FUKUOKA – Seiichi Uchikawa drove in the tying and winning runs on Monday to lift the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to a 2-1 win over the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Game 3 of the first stage of the Pacific League Climax Series.
The Hawks overcame a one-game deficit in the best-of-three contest at Yafuoku Dome and advanced to the final stage of the Climax Series for the sixth straight year in pursuit of a third consecutive championship.
“I feel relieved,” SoftBank manager Kimiyasu Kudo said. “(Uchikawa) showed us a strong game. The relievers were also really great at a time when we couldn’t allow a run. We will definitely win and come back here (for the Japan Series).”
Hideto Asamura broke up a pitcher’s duel between Eagles’ starter Takayuki Kishi and Hawks’ ace Rei Takahashi with a solo blast in the fourth. The second baseman homered in all three games and recorded his fourth long ball of the series.
Cuban sluggers Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial ended Kishi’s no-hit bid with back-to-back singles in the bottom of the inning before Uchikawa drove in the tying run.
The game remained tied until the seventh, when Uchikawa — a three-time Climax Series MVP — crushed a leadoff solo shot off Rakuten reliever Sung Chia-hao deep into the left field stands.
“I was thinking somehow or another let’s get a ball that I can hit, and I hit it,” Uchikawa said.
Livan Moinelo retired the side in the eighth and SoftBank closer Yuito Mori delivered a game-winning strikeout to keep the Hawks’ postseason alive. They will face the Seibu Lions in the final stage of each series starting Wednesday. The league champions take a one-win advantage into the best-of-six playoff at their home stadiums for a spot in the Japan Series.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5