima-kantoku...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Toyokawa (Aichi)

Congratulations are in order to Toyokawa for making their first ever Koushien!  They had some good chances in the past, but they finally put things together this fall and almost won the entire thing if not for a couple of errors late against Mie.

Road to Senbatsu
Higashi-Mikawa Regionals Round-Robin - Block F
  • def. Kozakai 12-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Atusmi Nougyou 7-1
  • def. Toyokawa Nougyou 23-1 (5 inn)
Higashi-Mikawa Regionals 2nd Stage Play-in
  • def. Gamagoori 12-3 (7 inn)
Higashi-Mikawa Regionals 2nd Stage
  • def. Seishou 8-1 (7 inn)
  • def. Atsumi Nougyou 8-1 (7 inn)
Aichi Prefecturals
  • def. Toyota Kougyou 4-0
  • def. Seijyou 11-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Aichi Sangyoudai Mikawa 9-1 (7 inn)
  • def. Chuukyoudai Chuukyou 10-0 (6 inn)
  • lost Touhou 3-1
Tokai Super-Regionals
  • def. Tokoha Kikugawa 6-4
  • def. Oogaki Nichidai 6-3
  • def. Shizuoka 3-2
  • lost Mie 4-3
Holy crap is Aichi convoluted.  Perhaps in an attempt to give teams more chances they made it that much harder for teams to make it.  So, here's an explanation of how Toyokawa got out of Aichi:

First of all within the Higashi-Mikawa regionals, there is block play where groups of 4 play round-robin.  Top 2 teams of each block advance into the 2nd stage play in where block winners play a different block runner-up.  The winners of those games go to the 2nd stage main bracket, while the losers enter a repechage bracket.  Now, the teams that enter the main bracket automatically advance to the prefecturals while only the winner of the repechage advances.  While you think that playing in a bracket that all teams advance doesn't matter, finishing in the top 2 in the bracket means you get a seed and a first round bye. How that actually helps you playing 2 extra games to save 1 game in the prefecturals, I'm not sure.  Then you finally play the prefecturals.

Got it?

Thankfully for Toyokawa, their regional play went through with no hitches as they had just one non-mercy rule game and had to play a team twice (Atsumi Nougyou).

In the prefecturals, they finally had their first "tough" game as they had to go the full 9 to defeat Toyota Kogyou.  Then after 3 decisive victories, including one against Chuukyoudai Chuukyou, Toyokawa pressed for the win against Touhou, as kantoku Imai Youichi (今井 陽一) sent out their ace Tanaka Sora (田中 空良).  However, they would fall to Touhou 3-1.

Still, they advanced to the Super-Regionals but would not receive a bye.  Tanaka would take the hill for all the games in the super-regional, and did not face any pushovers.  And yet, his team trailed for just twice: 1-0 at the end of the 2nd inning versus Tokoha Kikugawa and that final half inning against Mie.

If Toyokawa is going to make a deep run, it will have to be on the back of Tanaka.  He throws in the upper 130s with a splitter to go with the standard slider/curve combo.  He pitches to a lot of contact.  But outside of him, there is very little on the other players.  Two of the offensive standouts for the team is leadoff batter 3B Nakamura Kazuya (中村 胤哉) who had 2 extra base hits against both Oogaki Nichdai and Mie, and LF Yamada Daichi (山田 大地) who also had some XBH against Shizuoka and Mie.  Strangely enough, cleanup batter SS Takakuwa Heishirou (高桑 平士郎) doesn't have much info and the only video is this one of a manrui HR.

Ace Tanaka seems to give Toyokawa a chance, but the extreme pitch to contact can be an issue.  If Tanaka can continue to keep batters off-balance (think Satou Kazuma from Obihiro Ootani), then they might just surprise some people.  Plus, their uniforms are interesting.

Next up, the Kinki region and champions Ryuukokudai Heian!

32 teams in 32 days - Mie (Mie)

So, before I actually did my research on all the schools, I had thought that Mie was a public school.  Color me surprised then when I found out that Miekou was a private school! And it carries the prefecture's namesake!

