Summer Koshien is over for Tomohiro Anraku, but not until the 16-year-old phenom went through another episode of high pitch totals and short rest mixed with a dramatic finish, courtesy of Anraku’s work on the mound and at the plate.
In a 7-6 loss, Anraku pitched all 10 innings (of course) and tossed 183 pitches after throwing 137 on Wednesday, giving him 320 pitches separated by two days of rest. Anraku struck out 14, walked two, hit two batters and allowed 11 hits, touching 94 mph multiple times—including on his final pitch of the game, which began at 8 a.m in front of 46,000 fans.
Despite the final score and short rest, Anraku showed why he’s in the discussion as the top 16-year-old pitcher in the world, though he got into trouble when he left pitches up in the zone. He surrendered two runs in the first inning, hitting a lefthanded hitter in the shin with a breaking ball with the bases loaded for the first run, then giving up the second run on a sacrifice fly.
With one out in the third inning, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Anraku plunked another lefthanded hitter with a curveball, then left a pitch up in the zone that was smoked for an RBI double to put his Saibi High (Ehime Prefecture) club in a 3-0 hole.
From there, Anraku settled in and didn’t allow a run until extra innings. He added and subtracted from his fastball, sometimes parking down in the mid-to-high 80s but gearing up to 89-93 when he wanted it and touching 94 twice after hitting 96 in his first start. Anraku had trouble with his breaking pitches early in the game, but he used his hard-breaking slider to great effect late in the game, putting away lefthanded hitters with the pitch by burying it to their back foot.
While Anraku’s pitch count climbed, the game carried little drama until the bottom of the eighth inning, when Saibi rallied for three runs to tie the game 3-3. In the ninth, Anraku hit 93 mph in a scoreless frame and Saibi had an opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the inning with a runner on second and nobody out, but couldn’t get him home.
With Anraku on the mound in the 10th inning after throwing 159 pitches, the game started to get out of hand as he gave up four runs before blowing a 94-mph fastball by the last hitter he faced for a swinging strikeout.
Saibi nearly came back in the bottom of the 10th. With Saibi trailing 7-3 with no outs and two runners on base, Anraku stepped to the plate and ripped a three-run homer, causing the entire stadium to go completely bonkers (go to the 1:55 mark of the video to see the home run).
The next batter doubled, but a sacrifice bunt attempt went awry and got the runner thrown out at third base, and Saibi couldn’t push another run home to extend the game.
Anraku became an international sensation this year after his outings at Spring Koshien, where he touched 94 mph and threw 772 pitches in nine days, including a 232-pitch outing. That workload also sparked frustration from several scouts with major league clubs, who worry about how is usage will affect his long-term health.
“His growth plates aren’t even done yet at 16 years old,” said one team official. “It’s the most absurd thing. We wouldn’t touch him. I can tell you right now, it’s eventually going to catch up.”
Anraku walked off the field, the front of his uniform covered in dirt from sliding headfirst into first base to try to avoid grounding into a double play in the eighth inning, to no avail. He still has one year of high school left, so he still has another run of Spring and Summer Koshien to go until he graduates. Next up is the 18U World Championships in two weeks in Taiwan, where several top international scouts will be eager to see Anraku pitch in person for the first time.