OSAKA – The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks zeroed in their second consecutive Pacific League pennant after a 2-0 win over the Orix Buffaloes Wednesday night.
Nobuhiro Matsuda homered in the ninth inning and Rick van den Hurk threw eight scoreless innings en route to his ninth win of the season to bring the Hawks’ magic number to clinch the title down to one.
A win coupled with a defeat by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters would have sealed the championship for the Hawks, but Nippon Ham beat the Chiba Lotte Marines to put Fukuoka’s title celebrations on hold for at least 24 hours.
SoftBank went ahead in the top of the second when Yuya Hasegawa singled off Daiki Tomei (10-6) to score Matsuda, who wrapped up the scoring with a solo homer off Tomei in the top of the ninth.
Van den Hurk gave up four hits and walked none while striking out 10. Dennis Sarfate worked the ninth to pick up his 37th save of the season.
“It’s an exciting time for us and we are just focused on winning one game at a time, said van den Hurk. “I am grateful for my teammates, it was a good game today and I am happy we got the (magic) number back down to one and we will see what happens.
“I am just focused on what I got to do out there and my teammates support me on and off the field and it means a lot to me. We have a great coaching staff as well and all together we do everything we can to beat the other team.”
Fighters 4, Marines 2
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Brandon Laird homered for the second game in a row to take his tally for the season to 30 as Hokkaido Nippon Ham took a 3-0 lead in the third inning.
Daikan Yoh added a solo shot of his own for the Fighters in the fifth.
Swallows 9, BayStars 1
At Jingu Stadium, Shingo Kawabata drove in three runs and Kazuhiro Hatakeyama hit a three-run homer as CL leader Tokyo Yakult erupted for six runs in the second inning of its rout of the BayStars.
Swallows starter Masanori Ishikawa got his 11th win of the season, giving up one run on four hits in seven innings of work.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5