(photo courtesy of someone, not sure where because source is gone, but archive remains)
Road to Haru Koushien
Kobe Regionals – Block B
- def Suma Higashi 11-1 (6 inn)
- def Takigawa 8-1 (7 inn)
- def Kobe 9-3
- def Kakogawa Nishi 10-0 (7 inn)
- def Akashi Shougyou 4x-3 (11 inn)
- def Kansai Gakuin 4-1
- def Shinkou Gakuen 6-3
- def Houtoku Gakuen 2-1
- def Oumi 9-0 (7 inn)
- def Uenomiya Taishi 11-3 (7 inn)
- def Osaka Touin 5-3
- lost Riseisha 2-8
How could a team that had to go through the gauntlet it did in Hyogo, then defeated Osaka Touin, just get obliterated by Riseisha? And is the gap between them and everyone else really that big, or is there something else underneath the surface?
Well, here’s the first bit. In the super-regionals, the first two games were pitched by Kuroda while the last two games were predominantly pitched by Okano. Given the last two games were Osaka Touin and Riseisha, you’d think Okano was the ace.
You’d be wrong. At least if numbers told the story.
Kuroda Yamato (黒田 倭人) wears the ace number. We know from the video he struck out 15 against Houtoku Gakuen. And in the super-regionals he had 6 versus Oumi and 7 versus Uenomiya Taishi. This compared to 2 and 4 walks in the same games for a K/9 rate of 8.357 and a BB rate of 3.857.
Okano Yuudai (岡野 佑大) meanwhile wears the #10 jersey. And yet he was tasked to start the Osaka Touin game in the semifinals. Now given, it probably was a certainty that Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku would have advanced to Haru Koushien if they had lost, so starting Okano to perhaps (a) save Kuroda’s arm and (b) give less scouting info, made a lot of sense. And yet they still went and won that game. Okano’s starting of the finals may also make sense of the story their game history portrays. While Kuroda did pitch the final inning against Osaka Touin, even if we attribute those stats to Okano due to no detailed info by inning, it’s still at best just 10 Ks to 8 BBs in Okano’s 2 games (17 innings).
The weird bit is that there really isn’t much information on the duo. They don’t really appear on the radar for 高校野球 followers it seems, and there aren’t a whole lot of videos for either as well. This is especially the case for Okano as the one linked to his name shows him from last year where he wore #20 (the last spot on a prefectural team), while any other video doesn’t really give us a good idea of what he has in his arsenal now.
I do know that Kuroda throws average velocity (low-mid 130s), with a low 120’s slider. Okano throws harder, apparently reaching the upper 130s at best, but his offspeed pitches are a mystery (though we can generally assume a curve and slider). The lack of info though after all this time leaves me wondering how good they really are. It’s unusual for good players to be missed by the faithful followers, so this could bode not-so-good news for the team.
There aren’t many clues as to how the offense does its job. Scouts seem to like C Inada Kazuki (猪田 和希), who went 7-9 with 6 RBIs before being held hitless against Riseisha. You can also look at the batters preceding him in RF Kataoka Yamato (片岡 大和) who was 7-15 with 5 RBIs, 2B Gotou Takahiro (後藤 貴大) who was 6-14 with an RBI. The rest of the team was a paltry 20-82 (0.244).
It’s hard to ignore the record that they have put together in the fall. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that there is little fanfare about their pitchers for a team that has a resume like they do. The game versus Riseisha was bad, yet you could probably throw the game out because Kuroda wasn’t pitching that game and that against almost any other opposition Okano could possibly hold his ground. The team generated enough offense, but like other teams have weaker points down the line.
What’s the final verdict then?
Are they a contender for the title? Sure.
Could the offense throw a clunker? Absolutely.
Which means in the end they could be a high-variance team in our expectations for them. Losing in the first round is possible (though not probable), and winning it all also isn’t out of the realm of possibility.