It took a last inning rally and some defensive heroics to keep the Giants up 3-2 to eliminate the Tigers from the Japanese Canadian Baseball League playoffs this past weekend at the diamond down at beautiful Greenwood Park.
The Tigers finished in second place during the regular season, but suffered a 5-2 upset loss to the sixth place Asahi team in the first week of the playoffs to put their backs up against the wall heading into the game this past weekend. The Giants also suffered a loss in the first week to the Whales to make the game a “winner stays alive” scenario, and set the stage for the hotly contested affair.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning as Yuji Mera singled, stole second base and then scored on a Giants error. The 1-0 score held firm as opposing pitchers Kenya and Jeff Sagara dueled fantastically until the top of the seventh and the last at bat for the trailing Giants. Sagara saved his own gem by kick starting the Giants winning rally with a lead-off single, followed by another by Giants centerfielder Dwight Wakabayashi. A Kyohei Maki ground out advanced the runners before Sagara was cashed in by a Herman Ko single to tie the game with runners still standing on first and third and one out in the inning.
In an unfortunate and untimely turn of events, the Tigers were then called for a balk as the pitcher made the mistake of faking a third to first pick-off attempt, a move made illegal by the league at the start of the 2013 season. Wakabayashi scored on the balk to give the Giants a 2-1 lead and Ko moved over to second base. Alex Piche-Abe then slammed a gap double to score Ko and give the Giants a two run cushion heading in to the bottom of the seventh.
The two run lead would turn out to be the cushion the Giants needed as the Tigers fought back and scored a run in their turn and were threatening to tie the game when a highlight reel catch by Herman Ko in left field, turned into a Giants double play that put a halt to the Tigers rally.
The Tigers are the first team to lose two games in the JCBL playoffs and have been eliminated while four other teams go into this weekend’s action with one loss and on the brink of elimination. The Giants lost in the first week to the Whales, the Whales then lost this past week to the Warriors and now sit with one loss. The Brewers lost to Tanino in the first week but staved off elimination by defeating Asahi 7-5 this past week. The Asahi loss now puts them on the list with the Giants, Brewers and Whales as teams who cannot lose again if they want to take home the 2013 playoff title.
The August 25th action will see the Giants take on Asahi in a winner stay in game at 9:30am followed by a marquee match-up between the two undefeated teams Warriors and Tanino at 12 noon, capped off by another elimination game between the Brewers and Whales at 2:30pm.