S. Korea breathes sign of relief after narrow win in baseball

YOKOHAMA, Japan– South Korean Olympic baseball manager Kim Kyung-moon has seen a lot of things over his extensive career, but he had to wonder whether he had seen any game quite like the one he managed on Thursday at the Tokyo Olympics.

South Korea eked out a 6-5 win over Israel in its first Group B match of the tournament at Yokohama Stadium in Yokohama, south of the Japanese capital.
The game featured a lot of strange things, not the least of which was Yang Eui-ji getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Israeli starter Jon Moscot was pulled after only nine pitches because of an apparent arm injury. Teams hit three home runs apiece on a windy day in Yokohama. South Korean closer Oh Seung-hwan, who has more than 400 professional saves in three different leagues, blew a save in the ninth inning by giving up a solo home run to Ryan Lavarnway.

“We knew the first game wasn’t going to be easy, but this was way more difficult than we’d expected,” Kim said. “I don’t know how many games like this I’ve managed. Our players did a great job staying focused until the end.”

Kim said he was caught off guard by the sudden Israeli pitching change in the first inning. Left-hander Jake Fishman came on to face a Korean lineup heavy with left-handed batters near the top.

“We figured we would see him at some point in the game, but not that early,” Kim said. “It threw us off, and he pitched well early on. We struggled to get our offense going against him.”

But the offense eventually woke up, and Oh Ji-hwan, a glove-first shortstop batting seventh, supplied most of the offense.

He went 3-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs. He came through with a game-tying two-run homer in the bottom fourth, and then delivered a go-ahead double as part of the three-run seventh inning.

“I didn’t think of anything else but winning this game,” Oh said. “We’re going to prepare the best we can to win the next one, too.”

South Korea is the defending champion, having won the last baseball gold medal in 2008 in Beijing. Outfielder Lee Jung-hoo said the opening victory will set up South Korea well on its way to another title.

“We’re here to win the gold medal,” Lee said. “We’ll play every game like it’s the gold medal game.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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