TAICHUNG, Taiwan, Nov. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korean baseball champions Samsung Lions defeated Fortitudo Bologna of Italy 5-2 to open the Asia Series tournament in Taiwan on Friday.
At Intercontinental Baseball Stadium, Lee Seung-yeop belted a tie-breaking three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, powering the three-time reigning Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) champs past the Italian club.
The Lions will next face the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions, the reigning Taiwanese champions, on Sunday at Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium.
The two Lions and Fortitudo Bologna are paired in Group A. The EDA Rhinos, the runner-up in Taiwan, the Australian champion Canberra Cavalry and the Japanese champion Rakuten Golden Eagles are in Group B.
The top two clubs from each group after round-robin play will reach the semifinals, which will be played on Monday and Tuesday. The final is scheduled for Wednesday.
The score was tied at 2-2 when Lee stepped up to the plate against Fortitudo's left-hander Junior Oberto. With runners on first and second, Lee quickly fell behind the count 0-2. He patiently worked the count to full, before taking a hanging curveball over the right-field wall for the decisive blow.
The Lions won the 2011 Asia Series, becoming the first non-Japanese club to win the event. A Japanese team has won five of the six Asia Series so far.
Fortitudo scored the first run in the second inning off Samsung's starter Baek Jeong-hyun, thanks to Luca Bischeri's RBI single.
The Lions tied the score on a sacrifice fly by Lee Ji-young in the bottom of the second, and Park Han-yi drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the fifth.
Andrea D'Amico evened the score for Fortitudo with a single in the seventh. When the game seemed destined for extra innings, Lee Seung-yeop came through with the eighth-inning blast.
Sim Chang-min took the win in relief, and Ahn Ji-man picked up the save with a scoreless ninth. Oberto, who served up the home run to Lee, was the losing pitcher.
Lee, 37, has made a career out of late-inning heroics and making an impact in big games. Lee famously hit the game-winning double off the future Major League Baseball (MLB) star Daisuke Matsuzaka in the eighth inning of the bronze medal game at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Eight years later at the Beijing Olympics, Lee broke out of a long slump to launch a go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth inning against Japan in the semifinals. Then in the gold medal match against Cuba, Lee hit a two-run home run in the first inning to help South Korea win 3-2.
(3rd LD) S. Korea to send 50,000 tons of rice to N. Korea via WFP
(3rd LD) Xi arrives in Pyongyang for summit with Kim
(LEAD) Xi to visit N. Korea amid trade tensions with U.S.
Moon declares 'renaissance vision' for S. Korea's manufacturing industry
(2nd LD) S. Korea proposes compensating forced labor victims through company funds; Japan rejects it