Pinch hitter Shingo Kawabata delivers the key hit for Yakult in the 12th inning.

Jim Armstrong, for JAPAN Forward

From worst to first to Japan Series champions.

Shingo Kawabata drove in the winning run on a pinch-hit single to left with two outs in the 12th inning as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows beat the Orix Buffaloes 2-1 on Saturday, November 27 to win their first Japan Series championship in 20 years.

After finishing dead last in the standings last season, Yakult made a remarkable turnaround this year, capturing the Central League pennant and winning the best-of-seven series four games to two for the sixth championship in franchise history.

Facing Orix reliever Ryo Yoshida, Kawabata, who had 30 pinch hits in the regular season, hit a shallow fly ball into left field that scored Yasutaka Shiomi from second.

Yakult’s Shingo Kawabata drives in the go-ahead run with two outs in the top of the 12th. | Photo courtesy of © JAPAN Forward

The Swallows’ Yasutaka Shiomi scores the game-winning run in the top of the 12th. | Photo courtesy of © JAPAN Forward

“I relied on him all season long,” Yakult manager Shingo Takatsu said of veteran Kawabata. “He didn’t get all of it but he really hung in there and it was a great at-bat.”


By - grape Japan editorial staff.