Monday, August 7, 2017

Summer Koshien 2017: Schools connected to the Lions


Summer Koshien begins very soon. It's officially (August) Madness coming up, with plenty of intriguing games to take place, all in Koshien Stadium.

This also means it's the road trip of death for the Hanshin Tigers, as they will occupy Kyocera Dome for their home games during the tournament. There are a total of 49 schools representing 47 prefectures of Japan for the event. Hokkaido has two teams, divided by the north and south while Tokyo is separated by east and west.

Here are the schools that have a Saitama Seibu Lions player connection in them fro 2017:


Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi): P Tatsuya Imai

Sakushin Gakuin has been a powerhouse in the last decade thanks to a recent manager. Last year, they won the entire Summer Koshien tournament with Imai being the team's ace, pitching the whole way. The defending champions are back and looking for more. Interestingly enough, the Lions are rumored to be interested in their current OF Maeto Suzuki, who is drafted eligible for next fall.  

Imai was the Lions first round pick this past fall thanks to a strong effort in the Koshien tournament. He bucked a rare trend, being the first selected out of their high school in a very long time. Typically, Sakushin Gakuin players will go to university or an industrial league team before going to NPB. 


Kamimura Gakuen (Kagoshima): P Ryoma Nogami

Kamimura Gakuen is making its 4th appearance and first in five years. Nogami has been a mainstay in the Lions rotation as he was a second round draft pick in 2008 out of the industrial league's Nissan Motors. This year, he would be on pace to have his best season since 2012.  


Hokkai (Southern Hokkaido): OF Daisuke Togawa, P Seiji Kawagoe

Hokkai is a powerhouse among the schools in Hokkaido and will be making their 38th appearance in the tournament. Last year, they were not considered the best in the field, but went on an incredible run to the finals, only to lose to Sakushin Gakuin. It took some crazy comebacks, but it was entertaining to watch. 

Togawa was an ikusei draft pick of the Lions in 2014 straight out of the high school. He has remained in ni-gun since. Kawagoe would be drafted out of an elevator University of the same name in 2015 as a second round pick. He was formerly an outfielder converting to pitcher. Like Togawa, he has yet to see an ichi-gun game. 


Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama): OF Aito Takeda 

Hanasaki Tokuharu has recently dominated Saitama prefecture as they're making their third straight appearance in the tournament. Takeda, formerly known as Aito Otaki, was part of the 2015 team who made a decent run to the Elite 8 round. He was drafted by the team in the fourth round of the 2015 draft and saw some ichi-gun time this year after tearing up ni-gun. Most recently he was a pinch hitter/pinch runner before being sent down.  


Naruto Uzushio (Tokushima): C Shota Nakata

Nakata originally went to the school prior to Naruto Uzushio, which was known as Naruto Kogyo. This school would merge with another and form Naruto Uzushio. This is the first time the merged school makes a Koshien tournament appearance. Nakata is mostly a reserve farm catcher who works with the young pitchers down in ni-gun.  


Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma): P Kona Takahashi

Kona Takahashi took Maebashi Ikuei to their first Summer Koshien title as the team's ace in 2013 as a Junior. It was also their first appearance of the tournament in school history. This is the second straight year Maebashi Ikuei qualifies for Natsu Koshien as they were bounced in the first round of the 2016 edition. 

While Takahashi was a Lions first round draft pick, he has seen minimal time at the ichi-gun level.  ===

Osaka Toin (Osaka): C Masatoshi Okada, 2B Hideto Asamura, 3B Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura, C/OF Tomoya Mori

Okawari-kun, Asamura and Mori are a pretty famous trio in the bunch as they were drafted straight out of HS by the Lions. Okada would go to an industrial league before being taken by the Lions in 2013, the same year as Mori. 

Recently, Osaka Toin reclaimed the throne of Osaka after Riseisha proved to be a threat. Spring Koshien's final of 2017 would have both schools playing each other for the title, with Osaka Toin winning. As a result Osaka Toin is aiming for a Haru-Natsu Koshien of winning both Spring and Summer in the same calendar year, trying to be the 8th team to do so. The last time this happened, it was also Osaka Toin who would pull this off in 2012 with Mori and Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami as the battery. 


Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi): Coach Takanori Hoshi

Hoshi spent his playing career mostly as a backup to Shinnosuke Abe with the Yomiuri Giants. He would be sent to the Lions for cash in 2011 and saw a limited amount of playing time as a backup catcher. He worked mostly with ni-gun pitchers from 2015-2016 and retired as a player after the 2016 season. Hoshi is currently a developmental coach at the ni-gun level.  


Enjoy the tournament for what it is everyone, regardless of who is playing. Follow @Eigokokoyakyu for all the information.  


Editors note: We deeply apologize for incorrectly marking Fukuoka prefecture when writing about the 2017 Spring Koshien Lions article. A correction and deletion was made. 

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