South Korea lost a heartbreaker in the final game of the 2023 Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) to Japan, 3-2, at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday. It was their second consecutive runner-up finish after winning the inaugural tournament in 2017.
After defeating Australia and Chinese Taipei in the preliminary round, the Koreans were eager for revenge in the final. After losing to Chinese Taipei in the preliminary round at the Asian Games, the Koreans were determined to redeem themselves by winning the gold medal in the final.
South Korea took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning after Kim Hye-sung singled and Kim Do-young reached on a fielding error to put runners on first and second, and Noh Si-hwan followed with an RBI double. Japan’s 10-win pitcher Tatsuya Imai threw a 150-kilometer-per-hour fastball, but the Korean hitters used it effectively, eventually forcing Imai to retire the side in four innings.
Kwak Bin pitched a scoreless fourth inning to preserve the lead. With a 2-0 lead, he gave up a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning when a curveball he threw to Japan’s No. 4 hitter, Maki Shugo, was caught in the middle of the plate. Kwak turned the mound over to the bullpen in the sixth inning with a one-run lead after five innings,굿모닝토토 도메인
Choi Seung-yong took the mound in the top of the sixth and gave up a double to Mannami Chusei, who homered against Lee Yi-ri in the qualifiers. A walk was followed by a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
Kwak Bin and Choi Seung-yong were followed by Choi Jun-young (1⅓ scoreless innings) and Choi Ji-min (1⅓ scoreless innings) to keep the score at 2-2 going into the ninth.
After the bottom of the sixth inning, neither team scored and the game went into extra innings.
Korea started the top of the 10th with runners on first and second, but Kim Do-young singled and Yoon Dong-hee scored from second and third to take a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the 10th, Korea brought in closer Jung Hae-young. She gave up a sacrifice bunt with runners on first and second to tie the game at 3-3. It was the final out of the game for Japan.
After the match, Ryu said, “It was a bit disappointing to lose the game. But the game was good. Both teams were very good. I really want to applaud the players of both teams.”
“I thought the gap between Japanese baseball and Korean baseball has widened, but I think this tournament shows that if we work a little harder and stick to the basics, we can play on an equal footing,” said Ryu. “The pitcher’s end of the ball was different from ours even at 150 kilometers, and the Japanese batters were more sophisticated. They didn’t just strike out, they cut it. When I return to Korea, I will analyze Japanese baseball a little more and try to figure out a strategy.”
Ryu concluded, “The players, pitchers, and hitters all matured through this tournament. Next year, we have the Premier 12, and I think all the players will be ready. We will do our best to prepare and play better.”
After the tournament, Liu also had some final words of encouragement for the players. “We had a short meeting after the game. I told them that they did a great job in Hangzhou and a great job in this tournament. As a baseball person, I have one request for the players. I went to the Miyazaki Softbank camp once in 2017 or 2018. We practiced on the first day, February 1, and the pitchers were throwing balls over 140 kilometers per hour, and the batters were hitting home runs. We practiced to build our bodies like that. In Japan, they can play baseball all year round because of the good weather, and we can’t because it’s cold, but I told them not to take a break in December, but to build their bodies with training that they can do in January and training that they can do in February when they go to camp.”