Despite that, they are an entertaining team to watch in my opinion. They're certainly not the best team, but for some reason I like watching them play.  Dunno if it's becuase of kantoku Okita Nobuo's (沖田 展男) coaching philosophy or what, but I do like seeing them (doesn't change the fact I'd like to see lesser known schools make it (like Ise).

Road to Senbatsu
Matsusaka/ Muro Regionals
  • def. Matsusaka 10-0 (5/6 inn)
Mie Prefecturals
  • def. Uji-Yamada Shougyou 8-0 (8 inn) [1 hitter!]
  • def. Tsu Nishi 8-0 (7 inn)
  • def. Inabe Sougou Gakuen 1-0
  • def. Ise 5-1
Tokai Super-Regionals
  • def. Chuukyoudai Chuukyou 9-2 (7 inn)
  • def. Shizuoka Shougyou 10x-0 (6 inn)
  • def. Toyokawa 4-3
Meiji Jingu Tournament
Mie probably had one of the shorter roads to senbatsu. Helps though if you were the summer champion.  That allowed Mie to skip straight to the regional final.

Not to say thought that they didn't deserve it. After wiping out Matsusaka, they basically advanced to ISG where ace Imai Jyuutarou (今井 重太郎) had to put up his best performance.  Pitching opposite ace Ishigaki Koudai, who may have a future in the NPB (he touches 145 but sadly had his defense failed him in the super-regionals) and struck out 12 Mie batters on the night, Imai gave up just 6 hits and shutout ISG 1-0.

With that out of the way, it became a victory lap in the prefecturals as Ise never had a chance.

And so they went to the super-regional where Chuukyoudai Chuukyou awaited. Known more recently for that Koushien final against Nihon Bunri, they haven't quite returned to that form.  Even though they held on for a while, a 6-run 5th pretty much did them in.  Then, against a Shizuoka Shougyou squad who took advantage of ISG errors to advance, Mie put up numbers every inning as they just pulled away for the win.

But the good times came to a halt against Toyokawa in the final.  Imai would give up a point in the first 2 innings and then tacked on 1 more in the 8th for a 3-0 lead.  But Mie didn't give up.  An error  led to the first run for Mie, and then they managed to load the bases with 2 outs.  2B Sada Hiroki (佐田 泰輝) hit a grounder to the left side, Toyokawa SS Takakuwa Hirashirou (高桑 平士郎) fielded it and made a running throw to 1st.  However, it short-hopped him and it got away. 2 more runners would score giving Mie the 4-3 lead.  Imai would close out the game and secure just their 4th super-regional title and first in 19 years.

But up against Ryuukokudai Heian, Imai struggled yet again as his team fell behind 5-0.  Mie did a good job rallying late, but it wouldn't be enough.

For Imai, I ound just 2 videos.  One from the fall, and the other video I found was this back in Natsu Koushien when he faced of all people Anraku (who he ended up walking) and Saibi.  I don't imagine his speed has improved (high 120s), though given their success I would imagine his control has.

Offensively, Mie's consistent hitters not surprisingly reside at the top of the lineup.  Leadoff batter and captain Nagano Hayato (長野 勇斗), and cleanup batters Seko Ren (世古 錬), and Nishioka Musashi (西岡 武蔵) provide most of the oomph in the offense.

I think Mie can give any team a good challenge - I liken them similar to Hanamaki Higashi in terms of their grittiness, rarely ever losing a game by a blowout loss.  Even against Saibi, they rallied late to make a 9-2 game a 9-7 game - and that was against Anraku no less.  They may not win a game, but they will make it entertaining nonetheless.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Toukai Dai-san (Nagano)

While perhaps I'm not a fan of Toukaidai Sagami, it doesn't mean I don't like all Toukaidai schools.  There's Toukai Dai-yon up in Hokkaido who is definitely an above-average team, but can't break through.  And in Nagano, Toukai Dai-san is the same.  While I would favor Chikyuu Kankyou (since an environmental school making it sounds really cooler), I kind of wanted Toukai to make it.

