Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Higashihama helps Hawks finish season on a winning note

Right-hander Nao Higashihama threw five scoreless innings to lead the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to a 6-1 victory over the Chiba Lotte Marines in their final regular season game on Monday.

The Hawks finished the regular season second in the six-team Pacific League with an 82-60-1 record. They will face the third-place Nippon Ham Fighters when the first stage of the Climax Series opens on Saturday.

The Seibu Lions have clinched the league pennant, and the Marines sit in fifth place behind the Orix Buffaloes with three games remaining in the season.

In front of 29,806 at Zozo Marine Stadium, Higashihama (7-5) limited the Marines to six hits and a walk.

After pitching a perfect first inning, he surrendered a pair of hits and a walk to load the bases in the second with one out. Higashihama, however, managed to strike out the next two batters to close the inning without any damage.

Alfredo Despaigne homered twice and drove in five runs against his former team. He opened the Hawks’ scoring with a first-inning, two-run home run off left-hander Seiya Dohi (2-1) to the left stands.

The hard-hitting Cuban, who joined the Hawks in 2017 after playing three seasons with the Marines, homered again in the third inning. A walk and a double put runners on second and third before Despaigne blasted his 29th homer of the season.

The Hawks scored another run in the fourth on catcher Takuya Kai’s RBI single.

Yoshifumi Okada, who had been hitless in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, had three hits as he closed the curtain on his 10-year career. His last hit came in the Marines’ game against the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles on Oct. 4, 2016.

Hiromi Oka’s sixth-inning sacrifice fly drove in a run for Lotte, after Hawks reliever Shinya Kayama allowed a single and a walk.

Dohi pitched four innings and allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Swallows 6, Tigers 5

At Jingu Stadium, right-hander David Buchanan (10-11) limited Hanshin to a run on four hits and a walk over six innings and helped Yakult win its sixth straight game. The Tigers rallied late with a four-run eighth inning, but right-hander Taichi Ishiyama pitched a perfect ninth for his 35th save.

The Tigers lost their second straight and will finish bottom of the league for the first time in 17 years.