Won Tae-in (Samsung Lions) pitched five innings of one run (one earned), three hits (one home run) and five strikeouts against Chinese Taipei in the final group game of the Kanext Asian Professional Baseball Championship 2023 (APBC) at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, on April 18.
With Japan advancing to the final with three wins, South Korea and Chinese Taipei faced off against each other with one win and one loss. It was a must-win situation, and Won Tae-in was given the important task of starting the game.
Before the game, head coach Ryu Jung-il expected Won to pitch well. ”Baseball is a pitcher’s game. (“If the starting pitcher breaks down quickly, it becomes difficult because we have to operate the bullpen. We only have two games left. I hope Tae-in can go as many as four or five innings. We’ll see how the bullpen goes. We will adjust according to the opponent’s batting order.”굿모닝토토 주소
Won got off to a good start. In the top of the first inning, leadoff hitter Guo Tenshin attempted a surprise bunt, but the ball rolled hard toward first baseman Noh Shih-hwan, who touched it for the first out. He then got Qiu Zhiqing to fly out to right field and Chen Jeshuen to ground out to second base to end the game with a triple play.
But in the second inning, Won ran into his first trouble when he allowed a leadoff double to Ryu Ji-hong. The ball hit the top of the fence, but Won was able to get out of the jam. He got Yue Zhenghua to fly out to left field and struck out He Hengyou and Lin Jingkai.
Won ran into trouble in the third inning. Leadoff hitter Jang Jung-wi reached on a throwing error by first baseman Noh Si-hwan. The ball dropped backwards, allowing Zhang to advance to second base. Dai Peifeng then singled to put runners on first and third. But once again, Wen’s crisis management skills shone through. He got Guo Tenshin to fly out to left field, but the ball was too short for Zhang Zhengyu to reach third base. He then got Chiu Zhiqing to fly out to center field.
In the fourth inning, Won Tae-in battled Chen Jeshuen for 13 pitches before getting him to fly out to center field. But he gave up a home run to Liu Jihong, who had doubled earlier in the at-bat. A 148 km/h four-seam fastball high on the body, Liu smashed it over the left field fence.
Won looked shaky after giving up a double to Won Jung-hwa. However, she got He Heng-you to fly out to left field and induced Lin Jing-kai to swing wildly at a grounder to short.
After a scoreless fourth inning, Wen came off the mound in the top of the fifth, striking out Zhang Zhengyu, walking Dai Feifeng and getting Guo Tenshin to fly out to left field for a triple play. The bullpen was then called upon in the sixth inning. Kim Young-gyu (1 inning), Choi Seung-yong (1 inning), Choi Ji-min (1 inning), and Jeong Hae-young (1 inning) came on in order to protect the lead and secure a spot in the final.
Behind Won Tae-in’s strong pitching and an explosive batting lineup, Korea defeated Chinese Taipei 6-1 to finish second in the group and advance to the final. They will play Japan in the final at 7 p.m. on May 19 at the same venue.
Speaking at the official post-game press conference, head coach Ryu Jung-il said, “Won Tae-in pitched well until the fifth inning. The pitchers who came out in the second half also pitched well.” “I think the future of the Korean baseball pitching staff is bright,” he said.
Won Tae-in said, “I tried to throw as long an inning as possible. ”Of course, there was one home run, but I was able to pitch five innings with no walks. I think I pitched well.”
Won worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning with a fly ball and two strikeouts. “I followed my catcher’s (Kim Hyung-jun) lead a lot and tried not to throw strikes as much as possible,” he said. “I targeted the end of the borderline and utilized my main weapon, my changeup, a lot, and I think that’s what led to the strikeouts in the clutch.”
Won made his first appearance for South Korea at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, in 2021. He then took the mound for the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC), the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, and the APBC. While he struggled at the Tokyo Olympics and WBC, he pitched well at the Asian Games and excelled at the APBC.
“I think the WBC was the biggest experience and meaningful tournament for me, and based on that experience, I gained more confidence at the Asian Games, even though I was facing a weaker team. I was able to pitch well today based on that experience,” Won said. “I hope it will serve as a springboard for me to pitch better in future international competitions.”
Won has had a busy season this year. He participated in the WBC to start the season, and after playing the regular season, he traveled to Hangzhou, China in October to compete in the Asian Games. After the season, he joined the APBC National Team and wore the Korean flag again.
“It was a very long season, and honestly, it was a lot of hard work, but I knew that the game against Taiwan was my last game of the season, and it was the most important game leading up to the finals, so I wanted to win the podium,” Won said. “I prepared a lot and I think I played with that in mind. I think it was one of the happiest seasons for me.”