And guess what, they did!!

Road to Senbatsu
Nanshin Regionals
  • def. Ina Kita 3-1
  • def. Okaya Kougyou 3-0
  • def. Suwa Seiryou 5-1
  • lost Okaya Minami 6-2
  • def. Matsukawa 7-6
Nagano Prefecturals
  • def. Matsumoto Agatagaoka 4-2
  • def. Ueda Higashi 3-0
  • def. Matsushou Gakuen 3-1
  • def. Iiyama 13-5 (7 inn)
  • def. Chikyuu Kankyou 3-2
Hokushinetsu Super-Regionals
But it doesn't look like they really had an easy time of it.  Two close games to start against relative unknowns and then they lost to Okaya Minami in the Nanshin semi-finals.  With 6 teams advancing though they were fine and finished 3rd in a close game against Matsukawa.

But they really had to put the pedal to the metal once the prefecturals began.  But if by pedal to the metal you mean more close game, then yes they did.  They defeated Matsumoto Agatagaoka (whose campus is kitty corner from the HS from the Onegai! series) and Ueda Higashi, then put up a similar score this time against a weathered Matsushou Gakuen - their first real test.

After that win, they actually had an uncharacteristic blowout win over Iiyama before kantoku Fujii Kouji (藤井 浩二) let his ace rest, and still prevailed over Chikyuu Kankyou to win the prefecturals.

Onto the Super-Regionals and first up was a school that eliminated my friend's former school.  That would be no problem as ace Takai Julian(!!) (高井 ジュリアン) pitched a complete game 6-hitter.

Julian then went on to shut down Niigata Meikun for 8 innings before walking his team home in the 9th.  The worst may have been over, but they still needed at least one more win.  And Julian delivered that as he helped lead them wire-to-wire over Hokuriku to perhaps secure them a spot at senbatsu.

While Nihon Bunri sent their ace Iidzuka out, once again Fujii-kantoku sent out his reserves on the mound.  And you know what? They still almost won the super-regional behind the pitching of Nakamura Kaisei (中村 海誠) and Hirabayashi Shunta (平林 俊太).

So, onto the players.  Ace Julian as you can see is a righty, has the standard fare of pitches, but outside of that, and the fact that his mother is Filipino, I got nothing else on him.  For #11 Kaisei, I have this blurry video of him, and outside of the digests the only thing on Hirabayashi is that he throws in the low-mid 130s.

Offensively, the only player seemingly noted is C Hara Yuuji (原 雄士), who has a twitter account, but I'm not sure why he's mentioned.  One person who had success at the plate (as far as I can tell anyways) is Urano Masaya (浦野 雅也) who has several extra-base hits and is the team's cleanup hitter.  2B Aoki Koudai (青木 洸大) is mentioned as a good player in the field, and did have a triple in the super-regional final.

Pitching and defense certainly can win a title, and Toukai Dai-san seems like the Hokushinetsu version of Touyoudai Himeji, where they try to keep the score low and score enough runs to win.  It's hard to say given the little information we have on the pitching staff, so we'll just have to see how they do in their first test.  But region must be taken into account, and in that sense Toukai Dai-san would fall short. But then again Toyama Dai-ichi fell in that same category, and yet they reached the Best 8.

Next up, one of the more entertaining teams on the field, Mie!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Nihon Bunri (Niigata)

I've been hoping that Nihon Bunri somehow gets back to that magical year when they almost came back to defeat Chuukyoudai Chuukyou for the Natsu Koushien title.  However, they have for the most part retreated back into a Niigata powerhouse, but a passed over regular at Koushien.

