Fans pray for end to title drought at Asian tourney

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Fans pray for end to title drought at Asian tourney

Korea is seeking its first Asian Baseball Championship title in 13 years as the six-nation competition kicks off in Taiwan on Wednesday. Japan, China, the Philippines and Pakistan are also competing in the six-day event that Korea last won in 1999.

Neighbors Korea and Japan are the favorites, with the latter looking to successfully defend its title for the fourth straight time to earn its 17th overall since the event was launched in 1954.

Korea, a six-time winner, finished runner-up in 2007 and third in 2009. The championship began as an annual event before switching to once every two years. It was last played in 2009 and, adding to the confusion, a date for the next edition has not yet been confirmed.

Taiwan, which finished runner-up in 2009, has won the event twice and the Philippines once.

Under the rules of the tournament, each team plays the others once. If two teams finish with the same number of victories, the trophy will go to the team that won their earlier encounter.

Korea, led by Sungkyunkwan University coach Lee Yeon-soo, faces the Philippines on Wednesday, Japan on Saturday and Taiwan on Sunday. The team beat the Lotte Giants 2-0 in a tune-up on Saturday, one day after they routed the Hanwha Eagles 5-0. It also had two practice games with the NC Dinos, a newcomer to the Korea Baseball Organization, beating them 4-3 and drawing 1-1.

Lee told reporters the games exposed batting weaknesses that he would be addressing in the interim.

A total of 16 professional players were named on the 24-man roster. The remaining spots were filled by three former professionals who are now serving their mandatory military service and five college players.

The team leaves for Taiwan today.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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