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Kokubo delivers game-winning single in ninth

Kyodo

Hiroki Kokubo made his first hit of the season an unforgettable one, roping a game-winning single in the ninth inning as the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks beat the Chiba Lotte Marines 5-4 on Saturday afternoon.

Kokubo, who was playing in his second game of the year after returning from a right-thumb injury he sustained in the season opener, hit a two-out single to deep center with runners at first and second, bringing home Yuichi Honda for the winning run at Kamoike Stadium.

“It feels like a dream to me, I’m exhilarated,” said Kokubo after lifting Softbank to its third win in a row.

“My other four at-bats weren’t very good, and since I was selected to start today, I felt a lot of responsibility. I am glad we got the win,” the Hawks captain said.

“My first hit of the season become a memorable one,” said Kokubo, who grounded out twice, flied out and struck out swinging in his other trips to the plate.

The Hawks’ Seiichi Uchikawa continued his hot hitting, going 4-for-5 with two RBIs.

Saburo Omura hit a solo homer for Lotte.

The Marines scored two runs off Softbank closer Takahiro Mahara to tie it 4-4 in the top of the ninth, but couldn’t seal the deal in front of 19,002.

Lions 4, Buffaloes 0

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Kazuhisa Ishii dominated over seven shutout innings, Takeya Nakamura and Jose Fernandez hit solo homers and Seibu stopped a five-game skid in a win against Orix.

Takumi Kuriyama broke up a pitchers’ duel with a two-run double off Shinya Nakayama (0-2) with two outs in the seventh.

The Buffaloes, who mustered just four hits, lost their fourth in five games.

Eagles 4, Fighters 3

At Kobe’s Hotto Motto Field, Randy Ruiz smacked a towering homer leading off the bottom of the ninth, giving Tohoku Rakuten a “sayonara” win over Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Ruiz worked the count to 2-2, swinging for a strike on one slider and fighting off two more from Keisuke Tanimoto (0-1) before he launched the fourth one into the seats in left-center. Rookie Manabu Mima (1-1) got his first pro win.

The Fighters saw their winning streak end at five games.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Carp 6, Swallows 6 (9)

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Tokyo Yakult rallied from a five-run deficit to earn a tie against Hiroshima after the game ended in nine innings because of the power-saving rule implemented following the March 11 earthquake.

Swallows slugger Wladimir Balentien went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, featuring a game-tying solo blast with one out in the ninth.

BayStars at Tigers — ppd.