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Nipponham Fighters Showing Signs of Progress Under Popular Manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo

With a recent five-game win streak, the Nipponham Fighters have moved up in the Pacific League standings. They have won 11 of their first 20 games this season.



Nipponham Fighters
The Hokkaido Nipponham Fighters celebrate their fourth win in a row, a 4-3 triumph over the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, on April 23, 2024, at Rakuten Mobile Park Miyagi in Sendai. (KYODO)

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The season is still young but there are some promising signs that Tsuyoshi Shinjo and the surprising Hokkaido Nipponham Fighters are making progress.

Prior to their 5-1 loss to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on Thursday, April 25, the Fighters had won five in a row with one tie game during that streak to pull within 1½ games of the Pacific League front-running Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

As of Friday, April 26, Nipponham has a record of 11 wins, eight losses and one tie, putting the Fighters 2½ games behind SoftBank.

When asked about the prospect of catching the Hawks for first place, Shinjo said he wasn't focusing on that.

"I'm not really thinking about that at the moment," Shinjo said, according to Nikkan Sports. "We are just trying to make every single inning count and trying to do our best offensively."

Nipponham Fighters
Nipponham Fighters manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo salutes fans at Rakuten Mobile Park Miyagi before an April 23 game. (©SANKEI)

Even in Thursday's loss in Sendai, the Fighters loaded the bases twice in the ninth inning and could have at least tied it if not for a fine double play by Rakuten third baseman Hideto Asamura.


With none out and the bases loaded, Asamura snared a line drive off the bat of pinch hitter Kazunari Ishii and stepped on the bag for a DP that quashed the chances of a Nipponham comeback.

The Fighters finished in last place in the previous two seasons under the ever-popular Shinjo, who took the helm ahead of the 2022 season.

While it has never been openly stated, it would be fair to assume that a third straight season in the Pacific League cellar would put Shinjo's managerial stint with the Fighters in jeopardy.

But this feels like a different team than the one Shinjo guided the previous two seasons.

Nipponham Fighters
Fighters starter Koki Kitayama pitches against the Chiba Lotte Marines on April 20 at Es Con Field Hokkaido. (©SANKEI)

Strong Pitching on Display for Nipponham Fighters

First and foremost, the pitching has been superb.

On Saturday, April 20, Koki Kitayama allowed just four hits over the distance for his first career shutout after leading the Fighters to a 2-0 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines at Es Con Field Hokkaido.

Kitayama improved to 2-0 when he struck out seven and walked one batter in a 116-pitch gem. The win allowed the Fighters to move past Lotte into second place in the PL standings.

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.



Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.