Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Uchikawa sparks Hawks in Climax Series opener against Marines


Seiichi Uchikawa drove in two runs and scored the tiebreaking run as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks beat the Chiba Lotte Marines 4-3 on Saturday in the opener of their best-of-three Pacific League Climax Series First Stage.

Before 36,077 at Yafuoku Dome, homers from Uchikawa cut a two-run deficit in the first with an RBI double and tied it in the third with a solo homer off Mariners starter Hideaki Wakui, who like Hawks starter Kodai Senga, lasted seven innings.

“They jumped out in front and we wanted to get back in at as quickly as possible,” Uchikawa said.

Uchikawa singled off reliever Tatsuya Uchi to open the eighth, and the right-hander loaded the bases with no outs on a hit batsman and a walk. With one out, Kenta Imamiya singled in two runs to chase Uchi, but Masaki Minami got two outs with the help of a sacrifice by SoftBank to escape further damage.

Alfredo Despaigne, who homered along with Ikuhiro Kiyota in the first, went deep off Dennis Sarfate to open the ninth. Yamaico Navarro singled with two outs, and pinch runner Shohei Kato stole second base, but Tatsuhiro Tamura’s well-hit liner was caught in center for the final out.

Senga allowed four hits and two walks, while striking out 12, and Robert Suarez worked a perfect eighth to earn the win.

Because any game that ends in a tie in this series goes to the hosts, who finished second in the regular season, the Hawks can advance to the second stage in Sapporo Dome with one more win or a tie.