The Doosan Bears walked off on the NC Dinos 1-0 on Saturday to claim the opening game of the Korean Series.
Oh Jae-il hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 11th at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, as the Bears, the 2015 champions, built a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven championship series in the Korea Baseball Organization.
There have been 33 Korean Series, and the Game 1 winner has gone on to capture the title in 24 of them. There was a tie in Game 1 of the inaugural Korean Series in 1982.
In each of the past three years, however, the eventual champions all lost the opening game before rallying to take the championship. Game 2 is back at Jamsil Stadium at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The teams were scoreless through the top of the 11th. Then in the bottom half, Hur Kyoung-min led off with a single, and Kim Jae-ho followed with a lucky single to center.
Kim hit a towering fly to center in what looked to be a routine play. But center fielder Kim Seong-uk apparently lost the ball in the lights and let the ball drop in front of him.
Both runners moved up a base on a fly out to left. The Dinos intentionally walked Oh Jae-won to load the bases and bring the double play into the equation, but it only set up the stage for Oh Jae-il's heroics.
He lined one to right field, and Hur tagged home as right fielder Na Sung-bum's throw was late and off the mark. It was the first game-winning sacrifice fly in the Korean Series history.
Though his hitters wasted a handful of opportunities before the extra innings, Doosan manager Kim Tae-hyung chose to look on the brighter side.
"This was a difficult game, but I think our hitters swung the bat better than I'd expected," said Kim, whose team was coming off a three-week layoff following the end of the regular season. As the pennant winners, the Bears had the bye to the Korean Series.
"We got some lucky breaks in this one," Kim added. "And because our hitters look to be in form, I am expecting even bigger things from them the rest of the way."
Both starting pitchers, Dustin Nippert for Doosan and Zach Stewart for NC, threw up zeroes on the board.
Nippert, who took a no-hitter into the seventh, retired the first 15 batters in order, four of them on strikeouts. Only two balls left the infield in that stretch.
Nippert walked the first batter of the sixth, Kim Seong-uk, who moved to second after a sacrifice bunt. The right-hander promptly induced a fly out and a ground out to keep the Dinos off the board.
Nippert faced just one over the minimum through six innings, but got into his first trouble after giving up his first hit to Na Sung-bum with one out in that inning.
Eric Thames grounded to first baseman Oh Jae-il, who threw to second to start a double play. The Bears got the lead runner, but shortstop Kim Jae-ho's throw to Nippert covering first base went wide. Thames moved to second on the error, and then took third on Nippert's wild pitch with Park Sok-min at the plate.
Nippert walked Park but retired Lee Ho-jun on a fly to deep right.
The Bears put a man on in each of the first nine innings but couldn't cash in.
Stewart worked around a leadoff single in the second by getting three straight groundouts. He also got into trouble with two singles in the third, but got a fly out off the bat of No. 3 Oh Jae-il to escape the jam.
The Bears put a man at second, with Min Byung-hun drawing a two-out walk and stealing second. He was stranded there as Nick Evans flied out to left.
The Bears threatened again in the bottom fifth, with men at the corners with two outs. Oh Jae-il came up in the big spot again, but his hard grounder was snared by diving second baseman Park Min-woo for the inning's final out.
Stewart wiggled out of another two-out jam in the sixth. He gave up a walk and a single with two outs, before retiring Hur on a fly to center.
After Stewart left the game, Doosan drew a leadoff walk in the seventh but stranded that runner as well.
The Bears loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, thanks to a walk and a pair of singles. But Kim Jae-ho grounded out weakly to second on a check swing.
The Bears got a one-out walk in the bottom of the ninth, only to see their big bats, No. 3 Oh Jae-il and cleanup Kim Jae-hwan, managing a fly out and a grounder.
The Dinos, though they started putting on runners after Nippert's departure in the eighth, were just as futile with men on board.
Park Min-woo led off the Dinos' ninth with a single to shallow right-center but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
The Dinos had a go-ahead run at third base with one out in the top 10th but couldn't capitalize on it. Kim Seong-uk hit a sharp grounder to third base, and the runner at the bag, Kim Jong-ho, was trapped in no-man's land between third and home. Third baseman Hur tagged him out in the ensuing rundown.
The Dinos stranded two more runners with one out in the 11th, as Na Sung-bum grounded into an inning-ending, 6-3 double play.
The Dinos paid dearly for those late chances, as the Bears ended the game in the 11th.
The Bears will try to go up two games to none with left-hander Chang Won-jun on the mound Sunday.
Chang went 15-6 with a 3.32 ERA in the regular season and was 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA in four starts against the Dinos. He hasn't given up a home run against the Dinos.
Eric Hacker will take the mound for the Dinos. He's in the midst of his most successful postseason, with a 1-0 mark and a 1.93 ERA. In the Dinos' clinching game of the previous postseason round Tuesday, Hacker limited the LG Twins to a run on six hits in seven innings.
Against the Bears, Hacker was 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in two starts. (Yonhap)