Tag: Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku

99th Natsu Koushien – Day 10, Game 1 – Tenri (Nara) v Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Hyogo)

99th Natsu Koushien – Day 10, Game 1 – Tenri (Nara) v Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Hyogo)

(photo courtesy of Mainichi)

Tenri

Road to the title

  • def Oogaki Nichidai 6-0

I’ve been a bit more skeptical of Tenri in recent years. Sure they were the 2nd team in Nara next to Chiben Gakuen, but their performance at Koushien left something to be desired. Yet, in the matchup versus Oogaki Nichidai, they completely dominated, scoring 6 runs on an efficient 7 hits. Given, Jinno hitting 2 home runs (which is becoming a recurring theme), helps but they made the most of their few opportunities.

And yes, it was few because they got just those 7 hits in 29 at bats. Generally that’s a losing combination, so it will be interesting to see if they can continue doing that (not that it is a skill or anything, but their offense wasn’t anything to write home about to begin with).

Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku

Road to the title

  • def Hokkai 5-4

Kobe Kokusadai Fuzoku would have already been eliminated if not for the fact that Taniguchi came through with 2 home runs and 4 of their 5 RBIs. If not for that they looked dead to rights.

And that was despite the fact that the combination of Okano, Kuroda and Hanamura struck out 9 on the day while walking 1 and they offense collected more hits (14) than Hokkai did (11).

But it’s not like they had black holes anywhere in the lineup, it was just that one man carried the team.

I had Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku advancing out of this bracket, and they probably still can by winning this game. But Tenri could make a game of this yet, though I’m still skeptical.

Lineups

Tenri

  • LF Miyazaki
  • CF Sugishita
  • SS Oota
  • RF Jinno
  • C Shiroshita
  • 1B Yasuhara
  • 3B Morimoto
  • 2B Yamaguchi
  • P Usui

Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku

  • 2B Gotou
  • 3B Kurihara
  • LF Morita
  • C Inoda
  • 1B Kataoka
  • CF Taniguchi
  • RF Oomaru
  • SS Tabuchi
  • P Okano

08:00 – First Pitch

1st Inning

Tenri working the count sorta, Miyazaki runs it full before grounding out, and then after a quick out by Sugishita, Oota decides to green light on a 3-0 pitch and pop out. I might have let the first ball go though because the game is still early and you want to test to see if he’s still got some nerves.

Usui too having some early issues on the mound gets the first out, but then Kurihara hits a ball the opposite way to right center and hustles his way to a triple! Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku looking to take the quick lead.

Usui dodges one bullet as Morita hits a dribbler back to him, and then dodges both as he jams Inoda, grounding him out to short!

Both aces already having to work hard early…

2nd Inning

Tenri’s batters exhibiting a lot of patience at the plate right now. Both Jinno and Jyoushita both have the counts go 2-2 before being retired. Morimoto gets ahead 2-0 and gets a green light driving a ball over Morita for a 2-out double. Yasuhara is hit on the next pitch, and Inoda goes out to talk to Okano.

Not helping things, Okano walks Yamaguchi on 4 straight to load the bases and time is called. The good part is that the P is up as the #9 hitter.

If Usui knows any better he won’t swing unless he has to.

Ball 1… Ball 2… Finally hits the outside corner for strike 1…

And the next pitch gets away from Inoda! Morishita comes home and Tenri leads 1-0!

Usui grounds out to end the inning, but yet another self-inflicted wound.

Kataoka though tries to reclaim that run immediately. Drive to right, Jinno running to the wall, leaps, and it’s off his glove as he hits the wall. He stumbles a bit and that allows Kataoka to reach 3rd.

Taniguchi poorly swings at a slider in the opposing batters box for out #1.

Oomaru hits a ball to 2nd, Yamaguchi fires home and instead puts it into the back netting. The only positive is that Shiroshita fires to 2nd to nab Oomaru trying to take extra base.

That’s all the damage Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku does, but it’s clear offensively they’re ahead of the game.

3rd-5th Inning

Nothing happens. Well, almost nothing. 1 base hit on each side.  The rest nothing.

Oh and a strikeout.

But Usui settled down, and both offenses, already figuring to be struggling in nature are now living up to expectations.

