Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Reigning champion Hawks advance to Japan Series

Kyodo

The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks completed a three-game sweep of the Chiba Lotte Marines in the Pacific League Climax Series final stage on Friday, winning 3-1 and advancing to the Japan Series, where they will pursue a second straight Japan title.

Behind six-plus innings from Kenichi Nakata (1-0), the Hawks opened the scoring in the third inning on a two-out RBI single by Seiichi Uchikawa off Ayumu Ishikawa (0-1), and Lee Dae-ho followed with his second homer in two days to make it 3-0 at Yafuoku Dome.

Leadoff man Kenji Akashi opened the inning with a single. A sacrifice followed as the Hawks continued their conservative postseason play. With two outs and the runner at second, Uchikawa put his team in front.

Softbank’s elder statesman whose 10th-inning RBI single lifted the Hawks to victory in Game 1 and whose RBI single put Softbank in front for good in Game 2, once more got the job done, hitting a 2-2 breaking ball into left to make it a 1-0 game.

Lee, who has been a personal nemesis to Lotte’s second-year starter, hit a high 1-1 breaking ball into the dome’s new home run terrace in right-center.

The Marines got a run back in the top of the fifth. After back-to-back, one-out singles by Luis Cruz and Toshiaki Imae put runners on the corners, Lotte captain Daichi Suzuki put the ball in play, and Cruz scored when Imae broke up any chance for a double play at second.

Kodai Senga inherited a two-on, no-out jam in the seventh, and with the help of a double play, retired all five batters he faced in two perfect innings. Closer Dennis Sarfate worked a 1-2-3 ninth to close it out and start the celebrations in Fukuoka.

Ishikawa, who has never won a game in Fukuoka, was charged with three runs in 5-2/3 innings.