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Korean Team Wins Premier 12 Baseball Title

Korean Team Wins Premier 12 Baseball Title

South Korea became the inaugural champion of the Premier 12 baseball tournament in Tokyo on Saturday.

With its offense clicking from the start, South Korea pounded the U.S. 8-0 in the final at Tokyo Dome to take the championship. A would-be major leaguer Park Byung-ho blasted a three-run home run in the five-run fourth inning, and starter Kim Kwang-hyun threw five shutout innings for the breezy victory.

South Korea opened the scoring in the top first. Leadoff Jeong Keun-woo hit a single to start the game and stole second, before coming home on a double by Lee Yong-kyu to right-center.

In the top third, Lee Yong-kyu drew a leadoff walk, and Kim Hyun-soo sent a double to deep right-center to double the South Korean lead to 2-0, chasing shaky U.S. starter Zack Segovia from the game after just two-plus innings.

Brooks Pounders, the second American pitcher, got into plenty of trouble in the fourth. After retiring the first batter of the inning, the right-hander served up a double to Kim Jae-ho and a single to Jeong Keun-woo.

Pounders then hit Lee Yong-kyu to load the bases. Kim Hyun-soo, who entered the game with a team-high 10 RBIs, then launched his second double of the night to drive in two more runs, making it 4-0 South Korea.

With two men still on board, Park Byung-ho ― in contract talks with the Minnesota Twins after getting posted ― crushed a 2-0 offering into the left-field seats and gave South Korea a 7-0 lead.

South Korea rounded out the scoring in the top ninth, when Jeong Keun-woo drew a bases-loaded walk off Casey Coleman. South Korea outhit the U.S. 13-5.

Staked to an early lead, South Korean starter Kim pitched his best game of the tournament, scattering four hits across five scoreless frames. He struck out five and walked none.

Kim wiggled out of a two-out jam in the bottom third, striking out Adam Frazier swinging on a 2-2 slider after giving up two straight two-out singles.

After giving up a double to Matt McBride to start the fourth, Kim fielded a grounder by Tyler Pastornicky but hit Pastornicky’s back with the throw to first. McBride crossed the plate as the ball rolled into shallow right, but Pastornicky was ruled out on an interference call, wiping out what would have been the first U.S. run.

Kim regrouped and retired the next two batters on groundouts.

He then sat down three batters in order in the fifth, the last two on strikeouts.

South Korea had lost the first two games Kim started at the Premier 12 before Saturday.

South Korea’s first three hitters, Jeong Keun-woo, Lee Yong-kyu and Kim Hyun-soo, went a combined 8-for-14 with five RBIs and five runs scored. Kim was named the MVP of the tournament. He went 3-for-5 with three RBIs Saturday and in eight games overall, batted .333 (11-for-33) with 13 RBIs to tie Sho Nakata of Japan for the tournament lead.

After Kim Kwang-hyun, four relief pitchers held the Americans to just one hit over the last four innings with seven strikeouts.

The winning manager, Kim In-sik, said the players deserved all the credit for the championship.

“The players performed better than expected and we enjoyed a big victory,” Kim said. “It’s all thanks to them. They studied videos of the U.S. pitchers to devise their game plans and executed them perfectly.”

Kim had his hands tied even before the tournament began with some injuries, and he thanked his pitching staff for carrying the team from start to finish.

“I was quite concerned about our pitching but as the tournament went on, our pitchers got better and better,” he said. “Our hitters fed off that and swung the bat really well. I never expected the players to do so well.”

The World Baseball and Softball Confederation brought together the world’s top-12 baseball nations for a tournament that began on Nov. 8. South Korea lost the tournament opener to Japan 5-0 and went on to win three straight games in group stage before losing to the U.S. in the final group game.

South Korea knocked out Cuba in the quarterfinals and came back from a 3-0 deficit against Japan to prevail 4-3 in the semifinals.

In the final, South Korea got its revenge over the U.S.

Earlier Saturday, Japan routed Mexico 11-1 in the third-place game, on the strength of five home runs.