This year's Japan Series has been a show place for new heroes.
A day after Chiba Lotte's Ikuhiro Kiyota became the first rookie in 24 years to drive in a game-winning run in a Series game, rookie Yohei Oshima repeated the feat for the Chunichi Dragons.
Oshima slammed a first-pitch fastball off Yoshihiro Ito for an 11th-inning RBI triple that broke a 3-3 tie, and steered Chunichi to a 4-3 victory that evened the Series at two games apiece.
"I didn't want to let him [Kiyota] show me up," Oshima said of his collegiate and corporate league rival, who had been on the postgame hero podium twice already in the Series.
Oshima, who played in 104 games, started 81, including Opening Day, when he was entrusted with the leadoff spot.
"I am feeling some nerves in the Japan Series, but I was more nervous batting first on Opening Day," he said. "All these unpleasant thoughts kept running through my mind. I wondered what would happen if I wasn't able to hit."
He didn't hit, and was sent down to the minors in April for two weeks, but had three hits in his return to the first team roster and played regularly in center field for most of the season, batting .258.
"He's a rookie, but he came out of corporate league ball," Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai said. "He's a mature player, and that's why he played so much."
Oshima, who was a two-time Best IX selection for Komazawa University in Tokyo's Toto League and was named to last year's Corporate League Best IX, said his first year as a pro has diverged from his expectations.
"But only in good ways," he said. "I didn't expect to play on Opening Day or to be where I am today."
Oshima, who turns 25 on Tuesday, was left out of the starting lineup in Game 1. Since then, he improved to 4-for-12 in three games with a double, triple and three RBIs.
If the first two games at Chiba Marine Stadium were highlighted by rookie performances, Game 4 also had its share of veteran moments.
The Dragons started southpaw Masahiro Yamamoto, who at 45 became the oldest player to appear in a Series game, while the Marines started 21-year-old Yuki Karakawa.
Karakawa said he was only concerned with the batters he would be facing, but admitted noticing the generation gap.
"I remember thinking, 'That's a pretty big difference in our ages,'" Karakawa said Thursday.
Neither pitcher made much of an impact, however, in what became a mistake-filled war of attrition.
Yamamoto, who made his first Japan Series appearance in 1988 and is still searching for his first victory, surrendered a two-run homer to fellow Series veteran Tadahito Iguchi.
Karakawa gave two runs back in the fourth, and his relief help, Shingo Ono, had a star-crossed outing.
In the fifth, with the Marines clinging to a 3-2 lead, Ono's error on a comebacker put the potential tying run on first with no outs. When Oshima tried to bunt, Ono hit him with a pitch. The right-hander completed his hat-trick of horror on the next play.
The Marines bench ordered a pickoff play at second, but Ono missed the sign. He delivered to the plate, throwing his infield into disarray when Masahiro Araki squared to bunt. The corner infielders charged, the middle infielders covered second.
There would have been a play at first, but no one was covering.
"I made an error and followed that up with a mistake," Ono said.
The Dragons defense returned the favor in the 10th, when right fielder Hidenori Kuramoto misjudged a fly with no outs and a man on first.
"It came off the end of the bat and it fooled me," said Kuramoto, who gave chase after the ball bounded over his head to the wall.
The gaffe left southpaw Akifumi Takahashi to deal with a one-out, bases-loaded jam that he made worse by running the count full.
"On 3-2, I was thinking, 'This is not good. This is not good,'" said Takahashi, who gave up a line drive--straight to his third baseman, who turned an easy double play.
"It [the pitch] wasn't exactly down the middle...When he caught it I was ecstatic."