TUCSON -- South Korea won its third straight scrimmage in its World Baseball Classic training camp in Tuscon, Arizona, on Thursday, with key batters staying in midseason form and pitchers putting on solid performances on the mound.
Cleanup Kang Baek-ho belted a two-run homer for his second long ball in camp, as South Korea beat the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization 8-2 at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium. Leadoff Lee Jung-hoo went 2-for-3, while slugger Park Byung-ho chipped in a solo shot.
South Korea hammered KT pitching for 14 hits, after getting 14 hits in an 8-2 win over the NC Dinos last Thursday and then 19 hits in a 12-6 victory over the Kia Tigers three days later.
Wiz starter Wes Benjamin shut down the national team in the first inning, but South Korea opened the scoring in the second inning against new pitcher Park Yeong-hyun, who gave up a two-out RBI single to Lee.
Park's solo shot in the third put South Korea up 3-0, and the national team put up a four-spot in the fourth, highlighted by Kang's two-run shot.
In the fifth, pinch hitters Park Hae-min and Choi Ji-hoon each delivered run-scoring hits for an 8-0 advantage.
On the mound, starter Ko Young-pyo tossed three shutout innings on 43 pitches, and Kim Kwang-hyun followed up with two scoreless frames, using 22 pitches to retire eight batters.
Three more pitchers tossed one inning each, while Koo Chang-mo, a potential starter during the WBC, served up the only two KT runs in the ninth.
In this informal game, the national team's closer, Go Woo-suk, pitched the ninth inning for the Wiz. He shut down South Korea in his one inning of work.
South Korea will play the Wiz again Friday, and then the LG Twins on Sunday for the final scrimmage in Tucson.
South Korea manager Lee Kang-chul said he will have starting pitchers gradually increase their workload over the next several days and he will settle on three or four who will start games at the WBC.
To that end, Lee said he wasn't pleased with Koo's day in the ninth inning.
"He has been great in bullpen sessions but he hasn't been able to duplicate that in game situations," Lee said. "He's got to be better in real games."
Lee said LG Twins starter Kim Yun-sik will be the last pitcher to appear in a scrimmage Friday.
"I won't use every pitcher at the WBC just because they're on the team," Lee said of his 15-pitcher staff. "I will try to identify pitchers in optimal form."
Lee was also hard on Ko, despite the sidearm pitcher's scoreless outing.
"He is still off his peak form from last year," Lee said. "He still has ways to go."
Ko remains the likely starter for the first WBC game against Australia, whose hitters, according to Lee, may struggle against pitchers with a sidearm delivery like Ko's.
The national team is scheduled to arrive back home next Wednesday and then train the following day at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. It will play the SSG Landers of the KBO in a scrimmage on March 3 at the dome and travel to Osaka the next day for the official pre-WBC training camp.
South Korea will face the Orix Buffaloes on March 6 and the Hanshin Tigers on March 7 in WBC-sanctioned exhibition games in Osaka, before hopping over to Tokyo for the first-round action.
South Korea will open Pool B play against Australia on March 9 at Tokyo Dome.
It will also play Japan, the Czech Republic and China in the opening round. The top two nations after the round robin will reach the quarterfinals. For Pool B teams, every game in the first round and the quarterfinals will be at Tokyo Dome.
The semifinals and the final are at LoanDepot Park in Miami, home of the Miami Marlins. (Yonhap)