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Baseball Team Advances to Olympic Semifinals

Posted August. 18, 2008 06:45,   


The national baseball team kept its winning streak intact yesterday with a 1-0 victory over China in Olympic baseball, advancing to the semifinals.

Korea had rallied past archrival Japan Saturday, 5-3, in pool play of the Beijing Olympics.

Since pro leaguers started playing for the national team from the 1998 Bangkok Asiad, Korea has a 12-11 edge against Japan.

Three of Korea`s four wins have been decided late, with the victories against the United States and Japan won in the ninth and yesterday`s triumph over China going into the 11th.

The Korea-China game had been suspended Thursday due to rain.

Korean baseball powered its way through four straight wins thanks to the timely decisions of manager Kim Kyung-moon and his trust in his men.

Kim says he believes in his intuition. He puts his trust in rookies with shiny and determined eyes, and his guts have paid off.

With the score tied in the top of the ninth against Japan, Lee Dae-ho made a sacrifice bunt with a runner on the first and no out. It was totally unexpected since he had hit two homers in the tournament, including a two-run blast in the seventh.

After Jin Gab-yong walked to first, Kim put Kim Hyun-soo as pinch hitter, even though Japanese relief pitcher Iwase Hitoki and Kim Hyun-soo were both left-handed. The hitter came through with a critical single that led to the winning run.

Starting pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin against Canada was also an unexpected move by the manager. Ryu lost against Canada in the Olympic regional preliminary, giving up three hits, including a homer, and three runs in just one and a third innings. He was also suffering from diarrhea.

Manager Kim gave him a second chance, and Ryu took advantage to throw a complete shutout.

The manager says he believes in running. He lets his runners steal whenever they have a chance. Lee Jong-wook and Ko Young-min are fast runners, disrupting defense by the pitcher and infielders.

After he hit a one-run single in the top of the ninth with the score 3-2 against Japan, Lee Jong-wook stole second. Japanese catcher Abe Shinnosuke made a critical throwing error, allowing Lee to run to third and the third base runner to go home.

When Korea was behind the United States 6-7 in the bottom of the ninth inning in the Olympic opener, Jeong Keun-woo hit a double and advanced to third and home when two teammates hit grounders.

Manager Kim gives second chances to his men. Kim Hyun-soo had been a project, but is now a cleanup hitter.

Even though star slugger Lee Seung-yeop has not performed to expectations, Manager Kim still has him at the fourth batter position. “He is under great pressure, probably as much pressure as myself. But he will do his part in the semifinals,” the manager said.

Kim appeared nonchalant when Japan Manager Hoshino Senichi of Japan criticized him for submitting a fake player list during the Asian Olympic preliminaries as unfair. The Japanese manager sarcastically said Tuesday that he was confident of beating Korea only if Kim didn`t change the player list at the last minute.

Kim, however, didn’t respond to this, simply saying, “The game will speak for itself.”