For the first eight inning, the Seibu Lions and the Uni-President Lions appeared to have been left their hitting in the den.
Then the Seibu Lion's offense roared to life last night at exactly the right moment.
Tomoaki Sato's ninth-inning walk-off double scored Ishii Yoshihito from first and was enough to win the game 1-0. The win also brought the Konmai Cup back to Japan and finished the Asian baseball season with the Saitama Seibu Lions as Asia's Champions. The feat also earned the outfielder the MVP award of the Konmai Cup.
A good relay throw might have got Ishii as replay showed. Unfortunately, the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions were depleted by injuries and forced to use first baseman-pitcher Chuan Chin-her at shortstop. His wild cutoff throw allowed Ishii to score.
Ishii Yoshihito even hesitated for a moment but still beat the wild throw home.
The 2008 Konmai Cup marks the last major professional championship to be awarded this year, and it reclaims the momentum for Nippon Professional Baseball. The NPB team that competed in the Beijing Olympics was frustrated when the Japan lost the 8-7 Bronze Medalt match against the United States of America.
This game saw both teams combine to hit seven home runs. The memories of that defeat are still fresh, as it is only the second time Japan has failed to win an Olympic medal in baseball.
The Japanese could build on the momentum from the Lions win with a strong showing at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The Japanese, after all, are defending champions of the WBC, and The Seibu Lions were the old team of Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was MVP of the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Other than Sato's key hit, The “War of a Lions” turned into a pitching duel, as
Seibu’s starter, Wakui Hideaki, struck out 10 in six-and-two-thirds innings. Uni-President Lions starter Giancarlo Alvarado pitched six strong innings walking no one but only managing one strikeout . Both bullpens also gave strong performances.
The win by the Dice-Kless Lions is the fifth consecutive Konmai Cup for a Japanese side. This was the first Konami cup in which a Chinese side: played in lieu of a Chinese All-Star team.
The Tianjin Fierce Lions of the China Baseball League were the first Chinese Team to play in the Konami Cup. These Tinajin Lions were a perennial Chinese powerhouse but were crushed 16-2 in an early game against the Seibu Lions.
Despite the excitement generated by the tournament across Asia, it could all be over by next year. A recent gambling scandal folded two of Taiwan’s teams, which has left just a four team league. If the Taiwanese league folds, the Konmai Cup could fold with it.
A quick clip of the game winning play can be found here.