FUKUOKA, Japan-A walk off base hit by veteran infielder Keizo Kawashima was the final act of the 2017 Japan Series. The single meant an 11 inning 4-3 victory for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks over the Yokohama DeNa Baystars. Fukuoka won the series 4-2. It’s the fourth time the Japan Series end on a walk off (or sayonara, in the NPB jargon) hit.
In front of a 36,118 crowd at Yafuoku Dome, the Hawks entered the ninth trailing 3-2. BayStars 24 year old starter Shota Imanaga had silenced their bats for most of the night (7 innings, 11 strike outs). Superstar Seiichi Uchikawa, a member of Samurai Japan gold medal team in the 2009 World Baseball classic and a long time key bat of the BayStars line up, hit a game tying home run off closer Yasuaki Yamasaki.
Dennis Sarfate, who had taken the mound in the ninth for the Hawks, went on to record 6 more outs and the win. Because of the wins and saves in game 2 and 3, he was named the series MVP.
Sarfate, a former Major Leaguer from Queens (New York), collected a record 54 saves during the regular season.
The Hawks had taken a 3 game lead in the Japan Series, winning at home 10-1 and 4-3 and winning also the first game in Yokohama, 3-2. Then the BayStars had come back winning game 4, 6-0, behind a great pitching performance by rookie Haruhiro Hamaguchi (who flirted with a no hitter for 7.1 innings) and relying on their sluggers Tsutsugo, Miyazaki and Minei for a 5-4 win in game 5.
The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks have won 3 of the last 4 Japan Series.