(ATTN: ADDS comments in paras 10-12, details in 13th para)
GINOWAN, Japan, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean national baseball team lost to the Yokohama DeNA BayStars 3-2 on Wednesday in an exhibition game ahead of the World Baseball Classic (WBC).
Yang Eui-ji hit a two-run homer for a 2-1 lead, but pitcher Rhee Dae-eun blew that lead at Ginowan Baseball Stadium in Ginowa, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, as the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) club collected a come-from-behind win against the South Koreans.
This is South Korea's second straight loss in exhibition games in Japan. On Sunday, the national team lost to the Yomiuri Giants 4-0.
South Korea first gave up a run in the bottom of the first inning after Takayuki Kajitani hit a single off Yang Hyeong-jong and brought Masayuki Kuwahara home.
The national team, however, quickly got back into the game in the next inning, thanks to Yang who smashed a two-run shot against Yokohama's American right hander Phil Klein.
South Korean pitchers Woo Kyu-min, Lee Hyun-seung, Chang Si-hwan and Park Hee-soo then managed to keep the 2-1 lead.
In the bottom eight, however, South Korea's Rhee allowed two runs to the Japanese club. With runners on second and third and one out, the former Chiba Lotte Marines pitcher gave up a two-run single to Hiroki Minei.
In the top ninth, South Korean slugger Lee Dae-ho came in to pinch hit, but struck out in just three pitches.
South Korea managed to produce just two hits -- Yang's home run and Seo Geon-chang's single -- against Yokohama.
"We've trained here for 10 days and we did have some results," South Korean manager Kim In-sik said. "Compared to the previous game (against Yomiuri), we produced some good hits and our pitchers are also on their way to finding their game rhythm."
South Korea originally planned to use Cha Woo-chan as one of its relief pitchers against Yokohama. But since the left-handed pitcher got injured, the team decided to put Rhee on the mound.
"Rhee himself wanted to pitch, but it turned out he still needs to find his form on the mound," the manager said. "But he is building up his form well and I believe he will play better."
The national team will return home on Thursday and have five more exhibition games before the WBC. South Korea will play against teams like Cuba and Australia to gear up for the international baseball competition.
South Korea will host the first round of action in Pool A against Israel, the Netherlands and Chinese Taipei at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, starting on March 6.
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