Pitching phenom Roki Sasaki had 19 strikeouts while throwing a perfect game in a record-setting performance Sunday in Japan’s top professional league.
Sasaki, 20, recorded the first perfect game in Nippon Professional Baseball since 1994 and the 16th in league history, according to multiple Japanese media outlets.
Sasaki, a right-hander for the Chiba Lotte Marines, tied an NPB record with his 19 strikeouts against the Orix Buffaloes. He also struck out 13 consecutive batters at one point, a record in Japanese pro baseball, according to Kyodo News.
“This is the greatest,” Sasaki said after the game, according to multiple outlets. “Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about the possibility [of a perfect game]. I figured it would be OK if I gave up a hit, so I just pitched and put my trust in [catcher Ko] Matsukawa right until the end.”
Featuring a fastball that routinely topped 100 mph and a devastating forkball, Sasaki needed 105 pitches to log the 94th no-hitter in Japanese pro baseball history and the first since Aug. 15, 2020, according to Kyodo News. It was NPB’s first perfect game since May 18, 1994, according to Kyodo.
Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi told reporters there are no “doubts” about Sasaki’s talent and also praised Matsukawa, the Marines’ 18-year-old rookie catcher.
“This is not something everyone can go through, so it’s a great experience,” Iguchi told reporters. “I have to give credit to Matsukawa for calling such a great game and doing a solid job with the bat as well. The two of them are quite a battery.”
Sasaki rose to prominence as a high school pitcher thanks to his high-velocity fastball and reportedly drew widespread interest from Major League Baseball teams before signing with Chiba Lotte in 2020 at age 18.
“He’s doing well, but having a game like this at such an early stage of his career is remarkable,” Iguchi said. “I don’t think there is anyone who had any doubts about him, and today not even walking a batter, that’s just added emphasis.”