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Nashida Gives Hawks New Life, 11-Inning Victory

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Nashida Gives Hawks New Life, 11-Inning Victory

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Sometimes you have to do more with less. Less was certainly what the Hawks got in their 2-1, 11-inning victory against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome last night.

The Hawks only needed four hits to score the two runs they needed to win the game, and they had only one through the first 5 innings against one of their many Nippon-Ham tormentors, starting pitcher Masaru Takeda.

The boys from Fukuoka also got some help from Fighters' manager Masataka Nashida. In a very puzzling decision, Nashida lifted his starter with two out in the 7th to get the righty-on-righty match-ups to Jose Ortiz and Hiroki Kokubo. Shintaro Ejiri was called on and he immediately gave up a single to Ortiz and the game-tying timely two-base hit to Kokubo. From there, all the wind was out of the Fighters' sails.

The Hawks managed to keep the Fighters at bay after starter Kenji Ohtonari was lifted after 7 and 1/3 innings. Once again, it was SBM to the rescue. Settsu worked around 2 walks and a hit batter to work 1 and 2/3 innings of shutout ball, Falkenborg gave up a hit but struck out two to pick up the win (1-0), and Mahara retired the side in order in the 11th for his second save.

For starting pitching, it was certainly a case of dueling lefties as the Hawks sent Ohtonari to the mound to counter longtime Hawks tormentor Takeda. For the first two innings, it was even on both sides as the two junkballers kept their pitches dipping and darting out of the zone.

Ohtonari blinked first in the bottom of the 3rd when Makoto Kaneko again made monkeys out of the Hawks. He took a down-and-in slider and put it in the first row in left field to give the Fighters a 1-0 lead and Kaneko's first home run of the 2010 campaign. The solo shot almost made Ohtonari unravel as the Fighters proceeded to put runners on the corners with two out, but he managed to get out of the jam with no further damage.

Takeda, on the other hand, was on cruise control seemingly throughout the game. He only gave up one hit in 6 and 2/3 innings and struck out two batters in another excellent performance against SoftBank. However, it was the bullpen that let him down.

The game was won in the 11th off Fighters closer Hisashi Takeda (0-1), who gave up a home run to Hawks number-8 hitter, Nobuhiro Matsuda. The Fighters' closer, who was phenomenal last year, only gave up one home run the entire year, but in his first appearance of 2010, he has already matched that total.

The Hawks go for the sweep tonight as they send D.J. Houlton to the mound against former Minnesota Twin, Bobby Keppel, who is making his Japanese debut.
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