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Asia Series clubs in Korea to win

BUSAN (Yonhap News) -- A day ahead of a continental baseball tournament here between league champions and All-Stars, participating managers and players said Wednesday they’ve come to South Korea to win.

The Asia Series, set for Thursday to Sunday this week, will pit six clubs from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China and Australia against each other. South Korea is the first-time host, and Sajik Stadium in Busan, about 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, will serve as the venue, as the teams will vie for 500 million won in championship prize money.

The Samsung Lions will represent the Korea Baseball Organization as the 2012 champions, along with the Busan-based Lotte Giants. The Lions in 2011 became the first KBO team to win the Asia Series and will try to become the first club ever to claim back-to-back titles.

Japan‘s Nippon Professional Baseball, whose teams had won the Asia Series every year until 2011, is represented by the Yomiuri Giants.

Australia has sent the Perth Heat, the champion of the Australian Baseball League in the 2011-12 season that ended in February this year. The Lamigo Monkeys will be the Taiwanese representatives as the champions of the Chinese Professional Baseball League. The China Baseball League will have an All-Star squad named the China Stars in action.

The Monkeys and the Stars will open the tournament at noon Thursday, followed by the tilt between the Lotte Giants and the Heat at 6 p.m.

The six teams have been divided into two groups of three, and after round-robin play over three days, the top clubs from the two groups will meet in the final on Sunday.

From Thursday to Saturday, there will be two games each, starting at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday’s final is set to begin at 2 p.m.

The Lions, the Stars and the Monkeys are in Group A. The Lotte Giants, the Yomiuri Giants and the Heat are paired in Group B.

Though the event may be regarded as an exhibition tournament by some, at least managers and players all spoke fighting words Wednesday.

Ryu Joong-il, manager of the Lions, said the goal is to win the Asia Series for the second straight year.

“To accomplish our goal, we will have to win our first game (against the Monkeys on Friday),” Ryu said, after the team‘s practice at Sangdong Stadium in Gimhae, just north of Busan. “We will go all out in that first game.”

The Lions have sent home their two American pitchers, Mitch Talbot and Brian Gordon, who combined for 24 wins in the regular season. Yoon Sung-hwan, who won two games in the championship Korean Series, will also sit out, Ryu said.

The manager, however, has the strong bullpen to fall back on, led by lights-out closer Oh Seung-hwan.

The Lions are favored to come out on top in Group A, and the Yomiuri Giants could finish at the top of Group B. It will set up a highly anticipated showdown in the final between the KBO and the NPB champs.
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