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(WBC) No tomorrow for S. Korea at WBC: manager

All Headlines 17:52 March 04, 2013

By Yoo Jee-ho

TAICHUNG, Taiwan, March 4 (Yonhap) -- With South Korea on the brink of elimination from the World Baseball Classic (WBC), the team's manager said he's not looking past Monday's must-win game against Australia.

"There's no tomorrow for us," said Ryu Joong-il on Monday, hours before the Pool B matchup in the first round at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium. "We absolutely have to win today, and win it by a big margin."

After losing to the Netherlands 5-0 on Saturday, South Korea will be knocked out of the tournament if it loses to Australia in a game set to start at 6:30 p.m.

Even if South Korea beats Australia Monday and Taiwan on Tuesday, it still won't be guaranteed a spot in the next round. With the distinct possibility that at least two countries will end with the same win-loss record at the end of the first round of play, South Korea will need a favorable tiebreaker to move on to the second round.

Scoring plenty of runs while giving up as few as possible will be the key in winning the tiebreaker. This appears to be a daunting task for a Korean offense that managed just four singles off the Dutch pitching Saturday.

Ryu admitted such prospects have put pressure on the team, but the players are remaining focused on the task immediately at hand.

"We're just trying to win the game today," he said. "We watched tapes of all the Australian pitchers, including the starter (right-hander Ryan Searle). We're ready to go."

Ryu said he will juggle his lineup against Australia. Facing a right-handed starter, Lee Seung-yeop -- a veteran slugger batting left-handed -- will get the starting nod at the No. 3 spot. He made one pinch-hit at-bat against the Netherlands but popped out with runners on corners to kill the best South Korean scoring chance of the game.

Lee, one of South Korea's premier home run hitters for the Samsung Lions, is famous for some clutch hits in international play, including a pair of homers to help South Korea win the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Third baseman Choi Jeong, who had two of the team's four hits Saturday, will move up from No. 9 to No. 6 in the order. Choi has batted at least .300 and hit 20 homers or more in each of the past three seasons for the SK Wyverns in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

"If guys like Lee Seung-yeop and Choi Jeong can get the job done in the middle of the order, I think we will be okay," Ryu said. "I told the players that you can win or lose against anyone in baseball, and that they should never give up and give it their everything until the end."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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