(photo courtesy of Nikkan Sports)
Road to Haru Koushien
- def Sendai Higashi 9x-2 (7 inn)
- def Sendai Dai-san 3-2
- def Tohoku 5-3 (11 inn)
- def Tohoku Seikatsu Bunkadai 4-3
- def Natori Kita 1-0
- def Tohoku Gakuin 10x-0 (5 inn)
- def Sendai Jyounan 7-0 (7 inn)
- def Touryou 6-0
- def Kakunodate 7-1
- def Hachinohe Gakuein Kousei 6-0
- def Seikou Gakuin 3-1
- def Moriokadai Fuzoku 6-2
- lost Riseisha 1-5
Sendai Ikuei returns to Haru Koushien after a brief absence, winning the Tohoku Super-Regionals but the resume looks two-faced, and there are more red flags than green.
You could start with the Chubu Regionals which while it did feature a repechage, perhaps allowed the team to play around with their rosters. And that they did because they mainly started their games with Maentou Hiroto (前武當 大斗), and he was never seen again. Even still, 3 straight games wherein you are taken to the wire is still a bit concerning, even with a repechage.
Even with their main roster going into the prefecturals, it took a herculean effort by their ace to defeat Natori Kita in the first round. Ace Hasegawa Takuho (長谷川 拓帆) struck out 15 in a 1-hit shutout. His team could manage just 5 hits and 1 run.
The team basically jumped on Hasegawa’s back as he deliver start after dominating start, all the way to the super-regional title. But against Riseisha in the Meiji Jingu Tournament it all fell apart as he walked 8 and gave up 3 runs in 6 innings before being pulled.
So clearly, the pivot of the team falls under their star ace. He’s not overpowering, topping out at 143 at Meiji Jingu, but again probably sitting in the mid to upper 130s at best. The arsenal appears to include a changeup and splitter in addition to the standard fare (curve/slider). Despite all that I think he’s probably at best a 7 K/9 player. Combine that with the few videos we do have of him, and it’s obvious he was missing his locations against Riseisha, and given that was the first game of the Meiji Jingu taikai, fatigue can’t be used as a reason unless he perhaps had a dead arm, which doesn’t seem to be the case.
Behind him, Sasaki-kantoku has several options he can apparently go to, but all seem to be stopgaps at best just to get to the end of the game. They include SS Nishimaki Kenji (西巻 賢二), CF Sagawa Mitsuaki (佐川 光明), and Satou Sena’s younger brother, RP Satou Reo (佐藤 令央). I really don’t have much detail on any of the pitchers save for the fact that:
- Nishimaki can apparently throw 140, but may be a straight fastball
- Reo is nothing like his older brother, sitting in the upper 120s.
Also, random fact but perhaps pertinent as to why they ended up together – Hasegawa, Nishimaki, Sagawa and 2B Saitou Naruki (斎藤 育輝) were all on the Rakuten Eagles 2011 Junior team, though they did not advance past pool play.
Offensively, you probably have to circle back to Nishimaki and Sagawa which perhaps speaks more to their athletic ability as a whole. But outside of them, and perhaps C Ozaki Takumi (尾崎 拓海), offensive production is spotty especially at the bottom of the lineup – evidenced by being 5-hit by Riseisha.
With Hasegawa, the team has a better chance of clearing the lower levels of competition that may be present, and can at least keep the team in games against mid-level competition. The bullpen depth either means good flexibility or not having good options, and judging from the information available it may be the latter. They certainly can take a couple of games if the bracket breaks right, but against a quality squad they are still expected to struggle.