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Lions rout Hawks to even series

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

A number of Seibu Lions fans spent their time outside Seibu Dome looking into a television camera and imploring their team to get a win. The Lions’ players weren’t quite ready for the season to end yet either.

In the end, everybody got what they wanted. Well, maybe not the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

The Lions broke open a scoreless affair in a seven-run third inning and never looked back, staving off elimination with an 8-0 win over the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Game 2 of the Pacific League Climax Series first stage on Sunday afternoon at Seibu Dome.

“We were fortunate to win, but it won’t mean anything if we drop tomorrow’s game,” Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima said. “We definitely want to win.”

The victory evens the series at 1-1. The teams will meet in a decisive third game Monday, with the winner advancing to face the PL champion Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the final stage. As the higher seed, Seibu would advance in the event of a tie.

Nearly everyone chipped in for the Lions. Eight of Seibu’s nine starters finished with a hit, and all but three recorded an RBI.

The Lions’ Yutaro Osaki finished 1-for-3 with a pair of RBIs, and Ginjiro Sumitani had two hits and drove in a run.

Lions starter Takayuki Kishi got off to a shaky start, putting runners on the corners with one out in the first, but with all the run support behind him it didn’t matter.

“I was only trying to get out of it without giving up any runs,” Kishi said. “Overall, my fastball felt good, and my curves were good as well.”

Kishi allowed six hits and struck out eight without walking a batter over six scoreless innings.

Hawks rookie Shota Takeda had a much rougher time on the mound. The 19-year-old rookie got off to a good start, but his command failed him in the third. Struggling to hit his spots, he helped set the stage for the Lions’ big inning before being pulled out of the game.

Takeda took the loss and was charged with five runs — four earned — on two hits. He walked four and struck out three.

“Overall I was pressing,” Takeda said. “I didn’t have the inner strength and things got worse as I went. Since I was given the task of starting such an important game, and couldn’t keep us in the game, I feel sorry for the team. I’m so frustrated.”

Seibu batted around in the third, and had eight of its nine starters get on base during the frame.

Sumitani walked to begin the inning, and Takuya Hara moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. Sumitani took third on a passed ball, and Hideto Asamura drew a walk to put runners on the corners. Shogo Akiyama drove in the first run of the game with a single, and Nakajima doubled to make the score 2-0.

“I’d watched his (Takeda’s) fastball and watched him throw sliders against other batters,” Nakajima said. “So I’d seen his pitches and tried not to chase one that would be difficult to hit.”

Takeya Nakamura drew a walk to load the bases, and Jose Ortiz followed with an RBI single to left. Esteban German struck out for the second out of the inning, but Osaki plated a pair with a double to right.

Sumitani stepped to the plate for the second time in the inning and hit an RBI single to make the score 6-0. The Lions then executed a double-steal, with Osaki swiping home, before Sumitani was thrown out at the plate while trying to score on a single by Hara.

Nakamura added to the lead with an RBI single in the fourth.

The Hawks will send lefty Kenji Otonari (12-8) to the mound to start Game 3. Kazuhisa Ishii (10-5) is scheduled to toe the rubber for the Lions.

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report