Korea wins first three games in WBSC Premier12
Led by manager Kim Kyung-moon, Korea got off to a quick start at Gocheok Sky Dome by scoring two runs at the bottom of the second.
Then, at the bottom of the fifth, Team Korea added four more runs and another run at the bottom of the seventh, allowing Korea to cruise through the group stage with three wins.
Although starter Park Jong-hoon wasn’t able to pick up a win, he fulfilled his role by tossing four scoreless innings.
Throughout four innings, Park gave up four hits and a walk, while striking out two. Once Park left the mound, Korea had five more pitchers on the mound, and they all tossed scoreless innings.
In the batting lineup, clean-up hitter Park Byung-ho finally broke his silence. During the game, Park added two hits, a run and an RBI to help the team to a win. In Korea’s two previous games, Park’s bat stayed silent as he went 0-for-8.
“I didn’t even make good contact in the first two games,” Park was quoted as saying on Yonhap. “But I wanted to get my act together because my manager trusted me so much. I finally hit the ball hard today, and he kept cheering me on during the game. I was very grateful. Hopefully, I can keep this up for the rest of the tournament.”
During the Group C action, Korea has been a solid team both on defense and offense. Before the win against Cuba, Korea started strong by defeating Australia 5-0 and Canada 3-1. Throughout the three games, Korea only gave up a run while scoring a total of 15 runs.
Korea had the lowest team ERA out of 12 teams in the tournament, at 0.33.
By winning all three games, Korea headed into the Super Round with one win advantage, like Japan and Mexico. The top two teams from each group advanced to the Super Round.
In the Super Round, teams will play another round robin format to determine the four teams advancing to the finals. Each team will play four games in the Super Round, as they will not play a second game against the other team to advance from their group.
Korea will start the Super Round tonight, with a game against the United States. The game will be played at Tokyo Dome, starting at 7 p.m.
Against the United States, Yang Hyeon-jong will be the starter. Yang was also Korea’s starter for its first group stage game against Australia on Nov. 6.
Throughout the six innings, Yang gave up no hits, while striking out 10. Yang and Enny Romero of the Dominican Republic are the only two pitchers in the tournament so far to have picked up 10 strikeouts in the group stage games.
“We’ve achieved our first goal of advancing from the group stage very well,” Kim said. “Super Round is more important.”
In 2015, the two teams played against each other at the finals. At the time, Korea defeated the United States 8-0 to win the tournament.
Based on performances in the group stage, this is expected to be an interesting matchup. While Korea enters the Super Round as the team with the lowest team ERA, the United States has shown a strong batting lineup as it had a 0.284 team batting average with 10 home runs after the three games in Group A.
Team Korea hasn’t had a home run at the tournament, yet.
The United States finished Group A in second, behind Mexico with two wins and a loss. It has defeated the Netherlands 9-0 and Dominican Republic 10-8.
The United States lost to Mexico 8-2, but throughout the three games, they’ve managed to score a total of 21 runs.
Following a game against the United States, Korea will then play against Taiwan on Tuesday at Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba, Japan, starting at 7 p.m.
After two days off, Korea will play against Mexico at the Tokyo Dome on Friday, starting at 7 p.m. Then, the team will finish the Super Round, perhaps the biggest game of all, against Japan at the Tokyo Dome on Nov. 16, starting at 7 p.m.
“None of the four countries are easy teams,” Kim said. “Staring with our first game against the United States, we’ll have to give it our all. We won the group stage, but I don’t feel that comfortable because our primary goal is to earn our spot onto the Olympics, but that hasn’t been finalized yet.”
Four out of six teams in the Super Round will advance to the finals. The top two will play for the title, while the third and the fourth ranked teams will play for a third-place finish.
As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is fast approaching, this year’s Premier12 also serves as a qualifier for the Games. Even if Korea doesn’t defend the title, if it finishes better than Australia and Taiwan, it’ll still earn qualification for the Tokyo Games as the winner in the Asia/Oceania region.
BY KANG YOO-RIM, KIM HYO-KYUNG [email@example.com]
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