Who said there are no championships to be had for Our Marines this season? Sure, we fans wanted to see the Pacific League and NPB championships most of all, but you know what? The NPB Farm Championship is right behind those. And for 2014, the Farm Championship banner sits proudly in the hands of Lotte after an exciting 6-4 finish to the ni-gun season.
The Urawa Marines have been a juggernaut all year, winning the Eastern League easily, so it’s no surprise that they would go on to win the Farm Championship for the 4th time. That’s the 4th time in the past 10 years, I might add (the double in both 2005 and 2010, 2012, and now 2014)! I could get snarky and mention that this squad looks like a reasonably competitive ichi-gun squad (and in fact many fans have been calling it 1.5-gun all season). Many guys who played significant time at ichi-gun this year – and played well there – were eligible to join the ni-gun championship due to their extended time in Urawa this season. Look at that starting lineup – all top 5 guys in the order were in the starting lineup for the Game 144 demolition of Seibu: Shohei Katoh, Takuya Takahama, Shota Ohmine, Kiyota, and Aja. The starting pitcher was Shota Kurosawa, who was the Eastern League pitcher of the month of September. It’s almost unfair, I tell ya.
Hawks took the first inning lead thanks to a leadoff double by Makihara, a sac bunt (yes, in the first inning), and a sac fly. Daiei starter Higashihama looked like he might be pretty competitive with just that first run of support, too, as he only allowed one baserunner in the first 3 innings. But no, that wasn’t going to last.
4th inning – Shota Ohmine tied the game with a leadoff homer. That’s a pretty good power display for the younger Ohmine brother as he had a homer at QVC just last week. Kiyota followed with a double to left, and AJA brought him in as he does so frequently with an RBI single. 2-1 Urawa after top 4.
But not after bottom 4, as the Hawks immediately got both runs back off of back-to-back homers by occasional ichi-gun starter Egawa and occasional slugger Lee Tu-Hsuan. 3-2 Hawks after the rest of the 4th.
Kurosawa left after the 6th, having given up a few more hits but no runs, in line for a no decision at the best. The Lotte tandem of ichi-gun stalwarts Hattori and Minami held the fort very nicely, giving up nothing at all in an inning of perfect work each.
But those guys were going to need some help from the top of the inning, and quite generously the Hawks players pitched in to help out. Top 7- Aomatsu reached on a boot by Hawks 3B Kamezawa, later coming around to score on a 2-out Katoh single. Yoshida tried to score from second but was out (Hawks C Yamashita getting a bit chippy after the play at the plate.) That’s a tie game, folks.
In top 8, more generosity from the Hawks. Shota reached with a leadoff single and GG drew a 2-out walk. Aomatsu grounded to Makihara to end the inning – but no, another boot! Shota in, and after a bad throw (second error on the play) GG chugged all the way home SAFE. That’s a 2-run inning and a 5-3 LOTTE lead!
Our Urawa Marines would add to that total thanks to a sac fly by Takahama in the 9th inning, though Katsuki (leading closer in the Eastern League) gave up a big bottom 9 bomb to Hawks slugger Inomoto (leading HR hitter in the Western league this season) to give the run right back. No matter, though, as Katsuki struck out the last two batters he faced to secure the NPB Farm Championship!
Shota’s HR and modasho earned him the MVP honors, as Katoh and Hattori were also honored for their conributions. Great work by the guys and especially ni-gun manager Aoyama, who did a heck of a job all season in developing players and helping them win. With the success of the younger talent in Lotte ni-gun, the future seems very bright indeed.
Here’s the game highlights from J Sports.
The fans in left field say thanks to the players for a fantastic end to the season.
Box Score in English