South Korea’s No. 4 hitter, Noh Si-hwan, hit a game-tying RBI single to lift the team to an extra-inning victory over Australia in the first game of the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) 2023.
South Korea beat Australia 3-2 in the first game of the APBC qualifier at the Tokyo Dome in Japan on Saturday. The ‘younger’ under-24 team avenged their older brothers’ 7-8 World Baseball Classic (WBC) loss to Australia in March.
In order to qualify for the finals, Moon Dong-ju, their ace, started from the first game. “It’s all about how many innings he can go,” Ryu said before the game, “I’m thinking about 80-90 pitches in five or six innings.”
Moon struggled a bit in the first inning due to a lack of practice, as it was his first start in 40 days since playing against Chinese Taipei in the final of the Hangzhou Asian Games last month, but he soon settled down as the innings progressed. After walking Australia’s leadoff hitter Liam Spence in the first inning, Moon got the next batter to ground out to second base, but a wild pitch to Rickson Wingrove put runners on first and third. He got the next batter, Alex Hall, to ground out to third to give him some breathing room, but gave up a single to center to Clayton Campbell.
After getting out of a jam in the second inning with two singles by Yoon Dong-hee, Moon settled down in the third. His fastball, slider, curveball, and other pitches were in the 150-kilometer-per-hour range. After breezing through the fourth inning, Moon retired the top of the Australian order in the fifth with a fly ball to right field and two strikeouts.
Moon, who had thrown 84 pitches by the end of the fifth and was close to the limit set by Ryu, took the mound in the sixth with the score tied 1-1 before giving up a solo shot to Hall. After 5.2 innings of five hits (one home run), four walks, five strikeouts and two runs on 102 pitches, he was replaced by Kim Young-kyu, who put the disappointment of the late “one” behind him.
South Korea’s bats were stymied by their opponents, who quickly took advantage of the timing of the pitching change. Australia pulled starter Brodie Cooper-Vassilakis after two innings and turned to their bullpen in the third. South Korea tied the game in the bottom of the second inning when Kim Hyung-joon singled with runners on first and second to tie the game at 1-1, and tied the game in the top of the eighth inning when Kim Joo-won singled with runners on second and third. In between, they were unable to capitalize on several scoring opportunities, including runners on first and second with no outs in the third and runners on first and third in the fifth. Tablesetters Kim Hye-sung and Choi Ji-hoon, who went 0-for-4 and 0-for-5, respectively, were unable to capitalize. The game was decided in extra innings with the bases loaded. Closer Jung Hae-young pitched a scoreless top of the 10th inning, and Noh Si-hwan, who led off the bottom of the 10th with a single to left-center, ended the game.
Ryu said after the game, “It was a tough game. Moon Dong-joo gave up one home run, but he pitched well, and Noh Si-hwan hit the game-winning hit to win the game.”
South Korea will play Japan in the second qualifier at 7 p.m. on Sunday at the same venue. Ryu has named left-hander Lee Yi-ri as the starting pitcher against Japan.