The Korea U-18 Baseball Team fell short of reaching the Baseball World Cup Finals as they struggled against Japan and the United States. 먹튀검증

The Korea U-18 Baseball Team, led by Lee Young-bok (Chungam-go), fell 1-5 to the United States in the second game of the Super Round at the 2023 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup in Taipei, Taiwan on Sunday.

It was the second consecutive lethargic performance for South Korea, which lost 1-7 to Japan the day before, and improved its Super Round record to 1-3 (including wins against Chinese Taipei and Puerto Rico in the group stage). Regardless of the outcome against the Netherlands on Sept. 9, Korea’s chances of reaching the final have been eliminated. The current Super Round standings (not including the result of the Taiwan-Netherlands game) are Chinese Taipei (1-3), Japan (2-3-1), USA (3-2-2), Netherlands (4-1-2), and Korea-Puerto Rico (tied for 5th-1-3).

Korea’s lineup consisted of Lee Chung-heon (center fielder – Chungam), Jung Ahn-seok (second baseman – Hwimungo), Yeo Dong-gun (first baseman – Seoul), Park Ji-hwan (shortstop), Cho Hyun-min (third baseman – Chungam), Lee Yul-ye (catcher – Gangneung), Lee Sang-joon (designated hitter – Gyeonggi), Lee Seung-min (left fielder – Hwimungo), and Yeon Jun-won (right fielder – Busan). Hwang Jun-seo (Jangchung-go), a “special left-hander” who is being touted as the “biggest rookie name” this year, was in the middle of the lineup.

The United States lined up in the following order: Conor Griffin (right field), Derek Curiel (center field), Levi Clark (designated hitter), Perry Moreland (first base), Coy James (second base), Nolan Trager (catcher), Bryce Rainer (left field), Carter Johnson (third base), and Manuele Marin (shortstop). Ethan Schiffelbein started the game.

The game started with a tight pitching battle. In the top of the first, Lee Chung-heon, Jung An-seok, and Yeo Dong-gun walked, but Hwang Jun-seo retired Griffin, Curiel, and Clark on strong pitches.

South Korea got on the board in the top of the second when Lee Yul-ye reached on an error by third baseman Johnson, but the next batter, Lee Sang-joon, flied out to second base. Hwang Jun-seo loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the second, but Johnson struck out and Marin flied out to center field to end the threat.

After a scoreless third inning for both teams, it was Korea that broke the 0-0 tie. In the top of the fourth, Jung Ahn-seok led off with a single to right and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Yeo Dong-gun and a grounder to second by Park Ji-hwan. With two outs, Cho Hyun-min singled to center field, scoring Jung Ahn-sik from third base to give the team the lead.

Hwang Jun-seo seemed to be cruising, pitching a scoreless third and fourth inning. With the game being a seven-inning affair, South Korea needed just nine outs to defeat the Americans, but Hwang was unable to get over the biggest hurdle.

After giving up a leadoff single to Griffin in the bottom of the fifth inning, Hwang quickly gave up a two-run double to Curiel, followed by a Clark walk and a Moreland RBI single. With the score at 4-1, Korea sent Kim Taek-yeon (Incheon High) to the mound in place of Hwang Jun-seo.

However, Korea failed to close the gap in the top of the sixth, squandering a bases-loaded 1-2 opportunity. After a strikeout by Yeo Dong-gun, a wild pitch advanced the runners to third and second, but Park Ji-hwan’s grounder to the third baseman threw out Lee Chung-heon at third, and the next batter, Cho Hyun-min, grounded out to shortstop to end the inning.

Instead, it was the United States that scored. In the bottom of the sixth, leadoff hitter James led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a wild pitch and Rainer’s sacrifice fly. The score was 5-1, and it was enough to seal the victory.

After Lee Yul-ye and Lee Sang-joon failed to reach base in the top of the seventh with a strikeout and a groundout, respectively, Korea’s pinch-hitter Kim Tae-hyun (Gyeonggi-do) sealed the defeat with a double to left field. The faces of the players in the dugout were filled with regret. Coach Lee Young-bok, who did not give up until the end, could not help but look dejected.

Starting pitcher Hwang Jun-seo took the loss, giving up four runs on six hits with one walk and six strikeouts in 4⅔ innings. While he had some pitches that lived up to his ‘max-er’ moniker, overall, he was unable to showcase his 100% performance in this tournament as he continued to struggle. Second pitcher Kim Taek-yeon pitched 1⅓ innings, striking out two and allowing one run.

At the plate, Jung Ahn-seok was the team’s only multi-hit performer, going 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored, while Cho Hyun-min and Lee Sang-joon settled for one hit each. The rest of the batters did not contribute much to the team as they finished the game hitless.

The weather didn’t help the team from the start of the tournament, with rain cancellations and suspended games, but Korea couldn’t blame the weather alone, as they realized the gap in quality after reaching the Super Round. After the tournament, the entire squad will be looking to make amends.

Meanwhile, Korea’s future will be determined by the outcome of their match against the Netherlands on September 9. A third- or fourth-place finish in the Super Round will see them advance to the third- or fourth-place match on Tuesday, but a fifth- or sixth-place finish will send them home empty-handed with no further matches scheduled. According to the schedule released by the tournament organizers, the third- and fourth-place matches will begin at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, with the final starting at 7 p.m. the same day.

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