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Baseball: Nao Higashihama wins battle of no-hit hurlers

Nao Higashihama of the SoftBank Hawks pitches against the Lotte Marines during their Pacific League game at Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba on Aug. 10, 2022. (Kyodo)

CHIBA (Kyodo) -- Nao Higashihama allowed a run over seven innings in the SoftBank Hawks' 4-3 Pacific League win over the Lotte Marines on Wednesday.

    Lotte starter Roki Sasaki, who in April became Japan's youngest perfect-game pitcher, coughed up three runs in the second inning, but was otherwise untouchable, striking out 10 while allowing five hits over six innings.

    Higashihama, who no-hit the Seibu Lions on May 11, said his plan was influenced by teammate Shuta Ishikawa, who shut down the Marines on Tuesday with the help of an exceptionally good curveball.

    "The wind was blowing pretty hard and that caused me some difficulties," Higashihama said. "I hoped to follow Shuta's example, but my breaking pitches weren't that good. So I switched to attacking batters in the zone with my fastball."

    Higashihama struck out six while allowing four hits and walking one.

    The Hawks took the lead for good when Yuki Yanagita drilled a breaking ball for his 15th home run leading off the second. A couple of poor fastballs resulted in hits, and two runs scored on squeeze plays, with one run unearned because Sasaki failed to field one of the bunts.

    Meanwhile, the Rakuten Eagles came from behind on a ninth-inning home run off Orix Buffaloes closer Yoshihisa Hirano before winning 2-1, in the 10th, while the league-leading Seibu Lions drew 2-2 in 12 innings with the last-place Nippon Ham Fighters.

    In the Central League, Hiroshima's Allen Kuri (5-7) threw six shutout innings as the Carp beat the Yakult Swallows 4-1, handing the league leaders their fifth straight loss. The DeNA BayStars beat the Hanshin Tigers 3-0 to move past them into second place, while Sho Nakata homered to break a ninth-inning tie and lift the Yomiuri Giants to a 2-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons.

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