FUKUOKA – The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks extended their season for another day, beating the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 6-4 on Sunday to even their Pacific League Climax Series first stage at one game apiece.
Shuhei Fukuda broke a 4-4 tie, blasting a hanging forkball from Eagles starter Manabu Mima into the right field stands at Yafuoku Dome, and the Hawks never looked back.
“I was the leadoff hitter so my focus was to get on base,” Fukuda said. “I think that was the best swing I’ve had all year. This is an elimination game, and hearing the crowd as I circled the bases was just too cool.”
SoftBank twice came from a run down thanks to a first-inning solo homer by Yuki Yanagita and a third-inning RBI double that tied it 2-2.
Alfredo Despaigne then homered to give the hosts the lead. It was short-lived, however. Hideto Asamura, who homered twice and drove in three runs in Saturday’s Game 1, homered in the third and then singled in two runs in the Eagles’ fourth.
Despaigne singled in Yanagita with the Hawks’ final run in the fifth inning.
Hawks starter Rick van den Hurk was yanked with two outs in the fourth inning. Reliever Shinya Kayama, however, walked two batters to set up Asamura’s two-run flare single.
Shuta Ishikawa took the mound in the fifth, and struck out three of the seven batters he faced as the Hawks’ bullpen imposed itself on the game to close it out.
“I was quite anxious before going to the mound, seeing how it’s been a year since my last situation like this,” Ishikawa said. “But I pitched with belief in myself, and I’m happy I could get this result.”
Because home teams in every Climax Series stage advance if the series finishes in a tie, the Hawks and the Yokohama BayStars, who defeated Hanshin on Sunday, can each advance to the final stage with either a win or a tie on Monday.
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