Thursday, December 31, 2015

Previewing the projected field - Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo)

So I just mentioned 2 posts ago the fact that Akashi Shougyou defeated Houtoku Gakuen twice. So what are the chances for Houtoku Gakuen themselves?

It doesn't really look all that good. Because while they did tough out a win against Touyoudai Himeji, they also had to tough out wins against schools like Ikuei and Shinkou Gakuen in the prefecturals and blew a 2-run lead against Kita-Ootsu before pulling it out in extras and then losing to yet another Shiga team. Worse yet, they were shutout in 2 of their final 3 games of the aki taikai.

Despite all this, ace Nushijima Daigo (主島 大虎) is a good enough pitcher to be garnering a bit of attention. He doesn't throw all that hard (mid 130s), has a slider and a slow curve. He has had games where he's recorded upper teen Ks in a game, but then when you look at the super-regionals, he recorded just 4 and 7 Ks respectively - not exactly eye-bulging figures.

As mentioned before, Houtoku Gakuen suffered 2 shutouts. With a poor offense and no players that stand out, expect a lot of bunting when a player reaches base limiting opportunities.

Previewing the projected field - Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto)

Ah, Heian is back yet again. One of the multiple 5 kanji schools in Kyoto (I always seem to make a point of that, but it's something I notice because the schools are always in contention).

Heian for the most part was like Akashi Shougyou - they managed to dodge most of the schools in their prefectures only needing to pass through Fukuchiyama Seibi in the finals and they did that with ease too. In fact, they basically breezed their way through until they suddenly ran into a wall in Shiga Gakuen (of all schools).

Their ace, Ichioka Souma (市岡 奏馬) supposedly throws average (low-mid 130s) with a slider and curve. The peripherals are nothing to write home about, and his stamina can be put into question with him and reliever Oono (who by the way didn't record an out in the loss), issuing 12 free passes in 7 innings.

Offensively, while the team does get their fair share of hits, its not surprising that the middle of the order is where their strength lies. This includes SS Nishikawa Hirotaka (西川 寛崇), and 1B Hashimoto Kazuki (橋本 和樹). They also certainly benefited from free passes in many of their victories - something Shiga Gakuen limited and once again perhaps will be a weakness of the school in their chances of taking the senbatsu title.

Previewing the projected field - Akashi Shougyou (Hyogo)

Akashi Shougyou probably got the softest trip you could get for being in a metropolitan prefecture. Yes, they had their scares against no-name teams - Nishiwaki Kougyou (yes, I know they made Koushien before, but they're still a tier 3 school), Shiritsu Amagasaki and Yashiro before finally playing a quality school in Houtoku Gakuen in the final (which they won in a 2-0 shutout). They were then gifted another relatively soft super-regional, defeating Fukuchiyama Seibi and Shiritsu Wakayama before eliminating themselves early (though at least making a game of it) 3-5 to Osaka Touin.

The game certainly revolves around their ace, Yoshitaka Takeshi (吉高 壮), a pitcher who has now defeated Houtoku Gakuen twice, and while Houtoku Gakuen isn't the powerhouse it once was in Hyogo, it's still impressive. His velocity is apparently average, but uses his slider/curve/change to work the edges.

The offense is highly dependent on being patient. They get more than their fair share of walks, and that will be important because they do not have a consistent hitter across the board. The strategy can work, but all they have to do is face a team that has a good pitcher and if they are forced to swing away they could be in trouble. And, having faced an easier schedule, it could mean the team is in more trouble than most heading into their first game.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Previewing the projected field - Shiga Gakuen (Shiga)

Shiga Gakuen is a surprise, having gone all the way to the super-regional semifinals to earn their first senbatsu bid. Now, they had to fall into the super-regionals after losing to Kita-Ootsu in the prefectural semifinals, but managed to advance where they defeated Houtoku Gakuen and Ryuukokudai Heian before losing to Osaka Touin.

The ace of the staff handed all duties when things mattered. Kamimura Hikari (神村 月光) may throw in the mid 130s, but that's all I know. Whatever the delivery is, it seems effective in earlier competitions, but when pressed versus Ryuukokudai Heian and Osaka Touin, the strikeout rates fall by a good amount. Now, the runs scored have not increased as a result - even against Osaka Touin, so in that respect it doesn't seem to hurt them.

Cleanup batter Umakoshi Daichi (馬越 大地) is by far their best hitter, recording either a hit or an RBI in each of their games. Tokudome Kaito (徳留 魁人) at the top of the order also does his fair share setting the tone for the middle of the lineup.

