Hirokazu Ibata drove in four runs and the Chunichi Dragons avoided a second consecutive upset loss by defeating the Uni-President Lions 4-2 in the fourth game of the Konami Cup Asia Series 2007 on Friday night at Tokyo Dome.
Tokyo Dome on Friday night. Chunichi defeated the Taiwanese club 4-2.
“Everyone recognizes that getting a win is not as easy as you imagined,” Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai said. “We are learning that in this competition. So today’s win means a lot.”
Ibata accounted for all four Chunichi runs on a 1-for-3 night as the Japan Series Champions improved to 10-2 since the end of the regular season.
“What I did today was to try and get the win,” Ibata said. “So I am pretty happy with what I did. I am trying to do my best as in the regular season, so that led to today’s results.”
Dragons starter Kenta Asakura struck out five and gave up one run over six-plus innings to help his team bounce back from a loss on the first day of the competition. Closer Hitoki Iwase worked the ninth for the save.
Chunichi was active on the basepaths for most of the game, with Masahiro Araki stealing two bases and Atsushi Fujii swiping one. Ochiai likes to put runners in motion and it paid off as two of Chunichi’s three stolen bases led to runs.
Lions starter Pan Wei-lun gave up four hits and struck out six but was victimized by two unearned runs in the loss.
The Dragons will try to earn a spot in the Asia Series final on Saturday when they take on the Chinese national team.
The China Stars will likely field a young squad as manager Jim Lefebvre wants his team to gain more experience in the months leading up to the Beijing Olympics.
“Chunichi is a good team,” Lefebvre said “I know all about them. But I want our young guys to get some experience. We’ve got the Olympics coming up next year.”
Uni-President scored first when Fu Hao-liu led off the second with an infield hit before being driven home on Kuo Tai-chi’s RBI double.
The Dragons answered in the top of the third when Fujii scored on an Ibata groundout to tie the score. Fujii helped set up the run with a stolen base earlier in the inning. Ibata drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Ibata picked up his third RBI with an infield hit that allowed Araki, who had stolen second, to score and put the Dragons ahead 3-1.
In the opening game of the day, the SK Wyverns continued their march toward the Asia Series title with 13-0 win over the Chinese National team.
Founded in 2000, the Wyverns captured their first Korean Baseball Organization title last month and are two victories from winning the Asia Series in their first season in the tournament.
“I am so happy that our team clinched the Korean Series,” outfielder Cho Dong Hwa said.
“I am enjoying playing here with my teammates and coaches. No other Korean team has won the Konami Cup. It is a must win for us. I hope to let everyone know that the SK Wyverns are a good solid team.”
With SK leading 1-0, first baseman Lee Ho Joon got things going in the third with a two-run single that put the Wyverns ahead 3-0.
Chung Kyoung Bae added a run-scoring single later in the inning, then advanced to second on a throwing error that allowed another run to score.
Korean Series MVP Kim Jae Hyun added an RBI double in the fourth to put the Wyverns up 6-0. Choi Jeong added a two-run single in the eighth and Cho Dong Hwa drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to give SK a 9-0 advantage.
Chung added an RBI single in the sixth to put SK ahead 10-0 and Choi followed by driving in another run. SK produced yet another tally on an error before the game was called after the top of the seventh due to the 10-run mercy rule.
The Korean team will face the Uni-President Lions, this year’s Taiwan Series champion, in the second game Saturday at 6 p.m.
“Last year the Korean team lost to Chinese Taipei,” SK manager Kim Sung Kun said. “So it’s a must win game for us tomorrow.”
Wada wants options
Veteran Seibu Lions outfielder Kazuhiro Wada said Friday he will exercise his right to become a free agent and may seek a move away from the Pacific League club.
“At my age this is the first and last chance for me to exercise the option to become a free agent. I feel I would regret it if don’t do this now,” the 35-year-old Wada told a press conference.
“I have an affinity for Seibu but I also want a challenge in a different environment,” added Wada, who has been linked with the Japan Series-winning Chunichi Dragons.