6th-8th Innings

Some action starts happening after the break.

In the 6th, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku gets a 1-out single, but then Kurihara is thrown out trying to steal 2nd which pretty much kills the rally.

Tenri in the 7th gets a couple of good breaks. Morimoto bloops a ball to center, and then Yasuhara hits a higher popup to the same place, and it just evades Taniguchi for a double.

But with both runners in scoring position, Tenri opts for the contact play and a grounder to 3rd by Yamaguchi equals an easy out at home. Usu strikes out, and the opportunity is lost.

Though come to think of it they didn’t call for the squeeze that they normally would in the past.

8th inning, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku threatens to take the lead. Leadoff single by Hanamura and after a bunt, they intentionally walk Kurihara. Morita grounder to short would end the inning, but he boots the ball and instead everyone’s safe!

Manrui with only 1 down, Tenri appears to be giving up a run here.

But instead Inoda hits a grounder to 3rd! Morimoto to 2nd for 1, Yamaguchi to 1st… double play! Tenri gets out of a major jam!!

9th Inning

I start getting real surprised about how each kantoku is playing this game.

Tenri’s Shiroshita gets a one out single. After a bunt, they walk Yasuhara to get to Yamaguchi and already 0-2 on the day strikes out.

Then in the bottom half, Taniguchi hits a ball to deep left and gets away from Miyazaki after he collides with the wall. He ends up at 3rd and with just 1 out they threaten to walk it off.

But instead of loading the bases to create the force, they pitch to Oomaru who was hitless. Oomaru hits a hard chopper right back to Usui, who fields it and make the out at 1st holding the runner.

And then when #16 Araki comes in to hit for Tabuchi, they intentionally walk him to get to Hanamura…

And it works! Hanamura grounds out to short and Tenri gets out of the jam! We’re headed to enchousen!!

11th Inning

Tenri gets the first real opportunity in enchousen as Shiroshita doubles over Taniguchi in right center. After a flyout, they intentionally walk Yasuhara again to bring up Yamaguchi.

But this time he delivers! He reaches out and pops a single to center! Shiroshita scores and Tenri has the 2-1 lead!!

And with that Usui shuts down Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku in the bottom of the 11th and Tenri advances to the Best 8!!

Wow. I’m generally non-impressed when teams who can’t do anything offensively nor strike out the opposition play because it feels more like ineptness. But here we had two teams who actively worked around the dangerous parts of the lineup to keep the game tied. It’s the right strategy and for 10 innings it worked for Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku.

If these 2 kantoku’s stay at their schools, and they get better talent… watch out.

99th Natsu Koushien – Day 5, Game 3 – Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido) v Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Hyogo)

99th Natsu Koushien – Day 5, Game 3 – Hokkai (Minami Hokkaido) v Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Hyogo)

(photo courtesy of Mainichi)

Hokkai (38th appearance, 3rd consecutive)

  • Location – Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido
  • Private school
  • Student Body -1,252 students (588 female)
  • Club Size – 94
  • Kantoku – Hirakawa Atsushi (平川 敦)

Road to Koushien

  • def Sapporo Yamanote 9-0
  • def Sapporo Minami 11-5
  • def Hokushou 11-4
  • def Hakodatedai Yuuto 2-1
  • def Sapporo Ootani 11-4
  • def Toukaidai Sapporo 6-5

Hokkai has some quality wins, with all 4 games in the main prefecturals against teams who are strong in the prefecture. However, the games were not clean victories by any means which put up some red flags. Not only that, but the main pitchers for Hokkai were their outfielders Sakaguchi and Tama. I’m always concerned when your #1 doesn’t pitch at all.

Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (2nd appearance, 1st in 3 years)

  • Location – Kobe-shi, Hyogo
  • Private school
  • Student Body – 802 students (0 female)
  • Club Size – 106
  • Kantoku – Suzuki Yoshirou (青木 尚龍)

Road to Koushien

  • def Himeji Kougyou 8-0
  • def Yamasaki 13-0 (5 inn)
  • def Amagasaki Nishi 10x-0 (5 inn)
  • def Shouyou 9x-2 (7 inn)
  • def Kansai Gakuin 1-0
  • def Houtoku Gakuen 2-1
  • def Akashi Shougyou 4-0

It is surprising that in the home of Koushien stadium, Hyogo hasn’t had much success as of late at Koushien, never mind the fact that they’re still considered a metropolitan prefecture.