The loss to Kita-Ootsu in the prefecturals is muted somewhat by the fact that they've had several quality wins and the narrow loss to Osaka Touin. Without much info on the pitching though it's hard to say how far they can go but they probably can be counted on to win a game.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Previewing the projected field - Osaka Touin (Osaka)

Osaka Touin... do I really have to?

I may be objective in reviews and cannot deny the talent they have (see Nakata Shou), but I dislike the school with a passion especially after the perceived tactics against Mie in the finals not too long ago. And no, I won't let it go because I'm frankly getting tired of aspects of 高校野球 like this and I'm not going to filter it anymore in my posts.

In the prefecturals, they breezed through their first 5 rounds before barely getting by Riseisha in the semifinals, and blowing a 4-run lead against Osaka Shoudai Sakai losing in 13. Momentum was restored against Oumi Kyoudaisha in the super-regionals, and they managed to make it last, narrowly defeated Akashi Shougyou and Shiga Gakuen for the title. The loss to Takamatsu Shougyou in the Meiji Jingu taikai can be taken with a grain of salt because perhaps they didn't want to introduce another strong school.

The team regularly put up double digit hits every game - as expected from Osaka Touin. Two batters that stand out are natch in the middle of the order, 3B Yoshizawa Kazuto (吉澤 一翔) and 1B Furutera Hiroki (古寺 宏輝). Their 9-4 drubbing of Chiben Gakuen I found here. The offense is never a question, and if it is, they wouldn't be here.

What I don't know is if the pitching will make them an unstoppable force. Their ace by far is Takayama Yuuki (高山 優希), a fireballer by all definitions who Deanna might like because his hat flies off every throw. He supposedly reaches 150, though normally sits in the upper 140s and appears infatuated with throwing hard. Which is a problem, given his 29/20 K/BB ratio in the super-regionals and Meiji Jingu tournament. Anyone who cares so much about throwing hard is generally destined to fail. You didn't see Fujinami or Ootani looking at the gun after each pitch. When he does throw an offspeed pitch, it's either the standard slider/curve combo with a forkball thrown in.

The depth behind him is a bit questionable with the immediate option being Iwamoto Yuusei (岩本 悠生) (apparently the hat flying off is a thing now). He doesn't strike out many batters, but could be serviceable if needed to give his ace a rest. The other options (all freshman) - Kagawa Akira (香川麗爾), Tokuyama Souma (徳山 壮磨) and Inoue Daisuke (井上 大輔), saw some action, but in cases where it may have been low-leverage and therefore may not be counted upon.

As long as Takayama can focus on pitching and not the JUGS gun, then Osaka Touin (as usual) is a title contender.

Previewing the projected field - Inabe Sougou Gakuen (Mie)

Inabe Sougou Gakuen, not Mie, is the Mie representative that makes it to senbatsu. They did so showing mixed form, losing to Kaisei, but then redeeming themselves by defeating Oogaki Nichidai and then revenging their loss to Kaisei before blowing a 6-run 1st inning lead to Touhou, falling 10x-9 in 10.

It appears that their ace is Yamauchi Tomoki (山内 智貴). But they're generally using several pitchers in a game, the main option being Watanabe Keigo (渡辺 啓五) who may throw up to the low-140s, but also includes Mizutani Yuu (水谷 優), Tamura Rei (田村 玲), and Watanabe Yuuki (渡邊 祐希). But I don't have any information of any of them outside of the small blurb on Watanabe Keigo. That's actually a bit disturbing because no information is bad because it means they're generally not worth covering. AND THEY'RE THE RUNNER-UPS!

Offensively the only consistent batter is their cleanup hitter, LF Fujii Ryouma (藤井 亮磨) who either recorded a hit or an RBI in each of their last 6 games. There are some videos of games, nothing official, and nothing that helps identify players. Now there is also leadoff batter RF Miyazaki Yuuto (宮崎 悠斗) who has recorded multiple hits in several games, but has been held hitless at times.

With the lack of videos and information, as well as the close games they had throughout against average competition, their chances at Senbatsu are probably slim.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Previewing the projected field - Touhou (Aichi)

Touhou's fall run was anything but easy. Of their 10 games they played, 7 of which were decided by 2 runs or less (the other 3 were mercy-rule blowouts). But they avoided all the dangerous teams in Aichi, before finally facing top-level competition in the super-regionals - though to be fair, it was mainly against 2 schools from Mie (Mie, Inabe Sougou Gakuen). Still, they won the title and narrowly lost to Aomori Yamada in the quarterfinals.

