FUKUOKA – Shogo Akiyama reached base five times, drove in the tying run and scored the game-winner in the ninth inning as Samurai Japan overcame a two-run deficit to beat Puerto Rico 3-2 in their second Premier 12 warm-up game on Friday.
The Seibu Lions leadoff hitter, who set Japan’s single-season hit record this season, broke Japan’s 0-for-8 hitless streak with runners in scoring position when he singled home the Yomiuri Giants’ Hayato Sakamoto from third to tie it with one out in the ninth.
Sakamoto singled to open the ninth against Jose Ayala, and was on second after a wild pitch and a groundout. Akiyama, whose two-run homer helped boost Japan to an 8-3 victory over Puerto Rico on Thursday, went to second with his second stolen base of the game.
After an intentional walk, Japan captain Motohiro Shima brought Akiyama home with a pinch-hit sayonara single to send his team into Sunday’s Premier 12 opener in Sapporo in fine form.
“Sakamoto got on base, and Akiyama and I just kept it going,” Shima said. “I had a disappointing season. It’s been a long time since I produced.”
Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo used seven pitchers in preparation for the opener against South Korea and praised his men’s resilience.
“Tonight’s game was so different from yesterday, a close game, and he had to hold tight and come back,” Kokubo said. “The players stepped up at the end. Akiyama, he set the record this season and has been going to the opposite field well.
“In the end, we did a lot of the little things well and that’s what made the win possible. Now it’s on to Sapporo to take on South Korea.”
Giants right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano Yuhei Nakamura allowed a run in the first inning after leadoff man Jay Gonzalez singled up the middle to open the game. A stolen base, a wild pitch and a balk put Puerto Rico in front.
Orix Buffaloes right-hander Yuki Nishi retired all three batters he faced, but the Hawks’ Shota Takeda, working in his home park, gave up a run in the fourth.
The right-handed curveball master issued a one-out walk and a loud single, former big league catcher Omir Santos’ second hit of the game, put runners on the corners. Jorge Jimenez then delivered the runner from third with a sacrifice fly.
Japan put the leadoff man on in each of the first two innings against Randy Fontanez II, but the right-hander erased both runners on ground ball double plays and faced the minimum over his two innings.
Japan manufactured its first run after the Swallows’ Tetsuto Yamada singled to open the sixth with his team’s second hit of the game. The next two hitters made outs, but a Ramesis Rosa wild pitch, a groundout and a wild pitch from Jose Soler allowed pinch runner Takuya Nakashima of the Fighters to cross the plate.
Lions slugger Takeya Nakamura, who started in the cleanup spot in place of the Fighters’ Sho Nakata, was hit by a pitch to open the second and taken to a hospital for tests.