USA Knocks Off South Korea To Advance To Gold Medal Game

Image credit: Team USA (Photo by KAZUHIRO FUJIHARA/AFP via Getty Images)

USA Baseball won the second most important game in the team’s Olympic history on Thursday, knocking off South Korea, 7-2, to earn a rematch with Japan and a shot at the gold medal on Saturday.

When it comes to baseball in the Olympics, USA Baseball has experienced a lot of heartbreak, disappointment and dismay.

Team USA did win gold in 2000 in Australia. But in the other four previous Olympics with baseball, Team USA had not done better than winning a bronze medal. One time (2004) the US failed to even qualify. Another time (1992) Team USA lost the bronze medal game and settled for fourth.

On two other occasions (1996 and 2008) the US won bronze. But now, the two powers of international baseball in the 21st century, Japan and the U.S., will face off for gold with history on the line. If Japan wins, it will be the team’s first ever gold medal since baseball became an official medal sport. If the U.S. wins, it will be the team’s first Olympic gold in 21 years, and will further reinforce the notion that after struggling internationally earlier in this century, Team USA is now the dominant power.

The U.S. advanced to the gold medal game with a well-balanced offense and plenty of relief pitching. While Korea had to use five different pitchers in a wild five-run U.S. sixth inning, Anthony Gose staunched Korea’s best attempt at a comeback when he came in to get back-to-back strikeouts to end the seventh. Korea had already scored one run to cut the lead to 7-2 when Gose entered with two runners on.

Gose threw another scoreless inning of relief in the eighth and Anthony Carter retired all three Korean batters in order in the ninth to clinch the victory.

The US never trailed. A Jack Lopez single to drive in Mark Kolozsvary in the second gave Team USA the early 1-0 lead. A long home run to left field by Jamie Westbrook in the fourth extended that lead to 2-0.

Hae-Min Park’s RBI single to score Kyung-Min Hur cut the lead to 2-1 in the fifth, but US reliever Ryder Ryan entered to get a quick double play to end the Korean threat.

Team USA then blew the game open in the sixth. Todd Frazier walked, Westbrook singled and Kolozsvary singled to drive in Frazier.

After Nick Allen walked, Korea turned to its fourth pitcher of the inning, but presented with a bases-loaded, one-out situation, Sang-Woo Choo couldn’t get out of the jam. A single by Jack Lopez scored a run, an Eddy Alvarez ground out scored another and Tyler Austin’s single scored two more.

That big five-run inning was everything Team USA needed, setting up the gold medal game rematch.

Westbrook, Lopez and Austin each had two hits for Team USA. Starting pitcher Joe Ryan held Korea to one run on four hits in 4.1 innings of work.

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