The Yomiuri ShimbunFUKUOKA — The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks captured their first Japan Series title in two years after edging the Yokohama DeNA BayStars 4-3 on Saturday night with a dramatic walk-off victory at Fukuoka Yahuoku! Dome.
After winning the first three games in the best-of-seven series, the Hawks suffered consecutive losses before returning home.
SoftBank tied the score at 3-3 in Game 6 when slugger Seiichi Uchikawa blasted a solo homer in the ninth inning.
The Hawks closed it out with two down and runners on first and second in the 11th inning when Keizo Kawashima slapped a sayonara single to right that gave them a 4-2 Series victory.
“My players gave me even more than they had,” SoftBank skipper Kimiyasu Kudo said. “It was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had,” Kudo said about the traditional postgame victory toss.
The Series MVP went to reliever Dennis Sarfate, who tossed an unusually long three-inning stint to pick up the victory in the clincher. Sarfate also had two saves in the Series.
Sarfate compiled a Nippon Professional Baseball-record 54 saves in 66 appearances in the regular season. He spoke with Kudo, telling the skipper he was ready to throw two or more innings at a time, if necessary.
In the 10th, Sarfate allowed a single to Takayuki Kajitani to lead off the inning. Kajitani went to second on an errant Sarfate pick-off throw to first.
But the American never lost his concentration. He fanned Jose Lopez and got Yoshitomo Tsutsugo looking at strike three with a 155-kilometer fastball.
The right-hander allowed a single in the 11th, but had little trouble shutting down the Yokohama offense.
It’s the franchise’s eighth Series title, including those won by the Nankai Hawks and Fukuoka Daiei Hawks.
The BayStars, who survived the Central League Climax Series after finishing third in the regular season, were looking for their first Series title in 19 years, but their efforts came up short.
SoftBank cleanup hitter Uchikawa, though, was the man who saved a team that seemed headed for a loss.
With one out in the ninth, Uchikawa cracked a two-seam fastball from DeNA reliever Yasuaki Yamasaki into the seats in left to tie the score and pull the momentum back in favor of the Hawks.
The BayStars had control of the game early. Though SoftBank scored the first run, its offense was stymied by Yokohama starter Shota Imanaga, who struck out 11 over seven-plus innings. He held the Hawks to two runs on two hits.