Korea loses U-18 World Cup final to U.S.

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Korea loses U-18 World Cup final to U.S.


From left: Kang Baek-ho, fourth designated hitter, celebrates after a three-run hit against Cuba in the Super Round game. The U-18 Korean national baseball team celebrates after defeating Japan in the semi-final of the WBSC Baseball World Cup in Thunder Bay, Canada, on Saturday. [YONHAP, WBSC]

After defeating Japan in the semi-finals, the U-18 Korean national baseball team once again lost to the United States 8-0 to finish runner-up at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in Thunder Bay, Canada, on Sunday.

Korea, who swept all five games in the opening round, earlier had a shutout loss against the United States in the Super Round but once again failed to redeem their loss. Not only that, Korea also failed to win the World Cup again, which they last won in 2008.

After the team, led by manager Lee Seung-ryul, failed to score a run in the first three innings, Korea allowed the United States to score three runs in the third inning, four in the fourth and one in the fifth. Kim Young-jun was the losing pitcher, as he gave up three runs and five hits in a little less than three innings.

Aside from Kang Baek-ho, who recorded two two-base hits, the batters struggled in the finals.

“The American team was much bigger and stronger than we are,” Lee was quoted as saying on the WBSC website. “This always happens with Western players, but I must admit these kids are also technically impressive. I regret not scoring on Kang Baek-ho’s double. But these things happen. Of course, had we scored we would have had a better chance.”

With that, Korea lost its 100 percent winning percentage in the finals and lost to the United States in the final for the first time.

This year’s victory marks the United States’ fourth consecutive win. Japan defeated Canada 8-1 to finish in third place.

Upon completion of the World Championship, three Korean players were selected to the All World Team, Cho Dae-hyun was named MVP among catchers, Ye Jin-won recorded the most runs and Kang was named MVP for designated batters.

Aside from Kang’s success at his last U-18 World Championship, he was also drafted first in the rookie draft on Monday by the KT Wiz. The Wiz drafted Kang, who is an all-around baseball player, as both a catcher and batter for the 2018 season and he is expected to be the KBO’s next franchise star.

Before Kang’s performance in the junior baseball tournaments, he earlier received attention in 2015, while attending Seoul High School, by hitting a home run at Gocheok Sky Dome when it first opened at the age of just 16. This year, Kang recorded a 0.422 batting average with two home runs and an ERA of 2.40 in 29 innings as a pitcher.

Not only that, throughout the U-18 Baseball World Cup, Kang played as Korea’s fourth batter rather than a pitcher and recorded a 0.357 batting average with one home run and eight RBIs.

As a pitcher, Kang can throw a pitch faster than 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour and even his sliders exceed 140 kilometers per hour. That said, the Wiz will assign Kang as an outfielder rather than a catcher in the 2018 season and have him in the bullpen at the same time.

The U-18 Korean baseball team will be returning to Korea today.

BY LEE HYEONG-SEOK [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]
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