Chen Chin-fong's grand slam off Chinese reliever Bu Tao capped off a nine-run fifth for the La New Bears as they overcame an early 2-1 deficit to top the Chinese All-Star squad 12-2 in the first game of the 2006 Konami Cup Asia Series yesterday afternoon.
The Tainan native and former major leaguer more than backed up his impressive credentials by going deep twice against the Chinese pitching staff to rack up a total of six RBIs in the game, jumpstarting this year's competition with a bang. Fellow catcher Chen Fong-min also homered for the Bears in the fifth, a three-run shot off Bu to give the Bears three homers in the game.
For the second straight year, the four-nation competition at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, will host the annual gala that gathers together the top professional baseball teams from South Korea (Samsung Lions), Taiwan (Bears), Japan (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters) and the Chinese Baseball Association all-stars to determine which club will rule the Asian professional baseball world for the coming year.
The game began with the Bears drawing first blood in the top of the third on outfielder Huang Long-yi's sacrifice fly off Chinese starter Chen Jung-yi to give the Taiwanese a quick 1-0 lead before China's finest answered with a pair of runs of their own off Bears starter Anthony Fiore of the US on RBI singles by Lee Lei and Feng Fei to go up 2-1.
The 2-1 lead would prove brief as the Bears rallied for nine runs in the top of the fifth by sending a dozen men to the plate to pound out seven hits against Chinese relievers Chen Haifeng and Bu and blow the game wide open.
Leading 10-2, the Bears would tack on two more runs in the top of the eighth, courtesy of Chen Chin-fong's two-run blast off the fifth Chinese pitcher of the game Huang Quan, to claim a ten-run lead (12-2).
And closer Ramon Morel promptly struck out the side in the bottom of the eighth to trigger the no-mercy rule, ending the opening contest of this year's competition one inning short of the usual nine.
Fiore was credited with the win for allowing two runs on seven hits in five innings of play before fellow bullpen mates Lee Fong-hua, Liang Rue-hao and Morel each chipped in a scoreless inning of relief to deny the Chinese any scoring chances.
Taking the loss for the Chinese all-stars was Chen Haifeng, who pitched effectively in the fourth before running into a world of trouble in the fifth by allowing four runs on three hits in just 1-1/3 innings of play.
Offensively for the Bears, all but one player in the lineup collected at least one hit in the 18-hit slugfest, led by Chen Chin-fong's 4-for-5 effort.
Six different Bears players had multi-hit outings in the game to make this one a foregone conclusion by the top of the sixth.
As for the Chinese, seven different batters managed to register a hit in the game with leadoff man Hou Fenglian topping the list with a pair of singles in the game.
Next up for the Bears are the tougher Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), Japan's premier professional baseball league.
The two squads will face off at 6:30pm (Japan time) this afternoon in a key contest, from which the winners will most definitely make it into Sunday's championship game.
Atsunori Inaba drove in a pair of runs yesterday to lead the Japan Series champion Nippon Ham Fighters to a 7-1 win over the Samsung Lions on the opening day of the Asia Series.