The Softbank Hawks advanced to the Japan Series for the first time since 2003 after sweeping the Seibu Lions in Stage 2 of the Pacific League Climax Series on Nov. 5. The Fukuoka team defeated the Saitama-based Lions 2-1 on Yuya Hasegawa's walk-off RBI single in the 12th inning. All games were played at the Yahoo Dome in Fukuoka.
The Hawks won the first three games of the series and as league champions they had a pre-determined 1-0 lead going in to the “best-of-seven.”
The Hawks had secured their berth in the Japan Series against the Central League representative when the game went to the bottom of the 12th—and final—inning tied 1-1. But in the bottom of the 12th, Hasegawa hit a single to center to drive in the winning run off Seibu reliever Kazuhisa Makita.
Since postseason playoffs were introduced in the PL in 2004, the Hawks have made the playoffs six times through 2010, but had failed to advance to the Japan Series before this season.
"I'm relieved we got the win," Hawks manager Koji Akiyama said. "We couldn't make it to the Japan Series last year, even though we won the regular season (PL pennant).
"Our only goal is to win the Japan Series," he added.
In the third inning, the Lions missed a chance to open the scoring when Takumi Kuriyama hit a single to right with a runner on second and two out. Hawks right fielder Hitoshi Tamura, however, gunned down Ginjiro Sumitani at the plate to keep the game scoreless.
Lions starter Hideaki Wakui was almost flawless through five innings, allowing no hits and one walk, with six strikeouts. In the fifth, the right-hander struck out the side in order, whiffing Alex Cabrera, Nobuhiro Matsuda and Hiroki Kokubo. Wakui allowed his first hit of the day in the sixth to Tamura, a single to center.
Hawks southpaw Toshiya Sugiuchi was also on his game as this one was a classic pitchers' duel. Sugiuchi allowed two hits in the third but he limited the Lions to just three hits after that before leaving in the 10th inning after giving up the go-ahead run in a scoreless game.
The Lions finally drove in their first run in the 10th when Jose Fernandez slammed an RBI double to left just after Takeya Nakamura had doubled off Sugiuchi.
But Hasegawa evened it up at 1-1 at the bottom of the 10th with a two-out RBI double into the gap in right-center off Wakui. That was all for Wakui, who allowed just the one run on seven hits in nine-and-two-thirds innings.
The Japan Series will get under way on Nov. 12 at Yahoo Dome.
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