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[NPB NOTEBOOK] For Shinjo and Fighters, Things are Starting to Fall into Place

The Hokkaido-based Fighters are having a ball at Es Con Field Hokkaido, their new ballpark, and inching their way up the Pacific League standings.



Hokkaido Nipponham Fighters manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo is in his second season at the helm. (ⒸSANKEI)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [NPB NOTEBOOK] For Shinjo and Fighters, Things are Starting to Fall into Place

What a difference a year makes for the Hokkaido Nipponham Fighters.

This time last year, the Fighters were languishing in last place in the Pacific League standings, playing before a smattering of fans at a half-empty Sapporo Dome.

In his rookie season as manager, Tsuyoshi Shinjo referred to himself as Big Boss and often seemed to be a bigger attraction than the team itself.

That's all changed now. Shinjo has dropped the Big Boss moniker and the team is very much front and center.

Playing before a capacity crowd at their beautiful new stadium, Es Con Field Hokkaido, the Fighters took two out of three games over the weekend of June 9-11 from the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers.

And they almost completed a sweep. After beating the Tigers 4-0 on Friday, June 9, the Fighters won 4-3 the following day before losing 1-0 on Sunday.

The Fighters' Gosuke Katoh smacks a go-ahead single in the eighth inning against the Hanshin Tigers on June 10 at Es Con Field Hokkaido. (ⒸSANKEI)

Katoh Delivers Big Hit for Fighters

The highlight of the weekend series was a showdown between two ace pitchers: Kotaro Otake for the Tigers and Hiromi Ito of the Fighters on Saturday.

Fighters right-hander Hiromi Ito fires a pitch on June 10. (ⒸSANKEI)

In the eighth inning, the big hero at the plate was Gosuke Katoh, who drove in the winning run on a clutch single off Otake to make it 4-3 and the Fighters handed Otake (6-1) his first loss of the season. 


Katoh came up with none out and runners at first and second. 

"That was a situation where normally you would bunt but the manager let me swing away," Katoh said. "I'm just thinking about what I can do to help the team win. We've got more interleague games coming up and we'll just focus on one game at a time."

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.

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