Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Usami makes first game-winning hit of career one to remember

Giants youngster slugs walk-off homer in 10th to beat BayStars

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

It was only 10 days ago that Shingo Usami recorded his first pro hit. After his last swing of the bat on Friday night, the Yomiuri Giants youngster can check his first home run and first game-winning hit off the list as well.

Usami hit a two-out, two-run sayonara home run to right in the bottom of the 10th, and the Yomiuri Giants won a seesaw battle against the Yokohama BayStars 9-7 at Tokyo Dome.

“I hadn’t had one (a sayonara hit), at least not on the top team,” the 24-year-old Usami said. “I had one last year in the Eastern League.”

That was just a game-winning hit. This one was a home run (his first at that), and on a much bigger stage.

“This is the best,” he screamed during his hero interview.

A three-run home run by Yokohama’s Takayuki Kajitani, the highlight of a four-run inning, had given the BayStars a 5-2 lead in the sixth.

The Giants punched back in the bottom of the same inning, pulling within one on a two-run homer by Hayato Sakamoto.

The BayStars tacked on two more runs in the seventh, but a three-run homer by Yomiuri’s Daikan Yoh tied it again at 7-7 in the bottom of the inning.

Giants reliever Scott Mathieson pitched a scoreless eighth and Arquimedes Caminero (2-5), who earned the win in relief, threw two scoreless innings to bring the hosts up in the bottom of the 10th.

Pinch hitter Daisuke Nakai kept the inning alive with a two-out double before Usami took BayStars reliever Toshiki Sunada (1-2) deep to end it.

“He was throwing with everything he had, so I went into that at-bat just hoping to do whatever I could to counter that,” Usami said.

Akiyama shines for Tigers

KYODO

Takumi Akiyama (10-4) allowed two runs in seven innings and belted a two-run homer, while rookie Yusuke Oyama went 3-for-4 with a home run and five RBIs as the Hanshin Tigers clobbered the Chunichi Dragons on Friday night in the Central League.

Carp 1, Swallows 0

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, rookie Yuta Nakamura (4-2) struck out eight over six innings, while Ryosuke Kikuchi’s fifth-inning homer off David Buchanan (6-10) accounted for the only run as Hiroshima edged Tokyo Yakult.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Hawks 4, Eagles 1

At Sendai’s Kobo Park, Nao Higashihama threw seven impressive innings and PL-leading Fukuoka SoftBank beat second-place Tohoku Rakuten in the opener of a three-game series.

Higashihama (13-3) allowed a run on three hits and a walk, while striking out five. With sharp command of his fastball and breaking pitches, the right-hander was able to get the better of veteran Eagles right-hander Takayuki Kishi.

Yuki Yanagita gave Higashihama a two-run lead in the first inning, when the Hawks were not getting good swings off Kishi. With two outs after Kenji Akashi’s leadoff infield single, Yanagita drove a low changeup over the fence in center for his 28th home run of the season.

The Eagles’ threatened to tie it in the bottom of the inning after back-to-back, one-out singles. But Higashihama worked out of the jam. Zelous Wheeler flied out on a 2-2 curveball in the heart of the zone, and a steady diet of sinkers induced a groundout from Ginji Akaminai.

“The biggest thing was getting those two runs from Yanagita,” Higashihama said. “The home runs midway through (from Alfredo Despaigne and Nobuhiro Matsuda in the seventh, were really nice, too.”

Higashihama continued to cut through the Rakuten lineup until Japhet Amador homered with two outs and none on in the fourth, but the Mexican slugger was the last base runner Higashihama would allow.

“There’s very little separating these two teams, so my focus was entirely on pitching my kind of game and executing,” Higashihama said.

Kishi (8-6) was punished for a pair of mistakes in the seventh, when Despaigne and Matsuda opened the inning with back-to-back homers. The right-hander allowed four runs on seven hits in seven innings. He struck out six and didn’t issue a walk.

Middle reliever Livan Moinelo and closer Dennis Sarfate each worked a 1-2-3 inning, with Sarfate collecting his 41st save.

Fighters 4, Lions 0

At Sapporo Dome, Luis Mendoza (3-7) held Seibu’s powerful lineup to four hits and a walk over 7-1/3 innings, while Shohei Otani doubled in Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s first run and scored on Sho Nakata’s two-run, sixth-inning home run.

Marines 5, Buffaloes 2

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, rookie Tomohito Sakai (1-0) threw a four-hitter to beat Orix.

Chiba Lotte scored twice in the first inning on an error, a Takashi Ogino double and a Daichi Suzuki triple.

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