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Lions’ Akiyama sets single-season hit mark

Rising star surpasses Murton's record of 214 with two-hit game in season finale

Kyodo

Seibu Lions leadoff man Shogo Akiyama rewrote Japan’s single-season hit record with his 215th and 216th hits on Thursday in a 4-1 loss to the Orix Buffaloes.

Akiyama entered the Lions’ final game of the regular season needing one hit to surpass the 214 that Matt Murton recorded in 2010 for the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers. On Wednesday, Akiyama went 5-for-5 with two walks, one in his final at-bat.

His record-breaking hit in the sixth inning was just the second for the Lions against veteran right-hander Bryan Bullington (5-3): both infield singles to third that might easily have been ruled errors on three-time Golden Glove winner Eiichi Koyano.

“Frankly, as far as the record goes, I’m happy,” Akiyama said. “My focus was on getting a win for the team. Rather than being under the heavy pressure of trying to get a hit, my thoughts were on reaching base.”

When the speedy Akiyama chopped a 3-2 fastball between third and short, Koyano cut it off but double clutched on his throw to first and just failed to record the out. But while Koyano hesitated, the official scorer didn’t wait to see a replay before putting the “H” for hit on the scoreboard in record time.

Bullington threw seven impressive innings, but the Lions finally got on the board in the ninth against Tatsuya Sato. Akiyama opened the inning with a triple to the gap in left and scored on a Naoto Watanabe double.

Ichiro Suzuki was the first player to record 200 hits in Nippon Professional Baseball, when he had 210 hits over 130 games in 1994 for the Orix BlueWave. Since then, six other players have surpassed 200 but all in longer seasons when NPB teams were still allowed to choose very lively balls for their home games. Akiyama is the first player to reach 200 after a standard, less-lively ball was introduced in 2011.

The Lions started their regular-season finale with a half-game lead over the Chiba Lotte Marines, who will have five games remaining after Thursday.

The Buffaloes took a two-run lead in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Takahiro Okada and an RBI single by Koyano and never trailed with Bullington allowing just two hits and a walk over six innings.

Marines 10, Fighters 2

At Sapporo Dome, Hideaki Wakui (14-9) allowed a run over seven innings in a win over Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

The Marines came from a run down in the fourth when singles by Takashi Ogino and Ikuhiro Kiyota set the table against Fighters rookie Yuhei Arihara (8-6), who walked two batters in the inning to tie it, while another scored on a groundout.

The win lifted the Marines into third place, a half-game ahead of Seibu.

Lotte now needs to win just two of its five remaining games to finish third and advance to the playoffs.

Eagles 3, Hawks 2

At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Takahiro Norimoto (10-11) struck out 12, while allowing two runs in six innings as last-place Tohoku Rakuten beat PL champion Fukuoka Softbank to win three straight games for the first time in two months.

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