Backup infielder emerges as unlikely hero in Korean Series win

INCHEON– In a nailbiting championship series game that featured 20 hits and 13 runs, a most unlikely figure was responsible for the biggest runs for the winning side on Tuesday.

The Kiwoom Heroes edged out the SSG Landers 7-6 to steal Game 1 of the Korean Series on the road in Incheon, with backup infielder Jeon Byeong-woo delivering a go-ahead home run in the ninth and then a game-winning hit in the 10th inning.

The home run was Jeon’s first in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) postseason, and this was his first multi-RBI game in the playoffs.
“This is the greatest day of my baseball career,” Jeon beamed at Incheon SSG Landers Field, just west of Seoul. “I hope we can keep on battling like this and we can stick together as a team until the end.”

With the Heroes trailing 5-4 entering the top of the ninth, Jeon entered as pinch hitter with one out and a runner at second. Jeon wasted no time, turning on a first-pitch slider from reliever Noh Kyung-eun and sending it over the left field wall to put the Heroes up 6-5.

“I was hoping to get a pitch high in the zone,” Jeon said. “My coaches told me to just worry about the timing. And I tried not to overthink at the plate.”

With the trusted closer Kim Jae-woong on for the bottom ninth, the Heroes seemed headed for a crucial road win. But not so fast, the Landers said, as their own pinch hitter, Kim Kang-min, tied the game with a solo home run.

“When I saw that ball leave the park, I thought, ‘Baseball is not an easy game,'” Jeon said with a smile.

But as fate would have it, Jeon had another opportunity to play the hero. He stepped in with runners at first and second. This time, facing new pitcher Shawn Morimando, Jeon battled for six pitches before lining a single to left.

“I figured I’d used up all my luck for the day in the ninth inning,” Jeon said of his mindset in the 10th inning. “I was pretty calm and relaxed inside.”

The Landers threatened to extend the game in the bottom 10th, though, as they put runners at the corners with none other than Kim Kang-min back at the plate.

“At that point, I was just praying for the game to be over,” Jeon said with a smile.

Kim Jae-woong got Kim Kang-min to hit a soft comebacker, and tossed it to Jeon at first base to complete the final out. Jeon said he gave the game ball to Kim Jae-woong, who blew the save in the ninth but got his first career postseason win.

Jeon’s ninth-inning blast was the Heroes’ ninth home run in their 10th postseason game this year. They were only ninth in the regular season with 94 homers in 144 games.

“I don’t think there’s any secret to this,” Jeon said. “I think the guys are really locked in and we’ve been lucky as well.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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