The scores are impressive on the runs given up in the final 3 games, but the pitching is all pitch to contact which is always a concern. So too is the lack of offense.

I would say Hyogo would have the advantage here, but we could be seeing a reverse of the Sendai Ikuei/Takikawa Nishi problem. Even still, I think at best Hokkai would have a slight advantage.

Lineups

Hokkai

  • CF Suzuki Yamato
  • SS Fuse (#16)
  • 1B Kawamura
  • C Satou (#12)
  • RF Watanabe (#2)
  • LF Inoue (#17)
  • P Sakaguchi (#7)
  • 3B Takemoto
  • 2B Suzuki Seiya

Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku

  • 2B Gotou
  • 3B Kurihara
  • LF Morita
  • C Inoda
  • 1B Kataoka
  • CF Taniguchi
  • RF Oomaru
  • SS Tabuchi
  • P Okano

15:35 – First Pitch

1st Inning

As perhaps feared, Hokkai has one of the quickest first innings I’ve seen. And I’m wondering immediately what will happen in the bottom half on the inning.

Not much Sakaguchi can do on Gotou’s high chopper up the middle for a base hit.

But while he does get out of the inning with no damage, both Morita and Inoda put really good bat on the ball.

2nd Inning

It looks like there is a directive for Hokkai’s batters to attack early in the count. Satou singles on a 1-1 pitch, and after a wild pitch and sac bunt, Inoue singles the first pitch back up the middle, scoring Satou and giving them the 1-0 lead.

3rd Inning

Hm, early on all the traffic is one way as Hokkai extends the lead.

A bunt single, an error by 1B Kataoka on the throw on Fuse’s groundball and then later a plunking of Satou load the bases.

Watanabe singles to center bringing in 1, doubling the lead to 2-0.

Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku finally are able to send a volley back on their own. 2 out, runner on 2nd after a bunt, Morita comes through with a single to center making it 2-1.

Inoda continues the inning with a shot through the left side, but Kataoka golfs a ball to center to end the inning.

4th Inning

The tide might have started turning because in the 4th Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku brought pressure to bear. Oomaru with a liner over short, then Tabuchi single to left, and then Okano presses the defense with a push bunt that Kawamura fails to field cleanly. The bottom of the lineup loads the bases for the top of the lineup.

Except Gotou strikes out on an outside fastball.

And here’s the switch. Sakaguchi gives way for Tama.

And Tama gets the grounder he needs. Fuse goes the short way and Hokkai holds their 2-1 lead!

6th Inning

The teams had been quiet, that was until the 6th.

PING.

Taniguchi on the first pitch in the 6th takes Tama out to left center, and we’ve got a new ball game at 2-2!

Kobe Kousaidai Fuzoku pushes and threatens to take the lead. Kuroda walks and presses to 3rd on Gotou’s single. However, Kurihara swings on the first pitch an d grounds to short.

7th Inning

Hokkai puts the game in motion themselves in the Lucky 7. Yamato gets on with a one-out single back up the middle. Then makes a heads-up running play.

Fuse hits a grounder to the gap in left. Tabuchi makes a great stop and tries the jumping throw. But the throw is late and wide. Yamato doesn’t break stride and heads straight to 3rd without a throw.

Kawamura then hits a ball to the left side, and it’s a contact play. Tabuchi bobbles the ball, then throws high to 1st. Everyone’s safe, the run scores and Hokkai retakes the lead at 3-2!

Satou hits another grounder to the left side, and while Tabuchi tries to start the double play, they only get the runner at 2nd. Fuse scores, and Hokkai reestablishes the 2-run lead at 4-2.

Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku looks for a response in their half. Morita doubles to the wall in right center. Araki singles to right, but Morita has to hold up on a great throw in.

But Taniguchi is up again.

PING.

NO WAY. NO F******* WAY!

HE DID! HE ACTUALLY DID!

On back to back at-bats in back-to back innings, Taniguchi hits a homerun to tie the game and then a 3-run home run to take the lead!! 5-4 Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku!

