After a hard-fought victory over Australia, can Ryu Joong-il’s team do the same against the top-ranked Japanese? Leading the way is Lee Yi-ri (KIA Tigers).
The South Korean national baseball team, led by Ryu Jung-il, will take on Japan in the second game of the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) 2023 at 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.
The APBC is a competition for the development of up-and-coming talent in Asia, including Korea. Only players who are 24 years old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1999) or in their third year with a professional league club (born after 2021) are eligible to play, with three wild cards available for players born on or after Jan. 1, 1994.
After finishing as runners-up to Japan and Chinese Taipei at the inaugural and most recent APBC 2017, South Korea is looking to change generations and win its first APBC title.
In their first game against Australia on the 16th, the Koreans had a hard-fought victory. After giving up an RBI single to Clayton Campbell in the top of the first inning, Korea tied the game in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single up the middle by Kim Hyung-jun (NC Dinos). In the top of the sixth, they gave up a leadoff single to Alex Hall, but Kim Ju-won (NC) tied the game in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single to center field.
Then, in the bottom of the 10th inning, with runners on first and second and nobody out, Noh Si-hwan (Hanwha Eagles) delivered the game-winning hit to secure the 3-2 victory 토토사이트.
While the game was not without its share of disappointments, including a lackluster batting performance, it was still a significant result for the youngsters as they avenged their 7-8 loss at the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) earlier this year.
South Korea now faces Japan, a team that is one step ahead of them. The Japanese are also coming off their first win against Chinese Taipei on April 16. The Japanese struggled against Chinese Taipei starter Koo Lin-Liu Yang (6.2 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 1 strikeout), failing to put a runner on base until the fifth inning, before Morishita Shota (Hanshin Tigers) broke the game open with a solo shot to left field in the top of the sixth. Japan then took advantage of the Taiwanese bullpen in the top of the ninth inning, scoring three runs to make the score 4-0.
Japan is no pushover. With a full roster of professional first-team players and a win over Chinese Taipei, they’re on a roll. The fact that the game will be played at the Tokyo Dome, the mecca of Japanese baseball, is also an advantage for Japan.
Korean pitchers in particular will have to be wary of Japanese pitches. The roof of the Tokyo Dome is made of a special fiberglass material, and blower fans are used to inflate it, which creates an updraft inside the dome. This means that balls can travel higher and farther.
Japan’s starting pitcher will be left-hander Chihiro Sumida (Seibu Lions). Seibu’s No. 1 pick in last year’s draft, he went 9-10 with a 3.44 ERA this season. Despite his relatively small frame at 5-foot-11, 81 kilograms, his strengths include a fastball that reaches 150 kilometers and a variety of pitches, including a changeup, splitter, and slider. Sumida, who is also considered to be reliable, is arguably Korea’s No. 1 boundary pitcher.
Korea will counter with left-hander Lee Yi-ri. Lee, who donned a KIA uniform as a first-round pick in 2021, has posted a 25-22 record with a 3.83 ERA in 76 games (380.1 innings) so far this year. He reached double-digit wins in both the 2022 season (10-10) and this year (11-7).
This is a big game for Lee for a number of reasons. First, he had a chance to redeem himself from his poor performance at the 2023 WBC. He was shaky in relief against Japan, giving up three runs on four hits with one strikeout in 0.1 innings. South Korea suffered a 4-13 loss in that game, marking the third consecutive first-round exit at the tournament, following the 2013 and 2017 WBCs.
Lee will also be looking to shake off the disappointment of missing out on the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games. He was included in the final roster, but was pulled out at the last minute due to blisters on his fingers.
“Lee Yi-ri is the best left-handed pitcher in Korea,” said Ryu Jung-il. Japan also has a lot of left-handed hitters. I think Lee will be able to keep them at bay if his pitches are good. His fastball is also fast. When his pitches are good, he’s hard to hit. Tomorrow (Nov. 17), I’ll just observe whether his pitches are good or not from the first inning (laughs),” he said.
The batting lineup’s lack of firepower in Australia, where they managed just eight hits and three runs, is something that needs to be addressed. Noh Si-hwan (5-for-3, 1 RBI), Kim Joo-won (3-for-2, 1 RBI), and Kim Hyung-jun (4-for-1, 1 RBI) made their presence felt, but they were left stranded too often. They created plenty of chances but failed to produce runs.
To compensate for this, the manager is considering a change in the batting lineup. “When you go to an international tournament, you face pitchers you haven’t seen before,” said Ryu. As young players, we may have timed our batting incorrectly. Their (Australian) pitches are not fast, but they are low, so we struggled,” he said, adding, “We will change the batting order tomorrow (Sunday).”
The players’ confidence is also high. “Japanese pitchers have really good control,” said Noh Si-hwan. They throw inside and outside pitches freely, and their changeups are excellent,” he said, adding, “That’s why I’m not changing anything. I will do my best to win one game at a time. I’m going to do what I’m going to do, no matter what pitcher comes up. I’m going to try to get through the Japanese pitchers tomorrow.”
Infielder Kim Do-young (KIA), who is making his senior national team debut in the tournament, echoed the sentiment, saying, “I’m going to be equally focused and mistake-free (for either team).”
It’s a tough matchup against a team that is clearly outclassed by Japan in terms of power. However, South Korea has had the honor of defeating Japan on several occasions in international competition. It will be interesting to see if Ryu Jung-il-ho can overcome Japan and win her first APBC title.