S. Korea beats Chinese Taipei for 4th straight baseball gold
SHAOXING, China (Yonhap) -- South Korea won an unprecedented fourth straight Asian Games baseball gold medal Saturday, with a 2-0 victory over Chinese Taipei in the final.
Starter Moon Dong-ju struck out seven in six shutout frames, while South Korea scored its two runs without the benefit of hits on this rainy night at Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Centre in Shaoxing, China, southeast of the main host city of Hangzhou.
South Korea manager Ryu Joong-il won his second career Asiad gold after leading the country to the top in 2014.
South Korea avenged a 4-0 loss to Chinese Taipei in the preliminary round on Monday. Chinese Taipei starter Lin Yu-Min had held South Korea scoreless over six innings then, but took the loss this time after allowing two runs in five innings.
South Korea scored its two runs in the top of the second innings, via a sacrifice fly by Kim Ju-won and Lin's wild pitch.
The first inning played out like deja vu for Moon, the losing pitcher against Chinese Taipei in Monday's game.
As he had done so Monday, Cheng Tsung-Che led off this game with a double. Lin An-Ko had brought him home with a two-out triple then, but this time, Moon struck him out to end the threat.
South Korea backed up Moon with two runs in the second inning.
Moon Bo-gyeong opened the proceedings with a double and advanced to third on Lin's wild pitch. With one out, Kim Ju-won drove Moon home with a sacrifice fly.
Kim Hyung-jun and Kim Seong-yoon kept the line moving with a single and a double, and Kim Hyung-jun came home on Lin's second wild pitch of the game, as the rain started to pick up.
Both starters settled into their rhythm. After his dicey first inning, Moon held Chinese Taipei to one single over the next three frames while striking out four. Lin matched him pitch for pitch, giving up just one more hit and striking out four over the next three innings after the second.
South Korea had men at the corners with one out in the top sixth against reliever Liu Chih-Jung, who struck out the next two batters to keep this a two-run game.
Despite a lack of more run support, Moon kept dealing. Cheng Tsung-Che doubled off the right field wall with one out in the bottom sixth -- his third hit of the game against Moon -- but the South Korean starter fanned the next two batters to clean up his own mess.
Reliever Choi Ji-min pitched a clean seventh, striking out two batters in the process. Park Yeong-hyun came on for the eighth inning and pitched around a leadoff walk to keep Chinese Taipei off the board.
It set the stage for closer Go Woo-suk, who had allowed two runs to Chinese Taipei on Monday.
Facing the heart of the opposing lineup, Go got a soft liner off the bat of Lin Tzu-Wei, but then No. 3 hitter and cleanup for Chinese Taipei, Lin Li and Lin An-Ko, both hit singles.
Wu Nien-Ting represented the winning run at the plate, but he bounced into a game-ending double play.
Second baseman Kim Hye-seong fielded the chopper and tagged out Lin An-Ko before throwing out Wu to clinch the gold medal.
South Korea brought a mostly under-24 squad to China this time, a self-imposed age limit designed to keep the team out of controversy that had troubled past Asiad teams.
South Korean male athletes are granted exemption from mandatory military service when they win an Asian Games gold medal or an Olympic medal of any color. After the 2018 Asiad, the baseball team faced heat for carrying older, little-used players just to give them a chance to earn military service exemptions.
For 2023, the Korea Baseball Organization, which oversees national team operations at pro events, decided to go younger and give under-24 players early exposure to international competition. (Yonhap)