8th Inning

AND YET!

Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku might just give back the lead!

Runner on 1st 2 out, a wild pitch and I give the second a passed ball move the runner all the way to 3rd! #16 Ujike comes to try and deliver the timely hit…

But strikes out! He chases a splitter in the dirt for strike 3!

9th Inning

Last ups for Hokkai, but Hanamura shuts the door striking out 2 of the last 3 batters to give Kobe Kousaidai Fuzoku their first Natsu Koushien win!

And I have to say that this was the most entertaining game played so far, mostly because each of the teams were in it and when one side scored, the other had a response. It wasn’t a pitcher’s duel, but it was an even game that one man, Taniguchi Yoshiki carried his team to victory.

89th Haru Koushien – Day 5, Game 1 – Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Hyogo) v Toukaidai Fukuoka (Fukuoka)

89th Haru Koushien – Day 5, Game 1 – Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Hyogo) v Toukaidai Fukuoka (Fukuoka)

(photo courtesy of Mainichi)

Well, we’re almost done with the first round of games, and much like Day 1, the place will be packed from the get-go, not necessarily for this game but for the game to follow.

That’s not to say that this game isn’t important, or the teams aren’t all that great. But the media goes all ga-ga over the name Kiyomiya so…

Anyways, Toukaidai Fukuoka has something to prove really. Yes, their matchup against Fukuokadai Oohori in the super-regional final is a plus even though they lost, but a similar close game against Kumamoto Kougyou doesn’t look as good. I also had said that I thought Kumamoto Kougyou’s ace was better than Toukaidai Fukuoka’s ace, and that may still be the case, but after seeing Kumamoto Kougyou play, there’s some leeway in that statement now. The multitude of close games though means that their position maintains as shaky at best.

Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku comes from the Kinki region that has only suffered one loss so far, and that was Takada Shougyou whose inclusion into the field I already had questioned. And with just Osaka Touin left to play, the region so far has finally shown themselves to the be powerhouse it is supposed to be. Now, we don’t really know how strong Osaka Touin is because they haven’t played, the loss to Riseisha does loom a bit over the resume. But because the rest of the resume is really strong you figure at the worst, it ends up being a close game.

Interesting that for Toukaidai Fukuoka that one of their relief P is starting at 1B. Perhaps switching based upon handedness?

Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku

  • 3B Morita Takashi
  • 2B Gotou Takahiro
  • C Inoda Kazuki
  • RF (#7) Kataoka Yamato
  • LF (#18) Nakaoka Yamato
  • CF (#13) Taniguchi Yoshinori
  • 1B Araki Keisuke
  • SS Tabuchi Yuujirou
  • P Kuroda Yamato

Toukaidai Fukuoka

  • CF Ariyasu Seima
  • 2B Kiyomizu Yuudai
  • C Kitagawa Hozumi
  • LF Endou Shuuto
  • 3B Hoshino Kouki
  • 1B (#10) Sada Kensuke
  • RF (#17) Nakayama Seiya
  • SS Hashimoto Naoki
  • P Yasuda Daisuke

09:00 – First Pitch!

Yasuda side-arm action, understandably not much velo, but for being a righty standing on the left side of the rubber for all batters. Has a slider, sinker combo, which make sense for such a delivery. Control so-so to start, gets a clean inning, but understandably all balls in the air.

Kuroda not throwing all that hard to start, and actually leaves one over the plate for Ariyasu who knows what to do with it. Down the left field line for a double.

Now, Kiyomizu doesn’t show bunt to start his AB, but then surprises the Kobe defense with it and actually beats out the throw from Kuroda! Runners at corners, no out!

After a strikeout though, Kuroda gets a textbook 6-4-3 double play out of Endou and he’s out of the jam, but I’m just a little concerned about the pitching for Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku.

Yasuda’s control still not great in the 2nd, but I think Kobe’s batters are struggling with the “rising” fastball when it gets letter high. Kataoka is able to lead off with a ball through the right side. But after 2 more fly ball outs (one a soft liner that Hashimoto dashes back and makes a leaping catch), Aoki-kantoku decides to send Kataoka with nothing to lose and he successfully steals 2nd. And when Yasuda just leaves one not high enough, Araki takes it the other way for a base hit and an RBI. 1-0 Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku.