Road to Senbatsu
North Niigata Regionals
  • def. Kamo Gyousei 10-0 (5 inn)
  • def. Niigata Seiryou 13-0 (5 inn)
Niigata Prefecturals
  • def. Sekine Gakuen 8-1 (7 inn)
  • def. Hokuetsu 2-1
  • def. Sanjyou 3-1
  • def. Niigata Meikun 4-3
Hokushinetsu Super-Regionals
Meiji Jingu Tournament
Interestingly, Nihon Bunri had one of the longer roads to senbatsu, even if perhaps the road isn't as difficult as in other areas.  And yet they almost earned the Hokushinetsu region another bid if not for a comprehensive collapse giving up an 8 run lead against Okishou. Digests of their games can be found following the links.

Ace Iidzuka Satoshi (飯塚 悟史) somehow got known for his bat when in the Meiji Jingu tournament he went 3-8 with not 1, not 2, but 3 HR's!!  This after batting a paltry 0.143 in the Super-Regionals.  But his pitching got some notice when he had a short stint last summer against Osaka Touin and gave up a hit, walked and struck out 1 in 2 innings of work.  He generally throws in the upper 130s, touching 140 with a forkball to go with the standard arsenal.  However, in his final 3 games of work he gave up 5 runs in each outing.

Kodachi Otowa (小太刀 緒飛), who started the game against Osaka Touin was given the ball early in their run, but wasn't really trusted later on by kantoku Ooi Michio (大井 道夫).  Instead against Imabari Nishi, Ooi went with Fujita Yuuhei (藤田 優平), a lefty who doesn't dominate, but in his start against Imabari Nishi pitched efficiently throwing just 86 pitches in his 7 innings of work, striking out 2, walking 2 and giving up 3 runs on 8 hits.

Kodachi appears to be more comfortable at the plate, though in terms of consistently you may want to look at OF Hoshi Kenta (星 兼太), 3B Ikeda Takamasa (池田 貴将) and C Kamakura Kou (鎌倉 航).  These three by far were Nihon Bunri's better hitters, and each hit a HR against Okinawa Shougaku, though in that game, who didn't?

There certainly is a lot to possibly be optimistic about, especially with the Meiji Jingu performance.  But you have to remember it is still the Hokushinetsu region and success doesn't come as often.

Next up, the breakthrough of Toukai Dai-san from Nagano!

32 teams in 32 days - Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo)

Kanto Dai-ichi managed to climb out of the Tokyo Super-Regionals to earn the only bid from the JHBF.  In so doing, they revenged a loss to Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku from the summer in the final and unbeknownst to them eliminated their rival from senbatsu.

Road to Senbatsu
Block 8 Regionals
  • def. Higashi 9-2 (7 inn)
  • def. Komae 10-0 (5 inn)
Tokyo Super-Regionals
  • def. Komagome Gakuen 4-3
  • def. Ouji Sougou 7-0 (7 inn)
  • def. Jyouhoku 6-1
  • def. Adachi Nishi 7-0 (7 inn)
  • def. Toukaidai Takanawadai 4-0
  • def. Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku 7-6 (10 inn)
Meiji Jingu Tournament
  • lost Okinawa Shougaku 8-3
Kanto Dai-ichi did not have to face many of the other strong teams as many of them got knocked out elsewhere in the bracket, and as shown in the scores above, decisively beat most of the teams they were supposed to beat.

There were some exceptions.  In the opening round of the Super-Regionals, Komagome Gakuen actually held a 3-0 lead before ace Hachiya fell apart in the final 2 innings.  And in that revenge match versus Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku, they let a 3-run slip away before scrapping out a sayonara win in the 10th.  And then against Okinawa Shougaku, they held a slim 3-2 lead before a puzzling decision by kantoku Yonezawa Takamitsu (米沢 貴光) to go with lightly used #11 Tanabe Ren (田邉 廉)

So now onto the team.

While Haketa Akihiro (羽毛田 晶啓) wears the ace number, he was not predominantly used in the super-regionals.  That goes to #10, rookie lefty Abe Takeshi (阿部 武士).  But we have more information on Haketa.  He throws in the low 130s with a slider and forkball.  We even have more info on Tanabe, who imploded against Okishou, than Abe.  His specs are pretty much average, low 130s fastball with a slider and curve.