Ace Fujishima Kento (藤嶋 健人) appears to be where the buck stops. He pitched every inning but in the first game of their run. Since Touhou was at Natsu Koushien, we have a good idea of what he can do. He can throw in the low-140s, the delivery looks very quick and the ball can sneak up on a batter, much like that grounder in the 1st AB of that video. It can also explain the high K rates during the tournament (he did have an abbreviated 7 inning no hitter against Chuukyou in the super-regionals). But it looks like under the spotlight it's not as effective - though after a run at Koushien he may have tightened his game up. With no one behind him, it's him or bust.

What's troubling - and that may have been expected due to their low offense, is that one of their best hitters... is Fujishima. Now, there are strong teams that have their ace as their best offensive player - just ask Tsuruga Kehi. But it's more likely that the ace as a cleanup hitter means that the offense is fairly weak. Yes, there is leadoff hitter LF Suzuki Mizuki (鈴木 光稀) and 1B Matsumoto Ryuuya  (松本 凌弥), but I'm not sure if that will be enough to carry the team - but they certainly can hang in there if Fujishima can hold up.

Previewing the projected field - Fukui Koudai Fukui (Fukui)

Formerly known as just Fukui, they were basically the 3rd wheel to Tsuruga Kehi and Fukui Shougyou. But for now anyways they have leapfrogged Fukui Shougyou on the ladder, and might make it a clean sweep for the prefecture for the Hokushinetsu bids. I say might because this may be a rare case wherein the committee might overlook a runner-up in favor of a semi-finalist. What stops it is that the case for the other possible candidate probably isn't strong enough to overrule that.

Now, I've made a case of a Tier 3 school hitting their heads against the top teams in a prefecture. But Fukui Koudai Fukui is a solid Tier 2 school and yet here are their losses going back:
  • 2015 Fall - Super-Regional Championship - lost Tsuruga Kehi 1-6
  • 2015 Fall - Prefectural Final - lost Tsuruga Kehi 0-8
  • 2015 Summer - Prefectural Final - lost Tsuruga Kehi 3-4x (10 inn)
  • (2015 Spring - Super-Regional Opening Round - lost Niigata Kenou Kougyou 4-6)
  • (2015 Spring - Prefectural Final - lost Tsuruga Kehi 3-7)
  • 2014 Fall - Super Regional Opening Round - lost Kanazawa 1-2x
  • 2014 Summer - Prefectural Final - lost Tsuruga Kehi 2-10
So in the last 2 years, of their 7 losses, 5 were at the hands of Tsuruga Kehi. The ()'s in the spring are there because the spring tournaments in general have no bearing on either Koushien tournament outside of perhaps seeding. In fact, if you go back over the past decade (thanks Asahi), of their 32 losses, 11 were at the hands of Tsuruga Kehi - 8 in a finals and 2 in the semifinals. That's butting your head against the ceiling if there was one.

This year, as you can see, they lost to them twice, and in pretty dominating fashion. And they regularly had close games against schools not normally considered powerhouses.

The weird bit is that ace Tanaka Igarashi (田中 嵐士) did not pitch against Tsuruga Kehi in either case, which might account for the blowout losses. But the question is why - unless Fukui Koudai Fukui believed that losing either game didn't matter - the prefectural title because they had already made the super-regionals and the difference between facing a champion and runner-up was inconsequential, and the super-regionals because they figured the semifinalists didn't have a strong enough resume. The former I can believe, but you would have to be pretty dead sure that the resume of the semifinalists below you wasn't overly convincing and that you were guaranteed a spot to sit him.

Anyways, it's not like Tanaka is completely useless (he does appear to strike out quite a few hitters), and none of the other relievers - Ujiie Takumi (氏家 拓海), #18 Ishiguro Naoki (石黒 直哉), Fukuda Shouto (福田 翔人), Suburu Ryouma (巽 竜馬) seem to be all that useful. Not only did they struggle against Tsuruga Kehi, but also when they relieved Tanaka early against Nagano Shougyou.

Offense-wise, the 3 players who seem to be the most consistent are 2B Tanimoto Kanmasa(?) (谷本 甲仁), 3B Kitamura Shintarou (北村 進太郎) and 1B Tsukamoto Daiki (塚本 大貴).

Despite the fact that they didn't use their ace, the losses to Tsuruga Kehi and the close games against other non top-tier schools with their ace means that they're probably not in contention for the senbatsu title.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Previewing the projected field - Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui)

Tsuruga Kehi is back yet again. They were in a purple patch there for a while with aces Kishimoto and Hiranuma. But last summer, with Hiranuma hurt, they couldn't get past the 2nd round and Hanamaki Higashi.

