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Hawks top interleague for 3rd consecutive year

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks players celebrate in front of fans on Sunday in Hiroshima after finishing with the best record in interleague play.

The Japan NewsThe Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks looked like birds of prey on Sunday at Mazda Stadium, eating up the Hiroshima Carp 7-4 to wrap up the best record in interleague play for the seventh time in club history.

The Hawks are the first team in Nippon Professional Baseball history to finish with the best record in interleague play since regular-season games between the league started in 2005.

“This is a tribute to the players, who went out and battled hard each game,” said Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo in a postgame TV interview.

“As a team, we had the goal of finishing with a winning record, but they all played hard to come up with this result.”

Kudo had praise for more than just the players.

“Our scouts and coaches did great work to study the opposing pitchers and hitters and prepare us for [Central League] teams, and we threw well and swung the bats well against them.”

SoftBank — second in the Pacific League behind the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles — had the best record in interleague play in 2008 and ’09, but the Orix Buffaloes finished on top in 2010. The Hawks, who also topped the interleague standings in 2011 and ’13.

The Central League-leading Carp failed to join the Yomiuri Giants, who are still the only CL team to prevail in interleague play by topping the standings twice (in 2012 and ’14).

The Hawks took the lead with a run in the first inning, but the Carp pulled even on Brad Eldred’s RBI single in the bottom of the frame.

Takuya Kai singled home in a run in the second inning, and Shuhei Fukuda knocked in a pair of runs with a two-out single to center as the Hawks never trailed en route to the victory.

Ken Okamoto (1-0) picked up the win in relief, throwing two scoreless innings after entering in the third.Speech

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