Offensively, there is C Ikeda ? (池田 瞳夢) who I don't have any batting info on, but was 2-4 against Okinawa Shougaku, and 1B Ookawa Kouki (大川 公輝) who was 4-4.

Kanto Dai-ichi appears to be a team that can handle its business against weaker competition, something that is very needed in single-elimination tournaments.  However, with just 3 games against tougher competition with mixed results, they may not be able to be considered as a favorite to win it all.

Next up, up to the mountainous Hokushinetsu region and champs Nihon Bunri!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On getting info on teams...

So in going through the reviews of teams invited to Senbatsu, you've seen that it can be difficult to get information on players one way or another.  More surprisingly, I have had difficulties with teams in the Kanto region.

But perhaps it shouldn't be surprising at all...

I say this because if I had the chance to help out a team trying to reach Koushien, I would scout the heck out of the schools I might be facing.  Anything to get an advantage, especially against the upper tier schools. In fact, we already see some of it being used in actual gameplay like Saibi vs. Hanamaki Higashi.

So why wouldn't I look on the internet for videos of players from opposing schools? Or games they have played in?

Which brings me to my point.  I already saw signs of it a couple of years back when a YouTube video of a school that had made Koushien was blurred out in places so that it would be difficult to identify players.  If it was like that back then, I would imagine it's still the case now.

So, I guess outside of the real superstar players who many will be taking videos of, it might be a little more difficult to find videos of players.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

32 teams in 32 days - Yokohama (Kanagawa)

For me this selection was made by the JHBF for all the wrong reasons. Yokohama had lost to a 2nd tier team in Sano Nichidai while Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku from the Tokyo Super-Regional had reached the final, defeated several quality teams and almost beat Kanto Dai-ichi who they had beated last summer (remember though that here in the fall the 3rd years are not eligible to play).

So I admittedly will be looking at their resume with a lot of scrutiny now.

Road to Senbatsu
Kanagawa Prefecturals
  • def. Yokohama Hayato 6-2
  • def. Shounan 5-2
  • def. Tachibana Gakuen (橘学苑) 3-2
  • def. Keio Gijyuku 6-5 (10 inn)
  • def. Toukaidai Sagami 4-0
  • def. Nichidai 4-2
  • def. Shiritsu Kawagoe 5-0
  • lost Sano Nichidai 5-3
This resume doesn't help the JHBF's case at all in my opinion and it just furthers my theory that they wanted ratings and selected them over a more deserving Nisshougakushadai Fuzoku.

Against Keio, who was vying for top-tier status in prefecture several years ago, but has fallen to 2nd tier status Yokohama gave them 3 runs in the 8th, then had to rally in the 9th and 10th to pull out the victory.  Now, they did 3-hit Toukaidai Sagami, but Sagami has also kind of fallen to 2nd tier status.  And in the final, the Cinderella Nichidai squad kept up with Yokohama though they lost 4-2.

The Super-regional games do not help either as they expectedly defeated Shiritsu Kawagoe before falling to Sano Nichidai (who would lose one round later).

The ace still remains Itou Masashi (伊藤 将司) who has average velocity on his fastball and has a two-seamer and change in addition to the standard.  During the fall tournament though he only struck out 7.2 per 9 while almost issuing 4 walks in that same interval.  This despite the fact that people look at his 14 K performance against Marugame back in the summer.  Looking at his 9 K performance against Nichidai it was obvious that in that game he got his Ks knowing that Nichidai couldn't hold up on the high strike.

Offensively, probably the 2 consistent performers are the 2-3 combo of 1B Watanabe Yoshiaki (渡辺  佳明) and CF Asama Daiki (浅間 大基).  Cleanup batter Takahama Yuuto (高濱 祐仁), younger brother of Takuya who plays for Chiba Lotte is trying to be part of the power trio but hasn't quite lived up to that just yet.

Can Yokohama win a game?  Certainly. Can they win another one after that? Mm.... not so sure.