It's surprising that they're back though. Because even with Hiranuma hurt, they started him in the game, and despite reliever Yamazaki Souichirou (山崎 颯一郎) pitching 2 scoreless innings when Hiranuma struggled, they went back to Hiranuma. If you're Yamazaki, what are you thinking? "I pitched 2 innings of no-hit ball, got 4 strikeouts, and yet when the middle of the order comes around I'm relieved for a pitcher who is injured?!"

You'd think it wouldn't sit well.

Now, Yamazaki is the ace, an above-average throwing righty who can hit 140, with a slider and curve. The mechanics aren't there at times, leaving his ball up and away. Despite that, he doesn't walk many batters, but stamina may be an issue as shown when he was only pitching his 2nd complete game at Meiji Jingu (he pitched a CG then only 1.2 in the next game). Despite striking out 9, he cratered the final 2 innings, yielding 8 runs.

Nishimoto Taiki (西本 汰生) is a sidearmer who doesn't throw hard (mid-120s), though he did 3-hit Fukui Koudai Fukui in the prefectural final and limited Aomori Yamada to 3 runs in 7.1 IP.

While the pitching is necessary for a title run, they're also known for their powerful offense having scored less than 4 runs just twice in the fall. But the three to look at are leadoff hitter RF Uemura Motoki (植村 元紀) who sets the tone, returning player SS Hayashinaka Yuuki (林中 勇輝), and freshman CF Kaminakao Masaki (上中尾 真季).

If the pitching can hold up, and that's a big if, they have a good chance.

Previewing the projected field - Kanto Dai-ichi (Tokyo)

Well, this iteration of a rare rivalry in Tokyo has gone the way of the boys from Kanto Dai-ichi, having defeated Nishogakushadai Fuzoku 4-3 in a wild finish. Just to let you know how amazing this is, here are the times these two teams have played when the chips are on the line (heck, I didn't even realize it went this far!):

  • 2006 Summer Qualifying - 4th Round - 8-9 after Nishogakushadai Fuzoku scores 6 runs late to overtake.
  • 2007 Summer Qualifying - 3rd Round - 14x-7 (7 inn) - After falling behind 7-1, they score 13 unanswered to call the game early.
  • 2008 Summer Qualifying - Semifinals - 7-2 - Their dominance continues after slowly pulling away to a 4-0 lead, conceding the 2 runs late.
  • 2011 Summer Qualifying - Semifinals - 7x-0 (7 inn) - Nishogakushadai Fuzoku reloads, but the results are the same, scoreless through 4, but Kanto Dai-ichi pulls away afterwards.
  • 2013 Summer Qualifying - Semifinals - 1-8x (8 inn) - This time Nishogakushadai Fuzoku finally exacts their revenge, pulling the same game that Kanto Dai-ichi did in 2008 - take the lead early, extend it, yield a late run, but win early.
  • 2013 Fall Qualifying - Finals - 7x-6 (10 inn) - Oddly the first time they would play in the fall (but not the last). Kanto Dai-ichi tried to slowly inch away like they've done in years past, but Nishogakushadai Fuzoku would have none of it, scoring 4 unanswered to tie the game. But it would be for naught as they would lose in the first frame of extras. Nishogakushadai Fuzoku would get snubbed for Yokohama when they shouldn't have.
  • 2014 Fall Qualifying - Semifinals - 5-6 (11 inn) - This was when finally Nishogakushadai Fuzoku made this a real rivalry, coming back the next year, trading punch-for punch with Kanto Dai-ichi, and this time prevailing in extras. While they would be the runner-up yet again, they would get the invite.
  • 2015 Fall Qualifying - Finals - 4-3 - Kanto Dai-ichi pulls it out late with 2 runs in the 8th and 9th innings against ace Ooe to claim the title and perhaps deny Nishogakushadai Fuzoku a spot at senbatsu.
So in the past 10 years, they have played 8 times out of a possible 20, with Kanto Dai-ichi leading the rivalry 5-3. And amazing yet, the last 6 times they have played in either the semifinals or the finals!

Given the fact that Tokyo is a large prefecture (even when they're both allocated to Higashi Tokyo), this is a pretty high rate of meeting each other. And they fact they're pretty much on the level tells you that this rivalry may continue for a long while.

