Sunday, August 5, 2018

Summer Koshien 2018: Schools with a Lions connection


Summer Koshien has already begun. Better yet, this is the 100th edition of Japan's National High School Baseball tournament for 2018.

The field has been expanded to 56 from 49 previously./Prefectures who have two schools represent are as follows with the directions:

Hokkaido (North/South)

Saitama (North/South)

Tokyo (East/West)

Fukuoka (North/South)

Chiba (East/West)

Hyogo (East/West)

Aichi (East/West)

Kanagawa (North/South)

Osaka (North/South)


The Saitama Seibu Lions have had multiple schools represented, but with an expanded field, it's even larger than before and the biggest since we've been writing. Here are all the schools that have a Seibu Lions connection for 2018:

Hansaki Tokuharu (North Saitama): Aito Takeda and Manaya Nishikawa

Hansaki Tokuharu has become the new powerhouse of Saitama and they're the defending Summer Koshien champions. Nishikawa played on that team which won it all and is seen as a future position player. Takeda previously had the family name of Otaki when he was at Hanasaki Tokuharu and was a senior on the 2015 team. He cuold be a future outfielder after he made his ichi-gun debut in 2017. This is the fourth straight year Hanasaki Tokuharu has appeared in Summer Koshien.


Urawa Gakuin (South Saitama): Takuya Toyoda

Urawa Gakuin is making their first appearance in five years. Known as the previous powerhouse of Saitama prefecture, the split field helped them get in. As for Toyoda, he's only seen limited time at the ichi-gun level and hasn't been impressive. It wouldn't be surprising if he's cut after 2018.


Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate): Yusei Kikuchi

This school became famous with Kikuchi when he carried them to the Final Four back in 2009. Shortly after, some pitcher named Shohei Otani became the phenom and appeared in a Spring Koshien game, only to lose to Osaka Toin and Shintaro Fujinami. Kikuchi had plenty of hype prior to Otani and eventually chose to stay in Japan, where the Lions won a six-way drawing for his draft rights. 

After years of some disappointment and injuries, Kikuchi had a breakout year in 2017 and has been the team's ace after Takayuki Kishi left. This is Hanamaki Higashi's first appearance in three years and ninth overall. 


Sakushin Gakuin (Tochigi): Tatsuya Imai

Sakushin Gakuin has been the recent powerhouse of Tochigi prefecture, making their 8th consecutive Summer Koshien appearance. Imai won the 2016 Summer Koshien tournament and pitched the entire way through. He was on quite a loaded team, but did a rare thing to be drafted straight out of high school, as most from Sakushin Gakuin will either become college students or shakaijin.

Imai was taken in the first round by the Lions later that fall and made his ichi-gun debut this year. He won his debut and has shown flashes of promise in his second NPB season, viewed as the future ace.


Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma): Kona Takahashi

Maebashi Ikuei made their first Summer Koshien appearance in 2013 and Kona Takahashi was a Junior. He became a legend in his own right by winning the whole tournament. This is their third straight Summer Koshien appearance as it's likely they've become the class of Gunma prefecture since.

Takahashi was drafted by the Lions in 2014 without opposition and pitched a shutout in his rookie season of 2015. While showing promise in 2016, he continued to struggle with control and saw limited time in 2017. He has yet to appear in an ichi-gun game for 2018.


Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui): Yusuke Tamamura

Tsuruga Kehi is making their first Summer Koshien appearance in three years and eighth overall. Tamamura was drafted by the Lions one-year removed from high school in the fourth round of 2014. He has yet to appear in an ichi-gun game, but regularly starts down in ni-gun. 


Ryokokudai Heian (Kyoto): Ginjiro Sumitani

Heian has been a traditional powerhouse in Kyoto, but this is their first Summer Koshien appearance since 2014. Sumitani was a first round draft pick in 2005 by the Lions and has continued to be a mainstay at catcher. However, the Lions have been phasing away as he's a part-time catcher this year.


Osaka Toin (North Osaka): Tomoya Mori, Hideto Asamura, Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura, Masatoshi Okada

This school and group needs no introduction. Osaka Toin is the powerhouse of the Japanese High School Baseball World producing plenty of NPB talent all over. Surprisingly it's only their 10th appearance in Summer Koshien, but they've won this tournament in 2012 and 2014. They've also won the Spring Koshien title in 2008, 2012, 2017 and 2018.

Mori and Asamura were part of the 2012 and 2008 teams, respectively with the former winning both titles in the same year. The famous battery of Mori and Shintaro Fujinami will always be remembered for their double championship of Haru-Natsu Koshien in 2012.

Okada became a shakaijin before being taken by the Lions in the 2013 draft, the same class as Mori. Okawari-kun was a second round draft pick in 2001. 


Tottori Johoku (Tottori): Ryohei Fujiwara

Tottori Johoku is making their first appearance since 2015. Fujiwara has mostly been a low leverage relief pitcher for the Lions and is likely on the outside. While he can strikeout a few righties, he isn't built for the long run and could be cut after 2018.


Kagoshima Jitsugyo (Kagoshima): Shogo Noda

Kagoshima Jitsugyo is making their first appearance since 2015 and it's their 19th overall. Noda was drafted as a shakaijin by the Lions in 2015 and has appeared out of the bullpen mostly as a lefty specialist and as a setup pitcher. Mostly known as a nibbler, he could be good for one batter. 


Hotoku Gakuen (West Hyogo): Ichiro Tamura

Hotoku Gakuen has made quite a few Spring Koshien appearances, but this is their first Summer Koshien since 2010. They are the "home team" based on geography as they're directly in Nishinomiya.

Tamura went to Rikkyo University in the Tokyo Big6 League and was a 6th round draft pick by the Lions in 2016. He has mostly seen low leverage innings ad the ichi-gun level and has been prone to give up home runs. It's possible he could develop into a quality reliever down the road.


Aikodai Meiden (West Aichi): Ken Togame

Aikodai "Meidan" is mostly famous for being the high school of Ichiro Suzuki and everyone can brag that he is their senpai if they attended there. This is Meidan's first Summer Koshien since 2013 and 12th overall. Togame was drafted in the first round of 2011 by the Lions as a shakaijin and has been an inconsistent starting pitcher. He looks good one year, then bad the next season, failing to have two consistent years. 


Sendai Ikuei (Miyagi): Takanori Hoshi (coach)

Sendai Ikuei is a pretty well-known Tohoku powerhouse. They've come in second place of Summer Koshien twice in the last 30 years. In 2015, they lost to Tokaidai Sagami in the finals. Hoshi was picked up by the Lions  from the Yomiuri Giants in 2011 for cash considerations in the middle of the season as a short term catcher solution.

Having spent his entire career up to that point behind Shinnosuke Abe, he had an opportunity and was part of the last Lions team to win a postseason series. He spent teh late years of his career in ni-gun and became an ikusei/developmental player coach. Hoshi presumably works with ikusei catcher Masato Saito. 


Kinkidai Fuzoku (South Osaka): Shinobu Sakamoto (Trainer)

Kinkidai Fuzoku is the opposite of Osaka Toin and is the ultimate underdog of the dance. This is their first Summer Koshien since 2013 and 10th overall, but their history is ancient. Sakamoto has been a trainer with the Lions since 2007.


The biggest note is how on August 5, Sakushin Gakuin is facing Osaka Toin in the first round. In Soccer, we often say "Group of Death", but this opening round matchup is a death one having two powerhouses face each other so early.  Should be fun and entertaining. If only we could see Imai watching this game with his Osaka Toin teammates.


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