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(LEAD) American right-handers engage in pitching duel to open Korean Series

All Headlines 18:35 October 29, 2016

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By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 29 (Yonhap) -- The two American right-handers on the mound to start the Korean Series engaged in a memorable pitching duel Saturday, with neither pitcher getting a decision due to lack of run support.

The Doosan Bears edged out the NC Dinos 1-0 in 11 innings in Game 1 of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) championship final at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. Game 2 is back at Jamsil at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Doosan starter Dustin Nippert was perfect through five and carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning in a typically dominant postseason performance. He tossed eight shutout innings while giving up just two hits and set a KBO postseason record for consecutive scoreless innings 34 1/3.

The previous mark had been 27 2/3 innings by Kim Soo-kyung of the Hyundai Unicorns from 1998 to 2000. Nippert began his streak during last year's postseason.

Dustin Nippert of the Doosan Bears celebrates the final out of the seventh inning against the NC Dinos in Game 1 of the Korean Series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 29, 2016. (Yonhap)

His NC counterpart, Zach Stewart, allowed a base runner in every one of his six innings pitched but escaped without giving up a run.

Nippert was far more dominant. He retired the first 15 batters he faced, pumping fastballs that touched 156 kph (97 mph) and getting hitters to fan on changeups. Only three balls left the infield through six innings.

He walked the first batter in the sixth inning but after a sacrifice bunt, Nippert got a fly out and a ground out to get out of the inning.

He got into his first serious trouble in the seventh. Na Sung-bum got NC's first hit with one out. Eric Thames then hit a grounder to first baseman Oh Jae-il, who went to second for a double play.

He got the force, but shortstop Kim Jae-ho made an errant throw to Nippert covering the bag, allowing Thames to take second.

Thames moved to third on a wild pitch, and it was the first time the Dinos had a man at third base.

Nippert walked Park Sok-min but retired Lee Ho-jun on a fly to right.

The right-hander gave up his second hit of the game in the eighth but kept that runner from scoring as well with a fielder's choice and a fly out.

It was Nippert's final inning. He made 116 pitches, 71 of them strikes.

Zach Stewart of the NC Dinos throws a pitch against the Doosan Bears in Game 1 of the Korean Series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 29, 2016. (Yonhap)

Stewart left the game after throwing 96 pitches -- 62 strikes -- over six innings, having scattered seven hits. He struck out four and walked two for his second straight scoreless outing in this postseason, covering 17 1/3 innings.

Stewart let the first man of the game on board, as Park Kun-woo struck out swinging but reached first when the ball rolled to the backstop. Stewart quickly erased him with a double play off the bat of Oh Jae-won.

That pattern held throughout the day. Kim Jae-hwan led off the Doosan second with a single, but Stewart sat down the next three batters.

Stewart then worked around two singles in the third inning. In the next frame, Stewart issued a two-out walk, before getting Nick Evans to fly out to left.

The Bears put men at the corners against Stewart, who got some help from his defense. No. 3 hitter Oh Jae-il hit a hard grounder to the hole between first and second, and second baseman Park Min-woo, playing deeper than usual to guard against the pull, snared it diving to his left and threw out Oh.

Stewart gave up a walk and a single with two outs in the sixth, and came away unscathed when Hur Kyoung-min flied out to center.

Stewart handed it over to his bullpen in the seventh, and three relievers held the Bears in check into the extra innings before Oh Jae-il's game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom 11th.

Though Oh drove in the winning run, Nippert was named the Player of the Game for his record-setting performance.

Nippert said after the victory that he tried to stick to the same patterns as the regular season.

"I tried to establish my fastball early in the game, and the second time around (the order), I went to breaking pitches," he said. "Whatever I felt like my strength was, I tried to go with it, like I did in the regular season."

When told about his postseason scoreless innings record, Nippert shrugged and said: "I don't care about personal records. If the team wins, that's the most important thing."

He also credited his catcher Yang Eui-ji with calling a great game, saying, "We were on the same page, and we don't really question each other a lot. We tried to stay in the moment."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
(END)

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