SAPPORO – Highly touted Fighters rookie Shohei Otani, who passed up a chance to sign with a major league club to stay in Japan, allowed two runs in five innings on Thursday in his first-team pitching debut as Hokkaido Nippon Ham and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows played to a 3-3 tie in 12 innings.
The 18-year-old, who had so far only seen action as a pinch hitter and right-fielder, gave up six hits and walked three in the interleague game, while striking out two. Although his fastball maxed out at 157 kph, Otani fell behind 14 of the 22 batters he faced.
After Otani had retired the first two batters in the second, Swallows catcher Yuhei Nakamura belted a two-run double to give the visitors the lead. Fighters cleanup hitter Sho Nakata took the rookie off the hook for the loss with a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth.