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Title Defense Begins With Sweep of Orix

Baseball news from Japan and Asia

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Featuring Jim (a.k.a. NipponHam11)

The title defense begins! Welcome to 2012, Hawks fans!

Title Defense Begins With Sweep of Orix

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After winning the 2011 Japan Series Championship, the Hawks had some upheaval on their roster, as five key components left the team for greener pastures. As for the black and yellow, through the first three games of the season, the Hawks have been as close to perfect as you can get.

For the first time since the disastrous 2008 campaign, the Hawks have started the season 3-0. Their victims that opening series? The Orix Buffaloes.

SoftBank also had to rely on some unexpected names in this series. Tadashi Settsu, the super setup man who made the transition to starter last year, was tabbed as the Opening Day starter, and he did not disappoint. He pitched seven innings of solid baseball, the only run coming off an error.

The offensive star for the Hawks on this day was 2011's breakout player, Nobuhiro Matsuda, who clubbed NPB's first official home run of 2012, a solo blast. He also knocked in a second run with an RBI triple in the fourth. Brian Falkenborg, who has been named the closer in the absence of Takahiro Mahara, saved his first game of the season with no difficulty, as he struck out three of the four batters he faced.

The second game of the series required a bit of a late rally to win the game. The Hawks scored three runs in the 7th off former Lion Ming-Chieh Hsu, all of them coming off the bat of Yuichi Honda, who hit a bases-clearing double. SoftBank's starter was Sho Iwasaki, who many are hoping will log more innings this year. He started well, going seven while giving up two runs on six hits, with six strikeouts and a walk. Falkenborg saved his second game in a row to end the game.

The sweep was completed by a long-absent member of the Hawks rotation: Nagisa Arakaki, who had a brilliant spring. Today, he had his best start in almost four years as he went the distance, giving up one run on five hits with five strikeouts and a wild pitch. It was Arakaki's first win since 2008, and his first ichi-gun start since 2009. Offensively, Matsuda and Yuya Hasegawa supplied the offense, as they had two and three RBI's, respectively.

The Hawks put their perfect record on the line against the Rakuten Eagles at K-Stadium. Hiroki Yamada takes the mound for the visitors.
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