On the pitching side, they aren't afraid to use a mix of pitchers led by ace Kawai Kaito (河合 海斗), reliever Satou Shouma (佐藤 奨真), and spot reliever LF Takei Taketo (竹井 丈人), the pitchers are of average velocity (low-mid 130s), while Takei can supposedly hit 140. But there is almost no information on the pitchers on the internet, just these videos. Good news is that against Nishogakushadai Fuzoku the two main pitchers, along with first year Ogawa Tatsuki (小川 樹) they struck out 8 while walking 3.

Offensively, from what I've found, it's the other two OF's that seem to lead the hitting. CF Miyamoto Eigo (宮本 瑛己) and RF Motohashi Keito (本橋 慶人) are the extra base hitters on the squad. Sadly, the box scores are not available for their games, so it's hard to say how good they are. And while they lost to Sapporo Dai-ichi, it was Takei that started the game and gave up 3 runs in 3.2IP. This suggests to me they weren't taking this game seriously, perhaps even not minding giving up this game lest Nishogakushadai Fuzoku gets in their way again.

I think they stand a chance, but with so little info (probably because of potential scouting issues), it would be hard to claim them a title chance.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Previewing the projected field - Kiryuu Dai-ichi (Gunma)

Kiryuu Dai-ichi is looking to revive themselves in the world of 高校野球, reaching the quarterfinals 2 years ago after a decent hiatus from the scene.

Ace Uchiike Kakeru (内池 翔) and Aoki Kaito (青木 快人) are the tandem that leads the pitching staff. Uchiike isn't anything special - mid-130s fastball with a slider and curve. His numbers this fall have been solid outside of their game against Urawa Gakuin, but given his repertoire it's not surprising he's not blowing away the competition - but the general lack of free passes is a plus.

Aoki Kaito would be a player Deanna would like. He's a knuckle-scraper, and while that can fool batters, and we've seen them be successful in the majors in a closer role (Darren O'Day and Pat Neshek for instance), I don't know if it can work in long stretches - hence his longest outing was 4 innings in their loss against Jyousou Gakuin.

Offensively, leadoff batter Oikawa Keita (追川 恵太) sets the tone for the team, finding ways to get on base or bring in a run. There's also Murota Yoshito(?) (宝田 善統) who at least finds a way to get a base hit, and at #5 in the order hopefully has people in front of him to drive in.

With the lack of information, it's hard to project where they will land. The pitching side isn't impressive, but if it's serviceable it could be good enough.

Previewing the projected field - Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi)

Toukaidai Koufu has been on a run of late, representing Yamanashi 3 of the last 4 years. This after being off the map for a decade. And when they make an appearance, you're almost certain to see them make some type of run - of their 17 total (spring + summer) appearances, only 5 times have they exited in their first game, and 3 times they've won 1 game before bowing out. In fact, they've reached the semifinals 5 times!

So, what team do we have here?

Resume-wise it's hard to say. Their quality wins were against Nihon Koukuu in the prefectural final, and then faced Tier 3 schools Kasukabe Kyouei and Kasumigaura before getting shutout by Kisaradzu Sougou.

Matsuba Yukito (松葉 行人) and Kikuchi Hiroki (菊地 大輝) had come in relief last summer, most times to protect a lead, and once to keep the deficit small. He was able to do the former, but not the latter. Unfortunately for Kikuchi, the only videos I found of him were related to Kiyomiya (thank God Waseda Jitsugyou is not in the tournament).

I can't tell if they've switched roles, because Matsuba pitched more of the Super-regionals than Kikuchi. Kikuchi started the first game against Kasukabe Kyouei, but was pulled after giving up 4 runs in the 6th inning. Not that it may matter unless either has improved significantly. Both kept K/BB ratios close to 1 (though Matsuba had his best performance against Soujitsu of all schools). And from my commentary in the summer, neither appeared to be really impressive.

Two mainstays of the offense are back - now 1B Matsuoka Shuunyuu (松岡 隼裕), and now SS Fukutake Shuu (福武 修). Also joining him is RF Harada Ryuusei (原田 隆聖) who slotting behind Matsuoka at least gives him some protection (though most teams don't pitch around batters - it has been happening in an unintentional intentional sense more often).

The bottom of the lineup - where usually offense goes to die - appears to be in place here too. Yes, they did have some success, but when paired against the eventual champions, they went a combined 1-16.

It's an average squad overall in the end, and while it's possible they can win a game offensive black holes are generally hard to overcome.

