Tag: Sakushin Gakuin

89th Haru Koushien – Day 8, Game 1 – Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) v Shuugakukan (Kumamoto)

89th Haru Koushien – Day 8, Game 1 – Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) v Shuugakukan (Kumamoto)

(photo courtesy of Asahi)

Well, I’m looking forward to this matchup because it is a battle of managers. Sakushin Gakuin’s Kobari-kantoku has built a program. At the age of 23(!) he took over as manager of Sakushin Gakuin, which was mired in obscurity. 5 years later, his team went to Natsu Koushien, and reached the semifinals where they lost to Kousei Gakuin. From that moment on they would appear and reappear at the tournament Now there was some rebuilding after that year, but eventually it culminated this past summer in a Natsu Koushien title. That certainly will aid him in being able to turn around the program faster  Now, I may not like powerhouse programs, but for someone that young to do what he did, it’s certainly not set in archaic ways and I completely respect what he’s done.

Now, they annihilated Teikyou Dai-go and that was expected. I’m still not convinced the pitching is there and the offense you can’t take much from from their blowout win.

Shuugakukan last summer seemed like they were following a blueprint I thought powerhouse teams should have followed – recruit several top of the line pitchers and rotate as needed to get the title.

Of course, you still have to manage the pitchers. And no, I’m not letting that go.

Now, Kajisha-kantoku returns with a reduced staff looking to do the same thing, and from his first game I’m not sure if he’s learned anything. Also, Shuugakukan also had a blowout win, but that was due to one big inning. About the only team I remember that could depend on such an inning was Tokoha Kikugawa many moons ago, but I don’t think that applies here.

As I said before though, Sakushin Gakuin’s pitching staff isn’t top notch, so there may be an opportunity, but I’m not sure.

Sakushin Gakuin

  • CF Suzuki Maeto
  • 2B Soeda Masato
  • SS Ikezawa Kaito
  • 3B Nakajima Jyun
  • RF Aihara Kousei
  • C Katou Tsubasa
  • 1B Nanai Yuuri
  • LF Ookubo Yuushi
  • P Oozeki Shuutarou

Shuugakukan

  • SS Hanjyou Touma
  • 2B (#14) Watanabe Rui
  • 1B Kimoto Ryuuga
  • 3B Hirobe Shuuhei
  • LF Yamashita Tatsuya
  • P Taura Fuminari
  • C Kouchi Tatsuya
  • CF Fujimoto Shun
  • RF Akasaka Ginjirou

09:00 – First Pitch!

Taura trying to get off to a quick start, freezing Suzuki on a fastball on the outside black. However he leaves on too much over the plate and Souda takes it the other way and it slices fair down the LF line for a double.

He’s moved to third on a ground ball, but it’s an unforced error that brings the run home. Taura spikes a changeup and it gets away from Kouchi and like that Sakushin Gakuin is up 1-0. He goes back to the changeup to strike out Aihara, but his team will be fighting from behind.

Shuugakukan’s batters not wasting any time, swinging away when they feel like and Oozeki has a 7 pitch first inning.

Taura’s control still isn’t great, but it’s good enough to get Katou looking on a looping curve and two groundouts (though the defense is working a bit as they are not really routine).

Oozeki has his first little hiccup in the 2nd. Hirobe hits a ball that goes through Soeda and into right center. 2 down, and with Hirobe now at 3rd, Oozeki falls behind Kouchi 3-1, but gets a loud flyout to end the inning.

I’m not really that confident in Sakushin Gakuin’s offense right now. Yes, Suzuki collects a base hit in the 3rd, but he’s swinging at pitches at eye level. He missed such a pitch before hitting his single. In addition he’s wiped out with a 6-4-3 double play.

Not that Shuugakukan is faring much better. Outside of Hirobe’s hard hit single, it’s been all routine plays for the Sakushin Gakuin defense. Oozeki’s control though still meh.

That pops back up in the 4th when after he makes a great play in the field, Watanabe rips a ball down the left field line for a leadoff double. No bunt, but Kimoto hits the ball the other way to advance him to 3rd.

Again no bunt from Hirobe, instead it ends up being a chopper right to Ikezawa. He drops it, but still holds the runner while getting out.

This time though Oozeki can’t get out of his own jam. A pitch meant to be inside he leaves middle-middle and Yamashita hits it off the actual fence for a double. Watanabe scores to tie the game at 1-1.

