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Rob Smaal

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Hawks pummel Buffaloes

by Rob Smaal (May 3, 2008)

Once again, Softbank jumped out to an early lead, only this time Toshiya Sugiuchi and an offensive explosion by the Hawks made sure it stood up--and then some.

Lefty Sugiuchi (2-3) was dealing Friday night at Fukuoka's Yahoo Dome, striking out a dozen batters through eight shutout innings, and Nobuhiro Matsuda drove in four runs to propel the Hawks to a 13-0 drubbing of the Orix Buffaloes in Pacific League action.

"(Manager Sadaharu) Oh-san just told me to relax out there tonight and not get too tense, so that's what I tried to do," said Sugiuchi, who restricted the Buffs to three hits.

Veteran slugger Nobuhiko Matsunaka was 3-for-4 with a walk, a double, a home run, three runs scored and three RBIs in Softbank's 17-hit onslaught. Matsuda had a two-run homer and a two-run triple and Yuya Hasegawa scored three runs.

On Thursday at Seibu Dome, the Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, only to see things fall apart late in the game as the Lions won it 5-4 with a sayonara single in the bottom of the ninth.

On Friday, Oh's charges also got it going early against 35-year-old Dominican right-hander Ramon Ortiz, who was making his debut in Japanese baseball. After Ortiz plunked Hawks leadoff hitter Munenori Kawasaki with the second pitch he threw in Japan, Hasegawa doubled high off the wall in right to score the speedy Kawasaki, who had stolen second base. Matsunaka then lined an RBI single to right to plate Hasegawa and make it 2-0.

After Yusuke Kosai singled and stole second in the fourth, Satoru Morimoto smacked an RBI single back up the middle to add another run.

Softbank tacked on a couple more runs the following inning when Matsunaka and Hiroki Kokubo hit back-to-back run-scoring doubles.

That was the end of Ortiz's night as Orix skipper Terry Collins went to his bullpen and brought in reliever Hidetaka Kawagoe, who gave up a two-run tater to Matsuda that clanged off the foul pole down the left-field line.

While the four-run fifth gave the Hawks some breathing room, five runs in the sixth would break the game wide open. Softbank put runs on the board on a Greg LaRocca throwing error, RBI singles from Michael Restovich and Hiroshi Shibahara and a two-run triple by Matsuda, all off Kawagoe.

Restovich entered the game in the fifth inning to run for Kokubo, who hobbled off with an apparent leg injury after doubling.

Matsunaka led off the eighth inning with his fifth dinger of the season, a solo shot off reliever Makoto Yoshino, to cap the scoring.

Sugiuchi was dominating on the mound, giving up just three singles and not walking a batter. Not one Buffs' runner made it as far as second base. Among his strikeout victims, Alex Cabrera and Tuffy Rhodes each whiffed twice before being replaced in the seventh inning by Collins.

Ortiz (0-1) took the loss, giving up six runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out one, walked one and hit one batter.

Elsewhere, the Nippon-Ham Fighters defeated the Rakuten Eagles 5-1 at Sapporo Dome, and at Chiba Marine Stadium the Seibu Lions blanked Lotte 5-0.

(IHT/Asahi: May 3,2008)


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