Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Hawks hammer Lions, even series at 2-2

SoftBank's Uebayashi equals Climax Series record with six RBIs in relentless hit parade

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks catcher Hiroaki Takaya gathered his teammates in a huddle around him near the visitors’ dugout and delivered a message intended to pump them up before facing the Seibu Lions.

“We scored 10 runs in the first game and won,” Takaya told them. “They scored 10 runs in the next game and won. So if you score more than 10 runs, you should win.

“So let’s score 10 runs and win it!”

The Hawks apparently really bought into Takaya’s 10-run approach to winning.

Seiji Uebayashi led a relentless hit parade with a six-RBI night and the Hawks pummeled the Seibu Lions 15-4 in Game 3 of the Pacific League Climax Series Final Stage on Friday night at MetLife Dome.

The Hawks have won two of the three games played on the field, but the series is tied 2-2 due to the one-game advantage the Lions began with as the PL champions.

“We tied it today, but we haven’t taken a lead yet,” Uebayashi said. “Hopefully we’ll win tomorrow and take a lead in the series.”

One night after watching the Lions’ Takumi Kuriyama equal a Climax Series record with six RBIs, Uebayashi joined him in the record books.

The Hawks outfielder hit a three-run home run in the third inning, an RBI single in the fourth and a two-run triple in the fifth to equal a feat first achieved by the Yomiuri Giants’ Michihiro Ogasawara in 2008.

Had he come up with a double, Uebayashi would’ve record the first cycle in NPB postseason history.

“My teammates told me on the bench and I heard the fans saying it too,” he said. “So I was aware, but I didn’t get it.”

The right fielder also threw out Tomoya Mori, who was trying to score from second, at the plate in the third to add a defensive highlight to his big night.

“Actually, I could’ve caught the ball before that, which ended up being a hit, so I felt a little sorry about that,” he said.

Uebayashi was just one of many who made it a long night for Lions fans, to say nothing of what they did to the team’s pitchers.

All nine Hawks starters finished with at least one hit and the team had 16 overall. Yurisbel Gracial had three, while Alfredo Despaigne, Seiichi Uchikawa and Yuki Yanagita had two apiece. SoftBank also drew nine walks.

Despaigne finished with three RBIs, while Uchikawa hit a solo homer. Gracial, Keizo Kawashima, Akira Nakamura and Yanagita drove in one run each.

“Seibu has a great offense as well, so we had hoped to outhit them,” Uebayashi said.

On the mound, Hawks starter Kodai Senga was on cruise control for much of the night, using his forkball to rack up strikeouts.

“I was paying attention to my tempo and staying aware of throwing strikes,” Senga said.

Senga pitched five innings and struck out seven, allowing only Hotaka Yamakawa’s solo homer in the fourth.

“My condition was good and I was able to compete against their batters,” he said. “I think I was able to do my job as the starter. It was thanks to all the fielders.”

The victory was his first in 11 starts at the Lions’ home park.

Shuta Tonosaki hit a two-run homer for Seibu in the seventh and Kuriyama also drove in a run with an eighth-inning double.

Starting pitcher Daiki Enokida, the losing hurler, was charged with four runs over three innings. Reliever Ken Togame was tagged for eight runs — six earned — in his two-inning outing and Shota Takekuma let in one in three innings of work. Shogo Noda worked the ninth and allowed a pair of runs.

Game 4 is Saturday afternoon at MetLife Dome. The game is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

Nao Higashihama is scheduled to take the mound for the Hawks, who will be trying to take a 3-2 lead in the series.

“I’m just going to give it everything I have on each and every pitch,” Higashihama said.

The right-hander only faced the Lions once this season and allowed six runs in seven innings. So he’s well aware of the threat the Seibu lineup poses.

“They were really good at scoring runs during the season,” Higashihama said.

Tatsuya Imai, who was 2-1 in four starts against SoftBank this season, will get the start for the home team.

The only person who’ll feel more pressure than the two pitchers is the Hawks player tasked with following Takaya as the pregame hype man.

“It’s crazy that it actually happened,” a beaming Takaya said about his pregame pep talk after the game.

“But I’m not giving the message tomorrow. It goes down the line to the next person.”

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.