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Satozaki mauls Lions to give Marines series sweep

by Jason Coskrey

TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. — Tomoya Satozaki took the Seibu Lions’ best shot in the bottom of the eighth inning. He showed them who hits harder in the ninth.

The Chiba Lotte Marines catcher blocked the plate to prevent a run in the eighth and hit a game-tying homer in the ninth, setting the stage for Tadahito Iguchi’s go-ahead single in the 11th as the Marines advanced to the second stage of the Pacific League Climax Series with a 5-4 victory over the Seibu Lions on Sunday.

“We came from behind again,” Satozaki said. “This team just doesn’t know when to quit.”

The win gives the Marines a two-game sweep in the first stage of the Climax Series and sends them into a matchup against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in the second stage.

“We came through the series with straight wins,” Satozaki said. “There is no reason why we can’t be victorious against the Hawks.”

Lotte trailed by a run in the eighth when Lions outfielder Tomoaki Sato hit a one-out single. He then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Toru Hosokawa. Takumi Kuriyama followed with a single to left and Sato was given the green light to round third.

Left fielder Shoitsu Omatsu fielded the ball and threw a strike to Satozaki at the plate. The catcher collected the ball and held on after a collision with Sato to record the out and stop the Lions from adding to their lead.

Satozaki was a little slow to get up but looked just fine moments later when he led off the ninth with his game-tying home run.

“I was just trying to do my best and get a rally started as we did yesterday,” Satozaki said, referring to the Marines’ come-from-behind win in Game 1.

“At the same time, I thought if I got a good pitch, I could maybe hit a home run and tie the game, and that’s just what happened.”

Omatsu led off the 11th with a single and was replaced by pinch runner Yorifumi Okada, who went to second on a sacrifice bunt from Satozaki. The Lions then issued an intentional walk to Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Ikuhiro Kiyota flew out to right for the second out of the inning, but Iguchi came through with a clutch hit that allowed Okada to score.

“I wanted to take advantage of the chance by any means,” Iguchi said. “I think we have a lot of harmony and are playing together as a team right now.”

Lotte reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi closed out the game in the bottom of the 11th to record the save. Tatsuya Uchi only threw two pitches but picked up the win in relief. Seibu’s Chikara Onodera was charged with the loss.

Satozaki was 3-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs, and Toshiaki Imae also went deep for the Marines. Saburo Omura and Iguchi each finished 1-for-5 with an RBI.

Lotte starter Bill Murphy lasted just three innings, allowing four runs and finishing with three walks, a hit batter and a strikeout. Shunsuke Watanabe led the charge out of the bullpen and six pitchers combined to hold the Lions scoreless the rest of the way.

“I’m relieved I could chip in a little,” Watanabe said. “I didn’t contribute to the team late in the season, so I wanted to help in any situation.”

Lions slugger Takeya Nakamura drove in the first run of the game with an RBI single in the first inning. Dee Brown made the score 3-0 with a two-run single later in the frame. Brown picked up another RBI with a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the third.

“We scored first and had the momentum for most of the game but came up short in the end,” Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe said. “The opponent capitalized on its opportunities.”

Takayuki Kishi started for the Lions, allowing three runs on eight hits and striking out four over seven innings. He didn’t factor into the decision.

Lotte can now turn its attention to the second stage of the Climax Series where Softbank will be waiting. The Hawks will have an automatic one-game advantage as the regular-season pennant winners when the series begins on Oct. 14 at Yahoo Dome.

“By winning this series like this, we can enter the next series in good shape,” Nishioka said. “Softbank is working out in the Phoenix League, but we’ve been playing and winning games under a lot of pressure.”