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Season of high hopes ends bitter for Nexen

The decisive Game 5 of the opening playoff series between the Nexen Heroes and the Doosan Bears may have ended just before 11 p.m. Monday, with the Bears prevailing 8-5 in 14 innings to move on in the Korea Baseball Organization postseason.

But the clock struck midnight on the Heroes, the Cinderella team of 2013, whose first postseason began with high hopes and ended on a bitter note.

The Heroes claimed the first two games of the series on walk-off hits, becoming the first KBO team to win two straight games in last at-bats.

Needing just one more victory in three tries, the Heroes couldn’t get the job done. They will be left to wonder “what ifs” this winter.

After Monday’s loss, Nexen’s manager Yeom Kyung-yup said the Game 3 loss still gnawed at him. The Bears won that game 4-3 on Lee Won-seok’s single in the 14th inning, but from the Heroes’ perspective, the game shouldn’t even have gone that far.

They trailed 3-0, but Kim Min-seong tied with one swing of the bat, with a three-run shot in the seventh. Then in extra innings, the Heroes had a go-ahead run on base in the 11th, 13th and 14th, but stranded all of them. The Bears gift-wrapped an opportunity in the 11th, when pitcher Yun Myung-jun’s throw to first to check the runner Kim Ji-soo sailed over first base and landed in the Bears’ bullpen, moving Kim to third base with nobody out.

The next two batters struck out. Jang Ki-young, the second strikeout victim, inexplicably went down on a missed bunt attempt with two strikes. Yeom was caught shaking his hand on television camera as Jang trudged back to the dugout.

In the fifth game, the Heroes had a winning run on board with two outs in the 10th and the 11th but couldn’t get over that final hump.

The Heroes put up the third-best record during the regular season at 72-54-2 but slipped from second place to third place on the final day of the season after losing to the last-place Hanwha Eagles. (Yonhap News)