Previewing the projected field - Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki)

Jyousou Gakuin finished as the runner-up in the super-regionals and will certainly be getting an invite. Their resume is a hodgepodge though. Nothing of note in the prefecturals outside of losing to Kasumigaura in the finals. But then they beat Yokohama, Nihon Koukuu and Kiryuu Dai-ichi before losing in that wild game versus Kisaradzu Sougou. The offensive output though was very small - just enough in most cases to win, so it may signal that more emphasis will be placed on their pitching staff.

The ace is Suzuki Shouta (鈴木 昭汰), who was the ace of the team last spring at senbatsu. His range is in the upper 130s touching 140, and may have a wide variety of pitches which might include a two-seamer, cutter, shuuto, curve, changeup and slider. But from the videos that you see - especially last year's senbatsu - the off-speed pitches are never really in the zone and that can be shown in the walks he offered to Yokohama and Nihon Koukuu. Any decent sense of patience at the plate and I think he's sunk.

The other option is Kashimura Yuuta (樫村 雄大), a freshman righty. Thankfully, the videos show his pitch speed on the scoreboard, and it seems to be in the low 130s for the fastball with an offspeed pitch in the upper 110s. In his game against Kiryuu Dai-ichi, he struck out 8 while walking 4. It was a complete game shutout, but the 4 walks are a bit iffy.

Offensively, the best player by far is freshman 1B Miyazato Bunta(?) (宮里 豊汰), who hits and hits for power. He was 7-13 with 6 RBIs during the Kanto super-regionals. Judging from the final game verus Kisaradzu Sougou, where in an extra inning affair he was 1-2 with 4 RBIs, my guess is they finally had enough and walked him a bit. Then there's another freshman, CF Suyama Yuuki (陶山 勇軌 - the video was from his days prior to Jyousou). He's not the hit machine Miyazato is, but he does seem to be able to get the timely hit.

2 players though doesn't a lineup make, and if teams do decide to work around Miyazato, it'll be a bit harder for the team to produce runs.

The pitching is sketchy enough to dismiss their chances for the title, though if they play an undisciplined team they may get a game or two.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Previewing the projected field - Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba)

Kisaradzu Sougou makes only their 3rd Senbatsu appearance having won the Kanto (ex Tokyo) title. Which is a bit odd because I keep thinking they're a better team than that.

They ran laps around Chiba at least with the exceptions of Tousou Kougyou (?!), and Senshuudai Matsudo. As for the super-regionals though, they had to survive 4 close games, having to come back in 3 of them to claim the title - including a wild final against Jyousou Gakuin.

The ace of the staff is Hayakawa Takahisa (早川 隆久), a lefty that throws in the mid-upper 130s with the standard slider/curve combo. He pitched the first 2 games of the super-regionals before handing the ball off to what seems like a large bullpen (which is odd other than the fact that perhaps they figure they'd already qualified finishing in the top 4. Against Toukou Gakuen he looked like a pitcher managing the game, striking out 5 and giving up 9 hits. Then he turned around and gave up just 3 hits (though 4 walks), striking out 8 against Hanasaki Tokuharu.

Takeda Hiroyoshi (武田 大慶) was the next in line, sent to face Toukaidai Koufu and did his work, pitching a complete game shutout. He struck out 6, but did give up 4 walks in the 2-0 win. He seems to work vertically in the zone leaving high pitches in the middle. Not a great thing, but he doesn't seem to leave many mistakes in the zone that can be severely punished. He also doesn't seem to throw that hard, so control will even be more of an issue.

Finally, the ball was handed off to a triumvirate of pitchers - all righties. Oonuma Hiromu (大熊 啓夢 sorry, that was the best video I could find, there are better stills here) was first, and he supposedly throws 130s. Next up was Wada Soutarou (和田 崇太郎), whose name search turns up someone with the same name in some group called KING&HEAVY. Finally was Mitsuishi Kazuki (三石 和季 - whose only video was when he was in junior high).

The other thing is that those three combined gave up 13 hits in the 13 inning affair, with just 4 Ks and 10 free passes. Mitsuishi was probably the best of the 3, saving the game in the 9th by keeping the deficit at 2, then pitching shutout ball in extra frames. Each of them did well when they came in, but Oonuma and Wada both ended up struggling to the point they had to be relieved.

Offensively, it seems their best hitter is RF Torikai Ranma (鳥海 嵐万) and CF Kido Ryou (木戸 涼). Neither are anything special to write home about, but both at least put up decent numbers.

There's nothing about this team that stands out. They appear to be a solid team who can hang in there, but I'm not sure they're a title contender.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Previewing the projected field - [Hachinohe Gakuin] Kousei (Aomori)

Might as well start calling them by their new name. If you haven't noticed Kousei Gakuin (光星学院) changed their name to Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (八戸学院光星) or in shorthand Kousei (光星).

