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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Shuta Ishikawa Achieves Goal of Throwing a No-Hitter

Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa tossed Nippon Professional Baseball's first no-no of the season against the Saitama Seibu Lions on August 18.

Making the 164th pitching appearance of his NPB career, Shuta Ishikawa was an unstoppable force on Friday, August 18.

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks starter faced 31 batters and issued three walks. He hit a batter and struck out nine in a 2-hour, 36-minute contest against the Saitama Seibu Lions. Those stats were not the biggest numbers, however.

What the announced crowd of 34,747 who showed up for the Pacific League game at Fukuoka's PayPay Dome will remember for years to come is this: Ishikawa tossed the 99th no-hitter in an NPB regular-season game. And he twirled the first no-no of the season.

The Hawks defeated the Lions 8-0.

SoftBank jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second inning, giving Ishikawa more than enough run support on a night when he was at the top of his game.

In the seventh inning, Hawks third baseman Ryoya Kurihara helped keep the no-hitter alive with two strong defensive plays ― back-to-back grounders to open the inning.

Ishikawa wrapped up his no-hitter by getting Lions designated hitter Takeya Nakamura to ground out to Hawks first baseman Akira Nakamura.

Shuta Ishikawa
Shuta Ishikawa (center) celebrates with teammates after throwing a no-hitter on August 18. (ⒸSANKEI)

Shuta Ishikawa interacts with fans after the game. (ⒸSANKEI)

Shuta Ishikawa Looks Back at His No-Hitter

After SoftBank's joyous celebration on its home field, Ishikawa shared some insights about his general approach to pitching.

"Every time I take to the mound, I think about a no-hitter and then give up a hit in the first inning," Ishikawa said, according to Kyodo News. "As a result, I tend to just think about one batter after the next. So at the end, I was like that, and maybe not that conscious of it being a no-hitter."

Ishikawa acknowledged that the no-hitter was a team effort.

"I didn't think I would be able to achieve this," Ishikawa was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. "But I had some luck and the fielders got the outs, and I'm grateful to them."

Shuta Ishikawa (KYODO)

Ishikawa, who made his NPB debut in 2017, has played his entire career as a Hawk. The Tokyo native has a 49-36 record and a 3.26 ERA. In 731 innings pitched, Ishikawa has 636 career strikeouts. Friday's victory produced his third career shutout.

This season, Ishikawa is 4-5 with a 3.49 ERA in 17 games. He's allowed 76 hits in 98 innings while striking out 95 batters.

Ishikawa had his best seasons in 2018 (13-6) and 2020 (11-3). And he made pitching contributions in the Japan Series in each of the Hawks' four consecutive championships (2017-20).

Through August 18, the Hawks (52-49-2) were in third place in the Pacific League standings, nine games behind the reigning Japan Series champion Orix Buffaloes (61-40-3). The Chiba Lotte Marines (53-45-4) sat in second place after earning a 4-1 victory over the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on the same day.

Los Angeles Angels slugger Shohei Ohtani hits a grand slam in the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 18 in Anaheim, California. (KYODO)

Ohtani Slugs AL-Leading 43rd Homer

Shohei Ohtani smacked his 43rd home run of the 2023 MLB season, a second-inning grand slam, against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, August 18 at Angel Stadium.

Ohtani's blast gave the Los Angeles Angels a 5-1 lead. But it didn't last. Tampa Bay defeated the hosts 9-6 in 10 innings.

The Los Angeles Angels star had a career-best 46 homers in 2021. He leads the American League in homers this season.

New York Mets starting pitcher Kodai Senga looks at the scoreboard in the fifth inning on August 13 at Citi Field. (Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Take a Food Journey Around the World!

Mets' Senga Eager to Help Bring Yamamoto to the Team

Yoshinobu Yamamoto is enjoying another terrific season as the ace of the Buffaloes pitching staff. He leads NPB in wins (11), strikeouts (123) and ERA (1.50) through Friday, August 18.

Yamamoto won 15 games in 2022, solidifying his place as one of Japan's top pitching stars.

Now 25 years old, Yamamoto is expected to pursue future opportunities in Major League Baseball. And he'll likely be posted by the Buffaloes in the offseason. This would give MLB teams a chance to negotiate a deal with the hard-throwing pitcher.

Could the New York Mets be the front-runners to land Yamamoto?

