Lions seek first Asia Series win for KBO

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Lions seek first Asia Series win for KBO

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The Daegu Samsung Lions are vying to become the first team in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) to take the continental championship as the 2011 Asia Series starts its five-day journey in Taiwan tomorrow.

The international baseball tournament, which began in 2005, is being held for the first time in three years and also the first time outside of Japan. The 2009 and 2010 tournament wasn’t played due to operational problems.

This year, champions from the KBO, Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) will all take part. The title holder from the Australian Baseball League (ABL) will also participate for the first time, as the Chinese Baseball League decided not to send a team.

Four teams will play in a round-robin format and the two teams with the best win-loss record will square off against each other in the final. A total of 15 million Taiwanese dollars ($493,672) is up for grabs as the winner’s prize.

The Lions left for Taiwan yesterday and will first take on Perth Heat of the ABL tomorrow followed by Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the NPB. Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions of the CPBL will be the Lion’s last opponent in the round-robin stage.

Throughout history, KBO clubs have never won the tournament, as Japanese clubs have swept the last four editions. In 2005, the Lions reached the final, but lost 5-3 to the Chiba Lotte Marines. The Incheon SK Wyverns, this season’s KBO runner-up, played in the final against the Chunichi Dragons in 2007, but suffered a 6-5 defeat.

But the Lions manager Ryu Joong-il said they are ready to win the title despite losing some key players.

“There is pressure since we are representing the country, but our goal is to win the tournament,” the 48-year-old rookie manager said. “One sad thing is that we can’t play with our best lineup.”

The Lions will especially miss their starting pitchers as Cha Woo-chan and Yoon Sung-hwan are out of the tournament because of shoulder injuries. Two foreign pitchers, Justin Germano and Doug Mathis, also can’t feature in the tournament after they decided to take vacations with their families in the United States. But Ryu said he will form the pitching lineup with Jang Won-sam, Bae Young-soo and Jeong In-wook alongside their strong bullpen, which includes Oh Seung-hwan who went 1-0, with 47 saves and a 0.63 ERA this season to claim the closer title.


By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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