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Hawks Return from Interleague Spoiled

Discussion in the The SoftBank Source forum
Hawks Return from Interleague Spoiled
One of the main concerns I had was how would the Hawks return from a second straight triumph in the Interleague Tournament. As we all know, the Hawks meandered around .500 before pulling off a monumental collapse at the end of last season, despite winning Interleague (albeit controversially).

The Hawks did not get off to a good start in their post-interleague quest. After winning the two games they were supposed to at the end of Interleague, powering up to beat the BayStars 11-7 and 5-0 (and hitting an astonishing nine home runs in 2 games), the Hawks were searching for offense against Saitama Seibu ace Hideaki Wakui.

On paper, this was the mismatch of the century, as Wakui took on Yoshiaki Fujioka. For three innings, the pitchers matched each other pitch for pitch, with Wakui giving up only a walk, and Fujioka only a leadoff single in the first.

Then the middle innings came. Fujioka labored through 8 batters as he struggled with his control and with Lions batters hitting everything that was remotely near the plate. When the dust settled, Fujioka had given up four runs on four hits and two walks. The key hit was a bases-loaded double by Yasushi Ishii.

It only got worse in the 5th. The Lions tacked on an equal amount of runs, putting the Hawks in a 9-0 hole. SoftBank sent three pitchers to the mound, as Fujioka was chased after a total of 4 and 2/3 innings and recent call-up Shinsuke Ogura failed to record an out before veteran Makoto Satoh ended the inning himself. The inning included three doubles and three walks from Hawks pitching.

The damage had been done by that point, but Seibu added one more run off of Satoh in the 6th, answering the one run that the Hawks scratched across off of Wakui (double by Honda and a single by Ortiz). Yasushi Ishii finished his fine day by lifting a sacrifice fly to center, which scored Kuriyama. Ishii knocked in four of the Lions' 10 runs today, and went 1-for-2.

The Hawks did not go down without a fight, though. Mop-up man Jun Yamamoto came in to end the game mercifully, but the Hawks wouldn't let him. After getting the leadoff man in Jose Ortiz, SoftBank recorded five straight hits, including doubles from Matsunaka and Tamura. The Hawks would knock in three runs off Yamamoto, before he gave way to Tomoki Hoshino, who retired the only batter he faced in pinch-hitter Satoru Morimoto on a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.

SoftBank didn't necessarily need a win right off the bat, but it would have helped to start the stretch of games before the All-Star Break. With a month to go before the unofficial end of the first half of the season, the Hawks need to put together a good month.

The Hawks get right back to work tomorrow against the Lions, with a duel of the lefties. SoftBank ace Toshiya Sugiuchi gets the ball against veteran lefty Kazuhisa Ishii.
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