(photo courtesy of Daily Sports)
Road to Haru Koushien
- def Yabe 10x-0 (5 inn)
- def Kumamoto Dai-ichi 15-1 (5 inn)
- def Tamana Kougyou 6-1
- def Yashiro Higashi 8-1 (7 inn)
- def Kyushu Gakuin 1-0
- def Kumamoto Kougyou 6-3
- def Nagasaki Higashi 8-0 (7 inn)
- def Houshou 6-1
- lost Fukuokadai Oohori 0-5
The photo is apropos in my opinion. Shuugakukan had a wealth of pitchers and yet were unable to fulfill their destiny falling 2 victories short of a title each time losing what seemed like winnable games. The calendar has turned, and half of the 4-headed monster are gone. What remains is still powerful, but big questions still remain.
The ace number is inherited by Taura Fumimaru (田浦 文丸). He was on the low side of 140 at Koushien, showing a slider, curve and changeup. His performance at Koushien was certainly passable, but certainly not overly dominant giving up just 1 run in 9.1 total innings, with just 5 Ks to 4 BBs.
Kawabata Kento (川端 健斗) is the other pitcher remaining, promoted to #10. Interestingly, he worked more innings at Natsu Koushien, pitching 13.1 innings, giving up 3 run though striking out 14 while walking 6. His repertoire is much the same as Taura – low 140s, slider, curve, change.
Their stuff certainly plays against weaker competition. Taura against Nagasaki Higashi struck out 17 while walking 2. Kawabata against Houshou struck out 14 while also walking 2. But then against Fukuokadai Oohori, they both pitched 4 innings, but Taura and Kawabata went 3/3 and 5/3 respectively. And given their historical performances, I think their Fukuokadai Oohori numbers are more representative than their complete game performances, which means it probably will be more of the same at Koushien.
The team also appears to struggle offensively as well. Their output declined each game of the super-regionals to the point where they managed just 5 hits over Fukuokadai Oohori. Even in the Houshou game, those 6 runs were scored on just 9 hits. And even if Fukuoka is finally staking their claim as a metropolitan power, these numbers are not appealing. What is even more puzzling is that one of their more successful hitters in their loss, Ishii Takuya (石井 卓弥) did not play in the Houshou game.
Overall, the team can still be considered strong but their ceiling is certainly lower than last year – at best they could probably get back to the semifinals. The biggest benefit of having 4 “power” pitchers was that you could always go to someone else if any one of them was struggling. With just 2 pitchers available now there is still some leeway, but given Kajisha-kantoku’s managerial moves in the past, I find it hard to see them making it any farther than they made it last year.