2nd inning would leave me less concerned with Kuroda. Location better, batters chasing the breaking stuff, and racks up 2 Ks in a clean inning. Except that in the 3rd, Toukaidai threatens again. Yasuda actually hits a soft liner to LF that Nakaoka just can’t get under in time and then Ariyasu catches one off the bat and up the middle for a base hit.

2 outs with Kitagawa up, chopper to short. Tabuchi charging, makes throw, but you can tell off his hand it’s high. Goes into the camera well allowing Yasuda to score tying the game at 1-1.

What’s really surprising is that Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku is hitting the pitches into the air for the most part and they’re just routine fly balls. 10 of his 12 outs have been via the fly ball/pop up. If you want to really drive the ball I figure you have to level the bat instead.

While they’re trying to figure that out, Kuroda is leaving stuff over the plate just enough to cause himself trouble. One down in the 4th, another fastball over the middle which Sada takes all the way down the LF line to the wall for a double. After that though, Kuroda depends on his breaking pitches to get him out of the inning, first freezing Nakayama  on an inside slider and then getting Hashimoto on a sinker outside the zone.

As the break hits, Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku’s batters are trying to pound the ball into the ground as fly balls obviously aren’t working, while Kuroda is trying to improve his control on the mound for some stress-less innings. For Toukaidai Fukuoka, they’re game plan seems to be working fine as they’re not the ones having to adjust right now.

Though right after the break, Yasuda leaves a ball up for his counterpart and Kuroda just drops it in in left-center for a double. He’s about to get out of the inning with 2 outs, but then walks Inoda and then hits Kataoka to load the bases! Big chance for Kobe as Nakaoka steps in.

He hits a slow chopper up the middle, Kiyomizu charges in, and Kataoka runs into him! And for the 2nd time this tournament, a runner is called out on interference and ends a key inning!

The good news for Kobe Kokusadai Fuzoku is that Kuroda is on his game. Toukaidai Fukuoka’s batters just cannot lay off the outside pitch and are striking out at a regular pace.

A bad collision in the 7th. 2 outs, foul ball down the right field line. Kiyomizu, Sada and Nakayama converge and it’s Nakayama with the catch. But what’s only seen in replay is that when Kiyomizu goes down to try and field it, his head collides with Nakayama’s elbow and he’s certainly out of it.

He would have had some time to recover being the 4th man up in the 7th. But with just a 6 pitch inning, his offense didn’t help him and he’s replaced by #14 Oodzuru.

Kuroda having the most success against Yasuda, fouling off several pitches before singling to left. Morita blows it on the bunt and pops up to Sada. They bunt again and while Gotou hustles down the line, Hoshino’s throw is in the right place for Sada to bonk him on the head with the glove for the out.

Hoshino doubles down with a great diving stop on a grounder from Inoda, pop up and throw to 1st for the 3rd out and Yasuda continues to hold serve. The only problem is that his offense is unable to deliver much of anything right now outside of striking out.

Worst time for a walk in the bottom of the 9th as Kuroda walks Endou. Sada tries to bunt the runner over, but he fails! Nakayama lays down a bunt, but it’s right at home. Inoda fires to 2nd, but the throw pulls Tabuchi off the bag! All safe!

Hashimoto originally bunting, but starts swinging away. During the AB, I thought to myself “I really hope this doesn’t end on an error…”.

Fouls off a couple of pitches but then grounds to short. Tabuchi goes to Gotou for 1, throw to 1st and wouldn’t you know it it gets by Araki. Endou scores and that’s how the game ends 2-1 for Toukaidai Fukuoka.

Well, the game went about as well as it could have been for Toukaidai Fukuoka. They were in it the entire game, though perhaps more struggling than not, but got one lucky break to win the game. They certainly earned their keep, but I also think Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku just couldn’t figure out how to hit the side-armer and that’s what hurt them the most.

Is Fukuoka on the rise? Maybe. The showing so far at at least shows they’re legit.

Handicapping the field – Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (4th appearance, 1st in 7 years)

Handicapping the field – Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku (4th appearance, 1st in 7 years)

(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

Prefecturals

  • 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

Super-Regionals

  • 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.