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Ace dedicates postseason shutout to former coach

All Headlines 08:27 October 27, 2017

GWANGJU, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) -- Kia Tigers left-hander Yang Hyeong-jong pitched the game of his life in Game 2 of the Korean Series on Thursday, blanking the Doosan Bears 1-0 in a complete game shutout to even the best-of-seven showdown at one game apiece.

After the monumental four-hitter -- it was the first 1-0 shutout in the Korean Series in the 35-year history of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) -- the 29-year-old ace dedicated the game to his former coach watching from the stands.

Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers (R) poses with his former pitching coach Toshio Kanbe after throwing a 1-0, complete game shutout victory against the Doosan Bears in Game 2 of the Korean Series at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju on Oct. 26, 2017. (Yonhap)

Yang, who debuted with the Tigers in 2007, developed into one of the KBO's finest starting pitchers under the guidance of Japanese coach Toshio Kanbe. Now 74, Kanbe was a tough-love coach for Yang during his KBO stint from 2008 to 2009, when the pitcher was still rough around the edges.

This year, Yang blossomed into a bona fide ace, enjoying his first 20-win season while posting a 3.44 ERA, an impressive number given the offense-happy era of the KBO.

And Kanbe was watching from behind the home plate Thursday at Gwangju-Kia Championship in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, as Yang mowed down the Bears. Yang struck out 11 and walked two, and threw 80 of his season-high 122 pitches for strikes.

After completing the seventh and eighth innings, Yang pointed toward the area where Kanbe was seated, acknowledging the presence of the once tough-love coach.

"He told me before the game that he wanted to see me win," Yang said after the game. "And I really wanted to win one for him."

Yang recalled Kanbe was so hard on him that he never once told Yang he'd pitched a good game. It was only after Kanbe left the club in 2009, following the Tigers' Korean Series title, that the coach started to praise his pupil.

"He always rode me hard and kept telling me I had to do more to get better," Yang said. "And I am so happy that I was able to show him I am no longer just a young pup, and that I can win an entire game by myself."

Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers points to the stands at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju after throwing a 1-0, complete game shutout against the Doosan Bears in Game 2 of the Korean Series on Oct. 26. 2017. (Yonhap)

Kanbe still reserves a special place in the Korean hurler's heart.

"In 2008 and 2009, he never once took a day off, and he threw more than 350 pitches a day during spring training," Kanbe told reporters through an interpreter. "And I think such hard work and dedication have made him the pitcher that he is today."

Kanbe was later informed of Yang's words that the coach never once praised him during his Kia stint. Kanbe, a former pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball, admitted he was extra tough on the left-hander.

"I think he's been able to grow so much because he endured such hard training," Kanbe said of Yang. "I am really proud of him. This is all due to his strong work ethic, not to what I did with him."


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