No matter what you call it, their rise to prominence has been sudden. There were signs when they went to Natsu Kousien 3 of 4 years in 2000-2003 reaching the quarterfinals twice and the semifinals the other time. But in 2011 they stamped their mark in history (albeit infamously), by reaching 3 straight calendar Koushien finals losing all of them.

The school went through the name change right afterwards and while they haven't had the same success (it's hard not to unless they actually won the whole thing), but after a full year off went to Koushien both times in 2014, and senbatsu in 2015.

And here they are again. They've done it defeating every team they should have soundly, and winning the close games against the upper tier teams (except for the Aomori Yamada rematch in the finals). They did it leaning on ace Sakurai Kazuki (桜井 一樹). I don't have much information on him other than possibly having a slider, curve and changeup. That, and the fact that he doesn't strikeout many batters can be a concern if he doesn't have pinpoint control.

Offensively, it's hard to identify a person who stands out. Perhaps the top of the order which naturally should have your better hitters. But then you turn to their loss against Aomori Yamada, and they could muster just 3 hits. If the pitching is very contact-dependent, the offense will need to come though in case Sakurai doesn't have his best.

Previewing the projected field - Aomori Yamada (Aomori)

Aomori Yamada is finally back. I can't even remember how many years it's been (just checked it was 7 years ago - 2009 summer) that they were last at Koushien.

Man, that's a long time for a team I thought was a prefectural powerhouse. I don't know the story, if it was staffing changes, if they weren't really a powerhouse - instead me catching them in a sweet spot when I first starting getting serious about following 高校野球.

They've been close in recent years, but this time they were able to put it all together, revenging a loss to Kousei in the prefecturals in the Super-Regional final. It wasn't dominant though, as they had close games throughout the Super-Regionals - Tsuruoka Higashi, Akita and Sendai Ikuei before finally hitting their stride in the final 2 games.

The ace of the team is Hayato Horioka (堀岡 隼人), but only pitched in the first game in relief, giving up 2 runs on 7 hits (and 6 walks!) striking out just 3. None of the other pitchers - Tsuboi Tomoya (坪井 友哉), Urushidate Io (漆舘 伊皇) or Mikami Seshiru (三上 世視滝) fared much better with Mikami being the only pitcher to record a K. Ouch.

At this point then you'd have to turn to the offense to carry the team. And they did have success against Tsuruga Kehi (though Hiranuma is gone now), but predominantly in the middle of the lineup - C Murayama Naoya (村山 直也), SS Mimori Masaki (三森 大貴) and 1B Saitou Koumei (齊藤 孔明). Saitou was actually walked twice in their loss to Tsuruga Kehi - showing perhaps the lack of depth in the lineup. If they can be worked around like that, it will be that much harder for the team to make a deep run especially given the lack of good pitching.

Previewing the projected field - Sapporo Dai-ichi (Hokkaido)

In the leadup to next year's senbatsu (and because I have a lot of dead time at work), I'll be getting posts out on the teams in the projected field. First up is the Hokkaido champions Sapporo Dai-ichi.

Sapporo Dai-ichi pretty much handled all the teams they needed to without much issue until they hit the meat of the schedule - which started in the quarterfinals against Hokushou and followed that up with Komodai Tomakomai and Hokkaido Sakae.

For a champion team though, there's little information on them. Ace Kamide Takuma (上出 拓真) throws in the low 130s with a changeup of sorts that he tends to leave up. Here is the game versus Takamatsu Shougyou in the Meiji Jingu Taikai (Skip to 1:03.30 as that is when he comes in relief.). Against lefties, he seems to let the ball fly out early, leaving pitches up and away and not close. Even in general he leaves the fastball up in the zone and is prone to fly balls.

Offensively, their best hitter was their #9 hitter, RF Kanemura Kyousuke (兼村 京佑). He was 4-5 with 2 doubles and 2 RBIs versus Kanto Dai-ichi, and then was 3-4 with a double and 2 RBIs against Takamatsu Shougyou.

With such little information, and from what I could see and read, it doesn't look like Sapporo Dai-ichi is a legitimate title contender. Depending on the rest of the field and their draw, it's possible they could be one-and-done.

Meiji Jingu Bid

The final bit of projections finished last month when Takamatsu Shougyou of all teams won the Meiji Jingu Taikai defeating Sapporo Dai-ichi, Osaka Touin and Tsuruga Kehi.