Yoshinobu Yamamoto (ⒸSANKEI)

Current Mets starter Kodai Senga, in his first season with the club, said he believes New York general manager Billy Eppler, who held the same job with the Angels when they lured Ohtani to Anaheim, has an advantage over other MLB GMs.

"It's very apparent that Billy pays attention to the culture of Japan and knows how to interact with Japanese people well," Senga said, according to the New York Post. "I felt that first-handedly and his presentation skills are amazing, so I think that could work in the Mets' favor."

Senga also told the newspaper that he'd be happy to help recruit Yamamoto to the Mets.

"He still has the rest of the season to get through, healthy hopefully, and the posting system," Senga told the Post. "I think once that goes through, the team might ask me and [Yamamoto] might ask me as well, and I would like to speak to both of them."

Misaki Doi (left) and doubles partner Kurumi Nara are seen at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in September 2022. (ⒸSANKEI)

Tennis

Doi Reveals Retirement Plans

Misaki Doi is planning to retire from the WTA Tour after a pair of farewell tournaments.

Doi, 32, announced her plans on social media on Saturday, August 19. Before she hangs up her racket, she plans to play in the Kinoshita Group Japan Open (September 11-17) in Osaka and the Toray Pan Pacific Open (September 25-October 1) in Tokyo.

The 32-year-old cited chronic back pain as a factor in her decision to retire.

"Given the current circumstances, continuing to play at the high level I aspire to has become quite challenging, which led me to make this decision," Doi wrote.

"I started playing tennis at the age of 6 and turned pro at 17. My journey as a player has had its ups and downs. But it has also been incredibly rewarding, filled with many valuable experiences," added Doi, who reached a career-high 30th in the world rankings in October 2016. "Looking back, I realize how fortunate I've been to have had such a fulfilling tennis career.

"I would like to take this moment to express my gratitude. To my sponsors, my family, my friends, the coaches and trainers who have supported me along the way, my fellow players, and all the fans who have cheered for me, thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Doi won her lone singles title on the WTA Tour at the Luxembourg Open in October 2016. She also captured a pair of doubles titles, the Istanbul Cup with Elina Svitolina in July 2014 and the Japan Women's Open with Nao Hibino in September 2019.

At the time of this writing, Doi has a career record of 402-376 in singles. She's currently No 300 in the world rankings.

Miyuu Yamashita (KYODO)

Golf

Yamashita Leads JLPGA Tour in Top 10 Finishes

Miyuu Yamashita, winner of four tournaments this season, has had more top 10 finishes on the JLPGA Tour in 2023 than any other player.

As of August 13, Yamashita had 12 top 10 finishes in 18 tournaments.

Akie Iwai placed in the top 10 in 11 of her 20 tournaments to date. Sakura Kowai made the top 10 in 10 of her 23 JLPGA Tour events.

After the end of play at the NEC Karuizawa 72 Golf Tournament, Yamashita, Iwai and Kowai were the lone JLPGA golfers with 10 or more top 10 finishes this season.

Rugby

Brave Blossoms Announce Final Roster Spots for RWC

Three days after most of Japan's 33-man squad was announced, four additional players were added to the roster.

The Japan Rugby Football Union said on Friday, August 18 that forwards Amanaki Saumaki, Uwe Helu, Pieter "Lappies" Labuschagne and Warner Dearns would fill roster spots. To make room for four new additions, Brave Blossoms coach Jamie Joseph had to drop one player from the roster, which had 30 names on it as of Tuesday, August 15.

Lock James Moore was removed from the roster due to "bad condition," according to published reports.

The Brave Blossoms face Pool D opponent Chile on September 10 in their first Rugby World Cup match in Toulouse, France.

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Toshikazu Yamanishi competes in the men's 20-kilometer race walk at the World Athletics Championships on August 19 in Budapest. (KYODO)

Track and Field

Yamanishi Finishes 25th in 20-Kilometer Race Walk at World Championships

Two-time world champion Toshikazu Yamanishi placed 25th in the men's 20-kilometer race walk at the World Athletics Championships on Saturday morning, August 19 in Budapest.

Spain's Alvaro Martin won the race in 1 hour, 17 minutes, 32 seconds on the first day of the world championships.

Yamanishi, who won the world titles in 2019 and 2022, completed the race in 1:21.39. Japanese teammates Yuta Koga, Koki Ikeda and Eiki Takahashi crossed the finish line 12th, 15th and 21st, respectively.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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