And again Oozeki makes a mistake. This time Taura, who actually isn’t bad with the bad, drives it to the fence in right center, this time for a triple and gives his team the 2-1 lead.

Kouchi goes down swinging, but if Oozeki can’t get his control straightened out, I’m not sure there’s much they can do.

Shuugakuan extends the lead in the 5th. Fujimoto and Hanjyou with similar hits just out of the diving reach of Soeda put the runners at the corners. And despite Oozeki getting a groundball for a possible double play, Watanabe beats out the throw at 1st and before the break Shuugakukan leads 3-1.

Sakushin Gakuin gets a chance in the 7th. A walk by Nakajima starts off the inning, but lack of situational awareness hurts them. Aihara singles to center, but Nakajima tries to press to 3rd and is thrown out when his run isn’t the tying run.

But that does allow a warning sign to be raised. And after Katou lines out to right, Kajisha-kantoku replaces Taura with Kawabata with PH #14 Ishido coming to bat. Now he gives up a base hit to him, but then gets Ookubo on a slider, much to his own disappointment.

In the 8th, a surprise. One down, top of the Sakushin Gakuin order, and now they decide to play the waiting game with Kawabata. Suzuki walks. Soeda walks. Ikezawa slices a ball over Hirobe, and Suzuki scores from 2nd easily. 3-2 Shuugakukan.

Kawabata is hitting the gun hard. 145, 148. But he’s not finding the zone. Nakajima walks. Manrui as Kajisha-kantoku calls for time.

Aihara didn’t sick to the game plan and fell behind. Tried to fight off a couple before he swung on a slider inside and eye-high. That leaves it up to Katou.

But he too falls behind in the count and has to try and hang in there. The count runs full and now everything will be put in motion.

Fastball letter high, fouled off.

Fastball down, swung on and missed. Kawabata escapes with the lead.

Not much to be done with that pitch, but falling behind by swinging at 1-1 didn’t help him.

Shuugakukan goes quietly, meaning that Sakushin Gakuin left to their last ups. Ishido in a PH role earlier gets ahead 2-1 and then gets a pitch to hit. He lines it down the RF line for a double!

#15 Kanno comes in to hit for Ookubo, but doesn’t show the same discipline. Falls behind 0-2 and is frozen on a curve right over the plate.

Oh? A wild pitch from Kawabata goes high in the air and now Ishido stands 90 feet away from a tie game!

All this while Oozeki has to stand in. He falls behind (though he would have had he not swung at the 1-1 pitch. And now he too just stands there as the curve falls in again for strike 3.

Last out, and top of the order in Suzuki. Holds up on a couple of pitches, gets ahead 3-0, and lets the next pitch through. 3-1 pitch somehow is called on the outside black (yes I know there’s like an additional ball width outside the black available).3-2 and now it’s sudden death.

Two fastballs, two foul balls.

Cut ball outside, ball 4 and the game continues on. Soeda now to try and get the run home, or at least extend the game.

Suzuki steals 2nd, dangerous because his run technically doesn’t matter right now.

Soeda also gets ahead 3-0 and also lets the next pitch go. Gets a fastball down the middle and fouls it off. 3-2 again…

Fastball outside, fouled off. He’s leaning over, I think they should pitch inside.

Curveball and he holds off! It’s low and it’s manrui! Ikezawa, who had the base hit to bring it within 1 two innings ago steps in.

Swings on the first pitch! Fortunate to foul it off of himself. But attacking the first pitch now?

Cut ball just low and it’s 1-1. Fastball, again low, 2-1 and now he’s ahead.

Connects, but it’s a fly ball to center. Fujimoto barely has to move and he makes the catch! Sakushin Gakuin rallies, but it’s not enough as Shuugakukan holds on for a 3-2 win.

There were bits and pieces of the lineup, specifically the top 4 batters, who really showed the discipline I think was needed to win the game. The rest of the lineup struggled to hold off on the breaking pitches that weren’t even close. That short circuited several innings which made it harder for them to make a comeback. I bet you Kobari-kantoku will have that straightened out come the summer.

You can also see that the pitchers for Shuugakukan have velocity, but control continues to escape them. Had Sakushin Gakuin been able to show just a little more discipline more of those ABs would have turned into walks and who knows what would have happened. Still, they were good enough today and they move onto the quarterfinals.

