(photo courtesy of Gunosy.com)
Road to Haru Koushien
- def Oyama Minami 9-3
- def Oyama 13-6 (8 inn)
- def Tochigi Shounan 18-4 (5 inn)
- def Kokugakuin Tochigi 4-0
- def Seiran Taito 2-0
- def Ishibashi 5-1
- def Chuo Gakuin 9-1
- def Kendai Takasaki 5-1
- def Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou 5-1
- lost Meitoku Gijyuku 7-2
Under the leadership of 33-year old Kobari Takahiro (who by the way took over the job 9 years ago), Sakushin Gakuin has risen to the pinnacle of kokoyakyu with their win this past summer. And given he’s 33, there no limit to where the team can go – so long as he stays there.
Can you believe that with a new starting 9, he went and WON the Kanto Super-Regionals?
Usually, only the top schools can reload that quickly. But Kobari-kantoku has found a way to do it. Now, it’s not as clear-cut as that (of course it’s not) so let’s delve a little deeper into the details.
First the competition. Tochigi has been Sakushin Gakuin’s world, everyone’s just been living in it. Tier 3 schools Kokugakuin Tochigi and Seiran Taito provided the biggest obstacles, but only in the sense they reduced the offensive output. Neither could get a lick in edgewise offensively.
In the super-regionals, Kendai Takasaki and Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou provided good brand-name competition but again, not much opposition.
The buzzkill happened quickly though as in a rematch of the Natsu semifinals Meitoku Gijyuku, a small bit of revenge was exercised as a big inning sent Sakushin Gakuin home.
Leading the way on the mound is new ace Oozeki Shuutarou (大関 秀太郎). There’s little to go on outside of the video, and that was in his final year at Kaminokawa Boys’ Baseball Club. It’s hard to tell what pitches he has outside of a fastball and curve, but I would at least imagine he has a slider as well. It doesn’t look like he throws very hard, and he’s far from being a strikeout pitcher. In fact in his last 4 games, he had 14 Ks and 12 BBs. His backup is Shinohara Seiya (篠原 聖弥) of which I have absolutely no information. Suffice it to say though that the pitching staff is not dominant.
Offensively, it’s generally not a good sign when your pitcher is your cleanup batter (Ootani and Fujinami aside). And that’s where Oozeki sits. The only other person notable in the lineup is 2B Soeda Masato (添田 真聖) who is the younger brother of Soeda Manami, who was on the team 2 years ago.
This leads me to think that while they did win the Kanto regionals, and certainly that’s nothing to sneeze at, the team as a whole is weaker than last year. Now, a weaker champion could still be good enough, but from the indicators above, it seems like it will be much harder to hold both the spring and summer titles simultaneously.