The Tiger Mark is strong – super strong. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Choi Ji-min (20)-Jung Hae-young (22) duo has given Korea the victory, with Lee Yi-ri (21) picking up the slack.
Noh Si-hwan’s walk-off hit in the bottom of the 10th inning gave South Korea a 3-2 victory over Australia in the first game of the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) 2023 at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday.굿모닝토토 도메인
It was not an easy game. It’s hard when you can’t score runs. Noh Si-hwan paced the offense with three hits and one RBI, including a double in the 10th inning, while Kim Do-young had one hit and two runs scored. Kim Hyung-jun had one hit and one RBI, and Kim Joo-won had two hits and one RBI.
As a team, they had eight hits. There were also three walks and one hit by pitch. Relatively few runs scored. This game could have been a blowout. They went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position in the first through ninth innings.
Instead, the mound was high. As the pitchers held on, so did the upsets. First up, the starters. Moon Dong-ju pitched 5.2 innings, allowing two runs on five hits (one home run) with four walks and five strikeouts. It’s almost a quality start (QS).
He went in with 80-90 pitches. He ended up throwing 102 pitches. Manager Ryu Jung-il said, “They said the balance was too good in the fourth and fifth innings, so I went to the sixth inning. I thought I had to go to 100 pitches. I apologize for making him throw too much.”
And the bullpen. Kim Young-gyu (0.2 innings), Shin Min-hyuk (0 innings), Choi Ji-min (0.2 innings), Choi Seung-yong (1.2 innings), and Jung Hae-young (1.1 innings) combined for 4.1 scoreless innings. Shin Min-hyuk faltered with one hit and one walk, but the other pitchers picked up the slack.
Choi Ji-min is the first to come to mind. With one out in the top of the seventh, Shin walked to put two runners on base. Choi Ji-min came right up. He walked the first batter, Rickson Wingrove. The bases were loaded.
No runs scored. Alex Hall, who homered in the top of the sixth, flied out to shortstop and Clayton Campbell, who singled in the first, flied out to right field. It was a blowout.
Choi Seung-yong came on in the top of the eighth inning and struck out two. In the top of the ninth, two walks put runners on first and second. Wingrove struck out to put runners on first and second.
This is where Jung came in. It was the one and only “professional closer” on this team. She struck out Hall to end the inning.
In the top of the 10th, runners on first and second with no outs. Campbell struck out the side. Christopher Burke then hit a hard line drive to third base, but Kim made a great play at the plate to end the inning. 1.1 scoreless innings. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Noh Si-hwan hit an RBI single and Kim earned the win.
Manager Ryu Jung-il said, “The decisive inning was the seventh. Choi Ji-min did a good job of keeping the bases loaded. The closer Jung Hae-young also did a good job.” With 14 pitches thrown by Choi Ji-min and 11 by Jung Hae-young, they should have no problem pitching against Japan on Sunday.
In every crisis, in every crucial moment, KIA’s Pil Seung-jo has stepped up to the plate and saved the day. It’s the trusty “Tiger Ticket.” And on Sunday, there will be another Tiger. Lee Yi-ri will start the game.
Manager Ryu Jung-il said, “He is the best left-handed pitcher in Korea. There are many left-handed hitters in Japan. I think Lee will be able to block them well if his pitches are good. The ball is fast. It’s hard for them to hit it when it’s good. We’ll see if it works from the first inning.”
Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games heartbreak. He made the final roster, but was replaced the day before the call-up. It was due to a blister issue on his finger. After being eliminated, he pitched a series of strong games. He took out his frustration on the mound.
Lee Yi-ri of the APBC baseball team warms up during the first training session at Samsung Lions Park in Daegu on June 6. Photo courtesy of the KBO
Lee was selected to the APBC team and wore the Korean flag again. While not comparable to the Asian Games, the APBC is technically an international tournament. It’s where future generations compete. If Lee has a dominant showing, South Korea could have a decade of aces.
Choi Ji-min and Jung Hae-young got things off to a great start. The bullpen is fine. If Lee Yi-ri can lead from the front, they’ll be at their best.