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Updated: November 3, 2018
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Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
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Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2018 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos courtesy of Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks)

Rick van den Hurk leads Fukuoka to Japan Series-title

MINAMI-KU, HIROSHIMA (Japan) - Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks shutout Hiroshima Toyo Carp 2-0 on Saturday-evening (November 3) in Game 6 to win the 69th Nippon Series, 4-1.

Dutch pitcher Rick van den Hurk was the starting pitcher for Fukuoka and had a strong outing. The righthander threw six shutout innings, struckout ten batters and gave up only four basehits.

For Fukuoka, it was its second title in a row and its fifth since 2011. In that year, the team won its first title since 2003. Thereafter, Fukuoka also was the champion in 2014, 2015 and last year. It was the ninth title in club-history.

For Van den Hurk, this was his fifth Championship-title since playing professionally in Asia. In his first two years, he played for Samsung Lions in the Korean Baseball Organization, winning the title in both seasons, 2013 and 2014. Thereafter, he won the Japanese title with Fukuoka in 2015, last year and now again.

...Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks won its second title in a row...
(© Photo: Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks)
Before coming to Asia, Van den Hurk pitched in the Major League in 2007-2012 for Florida Marlins, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates.

The best-of-seven Series opened a week ago with a 2-2 tie in 12 innings. This year, the extra-inning rule in the Japan Series had changed from a maximum of 15 innings to twelve.

The next day, Hiroshima won Game 2 with a 5-1 score.

The Series then moved to Fukuoka, where the reigning champion won all three games at home.

The team won 9-8 on Tuesday, 4-1 on Wednesday and 5-4 in ten innings last Thursday.

Today, Fukuoka scored its runs in the fourth and fifth inning. Van den Hurk was relieved in the seventh inning and three relievers completed the game.

(November 3)

Related Articles:
Fukuoka wins third consecutive game in Japan Series. (November 1)
Fukuoka takes lead in Japan Series. (October 31)
Fukuoka nips Hiroshima in 3rd game Japan Series. (October 30)
Hiroshima defeats vd Hurk after tie in Japan Series-opener. (October 28)

...Rick van den Hurk pitching for Fukuoka in the...
...deciding sixth game of the Nippon Series...
(© Photo: Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks)
The sixth game of the Nippon Series was a pitching-duel between Dutch pitcher Rick van den Hurk for Fukuoa and American Kris Johnson for Hiroshima. Both threw six innings. Van den Hurk gave up four hits and walked one batter, Johnson gave up only three hits, but also walked three. Van den Hurk struckout ten batters, Johnson struckout six. The difference between the two was that Van den Hurk held Hiroshima scoreless, while Johnson gave up two runs.

In the second game of the Series, Van den Hurk was the losing pitcher, but tonight, he had a strong outing and was the winning pitcher. In that game, Kris Johnson also was the starter for Hiroshima and then was the winning pitcher. Tonight, Van den Hurk recorded seven of his ten strikeouts from the fourth through sixth inning.

With a 2-0 lead, three relievers closed the game for Fukuoka and held Hiroshima both scoreless and hitless. Shota Takeda threw 1/2 3 inning, then Shinya Kayama completed the eighth inning. Closer Yuito Mori then pitched the ninth inning and earned his third save of the Series.

At Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium Hiroshima in Hiroshima, Fukuoka opened the score in the top of the fourth inning. Yuki Yanagita then led off with a walk and advanced on a single by Akira Nakamura. The two runners moved on a sacrifice bunt by Seiichi Uchikawa and that was followed by a successful, runscoring squeeze by Tetsuro Nishida.

Fukuoka doubled its lead in the fifth when Cuban Yurisbel Gracial Garcia hit a homerun.

...Manager Kimiyasu Kudo is tossed in the air...
(© Photo: Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks)
After the final out was made, Fukuoka's Manager Kimiyasu Kudo was tossed in the air 15 times. Tossing the Manager (and some coaches and players) in the air (called doage) by the players is a tradition when a Championship is won.

With the win and the title, Fukuoka Hawks showed that it remains the most dominant team in Japanese baseball at this moment. That was underscored with its fifth title in eight years.

It was the ninth title in club-history for Fukuoka. The club won its first title in 1959, then added its next one in 1964 when the club was known as Nankai Hawks. It then took 35 years to win the third title in 1999, followed four years later by another championship. In 2011, the current reign began.

Fukuoka-catcher Takuya Kai was named Most Valuable Player of the Nippon Series. He set a Series-record with six caught stealings, including two in this game. That is a remarkable feat, as Hiroshima led the Central League this season with 95 stolen bases. Kai was chosen for his defensive qualities, as he was 0-for-14 with one walk and scored two runs.

For Hiroshima, it was its third year in a row that it was left empty-handed. The team won the title in the Pacific League three consutive years. In 2016, it reached the Japan Series, but then lost 4-2 to Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Last year, Hiroshima was eliminated in the Second Round of the Play-Offs (Climax Series), losing 4-2 to Yokohama DeNA BayStars, which therefore reached the Japan Series. But the BayStars then lost 4-2 to Fukuoka.

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