The “God 7” and The “Bad Crop” of High School Pitchers in the East Tokyo League: A true Evaluation | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The “God 7” and The “Bad Crop” of High School Pitchers in the East Tokyo League: A true Evaluation

What color uniforms will the "God 7" college pitchers of the Toto League, including the fastest left arm at 158 km/h and the rival of Akinori Sasaki, and what color uniforms will the super-high-school-class ballplayers wear?

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Haruki Hosono (Toyo University) is a graduate of Toa Gakuen High School. His appeal lies in the fastball he throws from his 180 cm height and 87 kg weight. His only issue is that his control is uneven.

In the Tokyo Metropolitan University Baseball First Division League this fall, Nihon University led the field with three points before the final game, followed by Aoyama Gakuin University, Kokugakuin University, Chuo University, and Toyo University, all with two points. The pitchers who produced this great battle were the DRA1 candidates, who are concentrated in the “Warring States East” region.


In the final game of the season, Haruki Hosono, 21, of Toyo University, showed his strong presence by throwing 125 pitches in 9 innings against Chuo University on October 17, giving up 2 runs, but allowing only 2 hits. He mixed straight pitches with curves and sliders to induce swinging strikes and struck out 9 batters.

“I couldn’t end my college baseball career with a loss because I had lost to Chuo University in the spring replacement game last year (as a result, Toyo University was not promoted to the first division),” said the head scout for 12 teams.


With scouting directors from 12 baseball teams in attendance at Jingu Stadium, the left-handed slugger, a rarity among professional pitchers, was able to pitch close to his best.

“I didn’t mind the presence of scouts, but it was impossible for me to go into the game without being 100% concerned about the draft. I am the one who is nominated. There is always a sense of tension.”

Although he lost the matchup with Hosono, Yuyo Nishidate (21) of Chuo University has been getting a lot of praise this fall. He has a straight ball over 150 km/h that he throws from a quick motion and a forkball with a large drop-off.

He says, “In the process of going four years without any serious injuries, I have found a form that only I can throw from the set position with a quick motion. I can throw with the same rhythm whether there are runners on base or not, so I can always stay calm. That is my strength.”


In the summer of 2019, when he was a junior at Hanamaki-Higashi High School, he was prepared to pitch in the final of the Iwate Tournament, where a ticket to Koshien was on the line, against Ofunato’s Aki Sasaki (now with the Chiba Lotte). The ace of the rival schools, known as the “Monster of Reiwa,” avoided pitching in the final because of the risk of injury from accumulated fatigue. Nishidate may be dreaming of a direct confrontation, something he was unable to achieve in high school.


“No, I don’t think so. I think the first time I saw him was in the second grade of high school, and it was as if there was only one professional baseball player in the high school baseball team. I never compared him to myself, he was always a distant presence, and I watched the WBC as just a fan. Somewhere in the back of my mind I wanted to play against him, but I wouldn’t really call him a rival.”

This fall, he made effective use of his sharply falling fork. He said he learned the grip from Hayato Tsunehiro, 22, a right-handed pitcher who led Aoyama Gakuin University to the autumn Tohto First Division championship and was the first pick by Hiroshima before the draft.

Yuyo Nishidate (Chuo University) is from Hanamaki-Higashi High School. He is a fastball pitcher with a maximum speed of 155 km/h. He has experience as a reliever since the fall of his freshman year, and in the fall of his junior year, he won 5 games as a starter.
Hanyato Tsunehiro (Aoyama Gakuin University) is a graduate of Oita Maizuru High School. He has a fastball that tops out at 153 km/h and a variety of breaking pitches. Some say he is the most complete pitcher of his generation, and Hiroshima has announced its No. 1 pick.

The ″God 7″ of the East Tokyo and the high school students with a bad harvest

The other candidates for DRA1 in the East are Kaito Shimomura (21), who is a two-signer with Tsunehiro at Aogaku, Natsuki Takeuchi (22), a tall left-handed pitcher at Kokugakuin University, Masaru Kusaka (21), a skillful player at Asia University, and Kota Nishidate (22) from Senshu University, which plays in the second division league. They are known as the “God 7”


While college students are said to have a bumper crop, high school students have been said to have a bad crop. The only one who is considered a sure-fire No. 1 pick in the draft is Maeda Yugo (18) of Osaka Toin. Maeda, too, has been dogged by injury rumors since this spring, and in his last summer season, he lost to rival Rimusho-sha in the final of the Osaka tournament. However, as a member of the Japanese high school national team, Maeda pitched in important games, including the U-18 Baseball World Cup final against Taiwan, and contributed to Japan’s world No. 1 ranking. He has a fastball approaching 150 km/h, a change-up, and other pitches, and his mound skills are unmatched by his high school peers. Maeda says, “I’m pitching to win the game for my team.”

