Baseball

Highly sought Japanese high school pitcher Roki Sasaki hits 160 kph

Kyodo

Highly touted right-handed pitcher Roki Sasaki was clocked at 160 kph (99.4 mph) on Sunday for Ofunato High School in the fourth round of Iwate Prefecture’s summer tournament.

The third-year student, who was clocked at 163 kph at an April training camp, struck out 21 batters and hit a 12th-inning, tie-breaking two-run home run in a 4-2 win over Morioka Daishi High School. The winning team in each regional tournament will advance to August’s national summer championship finals at historic Koshien Stadium outside Osaka.

Because of his velocity, Sasaki is being pursued by a number of major league clubs who hope to dissuade him from signing with a Nippon Professional Baseball team later this year after NPB’s amateur draft.

The Nippon Ham Fighters have gone on the record as saying Sasaki is their first choice in the October draft, while the Yomiuri Giants and Lotte Marines have said the pitcher is among their first-round candidates.

A source at one major league club told Kyodo News this spring that his team had wanted to sign Sasaki at the end of this year, but that would have required the pitcher to abandon his dream of representing his school this summer at Koshien.

International amateurs hoping to sign with a Major League Baseball club between July 2019 and June 2020 were required to register with MLB this past spring.

According to the Japan Amateur Baseball Association, however, amateur players registering with MLB will be considered professionals and prohibited from continuing to play with their amateur teams.