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Young baseball franchise off to fast start -- again

All News 09:35 April 10, 2017

SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- In the topsy-turvy start to the 2017 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season, the third-year franchise KT Wiz have emerged as the unlikely leader of the pack.

The Wiz, which had the league's worst record in each of the past two seasons, are sitting at 7-1 through Sunday, after extending their winning streak to four with a 3-0 victory over the Samsung Lions at home in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province.

Starter Ryan Feierabend threw a four-hit shutout, striking out 11 to improve to 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA this season. The left-hander was perfect through six innings.

In this photo provided by the KT Wiz baseball club, Ryan Feierabend throws a pitch against the Samsung Lions in their Korea Baseball Organization game at Suwon KT Wiz Park in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on April 9, 2017. (Yonhap)

At this time of the year, the top of the standings in the 10-team league isn't a completely unfamiliar place for the Wiz.

They occupied first place very briefly on April 5 last year, after winning three of their first four games. They dropped to fourth place with a loss the next day and never reached first place again the rest of the season.

The Wiz ended up winning only 53 games in 2016, just one more than their inaugural season a year earlier.

The difference this time around is dominant pitching. As a team, the Wiz have a 1.00 ERA after eight games. Their bullpen, in particular, has yet to give up a run in 22 innings since the start of the season.

They've already enjoyed three shutout victories, compared with only two in all of 2016 and have not yet allowed more than two runs in a game.

Such strong pitching has helped mask the worst offense in the league. The Wiz are batting a league-low .209 and are dead last in runs scored (25), hits (51), total bases (72) and in on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.577).

Um Sang-back of the KT Wiz throws a pitch against the Doosan Bears in their Korea Baseball Organization game at Suwon KT Wiz Park in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on April 4, 2017. (Yonhap)

The Wiz have now tied their franchise record with four straight wins, and will visit the Nexen Heroes at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul for a three-game set starting Tuesday.

Kim Jin-wook, who replaced the Wiz's inaugural manager Cho Bum-hyun last fall, said the outstanding performance by the pitching staff so far isn't a surprise because the team always had great arms.

"I just wanted to create an environment conducive to success and bring out the best in them," Kim said. "The players have really stepped up, and this is all thanks to them."

Kim readily admits the Wiz don't have the firepower to sustain their early run and said the team will run into a wall sooner or later.

But he said he wants his players to hold their heads high.

"Even after losses, I'll stand in front of the dugout and high-five my guys," Kim said. "We'll come from behind to win, and we'll blow some leads to lose. Either way, we'll have fun."

Park Ki-hyuck of the KT Wiz rounds third base after a solo home run off the SK Wyverns in their Korea Baseball Organization game at Incheon SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon on March 31, 2017. (Yonhap)


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