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Rob Smaal

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Lions roar back on Ishii's bottom-of-9th heroics

by Rob Smaal (May 2, 2008)

TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Prefecture--Yoshihito Ishii stroked a sayonara RBI single to right in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night at Seibu Dome, giving the Lions a dramatic 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Softbank Hawks.

Ishii's game-winning heroics nullified a similar effort by Hawks pinch-hitter Mitsuru Honma in the top of the ninth after his RBI triple to deep center field snapped a 3-3 deadlock and gave Softbank a 4-3 lead.

But with D.J. Houlton on to close it out for Sadaharu Oh's club, the Pacific League-leading Lions scratched back and would not be denied.

Hiram Bocachica doubled with two out off Houlton and moved to third on a single by Yasuyuki Kataoka. Hiroyuki Oshima then singled to score Bocachica to tie it up before Ishii drove a ball through the right side of the infield to win it.

The two-out rally made a winner of Seibu ace Hideaki Wakui (3-3), who went the distance. Wakui, a 17-game winner last season, gave up four runs on nine hits while striking out 10.

Honma looked like he would be the hero after hitting a long fly to straightaway center that outfielder Shogo Akada tried to track down before running out of real estate and crashing hard into the wall.

Earlier, Hiroki Kokubo belted a two-run homer in the first inning to put Softbank ahead.

Hawks starter Jeremy Powell worked 6 1/3 innings but was not involved in the decision. Powell, who joined the Hawks as a free agent after much haggling over the offseason, allowed eight hits and three runs (two earned). He struck out five and didn't walk a batter.

Bocachica went yard in the third inning and Toru Hosokawa took Powell for a ride downtown in the bottom of the fifth, both taters coming off curveballs.

After Hosokawa homered in the fifth, Powell averted possible disaster later in the inning. With two out and the bases loaded after singles by Bocachica, Kataoka and Ishii, PL home-run leader Scott Brazell stepped into the batter"s box. Powell won that showdown, however, getting Brazell to ground out to third to quell the possible uprising.

Things did go off the rails a bit for Powell in the seventh. Holding a 3-2 lead with one out and a runner on first, Kataoka hit a comebacker that Powell knocked down. He picked up the ball and his throw to second sailed into center field. Instead of an inning-ending double play, there were runners at the corners with one out.

Oh yanked Powell and brought in Shinsuke Ogura from the bullpen. He promptly gave up a sacrifice fly to center field by Akada that tied it 3-3.

Bocachica continued to hit well since being recalled from the minors last weekend. On Thursday, the Puerto Rico native was 4-for-4 with a home run and a double hitting ninth in the order.

Kataoka played shortstop and hit leadoff for the Lions on Thursday after regular shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima hurt his knee in a collision at home plate during Wednesday"s game. Nakajima's injury is not thought to be serious.

The Lions topped Softbank 6-2 on Wednesday while the Hawks won the series opener 10-7 in 12 innings on Tuesday.

Prior to Thursday's game, the Lions had hit three home runs or more in each of their last five games, equaling an NPB record. They nearly set the record, but Takeya Nakamura's fly ball to deep left in the bottom of the eighth had plenty of distance but hooked just foul.

Elsewhere in the PL, the Nippon-Ham Fighters defeated the Lotte Marines 6-1 at Chiba Marine Stadium. The Orix Buffaloes beat the Rakuten Eagles 6-1 at Skymark Stadium.

In the Central League, the Hiroshima Carp hammered the Yomiuri Giants 6-0 at Tokyo Dome, and at Koshien Stadium the Yakult Swallows blanked the Hanshin Tigers 2-0. At Nagoya Dome, the Chunichi Dragons edged the Yokohama BayStars 2-1.

(IHT/Asahi: May 2,2008)


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