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Hawks stage late rally to beat Fighters

Kyodo

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks broke an eighth-inning tie to claim a 9-7 win against the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the only Pacific League game on Thursday.

Fukuoka’s Akira Nakamura delivered a run-scoring single in the eighth to put his team ahead 8-7.

Hawks starter Shota Takeda allowed seven hits and six runs and Livan Moinelo yielded a tying run, but the rest of the Hawks’ bullpen combined for 3-1/3 solid innings at Sapporo Dome.

In the first, Taishi Ota tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly to put the Fighters on the board first.

Sho Nakata and Toshitake Yokoo followed with back-to-back singles, and Nippon Ham rookie Kotaro Kiyomiya blasted a three-run homer against Takeda for an early 4-0 lead.

Seiji Uebayashi tripled in a run in the fourth and scored on Yurisbel Gracial’s grounder to first to cut the Hawks’ deficit in half.

Takeda gave up two more singles and an RBI double to Yushi Shimizu in the bottom of the inning. He was relieved by Moinelo, who allowed a sacrifice bunt to make it 6-2.

Alfredo Despaigne and Seiji Uebayashi clubbed back-to-back doubles to spark a five-run sixth-inning rally, and Gracial notched an RBI single before Rodriguez exited with one out.

Kenji Akashi singled against Fighters reliever Katsuhiko Kumon to put runners on the corners, and Nobuhiro Matsuda belted an RBI double. A grounder to Kumon allowed Gracial to score the tying run, and Taisei Makihara capped the effort with a go-ahead single.

In the bottom of the inning, Moinelo retired his first two batters but yielded a tying solo shot to Keita Watanabe.

Akashi singled to lead off the eighth and stole second, and Matsuda drew a walk from Fighters reliever Naoki Miyanishi (4-2). A sac bunt and a second walk landed the left-hander in a two-out, bases-loaded jam. That set the stage for Nakamura’s two-out heroics, and he smacked a line drive past short to drive on a 2-2 pitch.

Gracial and Akashi hit back-to-back singles in the ninth, and Akashi knocked into Ryo Watanabe trying to make a play at second during a double steal, allowing pinch runner Shuhei Fukuda to score the final run.

Shuta Ishikawa (13-6) fanned three in a scoreless seventh for the win, and Hawks closer Yuito Mori retired the side in the ninth for his 30th save of the season.

Nippon Ham right-hander Bryan Rodriguez allowed seven hits and five runs in 5-1/3 innings but did not factor in the decision.

The second-place Hawks improved to 71-55 and are now four games ahead of the Fighters, who fell to 67-59.

Lions at Marines — ppd.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Tigers at Carp — late

Giants at Swallows — ppd.