Handicapping the field – Houtoku Gakuen (21st appearance, 1st in 3 years)

Handicapping the field – Houtoku Gakuen (21st appearance, 1st in 3 years)

(photo courtesy of zebura nubaronn‘s YouTube channel)

Road to Haru Koushien

Regionals – Hanshin D Block

  • def Itami Nishi 10-0 (6 inn)
  • def Kenritsu Itami 11-0 (5 inn)
  • def Takaradzuka Higashi 5x-4

Prefectuals – D Block

  • def Himeji Shikisai 10-0 (6 inn)
  • def Tsuna 6-4
  • def Higashi Harima 5-1
  • def Shiritsu Amagasaki 4-2

Prefecturals

  • def Ikuei 5-3
  • lost Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku 1-2

Super-Regionals

  • def Higashiyama 9-7
  • lost Shiga Gakuen 0-1

Houtoku Gakuen’s resume isn’t really all that enthusing to anyone who reads it. The game against Takaradzuka Higashi technically didn’t matter as both advanced to the prefecturals. But then there’s the Tsuna game where they faltered late, the Shiritsu Amagasaki, Ikuei and Higashiyama games where they had to come from behind late, and the finally the Shiga Gakuen game where they were just to be rather blunt – feckless.

No quality wins, and yet here they are more than likely going to receive a bid because in a had-to-have game, they played Shiga Gakuen close, even if they did almost nothing.

They are in the Kinki region though, so it’s not like their so-so resume doesn’t mean that they have little to no chance to advance. But it does make their margin of victory a bit smaller.

Nishigaki Masaya (西垣 雅矢) is the team’s ace. No speed figures for him that I can find, but in the video, it looks like he has a slider/curve combo, and it doesn’t look like he throws extremely fast, meaning he probably sits in the mid-130s. Interestingly, the other pitcher that they went to in the super-regionals was actually their 3B Ikegami Hayate (池上 楓). Obviously from that angle it’s difficult to figure out what he has or how fast, but there’s certainly a curve/changeup in there, and probably a slider at least.

Boxscores are tough to come by in Hyogo prefecture, so all I have are the super-regional games, and 2 games is a really small sample size to work with. Worse yet, that aforementioned feckless game against Shiga Gakuen, the team as a whole managed just 3 hits, all at the top of the lineup. That combined with the game against an unknown Higashiyama team makes it all the more harder to make heads or tails of them.

I did manage to find some things though. Their C Kantou Yuusuke (神頭 勇介) and SS Kozono Kaito (小園 海斗) were on the 2015 U-15 Japan team where they went 4-9 with a 2B and an RBI and 2-9 with a 3B and an RBI respectively against Chinese Taipei in the Asia Challenge Cup. They’re certainly not without talent, but the question is whether there is enough there to be competitive. Both players don’t seem to be power hitters, and yet Kantou sits in the #5 spot in the lineup. That isn’t a great sign for them.

As a result, I could easily see them struggling against rural regional teams (i.e Shikoku, Chuugoku, Tohoku), and could easily be one-and-done if they draw a metropolitan team. And if it weren’t for the other 2 quarter-finalists losing badly, I’d say their position in the tournament would be more at risk to a team like Uenomiya Taishi who at least beat Riseisha (though that game didn’t really matter).

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