Winning their first Japan Series in five years gave the Chiba Lotte Marines a lot to celebrate.
Re-establishing their claim as Asia’s best team was just icing on the cake.
Ikuhiro Kiyota drove in two runs and Toshiaki Imae homered as the Marines won the 2010 Japan-Korea Club Championship with a 3-0 victory over the SK Wyverns, champions of the Korean Baseball Organization, on Saturday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.
“We represented the 12 ballclubs of Japan,” Marines manager Norifumi Nishimura said. “We could not afford to lose this game and our players played just as they had during the season.”
Fresh off his stellar showing against the Chunichi Dragons in the Japan Series, Kiyota drove in the game’s first two runs, finishing 2-for-4 at the plate.
“Everything that happened is the result of going all-out,” Kiyota said. “This was such a wonderful year.”
Imae, the Japan Series MVP, hit a solo home run to lead off the fifth and Tsuyoshi Nishioka finished with two hits and a stolen base.
“I led off the inning and it was 2-0 in the count,” Imae said. “So I just tried to swing hard. It feels so good to hit a home run. That was one heck of a hit.”
Nishioka, who has asked to be posted this offseason in order to play in the major leagues, was given a huge ovation after his final at-bat as flashbulbs went off throughout the Big Egg. He was given another loud round of cheers following the game.
“I’m really happy to have fans such as these,” Nishioka said. “I really felt their warmth.”
The Marines also won two titles in 2005, following their Japan Series triumph by winning that year’s Asia Series championship.
The club championship is now held in place of the Asia Series, which was discounted after the 2008 edition due to financial reasons. The Yomiuri Giants defeated the Kia Tigers in last year’s club championship game.
With a win over the KBO champions, the Marines have now defeated three pennant winners during this postseason. Lotte dispatched the Pacific League champion Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in the PL Climax Series, then outlasted the Central League champion Dragons in the seven-game Japan Series.
Yuki Karakawa got the start for Lotte and threw five shutout innings. Karakawa struck out two, allowed a pair of hits and retired the final 10 batters he faced.
He was followed by relievers Yasuhiko Yabuta, Tatsuya Uchi, Yoshihiro Ito and Hiroyuki Kobayashi, who combined to retire the next 12 batters in order.
Kobayashi struck out Park Jung Kwon to end the game and likely his tenure with the Marines. Kobayashi is a free agent and plans to pursue a career in the majors.
Former NPB hurler Ken Kadokura took the loss for SK. The Japanese pitcher started the game and allowed two runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings.
“I threw the pitches I intended to throw,” Kadokura said. “I have no complaints about being taken off the mound because there’s only one game (to decide the club champion). But I wish I could’ve led the team better with my pitching.”
The Marines wasted a chance to take the lead in the first inning after loading the bases with one out. Imae flew out to center fielder Lim Hoom for the second out and Hoom then threw to shortstop Choi Youm Suk, who tagged out Kiyota at second.
Lotte loaded the bases again in the second and cashed in this time, taking the lead on Kiyota’s two-run single up the middle.
“I made a baserunning mistake when we had a chance to take the lead in the first inning,” Kiyota said. “I wanted to make up for that.”
Imae’s solo homer made the score 3-0 in the fifth, and the Marines pitchers took care of things from there.