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[Baseball] Korean Champ SK Seeks to Add Asian Title

Posted November. 12, 2008 08:20,   


The Korean baseball league champions SK Wyverns are seeking to add the Konami Cup Asia Series to their Korean Series title.

The Asia Series, a tournament among the league champions from Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China, will open at the Tokyo Dome Thursday.

SK will represent Korea at the competition and will face Japan’s Seibu Lions, Taiwan’s Uni-President Lions and China’s Tianjin Lions.

Japan has won all four competitions. Korea’s Samsung Lions played in the 2005 and 2006 Asian Series, losing to the Chiba Lotte Marines in the 2005 final and finishing third a year later after falling to Taiwan’s La New Bears.

Since then, Korea’s prowess has greatly improved. SK manager Kim Sung-keun said immediately after last year’s Asia Series, “My goal for 2008 is to win the Asia Series,” a goal that he has reiterated time and time again.

SK also beat Japan’s Chunichi Dragons in last year’s preliminaries but lost to the Dragons in the finals.

The Korean and Japanese teams are expected to face each other in the finals this year. SK expects big things from its outstanding pitching staff, including from rookie Kim Kwang-hyun, who won Most Valuable Player honors this year.

In last year’s Asia Series, he allowed three hits and a run in six and 2/3 innings against Chunichi in the preliminary, winning praise from Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai, who rarely compliments players.

SK also has pitchers Chae Byeong-yong, Song Eun-beom and Ken Ray; middle relievers Lee Seung-ho, Ka Deuk-yeom and Kim Won-hyung; and closers Chong Tae-hyon and Cho Woong-chun.

After watching the Seibu Lions win the Japan Series over the Yomiuri Giants, Wyverns manager Kim said, “The Lions are younger and stronger than last year’s winner Chunichi Dragons. But it remains to be seen how strong the team will be. I can find ways to beat the team.”

Seibu has five power hitters who each hit more than 20 homeruns in the regular season, including Takeya Nakamura, who hit 46 to win the Pacific League crown. In the Japan Series, Seibu hit nine homers against Yomiuri.

Seibu pitcher Takayuki Kishi, MVP of this year’s Japan Series, will present a formidable challenge for SK.

Kishi shut out Yomiuri in Game 4 of the Japan Series in a 5-0 win, striking out Korean slugger Lee Seung-yeop three consecutive times. Manager Kim said, “I’m worried that my hitters will not hit balls thrown by Kishi.”

Kishi joined Seibu two years ago and won 11 games last year and a record 12 this year, posting double-digit wins for two consecutive years.

SK will play its Asia Series opener against Seibu Thursday, then face China’s Tianjin Lions Friday and Taiwan’s Uni-President Lions Saturday. The final will be held Sunday.