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After split with Orix, Morifuku gets first win to keep SoftBank in first

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After split with Orix, Morifuku gets first win to keep SoftBank in first

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Before I get to reporting on the Hawks news I have missed, I'm going to start with a disclaimer. This is usually the time of year that I start to fall behind, and that is due to school taking in again, and also general fatigue over the course of the season finally taking its toll on me (and I criticize the Hawks for falling apart in September!). So from here on, updates might be sporadic, but I'll do my best to report!

With that out of the way, the Hawks did manage to gain the odd feat of a split with the Buffaloes, getting a win and a tie out of it. This was one of those times where a tie helped the team, as they managed to get back to first place because of it.

In the first game, DJ Houlton finally had some semblance of a quality start, although it didn't go in the book as such. He gave up three runs on six hits in five and one-third innings with one walk and six strikeouts. SoftBank also gave him some offense, as Hitoshi Tamura helped to chase Kazuki Kondoh after only four innings by cracking a grand slam (20) in the first inning.

Despite that, the Buffaloes mounted a rally off a tiring Houlton, scoring one in the fifth and two in the sixth thanks to a solo shot from Sakaguchi (4), and a two-run shot from T-Okada (31).

Despite that, the Hawks bullpen was able to hold the lead, even though closer Mahara gave up a run in the 9th. He did record the save, his 26th of the year.

The second game ended in a Hawks defeat, as the prime pitching matchup up Chihiro Kaneko for Orix against Tsuyoshi Wada for SoftBank ended with Kaneko (13-7, 3.28) getting the 4-2 win. In his eight innings of work, Kaneko gave up two runs on four hits with one walk and 12 strikeouts on just 97 pitches.

His counterpart, Wada (14-7, 3.16), also pitched good enough to win with two runs on 10 hits in seven innings, also adding three walks and six strikeouts.

RBI singles in the first from Cabrera and in the fourth from Sakaguchi staked the Buffaloes to a 2-0 lead before the first half of the game was over. SoftBank cut the advantage in half in the bottom of the 6th, as Kawasaki tripled home Shibahara after he led off with a double.

However, it was the errors that ended up killing the Hawks chances at a comeback. A throwing error in the 8th from Satoru Morimoto allowed Baldiris to score off Kattoh, and a second booted ball from the Hawks third baseman turned into another run off Falkenborg for a 4-2 lead. It made Tanoue's 7th home run of the season in the bottom of the 8th a moot point.

In the rubber game, the Hawks sent embattled starter Shinsuke Ogura to the mound against Hiroshi Kisanuki. The Hawks got off to a fast start, giving Ogura lots of run support. Hasegawa drove in Honda with an RBI single in the fourth, and Petagine and the newly-healthy Yamazaki hit RBI singles of their own to stake SoftBank for a 4-0 lead.

Ogura responded, throwing his first scoreless outing since July 14th with five and two-thirds innings, with three walks and 10 strikeouts to go with three hits. All signs seemed to put the Hawks on track to win the game.

However, the bullpen couldn't hold it. Keisuke Kattoh was lit up for two runs in the 7th on just two-thirds of an inning. Baldiris scored on a wild pitch by Settsu, and Gotoh hit a two-run single to pull to within 4-3. The Buffaloes completed the comeback with an RBI single from T-Okada off Mahara in the 9th. The 4-4 deadlock was how the game ended, but by virtue of a sweep by Lotte, the Hawks took back first place.

And speaking of the Marines, that's who the Hawks took on today with first place on the line. Entering this game, the Hawks, Marines, and Lions were all in a virtual dead heat for the league lead.

Hiroki Yamada struggled with his control again (five walks in four and one-third innings), but he did manage to keep the damage to a minimum and he left the game with the lead as SoftBank scored three runs in the first off Lotte ace, Yoshihisa Naruse. All three runs came off the bat of Tamura (21), who has had a knack for hitting home runs early in the game.

Three of Yamada's five walks came in one very ugly inning. He started the top of the fourth by hitting Nishioka, and gave up a single to Kiyota. He walked Iguchi to load the bases, and then an oshidashi to Kim Tae-kyun gave the Marines one run. Another game across on Fukuura's double play ball, and after walk number three, Ohmatsu lined out to Honda at second.

SoftBank answered in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single from Kokubo. After Yamada got one out in the 5th, Morifuku took it from there for one and one-third innings. He wiggled out of a jam in the 5th that was partly of Yamada's doing, he was effective in the 6th, turning it over to SBM.

Settsu and Falkenborg worked perfect innings, with Settsu striking out two of the three batters he faced, and Falkenborg getting the heart of the Marines lineup with no trouble. Mahara waked one and struck out one in the 9th for his 27th save of the year.

Yoshihisa Naruse took the loss (10-11, 3.27), as he gave up four runs on eight hits in six innings, with four walks and seven strikeouts. He also falls to 0-4 against the Hawks this season with a 3.32 ERA. On the other side, Masahiko Morifuku got the first win of his career (1-0, 2.51).

The Hawks now lead Lotte and Seibu by one game for first place in the Pacific League. The Hawks will send their ace to the mound in Toshiya Sugiuchi (15-5, 2.94) against Yuji Yoshimi (5-5, 5.03).
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