South Korea was knocked out of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) on Tuesday, despite a 3-2 win over Taiwan.
South Korean baseball team's manager Ryu Joong-il hangs his head during the 7th innning of the first-round WBC match against Taiwan on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)
In the first-round Pool B meeting on Tuesday at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium, Kang Jung-ho hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the three-run eighth inning, but it wasn't enough to give South Korea the necessary margin of victory to advance in the tournament.
South Korean slugger Lee Dae-ho congratulates Kang Jung-ho after he hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to give South Korea 3-2 lead over Taiwan. (Yonhap News)
South Korea needed to beat Taiwan by at least six runs to qualify for the next round outright, or win by five for a chance to edge Taiwan out in a tiebreaker.
Taiwan, the Netherlands and South Korea all finished with two wins and a loss, but in a somewhat anticlimactic finish, Taiwan clinched first place in Pool B, followed by the Netherlands, thanks to their edge in run differential over South Korea.
The two Pool B representatives will take on Cuba and Japan, who made it out of Pool A.
South Korean team looks on during the first-round World Baseball Classic match against Taiwan in Twaiwan on Sunday. (Yonhap News)
South Korea's elimination concludes a disappointing run by the 2009 WBC runner-up. South Korea opened the tournament with a 5-0 loss to the Netherlands. Though it bounced back to shut out Australia 6-0 on Monday and edged out Taiwan Tuesday, it was just too little, too late.
In Tuesday's game, with South Korea down 2-0 in the eighth, Lee Dae-ho brought South Korea to within a run with an RBI single. Then Kang Jung-ho's two-run home run off Kuo Hung-Chih put South Korea ahead for good.
Taiwan got on the board first in the top third with a single by Lin Chih-Seng. Center fielder Jeon Jun-woo bobbled the ball on the play, allowing Yang Dai-Kang to score from first.
Taiwan added its second run in the top fourth, as Yang chopped a single up the middle.
Once again several missed opportunities hurt South Korea. In the bottom first, Jeong Keun-woo drew a walk and stole second. When the throw to second got away, Jeong tried for third, but was thrown out by center fielder Lin Che-Hsuan.
In the bottom third, Yang Yao-Hsun hit Lee Yong-kyu and walked Jeong with two out. But Wang Ching-Ming, relieving Yang, got Lee Seung-yeop to pop out to third.
After two singles and a walk loaded the bases in the fourth, pinch hitter Kim Tae-kyun flied out to shallow center.
In the bottom fifth, Jeong tried to score from first on a single by Lee Dae-ho to right-center, but was thrown out at home on a cut-off play, with catcher Kao Chih-Kang blocking the plate.
In all, South Korea had at a runner on base in each of the first six innings.
Manager Ryu Joong-il apologized to the fans for the team's early exit.
"Having to win by that many runs put a lot of pressure on the players," Ryu said. "It's unfortunate we got going too late in the game."
He said the elimination will serve as "a good learning experience" and he vowed to do better the next time he gets to work with the national team.
Choi Jeong, the usual starting third baseman, suffered a left thigh injury during practice before the game and was held out of the lineup. Ryu said he didn't want to force an injured player into the lineup and he took full responsibility for his team's elimination.
"We lost the game, and I have no excuse," he said. "We had a great team. (The elimination) is all on me." (Yonhap News)