Korea falls to Japan to finish 2nd at U-24 Asian baseball tournament

Bomi Yoon

Korean players respond as the team lost to Japan 4-3 to finish in second place at under-24 Asian baseball tournament, Sunday. Yonhap

Korea lost to Japan 4-3 to finish in second place at an under-24 Asian baseball tournament Sunday.

Japan scored twice in the bottom of the 10th to walk off Korea in the final of the Asia Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. Makoto Kadowaki delivered the game-winning single off Korean closer Jung Hai-young for Japan’s second straight title.

Earlier in the day, Chinese Taipei edged out Australia 4-3 to finish third in the four-nation tournament.

This was the second edition of the APBC, which was first held in 2017. The 2021 tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Japan won all three preliminary games to reach the final, while Korea beat Australia and Chinese Taipei, but lost to Japan on Friday to finish the preliminary round at 2-1. With the second-best record after three matches, Korea earned a rematch against Japan in Sunday’s final, but couldn’t avenge its 2-1 loss from last week.

Japan had also defeated Korea in the final of the 2017 APBC, by a score of 7-0.

The countries each fielded a team of players born on Jan. 1, 1999, or later, or players who began their professional careers in 2021 or later. They were allowed to bring up to three overage players — those who were born on Jan. 1, 1994, or later — though South Korea only took one, the 26-year-old outfielder Choi Ji-hoon.

Korea scored its first two runs in the top of the third. Kim Hye-seong drew a leadoff walk against starter Tatsuya Imai. Kim Do-yeong put down a bunt trying to move the runner over, but first baseman Shugo Maki bobbled the ball, giving Korea two runners aboard.

Roh Si-hwan then brought both of them home with a double to left-center field.

Japan cut the deficit in half in the bottom fifth, as Maki atoned for his fielding miscue with a solo home run off starter Gwak Been.

Japan pulled even in the bottom sixth, with reliever Choi Seung-yong on the mound. Chusei Mannami slapped a double down the right field line with a half swing, and was sacrificed over to third base. Teruaki Sato then cashed in Mannami with a sacrifice fly to center field.

Korea couldn’t capitalize after Choi Ji-hoon led off the top seventh with a bunt single. A sacrifice bunt put him in scoring position, but reliever Haruka Nemoto retired the next two batters to keep the game tied.

Korea escaped a jam in the bottom eighth, when reliever Choi Jun-yong gave up a walk and a single with one out. New pitcher Choi Ji-min put out the fire, striking out Makoto Kadowaki after an eight-pitch battle and getting Sato to ground out to second.

Choi then threw a clean ninth to send the game to extra innings.

Under extra-inning rules, Korea began the top 10th with runners on first and second. Kim Do-yeong bounced into a 6-4-3 double play, leaving Korea with a man at third with two outs.

Yoon Dong-hee came through with a single up the middle to cash in the go-ahead run. Roh Si-hwan kept the inning going with a single that advanced Yoon to third, though Korea failed to tack on another run.

Japan then finished the job in the bottom 10th.

Pinch hitter Yuto Koga put down a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners to scoring position. Jung then intentionally walked Maki to load the bases and put the double play in order.

Shogo Sakakura made it a moot point, as he hit a sacrifice fly to deep center to tie the score at 3-3.

After Mannami was intentionally walked to load the bases again, Kadowaki knocked in the winning run with a single through the hole on the left. (Yonhap)

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