If you took that at face value, you'd think that Takamatsu Shougyou would be considered a senbatsu title contender. Remember though that the winner of the tournament gives their region an extra bid. If you were Osaka Touin (Kinki Super-Region) or Tsuruga Kehi (Hokushinetsu Super-Region), would you win and give a team a chance at the title?

Let me put it another way. Let's say you're Kasumagaura and you won the Kanto Super-Regionals. Yokohama lost in the quarterfinals and thus is outside the top 4 (in order) and would probably be left out as long as the semifinalists didn't have a terrible resume (let's say they don't). Let's also say that in Tokyo (where the floating bid lies), the winner and runner-ups are Nichidai-san and Waseda Jitsugyou, which means that in all likelihood the bid would go there.

Would you win the Meiji Jingu tournament if it meant that Yokohama would get an invite? If I were in that situation, I wouldn't win. If you were Osaka Touin this year, would you win and let either Houtoku Gakuen or Chiben Gakuen into the tournament?

So Takamatsu Shougyou it is.

Hokkaido (1) - Sapporo Dai-ichi
Tohoku (2) - Aomori Yamada (Aomori), Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Aomori)
Kanto (4) - Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba), Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki), Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi), Kiryuu Dai-ichi (Gunma)
Tokyo (1) - Kanto Dai-ichi
Hokushinetsu (2) - Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui), Fukui Koudai Fukui (Fukui)/Saku Chousei (Nagano)
Tokai (2) - Touhou (Aichi), Inabe Sougou Gakuen (Mie)
Kinki (6) - Osaka Touin (Osaka), Shiga Gakuen (Shiga), Akashi Shougyou (Hyogo), Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto), Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo), Chiben Gakuen (Nara)
Chuugoku (2) - Soushi Gakuen (Okayama), Nanyou Kougyou (Yamaguchi)
Shikoku (2) - Takamatsu Shougyou (Kagawa), Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)
Kyushu (4) - Shuugakukan (Kumamoto), Kaisei (Nagasaki), Kagoshima Jitsugyou (Kagoshima), Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki)

Chuugoku/Shikoku Floating Bid + Meiji Jingu Bid
Saibi (Ehime), Jyosuikan (Hiroshima), Kaisei (Shimane)

With Takamatsu Shougyou's win, Saibi who I mentioned earlier had the best Shikoku resume for the floating bid will now get the Meiji Jingu Bid instead. With that, the floating bid is almost certainly heading north to the Chuugoku region.

So now we need to take a closer look at Jyosuikan or Kaisei. I'd first look at Kaisei since they played the champs Soushi Gakuen. But they were shutout 5-0 and their only quality win was a 7-0 mercy rule win over Hiroshima Shinjyou. Jyosuikan lost 6-3 to Nanyou Kougyou, who was annihilated by Soushi Gakuen in the final. And they don't have a quality win to their name. None.

Ouch. The resume's are not good at all. If I had to take someone, it would be Kaisei because their shutout loss was no different than any of the other teams to play Soushi Gakuen.

The only other option, and it's a huge longshot, would be that the floating bid actually stays in Shikoku and is given to Tosa, whose 2 losses in the Aki Taikai were to the same team - Meitoku Gijyuku. That's not disgraceful at all, but to intentionally give a 4-2 split when there was an option for a 3-3? Highly unlikely.

Tokyo/Kanto Floating Bid
Nihon Koukuu (Yamanashi), Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama), Nishogakushadai Fuzoku (Tokyo)

So here's the problem with that rivalry between Kanto Dai-ichi and Nishogakushadai Fuzoku. Despite the fact the the committee wants the big teams in the tournament, it can't simply continue to hand out floating bids that way. And so while Nishogakushadai Fuzoku may be worthy, it might be that the Tokyo final was a loser-out scenario now that Kanto Dai-ichi didn't win the Meiji Jingu Tournament. (In fact, they lost in their very first game. Still don't believe me about letting a good team in?)

Remember though that the 2 potential Kanto candidates, Hanasaki Tokuharu and Nihon Koukuu played their quarterfinal games close, but didn't have a great resume otherwise. Nishogakushadai Fuzoku defeated both Waseda Jitsugyou and Nichidai-san...

Sentimental wise, I'd love to see Nihon Koukuu get it. I mean, get the Japan Aviation Academy baseball team at Koushien?

If we went strictly by resume and separate from other years, Nishogakushadai Fuzoku gets the bid hands down. But it's not done in a bubble - at least from what I can tell, so I doubt they're getting in again. Name recognition, Hanasaki Tokuharu gets the bid. I secretly hope though Nihon Koukuu somehow winds up with it.