(photo courtesy of Mainichi Shinbun)
Road to Haru Koushien
- def Amakusa Takushin 10x-0 (5 inn)
- def Chiharadai 5-3
- def Buntoku 4-2
- def Ariake 6-0
- def Toukaidai Seishou 6-1
- loss Shuugakukan 3-6
- def Mirai Kouka 6x-5 (13 inn)
- def Saga Shougyou 3-2
- lost Toukaidai Fukuoka 1-2
I was going to say that I find it surprising that Kumamoto Kougyou has taken this long to get back to Haru Koushien, but then again I have a bias from 2006 when I saw them live and they were in their prime. They finally get back to Haru Koushien after a decade away, so let’s see where they’re at.
Their resume is a bit underwhelming. There were a lot of close games against fellow tiered schools during the prefecturals before losing to a weakened Shuugakukan (more on them in a later article), and the super-regionals saw all 1-run games against against more no-name competition.
From that it’s clear that their ace certainly keeps them in each and every game. For Kumamoto Kougyou, that’s Yamaguchi Shou (山口 翔). Some reports have him almost touching 150, but I would imagine that he tops out in the mid 140s at best and sits in the low 140s. He has a slider and a changeup (instead of a curve).
Now, he did not start the Shuugakukan game, which may explain the score. It also appears that during the game in the bottom of the 6th, the home plate umpire Satou suffered a foul ball to either his arm or his wrist and was actually replaced. And it was right after that injury that Shuugakukan scored 2 runs to make it a 5-2 and forcing Hayashi-kantoku to bring in Yamaguchi with no outs in the 7th. He did allow the inherited runner to score, but shut them down thereafter. So there were certainly excuses in the game.
His performance though in the super-regionals was a bit uneven. It actually wasn’t until the semifinal game against Toukaidai Fukuoka that he had his best game, though as we’ve established their offense was a bit lacking:
- v Mirai Kouka – CG, 13 IP, 4 ER (5 R), 11 H, 10 K, 2 BB
- v Saga Shougyou – CG, ER (2 R), 6 H, 5 K, 10 BB
- v Toukaidai Fukuoka – CG, 2 ER, 6 H, 8 K, 0 BB
That works out to a 2.10 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 6.90 K/9, 3.60 BB/9, 1.917 K/BB. The K rate seems low for a supposed fireballer, so that also lends some credence that his fastball sits a little slower then the reported high 140s. The good news is that his runs allowed seem to be consistently low which is good, and is all we can expect given his schedule. It is yet to be seen how he performs against more established teams.
Their offense is completely strange. All the hitters who had good success in the super-regionals actually sat lower in the lineup:
- 1-4 batters -8-49 (0.184 BA)
- 5-9 batters – 24-60 (0.400 BA)
C Maruyama Ryuuji (丸山 竜治) led the bunch with going 7-13 with 2 RBIs followed right behind by 2B Hirano Youta(?) (平野 陽大) who was 7-14 with 2 RBIs and LF Tanoue Masahiro (田上 真大) who was 4-10 again with 2 RBIs. I’m not sure what this all means because you really should have having your better hitters at the top of the lineup so they get more at bats. We know they seem unable to blow out opponents so it seems like they would want the possibility of more run production.
I think they at least stand in the middle of the road along with Fukuokadai Oohori. They should at least stand a chance of advancing past the first round, but could run into trouble against tougher competition. It all depends on how their offense performs once the game begins because it’s hard to read at this point.