(photo courtesy of Yahoo! News)
Road to Haru Koushien
- def Izumi 14-1 (5 inn)
- def Kansaidai Hokuyou 12-1 (8 inn)
- def Osaka Kaisei 3-2
- def Osaka Han-ai 8-1 (7 inn)
- def Kitano 8-1 (7 inn)
- lost Riseisha 4-7
- def Hatsushiba Ritsumeikan 12x-5 (8 inn)
- def Ryuukokudai Heian 7-0 (7 inn)
- def Chiben Gakuen 6-4
- lost Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku 3-5
It sort of feels odd to be this far into covering the Kinki region and only now getting to Osaka Touin. It shouldn’t though because in 2014 they only made it to the quarterfinals, and the year before that lost in the 4th round of the prefecturals to, yep you guessed it, Riseisha.
But this iteration doesn’t seem quite right. Osaka Kaisei isn’t a bad team, but also shouldn’t be pushing Osaka Touin to the limit. The loss to Riseisha is certainly understandable, but allowing Hatsushiba Ritsumeikan to make a run isn’t, and neither does the loss to Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku. Nothing here really screams out the Osaka Touin we’re “used” to seeing.
So let’s see what we can find digging in. Their ace is Tokuyama Souma (徳山 壮磨), promoted over the “off-season”. As you can see, he did get a cup of coffee last spring, pitching an inning against Tosa at Koushien. He gave up a hit, but did not walk or strike out a batter. Statistics are hard to find for the prefecruals, but he did pitch the first 2 games of the super-regionals. Against Ryuukokudai Heian he was stellar, giving up just 4 hits, striking out 9 and walking 1. But versus Chiba Gakuen, he struggled, striking out just 4 while giving up 8 hits and walking 5. More importantly he did not pitch the Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku game, which might explain some things. Still, the latter line may be more of an indicator of his ability and could explain the Osaka Kaisei game as well. He throws in the upper 130s, with a slider/curve combo as standard.
The two pitchers who took the mound in their last game were Inoue Daisuke (井上 大輔) and Kagawa Reiji (香川 麗爾). Inoue is a taller southpaw with an apparent high release point. Kagawa is a righty who some say is a sidearmer, but it seems more like a compact three-quarters delivery.
All 3 pitchers actually played at Meiji Jingu in 2015 against Takamatsu Shougyou. Kagawa got the most time on the mound, going 1.2 innings giving up 2 runs on 5 hits striking out 1. Location was spotty as he left pitches up in the zone. It was also hard to tell what pitches he has from the video. There’s the fastball in the mid-130s and the slider in the mid 120s. I don’t see a traditional curve but perhaps a changeup in the 120 range. There’s a pitch in the 130 range that either might be a cutter or a shuuto, but it doesn’t really move much.
Inoue was up next, and pitched to just 2 batters, getting out of a manrui pinch. There’s only 2 pitches I think we saw, and that was the fastball in the low-mid 130s and a swooping curve in the high 100s.
Tokuyama pitched the 8th, giving up 2 hits (thought one was a bunt that stayed fair) and striking out 1. He only threw 1 off-speed pitch, otherwise it looked like it was all 2-seamers and 4-seamers.
All 3 pitchers though struggled with control and that appears to be an ongoing issue with them still and may be one reason why their performance is not perhaps what people expect, though if we were to be fair, Osaka Touin has not been known for it’s ace pitchers, Fujinami Shintarou notwithstanding.
Which then brings us to the meat of the team which should be their offense. They’re generally known to have power hitters which can just run up the score on their competition. It would appear they still have that ability, but they may have to work overtime to make up for their pitching. They did hit 3 HRs in the super-regionals, 2 against Ryuukokudai Heian (OF Fujiwara Kyouta 藤原 恭大 and CIF Nakagawa Takuya 中川 卓也), and 1 against Chiben Gakuen (2B/CF Neo Akira 根尾 昴). By the way, all 3 HRs in the loss to Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku game were hit by Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku.
On a side note, Neo was on the NOMO Japan team when it headed to the US to play a couple of exhibition games. Not only that but he even spot started in their game against Kitano though I find it hard to think that he would start at Koushien.
Nakagawa could probably be considered one of their more consistent hitters, going 6-11 in the super-regionals with 5 RBIs. Neo was 3-6 before going hitless in their loss. 2B Sakanoshita Haruto (坂之下 晴人) was 5-13 recording a hit in each of their 3 games. The team as a whole though hit 27-96 in the super-regionals for a not-so-spectacular 0.281. It’s still good, but not mind-blowing.
And so I think we’re back looking at an Osaka Touin team that perhaps isn’t quite where Nishitani-kantoku imagines it to be. They certainly look vulnerable, but don’t go looking for a first-round exit. Probably. I imagine them looking to use this to help them round into form for the summer. I mean, they’ll more than likely have to play Riseisha to get there.