The South Korean baseball team has only one option. They must beat China to advance to the final. South Korea will play China in the second game of the Baseball Super Round of the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games on Saturday at the Xiaoxing Baseball and Softball Center in Xiaoxing, Zhejiang Province, China.
Korea paved the way to the final with a 2-0 victory over Japan in the first game of the Super Round on Friday. Park Se-woong, the eldest member of the team, started the game and pitched a no-hitter with six innings and 87 pitches, two hits, two walks and nine strikeouts, while Choi Ji-min (1 inning) and Park Young-hyun (2 innings) pitched the remaining scoreless innings. At the plate, Noh Si-hwan, the No. 4 hitter, went 1-for-3 with a double and two RBIs.
South Korea advanced to the Super Round by finishing second in Group B with a 2-1 record. The 0-4 loss to archrival Chinese Taipei stung. The Chinese Taipei team easily secured three wins over Korea to finish first in Pool B and advance to the Super Round. Under the rules of the Super Round, teams advance with the head-to-head record of the team they finished the group stage with, so Korea had one loss and Chinese Taipei had one win.
In Group A, China (3 wins) finished first and Japan (2 wins and 1 loss) finished second. China pulled off the upset, defeating Japan 1-0 in the group stage. Group A also reached the Super Round with one win for China and one loss for Japan, as per the tournament rules.
Chinese Taipei was the first of the four nations to qualify for the final. They won the first game of the Super Round 4-1 on May 5. With two wins, Chinese Taipei didn’t have to wait for the results of their Super Round match against Japan on Saturday.
Based on Friday’s results, South Korea and China are tied at 1-1, while Japan has two losses. Taiwan already has one win each against Korea and China. If either team adds a win, it won’t affect Taiwan’s record. Even if Taiwan loses to Japan and goes 2-1, the winner-takes-all rule means that Taiwan will finish first in the Super Round, and another team with two wins, either South Korea or China, will move into second place.
There is now only one way for Korea to reach the final. They need to beat China to have any chance of upsetting Chinese Taipei in the final. South Korea has lost three straight games to Chinese Taipei in tournaments featuring professional baseball players. In the process, they have been held scoreless for 23 innings. Prior to this group stage loss, they went 1-2 in the group stage of the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games and 0-7 in the 2019 Premier12. South Korea will have to face Chinese Taipei in the final again if they want to end their ignominious record sooner rather than later.
South Korea has never lost to China in international tournaments featuring professional baseball players. They have 10 wins and 10 draws in 10 games. In the last tournament, Jakarta-Palembang 2018, they won 10-1 in the third game of the Super Round, and in the first round of the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March of this year, they secured a 22-2 cold-game victory in five innings.
Of course, China is a much improved team in this tournament and will be no pushover. They didn’t just come out of nowhere to defeat Japan 1-0 in the group stage. Despite being composed of players from a community baseball team, they held the Asian baseball powerhouse scoreless, and their defense is much tighter than in the past.
China also proved to be a force to be reckoned with in their Super Round match against Chinese Taipei. The Chinese Taipei pitchers, who threw fastballs in the mid-to-high 150 kilometers per hour (km/h) range, struggled to find their groove, forcing the Chinese Taipei to pull out their second pitcher, Chen Bowie, who plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league team in the United States. China struggled, producing the same six hits as Taiwan. Despite the 4-1 victory over the weaker Chinese team, Taiwan had to sweat it out until the end of the game.캡틴토토
Can South Korea continue its unbeaten streak against China and challenge for gold in four consecutive tournaments, following Guangzhou 2010, Incheon 2014, and Jakarta-Palembang 2018?
South Korean coach Ryu Jung-il said, “We have to win tomorrow (against China on the 6th). We don’t know what the outcome will be, so we will do our best.”