In three games at the Meiji Jingu Tournament, first-year first baseman Rintaro Sasaki (16) of Hanamaki Higashi (Iwate) went 10-for-6 with nine runs batted in and two home runs. He also hit two home runs. He hit a timely shot in the early innings, and in a tight spot at the end of the game when the opponent had taken the lead, he hit a shot that put the game back on track.
He proved throughout the tournament that he has what it takes to be a monster slugger,” said Sasaki, who made an impressive national debut despite losing in the semifinals against Hiroshima’s Hiroryo on November 23.
At the national level, pitchers’ pitches are faster and their breaking balls are sharper. It was difficult to hit, but I was able to fulfill my role as the No. 3 (hitter). There are still a lot of things I need to work on, such as building strength in my swing and dealing with changing pitches. (I was encouraged by Shohei Otani’s MVP performance, and we fought hard, determined not to be outdone by our seniors.
Sasaki recalled that he was “not in good shape” before the tournament, as it was discovered that he had a fatigue fracture in his left shin during the Tohoku tournament in October. However, after the first round, he revealed that he was able to get back on track by remembering the advice he received from former Giants player Yoshinobu Takahashi when he was in junior high school.
I remembered the advice he gave me about the trajectory of my swing and how to get the timing right, and I made the necessary adjustments going into the game.
On the other hand, in the game against Hiroyasu, Sasaki was hit hard by a dead ball that hit his left ankle and he fainted in agony. 183cm and 117kg, Sasaki is a big guy and is expected to be attacked harder on the inside.
At 183cm and 117kg, Sasaki is a big guy, so he will have to be more aggressive on the inside in the future. Also, he has been slow to swing at balls over 135km/h, and will have to deal with low pitches from left-handed pitchers. His sluggish movement on defense and his ability to run 50 meters, probably in the 7-second range, are also concerns when looking ahead to the next level. However, as one Pacific League scout said, “I think he’s got a good defense and sliding ability.
It’s true that his defense and baserunning, including sliding, are unspectacular, but his hitting ability more than makes up for it. The fact that he hits a home run in a situation where everyone is expecting him to hit a home run is quite impressive.
Until the summer Koshien tournament two years from now, Sasaki will be the dominant topic in high school baseball for a while.
From “FRIDAY” December 10, 2021 issue
Reporting and writing： Yuji Yanagawa Photo: BigFriendPhoto： BigFriendPhoto