S. Korea serves up 3 homers in opening loss to Australia

TOKYO, South Korea fell to Australia 8-7 to open the World Baseball Classic (WBC) on Thursday, getting torched by three home runs while wasting a late game-tying opportunity with a silly baserunning gaffe.

The underdog Australia pounded out 10 hits at Tokyo Dome, with Tim Kennelly, Robbie Glendinning and Robbie Perkins each going deep.

Yang Eui-ji homered for South Korea in the fifth in the losing cause.

With the opening defeat in Pool B play, South Korea must now beat world No. 1 Japan on Friday to have any chance of advancing to the quarterfinals.

The group also includes the Czech Republic and China. The top two nations after round-robin action will reach the quarterfinals, and Australia is now far better positioned to grab one of the tickets, along with the tournament favorite Japan.

Thursday's loss meant South Korea has now dropped the opening game in three consecutive WBCs.

In 2013, South Korea fell to the Netherlands 5-0, en route to an early exit. Four years later, South Korea lost to Israel 2-1 on home soil and once again crashed out of the first round.

South Korea finished third at the inaugural WBC in 2006 and then was the runner-up to Japan in 2009.

The teams traded zeroes for the first three innings before Australia broke the ice in the top fourth against starter Ko Young-pyo.

They had the bases loaded with nobody out after a hit-by-pitch, an infield single and a walk against Ko. Logan Wade cashed in a run with a sacrifice to center field.

Australia quickly doubled its lead in the fifth, courtesy of a solo home run by Kennelly, who drove a hanging curveball from Ko into left-center field seats.

South Korea didn't have a base runner until Kim Hyun-soo drew a one-out walk in the fifth against Mitchell Neunborn. Park Kun-woo followed that up with a single, the team's first hit of the game, and Australia summoned Daniel McGrath.

Choi Jeong struck out against the new pitcher, but Yang put South Korea ahead with one swing, as his three-run blast made it a 3-2 game for his side.

Park Byung-ho's ringing double off the top of the left field wall extended South Korea's lead to 4-2.

South Korea's bullpen couldn't keep the team ahead, though, as Australia charged out in front thanks to a three-run shot by Glendinning.

So Hyeong-jun, South Korea's fourth pitcher, began the inning by hitting Perkins. A single and a sacrifice bunt put tying runs at second and third, forcing South Korea to turn to new pitcher Kim Won-jung.

Kim struck out Alex Hall but couldn't get past Glendinning, who jumped on a belt-high forkball for a go-ahead three-run bomb.

South Korea wasted a precious opportunity in the bottom seventh.

Pinch hitter Kang Baek-ho hammered a line drive off the left-center field wall, and reached second base on what appeared to be a double.

But Kang stepped off the bag briefly as he fist-pumped toward the dugout to celebrate his hit. Second baseman Glendinning alertly applied a tag on Kang, who was called out after a video replay.

Yang hit a single to keep the inning going, but Na Sung-bum struck out against Steven Kent to strand the lone runner.

And that missed opportunity haunted South Korea in the top eighth.

With one out, new pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong relieved Kim Won-jung. Yang promptly gave up a single and a double, and Perkins landed a big blow with a towering three-run homer for an 8-4 Aussie lead.

South Korea clawed back with three runs without the benefit of a hit in the bottom eighth.

The Australian bullpen issued four consecutive free passes to start the inning to make it 8-5, and a groundout by Kim Hyun-soo brought in another run for South Korea.

A fielder's choice grounder pushed South Korea to within a run at 8-7. New pitcher Sam Holland then issued another walk to load the bases, but escaped the jam by striking out Na Sung-bum.

Before the strikeout pitch, Na hit a massive foul off the left field wall, just to the left of the line.

Edman led off the bottom ninth with a single, but was caught stealing second base for the final out of the game.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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