Nippon Professional Baseball’s Hanshin Tigers are just one win away from advancing to the Japan Series.
Hanshin earned a 2-1 walk-off victory over the Hiroshima Toyokapp in the second game of the Climax Series Final Stage at Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan on April 19. With the win, Hanshin improves to 3-1, including 1-0 in league play, and needs just one more win to advance to the Japan Series.
Seiya Kinami had the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. She went 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI, and a walk. The Hanshin offense managed just five hits, but the pitching staff was able to keep the Hiroshima bats in check to secure the win. 안전놀이터
Starting pitcher Masashi Ito pitched seven innings of five-hit ball with two walks and three strikeouts. The bullpen of Daichi Ishii (⅔ scoreless innings), Hiroya Shimamoto (0 scoreless innings), Colton Brewer (⅓ scoreless inning), and Suguru Iizaki (1 scoreless inning) pitched scoreless innings to set the stage for the final out.
Hiroshima was led by Daichi Osera, who pitched seven innings of three-hit, two-run ball with five strikeouts and one walk, but the offense could only muster one run. Ryoji Kuribayashi, who was selected to pitch for Japan at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March, gave up the game-winning hit.
Hiroshima had the better start to the game. In the top of the first inning, leadoff hitter Ryosuke Kikuchi doubled and Takayoshi Noma walked to put runners on first and third. Kaito Kozono followed with an RBI single to center field.
Hanshin quickly answered back. In the bottom of the second inning, Teruaki Sato led off with a single and scored on Sheldon Noiji’s single and a throwing error by the right fielder to tie the game at 1-1.
Hanshin and Hiroshima continued to battle in a tight pitching battle. In the top of the eighth, Hiroshima put runners on second and third with back-to-back singles by Noma and Kozono against reliever Shimamoto, but Brewer, who took over for Shimamoto, struck out Ryuhei Matsuyama to end the threat.
After escaping the jam, Hanshin loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth on a double by Yusuke Oyama, a wild pitch by Noiji and a walk to Seishiro Sakamoto. Kinami came through with the game-winning hit to end the nail-biter.
Japanese media outlet Full Count reported, “Hanshin wins 2-1 in dramatic finish. Kinami bit down on a Kuriyabashi, the guardian deity of Hiroshima, and pulled a high-course forked ball on a one-ball, two-strike at-bat for a dramatic game-winning hit that drew wild congratulations from his teammates,” reported Hanshin’s late-game victory.
“It’s the best!” said Kinami of the game-winning hit, “I thought I could hit it. The final decision will be made tomorrow, but I’d like to ask for a lot of support,” she said, delighting the Hanshin fans who had packed Koshien Stadium with the confidence of advancing to the Japan Series.
Hanshin, who topped the Central League with 85 wins, five draws and 53 losses this season, started the final stage of the climactic series with a one-game lead. With a 4-1 win in Game 1 and a dramatic walk-off hit in Game 2, Hanshin is one win away from advancing to the Japan Series.
It’s been nine years since Hanshin last advanced to the Nippon Series, in 2014, when Oh Seung-hwan (Samsung) was the closer. The only other time Hanshin won the Japan Series was in 1985.