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CHIBA — At times this season the Nippon Ham offense has had trouble giving its starting pitchers any run support. That lack of production helped lead to the Fighters’ worst losing streak in two years earlier this season. It’s also why Thursday afternoon’s win at Chiba Marine Stadium must have been gratifying.

The Fighters scored eight runs, enough to back a strong performance by starter Yoshinori Tateyama, to beat Chiba Lotte 8-2. Tateyama (2-3) pitched six innings, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out six. The Nippon Ham offense backed him with a 17-hit day.

Lotte starter Yasutomo Kubo (2-2) lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on nine hits.

“We were able to put up runs at Sendai and here,” Fighters manager Trey Hillman said. “It’s a big confidence builder. He’s (Kubo) a good pitcher, we’ve had trouble with him. We beat a good pitcher today.”

The Fighters did things the hard way early on, with their first four runs coming with two outs and no one on. Eiichi Koyano and Makoto Kaneko each flew out to start the third, before the Fighters pushed across two runs. A home run by Koyano scored two in the next inning after Kensuke Tanaka and Atsunori Inaba each led off with outs. Designated hitter Fernando Seguinol, who was 3-for-5, singled before Koyano’s shot.

Koyano was a late addition, inserted into the lineup after a strategy session between the coaching staff on how best to challenge Kubo.

“We were struggling trying to protect Seggy (Seguinol),” Hillman said. “Koyano did a good job and got one out of the park.”

Clinging to a slim 4-2 lead, the Fighters put the game away with a four-run ninth. Tanaka and Inaba both doubled to start the inning with a run scoring in the process. Seguinol and Koyano followed with singles, the latter scoring Inaba from third, to make the score 6-2.

An infield hit by Kaneko loaded the bases and a Toshimasa Konta single scored a run to put Lotte in a five-run hole. Another RBI single, by pinch-hitter Yuji Iiyama, made the score 8-2.

Tateyama got off to a slow start but rebounded to throw six effective innings. After giving up two singles to start the game, he walked Saburo Omura to load the bases. He pitched his way out of the jam by striking out the next two batters, then catching Takeshi Aono’s liner back to the mound.

“Everybody on the bench, we’re just hoping to keep the damage down,” Hillman said. “To get out with no runs, it’s like icing on the cake. It kind of squelched their momentum. I think it gave us a shot in the arm.”

Tateyama retired the Marines in order over the next three innings, before walking Benny Agbayani to lead off the fifth. After loading the bases in the first, Tateyama faced 15 batters without giving up a hit. Shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka lined a single into left to end the streak in the fifth. Before issuing the walk to Agbayani, Tateyama had retired 12 consecutive batters.

The Marines were finally able to get to the hurler in the seventh. Leadoff doubles by Aono and Agbayani put the Marines on the board and chased Tateyama from the game. A sacrifice fly off reliever Hisashi Takeda scored Agbayani to make the score 4-2.

Hawks rout Eagles

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Hiroshi Shibahara hit a grand slam in a 3-for-4 outing and Nobuhiko Matsunaka also went deep as the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks walloped the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 11-4 at Yahoo Dome on Thursday.

Lions 15, Buffaloes 6

At Goodwill Dome in Tokorozawa, Saitama Pre., Kazuki Fukuchi and Hiroyuki Nakajima hit consecutive two-run doubles and Takahiko “G.G” Sato capped a seven-run fourth with a bases-clearing double as Seibu batted around in the big frame to come from behind in a rout of Orix.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

BayStars 7, Tigers 6

At Yokohama Stadium, Shuichi Murata hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the eighth inning as the BayStars beat Hanshin to extend their winning streak to five games and take the league lead for the first time since May 1, 2004.

Dragons 6, Giants 5

At Nagoya Dome, Tyrone Woods singled in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning as Chunichi rallied to beat Yomiuri to snap a six-game losing streak.

Carp 5, Swallows 4

At Hiroshima Stadium, Tomonori Maeda hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth inning as the Carp held on to beat Yakult.

Schools’ sweeteners

OSAKA (Kyodo) The high school baseball body has found that 376 schools systematically recruited students by offering tuition payments, scholarships or other kinds of special treatment in violation of association rules.

The Japan High School Baseball Federation announced Thursday the results of its hastily conducted nationwide survey, which also discovered 7,971 students were involved in the illegitimate “tokutai” scouting activities by those schools.

On Wednesday evening, the federation said 334 schools answered that they have adopted such a scouting system aimed at junior high school students based on their performances in baseball tournaments. The number increased after receiving further reports.

The 376 are all privately run schools, except for one, and located in 46 out of Japan’s 47 prefectures. Twenty-five of them have won the national championship and/or national invitational tournaments — the two biggest annual competitions in high school baseball.

Among the champion teams are Yokohama, which featured Boston Red Sox rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka when the Kanagawa school won both tournaments in 1998, Komadai Tomakomai of Hokkaido, Tokyo’s Teikyo, Saibi of Ehime Prefecture and Tokoha Gakuen Kikugawa, the Shizuoka Prefecture school that won this year’s invitational title.

The survey results mean that about half of the country’s privately run high schools that have baseball teams systematically recruit junior high school baseball players under the system in question.

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