89th Haru Koushien – Day 4, Game 3 – Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) v Teikyou Dai-go (Ehime)

89th Haru Koushien – Day 4, Game 3 – Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi) v Teikyou Dai-go (Ehime)

(photo courtesy of Mainichi)

We are in our last game of Day 4 and the Natsu Koushien champs take the field in an attempt to hold both titles at once.

Sakushin Gakuin had a couple of low scoring games, but for the most part had a new starting 9 and won the Kanto (ex Tokyo) region. That’s pretty remarkable if you ask me. So many teams with more experience could have tripped them up but didn’t.

It’s not to say though that they’re favorites. There are still things that are rough around the edges before you can ask that question without being laughed at – that loss to Meitoku Gijyuku highlighted that.

However, both teams did play Meitoku Gijyuku. Teikyou Dai-go in the super-regional final, Sakushin Gakuin at Meiji Jingu. Both lost badly, but Teikyou Dai-go more so. In addition Teikyou’s pitchers are walking batters at a larger rate than striking them out which is alarming.

All signs point to Sakushin Gakuin running away with this game, and is the best warmup they could have had if they do aspire to hold both titles at the same time. We may not get much information because of the disparity in talent, but this should be a formality.

Sakushin Gakuin

  • CF Suzuki Maeto
  • 2B Soeda Masato
  • SS Ikezawa Kaito
  • 3B Nakajima Jyun
  • RF Aihara Kousei
  • C Katou Tsubasa
  • 1B Nanai Yuuri
  • LF Ookubo Yuushi
  • P Oozeki Shuutarou

Teikyou Dai-go

  • CF Fujii Kiyomitsu
  • SS Miyashita Katsutoshi
  • 1B Imada Ikki
  • C Shinozaki Kou
  • 3B Konishi Ryuuto
  • RF Satou Sousuke
  • LF Horiuchi Taiki
  • 2B Kawamoto Taketo
  • P Okamoto Kentarou

14:15 – First Pitch!

Okamoto not with the standard fare. A lefty with a slider, changeup and sinker. Suzuki tries to get Sakushin Gakuin off to a lightning start with a base hit to right, but then he takes off on a liner, which is a big no-no and Kawamoto doubles him off.

But then the walk bugaboo appears. He walks Ikezawa, then the hit parade begins.

  • Nakajima to the RCF wall, 1-0.
  • Aihara single to center, 2-0.
  • Katou double to LCF, 3-0.

On the flip side, Oozeki pretty much average on the velo and in control versus all three batters to start the game.

Okamoto in trouble again in the 2nd with both a hit batter and a walk, but fortunately it doesn’t lead to any runs as he gets a flyout and a well-time changeup to retire the side.

Meanwhile Teikyou Dai-go actually has something going in the 2nd. Shinozaki starts with a single through the right side. After a bunt, Satou also with a single, this time to LF putting runners at the corners. A great chance to get on the board…

But then Horiuchi tries to lay down the squeeze bunt, and fails. And it was a suicide squeeze. And Shinozaki is out at 3rd. Oy.

Horiuchi tries to make up for it with a liner up the middle, but Soeda makes a diving catch behind 2nd for the 3rd out.

That then turns into momentum for Sakushin Gakuin, not that they needed it.

Nakashima gets his 2nd hit in as many at bats. After getting 2 outs, the bottom third of the linup linkup 3 straight singles bringing in 2 more runs and knocking out Okamoto. 5-0 Sakushin Gakuin and Teikyou Dai-go will be playing damage control the rest of the game.

The only thing is that Oozeki isn’t really shutting down Teikyou Dai-go. Yes, he’s put up 0’s, but he’s (a) still giving up good base hits, and (b) Teikyou Dai-go is bunting when they get a runner on.

Sakushin Gakuin continues to pile on the runs. One down in the 4th, there’s a hit batter, then a double by Nakajima to make it 6-0. Nakajima already with a 3B-1B-2B, and is a HR short of the cycle. Throw in another double by Aihara and the lead continues to grow to 7-0.

About one of the few questions left is if Nakajima can get the HR and the cycle. He’s up in the 6th, but works a walk. He’s guaranteed one more AB provided he’s not lifted.

