NISHINOMIYA, HYOGO PREF. - Shohei Otani ratcheted up the radar gun from the mound and earned the victory on Saturday as the Pacific League All-Stars beat their Central League counterparts 12-6 to earn a split of this summer’s All-Star Series.
Otani, of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, got the better of his starting matchup with fellow 20-year-old Shintaro Fujinami of the Hanshin Tigers in Game 2 at Hyogo Prefecture’s historic Koshien Stadium, where the two once locked horns as high schoolers.
Otani twice equaled the speed of the fastest pitch thrown in Japan league play (162 kph) in his one-inning stint. The right-hander allowed one run on three hits, while striking out one. The record for the fastest pitch in a league game is 162 kph, set by reliever Marc Kroon of the Yomiuri Giants in 2008. The fastest official pitch by a Japanese pitcher was 161 kph by the Yakult Swallows’ Yoshinori Sato in 2010.
Fujinami worked two innings and suffered the loss. He allowed four runs on four hits and a walk, with Orix Buffaloes slugger Wily Mo Pena doing most of the damage with a three-run home run.
The PL stars got on the board in the first as rapidly rising Fukuoka Softbank Hawks star Yuki Yanagita led off with a single, stole second, went to third on a line out to right and scored on a single by Orix’s Yoshio Itoi.
Yanagita, who had four hits including a two-run home run, scored three times and threw a runner out at home from center field, was named the game’s MVP.
Fujinami issued a two-out walk before Pena rocketed a first-pitch fastball half way up Koshien’s massive left-field bleachers.
Otani, using his fastball on 21 of 23 pitches, hit 162 kph on his second pitch. Singles by Tigers captain Takashi Toritani and Swallows slugger Wladimir Balentien put two on for Matt Murton, and the Tigers star delivered an RBI single.
The PL stars racked up 18 hits as they easily overcame three CL solo homers by Tetsuto Yamada of the Swallows, Hayato Sakamoto of the Giants and Shota Dobayashi of the Hiroshima Carp.
The PL’s victory lifted the league’s record in the series to 80-75 with 10 ties. Both leagues will resume play on Monday.