The Uni-President Lions avenged defeat last year by triumphing over the La New Bears 4-2 last night and clinching the 2007 Taiwan Series baseball crown at the Chengching Lake stadium in Kaohsiung County.
At one time trailing three games to one, the Bears fought their way back to level the best-of-seven series before yesterday's decider.
But the pep that had brought the Bears back into contention was in short supply last night, as batters, pitchers and fielders put in mediocre performances.
PHOTO: HUANG CHIH-YUAN,TAIPEI TIMES
The Lions, however, fielded soundly, and together with their outstanding American pitcher Nelson Figueroa restricted the Bears to an inadequate score.
In sharp contrast to the rest of the series, Game 7 was a dour affair, with batters struggling to find open spaces and pitchers ultimately proving the difference between the sides. The game therefore saw the lowest number of runs scored in the series, with the first not coming until the 4th inning.
It was in that inning that the Lions burst out of the den with three runs to Dominican national Tilson Brito (who survived an attempted double play), Liu Fu-hao and Chen Lien-hung off hits by Chen, Yang Sen (between the legs of the pitcher) and Kuo Tai-chi.
The 3-0 deficit seemed to king-hit a number of the Bears players, and Figueroa was already sensing victory as his raised arm ushered catches into the hands of his outfielders.
The Lions threatened to score big in the 5th, but luck held out for the Bears. Even so, American pitcher Andrew Lorraine walked Kao Kuo-ching, prompting his replacement by Huang Chun-chung. And a ground out call by the first base umpire was hotly disputed by Bears manager Hung Yi-chung; replays showed first baseman Kit Pellow taking the ball cleanly and juggling it long after his foot had left the base.
At the bottom of the 6th, the Bears pulled one back, with Chen Feng-min making it home on a hit by Chen Chin-feng. But on the same play home-bound Lin Chih-sheng was tagged by the catcher after misreading a relayed throw -- to the disgust of the Bears management. It was an inexplicable mistake that cost the team dearly.
The Lions restored the gap of three in an eventful 7th inning. The Bears pitcher loaded the bases after hitting and walking Brito, forcing another substitution in the form of Mac Suzuki. The Japanese righty managed to stop what should have been a deluge of runs, save for a mix-up that added a run for Kao Chih-kang in a failed double play.
From there the pitchers dominated, save for a home run by Lin Chih-sheng in the 9th, which wasn't enough to save the Bears. In the final play, Pellow was caught by outfielder Yang Sung-hsien to end it.
The game's most valuable player award deservedly went to Nelson Figueroa, whose poise throughout the series helped the team's prospects. Liu Fu-hao and Chen Chin-feng were the players of the series.
The Lions qualify for the ?100 million (US$875,000) Konami Cup Asia Series in Japan next month. They play the winner of the Japan Series finals (Chunichi Dragons or Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters), the winner of the Korean Series (Doosan Bears or SK Wyverns) and a composite Chinese side.
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