Korea leads baseball world again

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Korea leads baseball world again

Korea’s national baseball team returned home on Sunday on top of the world.

Welcomed by a crowd of about 200 ecstatic fans at Gimpo International Airport they lifted the trophy high after they won the inaugural Premier 12 tournament in Tokyo on Saturday by overwhelming the United States 8-0.

It was Korea’s first world tournament championship win since lifting the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

“Not only have our players performed better than expected, but all the coaching and supporting staff contributed to this win,” Korea national team manager Kim In-sik said on Sunday. “But above all, we are happy that we beat Japan at the Tokyo Dome and went on to win the championship.”

Although top players in the Major League Baseball (MLB) were not in the competition, the quadrennial tournament by the World Baseball Softball Confederation featured the top 12-ranked nations.

The road to Korea’s championship wasn’t easy. With frequent schedule changes from organizers, the team lost to Japan and the U.S. in their qualifying rounds.

But Korea enjoyed sweet revenge in the semi-final - where they beat Japan 4-3 with a four-run ninth inning - and the final against the U.S. to become No. 1 in the world.

Japan, the host nation along with Taiwan, hoped that the competition would boost the popularity of baseball in the world so it could be re-instated as a official Olympic sport at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games.

However, after Japan failed to reach the final and only managed to finish third, TV Asahi, the main broadcaster of the event in the country, cancelled the previously scheduled live broadcast of the final and rescheduled the game to be shown at 3:45 a.m. on Sunday. ??

Taking top honors in the inaugural championship on the Japanese soil, Korea is now hoping to continue their good fortune at the upcoming 2017 World Baseball Classic tournament.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]

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