(photo courtesy of daily.co.jp)
Road to Haru Koushien
- def Kiryuu Shiritsu Shougyou 5-1
- def Shiritsu Oota 9-0 (7 inn)
- def Maebashi Shougyou 6-1
- def Takasaki Shoudai Fuzoku 11x-1 (5 inn)
- def Takasaki 10-0 (5 inn)
- def Kendai Takasaki 4-3
- def Hakuoudai Ashikaga 6-5
- def Keiou 4x-3
- lost Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou 3-5
Maebashi Ikuei is back on the scene, but outside of that magical 2013 Natsu Koushien, they have had no success. This current version of the team will try to change the narrative.
The good news is that they defeated all the teams they needed to as all the no-names they handled with little problems. But as soon as you threw in teams whose names you heard of, and they were fighting for their lives. In fact, in all of their super-regional games they were having to try and come from behind.
Arai-kantoku is going with a 2-pitcher strategy, and leaves the door open to flexibility. The bigger question is, how good are they are. See, both players came in relief last summer, and had not-so-stellar results.
First off is new ace Yoshizawa Yuu (吉沢 悠). He was the first to come in relief versus Kadena and while he got a double play to start his stint, it soon went south, eventually giving up 5 hits and 4 runs.
He has a fastball that can hit 140, and an apparent changeup in the mid-120s and a curve in the 110s. The problem is, Kadena has a beat on everything – especially the fastball. And I’m not sure that’s improved any. Against Maebashi Ikuei, he went 7 striking out 5, but giving up 8 hits and all 4 of Maebashi’s runs. He walked 3, hit 2 batters, and most of the hits were hits to the outfield. None of this bodes well.
The second is CF Maruyama Kazuya (丸山 和郁) who came in to pitch the final inning of the Kadena game. He didn’t give up a run in his inning of work, and both struck out and walked one. His fastball started consistently in the upper 130s, but eventually sat in the lower 130s. It looks like he has a slider and a changeup both in the mid-high 110s, and he flashed a slow curve which didn’t register at all, but probably was in the 90s. Oddly, it was the one slow curve that seemed to be the the off-speed pitch he got over the plate.
It’s no wonder then why Maebashi Ikuei immediately ran into trouble once they got past the riff-raff.
Offensively, they return very little from their starting 9. Cleanup batter 3B Iijima Hiromu does return as well as the aforementioned Maruyama come back to spearhead the lineup. But it might also say something when reliever Minakawa Kyousuke (皆川 喬涼) moves from a reliever position to RF, while still making spot appearances on the mound. Though I think his move to the field might be more of a permanent one as while he can throw upper 130s, the control of his off-speed pitches was not really great at all and Kadena’s batters were pretty much able to lay off of it.
Anyways, back to the hitting, the good news for Maebashi Ikuei is that while the offense appears to be a light-hitting ballclub, the team does not have any readily apparent holes in the lineup, which is excellent. In fact, their #3 batter, new C Tobe Kaito (戸部 魁人) seems to be having success in the lineup. Now as a whole their offense wasn’t putting up the numbers against elite levels of competition, but that won’t matter for most draws. It means if nothing else the offense should be competitive. The biggest question will be the pitching and if the promoted pitchers can get any more effective.