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.
Katoh Delivers Big Hit for Fighters
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."
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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.