Teikyou Dai-go gets their best scoring chance since the 2nd in the 6th. New RF Kouno hits a clean single through the right side. With 2 down, Miyashita’s hot grounder to short short hops Ikezawa and goes high in the air. Fortunately it stays around so the runners can’t advance extra bases. Throw in a HBP and it’s manrui.

They have the right batter up in Shinozaki, and he gets around an inside fastball, but lines it right to Ookubo in left, and the run is left begging.

Nakajima gets another AB in the 7th, but again walks though this time bringing in a run.

We get to also see Sakushin Gakuin’s relief corps. #10 Shinohara comes in to pitch the 8th, is isn’t really all that great. Breaking pitches not really close and the fastball command spotty. K, BB, K, BB, and then for some reason Imada swings on the first pitch and grounds back to Shinohara ending the inning.

Sakushin Gakuin was going for the shutout, but Shinohara just isn’t effective on the mound. A single and a walk start the 9th, and while he gets a snazzy 4-6-3 double play there’s a runner on 3rd.

And all it takes for Horiuchi to turn around an inside pitch and shoot it down the 3B line for a double that they avoid the shutout. They still lose to the Natsu champs 9-1.

The game pretty much went as planned with Teikyou’s pitching plaguing them all game. Sakushin Gakuin did what they needed to do, but at the same time, the pitching was also as expected, good but not great. And from the relief pitching we saw, it’s not getting any better and could in fact be their downfall later on.

Handicapping the field – Sakushin Gakuin (10th appearance, 1st in 5 years)

Handicapping the field – Sakushin Gakuin (10th appearance, 1st in 5 years)

(photo courtesy of Gunosy.com)

Road to Haru Koushien

Prefecturals

  • def Oyama Minami 9-3
  • def Oyama 13-6 (8 inn)
  • def Tochigi Shounan 18-4 (5 inn)
  • def Kokugakuin Tochigi 4-0
  • def Seiran Taito 2-0
  • def Ishibashi 5-1

Super-Regionals

  • def Chuo Gakuin 9-1
  • def Kendai Takasaki 5-1
  • def Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou 5-1

Meiji Jingu

  • lost Meitoku Gijyuku 7-2

Under the leadership of 33-year old Kobari Takahiro (who by the way took over the job 9 years ago), Sakushin Gakuin has risen to the pinnacle of kokoyakyu with their win this past summer. And given he’s 33, there no limit to where the team can go – so long as he stays there.

Can you believe that with a new starting 9, he went and WON the Kanto Super-Regionals?

Usually, only the top schools can reload that quickly. But Kobari-kantoku has found a way to do it. Now, it’s not as clear-cut as that (of course it’s not) so let’s delve a little deeper into the details.

First the competition. Tochigi has been Sakushin Gakuin’s world, everyone’s just been living in it. Tier 3 schools Kokugakuin Tochigi and Seiran Taito provided the biggest obstacles, but only in the sense they reduced the offensive output. Neither could get a lick in edgewise offensively.

In the super-regionals, Kendai Takasaki and Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou provided good brand-name competition but again, not much opposition.

The buzzkill happened quickly though as in a rematch of the Natsu semifinals Meitoku Gijyuku, a small bit of revenge was exercised as a big inning sent Sakushin Gakuin home.

Leading the way on the mound is new ace Oozeki Shuutarou (大関 秀太郎). There’s little to go on outside of the video, and that was in his final year at Kaminokawa Boys’ Baseball Club. It’s hard to tell what pitches he has outside of a fastball and curve, but I would at least imagine he has a slider as well. It doesn’t look like he throws very hard, and he’s far from being a strikeout pitcher. In fact in his last 4 games, he had 14 Ks and 12 BBs. His backup is Shinohara Seiya (篠原 聖弥) of which I have absolutely no information. Suffice it to say though that the pitching staff is not dominant.

Offensively, it’s generally not a good sign when your pitcher is your cleanup batter (Ootani and Fujinami aside). And that’s where Oozeki sits. The only other person notable in the lineup is 2B Soeda Masato (添田 真聖) who is the younger brother of Soeda Manami, who was on the team 2 years ago.

This leads me to think that while they did win the Kanto regionals, and certainly that’s nothing to sneeze at, the team as a whole is weaker than last year. Now, a weaker champion could still be good enough, but from the indicators above, it seems like it will be much harder to hold both the spring and summer titles simultaneously.