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SK Takes 2-0 Korean Series Lead Over Samsung

Posted October. 18, 2010 10:51,   


Incheon SK Wyverns second baseman Chung Keun-woo often watched video clips of his team’s games on his PC notebook at hotels when playing away games this season.

The video clips he watched the most often were those from the 2007 and 2008 Korean Series, when his team clinched the title. He almost never watched footage of last year’s Korean Series, in which SK lost to the Gwangju Kia Tigers in seven games, because the memory of the loss is too painful.

Wyverns captain Kim Jae-hyun said, “Watching the image of exultant Kia players at the awards ceremony after the seventh game, I pledged myself never to suffer pain as deep as it felt that day again.”

When players were exhausted in the regular season, he would encourage his teammates by saying, “We have the lofty goal (of victory), and so let’s endure and last a bit more.”

SK has approached a step closer to its third Korean Series win in four years by taking the opening two games over the weekend at home against the Daegu Samsung Lions. In the history of the series, 12 of the 13 teams who grabbed a 2-0 lead went on to win the title.

The lone exception was in 2007, when the Wyverns swept the final four games after losing the first two.

○ Desperation and commitment

The hero in SK’s 4-1 Game 2 win Saturday was Choi Jung. He hit a two-run homer against Samsung pitcher Cha Woo-chan in the fourth inning with SK trailing, 1-0. He added a solo homer in the sixth with the Wyverns leading 2-1.

Choi, however, performed a simple home run ceremony after hitting his round-tripper. He simply held up his arms to express joy the moment he hit the homer, and looked as if norhing had happened when the teams changed sides.

“I tried my best to keep my composure because I worried over growing negligent if I overly enjoy (my home run),” he said.

Like the saying of U.S. Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” SK players remained vigilant until the game was over and were seen preparing for the next game after the win.

○ Hellish preparation

The Wyverns’ fall and winter training camps are infamous for their hellish intensity. Players continue to run from early morning until late at night.

After the regular season ended Sept. 26, the team conducted intense practices again until the Korean Series began Friday.

In line with SK manager Kim Sung-keun’s credo, “I always prepare assuming the worst-case scenario than the best,” players had to bite the bullet and undergo intense training all day from early in the morning to late at night.

The advantage of a top-ranked team, wherein players often rest to maintain their condition, is considered by SK as something for a team in a foreign country.

Choi said, “Because the training session was too tough, I feared we might end up collapsing in the game. When I played on the field, however, I regained my concentration. Since we`ve trained to prepare for the worst-case scenario every day, I don’t feel the Korean Series is tough at all.”

Manager Kim’s strategy has proven successful at least up to this point of the series.

○ Can Samsung come back?

SK could win the Korean Series victory in Daegu, where Games 3 and 4 will take place. The Wyverns also won the first two games without its ace right-handed pitcher Ken Kadokura of Japan.

Kadokura will start Game 3. If SK batters show their proven capacity to concentrate anew with help from the Japanese import’s stellar pitching, this year’s Korean Series could end in an unexpectedly easy fashion.

Samsung will start pitcher Bae Young-soo in Game 3 Monday. He performed well toward the end of the regular season and played in three games in the playoff series versus the Seoul Doosan Bears. He had one save, one loss and an earned run average of 3.24.

Bae must keep SK batters in check for Samsung to have any chance in the series.