Keisuke Hayasaka didn't expect to be the man of the hour on Sunday. But he said he was ready for the role.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th, Hayasaka singled in the winning run to lift the Chiba Lotte Marines to a 2-1 victory and a three-game series sweep of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles at Chiba Marine Stadium.
Hayasaka, who had three hits and scored Lotte's first run, came to bat in the 11th after pinch-hitter Kazuya Fukuura was hit in the head with a pitch to load them up.
"I expected Fukuura to do it," the Marines No. 9 hitter said. "But when he got hit, the guys said 'go out and win it.'
"In the past I've never anticipated this would be my role, but it fell to me."
As a reward for his efforts, he was mobbed and pounded by his teammates after touching first base.
"It hurt, but I'm beside myself with joy," Hayasaka said.
The win was set up by the pitching: an epic 153-pitch effort by starter Yuki Karakawa and six straight outs from Brian Sikorski (6-5) in relief.
Karakawa went toe to toe with Eagles starter Kohei Hasebe, who was relieved after seven innings and 111 pitches.
Hasebe surrendered seven hits, issued two walks and hit a batter, while striking out seven. The lefty got four double plays, two of which ended innings with runners in scoring position.
Karakawa, who turned 20 last month, gave up nine hits and three walks. Although he didn't hit a batter, Karakawa came close enough to spark dissent from Eagles No. 5 hitter Todd Linden.
"We intended to work him there. You have to go after batters," Karakawa said when asked if an inside pitch to Linden in the third had been called by catcher Tomoya Satozaki, who bore the brunt of Linden's anger.
In the sixth, Linden reached back and flicked Satozaki's mask with the barrel of his bat as he pulled back after showing bunt. Both benches emptied before order was restored.
The Marines fans roared their approval when Karakawa brushed Linden back with the next pitch and struck him out after the switch-hitter drove one deep and foul down the line. Linden was jeered by the home fans when he returned in the eighth and bounced back to Karakawa to end the inning.
The Eagles' Naoto Watanabe opened the scoring by crafting a first-inning run. The leadoff man singled on a bouncer up the middle, was sacrificed to second, stole third and beat a good throw on a chancy fly to left off the bat of Teppei Tsuchiya.
The Marines tied it in the third when Hayasaka singled, stole second and scored on Saburo Omura's two-out single.
Eagles reliever Kazuo Fukumori got out of a jam in the ninth to complete two scoreless innings, while Sikorski matched that with six straight outs in the 10th and 11th.
Marcus Gwyn entered in the 10th for the Eagles and had two outs in the 11th before running into trouble with a two-out walk to Hayakawa. The speedster stole second and went to third when the ball spun out of catcher Akihito Fujii's hand on his throw and rolled into foul territory.
Gwyn (1-4) fell behind 3-1 to Satozaki before nearly throwing an intentional fourth ball over Fujii's head.