Wang Sheng-wei’s clutch single up the middle scored the go-ahead run from second base in the top of the fifth inning as the Brother Elephants held on to defeat the Uni-President Lions 1-0 in the Chinese Professional Baseball League season opener at Tianmu Baseball Stadium last night.
The speedy outfielder, who won the stolen base title after snagging 42 bases last season, let his bat do the talking by going a solid two-for-four with a stolen base, along with the game’s lone RBI.
“I’m really glad I was able to help the club and coach Chen get the first win of the season,” Wang said after the game.
The rematch of last year’s Taiwan Series lived up to its billing in front of a near-sellout crowd of 9,000-plus, with the Elephants outmaneuvering their arch rivals from Tainan in a classic low-scoring thriller to give rookie coach Chen Rei-chen the first win of his managerial career.
“It’s quite a pleasant surprise to see all the fans out there, especially after all the off-season scandals and problems,” Chen said at the post-game press conference.
Also starring for the victorious Elephants was centerfielder Chang Chih-hao, whose picture-perfect throw from shallow center after a base hit gunned down the opposing runner at home plate. The play kept the Lions from scoring the tying run in the bottom of the eighth.
Picking up the win was Elephant starter Jim Magrane, who tossed seven scoreless innings of five-hit ball with a walk and five strikeouts in his Taiwan debut to give the men in the gold uniforms a much-needed morale boost.
The Elephants also showcased setup man Tracy Thorpe, who pitched a scoreless eighth despite giving up a pair of singles, before closer Ryan Cullen retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth to pocket his first save of the year.
The Lions had several opportunities to tie the game up as they pounded out a total of seven hits against Magrane and Thorpe, but their failure to make any of the hits count, coupled with a good defensive effort on the part of the Elephants, ultimately cost them.
Starter Pan “Du Du” Wei-luen was tagged with the loss despite pitching seven innings of one-run ball on a half dozen hits.