“The ideal pitcher is one who can push with his fastball and not score too many runs. It is appealing to seek speed, but if you only focus on that, you will get hit easily. I want to pursue pitching with a good balance between straight pitches and breaking pitches in my future baseball career.”


Rintaro Sasaki (18) of Hanamaki-Higashi, who announced his intention to study in the U.S., Keita Manabe (18) of Hiroryo, who was called the “Four Heavenly Kings” since his first year in high school along with Maeda, and Kyoshirou Sakura (18) of Kyushu International University also submitted their applications for the professional ranks. However, they have not been able to make an impact beyond two years ago, and their reputations have been damaged.

The National Athletic Meet, held every fall, is the last opportunity for third-year players to appeal to the pros before submitting their applications.

Nita Haruto, 18, who formed a 150 km/h trio with Sendai Ikuei’s ace Koki Takahashi and Tsunuma Yuda, who started the Koshien final against Keio, submitted his application for the pros along with his captain, Shuya Yamada, 18, who also played shortstop for the Japanese national high school team. The school’s coach, Wataru Sue, commented on Nita’s lack of success at Koshien, “Everyone recognizes his potential, but I was unable to bring out the best in him in his two and a half years in high school baseball. We spent hours and hours discussing his career path.” 


“If he is up for development, I would like him to go on to college, reassess himself, and work on his training.”

The high school ball player who made a name for himself more than anyone else at Koshien this summer was Haru Kurogi, 17, who was practically the ace of Kamimura Gakuen, which reached the semifinals despite having the number “10” on his back. While most ballplayers grow their hair long after the summer, Kuroki once again wore a close-cropped headdress for the National Athletic Meet. With a form that threw down from directly overhead, he hit 147 km/h, his fastest ever, and toyed with hitters with his signature curveball, which split the ball wide open.

“After Koshien, I have been training with the goal of improving my pitching ability. I was able to produce good results. If I can make it to the pros, I don’t care what rank I get.”


Maeda, Nita, and Kuroki are southpaws. Yamagata Chuo’s Riku Takeda, 18, a dual-thrower who was highly praised by Meitoku College coach Shiro Mabuchi, who also coached the Japanese high school national team, is also a left-handed pitcher. With left-handers among the first-round draft picks for college students who are ready to compete immediately, the impact of the results of the top picks in the draft on whether or not high school left-handers are selected and their ranking is immeasurable. They would not want to be called the “bad crop” generation. They should shake off such a bad reputation by making great strides in the pros.

Natsuki Takeuchi (Kokugakuin University) A graduate of Fukuoka Prefectural Yahataminami High School, Natsuki was MVP of the league in the fall of his junior year with a 0.68 earned-run average. He has been a fan of the Hawks since he was a child, and his dream pitcher is Tsuyoshi Wada.
Yugo Maeda (Osaka Toin High School) Number one pitcher of his generation from the prestigious Osaka Toin. He failed to make it to the Koshien tournament after losing to Rushosha, but there are rumors that the local Orix will pick him first.
Satoshi Manabe (Hiroryo High School) has an appealing flying distance that is unmatched by high school students. Some say his potential as a long-range gunner exceeds that of Rintaro Sasaki of Hanamaki Higashi, who has announced his intention to study abroad in the U.S.
Kuroki Yoryu (Kamimura Gakuen) is a lefty who hit 147 km/h at the National Athletic Meet this fall. 183 cm in height, he throws a powerful straight ball that has more power than its gun display.

From the November 3, 2023 issue of FRIDAY

  • Reporting and writing Yuji Yanagawa (nonfiction writer) PHOTO Masaki Fujioka (Hosono, Takeuchi) Shinji Hamasaki (Yuyo Nishidate) Yuji Yanagawa (Kuroki, Maeda) AFLO

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