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163キロ右腕、大船渡•佐々木朗希!東北勢悲願の甲子園制覇ヘ!

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青森三沢の太田幸司、福島磐城•田村隆寿、仙台育英•大越基、佐藤世那、岩手花巻東の菊池雄星、大谷翔平、秋田金足農業の吉田輝星……、これほど甲子園を湧かせて東北勢の悲願甲子園制覇の一歩手前まで行きながら、未だに優勝がない東北勢。

上記したのはあくまでも東北地方出身で地元の高校から甲子園を目指した選手である。そして優勝が出来なかった事により、なおさら『悲劇の主人公』に祭り上げられて人気者になっている気がする。

しかし、第1回の夏の甲子園大会で秋田中が延長13回の末に京都二中に敗れてから既に104年。大正、昭和、平成、そして令和。いつまでも『悲劇の主人公』を気取るつもりは今の若者にはない。

そんな中登場したのが『令和の怪物』佐々木朗希。まだ、甲子園出場を決めた訳ではないが189センチの長身から163キロの直球。しかも、最近は全国的に私立高校が席巻する中、全国的にはほぼ無名の岩手県立大船渡高校。今年こそ悲願の優勝旗が『白河の関』を越える、と力が入る東北地方のファン。

 

● 大船渡高校と佐々木の甲子園出場の可能性

前記したように最近では全国的に私立高校が高校野球界を席巻する状態。特に、『投手二人制』『球数制限』等が言われて、選手の体調管理が重要になってきた昨今の状況では、如何に大エースといえども連投につぐ連投とはいかない。その点、部員数も多く有力な投手を複数揃えている私立高校がなおさら有利になる。

現に、大船渡高校も7月21日の4回戦で盛岡四高相手に延長12回4━2で勝ち上がったものの、この試合一人で194球投げ切った佐々木朗希は翌日の順々決勝久慈高戦ではベンチのまま試合を終えている。

しかし、佐々木がベンチで見守った久慈高戦、大船渡は連日の延長戦になりながら11回表に2点を取って、6━4でこの試合をものにした。野球は如何に大エースがいようとも一人で勝てるものではない。佐々木のいない順々決勝を延長戦で勝ち上がった事により、選手間の連帯感と士気はいやが上にも上がってくる。準決勝は24日決勝は翌25日と連戦になるが、2日間肩を休めた佐々木は当然連投が可能になる。

そしてたった今、大船渡は準決勝で一関工を5━0と佐々木の完封で決勝進出を決めた。決勝の相手は菊池雄星、大谷翔平の大リーガーを輩出した強豪花巻東。ここ20年の岩手県の高校野球は盛岡大付と花巻東の2強時代。20回中盛岡大付が8回、花巻東が7回甲子園出場を果たしている。

その花巻東は今大会第一シード。しかし、初戦の2回戦で夏の甲子園出場3回を誇る花巻北相手に、一度は逆転を許す苦しい試合を延長で制すると、その後は強力打線で順当に勝ち上がってきた。その強力打線を佐々木が抑える事が出来るか否かが、勝負のポイント。

 

● 佐々木朗希の将来性

佐々木の将来性は今更云々する事もなく、たとえ甲子園出場ならなかったとしても今年のドラフト1位指名は確実。将来は郷土の先輩菊池や大谷のように大リーガーも夢でない。

しかし、その前に東北勢の悲願甲子園制覇を成し遂げられるか否かが最大の焦点になる。もちろん、明日の花巻東に勝たなければならないのは言うまでもないが、甲子園で160キロ超のストレートが投げられたら野球ファンならずとも注目を浴びるのは間違いない。

冒頭に挙げた東北地方の名選手は甲子園で勝つ毎に話題になり、注目を浴びていった人がほとんど。しかし、163キロの佐々木は既にスター級と言っても過言ではない。その佐々木を擁する県立大船渡高校が、全国の私立の強豪校を次々に打ち破って東北勢悲願の優勝旗手にするサクセスストーリーは、未だに復興途上にある東北の人達に限りない勇気を与えるであろう。

よほどの怪我や故障に悩まされない限り、日本のプロ野球やアメリカ大リーグでの佐々木の活躍は疑いなさそうな気がする。しかし、佐々木にはこれまで甲子園春3回、夏9回決勝に進みながら為し得なかった、優勝旗の『白河の関越え』を先に成し遂げてもらいたい。

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