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Hawks’ Seiichi Uchikawa reaches 2,000-hit milestone during win over Lions

Kyodo

Seiichi Uchikawa became the 51st player to reach Japan’s iconic 2,000-hit milestone on Wednesday with an eighth-inning single in the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ 3-0 win over the Seibu Lions.

“I finally, finally got it,” said Uchikawa, who had gone hitless for two games since getting his 1,999th hit on Saturday. “That was brutal.

“In all those at-bats, I wasn’t myself, I had butterflies. I got to the point where I wanted to get it over with just so I’d stop being a burden to the team.”

Uchikawa received floral bouquets from two other members of Japan’s 2,000-hit club, Seibu’s Kazuo Matsui and Hawks chairman and Hall of Famer Sadaharu Oh.

“He said it took a long time. That’s because he was under pressure he alone could understand,” Matsui said. “It was the same way for me. And the joy you feel with that one hit is something else.”

The 35-year-old Hawks first baseman was playing in his 1,800th career game. Uchikawa, who came into prominence as a 21-year-old second baseman with the Yokohama BayStars in 2004, won the Central League batting title in 2008.

A native of Oita Prefecture, he returned to Kyushu to join the Hawks as a free agent ahead of the 2011 season. Having won a World Baseball Classic championship with Japan in 2009, Uchikawa became the first CL star in his prime to move to a Pacific League team as a free agent when he signed with the Hawks after the 2010 season.

In his first season with SoftBank, Uchikawa was named the PL’s MVP and became the second player in NPB history to win a batting title in each league. Since his arrival, the Hawks have won the Japan Series four times in six seasons.

The 1,800 games Uchikawa needed to reach 2,000 hits is the third lowest total in Nippon Professional Baseball history after Hall of Famer Shigeo Nagashima and current BayStars skipper Alex Ramirez.

Playing in the Lions’ home park before 17,381 on a cold weekend evening, Uchikawa got a warm reception from Seibu’s fans.

“To get this kind of support from fans regardless of their allegiance is for a player, good fortune beyond measure,” Uchikawa said.

Fighters 8, Buffaloes 2

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Kotaro Kiyomiya hit his first pro home run, opening the scoring in the second inning, and his Hokkaido Nippon Ham teammate Taishi Ota broke a 2-2, fourth-inning tie with his ninth home run and his second in two games in a win over Orix.

Kiyomiya has hit safely in each of his seven career games, a record for a first-year player out of high school.

Marines at Eagles — ppd.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Giants 3, Tigers 1

At Tokyo Dome, Yoshiyuki Kamei singled in a first-inning run and homered in the sixth off the CL pitcher of the month for April, Randy Messenger (5-2), as Yomiuri beat Hanshin.

Dragons 3, Swallows 2

Carp 1, BayStars 1