By Wayne Graczyk
TOKYO—Korea shook off an embarrassing loss to Japan, coming back to overwhelm China and secure a spot in Round 2 of the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In Asia Round action on Sunday, Korea one-sided the Chinese 14-0 in a seven-inning game before 12,571 at Tokyo Dome and will face Japan to decide the Pool A winner on Monday night.
Korea wasted no time getting on the scoreboard and established the tone of the game in the bottom of the first inning. With two runners aboard, Hyun Soo Kim banged out an RBI-single before an out was recorded. They scored once more in the first and tacked on another pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth on a two-run home run by Bum Ho Lee.
China seemed to lose focus in the bottom of the fifth when the Chinese pitchers allowed Korea to bat around, giving up five runs, three hits and two walks. There was also a hit batter, and the defense fell apart, committing two errors and not executing fundamental plays.
Korea sent nine men to the plate again and posted five more tallies in the bottom of the sixth to make it 14-0 and, after China batted in the top of seventh, the game was stopped by the early termination “mercy” rule for large leads when a team is ahead by 10 or more runs after the losing team bats in the seventh.
Suk Min Yoon, the Korean starting pitcher, was masterful for six innings and left the game after throwing exactly 70 pitches, the maximum any pitcher can accumulate in one day under World Baseball Classic rules.
At a post-game press briefing, Yoon said, “Any pressure I had disappeared when my team scored in the first inning. I was able to relax and get into a rhythm.”
Yoon and two relievers held China to just two hits, a single by Pittsburgh Pirates farm hand shortstop Ray Chang and a double by right fielder Fei Feng.
Korea manager In Sik Kim whose team lost an early termination game to Japan the previous night, explained how his club was able to shake off that bad experience and regroup for the China game.
“Baseball is a game of fluctuation,” he said. “We lost in a shortened game yesterday but won the same way today. There was also the difference in the level of players between the Japanese and Chinese teams.”
Terry Collins, the Team China manager, took the loss in stride. “We did not play well tonight,” said Collins, “but playing here was a great experience for us. When you get beat 14-0, everything is bad, but I hope our players will leave here with the memory—not of this game—but of our previous two games in which we played very well.”
China finished 1-2 in Pool A after a 4-0 loss to Japan and a 4-1 triumph over Chinese Taipei. Collins’ players exited he tournament with their heads held high and hoping to continue development and improving for the next international play opportunity.