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Baseball: Shimizu's game winner lifts Fighters over Lions

Yushi Shimizu of the Nippon Ham Fighters hits a walk-off single in the 10th inning of a Pacific League game against the Seibu Lions at Sapporo Dome in northern Japan on Aug. 11, 2022. (Kyodo)

SAPPORO (Kyodo) -- Yushi Shimizu drove in his first run of the season with a 10th-inning single that lifted the Pacific League's last-place Nippon Ham Fighters to a 3-2 walk-off win over the first-place Seibu Lions on Thursday.

    The veteran Fighters catcher, playing in just his 18th game of the season, came up with two outs and two on at Sapporo Dome and bounced the 112th pitch from Seibu starter Wataru Matsumoto into left, allowing pinch-runner Takuya Nakashima to score the winning run.

    The Fighters took a 2-1 lead off Matsumoto (5-4) in the fifth when Yuki Nomura tripled and scored on Yuma Imagawa's ninth home run. Brian O'Grady doubled with one out in the seventh to set up the Lions' tying run.

    Neither team was able to mount another threat until Nomura doubled with one out in the 10th. With two outs, Imagawa was intentionally walked to bring up the light-hitting Shimizu.

    "Ima-chan hit a home run already. I figured that would happen and I was prepared," said Shimizu, who has spent most of the season at the Fighters' farm facility.

    "To get this hit in this important situation, makes it seem like all the effort I made in the hot sun in Kamagaya was worth it."

    "It's the first 'sayonara' hit in my life, so I'm overjoyed."

    Elsewhere in the PL, the Orix Buffaloes beat the Rakuten Eagles 6-1, while the second-place SoftBank Hawks beat the Lotte Marines 4-3 to complete a three-game sweep and pull within a half game of the Lions.

    In the Central League's lone afternoon game, the Yomiuri Giants beat the Chunichi Dragons 6-1. The second-place DeNA BayStars beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-1 to sweep their three-game series to move within seven games of the Yakult Swallows, who lost their sixth straight, 6-3 to the Hiroshima Carp.

    Swallows cleanup hitter Munetaka Murakami became the youngest player in Japanese pro baseball player to hit 40 home runs in a season. On Aug. 2, the 22-year-old became the first to homer in five consecutive at-bats.

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